Satapatha Brahmana

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

This is Satapatha Brahmana VIII.6.2 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 2nd brahmana of kanda VIII, adhyaya 6.

Kanda VIII, adhyaya 6, brahmana 2

1. He lays down Chandasyās[1] (bricks pertaining to the metres). Completed now was the entire

Agni (fire-altar). He now wished for distinction[2]; for, indeed, heretofore he was not equal thereto, that he should sustain distinction; whence people here say even to this day, 'This one is not equal to sustain distinction, either in regard to kingship or to headmanship.' The gods bestowed on him this distinction, these Chandasyās; for the metres (Chandas) are cattle, and cattle are food, and (a position of) distinction is food.

2. He lays down triplets, for the beast is threefold--father, mother, son; and, embryo, amnion, chorion; and food also is threefold--ploughing, rain, seed. One of them is an Atichandas[3] (excessive metre); for even whilst being one, that one is beyond all the metres. And as to that distinction, it is this great hymn of praise[4]; and as to this great hymn of praise, it is these Chandasyās.

3. Gāyatrī verses are the head thereof, Triṣṭubh verses the body, Jagatī verses the spine, and Paṅkti verses the wings; and of each of those Kakubh verses he takes four syllables[5], and adds them to the Atichandas: that is just (what makes) that Atichandas (excessive metre). The others result in Gāyatrīs: this is just that fourscore of Gāyatrīs[6], the Bṛhatīs (make up) the Bārhata one, and the Uṣṇihs the Auṣṇiha one. And as to the Vaśa hymn[7], the two half-verses, the Aindrāgna (hymn), and the insertion, they are Atikḥandas; and as to the Nada-verse[8], the Sūdadohas, the pāda-appendages, and whatever Anuṣṭubh matter there is, they make up the Anuṣṭubhs.

4. Dvipadā verses are the feet. Thus much is the great hymn of praise, and the great hymn of praise means distinction: the gods bestowed upon him (Agni) all that distinction, and so does this (Sacrificer) bestow upon him all that distinction.

5. And, again, as to why he lays down the Chandasyās. The gods at that time saw that firmament, the world of heaven, to wit, those Stomabhāgās, and entered it. Of those entering, Prajāpati entered last; and thus Prajāpati is the same as these Chandasyās.

6. Gāyatrīs are his head; and as to its being Gāyatrīs, it is because the head is of Gāyatrī nature[9]. There are three, for the head is threefold. He places them on the forepart (of the altar), for the head (of the animal or bird) is in front.

7. Triṣṭubhs are the chest: he places them on the range of the two Retaḥsic; for the Retaḥsic are the ribs, and the ribs lie against the chest.

8. Jagatīs are the hips; at whatever distance from the naturally-perforated (central) brick he places the Triṣṭubhs in front, at the same distance from it he places the Jagatīs behind; for that naturally-perforated brick is this vital air in the middle (of the body), and as far from that vital air as the chest is in front, so far are the hips behind.

9. Anuṣṭubhs are the thighs: he places them close to the Jagatīs, and thereby places the thighs close to the hips.

10. Bṛhatīs are the ribs, Kakubhs the breast-bone. The Bṛhatīs he places between the Triṣṭubhs and Kakubhs, whence these ribs are fastened on both sides, on the breast-bone and the costal cartilages[10].

11. Uṣṇihs are the neck: he places them close to the Gāyatrīs, and thereby places the neck close to the head.

12. Paṅktis are the wings: and as to their being

Paṅktis, it is because the wings are of Paṅkti (fivefold) nature. He places them sideways, for these wings are sideways. Whatever metre is larger that he places on the right side: he thus makes the right half of the animal the stronger, and hence the right side of an animal is the stronger.

13. An Atichandas is the belly; for the metres are cattle, and cattle are food, and food is (what fills) the belly, because it is the belly that eats the food: hence when the belly gets the food, it becomes eaten and used up. And inasmuch as this (brick) eats (atti) the metres (chandas), the cattle, it is called Attichandas, for Attichandas is really what is mystically called Atichandas; for the gods love the mystic.

14. A (brick) covered with loose soil is the womb. These two he lays close to each other, for the belly and the womb are close to each other. They are connected with loose soil, for loose soil means flesh, and both the belly and the womb are connected with flesh. The former is an Atichandas, the latter a soil-bedded one (purīṣavatī), for the belly is higher, and the womb lower.

15. He places them so as to extend eastwards, for in an easterly direction[11] this Agni (fire-altar) is built; and, moreover, in one moving forward, both the belly and the womb are moving forward. Outside the Stomabhāgās (he places them), for the Stomabhāgās are the heart, and the heart is highest, then (comes) the belly, then the womb.

16. He places them south of the naturally-perforated (brick). Now, in the first layer, he places both the belly and the womb north of the naturally-perforated one[12]; for that naturally-perforated one, indeed, is what this vital air in the middle (of the body) is: he thus places the belly and the womb on both sides of that (central) vital air, and hence the belly and the womb are on both sides of that central vital air.

