VEDIC, BUDDHIST AND JAIN TRADITIONS
Bh£tas in Vedic Rituals and Literature
to the Vedic tradition, there are five elements (bh£tas) - p¤thiv¢, ¡paÅ,
tejas, v¡yu and ¡k¡¿a. The bh£tas
are inextricably linked to the Vedic concept of cosmology and ritual.
Up. (3.3)1 gives a list of five bh£tas
while Taittir¢ya Up. (2.1)2
relates the order of their creation. The Pra¿na
Up. (2.2; 4.8),3 Ch¡ndogya
Up. (1.1.2)4 etc. also
enumerate them. S¡´khyas5 accord sanction to them.
and frame of Vedic sacrifice were conceived by the master-minds, the ¤Àis,
the seers, when they constantly observed and meditated upon the ever
rotating disciplined cycles of the universe, which they understood as
cosmos and not chaos. The ancient Vedic ritualistic texts rightly state
that the sacrifice is a prototype6
or dramatisation of the game of universe, the creation
of Praj¡pati, and that the sacrifice is a royal7
road leading to ¤ta, the cosmic
five bh£tas are cosmic
elements. If the cosmic prototypes are thought to be manipulated through
sacrifice, the bh£tas must be
found playing an important role in the frame and sacrifice.
investigations into Vedic sacrifice reveals that the entire sacrificial
procedure is scheduled round the Loka, i.e., space-encompassing bh£tas
and round the K¡la, i.e., Time.
are concerned here, with the bh£tas. Loka or its
collateral dialectic form u-loka8
(ÎV, I.936, II. 30.6, III. 2.9.
etc.) (which may be an abridged form of uru-loka)
originally may mean - 'the wide open space'.
the three or seven worlds - i.e., vy¡h¤tis
viz. bh£Å, bhuvaÅ, svaÅ, mahaÅ,
janaÅ, tapaÅ and satyam,
covered by the wide space,
are secondarily known as Lokas.
represents the global
planet, as well as the basic
element - p¤thiv¢ - earth. Bh£Å or p¤thiv¢ is
seen in its physical, deified and metaphysical forms in Vedic rituals.
I.8.59 enjoins to recite three vy¡h¤tis
viz., bh£Å, bhuvaÅ, svaÅ before each offering in sacrifice, because, according
to this Sa=mhit¡, these three vy¡h¤tis
are raised to the position of Brahman,
the eternal Truth.
Ëdh¡na rite (depositing
fires), the materials viz., gravel, saline soil, the soil from mole-hill
and ant-hill, the earth dug up by a boar (with his snout) are placed on
the ved¢-ground. These
materials are called p¡rthiva-sambh¡ras.
this context, the Taittir¢ya Br.
(I.1.3) narrates a myth of the birth of P¤thiv¢10 as follows: in
the beginning this water was indeed a surge (¿ar¢ram). Praj¡pati, practising penance (for further creation)
became weary. Incidentally he saw a lotus-leaf floating on the surge. He
thought - must there be some substratum wherein the stalk of lotus, stands
firm. He assumed a form of a boar and dived deep. He reached the earth
below. He rammed into it and emerged. He spread it on the lotus leaf.
Since it was spread it (aprathayat),
it became known as P¤thiv¢.
in placing the earth dug by a boar, on the Ved¢-ground,
the Adhvaryu as if places the earth brought out by Praj¡pati. In that
he verily dramatises the role of
myth summarily reminds us of the myth of var¡ha-incarnation
appearing in Pur¡¸as.
the performance of sacrifices, P¤thiv¢ is the very substratum, for it forms an altar for
sacrifice. According to TS, the
sacrifice is the navel of the world and the ved¢
- the altar11 ground is the
furthest end of P¤thiv¢. Since
the sacrifice is performed on it, the ved¢
- the earth - is called devakÀetra.12
Agniciti, a svayam-¡t¤¸¸¡ -
i.e., a self-perforated pebble is placed on the altar being piled. TS,
5.2.8 identifies this pebble with P¤thiv¢.13 The formula for placing this pebble (TS, 4.2.9) reveals that it is being placed by Praj¡pati14
and that it is Aditi - all sustaining, a sustainer of all the world.
once desired to pile the fire-altar. P¤thiv¢ said to him, "you
shall not pile the fire-altar
on me; you shall burn me excessively; and I getting burned, will shake you
apart, you will fall into a sorrowful state". Praj¡pati replied -
"I shall so pile as it will not burn you execessively". He
touched the earth, made it a brick and set it down to prevent execessive
burning. This implies the role of the cosmic P¤thiv¢
in the ritual of Agni.
