The Sacrifices of Rajasuya, Vajapeya and Ashvamedha (study)

by Aparna Dhar | 2016 | 61,606 words

This page relates ‘Details of the Caturmasya Sacrifice’ of the study dealing with the Sacrifices such as Rajasuya, Vajapeya and Ashvamedha including their ritualistic and monarchial strata with reference to the Shatapatha-Brahmana. These Brahmanas represent a category of ancient Sanskrit texts dealing with ancient Vedic rituals and ceremonies based on the Vedas.

The Cāturmāsya sacrifice is a combination of four seasonal sacrifices. Each of the four seasonal sacrifices takes place after four month, so it is known as Cāturmāsya sacrifice. Among the sacrifices listed in the seven Haviryajñas[1], the Cāturmāsya sacrifices are the most complicated and containing a remarkable number of popular rites. The Cāturmāsya sacrifices are performed throughout life or for one year. The main reward attained by the Cāturmāsya sacrifice is heaven[2]. According to the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa,[3] separate rewards may be secured by the four parvan separately.

The names of the four parvans are—

  1. Vaiśvadeva.
  2. Varuṇapraghāsa.
  3. Sākamedha and
  4. Sunāsīrīya.

Each of the parvan is performed at the interval of four months. Thus, according to the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa[4], by performing the Cāturmāsya sacrifice one may win the whole year. The first parvan i.e. the Vaiśvadeva parvan is performed on the full moon day of the month of Phālguna (or Caitra), second, the Varuṇapraghāsa parvan is performed on the full moon day of Āṣādha and Kārtika (or Mārgaśirṣa); the third parvan Sākamedha is performed on the full moon day of the Kārtika. There is no fixed period for the 4th parvan Sunāsīrīya. It may be performed during the four months in between the conclusion of the Sākamedha and the start of the Vaiśvadeva parvan, which makes a fresh cycle. It may be performed just immediately after the conclusion of the Sākamedha offerings. Three parvans corresponding to the three seasons are–Vasanta (spring), Varsā (rainy season) and Sarat (autumn). If the sacrificer wants to perform a soma sacrifice (Agniṣṭoma), he has to discontinue the Cāturmāsya parvan for the next cycle.

Vaiśvadeva parvan:

In the Vaiśvadeva parvan a sacrificial cake on eight potsherds to Agni, pap to Soma, a cake on eight or twelve potsherds to Savitṛ, pap to Sarasvati, pap to Maruts or Maruts Svatavats, payasyā to Viśvedevas and a cake on one potsherd to Dvāvyāpṛthivyau are offered[5]. In the Āhavaniya agni kuṇḍa, the fire established by the rite of Agni manthana. After establishing the fire Yajamāna puts samidhās in to that fire and puts ghṛta on the samidhās in the Āhavaniya fire. When the fire enkindled fully, nine-prayāja, nine-anuyāja and three samisthā Yajus are offered in this parvan.

In the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa[6] it is mentioned that offering to Maruts is for safety note for killing. For the explanation of this the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa[7] has given a story which runs thus-“when offspring’s were created by Prajāpati Maruts killed them. Thus Maruts are themselves like disease, death and so on and an offering to them is obviously for the purpose of killing.

Varuṇapraghāsa parvan:

In the Varuṇapraghāsa parvan the first five offerings are alike as the Vaiśvadeva parvan. Along with these offerings, a cake on twelve potsherds to Indra and Agni, āmikṣā to Varuṇa, āmikṣā to Maruts and a cake on one potsherd to Kā are offered. In addition to these, there are the offerings of the karambhas and a ewe made of barley. Before these offerings, there is the confession of the sacrificer’s wife about how many admirer she has. Then she mentions the name or names of the paramours. If she has none then she tells that she has none. If she feels shy to mention the names of admirer, then she holds up as many stalks of grass as many admirers she has. Then the paramour became caught by the Varuṇa. Thus when the wife confessed, the sin becomes less. In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa[8], it is mentioned that whatever she has not confesses that will turn out injuries to her relatives. According to the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa[9], the priest makes the wife purified (medhya) by putting this question.