17. The Dvipadās are the feet (the stand);--and as to its being Dvipadās (verses of two feet), it is because the feet are a pair. There are three (such verses), for a stand[13] (tripod) is threefold. He lays them down at the back, for the feet are at the back (of the body).

18. That body of his (Agni) is well-made;--and, indeed, for whomsoever they thus make that body of his so as to be well-made, he becomes possessed of that body of his as a well-made one; but for whomsoever they make it otherwise than that, for him they make that body of his so as to be ill-made, and he becomes possessed of an ill-made body.

19. It is with reference to this that these two sāma-nidhanas (finales of sāman-hymns) are uttered,--'The light (is) in the highest heaven of the gods,' and, 'The gods (are) in the highest heaven of the light;'--for when on that occasion the gods were entering (heaven), Prajāpati was the last to enter: that is why he says, 'The light (is) in the highest heaven of the gods.' And as to why he says, 'The gods (are) in the highest heaven of light,'--the light, doubtless, is this Agni (the fire-altar), and it is on his highest layer that all the gods have thus entered: this is why he says, 'The gods are in the highest heaven of light.'

Footnotes and references:


The Chandasyās represent the principal metres, the formulas used in laying down the bricks being composed in the respective metres. They consist of ten sets of three bricks each, representing the ten metres, and an additional (thirty-first) brick representing the Atichandas, or redundant metre. Each of the ten sets consists of a central brick of full size (a foot square) placed on one of the two spines, and flanked on the two sides not in contact with the spines by two half-size bricks, viz.:--1. gāyatrī at the east end of the 'spine'; 2. triṣṭubh on the Retaḥsic range (joining the p. 110 Gārhapatya on the front, or east, side); 3. jagatī, on the Retaḥsic range (joining the Gārhapatya on the west side); 4. anuṣṭubh, immediately behind (west) of the preceding set; 5. bṛhatī, immediately in front (east) of the Aṣāḍhā range (on which the ring of Stomabhāgās lies); 6. uṣṇih, immediately behind (west of) the Gāyatrīs; 7. kakubh, immediately in front of the bṛhatī bricks; 8. paṅkti, at the right (south) end of the 'cross-spine'; 9. padapaṅkti, at the left (north) end of the 'cross-spine'; 10. the single atichandas, immediately in front (east) of the fifth Asapatnā (see p. 84, note 1); 11. (three) dvipadā at the back, or west, end of the 'spine.'


That is, a position of honour, or dignity (śrī).


By the metres, here and in the sequel, we have to understand bricks laid down with verses of the respective metres (Vāj. S. XV, 20 seq.).


That is, the so-called Great Litany (mahad uktham) recited, by the Hotṛ, in response to the Mahāvrata-sāman, or Chant of the Great Rite, at the midday service of the last but one day--the so-called Mahāvrata day--of the sacrificial session called 'Gavām ayanam,' or 'cows’ walk.' The Great Litany consists of numerous p. 111 hymns, and some detached verses and prose formulas; the whole matter recited being stated to amount to as many syllables as would make up a thousand Bṛhatī verses (of thirty-six syllables each)--or 36,000 syllables in all. From an analysis I have made of the Mahad uktham (or Bṛhad uktham, as it is also called) as contained in MS. Ind. Off. 1729 D, I find it very difficult to check the accuracy of this statement; my own calculation yielding somewhere about 37,200 syllables. By leaving out of account the prose formulas, as well as certain repetitions, this gross amount might, however, be reduced to something approximating the stated number of syllables; and, indeed, the calculation was probably not meant to be a strictly accurate one. Cf. II, 3, 3, 19, 20 (where read Litany, instead of Chant), part ii, p. 430. See also IX, I, 1, 44; 3, 3, 19; 5, 2, 12.


The three Kakubh verses (Vāj. S. XV, 38-40) consist each of three pādas, of eight, twelve, and eight syllables respectively, making together twenty-eight syllables. In muttering these verses, whilst laying down the Kakubh bricks, he is to omit four syllables from the middle pāda of each verse (so as to make it equal to the other two pādas), and mutter the words thus omitted at the beginning of the verse (XV, 47) used in laying down the Atichandas brick. The syllables omitted make up complete words in each case, viz. 'bhadrā rātiḥ' at the beginning of the middle pāda of the first verse, 'vṛtratūrye' at the end of the middle pāda of the second verse, and 'ava sthirā' at the beginning of the second pāda of the third verse. The remaining portions of the Kakubh verses consist each of twenty-four syllables, or a Gāyatrī verse. The references here made to the different parts of the Mahad uktham are not quite clear, and seem to point to a somewhat different arrangement of that śastra from that known from the Aitareyāraṇyaka and the Śāṅkhāyana-sūtra. The head, indeed, consists of Gāyatrī verses, viz. Ṛg-veda I, 7., either the whole, or, according to some, only certain verses of it; the first three, or nine, verses also forming the opening triplet, or triplets, of the Mahāvrata-sāman, the chanting of which precedes the recitation of the Great Litany.--For the trunk (ātman) consisting of triṣṭubh verses, see p. 113, note 1. The Paṅkti verses, on the other hand, said to form the wings, would seem to be Ṛg-veda VIII, 40 (consisting of mahāpaṅktis), p. 112 which in the Aitareya arrangement forms the thighs, whilst Sāṅkhāyana makes it part of the tail; and the Jagatīs here referred to as constituting the spine would seem to be X, 50, which immediately follows the hymn just referred to, and is not otherwise identified with any special part of the body. The MSS. of Harisvāmin's commentary are unfortunately hopelessly corrupt in this place.


