The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes the inauguration of the sacrificial cult which is Chapter 30 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 30 - The inauguration of the sacrificial cult

Summary: The Inauguration of the Sacrificial Cult; Fall of King Vasu for Denunciation of Sacrifices

Note: This Chapter corresponds to chapter 58.76ff. of Vāyu-purāṇa.

Śāṃśapāyani said:—

1. How could Yajña begin to function formerly in the Svāyambhuva Manvantara, at the beginning of the Tretā Yuga. Narrate it factually to me.

2-4. When the Sandhyā (the period between two Yugas) elapsed along with the Kṛta Yuga, when (the time unit) called Kāla [kalā] began to function at the advent of Tretā Yuga, when the creation of rain had taken place and (the plants and) the medicinal herbs had grown, when the practice of cultivation. and agriculture had been fully established, when the people devoted to the stage of life of a householder established the classification of castes and stages of life with keen insight, then how was Yajña initiated after gathering together all the requisites?”

5. On hearing this Sūta said:—

Let this be heard, O Śāṃśapāyani, how in the beginning of Tretā Yuga, Yajña started functioning.

6-9. I shall recount in the proper order (how Yajña began) formerly in the Svāyambhuva Manvantara.

When the Sandhyā the transitional-period (or junction) elapsed along with Kṛta Yuga, when the period called Kāla began to function at the advent of Tretā Yuga, when the creation of rain had taken place and (the plants and) the medicinal herbs had grown, when the practice of cultivation and agriculture had been fully established, when the people became devoted to the life of householders and after establishing the classification of the castes and stages of life, they arranged the mantras into a well-knit compendium, they included those Mantras in holy rites (for the sake of welfare) here and hereafter. At that time lord Indra (the enjoyer of the universe) initiated the Yajña.

10. (They started the Yajña) along with all the gods and with all the requisites gathered together. The great sages came to his horse-sacrifice which was being lavishly performed.

11-16. All those who had come asked him even as he was performing the Yajña with the animals worthy of being sacrificed.

When the Ṛtviks (sacrificial priests) were busy with their ritualistic fire-worship as the activities concerning the performance of Yajña; when the priests (authorised in) singing the Sāman Mantras had begun their sweet notes; when the leading Adhvaryus (sacrificial priests) had quickly started their proceedings; when all the flocks of the animals (procured for and) worthy of being sacrificed had been cut and struck, when the Havis offerings were being poured into the fire by Brāhmaṇas performing Agnihotra; when all the Devas the partakers of the Yajña, had been invoked in the due order—those Devas who are of the nature of Indriya (the presiding deities of sense-organs) were the partakers of Yajña—they worshipped those Devas who existed at the beginning of the Kalpa—the great sages, the Adhvaryus, rose up at the time of squeezing and crushing (of the Soma juice). On seeing the miserable flocks of animals, the great sages collectively asked Indra—’ “What is the procedure of your Yajña?[1]

17. This is highly unrighteous and sinful. It (this sacrifice) has been spread (performed) with a desire for rites involving violence to life). In your Yajña, O excellent god, the; killing of animals is involved.

18. An evil thing has been started for the destruction of Dharma on account of this injury to the animals. This is not Dharma; it is Adharma (sin). Violence is not called as Dharma (Righteous).

19. If your honour wishes to perform the Yajña in accordance with the scriptures, perform the Yajña by means of Dharma that does not infringe established institutions. Perform the Yajña according to the injunctions laid down (in scriptures).

20-21. O excellent god! (sacrifice should be performed) with sacrificial seeds which are kept for a maximum period of three years and which do not put forth sprouts. In them (such seeds described above) no violence (to life) exists (is involved). O highly intelligent one, this is the Dharma laid down formerly by Brahmā”.

Thus Indra, the enjoyer of the Universe, (was asked) by the sages who perceived reality.

22. Then a great argument took place between Indra and the great sages—” By what means should the Yajña be performed—by mobile (living) beings or immobile articles?”

23. After stating the principle the great sages became dejected on account of the argument. After coming to terms with Indra, they asked Vasu who was moving about in the firmament.

24. “O king of great intellect, how (what) is the procedure for Yajña found out by you. O lord, son of Uttānapāda, explain and dispel our doubts”.