This confession rite cures the sacrificer’s wife. For the curing of other members of the family following rite is observed. After the confession, the wife offers the Karambhapātras which are as many as there are family members and added an extra one. This additional one is for the sake of those who are not yet born. When these offerings are made, all the persons born as well as unborn become free from Varuṇa’s nooses i.e. from diseases[10]. Along with these offerings, there are the ram and the ewe made of the remaining flour of the karambhapātras. The ram and ewe are placed in the payasyā and then are offered. The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa[11] mentions that the ram is an animal of Varuṇa and by using it the offspring are freed from Varuṇa’s nooses i.e. they are cured. The offering of ram and ewe is also made for curing the animals. In the end there is an Avabhṛtha bath in the same way as there is an avabhṛtha bath at the end of the Rājasūya sacrifice.

Varuṇa is not only connected with the disease, he is also connected with the curing. It is said that Varuṇa has a hundred physicians. Indra when desires to be strong and firm offered a cake to Varuṇa, who is with hundred physicians (śatabhisaj) and with thousand medicines (bheṣaja). Then Indra becomes strong and firm[12]. In the Avabhṛtha bath at the end, we noticed that the following words are uttered by the sacrificer:-“O king Varuṇa, a hundred are your physicians, a thousand medicines”[13]. Thus, it can be said that the Avabhṛtha bath has some healing capacities and it is attached to the Varuṇapraghāsa for the purpose of healing or curing.

Sākamedha Parvan:

On the first day of the third parvan i.e. on the Sākamedha Parvan a cake on eight potsherds to Agni Anikavat is offered in the morning, pap to Maruts Saṃtapanas in the noon, and pap cooked in milk to Maruts Gṛhamedhins are offered in the evening. Next day in the morning there is the Darvi-homa. Then a cake on seven potsherds to Maruts Kridins and pap to Aditi are offered. Then the first five offerings of the Vaiśvadeva parvan are offered and added the offerings of a cake on twelve potsherds, pap to Mahendra and a cake on one potsherd to Vaiśvakarman are made. In the afternoon there is the Pitṛyajña in which Pirars Somavats or Soma Pitṛmat, Pitars Barhisads and Pitars Agniṣvatta are the deities. Then there is Trayambakaeṣṭi in which the offerings are made to Rudra Trayambaka.

The Trayambaka havir yāga, which follows the Pitṛyajña is very important in which as many cakes are offered as there are members in the family and added one for those who are yet to be born. The offerings are made to Rudra on the cross way. The additional cake is dug in a mole-hill. After returning from the mole hill, all the members walk thrice round the altar beating their thighs. The sacrificer than takes the remaining cakes in to his joined plams and throws them upward higher than a cow can reach. Having placed them in to two net-work baskets and tied them to the ends of either a bamboo staff or a beam of balance, the sacrificer goes to the north and tied them to a tree on a stake or a bamboo. The sacrificer and the priests then come back without looking backward and touch the water.

In this rite we get some traces of curing. According to the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa[14], the Gods removed ‘Rudra’ by means of this Trayambaka and the sacrificer also removes Rudra by means of it. Rudra is well known for bringing disease. The autumn season (sarad ṛtu) in which the Sākamedha and the Trayambaka yāga are performed, is a period very notorious for disease. Rudra is the same as disease. The Gopatha Brāhmaṇa[15] gives the significance of Trayambaka yāga as, to delight Rudra it is performed. Thus by removing Rudra’s anger and by pleasing him healing is made by the sacrificer.

