The Agnistoma Somayaga in the Shukla Yajurveda

by Madan Haloi | 2018 | 109,416 words

This page relates ‘Part 3.1: Construction of the Mahavedi’ 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.

Part 3.1: Construction of the Mahāvedī

[Full title: Rites Performed on the Third Day: (a) Construction of the Mahāvedī (mahāvedīnirmāṇa)]

The activities on the third day of the Agniṣṭoma Somayāga cover mainly the rites of construction of the mahāvedī along with the uttaravedī. These rites are discussed under the following sub headings–

  1. Construction of the mahāvedī (mahāvedīnirmāṇa)
  2. Construction of the uttaravedī (uttaravedīnirmāṇa)

The third day of the Agniṣṭoma Somayāga has been stated by Kātyāyana as the preceding of the aupavasathya day. As mentioned here, on the day prior to the aupavasathya day, after having completed the Pravargya and the Upasad, the Adhvaryu starts the construction of the mahāvedī.[1] From the commentaries[2] of Karka and Vidyadhar on the Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, it is learnt that the day before aupavasathya is a trayodaśī, because, the aupavasathya day falls on a caturdaśī.

Moreover, Vidyadhar states that the day on which animal sacrifice to Agni and Soma is performed is called the aupavasathya day in case of Soma rituals having one dīkṣā day and three Upasads—

yasmin dine agnīṣomīyapaśuranuṣḥīyate tadaupavasathyamahaḥ/ taccacaturthaṃ dinamekadinadīkṣāpakṣe tryupasatpakṣe/

He again clarifies that on the ekādaśī day , the consecration rite is performed. On dvādaśī, the first Upasad rite takes place. On trayodaśī, the second Upasad takes place and this day therefore precedes the aupavasathya day. The third Upasad rite is performed on the caturdaśī i.e., on the aupavasathya day itself in which the animal sacrifice for Agni and Soma is performed. On the day of pūrṇimā i.e., the full moon day, the soma pressing rite is performed. As stated in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, the construction of the mahāvedī is done in the eastern part of the prācīnavaṃśaśālā. While it is constructed, a gap of three Prakramas in between these two i.e., prācīnavaṃśaśālā and mahāvedī is maintained and at the distance of three Prakramas, the antaḥpāta peg of the mahāvedī is placed and it is measured from the biggest eastern post of the śālā.[3] The word vikrama of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa has been used synonymously with the word prakrama.As one can see Sāyaṇa uses the word prakrama is lieu of vikrama.[4] The word prakrama or vikrama is a unit of sacrificial measurement of length. According to Kātyāyana, one pada contains twelve Aṅgulas and one prakrama contains three Padas(steps).[5] Thus, Kātyāyana is of the opinion that one prakrama denotes a length of thirty six Aṅgulas . On the otherhand, according to Karka, one pada contains two Prakramas[6] and one prakrama is a length of half of a foot-step. Kane states that during the measurement, the foot steps of the sacrificer are counted.[7] But, according to another view, prakrama is that of the Adhvaryu.[8]

Thus, following the view Kātyāyana regarding prakrama it can be said that at the distance of thirty six Aṅgulas from the biggest eastern post of the prācīnavaṃśaśālā, the peg known as antaḥpāta is placed. Eggeling states that this post of the eastern side is raised in the middle of the door just in front of the āhavanīya and the measurement of the antaḥpātya peg is taken from that middle-point. Again, he mentions that the literal meaning of the word antaḥpātya is “falling within or between” and it is called so due to its place in between the new altar under construction and the prācīnavaṃśaśālā.[9] The peg is placed in between the door of the śālā and the altar.[10]