The Great Litany begins with seven sets of hymns and verses, meant symbolically to represent certain parts of Agni-Prajāpati's bird-shaped body which the ceremony is intended to reconstruct, viz. the trunk, neck, head, the roots (sinews) of the wings, the right and left wings, and the tail, between each two of which the so-called Sūdadohas verse (Ṛg-veda VIII, 69, 3), meant to represent the vital air pervading the body, is inserted, as it also is between (and before) the succeeding parts. In the first place there follow three eighties of triplets (or, 3 sets of 240 verses each) in the Gāyatrī, Bṛhatī and Uṣṇih metres respectively. Then comes the Vaśa hymn representing the belly, and finally a course of recitations (beginning with hymn VIII, 40) forming the thighs. For the part which the number eighty plays in the Agnicayana ceremony, see Weber, Ind. Stud. XIII, p. 167. The term for 'eighty,' viz. 'aśīti,' gives rise to a constant etymological play. Sāyaṇa, on Aitareyāraṇyaka I, 4, 3, 1, takes it in the sense of 'food' (cf. above, VIII, 5, 2, 17); whilst the Āraṇyaka itself takes it in that of 'obtainment':--yad evāsmin loke yaśo, yan maho, yan mithunaṃ, yad annādyaṃ, yā ’pacitis tad aśnavai, tad āpnavāni, tad avaruṇadhai, tan me ’sad iti.


This is the hymn Ṛg-veda VIII, 46, ascribed to Vaśa Aśvya, and remarkable for the variety of metres in which the different verses are composed. In the Aitareya recension of the Mahad uktham (which is followed in the MS. of this śastra referred to in the preceding notes) only the first twenty verses are recited, but verse 15 being divided into two verses, a dvipadā and an ekapadā, they are thus made to consist of twenty-one verses.


The Nada-verse, Ṛg-veda VIII, 69, 2 (in the uṣṇih metre) deriving its name from its first word 'nadam,' plays a peculiar part in the recitation of the Great Litany. The opening set of recitations, representing the trunk, consists of twenty-two triṣṭubh verses; these are recited in such a way that after each pāda (or quarter of a verse) one of the four pādas of the Nada-verse is inserted. The chief object of this insertion seems to be a metrical one, viz. that of making each two pādas (triṣṭubh = eleven, and uṣṇih = seven syllables) to form half a bṛhatī verse (eighteen syllables), the whole Litany being computed by bṛhatī verses. Moreover, of v. 3 of the first Triṣṭubh hymn of this set (Ṛg-veda X, 120) only the first two pādas are recited at this stage (whilst the remaining two are recited in different places later on), and this half-verse is followed by a bṛhatī and a satobṛhatī pāda (VII, 32, 23 c, and VI, 46, 2 c), after which the recitation proceeds with verse 4 of the first hymn. This seems to account for one of the two half-verses here referred to, whilst the other would seem to be VII, 20, 1 a, b, recited later on in the śastra. Cf. Prof. F. Max Müller's translation of Aitareyār., Sacred Books of the East, vol. i, p. 181 seqq.--The Aindrāgna hymn is VIII, 40, 1-9; 11; 12, being the first hymn of the portion representing the thighs. It consists of ten mahāpaṅkti verses (6 × 8 syllables)--each of which is split up into two Gāyatrī verses (3 × 8 syllables)--and one triṣṭubh verse.--The chief anuṣṭubh verses are those of Ṛg-veda I, 11, 1-8, which are recited in a peculiar way (towards the end of the śastra), the last pāda of each verse interchanging with the first pāda of the next verse.


Either because the Gāyatrī is the foremost and noblest of metres (whence its symbolical connection with the priestly office and caste), and the one used for the first stoma at the Soma-sacrifice; or on account of its being best adapted for singing. For the threefold nature of the head, as consisting of skin, bone, and brain, see XII, 2, 4, 9.


That is, on both sides of the chest; see XII, 2, 4, 11, with note.


Or, as one tending (flying) eastwards.


According to VII, 5, I, 38, the fire-pan is supposed to represent the belly, and the mortar the yoni; and these two were, in the first layer, placed north of the svayam-ātṛṇṇā, or naturally-perforated brick, so as to leave the space of a full brick between them and that central brick of the layer; cf. VII, 5, I, 13. In the sketch of the central part of the first layer (p. 17), the two northernmost bricks, marked p, represent the fire-pan and mortar.


That is, the feet and back part of the body, or the tail, the latter, in a sitting bird forming, as it were, a third foot or support to the body.

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