Sunāsīrīya Parvan:

In the Sunāsīrīya parvan the first five offerings of the Vaiśvadeva parvan are made with the addition of the offering of Sunāsīrīya cake on twelve potsherds and an ablation of milk and yavāgu is offered to Vāyu and a cake on one potsherd to Surya. According to the Jaiminio Brāhmaṇa[16], the word ‘Sunāsīra’ means to obtain the valour of Indra, the killer of Vṛtra and the milk of the conquered year. The Sunāsīrīya parvan is for curing and healing. One who is devoid of strength and valour and one who is diseased for a long time can be cured by performing the Sunāsīrīya rite.

Significance of the Cāturmāsya yajña and its relation to monarchy:

The Cāturmāsya sacrifice is called bhaiṣajya yajña. It is performed in the joining of seasons (ṛtusandhi). For in the joining of the seasons disease is born[17]. It is a well known fact that when there is some changes in the climate diseases are spread. Thus, the Cāturmāsya yajña which is performed in the joining of the seasons should therefore said to be connected with healing. The diseases are often supposed to be connected with evil beings like Aśuras and Rākṣasas. According to the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa[18], the Gods defeated the Aśuras by means of Cāturmāsyas.

Regarding the significance of the Cāturmāsya, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says that one, who performs the Cāturmāsya, wins the year[19]. It is already mentioned that, the Cāturmāsyas are performed for a whole year. By performing the Cāturmāsyas throughout the year, one wins the year. The Gopatha Brāhmaṇa[20] identifies the Cāturmāsya with Prajāpati which are as follows: “Vaiśvadeva is his mouth, Varuṇapraghāsa are his arms, the three iṣṭis (in the Sākamedha) are his prāṇa, apāna and vyāna; Mahāhaviryajña is his body (ātmā), Sunāsīrīya is his foundation (pratisthā)”.

This winning of the year has another shade i.e. that of fertility. In connection with the Cāturmāsyas in the Rājasūya, it is said that one who is desirous of food and nourishment should sacrifice with the Cāturmāsyas. After the Cāturmāsya, one has to perform the soma yajña. Actually the Cāturmāsyas are connected with the Soma sacrifice. Thus, we may notice that at the end of the Varuṇapraghāsa, there is the Avabhṛtha bath like that of the Soma sacrifice or Rājasūya yajña of monarchial strata. In the Rājasūya sacrifice, the Cāturmāsyas begins on the first phālguna with the Sunāsiriya rite. Then in Chaitra, begins the abhiṣecaniya and in the Jaiṣṭha (next year) follows the ceremony of cutting the hair (Keśavapānīya). The sacrificer of the Rājasūya performs the Vaiśvadeva, Varuṇapraghāsa like that of Prajāpati. As by means of this offering, the Prajāpati create abundance of food and makes the creatures free from Varuṇa’s noose. Thus, the sacrificer by making this offering obtains the same result like that of Prajāpati. The performer of the Rājasūya also performs the Sākamedha offering, as the Gods slew Vṛtra and attains the universal conquest by means of this offering[21]. Thus, by making Sākamedha offering the Rājasūya sacrificer also gains victory and removed his all venomous enemies. Hence, the inclusion of the Cāturmāsyas in the Rājasūya sacrifice highlights its Saumika character.

As already mentioned that by performing the Cāturmāsya sacrifice one becomes imperishable and attains honesty. Hence, it can be said that in the Cāturmāsyas are included in the Rājasūya sacrifice for obtaining such results. In the chapter IV, it is already discussed that the Rājasūya sacrifice is performed for the attainment of royal power or kingship. The Rājasūya sacrifice is attached with high political significance. Thus, the inclusion of the Cāturmāsyas in the Rājasūya sacrifice or the Avabhṛtha bath at the end of the Varuṇapraghāsa (which is actually performed at the end of the Soma sacrifice or the Rājasūya yajña) indicates some political character of the Rājasūya sacrifice.