25. On hearing their words, Vasu, without considering the pros and cons recollected the Vedas and Scriptural texts. He then explained the principle of Yajña.

26. “Sacrifice should be performed with whatever is duly brought” said the king. ‘Sacrifice should be performed by means of animals worthy of being sacrificed or by means of seeds and fruits.

27-29. Violence is but natural to a sacrifice—such is my (opinion) as well as what is mentioned in philosophical texts and scriptures. Just as the Devatās, so also the Mantras, are symbols of violence. This is said by great sages endowed with austerities over a long period, through their philosophical texts and Tāraka and other (Mantras). This has been said on the basis of their authority. Hence, it behoves you all to achieve it provided those Mantras and statements are considered authoritative by you, O Brāhmaṇas, so, let the Yajña be continued and allowed to function. Otherwise, your words will be otherwise (false)”.

30. After being answered to in this manner, those saints with souls united with Brahman of unified souls, realized the inevitability and hence restrained their speech.

31. Immediately after saying this, the king entered Rasātala (nether worlds). After being a traverser of the upper regions Vasu (now) came to be a traverser of the nether-worlds.[2]

32. By means of that statement he had been a resident of the (nether) surface of the world. King Vasu who tried to dispel doubts in regard to Dharma, went down.

33. Hence, even though one may be conversant with many things, one should not express anything by way of clarification of doubts when alone and single-handed. Dharma has many an opening. Its way is subtle and it goes a long way.

34. Hence, nothing definite can be stated by anyone in the matter of Dharma including the Devas and the sages but excepting Svāyambhuva Manu.

35. Hence, non-violence has been declared by great sages as the gateway to Dharma.[3] Thousands and millions of sages have gone to heaven by means of their own austerities.

36-38. Therefore, the great sages do not praise either charity or Yajña. By giving roots and fruits or greens and vegetables gleaned by them or water-pot in accordance with their capacity, many ascetics have become well-established in the heavenly world.

Non-harassment, absence of greed, penance, mercy to the living beings, control of sense-organs, celibacy, truthfulness, tenderness, forgiveness, fortitude—these are the roots of the eternal Dharma, but they are very difficult to achieve.

39-41. It is heard (traditionally) that many sinless Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and others have achieved spiritual power by means of penance. They are Priyavrata, Uttānapāda, Dhruva, Medhātithi, Vasu, Sudhāman, Virajas, Śaṅkha, Pāṇḍyaja, Prācīnabarhis, Parjanya, Havirdhāna and other kings. These and many others have gone to heaven by means of their austerities. They are saintly kings of great inherent strength whose reputation has been firmly established.

42. Hence, by all reasons, penance is superior to Yajña. It is due to his penance that this whole universe had been formerly created by Brahmā.

43. Hence, Yajña does not follow it (penance) anywhere. This (world) is regarded as based on penance.

Articles (of sacrifice) and Mantras are the bases of Yajña. Penance is of the nature of non-intake of food.

44. One attains the Devas by means of Yajña and Vairāja by means of penance. Brahminical holy rites (are achieved) by means of renunciation and the victory over Prakṛti through Vairāgya (absence of passionate attachment).

45-48. One attains Kaivalya (salvation) through knowledge. These are declared as five goals.

Thus great argument took place between the Devas and the sages in connection with the functioning of the Yajña formerly during Svāyambhuva Manvantara.

Thereafter, on seeing him (Vasu?) struck down by means of the power of Dharma, all of them ignored the words of Vasu and went away as they came. When the groups of sages-departed, the Devas concluded the Yajña. It was thus that Yajña was initiated in the Svāyambhuva Manvantara. Thereafter, this Yajña has been modified along with the Yugas.

Footnotes and references:


VV. 16-21 record the Brahmanical protest against animal-sacrifices. They state that the seeds which are 3 years old and incapable of germination should be used instead of animals in sacrifice.


The fall of king Vasu for supporting animal sacrifices showed how that institution of animal sacrifice became condemned at the time of this Purāṇa.


VV. 35-48 establish the superiority of Jñāna mārga over Karmamārga, including animal sacrifices.

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