Soma in Vedic Mythology and Ritual (study)

by Anjana Chakraborty | 2017 | 51,491 words

This thesis is called: A study of the evolution of Soma in vedic mythology and ritual. It represents a thorough discussion on the characteristics of Vedic Gods, Soma and Vedic rituals. As the ritual plays a very important role in Rigveda it is only natural that Soma, the plant, the juice of which is so much used in the ritual is deified as one of ...

Chapter 3(d) - The Agnishtoma ritual

Detailed description of the Agnishtoma ritual is found in the Samhitas, Brahmanas and Shrauta Sutras which show its importance.

The important rites of the Agnishtoma ritual commonly adopted in all the ritualistic works are as under:

  1. Selection of the priests (Ritvika-varana),
  2. Construction of the Pracinavamsa-vedi (Shala-Nirmana ),
  3. Taking of the Diḳsha by the yajamana. (The Dikshaniyeishti),
  4. The opening ritual or the Initiation of the ritual (The Prayaniyeishti ),
  5. The Purchasing of the Soma (Soma-krayana),
  6. The welcome of the Soma-quest (Atithyeshti ),
  7. Pravargya, Gharma and Upasadaishti,
  8. Agni-Soma-pranayanam,
  9. Havirdhana-pranayanam,
  10. The animal sacrifice (Agnisomiya-Pashuyaga),
  11. The Soma-savanas (pressing of Soma herbs) and the Principal-ritual,
  12. Dakshina, Samastiyajus-homa, Avabhritha and Udayaniyeshti.

To determine the qualification of the yajamana the Vaitana Shrauta Sutra quotes the Gopatha-Brahmana[1] which says that ‘the yajamana, who intends to perform the Soma ritual and whose father and grandfather have not drunk Soma i.e. have not performed Soma ritual, should offer a bull to ‘Indragni[2]. The yajamana selects first of all four main priests. He selects the first priest as Brahma who is well versed in the Atharvangirasaveda, the second as udgata well versed in Samaveda, the third as Hota well versed in the Rigveda and the fourth as Adhvaryu well versed in the Yajurveda[3]. Then he selects three assistant priests to each of the four priests. The assistants to Brahma are called the Brahmanacchamsi, the Pota and the Agnidhra, while the Prastota, the Pratiharta and the Subramanya assist the Udgata. The Maitravaruna, the Acchavaka and the Gravasutra are the assistants to Hota and Pratiprasthata, the Neshta and the Unneta to the Adhvaryu priest[4]. The appropriate time for the performance of the Soma ritual (i.e. Agnishtoma) is as prescribed in Agnyagheya ritual[5]. The selection of the place for the ritual (devayajana) should be made according to the Gopatha Brahmana[6]. The Brahma recalls all the forms of the Soma ritual in his mind[7]. In the Dikshaniyeshti offerings are made to the Agnivishnu[8]. This ishti ends with Patnisamyajaofferings[9].

The dikshita yajamana pronounces the mantra abhyanjanam[10]. When the Adhvaryu anoints him with butter and after that when he is being purified with Kusapavitri, he pronounces ‘punantume...’[11]. When the Adhvaryu asks him to sit on the ‘krishnamrigacarma’, he utters ‘Sutramanam....’[12]. After the declaration as dikshita by the Adhvaryu the yajamana moves freely[13]. After the sun set he breaks his vow of silence, by praying the Aditya with ‘astam yatte namah....’[14] and worships the stars with ‘naksatranam ma samkasasca.....’[15]. The yajamana performs the rites beginning with ‘Kasipu’ and ending with the rite of viksana[16], to the south of the Ahavaniya-fire, according to the Kausika Sutra[17]. He pronounces the mantra, ‘punah praneh...’ regarding the objects mentioned in the mantra[18], and worships the Aditya with, ‘adityasya ma samkasah Vdyate namah[19]. He performs the observances mentioned below.

He neither stands nor speaks any word in respect of any body after diksha. He does not ordinarily call any body by name. But if he calls a Brahmana for the purpose of the yajna, he adds the word ‘vicakshana’ at the end of his name and adds casnasitanita at the end of the name of the prajapatya. Here the word prajapatya means, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra[20]. He does not perform any Dana, Homa, Paka, study of the Vedas and Agnihotra. He wears the skin of black deer and the turban (usnisa), folds the finger of both the hands in the shape of musti raises up the first three fingers beginning from the thumble. He takes the horn of a Krishnamriga all the time and he secratches his skin with it when needs[21].

