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AGNIŞŢOMA ~ A Bird's eye-view

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sangom

Well-known member
In this post I have mentioned that excerpts about the Agnishtoma will be given in a separate thread. Since my own views on these sacrificial rituals is non-conformist, I have opened this thread under "General Discussiona" in order that there can be discussions.


AGNIŞŢOMA ~ A Bird’s eye-view


[FONT=&quot]Sacrifices are often divided for convenience into iṣṭi, paśu and soma. Acoording to Gaut. VIII. 21 and lāṭ. Sr. V. 4. 24 there are seven forms of soma sacrifices, viz. Agniṣṭoma, Atyagniṣṭoma, Ukthya, ṣoḍaśin, Vājapeya, Atirātra and Aptoryāma. The Agniṣṭoma is the model ( prakṛti ) of all soma sacrifices. The Agniṣṭoma is a one day ( aikāhika or ekāha ) sacrifice and it is an integral part of the Jyotiṣṭoma so much so that the two are often identified. Soma sacrifices are classified into those that are finished in one day ( and so called ekāha ), those that are celebrated for more than one day up to twelve ( and so called ahīna ), those that extend over more than twelve days ( and are called Sattra ). The dvādaśāha is both a sattra and an ahīna.The Jyotiṣṭoma occupies generally five days and the chief rites performed on these days are : (1) choosing of priests, madhuparka, dīkṣaṇīyeṣṭi, consecration of the sacrificer ( dīkṣā ) ; ( 2nd day ) Prāyanīyā iṣṭi ( i. e. opening iṣṭi ), purchase of soma, ātitheyeṣṭi ( iṣṭi offering hospitality to soma), Pravargya, Upasad (homage twice a day in the morning and evening ) ; ( 3rd day ) Pravargya and Upasad twice again ; (4th day) Pravargya and Upasad, Agnipraṇayana, Agnīṣomapraṇayana, havirdhāna-praṇayana, animal sacrifice ; ( 5th day called sutya or savanīya ) pressing of soma, offering it and drinking it in the morning, mid-day and evening, the udayanīya ( concluding iṣṭi ), avabhṛtha ( final purificatory bath). In the following pages only a skeleton outline of Agniṣṭoma is presented, derived from the principal Śrautasūtras. Jai. in VI. 2. 31 declares that the performance of Jyotiṣṭoma is obligatory on all members of the three higher varnas, just as upanayana is, sinoe the word brāhmaṇa in Tai. S. VI. 3. 10. 5 ( a brāhmaṇa when born comes charged with three debts ) is only illustrative. Agniṣṭoma is so called because in it Agni is praised or because the last chant ( stotra ) is addressed to Agni. It is to be performed in vasanta ( spring ) every year and on the New Moon or Full Moon day ( Ap. X. 2. 2, 5 and 8, Kat. VII. 1. 4 and Sat. VII. 1 p. 562 ). The general view expressed in Jai IV. 3. 37 was that one should perform a soma sacrifice after having performed darśa-pūrṇamāsa, cāturmāsyas and paśu sacrifice, but some held that it could be performed even before darśa-pūrṇamāsa, but after agnyādhāna (Asv. IV. 1. 1-2 and Sat. VII. 1. p.' 556 ). Jai. ( V. 4. 5-9 ) also states this as the view of some. Jaimini, however, declares that all modifications of the Agniṣṭoma must be performed after one has begun to perform darśa-pūrṇamāsa ( V. 4. 26 ). The intending sacrificer sends a person called somapravāka ( inviter to officiate at a soma sacrifice ) to invite brahmanas who are thorough masters of the Veda, neither too young nor too old, with clear and loud voices and not deficient in any limb ( Tāṇḍya Br. I. 1, 1, Draahyaayana Sr. I. 1. 10, Ap. X. 1. 1). He invites the principal four or all the 16 ( or 17, including ' sadasya ' ) priests ( ṛtvij ), who make inquiries whether some other person has refused the office and whether the fee will be excellent. Those portions of the choosing mantras are uttered inaudibly wherein the priests are invoked as if they were divinities and the portion asau mānuṣāḥ or tvam mānuṣāḥ is uttered loudly. When the priests come madhuparka is offered to them.

Excerpts from the book "A History Of Dharmasastra" by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. P.V. Kane, suitably edited to remove the large number of superscripts, footnotes, references, etc.

(It will be observed that the very first scriptural question the invited [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]ṛtviks[/FONT][FONT=&quot] enquire is "whether the fee will be excellent?" One can therefore easily judge that these yagas were just means of earning for the priestly community (read, brahmanas) and whatever spiritual or esoteric dimensions were/are ascribed to these yagas are merely facades to make the gullible people believe that some great thing is being done. These are my views, of course.)
. . . to be continued.
[/FONT]
 
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Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
I am not qualified to comment about AGNIŞŢOMA. But I have some experience in performing Homas which are derived from this. They could be called Vaidic or Tantrik Homas. Like Daily Homa, Purascharana Homa, Chandi Homa, Sudharshana Homa and Homa with specific Mantras of deities.

