The Agnistoma Somayaga in the Shukla Yajurveda

by Madan Haloi | 2018 | 109,416 words

This page relates ‘Part 4.11: Animal sacrifice in honour of Agni and Soma’ 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 4.11: Animal sacrifice in honour of Agni and Soma

[Full title: Rites Performed on the Fourth Day: (j) Animal sacrifice in honour of Agni and Soma (agnīṣomīya-paśuyāga)]

This sacrifice begins with the rite called Upākaraṇa of the sacrificial animal.The word upākaraṇa means the act of fetching.[1] The Adhvaryu takes a blade of grass with a prescribed formula and touches the animal with that grass[2].

The formulae for these two rites respectively are—

(a) upāvīrasi,

(b) upa devān daivīrviśopāguruśijo vahnitamān/ deva tvaṣṭarvasu rama havyāte svadantām/.[3]

The act of touching the animal by the tṛṇa is called upākaraṇa[4]. The animal to be offered to Agni and Soma is a bi-coloured he-goat, its colours being either black and white or red and white.[5]. The Śatapatha states that after the rites such as upākaraṇa and agnimanthana i.e., fire-production by attrition,the rite of binding of the animal takes place[6]. But, before it, the Adhvaryu ties the rope connected to the horns of the animal. Thereafter, it is bound to the post[7].

The formulae for these two rites are respectively[8].—

(a) ṛtasya tvā devahaviḥ pāśena pratimuñcāmi dharṣā mānuṣaḥ /

(b) devasya tvā savituḥ prasaveśvinorbāhubhyāṃ pūṣṇo hastābhyām / agnīṣomābhyāṃ juṣṭaṃ niyunajmi/

The Adhvaryu sprinkles water on the animal and the rest is kept in front of the mouth of the animal to drink. He also sprinkles same water on the lower part of the goat’s body with a prescribed formula[9]. He utters a formula with each of the rites.

The formulae are respectively[10].—

(a) adbhyastvauṣadhībhyo’nu tvā mātā manyatāmanu pitānu bhrātā sagarbhyo’nu sakhā sayūthyaḥ /agnīṣomābhyāṃ tvā juṣṭaṃ prokṣāmi /,

(b) apāṃ perurasi /

(c) āpo devīḥ svadantu svāttaṃ citsaddevahaviḥ/

After the completion of the related rites in the northern part of the cātvāla hole, the Adhvaryu marks the śāmitra place[11] for cooking the oblation made up of the killed animal. Then a direction is issued to the Ṛgvedic priests for reciting a verse in honour of Agni . Thereafter, the Āgnīdhra performs the rite called paryagnikaraṇa. It means that he walks around the animal holding a fire brand from āhavanīya at his hand. The Āgnīdhra again takes another fire brand from the āhavanīya and carries it to the place where the animal is to be cooked. But some opine that for this purpose the fire should be produced by friction.But the Śatapatha does not agree with it.[12] As stated by Karka, the Āgnīdhra issues a direction to the Maitrāvaruṇa for reciting for Agni for the rite of paryagnikaraṇa which belongs to the Āgnīdhra.[13] Kātyāyana too states all these procedures and adds that the Āgnīdhra taking the fire brand from the āhavanīya performs the rite of paryagnikaraṇa around the objects such as the animal, ghee, the sāmitra place, the post, pit, āhavanīya fire etc. or he may move only around the first three objects.

After the paryagnikaraṇa, the Āgnīdhra puts the fire brand on the āhavanīya.[14] When the Āgnīdhra takes the fire brand and moves towards the sāmitra place the animal is made to follow him. Again, the Pratiprasthātṛ touches the animal from behind with the help of vapāśrapaṇī (omentum roaster ),the Adhvaryu touches the Pratiprasthātṛ, and the sacrificer touches the Adhvaryu.[15] Vidyadhar mentions that the priest called Śamitṛ having bound the animal at the neck leads the animal by taking his position after the Āgnīdhra. Because, śruti allows this duty only to the Śamitṛ priest.[16] While the priests along with the sacrificer move towards the north, they should not cross the place of the śāmitra fire. The Adhvaryu puts the fire brand held by the Āgnīdhra in the śāmitra place.[17] The Adhvaryu as he proceeds to the śāmitra brings two Tṛṇas from the vedī and in the front part of the slaughtering place he puts one of the Tṛṇas with a prescribed formula.[18] Kātyāyana states that in the west of the śāmitra fire, the Adhvaryu puts the tṛṇa.[19] Mahīdhara in his commentary on the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā mentions that it is in order to protect the animal from the direct touch of the earth.[20]

