The Agnistoma Somayaga in the Shukla Yajurveda

by Madan Haloi | 2018 | 109,416 words

This page relates ‘Part 2.4: The Ishti Sacrifice’ of the study on the Agnistoma Somayaga as described in the Shukla Yajurveda (dealing with Vedic Rituals). The Agnistoma sacrifice (lit. “praise of Agni”) connects god with men and is performed in the spring season. It is the model of all the Soma sacrifices and forms a large and complicated ceremony preceded by four preliminary ritualistic days. This thesis deals with all the details involved in the Agnistoma sacrifice.

[Full title: Types of Sacrifices in General (4): Iṣṭi]

Iṣṭi differs from other sacrifices in the requirement of priest. It needs four priests viz., Adhvaryu, Āgnīdhra, Hotā and Brahmā and the sacrificer performs it with his wife.

The Taittirīya Saṃhitā says as follows–

asya ca karmaṇaḥ sapatnīkena yajamānena saha catvāra ṛtvijo’dhvaryubrahmāhotrāgnīdhra iti/[1].

The peculiarity of the priests is that they all have equal share in the rite[2]. Moreover, in Iṣṭi, offering of sacrificial cake, offering of sānnāyya etc. play an important role. Here, oblation is offered by the Adhvaryu in a standing position to the accompaniment of yājyā and anuvākyā and offering is made by uttering the word vaṣaṭ.[3] All the Iṣṭis are performed on the model of the Darśapūrṇamāsa sacrifice.Āpastamba has clearly said it that Darśapūrṇamāsa sacrifice is the norm of the Iṣṭi type of sacrifice[4]. The term darśapūrṇamāsa is a joint word of the two independent words viz., darśa and pūrṇamāsa which are well known as two different sacrifices. Both are performed one after the other. A sacrificer can not leave out either of them.

The first word darśa literally means that time when the moon can be “seen” only by the sun i.e.,amāvāsyā or new moon day. On the other hand, the word pūṛṇamāsa indicates that time when the moon becomes full i.e., the full moon day[5].But, they indicate two rites to be performed on the new moon day and full moon day respectively. According to Sāyaṇa, the day amāvāsyā is called so because on that day, the moon stays with the waters and medicinal plants[6]. Both the words darśa and pūrṇamāsa together make the single word darśapūrṇamāsa which refer to an Iṣṭi type of sacrifice.

It has already been cited that both the Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa sacrifices are performed on the new moon and the full moon day respectively—

tato darśapūrṇamāsasañjñakau yāgaviśeṣau amāyāṃ pūrnimāyāṃ ca yathā kramaṃ kartavyau/[172]

But, one may complete the rite in two days. If so, then in case of Full Moon sacrifice, it starts on the morning of the full moon day and is completed in the first half of the pratipat day. In case of New Moon sacrifice also, it starts on the new moon day and is completed in the first half of the pratipat day.[7] The first day is known as upavasatha day because on this day the sacrificer keeps the vow of fasting and keeps vigil by sitting near the sacred fire[8] and the second day as yajanīya day. As per arthavāda, the day called upavasatha is called so because on this day knowing the mind of the worshippers who worship in the morning of the fasting day, the gods come to the house of the sacrificer and dwell beside the sacrificer[9].

On the upavasatha day of Darśapūrṇamāsa, preliminary rites are performed and on the yajanīya day the main functions are completed. Mention may be made here that one who performers Darśapūrṇamāsa for the first time after the completion of Agnyādhāna rite, should start the sacrifice on the first full moon day and not on the new moon day. Again, if it is the first Darśeṣṭi or Pūrṇamāseṣṭi of the sacrificer, he should first perform the Anvārambhanīyā Iṣṭi.[10] It is to be stated here that if one completes the Pūrṇamāseṣṭi on the first full moon day, then he has to complete the Darśeṣṭi on the next new moon day.

