by Julius Eggeling | 1882 | 730,838 words | ISBN-13: 9788120801134

This is Satapatha Brahmana I.2.5 English translation of the Sanskrit text, including a glossary of technical terms. This book defines instructions on Vedic rituals and explains the legends behind them. The four Vedas are the highest authortity of the Hindu lifestyle revolving around four castes (viz., Brahmana, Ksatriya, Vaishya and Shudra). Satapatha (also, Śatapatha, shatapatha) translates to “hundred paths”. This page contains the text of the 5th brahmana of kanda I, adhyaya 2.

Kanda I, adhyaya 2, brahmana 5

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

1. The gods and the Asuras, both of them sprung from Prajāpati, were contending for superiority. Then the gods were worsted, and the Asuras thought: 'To us alone assuredly belongs this world!

2. They thereupon said: 'Well then, let us divide this world between us; and having divided it, let us subsist thereon!' They accordingly set about dividing it with ox-hides from west to east.

3. The gods then heard of this, and said: 'The Asuras are actually dividing this earth: come, let us go to where the Asuras are dividing it. For what would become of us, if we were to get no share in it?' Placing Viṣṇu, (in the shape of) this very sacrifice, at their head, they went (to the Asuras).

4. They then said: 'Let us share in this earth along with yourselves! Let a part of it be ours!' The Asuras replied rather grudgingly: 'As much as this Viṣṇu lies upon, and no more, we give you!'

5. Now Viṣṇu was a dwarf[1]. The gods, however, were not offended at this, but said: 'Much indeed they gave us, who gave us what is equal in size to the sacrifice.'

6. Having then laid him down eastwards, they enclosed him on all (three) sides with the metres, saying (Vāj. S. I, 27), on the south side, 'With the Gāyatrī metre I enclose thee!' on the west side: 'With the Triṣṭubh metre I enclose thee!' on the north side: 'With the Jagatī metre I enclose thee[2]!'

7. Having thus enclosed him on all (three) sides, and having placed Agni (the fire) on the east side, they went on worshipping and toiling with it (or him, i.e. Viṣṇu, the sacrifice). By it they obtained (sam-vid) this entire earth; and because they obtained by it this entire (earth), therefore it (the sacrificial ground) is called vedi (the altar). For this reason they say, 'As great as the altar is, so great is the earth;' for by it (the altar) they obtained this entire (earth). And, verily, he who so understands this, wrests likewise this entire (earth) from his rivals, excludes his rivals from sharing in it.

8. Thereupon this Viṣṇu became tired; but being enclosed on all (three) sides by the metres, with the fire on the east, there was no (means of) escaping: he then hid himself among the roots of plants.

9. The gods said: 'What has become of Viṣṇu? What has become of the sacrifice?' They said: 'On all (three) sides he is enclosed by the metres, with Agni to the east, there is no (way of) escaping: search for him in this very place!' By slightly digging they accordingly searched for him. They discovered him at a depth of three inches (or thumb's breadths): therefore the altar should be three inches deep; and therefore also Pāñci[3] made the altar for the Soma-sacrifice three inches deep.

10. This, however, one must not do. Among the roots of the plants he (Viṣṇu) hid himself: therefore let him (the Adhvaryu) bid (the Āgnīdhra) to cut out the roots of the plants. And since they found (anu-vid) Viṣṇu in that place, therefore it is called vedi (altar).

11. When they had found him, they enclosed him with a second enclosure, saying (Vāj. S. I, 27), 'Of good soil art thou, and auspicious art thou!' on the south side; for when they had thus obtained this earth they made it of good soil and auspicious;--'Pleasant art thou, and soft to sit upon!' they said on the west side, for when they had thus obtained this earth, they made it pleasant and soft to sit upon;--'Abounding in food and drink art thou!' they said on the north side, for when they had thus obtained this earth, they made it abounding in food and drink.

12. Threefold[4] he draws round the first line of enclosure, threefold the second: hence sixfold (the two); for six seasons there are in the year, and the year, as Prajāpati (Lord of Creation), is the sacrifice[5]. As large as the sacrifice, as wide as its extent is, so wide does he thereby enclose it.

13. With six sacred words[6] he draws around the first line of enclosure, with six the second: thus (together) twelvefold, for twelve no doubt are the months of the year; and the year, as Prajāpati, is the sacrifice. As large as the sacrifice, as wide as its extent is, so wide does he thereby enclose it.

14. 'Let it (the altar) measure a fathom[7] across on the west side,' they say: that, namely, is the size of a man, and it (the altar) should be of (the) man's size. 'Three cubits long (should be) the

"easterly line[8]," for threefold is the sacrifice,' (so they say, but) in this there is no (fixed) measure: let him make it as long as he thinks fit in his own mind!

15. The two shoulders (of the altar) he carries along both sides of the (Āhavanīya) fire. For the altar (vedi, fem.) is female and the fire (agni, masc.) is male; and the woman lies embracing the man: thereby a copulation productive of offspring is obtained. For this reason he carries the two shoulders (of the altar) along both sides of the fire.