If the yajamana breaks the vow of reservation of speech and if he opens his musti he should pronounce the following mantra for prayashcitta[22].

The mantra mentioned above is again pronounced by him the end of the diksha for the achievement of the vasu[23]. He should not watch the sun-rise and sun-set from the vedi and he should keep himself from the heat of the fire except the dhisnya. He should always speak the truth[24]. On the violation of the vow he should pray to the Ahavaniya with ‘yad asmriti’[25] . He made by himself by picking up a clad of earth with ‘satyam brihat[26] and ‘sudhah na apah.....’[27] and should clean and purify himself with the clod of earth uttering ‘pavitreno-prithivi...’[28].

If the subordinates of the yajamana break the clod with danda etc. he pronounces the mantraya rite cid abhisrisah....’[29]. If he dreams in the night, he should clean his mouth with ‘paropehi’ and ‘yo na jiva[30]. He removes the drops of ‘vdhra’ with ‘divonumam....’[31]. If the fluid is secreted in the mouth of the yajamana he pronounces shloka to himself[32]. If he discharges the semen he utters the shloka.[33]

If he speak prohibited language he pronounces ‘paropeh....’[34]. If he crosses the water he utters ‘asmanvati....’[35] when he gets wet uncovered in rain, he pronounces ‘apah-samudrat...’[36]. If he becomes angrye, he pronounces himself ‘ava jyam iva...’[37]. The Brahma cooks the sthalipaka in the milk of sarupavatsa cow, pours ghrita on it removes it from the fire, raises it up and utters the word ‘him’ over it, pours down ghrita on it again and offers its oblations with garbhavedana and pumsavana hymns[38]. He gives the remaining sthalipaka, to the wife of the yajamana to eat, after she has taken her purificatory bath if she is in mensturation[39]. By this rite she (the yajamanapatni) gets a son[40].

A period of three days or uncounted days is allowed for diksha in the Agnishtoma ritual. But for the Ahina rituals only twelve days are prescribed for this purpose[41].

In the Prayaniya-ishti, the Brahma utters the Atharvanmantras related to ‘Pathyasvasti’, Agni, Savita and Aditi, to whom the other priests utter mantras from the other Vedas at the Diksha. But while offers the first Pathyaoblation, he follows with ‘pathya revatih...’ and ‘vedah svasti...’[42]. The Prayaniya-ishti ends in ‘samyuvaka’.

The Brahma pronounces the mantra ‘yasyorusu’ at the time of the ‘Purnahuti-rite’ which is offered with the help of dhruva[43]. After coming out from the yajnashala, the Brahma follows the Somakrayani-cow reciting ‘divam ca roha...’[44]. Then he recites the mantra ‘idayaspadam’ at the time when the ‘padabhihoma[45] is being performed on the ground, where the seventh foot-print of the Somakrayani-cow is preserved. In the region of the uparavas the Adhvaryu takes the Soma from the sakata and puts it on the skin of bull, holding a piece of gold in his hand with ‘abhityam[46] and removes the grass etc. from the Soma-herbs. Then he pronounces the mantra ‘ayam sahasram...’[47] looking at these Soma-herbs. After the Soma has been purchased, the Brahmana takes away the turbon of the yajamana without his permission[48]. He stands in his seat reciting the mantraudayusa...’ to receive the Soma, which is being brought to him[49]. When the Soma-sakata reaches in front of him, he goes to the south of the fire and pronounces the ‘apratiratha-sukta[50]. When the Soma, the king of the herbs is being brought from the sakata and is being placed on the chair, the Brahma pronounces the mantradhruvam dhruvena...’.

At the time of Atithyeshti (reception of the Soma, the guest), when the Soma is placed on the prescribed seat in the sabha, to the south of the Ahavaniya fire[51], the Brahma touches the havis with the mantra ‘yajanena yajnam....’[52]. He speaks the mantras ‘visnornu kam...’[53] when the ‘vaisnavahomaof navakapala-purodasa is being performed. The Atithyeshti ends with ida[54]. The Adhvaryu takes the ajya in the tanunaptrapatra five time with five mantras, apataye tva grihnami paripataye tva.., tanunaptre tva..., sakvaraya tva, sakmano ojisthaya tvagrhnami respectively[55]. The priest and the yajamana touch the ajya, taken in the tanunaptra-patra, with ‘anadhrstamasyanadhrsyam...’ and then the yajamana alone pronounces the ‘diksha-linga-vacana after this mantra.