The formula runs as follows—

varṣo varṣīyasi yajñe yajñapatiṃ dhāḥ/[21]

The Śamitṛ being directed to kill the animal through saṃjñapana[22] (strangling) kills it. Kātyāyana says that it is killed on the grass blade keeping its head either towards the west or east and its legs to the north.[23] It is to be noted here that the Adhvaryu makes two libations before and after the killing of the animal uttering prescribed formula with each libation. These two libations are known as paripaśavya.But, these are not made compulsory.[24]

The formulae are respectively.[25]

(a) svāhā devebhyaḥ,

(b) devebhyaḥ svāhā

Then having done the rites related to the animal such as sprinkling of water on various parts of the animal, the Adhvaryu puts the second tṛṇa on the animal and thereafter he puts the knife on the tṛṇa uttering prescribed yajuṣ formula with each of his acts.[26]

The formulae are respectively[27].—

(a) oṣadhe trāyasva,

(b) svadhite mainaṃ hiṃsīḥ/

When the animal is cut, the tṛṇa is also cut and the Adhvaryu takes the top part of the grass in his left hand and the bottom part in his right hand. He smears both sides of the bottom part using the blood of the animals and here he utters one prescribed formula[28]

The formula runs as follows—

rakṣasāṃ bhāgo’si/[29]

Then, he puts the tṛṇa in the utkara i.e., the rubbish dump.[30] Here, he utters this formula-nirastaṃ rakṣa[31]. Then the omentum (vapā) of the animal is taken out and is placed on the Vapāśrapaṇīs.[32]

The formula to be used in placing of the omentum runs as follows—

ghṛtena dvāvāpṛthivī prorṇuvāthām/[33]

Performing some related rites, the omentum is roasted on the śāmitra fire. The Āgnīdhra again takes a fire brand from the śāmitra fire and goes to the āhavanīya fire. The Adhvaryu too puts the top part of the tṛṇa on the āhavanīya.[34]

Here he utters the following formula

vāyo vestokānām/[35]

Kātyāyana states that having cut the omentum on all sides and having sprinkled water on the omentum, it is heated on the śāmitra fire and this duty is of the Pratiprasthātṛ who standing in the southern side of the fire roasts it. On the other hand, the Āgnīdhra and the Adhvaryu put the fire brand taken from the śāmitra and the top part of the tṛṇa respectively on the āhavanīya fire.[36] [37] While the Pratiprasthātṛ holds the omentum on the fire, the Adhvaryu bastes it with ghee with the dipping spoon /[38]

The formula to be uttered here is—

agnirājyasya vetu svāhā /[39]

The Adhvaryu makes an understratum of ghee and thereafter puts a piece of gold in the juhū on which he puts the omentum. Again, he puts a piece of gold on the omentum. But, before putting the piece of gold for the second time, the Adhvaryu directs the Hotṛ for reciting the invitatory verse dedicated to Agni and Soma before offering the omentum and fat of the he-goat to the fire. Having placed the gold for the second time, he bastes the upperside of the omentum two times using ghee.Again,the Adhvaryu directs the Maitrāvaruṇa to direct the Hotṛ to recite the offering verse i.e., yājyā for Agni and Soma . As soon as the word vaṣaṭ is uttered, the Adhvaryu offers the omentum in the āhavanīya fire.[40] Before it, the Hotṛ recites the yājyā.[41] Then the Adhvaryu proceeds to offer the sacrificial bread (purodāśa)to the same deity prepared on eleven potsherds.[42] He having placed the sacrificial bread in the juhū, puts a portion of the same in the upabhṛt (offering spon made of asvattha) for the sviṣṭakṛt offering. Having offered the bread to Agni and Soma , he offers the other portion of the upabhṛt to Agni by placing it in the juhū ladle.Thereafter he cuts up the iḍā i.e., portions from the oblatory purodāśa.[43] Then the rites related to the cutting of different parts of the animal take place. The Adhvaryu cuts the heart, the tongue, the breast, the left fore foot, the two flanks, the liver, the kidneys, the middle part of the anus.These are divided into portions after being cooked by the Śamitṛ. The guda i.e., the hind part is divided into three portions.The big portion is kept for by-offerings,the middle portion is cut intothe juhū fafter having divided it in two parts or main offering having divided it in two parts and the smallest portion is kept for the tryaṅga i.e., for the offering of three limbs to Sviṣṭakṛt Agni. The right haunch is cut into the juhū. In the upabhṛt, he cuts the right fore foot belonging to tryaṅga, the smallest part ofthe guda after having divided it into two, and the left haunch.[44] Sāyaṇa in his commentary on the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa states that all these limbs taken in the upabhṛt are for sviṣṭakṛt offering and tryaṅga refers to three parts of limbs.These are right fore foot, the smallest part of the guda and the left haunch.[45] All these are carried by the Adhvaryu through the path between the āhavanīya and the yūpa and are placed on the southern śroṇi of the altar.The Pratiprasthātṛ further cuts same of the limbs keeping theseon the plākṣa brunches. He again puts the limbs of the juhū in the juhū and of the upabhṛt in the upabhṛt. Before it, the Adhvaryu makes under layers of ghee in the juhū, upabhṛt, vasāhomahavaṇī and the vessel to be used to keep the iḍā (portions of the oblatory animal). While the Adhvaryu is cutting the limbs he directs the Maitrāvaruṇa to recite the invitatory verse dedicated to Manotā for the oblation materials which have cut. He performs the additional rites such as placing of the piece of gold etc. as in case of vapā- offering.[46] Thereafter the Adhvaryu takes the fat (vasā)of the animal in the vasāhomahavaṇī i.e., a ladle used to offer the vasā uttering prescribed formula and then having basted the fat with ghee for two times, the Adhvaryu mixes it with ghee using a rib or knife by uttering prescribed formula. The remaining fat is poured into the samavattadhānī i.e., the vessel used for placing the cut up limbs. According to Kātyāyana it is poured into in the iḍā pot where the heart, breast,the big part of the guda, the kidneys and the rectum have been placed. All these are basted twice with ghee.[47] Sāyaṇa states that all these are remnants of the main offerings and are placed here for iḍā.[48]

