Among the "minor" Vedic deities, Br̥haspati holds an important, if ambivalent position: In the oldest Indian text corpus, the R̥gveda (RV), seven entire hymns and several larger text portions are addressed exclusively to him. His name occurs no less than 122 times there (and if one adds his "pseudonym" Brahmaṇaspati, the number of hymns increases to twelve, the number of individual attestations to well over 170). The Atharva- and Yajurveda add dozens of further attestations, as do the Brāhmaṇas and Sūtras. But by the time of these latter texts, the picture seems to have changed quite dramatically, for neither does Br̥haspati play a significant role in the all-pervading ritual (with the exception of the vājapeya-, the ritualized horse-race), nor is he even reckoned among the canonical gods. In the Brāhmaṇas, he is sometimes even expressly contrasted with them, in that he acts as the officiating priest for the 33 (= all the) gods. Moreover, there are clear indications that he was conceived of as a human being, as a seer of the remote past (for example, he figures as an ancient forefather within the family trees of certain Vedic clans in the pravara- (“pedigree”) lists of the Śrautasūtras).

One of the objectives of my research is to reinvestigate – and in the end, to thoroughly rewrite – the story of this alleged god and his oldest foundations within the Veda. First and foremost, this means showing that Br̥haspati was no name and, accordingly, there was no deity that went by the name Br̥haspati, neither in the R̥gveda nor in later times. Surprising as it may sound: The most prominent feature of the character Br̥haspati in the R̥gveda is his non-existence.