The Darśapūrṇamāsa includes six main offerings which are divided into three for each rite viz., the Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa. In full moon sacrifice, first of all purodāśa baked on eight potsherds is offered to the firegod. However this act is common to both the sacrifices.

Hence, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says thus—

sa eṣa uvayatrācyuta[11] .

Next to this comes the offering of clarified butter which is known as Upāṃśuyāga. But, the scholars are of different views regarding the deity of the Upāṃśuyāga. According to Āpastamba the Upāṃśuyāga is to be performed only on the full moon day and the deities may be Viṣṇu or Agnīṣoma or Prajāpati[12]. Kātyāyana is of the opinion that this sacrifice belongs to Agnīṣoma in both Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa sacrifices. Kātyāyana again states that on new moon day, one may offer the clarified butter to Viṣṇu.[13] Thus, in Full Moon sacrifice, one may offer it to Agni and Soma and on the other hand on New moon day one may offer the clarified butter either to Agni and Soma or to Viṣṇu[14] Again, in the Full Moon sacrifice, the second purodāśa cooked on eleven potsherds is offered to Agni and Soma.

It is stated in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa as follows—

āgneyoṣṭakapālaḥ agnīṣomīya ekādaśakapālaḥ/[15].

On the other hand in New Moon sacrifice, the second purodāśa baked on twelve potsherds belongs to Indrāgni.[16] It is necessary to mention here that offering of clarified butter should be made in between the two offerings of purodāśa[17]. Thus, the aṣṭakapālapurodāśa to Agni is common in both New Moon and Full Moon sacrifices. Upāṃśuyāga, the ekādaśakapālapurodāśa to Agni and Soma in Full Moon and dvādaśakapālapurodāśa to Indrāgni in the New Moon sacrifice make up the six main offerings of Darśapūrṇamāsa in general. But, these six offerings are meant only for that person who is asomayājī i.e., who has not yet performed Soma sacrifice. Such a sacrificer needs not complete the sānnāyya offerings[18]. As against this, for a somayājī, Sānnāyyayāga is made obligatory.[19] The word sānnāyya means to put together. Here, it refers to a mixer of freshly boiled milk and sour milk or curd made of the proceeding night’s milking.[20] For the sacrificer who is somayājī, the offerings of Full Moon sacrifice are same with the offerings of asomayājī. But, his offerings differ in New Moon sacrifice. His offerings include purodāśa baked on eight potsherd to Agni, payaḥ,to Indra and dadhi to Indra being the latter two offerings sānnāyga offerings.[21] .

The Darśapūrṇamāsa sacrifice includes various sub-ordinate offerings or rites. After the completion of the principal offerings, sviṣṭakṛt offering is made to the Agni. It has five Prayājas i.e., fore offerings offered by the Adhvaryu with clarified butter to the five deities viz., Samidhh, Tanunapāt, Iḍā, Barhis and Svāhākṛti. The Darśapūrṇamāsa has three Anuyājas i.e., after offerings offered to Barhiṣ, Nārāsaṃsa and Agnisviṣṭakṛt. Moreover, Iḍābhakṣaṇa, Patnīsaṃyāja etc. are other sub-ordinate rites of the Darśapūrṇamāsa. The Patnīsaṃyāja includes four offerings to Soma, Taṣṭvā, the wives of the deities and Agnigṛhapati.

The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says thus—

catasro devatā yajati/... tasmāt somaṃ yajati/ …tasmāt tvaṣṭāraṃ yajati/…atha devānāṃ patnīryajati/… athāgniṃ gṛhapatiṃ yajati/[22]

These sub-ordinate rites are supposed to facilitate the attainment of the result of the main rite, because, in the absence of one sub-ordinate rite, the main rite cannot produce the ultimate result.[23]

Like the Agnihotra the Darśapūrṇamāsa sacrifice too can be performed as nitya i.e., obligatory and kāmya i.e., wish yielding. If someone performs it on every full moon and new moon day without any desire, it is called nitya. He can continue it without any break until he dies. If he breaks then he will have to face disaster i.e., pratyavāya[24]

On the other hand, if someone performs it with desire such as heaven etc. it is called kāmya–

tattatphalamuddiśya anuṭṣhānavidhānātca kāmyatvam[25].