The formulae for the two rites are respectively[49].—

(a) redasi...

(b) prayutam…

Thus, finishing the related rites, the Adhvaryu before going to perform the vasāhoma, directs the Hotṛ to recite the invitatory verse as well as the offering verse to Agni and Soma for the oblation of the male goat. He makes the vasāhoma to Agni and Soma while the first part of the yājyā is uttered by the Hotṛ and after the utterance of vaṣaṭ[50]. The Hotṛ being directed utters the following Ṛks—1.93.3 and 7 as anuvākyā and yajya respectively[51].

The formula to be uttered during the making of the libation runs as follows—

ghṛtaṃ ghṛtapāvānaḥ pibata vasāṃ vasāpāvānaḥ pibatāntarikṣasya havirasi svāhā/[52]

The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa states that after having offered the oblation materials which have already been placed in the juhū, the Adhvaryu scoops the pṛṣadājya in the juhū and after the utterance of vaṣaṭ, offers it to Vanasapati in between the offering of the fat and the juice of the cooked animal and of the sviṣṭakṛt offering. Prior to these rite, he gives signal to the Maitrāvaruṇa to direct the Hotṛ to recite the prescribed verses . Thereafter, he makes the sviṣṭakṛt offering having poured the meat portions into the juhū contained in the upabhṛt.He makes this offering after the utterance of vaṣaṭ.[53] Thus, he performs the rites of making libations to the directions with the remaining fat and juiceof the cooked animal,[54] Patnīsaṃyāja, anuyāja and other related rites of the Agnīṣomīya. It is to be noted here that he scoops pṛṣadājya five times for anuyāja offerings with prescribed formula[55]. The formula is-jyotirasi viśvarūpaṃ viśveṣāṃ devānāṃ samit/[56] Here in this animal sacrifice, there are eleven Prayājas , eleven Anuyājas and eleven Upayajas[57]. The Āgnīdhra completes the ten prayāja offerings before the rite called Paryagnikaraṇa and he make the last offering after having killed the animal.