16. It (the altar) should be broader on the west side, contracted in the middle, and broad again on the east side; for thus shaped they praise a woman: 'broad about the hips, somewhat narrower between the shoulders, and contracted in the middle (or, about the waist).' Thereby he makes it (the altar) pleasing to the gods.

17. It should be sloping towards east, for the east is the quarter of the gods; and also sloping towards north, for the north is the quarter of men. To the south side he sweeps the rubbish (loose soil), for that is the quarter of the deceased ancestors. If it (the altar) were sloping towards south, the sacrificer would speedily go to yonder world; and thus (by making the altar in the prescribed way) the sacrificer lives for a long time: for this reason he sweeps the loose soil to the south side. Let him then cover it (the altar) over with (fresh) rubbish: for rubbish means cattle, and well-stocked with cattle he thereby makes it[9].

18. He (the Āgnīdhra) smooths it down (from east to west). The gods, namely, when they were preparing for the contest, said to one another: 'Come, let us remove to the moon for safety what imperishable place of worship there is on this earth; so that if the Asuras, on vanquishing us, should drive us away from here, we may afterwards, by praising and mortifying, prevail again!' They accordingly removed to the moon what imperishable place of worship there was on this earth. That now is the black (spots) in the moon: hence they say, 'In the moon is the place of worship for this earth.' It is in this place of worship also that his sacrifice is performed: for that reason he smooths (the altar) down[10].

19. He smooths it down, with the text (Vāj. S. I, 28): 'Before the bloody (battle) with its rushings hither and thither[11], O mighty one!' the bloody one no doubt is the battle, for in battle bloody deeds are done, and slain lie man and horse; and before that battle they removed it (the altar to the moon); therefore he says, 'Before the bloody (battle) with its rushings hither and thither, O mighty one!'--'lifting up the life-bestowing earth,' for after lifting up what was living on this earth, they removed it to the moon; therefore he says, 'lifting  up the life-bestowing earth; which they raised to the moon by prayers,' 'which they placed in the moon by worship,' he thereby says,--'that (earth) the wise still point out and worship,' to that they accordingly address their worship; and the offering of him also who so understands this, is performed in that place of worship.

20. He now says (to the Āgnīdhra; Vāj. S. I, 28), 'Put the sprinkling-water down (on the altar)!' That thunderbolt, the wooden sword, and the priest (brāhmaṇa) have hitherto defended that sacrifice. Now the water also is a thunderbolt: that thunderbolt he thereby lays down for its defence. While the sprinkling-water is being held close above the wooden sword, he takes up the latter. If he were to set the sprinkling-water down, while the wooden sword is still lying, the two thunderbolts would come into collision with each other; but in this way the two thunderbolts do not come into collision with each other: for that reason he takes up the wooden sword, while the sprinkling-water is being held close above it.

21. He pronounces this (entire) speech:--'Put the sprinkling-water down (on the altar)! put fuel and barhis (sacrificial grass) beside it! wipe the ladles! gird the (sacrificer's) wife! come hither with the clarified butter!' This is a direction (given to the Āgnīdhra); he (the Adhvaryu) may pronounce it, if he choose; or, if he so choose, he may omit it: for he (the Āgnīdhra) himself knows that this work has now to be done.

22. He then flings the wooden sword northwards (on the heap of rubbish). If he wishes to exorcise[12], (he does so), with the text, 'I fling thee as a thunderbolt for so and so!' and as a thunderbolt the wooden sword accordingly strikes down (the enemy).

23. He then washes his hands[13]; for what there was bloody (or injured) on it (the altar) that he thereby removes from it: that is why he washes his hands.

24. Now those who made offerings in former times, touched (the altar and oblations) at this particular time, while they were sacrificing. They became more sinful. Those who washed (their hands) became righteous. Then unbelief took hold of men: 'Those who sacrifice become more sinful, and those who sacrifice not become righteous,' they said. No sacrificial food then came to the gods from this world: for the gods subsist on what is offered up from this world[14].

25. The gods thereupon said to Bṛhaspati Āṅgirasa, 'Verily, unbelief has come upon men; ordain thou the sacrifice to them!' Bṛhaspati Āṅgirasa then went and said, 'How comes it that you do not sacrifice?' They replied, 'From a desire for what should we sacrifice, since those who sacrifice become more sinful, and those who sacrifice not become righteous?'

26. Bṛhaspati Āṅgirasa then said, 'What we have heard of as produced[15] for the gods that is this sacrifice, that is to say, the cooked oblations and the prepared altar; therewith you have performed while touching: that is why you have become more sinful. Sacrifice therefore without touching, for thus you will become righteous!' 'How long?' they asked. 'Till the spreading of the sacrificial grass (on the altar),' he said. By the sacrificial grass, namely, it (the altar) becomes appeased. If, therefore, before the spreading of the sacrificial grass anything were to fall on it, let him only remove it at the time when he spreads the sacrificial grass; for when they spread the sacrificial grass, then they also step on it with the foot. He who knowing this sacrifices without touching, becomes indeed righteous: let him therefore sacrifice, without touching (the altar and oblations).

Footnotes and references:


This legend is given in Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, IV, p. 122, where it is pointed out that we have here the germ of the Dwarf Incarnation of Viṣṇu; and in A. Kuhn's treatise, 'Ueber Entwickelungsstufen der Mythenbildung,' p. 128, where the following remarks are made on the story: 'Here also we meet with the same struggle between light and darkness: the gods of light are vanquished and obtain from the Asuras, who divide the earth between themselves, only as much room as is covered by Viṣṇu, who measures the atmosphere with his three steps. He represents (though I cannot prove it in this place) the sun-light, which, on shrinking into dwarf's size in the evening, is the only means of preservation that is left to the gods, who cover him with metres, i.e. with sacred hymns (probably in order to defend him from the powers of darkness), and in the end kindle Agni in the east--the dawn--and thereby once more obtain possession of the earth.' Compare also the corresponding legend in Taitt. Br. III, 2, 9, 7, p. 60 where the gods are granted by the Asuras as much as they can enclose; and by the Vasus being placed in the south, the Rudras in the west, the Ādityas in the north, and Agni in the east, they obtain the whole of the earth.


In the actual performance of the sacrifice this represents the pūrva-parigraha, or first enclosing of the altar by a single line being drawn with the wooden sword on each of the three sides (viz. S.W. to S.E.; S.W. to N.W.; N.W. to N.E.) whilst muttering the respective texts. Before doing so he has, however, to ask and receive the permission of the Brahman, mutatis mutandis, in the usual way (cf. p. 7 note): the same forms have to be gone through at the marking of the second and third enclosures. Katy. II, 6, 25 seq. On the ritualistic application of the metres, see note on I, 3, 2, 9.


This teacher is mentioned again, Śat. Br. II, 1, 4, 27, along with two others, viz. Āsuri and Mādhuki, but nothing further is known of him. According to the Black Yajus the altar is made four (not three) aṅgulas deep.


Viz. each enclosing line consists of three divisions corresponding to the three sides (S., W., N.) of the altar.


Prajāpati (Lord of Creation) is here, as elsewhere, identified with the year (probably as the representative of the eternal process of regeneration) and consequently with the annual cycle of sacrificial performance, or the sacrifice itself. Cf. Śat. Br. I, 5, 2, 16; X, 4, 3, 1.


According to Sāyaṇa, because each of the three mantras, 'gāyatreṇa (traiṣṭubhena, jāgatena resp.) tvā chandasā pari gṛhṇāmi,' consists of two parts, the first ending with tvā, the second with gṛhṇāmi, which makes together six. Similarly with the second triad of mantras. In the former case the Taittirīya text (Taitt. S. I, 1, 9, 3), 'The Vasus may enclose thee with the Gāyatrī metre, the Rudras with the Triṣṭubh metre, the Ādityas with the Jagatī metre!' would furnish a more natural explanation of the six sacred words.


Vyāma, the space between the extreme ends of the outstretched arms. It is doubtful whether it is here intended for a fixed measure, or whether it is a relative one, depending on the size of the respective sacrificer. The size of a man was supposed to be equal to the extent of his outstretched arms.


I.e. a line drawn from the middle of the western side through the centre of the altar to the Āhavanīya fire. The same line prolongated from the western side of the altar westwards to the Gārhapatya would measure eight (eleven or twelve) steps (prakrama or vikrama, of two feet or pada each) from fire to fire. See I, 7, 3, 23-25.


Purīṣa, rubbish; 'sandy or gravel-like soil,' Sāy. on Taitt. Br. III, 2, 9, 12; purīṣa also means 'fæces, manure,' in which sense it is probably taken symbolically for 'cattle.' The Taitt. Br. better: 'well supplied with cattle he thereby makes him (the sacrificer).'


? By stroking along the altar he shifts it to the moon.


The interpretation of purā krūrasya visṛpaḥ here given by the author, and also by Mahīdhara on Vāj. S. I, 28, is more than doubtful. Sāyaṇa on Taitt. S. I, 1, 9 is probably more correct in taking purā visṛpaḥ (abl. or gerund) krūrasya to mean 'before the sneaking away of the cruel enemy (Araru, lying fettered on the heap of rubbish)'--he supplies: 'thou, O altar, containest merely the divine oblations, but since his removal thou containest everything.' Cf. also Weber, Ind. Streifen, II, p. 463.


Otherwise he uses the text (Vāj. S. I, 28): 'A killer of the enemy art thou!' Kāty. II, 6, 42.


He does so (on the utkara) and then lays down the wooden sword west of the praṇītā water. Kāty. II, 6, 43.


Men, on the other hand, subsist on what is bestowed on them from yonder world. Taitt. S. III, 2, 9, 7; Taitt. Br. II, 2, 7, 3.


Pariṣūtam, which Sāyaṇa interprets by parigṛhītam, 'hedged round' [? 'set apart']. The Kāṇva MS. reads parishutam.

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