placing the RetaÅsic iÀ¶ak¡s,16 TS, 5.5.4 narrates a
myth conveying that the P¤thiv¢
and dyuÅ are born of the seed
of fire. Thus the vir¡j brick
represents the earth and the svar¡j,
P¤thiv¢ and sky of cosmos
are represented by the two bricks in the Agni-rite.
is one of the important rites in iÀ¶i and pa¿u
sacrifices, wherein I·¡ is
identified with P¤thiv¢.
priest partakes of a portion from I·¡, addressing it with the term 'mother earth'17
(VS, II.10; TBr.,
3.7.6, K¡t, áS, 3.4.1).
i.e., p¤thiv¢ is sometimes
personified as a P¤¿n¢;18
the famous P¤thiv¢20
s£kta of Atharva Veda,
(12.1.1-63), P¤thiv¢ is
frequently referred to as mother.
to the Ny¡ya -system of
Philosophy, the P¤thiv¢
element is endowed with a specific characteristic, viz. gandha - smell. The gandha21
of P¤thiv¢ is referred to in
this s£kta (vide AV,
employs this s£kta in many rituals - e.g.22
protection of town or city (38.12-16), pacifying24
earth-quakes (98.1) etc. (Cf.
also Vait¡na «áS, 12.6, á¡ntikalpa,
i.e., P¤thiv¢ is associated
with dyauÅ - the sky. In Ëgraya¸a-iÀ¶i,25 the cake baked on one potsherd, or clarified butter (¡jya)
is offered to dy¡v¡p¤thiv¢ jointly (áBr.,
2.4.3, K¡t áS, 4.6.5,7). According to áBr,
eka-kap¡la, i.e., one pot-sherd represents P¤thiv¢.
of C¡turm¡sya sacrifice also,
a cake oblation is offered to dy¡v¡p¤thiv¢ jointly. \Oblations are offered to dy¡v¡p¤thiv¢
in certain k¡myeÀ¶is and k¡mya pa¿u sacrifices.27
is regarded by the ¿¤utis,
that the dy¡v¡p¤thiv¢28
the earth and sky were close together - not separated in the beginning of
creation. The oblations jointly offered to them may mark this mile-stone
in the concept of the process of creation.
further state that, while separating;29 the earth and sky said to each other, due to execessive love
and affection - (S¡ya¸a, TBr,
1.1.3 - sneh¡ti¿ay¡t
that they should share together what is worthy of sacrifice. What
of sky worthy of sacrifice was placed in this earth that became -
£Àa - the saline soil. What of this earth was worthy of sacrifice,
was placed in the sky. That became the black spot on the moon. When the adhvaryu
places the £Àa in the ved¢
- he should also think of yonder black on the moon. By that he
places on the ved¢, what is
worthy of both, i.e., of earth and of sky. In this connection it may be
noted that the clay of ant-hill deposited on the ved¢,
is actually the p¤thiv¢
element. It is identified with the earth by áBr.30
may also be noted that in Vedic rituals, dyauÅ
and p¤thiv¢ are
constantly mentioned in the forms of father and mother.31
The joint oblation to dy¡v¡p¤thiv¢
and their character of being united may have further formed a base for the
concept of Ardhan¡r¢¿vara
form of 'I¿vara.
found identified with citr¡32
sacrifice performed by one who desires cattle. It is also
identified with the Hot¤, priest,33 with V¡mabh¤t34
brick placed on the Uttaraved¢ in Agniciti;
with V¡ravant¢ya S¡man,35 with nidhana,36 the last part of s¡man,
pebble, with pr¡taÅ-savana,38
chandas, with the first41
layer of Agniciti, with pr¡ya¸¢y¡ iÀ¶i42 and
finally also with praj¡pati.43
These identifications, though sometimes formed arthav¡da,
indicate how P¤thiv¢ commanded
high respect from ritualists.
is more significantly identified with goddess Aditi.44
caru (oblation of cooked rice)
is offered to Aditi for one who is about to engage in war.45
Aditi is this very earth. The y¡jy¡
and puronuv¡ky¡46 verses,
for this caru offering to Aditi,
are very significant. Aditi, i.e., p¤thiv¢
is, in these verses regarded as the mother of those who follow the holy
cosmic law, since she is a protector of holy order. Aditi the p¤thiv¢ is regarded
as a divine-ship, full of good oars, giving good protection - the ship
that leakes not, hence dependable to convey across.
