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Origin and evolution of gṛhya fire rituals

Recently I had a chance to examine a manual of domestic rituals belonging to my smārta yajurveda (YV) teacher which he uses for reference and consults as needed. It was in grantha script and was published more than a century back.  I was looking at the sections on vicchinna agnissandhāna and sthālīpāka. What immediately stood out was the differences with my tradition despite the fact that we all were followers of āpastamba school. The differences could not be brushed away due to smārta-vaiṣṇava differences. Sure it is there in the form of (a) additional oblation to viṣṇu as paramātmā, (b) keshvādi homa and (c) sarvebhyo brāhmaṇebhyo namaḥ replaces sarvebhyaḥ śrīvaiṣṇavebhyo namaḥ.

Determined to reconstruct an Ur ritual, I consulted few more texts –

  • my grandfather’s handwritten ritual procedure notebook which my father still uses for nitya and naimittika duties. This is the text I used while I was a brahmacārin for sandhyopāsanā and samiddhādhāna. This was in a hybrid grantha-tamil script.
  • Notes I’ve taken fro my family priest when I received the instructions of performing the same
  • 2 Modern publications on the same topics in devanāgari for smārtas
  • A manual gifted to me by my ṛgvedic (RV) teacher which is admittedly of limited use in reconstructing yajurvedic practice. We also had prolonged discussions on the topic which indeed was useful in clarifying certain points. This is again a smārta text.

Our tradition indeed stood separate, especially in vicchinna agnissandhāna. All the smārta texts had 2 core oblations only to agni in some cases additional one to viṣṇu . The ājya was supposed to be drawn 4 times before offering. In ours there is a single drawing but a whole series of additional oblations. They were to agni ayasa, agni vasunItha, agni tantumān, mindāhuti, agni jātavedas, agnīndrā-bṛhaspati-aśvibhyaḥ, agnī-varuṇau and indra harivant. In the sthālīpāka, the cooked rice is offered to agni, sūrya and agni sviṣṭakṛt which majority of the texts seem to have. My YV teacher’s manual had additional offerings to indra and prajāpati.

This ritual has only one priest – the brahmā. The yajamāna is supposed to perform the duties of the hotā and ask permissions from brahmā before certain actions and brahmā gives appropriate responses. My YV teacher’s text has such details. For e.g., the performer asks “aupāsanaṃ ādhāsye” and brahmā responds oṃ ādhatsva. Perceptive readers would immediately notice the similarity of brahmā’s responses in śrauta ritual.


Atharvan anti-diarrheal remedy with termite soil

Kaushika Sutra 25.6-8 of Atharva Veda rubricates the mantras of shaunaka shAkha “vidmA sharasya…” AVS 1.2 and “ado yad…” AVS 2.3 for remedy against wounds and diarrhea. The interesting mantras are AVS 2.3.3-6, the translation of which is reproduced from mAnasataraMgini:

nIchaiH khananty asurA arusrANam idaM mahat |
tad AsrAvasya bheShajaM tad u rogam anInashat ||
Deep down the Asuras bury this great healer of wounds: that is the drug for diarrhea, which verily destroyed the disease.

upajIkA[1] ud bharanti samudrAd adhi bheShajam |
tad AsrAvasya bheShajaM tad u rogam ashIshamat ||
Termites bring the remedy from the [underground] water body: that is the drug for diarrhea, which verily silenced the disease.

arusrANam idaM mahat pR^ithivyA adhy udbhR^itam |
tad AsrAvasya bheShajaM tad u rogam anInashat || (AV-vulgate 2.3.3-5)
This great healer of wounds has been brought out of the earth: that is the drug for diarrhea, which verily destroyed the disease.

Kaushika says “AkR^itiloShTavalmIkau parilikhya pAyayati| sarpiShA limpati|”. The commentator Darila clarifies that “parilikhanaM” means “chUrNIkaraNam” – to make it into a paste. The translation with the scholiast explanation is “He makes the soil of termite mound into a paste and makes the patient drink it. He anoints the patient with melted butter”. Tradition indicates that the termite mound soil is mixed with the melted butter, made into an ointment and then rubbed on the ‘wound’. Keshavapaddhati adds the specific wound site as ‘apAna’ indicating probably an inflammation due to diarrhea or hemorrhoids in general.

Certain indologists have dismissed the whole medical practices of the atharvan as superstition and only ‘symbolic magic’. For example, a charm with the herb ‘ajashringi” is used not  due to any pharmacological property of the herb but due to its resemblance of “goat’s horn” – aja = goat, shR^inga = horn”. They add, “this is the best the medicine men of primitive Aryan society offered”.

Atharvan lore certainly has its share of strange practices but this instance of anti-diarrheal remedy is not one of them. Geophagy is the practice of eating soil and similar substances like clay and chalk. This practice is found among primates like gorillas, chimpanzees and various species of monkeys as well as humans. Edible clay is sold in various African markets till date. Vermeer et al.[2] analyzed the clay entering the West African market system that comes from the village of Uzalla, Nigeria. They report that the village inhabitants report anti-diarrheal properties to the clay and use it in traditional medicinal preparations to counteract intestinal problems. The clay has higher pH value which acts as antacid. Their mineralogical analyses demonstrate a striking similarity between the Uzalla village clay and the clay in the commercial pharmaceutical KaopectateTM[3], which is used to treat diarrhea and gastro-intestinal upset.

Mahaney et al.[4] analyzed the geochemistry and clay minerology of termite mound soil and its role in the geophagy of chimpanzees in Mahaly mountains, Tanzania. They found that the composition correlated well with the minerology of clay fraction which is high in metahalloysite and smectite. The combination of metahalloysite and smectite produces a substance similar to KaopectateTM. Their field observations of the chimpanzees confirmed that the chimpanzees ingested the termite mound clay when they had severe diarrhea and parasite infection.

Andersen[5] while reporting on the consumption of termite mound clay by Australian aborigines report that the indigenous people have traditionally used termite mound soil for medicinal purposes as a remedy for diarrhea, as nutrition supplement, to prevent bleeding, to stop infection, to ease upset stomach and abdominal pain. The soil may be eaten directly, smoked, made into a slurry and drunk or used as a poultice.

Thus we see that the atharvan practice, far from being superstition rather has a real medical value. That it is found across primates and humans across multiple continents testify to its effectiveness and persistence.



[1] upajIkA – Variant forms upadIka, upajihvika, upadIpika: A form of ant or termite. In the pravargya myth as per shatapatha brAhmaNa (14.1.1), Indra cuts off the head of VishNu with the help of the upadIkA termites. In return they are given a boon of finding water even in desert. Presence of termite mounds has been reported as hydrological indicator in African deserts. Termites need regulated water supply throughout their year to maintain the temperature and humidity of their nest as well as farming their fungi. Mining literature has anecdotal reports of termites digging hundreds of feet down in search of water. It is however likely that they exploit the shallower water reservoir. About two feet below the termite mound, there is the nodular calcite layer which is probably biogenic due to the methane produced by termite guts. These nodules can grow cobblestoned impermeable layer that can trap water. This forms a so-called perched water table that can collect water percolating down during torrential rains. Turner[6] reports, “a Macrotermes colony can act as a “water gatherer”, a physiological system that draws water from a broad expanse of soil centripetally to the colony.

[2] Vermeer, Donald E., and Ray E. Ferrell Jr. 1985. Nigerian Geophagical Clay: A Traditional Antidiarrheal Pharmaceutical. Science 227:634–636.


[4] Mahaney, William C., et al. “Geochemistry and clay mineralogy of termite mound soil and the role of geophagy in chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, Tanzania.” Primates 37.2 (1996): 121-134.

[5] Andersen, Alan Neil, and Peter Jacklyn. Termites of the top end. CSIRO PUBLISHING, 1993.

[6] TURNER, J. Scott. “Termites as mediators of the water economy of arid savanna ecosystems.” Dryland ecohydrology. Springer Netherlands, 2006. 303-313.

Angirasa kalpa of Orissan Atharvavedins

Couple of years back, I came across a text called Angirasa Kalpa belonging to paippalAda atharvavedins of Orissa. Taking a cursory look, I quickly dismissed it as nothing more than a tantric work of vaiShNava leaning. My interests at that time were predominantly biased towards vedic literature only. I recently re-examined the text and arrived at a nuanced understanding of what the text actually is.

Hindu tradition is unanimous in declaring that atharvaveda has 5 kalpas. Patanjali in his mahAbhAshya terms the atharvavedin as ‘pa~nchakalpin’. The yajurvedic and atharvavedic charaNavyUhas, devI purANa, viShNu purANa and vAyu purANa name the kalpas with little change in their names.

The 5 kalpas are ‘nakshatra kalpa’, ‘vaitAna kalpa’, ‘samhitA kalpa’, ‘Angirasa kalpa’ and ‘shAnti kalpa’. The samhitA kalpa is the kaushika gR^ihya sUtra and vaitAna kalpa (sometimes conflated with kashyapa kalpa) is the vaitAna shrauta sUtra. The nakshatra kalpa included in the parishiShTas is a treatise on various rites connected with the 28 lunar asterisms. They include rites for prosperity, omens connected with the asterism, effects of the asterisms on directions and rites for safe journey to counteract omens, royal rites to start a military expedition etc. The nakshatra sUkta from the vulgate shaunaka shAkhA (19.7) is deployed. The shAnti kalpa, also included in the parishiShTas contains various pacificatory rituals – grahashAnti, mahAshAnti, amR^ita shAnti, adbhuta shAnti etc.

Angirasa kalpa has been lost and the original text no longer exists. As the name suggests, this kalpa dealt with black magic and exorcistic rites. The text was available to sAyaNa who mentions that the text contains description of a ritual to protect the yajamAna, priest before the commencement of a black magic rite. The text also supposedly contained descriptions of appropriate time, place, oblation materials, samidhs (fuel sticks) from Abhicharika trees, the initiation and the vrata for the terrible rites. The text also contained rites to counteract black magic rites performed by the enemies against oneself.

The Orissan text obviously is not the original Angirasa kalpa. This text is also called paippalAda vashAdi ShaTkarmapaddhati – i.e. the 6 karmas starting with vashIkaraNa as per paippalAda. The 6 karmas are vashIkaraNa- rites and spells for bewitching, stambhana – rites for paralyzing, mohana – rites to cause delusion or bewilderment, uchchATana – rites to cause ruin, vidveShaNa – rites to cause mutual enmity between enemies and mAraNa – rites to cause death to enemies. The text starts with a prelude with a description of the characteristics of these 6 rites as a dialogue between Angirasa and paippalAda.

The text then proceeds with the mantra, rites and rituals of nR^isimha and the anuShTubh mantrarAja of nR^isimha is elaborated and deployed among other mantras through the next 20 chapters. The text continues with elaborate rituals and vidhAnas for AsurI durga. Asuri kalpa is a short text included in the atharvaparishiShTas that includes exorcistic rite using the Asuri plant (probably Sinapsis ramosa). This text is a tantric elaboration of the same mantra (or a variant thereof) of the mantra from Asurikalpa of the parishiShTa.

Then we see the mantras and ritual procedures to the worship of kR^itya and pratya~Ngira with tantric formulae. However the link to atharvaveda is explicit by deployment of the paippalAda mantras (note – textual corruptions and errors not checked):

1. sabandhushchAsabandhushcha yo.asyaGM abhidAsati |
sabandhUn.h sarvAstIrtvA.ahaM bhUyAsamuttamaM ||

2. sabandhushchAsabandhushcha yo na indrA.abhidAsati |
devAstaM sarve dhUrvantu brahma varma mamAntaraM ||

3. sabandhushchAsabandhushcha yo jAto yashcha niShTyaH |
yajamAnAya sunvate sarvaM taM rIridhAsi naH ||

and an alternative in place of 2:
4. sabandhushchAsabandhushcha yo na indrA.abhidAsati |
vR^ishchAmyA tasyAhaM mUlaM prajAM chakshurathobalaM ||

with angirA as the R^ishi, anushTupChandas and kR^ityA devatA. nyAsa is also given and an injunction to perform homa with poison mixed with clarified butter as oblation material.

This ritual definitely points to an original atharvanic practice with minimal tantric overlay.

We also see 2 short chapters dealing with martial rites for a king where the bow is consecrated with the paippalAda mantra:

dhanvanA gA dhanvanA.AjiM jayema dhanvanA tIvrAssamadojayema |
dhanushshatrorapakAmaM kR^iNotu dhanvanA sarvAH pradisho jayema ||

and the arrow is consecrated with the paippalAda mantra (also found in shaunaka vulgate):

vidmA sharasya pitaraM parjanyaM bhUridhAyasaM |
vidmohyasya mAtaraM pR^ithvIM vishvadhAyasaM ||

These royal rituals are quite old and similar rites can be found in shA~NkhAyana AraNyaka. These chapters could be remnants of a genuine atharvaNic royal tradition.

The is a short chapter on viGYAna bhairava with a short mantra to him. Despite the bhairava syncretism, the mantra betrays its atharvaNic origin. There are peculiar vyAhR^ities found only in atharvaN literature staring with gopatha brAhmaNa – vR^idhat, karat.h, ruhat.h, mahat.h, tat,h, shaM, oM. The gopatha brAhmaNa mentions the expiation for breaking the vow of silence in soma rituals by prefixing and suffixing oM and janat.h respectively to the usual vyAhR^it is bhUh, bhuvaH and svaH. The viGYAna bhairava mantra is simply “oM bhUrbhuvassvaH svAhA janat.h oM” strongly suggesting a recycling of an old atharvanic mantra. However, the origin of viGYAna bhairava could very well be in paippalAda circles.

There are 2 chapters on protection – one that employs the entire paippalAda sUkta “abhayaM somassavitA kR^iNotu” and another short chapter deploying the paippalAda variant of the formula to indra “yata indra bhayAmahe”. Despite tantric coloration, they seem to have a pure vedic core, as we find similar rituals in R^ig as well as Yajur traditions.

The text then reverts to a lengthy treatment of worship of nR^isimha betraying its obvious tantric nature by describing, pITha worship, mAtR^ika nyAsas, a~Nga devatAs and AvaraNA devatA mantras, yantra etc.

Finally we find ‘minor upanishads’ as appendix, which include anuchUlikA upanishad, bR^ihannR^isimha tApinI upanishad, vishvarUpAkhya upanishad, kR^iShNashAnta upanishad, puruShasubodhinI pUrvatApiniI and uttaratApinI upaniShads and rAmachandropanishad and ends with the pavamAna sUktaM.

The text repeatedly enjoins homas (even tantric ones) to be performed as per the procedure taught in nakshatra kalpa. We have chapters from karmasamuchchaya that describes the homa procedure as per the nakshatra kalpa for reference which is characteristically atharvaNic.

In summary, though this text is obviously not the original Angirasa kalpa, it is definitely a production from atharvaNic circles albeit at a much later date than the composition of parishiShTas. We see similar percolations of tantric and Agamic practices in gR^ihya rituals in R^ig and Yajur traditions to varying degrees. In all likelihood, this text preserves some genuinely old atharvanic tradition with some tantric overlay.

Some issues with autochthonous Aryan theory

The dating of the entry of Indo-Aryan speakers into Indian subcontinent and their role in shaping the cultural milieu of the society can be termed as ‘the Aryan problem’. One may take a look here for a nice overview of the problem. Take a look here for an approach based on genetic evidences. This post is a miscellaneous collection of points which I think militate against an autochthonous Aryan theory.

Fear of snow

Take a look at gR^itsamada mantra (RV 2.33.2):

tvA dattebhI rudra shaMtamebhiH shataM himA ashIya bheShajebhiH |
vyasmaddveShO vitaraM vyaMho vyamIvAshchAtayasvA viShUchIH ||

(Griffith’s translation)

With the most saving medicines which thou givest, Rudra, may I attain a hundred winters |
Far from us banish enmity and hatred, and to all quarters maladies and trouble ||

The word shataM himA – hundred snows is translated as hundred winters which strongly indicates winter is accompanied with snowfall. Moreover, the word ‘hima’ has cognates in other IE languages all meaning winter/snow:

Lithuanian žiema winter
Latvian ziema winter
Greek χεῖμα (kheima) winter / frost / cold
Latin hiems winter
Polish zima winter
Persian زمستان (zemestan) land of snow
Old Armenian ձմեռն  (jmeṙn) snow storm / winter
Sanskrit हिम (himá) frost / snow

Avestan ‘hazaŋro zima’ is the exact cognate of Sanskrit sahasra hima, similar to shataM himA above, is literally thousand winters but implying thousand years. From all these, we can infer that the composer of RV 2.32 lived in a locality where the winter is not only harsh but accompanied with snowfall and prays to rudra and beseeches his life saving medicinal balms to overcome the winters. Some would say, the Aryans could have got the idea of snow from himAlayas. However we can see that the poet is not talking about some beautiful snow covered peaks of a far off mountain but a weather he has to live through. And himAlayas is not a candidate for Aryan homeland anyways. This militates against ‘snow in snow peaks of himalayas’ explanation.

Continuous fire

Maintaining a continuous fire seems to be a cultural feature shared by lot of IE branches – refer to Roman vestal virgins, Lithuanian fire priestesses and Zoroastrians’ fire temples. Even in modern times there are Zoroastrians who were maintaining a gas burner lit from the fire temple and continuously maintained at home. The orthodox brahmins similarly maintain a single fire aupAsana agni and even more orthodox ones maintain 3 fires – gArhapatya, AhavanIya and dakshiNa. The fire is preserved in a pot and used for morning, evening, fortnightly and seasonal sacrifices. My own family had maintained such continuous fire till my grandfather’s time. We grant that the numbers of such fire maintainers are rapidly dwindling. If we think about the circumstances for the origin of a ritual involving continuous maintenance of a fire, we can easily infer northern latitudes – a region with harsh cold winters where losing a fire would have meant life and death. It is very unlikely to have originated in the Indian subcontinent with its tropical climate where fire could be produced by striking two stones. Majority of brahmins in India have switched to on-demand ritual fire production historically. This is precisely because making fire here is quite easy. The later ritual texts indeed do provide alternatives for performances of fortnightly and seasonal sacrifices with extra steps for someone who is not maintaining continuous fire.

Centrality of horse in Aryan rituals

The necessity of horse in ashvamedha, horse sacrifice is too well known to be warrant a repetition. However we are not talking about this ritual which in all probability was rarely performed. An Aryan dvija (twice born man) sets up his 3 shrauta fires by first performing the initial ritual called ‘agnyAdheya’ and continuously maintains the fires from then on and performs his cycle of rituals. If for any reason the fires are extinguished, he performs punarAdheya ritual and starts using fire from that ceremony.

Now, one important part of the ritual is a step where fire from the established gArhapatya is taken to the place of AhavanIya. Fire sticks are lighted at lower ends on the gArhapatya fire, placed on a pan and carried eastwards such that the smoke is directed towards the sacrificer following it. In front of the fire a horse is led by Agnidhra directed by adhvaryu. At the starting of this procession, adhvaryu directs the brahma priest to chant the vAmadevya sAman. The adhvaryu sits down and makes the horse put its right fore-foot on the recently prepared hearth-mound on the AhavanIya fire place. The horse is led towards the east, made to turn round from left to right and made to stand facing west. The adhvaryu calls the brahma priest to chant the bR^ihat sAman. The fire is then laid down on the horse’s foot-print as per the followers of shuklayajurveda. Krishnayadurvedins do not allow the fire to be laid on the horse’s foot-print and horse is just made to step beside the altar. Refer to taittirIya brAhmaNa 1.1.5 and shatapatha brAhmaNa 2.1.4,

The whole point of recounting the minute ritual points of a specific step in agnyAdheya ceremony is to underscore the point that a horse is quintessential even for the most basic shrauta sacrifice whose sole purpose is to set up the solemn fires for his future performances of cycle of rituals. Horse is one animal that is poorly attested in Indian subcontient – a tooth here, a bone there. For a ritual like this to develop, we need a geography where horses are abundant, domesticated and available for ritual use. Unless we start seeing huge horse remains in the sub-continent, a steppes like central Asian location is the likely candidate for origin of Aryans.

Ephedra – Soma

Despite claims from certain white Indologists that soma (Avestan haoma) is some sort of hallucinogen and even mushroom, ephedra is the ‘satya-soma’ – true soma. The orthodox brAhmaNas use sarcostemma twigs in modern soma rituals as soma-pratinidhi (representative of soma) instead of real soma. kAtyAyana’s rule allow another substance that closely resembles the original ordained substance. Hence we can infer that the original soma was a plant that resembled sarcostemma. In fact, twigs of sarcostemma which Fritz Staal observed in nambudri rituals were initially mistaken for Ephedra stems by botanists he consulted [p69]. Combine this with the fact that Zoroastrians use Ephedra to date for their hom (haoma) ritual, one need not look further than ephedra for ‘satya-soma’.

In Rig Veda, we have Indra coming for his share when apAla Atreyi plucking some soma twigs and chewing – i.e. soma is easily accessible. By the time of brAhmaNa texts, the story changes – soma is hard to come by and the soma seller is suspected of selling fake plants instead of real soma. The brAhmaNa texts prescribe alternatives in place of the soma plant for this reason. Noting that ephedra doesn’t grow in India but is available abundantly in Central Asia and the similarity of Zoroastrian’s haoma ritual with agniShToma, we can conclude that Indian subcontinent is an unlikely place for soma and soma related rituals to originate.

Greek, Avestan and Vedic myths

Greek, Vedic and Iranian myths and culture share some very unique features to the exclusion of other IE branches. The linguistic aspects have been noted and documented well by the scholars. Some Vedic myths disappear in later Hinduism.

For e.g., Emil Benveniste when talking about Hera casting away her infant Hephaestus because he was born lame seems to unaware of the parallel myth of Aditi casting away malformed mArtANDa.

Take Greek Triton, Iranian thraetaona Athwya and Vedic trita Aptya. Trita with Indra kills trishira tvAShTra, the 3 headed monster. Thraetaona kills 3 headed serpent in Iranian and Triton with Herakles kills the serpent in Greek. Triton in Greek has the water connection explicit and is surrounded by nymphs. According to a shatapatha myth, trita along his brothers dvita and ekata were said to arise out of water when Agni spat in the waters while being forcefully dragged out by the devas.

Iranian and Vedic seem to have a duplication of this figure. Iranians have another ‘Thrita’ apart from ‘thraetaona’ whose position is ambiguous – in one place he is a medicine man (the section has a atharvan like medical spell) and in another place he is a bad guy. In RV, have a traitana the dAsa and uniformly bad.

Only these 3 branches have the ‘horse themed names’. Greek – Hipparchus, Hippocrates, Hippolytus; Iranian – Keresaspa, Lohraspa, Vishtaspa; Vedic – bR^ihadAshva, haryashva, kR^ishAshva.

Bottom line is that the Iranians, Vedic Aryasn and Greeks have features that are not inherited from a common ancestor. Hence they must have been interacting closely for a period of time where they mutually affected their religious mythologies and rituals. Indian subcontinent is an unlikely place for this interaction.

Indo-Iranian substratum

Lubotsky methodically analyzes Indo-Iranian lexicon in his paper ‘The Indo-Iranian Substratum’ in search of loan words that entered Proto-Indo-Iranian. One startling conclusion is from the phonological and morphological analysis of the loanwords in Indo-Iranian (IIr) and Indo-Aryan (IA) is that the loans have ‘Sanskrit’ forms. This indicates that the Indo-Aryan speakers first came into contact with the foreign tribes speaking the donor language and then passed on the words to their Iranian brethren. Secondly, the oldest layer of borrowings from Indo-Iranian (IIr) to Finno-Ugric (FU) often concerns words which are only attested in Sanskrit and not in Iranian. The Iranians came into contact with FU speakers slightly later and continuously contributed to the enrichment of FU vocabuilary.

The raw data suggests that Iranian, Aryan and FU speakers were interacting closely and the Aryan speakers being the conduit to funnel loanwords back to the Iranians while simultaneously giving loanwords to FU, at least at the earlier stages. As an aside, Lubotsky unnecessarily complicates the matter by proposing that the same substrate language is simultaneously spoken in IVC as well as Central Asia. He also says IA and IIr in this scenario are not yet undifferentiated  but are dialects of a proto IIr (P-IIr) language continuum – conclusions not at all warranted by the data, as the data itself suggests P-IIr has actually differentiated into IA and IIr branches. Nevertheless, a three way interaction of IA, IIr and FU speakers strongly militate against Indian Subcontinent for the origin of IA speakers.

Rig Veda’s five tribes – pa~nchajanAH

Rig Veda has the five tribes – pUrus, yadus, Anus, druhyus and turvashas. Only two out of the five RV tribes were going to have good future in India – the pUrus and yadus. Post RV, the Anus, Druhyus and Turvashas quickly disappear from the scene, largely forgotton by the itihAsas and purANas. Even the brAhmaNa texts have forgotten them. We would like to have more information regarding the agni of the Anus and the fate of druhyus of which we only get tantalizing glimpses but who, sadly don’t matter in post Rig Vedic texts. The reason likely is that only the pUrus (or the bharata branch of the pUrus), the yadus and their allies were the Indo-Aryan speaking tribes who entered the subcontinent.


We do note that Rig Veda contains references to flora and fauna of Indian subcontinent which has to be explained. However that is a separate post. One clue can be noticed in the first sUkta of the vishvAmitra maNDala, where the composer practically admits that he is singing both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ hymns, suggesting a long tradition of reworking of ancestral compositions by later descendants. The aggregate of the evidences suggest that the core of Rig Veda is likely composed outside Indian subcontinent. A combined study of Avesta and Rig Veda suggest a location at the vicinity of the Kura and Arash rivers near Caspian sea, but that is a whole another topic.

Notes on Chandas shAstra – 2

paribhAShA is a technique used by various sUtrakAras where they lay out some ground rules. This section typically contains definitions of technical terms, mnemonics, general rules. The main text then just uses the short hand laid out in the paribhAShAs.

One may refer to some sample paribhAShAs of Apastamba: (Ap. Sr. Su 14.12 – 16)
12. ‘juhoti’ – when this is said, one has to understand sarpirAjya is sacrificed
13. adhvaryu is understood as the kartA – performer
14. juhu is understood as the pAtraM
15. If juhu is used at another yaGya karma, sruva is to be used
16. Oblation is made in the AhavanIya fire

Likewise, pi~Ngala starts the sUtras with paribhAShAs. An inherent property of a syllable in Chandas shAstra is reckoned as its ‘weight’. A syllable could be guru (heavy) or laghu (light). A guru syllable is indicated by ‘S’ and a laghu by ‘|’ in metrical texts.

Here are some rules:
1. A syllable containing a dIrgha/pluta – long vowels and diphthongs is heavy.
2. A syllable that is followed by two (or more) consonants is heavy even if the syllable contains short vowel. This rule still applies if the vowel is at the word end and the cosonant cluster is at the beginning of the next word, as long as the words are in the same verse.
3. AnusvAra, visarga are considered as consonants for the rule in #2.
4. The syllable ‘Lh’ /’Dh’ found in some RV mantras are considered as double consonants for the rule in #2.

With these, the sUtra defines the gaNas based on weights of a triplet. The first sUtra is “dhI shrI strI M”. This means the triplet of 3 heavy syllables is indicated by ‘ma-gaNa’ (triguruM viddhi makAraM). Once we understand the principle, we can understand the sUtra that defines 2^3 = 8 gaNas for all the laghu-guru combinations in a triplet. Putting these together:

sUtra              Notation       gaNa                Notes
dhI shrI strI M SSS magaNa triguruM viddhi makAraM – know 3 heavy syllables as ‘ma’ gaNa
va rA sA y |SS yagaNa laghvAdisamanvitaM yakArAkhyaM – the triplet starting with light syllable is called ‘ya’ gaNa
kA gu hA r S|S ragaNa laghumadhyamaM tu rephaM – the triplet with light syllable in the middle is ‘ra’ gaNa
va su dhA s ||S sagaNa sakAramante guru nibaddhaM – the triplet with heavy at the end is ‘sa’ gaNa
sA te kva t SS| tagaNa laghvantyaM hi takAraM – the triplet with light syllable at the end is ‘ta’ gaNa
ka dA sa j |S| jagaNa jakAramubhayorlaghu vijAnIyAt.h – triplet with light syllable on either side, know it as ‘ja’ gaNa
kiM va da bh S|| bhagaNa AdiguruM cha bhakAraM – triplet with heavy syllable at the beginning is ‘bha’ gaNa
na ha sa n ||| nagaNa nakAramiha paingale trilaghuM – In pingala’s work, the triplet with 3 light syllables is ‘na’ gaNa

Halayudha conceives these sUtras as a repartee between an AchArya and his student.

Acharya: dhI shrI strI; varA sA – Once you obtain knowledge (dhI – intellect)  you will obtain wealth (shrI) and hence you will obtain a woman (strI) for a bride (varA).

Student: “kA guhA” – guhA is a sthAnavAchaka, i.e. word indicating a location. Where does such an intelligent man stand?

Teacher: – vasudhA – on the earth. The intelligent man wins the earth, no need to worry.

Student: sA te kva? – Whence does he gain that?

Teacher: gR^ihe – in the gR^ihasthAshrama

Student: kadA saH – When does the gR^ihastha gain that intellect

Teacher: dhrAdi paraH – By contemplating and reflecting, the man gains insight and gains the knowledge (dhAraNA arthAvabodhaparaH).

Student: kiM vada – Tell what should I do now to start gaining that intellect.

Teacher: na hasan.h – Don’t laugh (and goof around; i.e. take things seriously).

atharvaveda upAkarma

All pre-requisites (performance of nitya karmas, shaucha vidhi etc. are like other vedic sampradAyas)

1. AchamanaM X 2 – according to gopatha brAhmaNa of atharva veda –
sip waters with oM prANAya svAhA, oM apAnAya svAhA, oM vyAnAya svAhA|
sprinkle water on head with bhUrbhuvassuvaroM |

2. prANAyAma – oM bhUH… bhUrbhuvassuvaroM |

3. shuklAMbaradharaM …

3. kAmokArShIt.h japaM —
(a) sa~NkalpaM – (as per tradition) .. aShTottara shata (108) sa~NkyayA
kAmokArShIt.h japaM kariShye |
(b) japa of kAmokArShIt.h mantra as per atharvaNa mahAnArAyaNopanishat.h
kAmokArShInnAhaM karomi kAmaH karoti kAmaH karttA kAmaH kArayitA |
etatte kAma kAmAya svAhA ||
manyurakArShInnAhaM karomi manyuH karoti manyuH karttA manyuH kArayitA |
etatte manyo manyave svAhA ||
Note – yajurvedis are supposed to recite similar long mantra from
taittiriya AraNyaka. Nowadays, people recite only “kAmokArShIt.h
manyurakArShIt.h namonnamaH”.
(c) AchamanaM
4. yaGYopavIta dhAraNaM
(a) sa~NkalpaM – (as per tradition) ..
… shrauta smArta vidhi vihita nityakarma anuShTAna yogyatA siddhyarthaM

(b) Wear yaGYopavItaM with following nyAsaM & sa~NkalpaM
yaGYopavIta dhArnaNa mantrasya prajApati R^ishiH, triShTupChandaH,
trayIvidyA devatA|
yaGYopavIta dhAraNe viniyogaH|
yaGYopavItaM paramaM pavitraM prajApateH yatsahajaM purastAt.h |
AyushyamagryaM pratimu~ncha shubhraM yaGYopavItaM balamastu tejaH ||
(c) sa~NkalpaM for 2nd upavIta for householders — … gArhasyArthaM dvitIya
(d) Repeat step (b)
(e) Discard old yaGYopavIta with
upavItam ChinnantuM jIrNam kashmala-dUshitaM |
visRjAmi punarbrahman.h varco dIrghAyurastu me ||
5. tarpaNaM
(a) sa~NkalpaM – (as per tradition) …
… adhyAyotsarjana karmA~NgaM kariShyamANa upAkarma karmA~NgaM
A~NgirasAnAmanuvAkAdi tarpaNaM kariShye.
(b) With each svAhA, offer a darvi (spoon) of water with rice & seasame into
a receptacle:
(oblations to Angirasa sections)
AngirasAnAmAdyaiH pa~nchAnuvAkaiH svAhA |
ShaShThAya svAhA |
saptamAShTamAbhyAM svAhA |
nIlanakhebhyaH svAhA |
haritebhyaH svAhA |
xudrebhyaH svAhA |
paryAyikebhyaH svAhA |
prathamebhyaH svAhA |
dvitIyebhyaH svAhA |
tR^itIyebhyaH svAhA |
upottamebhyaH svAhA |
uttamebhyaH svAhA |
uttarebhyaH svAhA |
R^ishibhyaH svAhA |
shikhibhyaH svAhA |
gaNebhyaH svAhA |
mahAgaNebhyaH svAhA |
sarvebhyo.angirebhyo vidagaNebhyaH svAhA |
pR^ithak.hsahasrAbhyAM svAhA |
brahmaNe svAhA |

brahmajyeShThA saMbhR^itA vIryANi brahmAgre jyeShThaM divamA tatAna |
bhUtAnAM brahmA prathamota jaGYe tenArhati brahmaNA spardhituM kaH ||

(oblations to atharvaNa sections)
AtharvaNAnAM chaturR^ichebhyaH svAhA |
pa~ncharR^ichebhyaH svAhA |
ShaLR^ichebhyaH svAhA |
saptarchebhyaH svAhA |
aShTarchebhyaH svAhA |
navarchebhyaH svAhA |
dasharchebhyaH svAhA |
ekAdasharchebhyaH svAhA |
dvAdasharchebhyaH svAhA |
trayodasharchebhyaH svAhA |
chaturdasharchebhyaH svAhA |
pa~nchadasharchebhyaH svAhA |
ShoDasharchebhyaH svAhA |
saptadasharchebhyaH svAhA |
aShTAdasharchebhyaH svAhA |
ekonaviMshatiH svAhA |
viMshatiH svAhA |

mahatkANDAya svAhA |
tR^ichebhyaH svAhA |
ekarchebhyaH svAhA |
xudrebhyaH svAhA |
ekAnR^ichebhyaH svAhA |
rohitebhyaH svAhA |
sUryAbhyAM svAhA |
vrAtyAbhyAM svAhA |
prAjApatyAbhyAM svAhA |
viShAsahyai svAhA |
ma~NgalikebhyaH svAhA |
brahmaNe svAhA |
brahmajyeShThA saMbhR^itA vIryANi brahmAgre jyeShThaM divamA tatAna |
bhUtAnAM brahmA prathamota jaGYe tenArhati brahmaNA spardhituM kaH ||

6. vedArambhaM
Here various atharva-vedic sUktas like pratya~NgirA, triShaptIya, vishAsahi etc.
are recited.

Notes –
Omitting common details like darbha for AsanaM, wearing pavitraM, taking it off
during AchamanaM etc. are all omitted, as the general rules are applicable here also.

Prepared with kind inputs from manasataramgini.

pavamAna and pAvamAnIs

pAvamAnis in general sense refer to those mantras that are used in purificatory rituals. The ninth maNDala of shAkalya shAkhA of Rig veda has sUktas or hymns entirely attributed to the deity soma pavamAna. This maNDala is variously called pavamAna maNDala. This started out with a kernel of kashyapa family book, as kashyapas were soma only priests. This is borne out by the AprI sUkta (hymn 5) in which pavamAna is the primary deity throughout, as opposed to the AprI hymns of other Rishi family books with the usual set of AprI deities – agni narAshamsa, agni tanUnapAt.h, idhma (fuel), barhis (sacrificial grass), daivI dvAras (divine doors), day and night, the twin hotA priests, the devis (ilA/sarasvati/bhArati, with optional mahI), tvaShTA, vanaspati and indra .

The actual ritual application of the mantras from this maNDala is in various somayAgas. The individual hymns themselves are called pavamAnis. Rig vedins use the first 67 sUktas in a purificatory ritual. They call the set of all mantras in gAyatrI meter as pavamAna sUkta.

Apastamba (dharmasUtra 1.2.2) refers 67.21 to 67 as the pAvamAnis which he prescribes to be used in a prAyaschitta ritual for a dvija whose father and grandfather have not undergone upanayana. He uses harsh words like ‘smashAna – funeral ground’ for those kinds of people. These first of these 7 is attributed to vasiShTha maitrAvaruNi and the next 6 to pavitra Angirasa and/or vasiShTha maitrAvaruNi.   These 7 mantras bear a structural resemblence to the so called pavamAna sUktaM of kR^iShNayajurveda. The yajurvedIya pavamAna sUkta is a composite comprising 4 mantras from taittiriya saMhita (5.6.1-4) starting with hiraNyavarNAH shuchayaH and remaining from taittiriya brAhmaNa (1.4.8) starting with pavamAnaH suvarjanaH.

The samhitA mantras are used in agnichayana ritual during the piling of kumbheShTakas – water pot bricks. The brAhmaNa mantras are used to purifying the dIkishita yajamAna in somayAga with kusha grass. In grihya rituals, Apastamba prescribes the hiraNyavarNAH verses to be used while washing the bride such that the waters flow through a gold piece tied with a darbha string on her forehead. Nevertheless, this form of the pavamAna sUkta is famous and used in various rituals. Some examples:

– As general prAyaschitta/purificatory rites where homa of white tila (seasame) and ghee are offered with trisuparNa mantras from taittiriya AraNyaka, pavamAna is recited on a water pot with kusha grass and after the recitation, the water is sprinkled on oneself.

– For minor offences, it is recited on a water pot and a head bath is taken with that water

– like gajashAnti, a royal ritual as per baudhAyana seshasUtra where an abhiSheka of the royal elephant is done with these verses after a homa is performed. The homa consists of offerings of boiled rice and ghee with ghR^ita sUkta, of ghee to rudra with 5 mantras starting with namaste rudra manyava (rudraprashna). Balis are offered to bhUtas and the elephant is made to eat the remains of the homa food with Ayushya sUkta.

– Agama applications where the mUrtis of deities like viShNu and shiva are bathed with these verses.

Parallels of pAvamAnis of pavitra Angirasa with yajurveda version:

1. pavamAnah so adya nah pavitreNa vicharShaNih| yah potAsa punAtu naH || (RV version from 9.67.22)

pavamAnaH suvarjanaH | pavitreNa vicharShaNiH| yaH potA sa punAtu mA || YV version

2. yat te pavitramarchiShyagne vitatamantarA | brahma tena punIH naH || RV

yat te pavitramarchiShi | agne vitatamantarA | brahma tena punImahe || YV

and so on.

Parallels of of hiraNyavarNa verses with yajur and atharva veda

1. hiraNyavarNAH shuchayaH pAvakA yAsu jAtaH kashyapo yAsvindraH | agniM yA garbhaM dadhire virUpAH tA na ApaH shaGGsyonA bhavantu | YV

hiraNyavarNAH shuchayaH pAvakA yAsu jAtaH savitA yAsvindraH | yA agniM garbhaM dadhire suvarNAH tA na ApaH shaM syonA bhavantu | AV shaunakha shAkhA – 1.33