The Adhvaryu asks the Agnidhra, agnita madantyapah, the Agnidhra replies madanti deviramrta ritavridhah. Adhvaryu again ask him, ‘come with it’ (udehi). Then the Agnidhra brings the madanti water-pot, putting on the stings of the Kusha[56].

The yajamana and the priests touch the madanti-waters and make the Soma prosper with the mantra.

aṃśuraśuṣṭe deva somā pyāyatām indrāyaikadhanavide |
ā tubhyam indra pyāyatām ātvam indrāya pyāsatya ||

After touch in the madanti-water again they put their hands with palms upward on the ‘prastara’ and pay homage with[57]. The Brahma after having offered the ‘Purastaddhoma’ offering for the pravargya, sits down to the south of the garhapatya fire[58]. At the first Soma-ritual one should not perform the pravargya, except a learned Kshtriya, if he desires so[59].

After having closed eastern door of the yajnashala, the Adhvaryu asks ‘brahmana gharmenapracarisyamah’, the Brahma grants the permission with ‘pracarata gharman[60]. The voice of the Brahma, while granting permission should be either loud or low at all the times[61].

When the Gharma (the vessel of the pravargya) is being heated the Brahma sits by the side of the Gharma and recites nine mantras[62] ;

Of these mantras the first is:

dharma tapāmyamṛtamya dhārayā devebhyo havyaṃ pararadāṃ savitre |
śukraṃ devāḥ śritam adantu havyam āma juhyavānam amṛtastha yonau ||

And the last is:

dharmastha taptāḥ pradahantu bhrātṛvyān vdadaṣato vṛṣā |
uddyan ma śuka ādityo vimṛdho hantu sūryaḥ ||

These mantras are recited in half in the manner of a shastra leaving Ahava and Pratigara[63].

Footnotes and references:


Gopatha Brahmana 2. 1. 16


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 1


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 2


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 3


Vaitana Sutra.. 11.3; Vaitana Sutra.. 5. 2


Gopatha Brahmana. 1. 2. 11, 14; Vaitana Sutra.. 11.4


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 6


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 7


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 8


Atharva Veda 6. 124. 3


Atharva Veda 6. 19. 1


Atharva Veda 7. 7. 3


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 12


Atharva Veda 17. 1. 23


Kausika Sutra.. 82. 11


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 14


Kausika Sutra.. 24. 28-33.


Vaitana Sutra.. 11. 15;


Atharva Veda 17. 1. 22


Vaitana Sutra.. 11 - 21


Gopatha Brahmana. 1. 3. 21


Gopatha Brahmana. 1. 3. 22


Vaitana Sutra.. 12. 2


Vaitana Sutra.. 12. 4


Atharva Veda 7. 111. 1


Atharva Veda 12. 1. 1


Atharva Veda 12. 1. 30


Atharva Veda 12. 1. 30


Atharva Veda 14. 2. 47


Atharva Veda 6. 45. 1


Atharva Veda 6. 124. 1; Kausika Sutra.. 46. 41


Vaitana Sutra. 12. 8


Vaitana Sutra. 12.9


Atharva Veda 5. 7. 7


Atharva Veda 12. 2. 26


Vaitana Sutra. 12. 12


Atharva Veda 6. 42. 1


Atharva Veda 3. 23; 5. 25


Vaitana Sutra. 12-14


Gopatha Brahmana. 1. 3. 23; Vaitana Sutra. 12-14


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 1


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 2


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 4


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 5


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 6


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 7


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 8


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 9


Atharva Veda 3. 31. 10


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 11


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 13


Atharva Veda 7. 5. 1


Atharva Veda 7. 27. 1


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 15


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 16


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 17–18


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 24


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 25


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 26


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 28


Vaitana Sutra. 13. 29


Vaitana Sutra. 14. 1


Vaitana Sutra. 14. 1

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