Footnotes and references:


Taittirīya Saṃhitā ,2.3.6; cf.,tasmāt darśapūrṇamāsayoryajñakratoḥ catvāra ṛtvijaḥ/ Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,catvāraḥ ṛtvijaḥ-adhvaryuḥ, brahmā, hotā, āgnīdhraśca/ eteṣāmatrasamaprā-dhānyameva/na somayāgavaduccanīcabhāvaḥ/ Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.),op.cit., p.15


cf., tiṣṭhadhomā vaṣatkārapradānā yājyāpuro’nuvākyāvanto yajata -yaḥ/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra 1.27; Chitrabhanu Sen, op.cit., p.50.


cf.,darśapūrṇamāsāviṣṭināṃ prakṛtiḥ/ Āpastamba Śrautasūtra , 24. 3.32


Chitrabhanu Sen, op.cit., p.72.


cf.,ihabhūlok etāṃ rātrimaparidṛṣṭacandrāyāṃ rātrau sākalyena amāvasati amāsaha vasati; aboṣadhicandramasāmasyāṃ tithau sahavāsāt sā tithiḥ amāvāsyā nāma abhavat/ Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op.cit., p.14.


Āpastamba Śrautasūtra , 1.14.16; Aṣṭādhyāyī, 1.4.46


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Sāyaṇa on ibid.,


Anvārambhanīya is an iṣṭi where purodāśa cocked on eleven potsherds is offered to Agni and Viṣṇu, a caru to sarasvati, again a purodāśa cooked on twelve potsherds is offered to Sarasvat and purodāśa cocked on eight potsherds to Agni Bhāgin is offered, P.V.Kane, op.cit,Vol. 2, Part.2, p. 1010, fn.2277


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf., ājyahavirupāṃśuyāgaḥ paurṇamāsyāmevabhavativaiṣṇavo’gnīṣomīyaḥ prajāpatyo vā/ Āpastamba Śrautasūtra, 2.19.12


cf., agnīṣomāupāṃśvājyasya / viṣṇurvāmāvāsyāyaṃ…/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 3.3.23-24


cf., amāvāsyāyāṃ viṣṇurvejyate agnīṣomau vā/ Karka on ibid.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 1. 9.2. 4


cf., aindrāgnaṃ dvādaśakapālaṃ purodāśo bhavati/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


cf., purodāśāvāntarenāgnīsomā upāṃśvājyasya/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 3. 3.23


cf., nāsomayājī saṃnayet somāhutirvāeṣā/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, I.6.4.10


cf., somayājī sannayet/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,4.2.35; cf., sānnāyyayāge ca somayājina evādhikāraḥ/arthātādhānānantaraṃ yaḥ someneṣṭavān tasya sānnāyyayāgo nityaḥ/ Bhūmikā of Vidyadhar Sharma,Vidyadhar Sharma (ed.), op.cit., Part.1, 2011, p.33.


Chitrabhanu Sen, op.cit., p.118.


Prākkathanam of Pattabhiramashastri, Mandanmishra(chief ed.) & Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op. cit., Part.1, p. 6


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 1. 9.2.6-13


Prākkathanam of Pattabhiramashastri, Mandanmishra(chief ed.) & Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op. cit., Part.1, p.7


cf., tau darśapūrṇamāsaudividhau–nityaukamyauceti/pratidarśaṃ pratipaurṇamāsaṃca yāvajjīvaṃ puruṣena anuṣṭhīyamānatvāt ananuṣṭhāne pratyavāyotpattikathanācca nityatvam/… tatra nityau yāvat paryantaṃ jivati puruṣastāvat paryantamavicchedena parvasvanuṣṭheyau/ Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri(ed.), op.cit., pp.15,16


Ibid., p.15

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