After the anuyāja, the Pratiprasthātṛ performs the upayaja[58].Chitrabhanu states that these Upayajas are additional offerings at the end of paśuyāga during the eleven Anuyājas. The offering contains intestines of the animal poured over the burning embers by upayaṣṭṛ (i.e.,the performer of the upayaja).[59] The noteworthy feature of the Agnīṣomīya animal sacrifice is that except in case of the rite of anubandhyā cow, in the Soma sacrifice, the heart spit should not be placed on the earth or thrown in the water. It should be buried in a place which has a mixer of both dry and somewhat wet soil[60]. Having made the main offerings, the Adhvaryu brings the iḍā of the animal offering by the way of the southern side of the havirdhāna shed[61]. The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa states that the anus is divided into three parts.[62] The one third part of the animal is carried by the Adhvaryu by the same way[63]. From the commentary of Karka on the Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra it is clear that iḍā and the anus are carried to the sadas in order to give these to Hotṛ priest[64]. The Agnīṣomīyapaśuyāga ends with Patnīsaṃyāja i.e., ritual in honour of the wives of the gods.Again in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, it has been said that the rite called Patnīsaṃyāja is performed by the inner side ofthe tail of the animal The Adhvaryu cuts out the iḍā portion too from the same part of the tail of the animal[65]. It is carried by the southern side of the mārjālīya shed[66]. Karka as well as Vidyadhar in their commentaries on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra mention that it is carried to the patnīśālā and to perform the Patnīsaṃyāja[67]. The path for carrying the tail should be the path between the āhavanīya and the sacrificial post[68].

Footnotes and references:


Chitrabhanu Sen, op.cit, p. 56


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.3.17


cf., upākaraṇaṃ tṛṇenopasparsanamuktam / Karka on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.3.23


cf., … agnīṣomābhyāṃ chāgasya vapāyai …/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; cf., sa vai dvirūpo bhavati/ dvidevatyo bhavati…kṛṣṇasāraṃga syāt…/ …api vālohitasāraṃgaḥ/ ibid.,; Sāyaṇa on ibid.


cf., athopākṛtya paśuṃ, agniṃ mathitvā niyunakti / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa , 3.7.3. 3


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,,4. 1-3; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.3.24-25


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6. 8(b) -9(a) respectively


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.3.27-29


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6. 9(b) & 10(a)


cf., sādayitvā srucau cātvālamuttareṇa śāmitrāyollikhati/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.4.12.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


cf., paryagnikaraṇaṃ cāgnītkartṛka praiṣaśca tadaṅgatvādagnīdha eveti sampradāya/ Karka on Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.5.1.




Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.5.5-8.


Vidyadhar Sharma on ibid.,6.5.6.




Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,, 14


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.5.9, 14.


cf.,... viśasanīyasya paśorbhūmisparśaparihārārtham.../ Mahīdhara on Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6.11


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6.11(c)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.5.20.


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.5.15-16.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.5.21-24.


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 6.4(d &e)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6.15 (d &e)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.6.8


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.16 (a)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; cf., nirastamityapāsyati / Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.6.9


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.16 (b)


cf., atha vapāmutkhidanti tayā vapāśrapaṇyau prorṇauti/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.6.11


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.16 (d)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.16 (e)


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.6.12-15.


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.16


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.6.16.


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 6.16.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.6.21-22.


As stated by Eggeling, the Ṛks for the anuvākyā and yājyā for the omentum are Ṛgveda Saṃhitā ,1.93.1 & 1.93.5 respectively, F. Max Muller (ed.), Julius Eggeling(eng.trans.), op.cit, Part. 2, Books 3&4 , p.198, fn. 2


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.7.16-17.


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.7.20,22,26


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,3.8.3-7,15-19; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.7.6-8


cf., sviṣṭakṛdarthamāha athopabhṛti…/ Sāyaṇa on ibid.,


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,,13-14; KSŚ., 6.8.7-8,10


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.8.11-12


cf., gṛhītāvaśiṣṭāṃ vasāṃ samavattadhānyām iḍāpātryām ānayet / iḍārthaṃ tatra pradhānāvaśiṣṭāni hṛdayādīni prāsya punardvirabhighārayati / Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.18(b &c)


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.8.16


F. Max Muller (ed.), Julius Eggeling(eng.trans.), op.cit, Part. 2, Books 3&4,p.207, fn.3


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ,6.19


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.8.17-19


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,6.8.20


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa , 3. 6.3.6,8.4.7-8; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 5.4.26


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 5.35(a)


cf., trīṇi ha vai paśorekādaśāni–ekādaśa prayājāḥ, ekādaśānuyājāḥ, ekādaśopayajaḥ/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


cf., yajantamadhvaryum upalakṣya etānyaṅgāni pratiprasthātā yajati iti paścādyaṣṭavyā upayaja …/ Sayana on


Chitrabhanu Sen, op.cit,p.53


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.10.8


cf., dakṣiṇena havirdhānaṃ paśviḍāṃ harati / Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.8.2


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.8.3


Karka on ibid., 8.8.2


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,, 7; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 6.9.14-16


cf., mārjālīyaṃ dakṣiṇena jāghanīm / Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 8.8.4


Karka on ibid., 8.8.4; Vidyadhara Sharma on ibid.


Ibid., 8.8.5

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