Kātyāyana too holds same opinion.[11] Karka makes it clear that the measurement of the antaḥpātya peg is taken from the middle of the eastern door of the śālā, here the biggest post is referred to as indicative term for the mid-point.[12] Another peg is placed in the eastern side of the antaḥpātya peg at a distance of thirty six Vikramas and this is known as the pūrvārdha i.e., the middle of the front side of the altar.[13] This peg which is the middle point of the eastern border of the mahāvedī is named by Kane as yūpāvatīya as it is connected with the hole of the yūpa.[14] Thus, length of the mahāvedī is thirty six Vikramas or Prakramas . The width of the mahāvedī in the western border where the antaḥpātya peg is placed is thirty Vikramas. Two pegs in the southern and northern sides from the antaḥpātya peg are placed at the distance of fifteen Vikramas in each side. These two pegs are named as dakṣiṇā śroṇi and uttarā śroṇi i.e., the southern and northern border. Again, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa gives another option to the effect that the western boarder of the mahāvedī may be of thirty three Vikramas. In this case, each side from the antaḥpātya peg contains sixteen and half Vikramas.[15] As shown in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa as well as Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, the eastern border of the mahāvedī contains twelve Vikramas in each side from the pūrvārdhya peg. From the pūrvārdhya peg twelve Vikramas are taken to the right and twelve to the left and one peg is placed in each side, The pegs are known as southern aṃsa and northern aṃsa respectively. This is the measurement of the mahāvedī.[16] Thus, the eastern part of the mahāvedī is of twenty four Vikramas and thus the eastern part is not as wide as the western part of the mahāvedī[17] Both the eastern and the western pegs are connected drawing a line called pṛṣṭhyā.[18]

Vidyadhar states that due to its place in the pṛṣṭha (back)of the mahāvedī the line is called pṛṣṭhyā

...sā vedipṛṣṭhabhavatvāt pṛṣṭhyā ityucyate/[19]

Chitrabhanu states that both the eastern and western pegs are connected with a cord called spandyā to make the pṛṣṭha line and a rope called spandyā marks the boundary of the mahāvedī.[20]

Footnotes and references:


cf., aupavasathyātpūrve’hani paurvāhṇikyā pracarya vediṃ mimīte/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,8.3.6.


Karka on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,8.3.6; Vidyadhar Sharma on ibid.


cf., tad ya eṣa pūrvardhyo varṣiṣṭhaḥ sthūṇārājo bhavati/ tasmāt prāṅprakrāmati trīn vikramān tacchaṅkuṃ nihanti; so’ntaḥpātaḥ/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


cf., prācīnavaṃśasya pūrvabhāge āhavanīyapurodeśe vartamānaḥ pṛthustambho’sti tasmāt stambhāt prāṅprakramān prakrāmati trīn/ Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf., … dvādaśāṅgulaṃ padaṃ prakramastripadaḥ …/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 16.8.22


cf., prakramadvayaparimāṇaṃ padam/ Karka on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.3.14.


P.V. Kane, op.cit.,Vol.2, Part. 2, p.1152, fn. 2563.


cf., …sa ca prakramastvadhvaryoreva na yajamānasyeti/ The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa according to the Mādhyandina recension, Part.2, chapter 3-5, p.164, fn. 1


F. Max Muller (ed.), Julius Eggeling(eng.trans.), op.cit., Part. 2, Books 3&4,p.111. fns.3,4


Chiatrabhanu Sen, op.cit., p.38.


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,8.3.7. But Kātyāyana names the peg antaḥpāta as antaḥpātya.


Karka on ibid.,8.3.7.


cf., tasmānmadhyamācchaṃkoḥ prāṅ ṣaṭtriṃśataṃ vikramān prakrāmati/ tacchamkuṃ nihanti sapurvārdhaḥ/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


P.V. Kane, op.cit., Vol.2, Part.2, p.1152.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,, 8; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,8.3.8-10.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.3.11.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 3.5.1. 10-11


cf., praṣṭhyāmāyamya sphyādi karoti khādireṇācchādanāt/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.3.12.


Vidyadhar Sharma on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,8.3.12.


Chiatrabhanu Sen, op.cit.,p.98; P.V. Kane, op.cit., Vol. 2, Part.2, p.1153.

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