Footnotes and references:


Gautama-dharma-sūtra-“Agnyādheyamgnihotraṃ darśapūrṇamāsāvāgrayanṃ cāturmāsyāni nirudapaśubandha sautrāmaniyati sapta haviryajña saṃsthā|”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa, Sāyan Bhāsya XI/2/12-“Cāturmāsyai Svargakāme yajet |”


Ibid -XI/2/12-“Yadvaimadeve yajate prajā evatadyamānaḥ sṛjate| Jā Varuṇapraghāsair Varuṇa pāsānmucati| Sākamedhai praṭhiṣṭhāpayati ‘trayambakai rudraṃ’ niravadayate pitṛyajñena suvarga lokam gamayati||”


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa-II/6/3/1-“Cāturmāsya yājino saṃvatsaraṃ hi jayati|”


Kātyāyana-śrauta-sūtra-V/1/1-4, 11-14-“Āgneyaḥ saumyaścaruṇ sāvitro dvādaśakapālo’ṣṭākapālo vā sārasvataś caruḥ pauṣṇaścaru praṭhiṣṭhānāṃ| Marudbhyaḥ svatvadbhyaḥ sapta kapālaḥ| Vaiśvādevi payasyā dyāvyā prathivīya ekakapālaḥ||”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa–I/6/2/3-“Sa etaṃ prajāpatir mārutaṃ saptakapālaṃpasyat taṃnirvapata| Tato vai prajābhyo’kalpat| Yanmāruto nirupayate…………………….sa prajāpatirśocat||”


Ibid-I/6/2/2-“Soma reto’dadhāti Savitā prājanayati|…………..Taḥ prajā jata maruto’ghnaṇ||”


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa -II/5/2/20-“Atha pratiprasthātā pratiparaiti | Sa patnīmudāneṣyan pṛccati kena carasīti varuṇyaṃ vā………..tadhitaṃ syāt |”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa -I/6/5/2-“Tatpratiprasthanā karoti| Tasmādya ccheyānkaroti|Tat Pāpiyān karoti|Patniṃ vācayati| Medhyāmevainaṃ karoti||”


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa -II/5/2/22-“Tāni vai prati paruṣaṃ | Yāvanto gṛhyā syustāvantyekenātiriktāni bhavati tatpratipuruṣamevaitadekaikena yā asya prajā jātāstā…………………..bhavanti |”


Ibid -II/5/2/16-“Tadyanmeṣascca meṣī ca bhavata | Eṣa vai pratyaksaṃ varuṇasya paśu |”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa-III/1/5/9-“Indra vā akāmayati | Ido’śithilaḥ syāmiti| Sa etaṃ varuṇāya śatabhiṣaje bheṣajebhyaḥ purodāsaṃ daśakapālaṃ niravapatkṛṣṇanāṃ brīhīṇāṃ|Tato vai sa ido’śithilo’bhavat||”


Ṛgveda-I/24/9-“Śataṃ te rājan bhisajah sahasraṃurvī gabhirā sumatiṣṭe astu|”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa -I/6/8/1-“Vaiśvadevena vai prajāpatiḥ prajā asṛjat| Tā varuṇapraghāsair varuṇa pāsād muñcat| Sākamedhai pratyasthāpayat…………………………….trayamvakair rudraṃ niravadayate||”


Gopatha-brāhmaṇa-XI/1/25-“yat trayambakaiścaranti rudraṃ eva tat svāyāṃ diśi prīnayanti”


Jaiminīya-brāhmaṇa-II/234-“Sunāsīryo yadvā indrasya vṛtraṃ jaghnuṣa indriyaṃ vīryamāsītacchunaṃ|”


Gopatha-brāhmaṇa -II/1/19-“Bhaiṣajya yajña vā ete yac cāturmāsyani | Tasmād ṛtusandhiṣu prayujyante| Ṛtusandhiṣu hi vyādhir jayate||”


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa-I/4/9/3-“Ta etāni cāturmāsyānyapaśyan| Tāni niravapan| Tairvaivaiṣāṃ tāmurjambṛñjat| Tato devā abhavan|Parā’surāḥ|”


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa-II/6/3/1-“Cāturmāsya yājino saṃvatsara hi jayanti |”





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