These Homas does not always involve outside Brahmins and are conducted by individuals and groups.

I do not know whether this is the right thread to discuss these popular Homas.
 
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sangom

sangom

Well-known member
I am not qualified to comment about AGNIŞŢOMA. But I have some experience in performing Homas which are derived from this. They could be called Vaidic or Tantrik Homas. Like Daily Homa, Purascharana Homa, Chandi Homa, Sudharshana Homa and Homa with specific Mantras of deities.

These Homas does not always involve outside Brahmins and are conducted by individuals and groups.

I do not know whether this is the right thread to discuss these popular Homas.

This thread is only to give an idea of what Agnishtoma is; it does not purport to concern itself with any other popular or tantric homas. Usually even for the simple Ganapati homa our tabras seek a vadhyar. Only very few have the knowledge of performing any homa without assistance of outside priest/s. And, it is also a widely held belief that a vadhyar is to be present even if the grihasta knows the homam and only if the vadhyar is paid a "dakshina" will the full results of the homa accrue. My maternal grandfather who was the chief vadhyar for the brahmana samooham in his village, always used to have one vadhyar to whom dakshinai would be given.

Since I myself hold the view that all such homas are mere waste of scarce resources like first class fuel wood which could even be priceless timber, ghee etc., I decided to start it under this category so that the uselessness of this ritual may be expressed freely by those who hold such views and can be disproved by those who have the opposite view.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
And, it is also a widely held belief that a vadhyar is to be present even if the grihasta knows the homam and only if the vadhyar is paid a "dakshina" will the full results of the homa accrue.

A belief which was ingrained to benefit the Purohit community. It is not true.
 

Nara

Well-known member
.......Since I myself hold the view that all such homas are mere waste of scarce resources like first class fuel wood which could even be priceless timber, ghee etc., I decided to start it under this category so that the uselessness of this ritual may be expressed freely by those who hold such views and can be disproved by those who have the opposite view.
Dear Shri Sangom sir,

I appreciate you starting this thread. Due to my poorvashrama :))) connections I keep getting e-mails about this homam or that homam, and almost always it is about lokakshemam, never for their own benefit, but the contributions they seek go to the burning of, as you rightly observe, perfectly good firewood releasing CO-2 for nothing, wasting of an assortment of food items like rice, nuts, fruits, etc., and garment, may be silk, laced with a good-load of ghee.

At the end of this hoopla a little sprinkling of rain is all that would be needed to send the participants into an unmatched frenzied excitement. Otherwise, if there was no rain, nothing is lost, except that one has to settle for simply extolling how divine the homam was. Perhaps a lucky photographer may have captured a shape in the flames that has a vague similarity to any one of the plethora of religious icons, a spear, a chakra, a monkey's tail, an elephant trunk, or what not.

The waste of material resources in such delusional activities is only the least of it; IMO, what is really disheartening is the superstitious mindset it promotes. One given to believing these is more apt to believe magic tricks are nothing less than divine miracles.

I am sure exposing such irrationality for what it is, is a great service. I commend you for doing it.

Cheers!
 
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sangom

sangom

Well-known member
Dear Shri Nara,

I am right now thinking of the satha chandee (or is it sahasra chandee?) homam being conducted at Sringeri in connection with the 60th. birthday of the Sankaracharya. Till now I had the view that the present acharya is a sober, low-profile (and so I imagined, a progressive-minded) person. Two days back I heard him elaborate on the celebrations and winding up his oration with the words that it is not for his personal benefit that all these homas and all are being conducted but for "Lokakshemam" :) again. He repeated it lest people go away thinking these are for his welfare and long life, probably.

The wood (jack-fruit trees) were, it was announced by some person, voluntarily offered by many many people and in order to compensate the loss there was a distribution of 1000 jack-fruit saplings also as part of the broadcast programme ! Now jack fruit wood is very costly and a small piece for making the "kuDam" of one normal size veena itself costs a few thousands. Recently I asked whether I can get this planks for a single bed and I was told not to dream about it because even a 5feet plank will be difficult to get!

What sort of "lokakshemam" are these people bringing in by such ways, I wonder :)
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
Dear Sangom Sir,

Very interesting thread. Thankyou for the same.

Was reading thru details on the Agnistoma as described in Kāṇvaśatapathabrāhmaṇam, Volume 3, by Sī. Āra Svāmināthan. Quite apparently it is not a simple yagna like Ganapathy homam or Navagraha homam. I feel the somayagnas signify a high point in the evolution of civilization. Esp because they also hold within them the secrets of pressing soma and extracting its juice. Back then, fermentation process must have been a technological innovation.

Earlier the animal sacrifice (the procedures and all) performed in agnistoma used to put me off (used to think agnistoma is nice but without animal sacrifice). But then back in time, the creation of such a ritual must have signified the next higher step in the mind’s ability to create ‘something’. Such homams probably ameliorated the human guilt for killing / consumption of animals by sacrificing some, and chanting mantras to atone for the pain caused to the animal.

Am always at loss when it comes to understanding the complex connection between the mind and the civilization it creates.

Today perhaps some may think homams have no value and are a waste of resources, but perhaps back in time, the homams were “the way” to utilize resources.

Perhaps today we are living in a world of gross material consumption and the same reflects in the things we put into homams excessively. We cud do the same homam with the same things but by limiting the amounts put into the havan-kund.

Come to think of it, even for Shivaratri, Shiva did not ask us to waste tons of milk on Shivaratri. A small cup of milk poured with love is enuf and we cud donate the rest of the milk packets to some orphanage, but then the mind is selfish and wants to think of its own salvation. So I feel it is not the fault of the ritual itself, the problem lies in our own selfish mind in the way we approach the ritual.

Back in time, perhaps the purohits found that only vedaparayanam did not help them survive (maybe they were not getting sufficient patronage for that). So by creating a (complex) ritual, they could not only preserve the mantras, but also get fees to help them to live a well-off life. Surely there is nothing wrong in expecting excellent fees. Afterall everyone likes to be paid well for a job done well.

Maybe a belief was created that unless a vadhyar is paid the benefits of the homa will not accrue, bcoz by nature some yajamans may tend to be selfish / miserly (and will not pay the vadhyar well).

If not anything else, Homams do create a nice ambience atleast. I feel all homams, irrespective of whether they result in benefits or not, do signify the mind’s ability for abstract things. It would be a shame to give up on them.

Regards.
 
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sangom

sangom

Well-known member
Dear Sangom Sir,

Very interesting thread. Thankyou for the same.

Was reading thru details on the Agnistoma as described in Kāṇvaśatapathabrāhmaṇam, Volume 3, by Sī. Āra Svāmināthan. Quite apparently it is not a simple yagna like Ganapathy homam or Navagraha homam. I feel the somayagnas signify a high point in the evolution of civilization. Esp because they also hold within them the secrets of pressing soma and extracting its juice. Back then, fermentation process must have been a technological innovation.

Dear HH,

I feel that the less complicated homas of today were fashioned on those very complicated old yagas and these simpler homas were the invention of the priesthood when the poorvameemaamsa philosophy and its rituals slowly receded into oblivion.


Soma pressing is no great technique. Pl. refer R.V. VIII-31, 5 to 8. It depicts a couple (dampatee) pressing soma. These verses have also been interpreted to mean that soma was an aphrodisiac, one which increases virility in men and fertility in women, etc. Hence these mind-boggling procedures (Pl. wait and read the full agnishtoma for understanding this; I don't know if the book you are reading now, gives all the details.) are only designs by priests to make it as complicated and unintelligible to others and make as much money as possible. I hope you know that a girl was part of the dakshina for the asvamedha to one of the priests!

Earlier the animal sacrifice (the procedures and all) performed in agnistoma used to put me off (used to think agnistoma is nice but without animal sacrifice). But then back in time, the creation of such a ritual must have signified the next higher step in the mind’s ability to create ‘something’. Such homams probably ameliorated the human guilt for killing / consumption of animals by sacrificing some, and chanting mantras to atone for the pain caused to the animal.
If you feel so, I cannot challenge it. But IMHO, it was a "bash" for the priesthood in those days. In the asvamedha hundreds of animals were killed. And after all that what do these yagas "create", whether with or without animal sacrifice?

"No other trace (other than the Sunahsepa episode - sangom) exists in the vedic literature apart from the quite different ease of the use of a man and four other victims as an offering at the piling of the great fire altar."

The above is from the book "Encyclopaedia of vedic philosophy: the age, religion, literature ...," Volume 2 By Subodh Kapoor. Hence it appears to me as though these yagas were relics of a more barbaric past, which were partly civilized by the time the brāhmaṇa texts were composed. I am therefore unable to agree with your view on either the old somayagas or the modern homas.

Am always at loss when it comes to understanding the complex connection between the mind and the civilization it creates.
The Aztecs are a good example!

Today perhaps some may think homams have no value and are a waste of resources, but perhaps back in time, the homams were “the way” to utilize resources.
This beats my understanding. When one hears/reads throughout the rigveda, appeals for more material comforts, how is it that one has to believe that a "way" was necessarily felt to utilize and hence consume, unnecessarily, the very same resources, particularly the cattle? And "nirUDha paSu" I understand is a cow (animal) which has not mated at all.

Perhaps today we are living in a world of gross material consumption and the same reflects in the things we put into homams excessively. We cud do the same homam with the same things but by limiting the amounts put into the havan-kund.

Come to think of it, even for Shivaratri, Shiva did not ask us to waste tons of milk on Shivaratri. A small cup of milk poured with love is enuf and we cud donate the rest of the milk packets to some orphanage, but then the mind is selfish and wants to think of its own salvation. So I feel it is not the fault of the ritual itself, the problem lies in our own selfish mind in the way we approach the ritual.
Why waste any resource by throwing it into fire and burning it out? Is it not a reminder of the primitive happiness in having harnessed "fire" and deifying it so that the priesthood got a sort of copyright on "fire" as such? We may recall that in the older civilizations like Sumer, Babylon, etc., the priesthood played similar tricks in connivance with the king, in respect of eclipses.

Back in time, perhaps the purohits found that only vedaparayanam did not help them survive (maybe they were not getting sufficient patronage for that). So by creating a (complex) ritual, they could not only preserve the mantras, but also get fees to help them to live a well-off life. Surely there is nothing wrong in expecting excellent fees. Afterall everyone likes to be paid well for a job done well.
Pl. see emphasis given by me. There is no harm in expecting, but asking for an assurance as the very first thing is pure bargaining; there is no guarantee given (even today it is so) that the job will be well done inasmuch as the desired results will accrue without fail. So, I am not able to justify this enquiry prescribed in the brāhmaṇa texts.

May be a belief was created that unless a vadhyar is paid the benefits of the homa will not accrue, bcoz by nature some yajamans may tend to be selfish / miserly (and will not pay the vadhyar well).
Since you have not quoted in what context this remark is, I presume it is with regard to what I wrote about my grandfather. It is a general rule that any such homa should have at least one vadhyar to whom dakshina should be given. I don't know the smriti rules for this.

If not anything else, Homams do create a nice ambience atleast. I feel all homams, irrespective of whether they result in benefits or not, do signify the mind’s ability for abstract things. It would be a shame to give up on them.
Fortunately you or your family members do not suffer from asthma, chronic sinusitis or any allergic conditions caused by smoke. So, you may continue to call the ambience, "nice". If just burning of fuel wood, ghee, clothes, fruits, garlands, etc., etc., are the criteria of a "nice ambience", we just burn these items in the open, just like that; will that not be called foolish? So, it is just a creation of mind, IMO. That is the success of priesthood and religion - creating mass psychology.
 
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sangom

sangom

Well-known member
A shed for cooking the vrata food is erected to the south of
the pavilion and another to the west for the patnī ( wife of
the sacrificer ). The sacrificer while in his house implants his
gārhapatya and āhavanīya fires on the araṇis with a mantra
' ayam te yoniḥ ' ( Vaj. S. III. 14., Tai. S. I. 5. 2 ), comes to the
devayajana, enters ( along with the priests and his wife ) the
maṇḍapa by the eastern door with the araṇis in his hand, and
touches the central post of the pavilion. The things that are
required (sambhārāḥ*) are also brought to the pavilion. In
the pavilion a vedi is prepared and fires are established after
being produced by attrition. Offerings of ājya with the sam-
bhārayajus formulas ( Tai. A. III. 8 ), with the sapta-hotṛ
formulas ( Tai. A. III. 5) are made and also a yūpāhuti is
offered. Outside the pavilion to its north the sacrificer gets the
hair on the head, arm-pits and on the face cut by a barber in a
tent covered with mats, pares the nails of his hands first ( of the
right hand first from the small finger ) and then of the feet. Jai.
( III. 8. 3-11 ) establishes that it is the sacrificer ( and not the
adhvaryu ) who pares his nails, cuts his hair, brushes his teeth,
subsists on milk. Sat. VII. 1. p. 587 states that the nails of the
left hand are pared first and then of the right hand. He brushes
his teeth with an udumbara twig, then he bathes in a reservoir
of water or in a kuṇḍa after putting a golden piece in it with
mantras, performs ācamana and drinks water as a consecration.

... To be continued


(Excerpts from the book "A History Of Dharmasastra" by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. P.V. Kane, suitably edited to remove the large number of superscripts, footnotes, references, etc.)

Explanation of some terms:—

gārhapatya and āhavanīya-
two of the three sacred fires; gārhapatya is expected to be kept alive
permanently by a brāhmaṇa in his house; āhavanīya or oblation-receiving,
fire, is prepared by transferring part of the gārhapatya fire into the
āhavanīya altar which is the easternmost; there is a third, called dakṣiṇāgni,
in the southern part.
The layout of the altars is as shown below:

araṇis –
tools made of aśvattha wood, used for kindling the sacred fire by attrition;
this gives the impression that making a fire was kept as a privileged duty of
the priests; (it is relevant to mention that reportedly, even 80 or 90 years ago
the lower caste people used to get “fire”, whenever they went ‘out of fire’
for cooking, from Brahmin or high caste houses where the kitchen fire
used to be kept “alive” and using the unripe flower buds of the
bread fruit tree (Autocarpus artilis).

ayam te yoniḥ - this (is )thy womb (home).

ājya - ghee


* Baud. VI. 1 enumerates thirteen requisites ( sambhāras ) that
the yajamāna brings with him and thirteen more which are placed round
about the wife.

sambhārayajus – these are short sentences like “agniryajubhiḥ |
savitā stomaiḥ |indra ukthāmadaiḥ | mitrāvaruṇavāśiṣā | etc.
These facilitate the concerned priest to remember the items to be taken
to the place of the yāga, without any of them being missed. These are
obviously from the brāhmaṇa text which also forms part of the veda,
which the orthodoxy swears is of apauruṣeya, having mystic/esoteric
meanings, etc.

(Note: It requires some real imagination to be convinced that the
supernatural sources from which the ṛṣis perceived the Vedas through their
magical powers, were so meticulous as to furnish a sort of “Book of Instructions” also.
The next question is if these are not mere Book of Instructions, what are the mystical
meanings of such portions of the veda? Since there are enough members with deep
knowledge of the esoteric meanings of the Vedas, I am sure they will provide those
mystic meanings.)
 

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sangom

sangom

Well-known member
All these from paring nails ( called apsu-dīkṣā) except the cutting of hair are also undergone by the wife at the instance of the pratiprastātṛ priest (but without mantras). The adhvaryu hands over a fine silken fresh garment to the sacrificer which the latter wears. In the afternoon in the prāgvaṃśa he partakes of food ( rice ) mixed with ghee and sprinkled over with curds and honey or whatever is liked by him. The wife also does the same. He takes up butter ( navanīta ) with two bunches of darbha grass and smears himself thrice with them beginning from the face. He applies collyrium with a darbha blade twice to the right eye and once to the left or thrice to both. The adhvaryu performs the purification (pavana) of the sacrificer outside the prāgvaṃśa to its north by three bunches of seven darbhas each rubbed twice over his body above the navel and once below the navel with mantras and the sacrificer also mutters mantras. The wife also does all this ( smearing the body with butter, applying añjana and purification ) without mantras at the instance of the pratiprasthātṛ.

The sacrificer enters the pavilion by the eastern door and the wife by the western and occupy their respective seats. Then follows dīkṣaṇīya iṣṭi which is so called because it effects a saṃskāra in the man intending to sacrifice and because after it is performed he is entitled to be called ' dīkṣita '. The conclusion in Jai. V. 3. 29-31 is that a man becomes a dīkṣita at the end of the dīkṣaṇīya iṣṭi and has thenceforward to observe the rules laid down for a dīkṣita and that one does not become a dīkṣita by being given the staff or the girdle &c. At first six āhutis called dīkṣāhutis are offered, four with ājya taken from the dhruvā into the sruva, 5th with the sruc and the sixth is called pūrṇāhuti and is offered with sruc ( in which twelve ladlings with sruva have been made ). These six āhutis are called ' audgrahaṇa ' ( Āp. X. 8. 7 and com. on Sat. VIL 1. p. 591 ) or ' audgrabhaṇa ' ( Kāt. VII. 3. 16 ). In the dīkṣaṇīya iṣṭi a cake prepared on eleven potsherds is offered to Agni-Viṣṇu ( or boiled rice with clarified butter). Some offered another offering of boiled rice to Aditi. Several matters that occur in the model iṣṭi ( such as observing a vrata, the girding up of the wife, cutting off a portion for yajamāna, phalīkaraṇahoma, cooking anvāhārya rice as fee for the priests, samiṣṭayajus ) are omitted in this iṣṭi ( Baud. VI. 3 mentions ten matters that are omitted , Ap. X. 4. 12, Sat. VII. 1. p. 575 ). According to Jai. VIII. 1. 3-10 the several actions done in the model iṣṭi are not to be extended to somayāga unless the vedic texts expressly say so, and Jai. X. 1. 4 establishes that there is no āraṃbhaṇīyā iṣṭi in dīksaṇīyā and other iṣṭis of somayāga. The dīkṣaṇīyā ends with the patnīsaṃyājas and the eating of the 2nd iḍā ( Sat. VII. 1. p. 578 ). Certain rules are laid down about the pitch of the voice in the several rites. According to Ap. X. 4. 9 everything is said inaudibly till the agnīṣomīya rite. According to Kāt. (VII. 2. 31-32) the voice reaches the highest pitch in the dīkṣaṇīyā iṣṭi, the mantras in the prāyaṇīyā and ātithya iṣṭis are in a lower tone than in the dīkeṣaṇīya and the upasad mantras are repeated inaudibly.

The dīksa (consecration) of the sacrificer and his wife proceeds as follows. To the south of the āhavanīya two black antelope hides ( or one if two are not available ) with the neck portion to the east are spread on the altar with the hairy part outside. He ( the priest ) sits to the west of the antelope skin bending his right knee; the sacrificer touches the white and black spots ( or the line that joins them, Kat. VII. 3. 23), then creeps upon the hide with his right knee bent and sits down on the western side of the hide. The sacrificer ties round his waist above the garment worn by him a girdle of three strands made of hemp and muñja grass, covers his right shoulder with a fresh garment and folds round his head a piece of cloth, he is given the horn of a black antelope about a span in length with three or five folds (from left to right), which he ties to the hem of his garment ( or in the corner of his upper garment ). He touches his forehead above the right brow with the horn, draws a line with it from west to east outside the vedi, and if he wants at any time to scratch his body he does so with that horn. Jai. ( XI. 4. 48-49 ) declares that the mantra is to be repeated only once even if the yajamāna feels the desire to scratch several parts of his body at the same time. The adhvaryu gives a staff of udumbara ( or of some other sacrificial tree ) which is as high as the sacrificer's mouth ( or chin ), which he raises up and keeps on his right shoulder.

While the adhvaryu is doing these things for the yajamāna, the pratiprasthātṛ does the same things for the wife ( without mantras ) except that she has the yoktra girt round her upper garment, that her head is covered by a jāla ( a net or fillet ) of wool and she has a piece of some sacrificial tree one span long for scratching her body. The sacrificer and adhvaryu repeat long passages wherein the word dīkṣā occurs frequently ( A.p. X. 10. 6 and X. 11, 1 ), and the adhvaryu makes him repeat the sambhāra-yajus mantras ( Tai. A. III. 8). The sacrificer then contracts the fingers of both hands one after another with mantras ( first the small fingers of both hands, then the ring-fingers of both hands and so on) and ultimately he clinches his fists. He observes silence. Some priest ( like the pratiprasthātṛ) other than the adhvaryu inaudibly declares ( to the gods ) thrice and loudly proclaims to the world thrice ' this brāhmaṇa has undergone the consecration, son of so and so, grandson of so and so, great-grandson of so and so, the son of such and such a woman, grandson of such and such a woman and great-grandson of such and such a woman '. Even when the sacrificer was a kṣatriya or vaiśya, the announcement was still to be 'this brāhmaṇa ' since after dīkṣā a person was supposed to be reborn and to be a child of holy prayer and to have become pure enough for receiving spiritual influences. The Sat. Br. III. 3. 3. 12 states ' he who is consecrated becomes an embryo'. Dīkṣā takes place in the afternoon (Lp. X. 12. 1) and the sacrificer observes silence till the appearance of stars in the evening.


. . . to be continued.
(Excerpts from the book "A History Of Dharmasastra" by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. P.V. Kane, suitably edited to remove the large number of superscripts, footnotes, references, etc.)

Explanation of terms :

iṣṭi - oblation consisting of butter, fruits, &c., opposed to the sacrifice of an animal or of Soma.

adhvaryu – there are four classes of priests in a vedic yāga; the hotṛ, udgātṛ, brahman and adhvaryu ; the adhvarayus or adhvaryavas "had to measure the ground, build the altar/s, prepare the sacrificial vessels, fetch wood & water, light the fire, bring the animal/s and immolate it/them.

pratiprasthātṛ - a priest who assists the adhvaryu.

anvāhārya - a certain gift presented to the priests.

samiṣṭayajus - the yajurmantras for sacrificing together.

āraṃbhaṇīyā iṣṭi - iṣṭi made to mark the commencement of.

dīksaṇīyā - relating to the consecration of.

patnīsaṃyāja - (Vedic) four ājya oblations offered to Soma, tvaṣṭri, the wives of the gods, and Agni-gṛhapati.

iḍā - this word has several meanings; the one relevant here is, a holy libation, consisting of four preparations of milk, poured into a vessel containing water, and then partially drunk by the priest and sacrificers.

agnīṣomīya - relating to the agniṣṭoma proper.

prāyaṇīyā - belonging or relating to the entrance or commencement, introductory, initiatory ; an introductory libation at a Soma sacrifice.

black antelope hide – called “kṛṣṇājina”; this is the hide of the black-buck (Antilope cervicapra) which is native to the Indian sub-continent; it is now a “near threatened” species; Andhra Pradesh has this as the state animal; only the males of the species have black /dark brown upper body and white underbelly while the females are fawn coloured (see attached image).

Note:It is not known why the vedic people selected this particular animal’s hide as sacred or valuable. According to Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. P.V. Kane, in the times of the ṛgveda, i.e., originally Upanayana was a very simple matter. The would-be student came to the teacher with a samidh in his hand and told the teacher that he desired to enter the stage of studenthood and begged to be allowed to be a brahmacarī living with the teacher. There were no elaborate
ceremonies like those described in the ghya sutras. Hence, the animal skin might also have been a later introduction.

muñja – a sort of rush or grass, Saccharum Munja (which grows to the height of ten feet and is used to form the Brahmanical mekhalā or girdle as well as in basket-work ) ; the Brahmanical girdle or the sacred cord of a Brahman (as made of the muñja grass, but in this sense the more proper form is mauñja; cf. Manu II. 27, 42, 43).

udumbara – the glomerous fig tree Ficus Glomerata ([FONT=&quot]அத்தி[/FONT][FONT=&quot]).[/FONT]

yoktra – a fastening band.
 

Nara

Well-known member
I would like to make a couple of observations about Shri Nacchinarkiniyan's original post in a new thread in response to Shri Sangom's presentations here. I am posting it here because my comments will not be welcome there.

The Homas have undergone a sea change from the Vedic times. It would be surprising if they have not changed in the last thousands of years.
Those who believe in the efficacy of Vedic rituals often claim that lack of effect is because of lack of precision and rigor. If these are Vedic rituals, then, changes to the rituals over any period of time small or long, would render them useless, because they no longer strictly follow the Vedic rules.

So, even without resorting to any rational reasoning, one has to consign these rituals to a heap of revered memory. Viswamitra can quench his thirst by drinking hot molten metal, but nobody in their right mind will attempt it now. Similarly, the faithful can continue to claim these rituals were effective in a bygone era, but reverentially abandon them as not useful any more.

Why concede they have changed over thousands of years and yet continue to proclaim faith in their efficacy?

Of course it goes without saying that the discussion would be only for those who believe in the efficacy of these Homas.
This is the most depressing part of claims of homa benefits.

Is believing in the efficacy of these homas just a matter of state of mind with no thought of any principle? What I mean is, if you believe in the efficacy of some activity, and if millions could benefit from such activity, don't the people with such belief have an obligation to bring this to a wider population? To say one needs to have faith to derive the benefit is an old and worn out excuse.

Outcomes such as rain, health, and general welfare of the population are so nonchalantly claimed. If these are true, then the faithful have an obligation to prove a cause-and-effect link, so that many can benefit. Not many years ago millions of children were killed or maimed for life by the polio virus. Jonas Salk found a vaccine for polio, proved its efficacy through a series of trials, and made the knowledge public-domain. The inventor wanted everyone to benefit and so refused to patent it, "can you patent the sun?", he is supposed to have asked. The result is, polio is now almost extinct, just a few hundred cases persist in small geographical pockets.

Drought is no less a killer. Huge areas of Africa routinely suffer such droughts resulting in untold suffering. If Homams can bring about rain and alleviate the suffering of these wretched people, then is it not "immoral" to not attempt to prove a cause-and-effect link, and make it widely available? What can be more worthy than eradicating world hunger?

If the homas hold the key for such a worthy casue, then the faithful must conduct a series of trials like Salk did, prove its efficacy, and make it available for everyone. Why would a person who simply ignores this, yet believes in the efficacy of these homams, not an unprincipled person?

Cheers!
 
OP
OP
sangom

sangom

Well-known member
Dear Shri Nara,

I agree with your observations fully. Still, I welcome Iniyan's new thread initiative because, though, as is his wont, he does not relish any contrary view in his thread, the details he may give there will show, IMO, that the basic framework of all homas is from the highly complicated and intricate vedic sacrifice rituals. For discerning readers it will reveal the uselessness of the homas, except, of course the material benefits accruing to the priests, the sellers of basic ingredients like ghee, fuel wood, the materials which are burnt in the fire, etc.

While on this, I want to tell about a real life incident. One of my daayaatis - close to me - had his daughter (married and having two school going sons) was diagnosed with a certain health condition which the doctors said, did not give much scope for survival. The father - who was a non- believer in his younger days - went about consulting all astrologers. Each one said one or another parihaaram and the poor fellow was spending money on all those. Then one jyotsyan told him to have a mahasudarsana homam performed by vaishnavas only ! He enquired and found the people to do it, with some difficulty.

Soon after this homam I happened to meet him in a poonal. I enquired about his daughter's health (she also had come and I was feeling very sad looking at her - who had grown up before our eyes - emaciated figure and the hopelessness in her face). In particular, I asked the father, as gently as possible, whether he was doing all these "parihaarams" for the mental satisfaction of his daughter (in which case I had nothing more to say). He said no, he himself was doing all those and that his daughter had sort of resigned herself to her fate. I then asked him why he was wasting so much money on costly homams and what was the special thing that a certain deity will be satisfied only if vaishnavites did the homam and how he, as a non-believer in all these things for a long time, is not using his rational capacity. He had no satisfactory answer and so evaded my question with some sort of an answer.

The daughter expired as told by the doctors.
 

Nara

Well-known member
as is his wont, he does not relish any contrary view in his thread,

Yes Sangom Sir, I do respect many of the views he expresses, but I find it disconcerting that he shies away from any contrary view. Nobody relishes opposition, I don't. But I also know that I learn a lot in a vigorous exchange of views, at the very least because it makes me hit the books. To want to engage only in a simplex mode of communication is to think of oneself as an oracle of sorts. I am not implying he thinks of himself in those lines, but it does give such an impression.

Cheers!
 
OP
OP
sangom

sangom

Well-known member
The adhvaryu directs the milking of two cows to supply milk for the sacrificer and his wife who are to subsist on the milk of the two cows during the period of the sacrifice. This vrata (observance ) of subsisting on milk is declared by Jai. ( IV. 3. 8-9 ) to be kratvartha (an obligatory rule) and not puruṣārtha ( recommendatory ). Vide also Jai. VI 8. 28. Some allowed rice or barley to be cooked in that milk. The two cows were milked in two separate vessels, one of which ( meant for the sacrificer) was heated on the gārhapatya and the other ( for the wife ) was heated on the dakṣiṇa fire. A kṣatriya or vaiśya sacrificer could take gruel or āmīkṣā respectively or all persons could subsist on milk or on rice cooked in milk or on fruits ( if enough milk was not available ) or if he had a desire for curds, he could use curds or use fried barley grains or he could take ghee. He was to take his food at midday or midnight long after ordinary men have taken their meals and he took his
food from a pot which was not earthenware and the wife from a copper pot. Persons who were not dīkṣitas were not to see him when taking his milk or other vrata diet. The wife was also to take her milk or other diet in her own place. Vide Āp. X 16 and Kāt. VII. 4. 19-34 for details. The dīkṣita and his wife ( to some extent ) have to observe certain rules ( till the final bath ) and people also had to observe some rules with reference to him. He has to keep awake on the night of the dīkṣā( Jai. XII. 1. 17 ), on the night when soma is purchased and on the night before the pressing day. He is not to speak with women or śūdras nor should a śūdra follow him. If he is obliged to speak to a śūdra he should do so by employing a messenger belonging to the three higher varnas. He may speak to or bless another, but he was not to bow to another, even if the latter was his ācārya or father-in-law or a king. No one was to touch him or to address the dīkṣita by his name ( but use only such terms of address as ‘ bhoḥ’ \ ‘ dīkṣita ’ &c. ). The sacrificer was not to keep aside the antelope horn till the fees were distributed. He could laugh covering his face with his hand and should not show his teeth. He was not ordinarily to answer calls of nature by day, but if he has to do so, he must do so in a shaded spot. He has to observe complete celibacy. While he is consecrated for the sacrifice, he does not go out by the western door, nor does he perform the daily agnihotra, nor vaiśvadeva nor offering of bali nor perform the darśapūrṇamāsa iṣṭi ( Jai. XII. 1. 19-23 ), but he may employ another to do all these. He must speak the truth and address people in a pure and conciliatory style adding the word 'canasita' when addressing a brahmana and the word ' vicakṣaṇa ’ when addressing a kṣatriya or vaiśya ( vide Ait. Br. I. 6 ). He must always be in the pavilion at sunrise and sunset; he sleeps on the ground to the south of the āhavanīya with his head to the east and sleeps on his right side and does not turn his back to the fire. He always sits on antelope hide and never leaves it and his staff ( except when answering calls of nature ). No one is to eat the food given by a dīkṣita till the agnīṣomīya victim or its omentum is offered. It is recommended by all the sūtras that dīkṣā ( consecration ) should not be finished in one day, but it should extend over 12 days or a month or a year or till from being fat he becomes lean ( vide Āp. X. 14. 8, X. 15. 4, Āśv. IV. 2. 13-15 ). Every day ( while the dīkṣā lasts ) the sacriflcer observes silence from the afternoon till the appearance of stars and in the morning from before sunrise till the sun goes up. The dīkṣita is allowed to go himself or to send agents called ( sanīhāra ) to collect money and materials necessary for the sacrifice. He has to observe many rules on his journey ( vide Āp. X. 19. 6-16 ).

After the day ( or days of dīkṣā ), the next day the first rite is the prāyaṇīyā ( opening ) iṣṭi. In this iṣṭi caru ( rice ) cooked in milk is offered to Aditi ( Jai. IX. 4. 32-40 ) and four offerings of ājya to four more deities viz. Pathyā Svasti, Agni, Soma and Savitṛ in the four directions ( viz. east, south, west and north ) respectively. Caru is offered to Aditi in the centre. Agni Sviṣṭakṛt is the sixth deity. According to Āsv. IV. 3. 3 no ājyabhāgas are offered in this iṣṭi, but according to Kāt. VII. 5. 15 they are offered. The priests that officiate in this iṣṭi should as far as possible officiate in the Udayaṇīyā ( concluding ) iṣṭi. The rites of this iṣṭi end with the first Saṃyu, but there is no patnī-saṃyāja and no samiṣṭayajus.

The puronuvākya verses in this iṣṭi become the yājyā verses in the udayanīyā iṣṭi and vice versa ( vide Āśv. IV. 3. 2 for them ). He keeps aside in a well-known place in the prāgvaṃśa the cooking pot ( from which the leavings of rice sticking to the bottom are not removed according to some ), the mekṣaṇa and the barhis ( except the prastara ) for use in the udayanīyā. Jai. ( XL 2. 66-68 ) refers to this use of niṣkāsa in the udayanīyā isti.

Then comes the purchase of soma ( referred to in the Brāhmanas and Sūtras as ' rājan ' ).

agnīṣomīya victim = sacrificial victim for agni and soma
ājya = ghee
ājyabhāgas = portions of ghee meant for agni and soma
iṣṭi = an oblation of butter, fruits, etc., as opposed to sacrifice of animal or soma juice
omentum = vapā (Sanskrit)
darśapūrṇamāsa = new and full moon sacrifice
niṣkāsa = exit, verandah, portico
patnī-saṃyāja = ājyā oblations offered to soma, tvaṣṭrī, and the wives of the gods and agni-gṛhapati
puronuvākya = introductory or invitatory verse (mantra)
prastara = strewing, spreading out
prāgvaṃśa = the space before the vedi
barhis = sacrificial grass – darbha, kuśa
mekṣaṇa = a wooden stick or spoon for stirring the caru
samiṣṭayajus = a certain mantras and the sacrifice connected with that
Saṃyu = the ending verse of prāyaṇīyā ( opening ) iṣṭi
Sviṣṭakṛt = offering good sacrifice, a special offering for agni
yājyā = a sacrificer’s offering ?
 
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