By Swami Harshananda
Mitra literally means ‘the friend’.
Mitra as per Ṛgveda
Mitra is one of the important deities praised in the Ṛgveda. More often, he is praised along with Varuṇa, another Vedic god. He is one of the twelve Ādityas. He resides in the antarikṣa or sky and gives us rain. He impels the people of the world towards constructive activity. He unites people with mutual love and friendship. He sustains the world, protects it and is capable of bestowing boons.
Mitra in Political Science
The word ‘mitra’ has been used in a technical sense in political science to indicate an ally of a king. A mitra had to be courted either by sāma or by dāna.
Mitra as per Yogasutras
While maitrī or an attitude of friendship has been recommended by the Yogasutras as an aid to concentration of mind, the characteristics of a true friend are described as follows:
- He will prevent you from committing sins.
- He will encourage you to do good deeds.
- He will keep your secrets.
- He will praise your good qualities openly.
- He will not desert you in your periods of crisis.
- He will give all the assistance when needed.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore