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Angirasa kalpa of Orissan Atharvavedins

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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.


2 Comments

  1. Arun prasad says:

    Then we see the mantras and ritual procedures to the worship of kR^itya and pratya~Ngira with tantric formulae.

    Can you please post this .advance thanks

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