to offer caru to Aditi47
and Punarvas£ in the
context of NakÀatreÀ¶i. In
the y¡jy¡nuv¡ky¡ verses
related to this oblation, the Aditi,48
P¤thiv¢ is called a nourishing (mother) of beings and giving firm
foundation to them. Bha¶]¶a Bh¡skara here derives the word Aditi from
Öaya 'to go'.49
P¤thiv¢ is once
called Sarpa-r¡jµ¢,50 the
queen of moving objects. Bha¶¶a Bh¡skara while commenting on TS, 188.8.131.52. derives this word from Ös¤p,51 to move, and
states that 'the P¤thiv¢ is a
queen amongst those who have assumed movement (sarpasya
sarpa-r¡jµ¢ is a technical
name of certain verses (TS,
1.5.3) bh£mir bh£mn¡ . . .
etc.) utilised for depositing the fire in the mound of g¡rhapatya, in Agny¡dh¡na
rite (Ëp áS, 5.27.9-11). In this context, it will be interesting to note that
the g¡rhapatya is often
identified with bh£Å, i.e., P¤thiv¢. áatapatha Br. further states that the mound52
of the g¡rhapatya fire-place is
circular, because this p¤thiv¢ is
refers to the deity presiding over P¤thiv¢.
The deity is responsible to pull down the ap¡na
in a puruÀa. áa´kar¡c¡rya
while commenting on this passage explains that the P¤thiv¢ favours a man by pulling down the ap¡na in his body.
Otherwise he may either
have faltered/become unsteady/hesitant in his movement or gone up
in space. This may hint at the gravitational force of P¤thiv¢.
Vedic texts specifically hold the view that P¤thiv¢54
is a source of vegetation and food. Peace/happiness (¿¡ntiÅ)
is brought on earth due to vegetation and food.55
If the god Mah¡deva kills the
cattle, it is due to polluted vegetation56
(T¡¸· Br., 6.9.9).
these discussions, one may safely conclude that, P¤thiv¢,
besides its global shape, was known to Vedic ritualists and seers in the
form of 'element' also. They deified it and visualised it in its essential
form of Brahman also.
to ¿¤utis, 'water' appears to
be the first essential cosmic principle. Îgveda57
states that Ëll this was water in the beginning, not distinguished from
darkness which wrapped it'. TBr.58
corroborated this view, saying - 'in the beginning water was indeed a
to breath, water is an animating cosmic element, a primordial liquid,
vivifying organism. After air,
it is the first need of a living creature, a basic factor for existence. áBr©.59 therefore states
Ës long as there is water in vital airs, so long man speaks with speech'.
also prays water for obtaining long life and lusture.
(7.3.2), Agni is an antecedent
form and sun the later. Water is a compound and lightning is the joining
element. Mait S62
further divides water in three places - in sky, earth and mid-region.
Vedic seers possessed a deep awareness of the medicinal characteristics of
sheds sufficient light on medicinal quality of waters. The hymn considers
water as the reservoir of all curative medicines and of nectar. It invokes
waters which the cows drink and declares the intention to offer oblations
to deities presiding over the flowing waters.
VS64 describes the medicinal
use of waters in clear terms, saying - "O water, which we have drunk,
become refreshing in our belly. May you be pleasant to us by
driving away diseases and pains - O divine immortal waters".
The verses are utilised for touching one's navel after drinking liquid in
a sacrificial procedure.
hydro-therapy finds its climax in Atharva veda. AV65
hymns (6.23; 24 & 57) are exclusively devoted to medicinal use of
prays waters to obtain cure from kÀetr¢ya, i.e., incurable diseases.
describes the various sources of waters and addresses them as ayakÀa=m-kara¸¢Å,
i.e., dispeller of diseases and as - bhiÀagbhyo
bhiÀaktar¡Å - more healing than any other healer.
of the recipes except raw water68 can quench the thirst. In this sense only, Y¡ska in his Nirukta
referred to water as containing all tastes.
Agni and V¡yu,
ËpaÅ (waters) also serve as a purifying agent. KS.69 declared in clear
terms, that waters are purifiers. In the rituals of IÀ¶¢, ProkÀa¸¢70
waters are utilised for purification.
leaving for heaven, placed in the waters, the d¢kÀ¡
and tapas. The sacrificer
therefore takes bath in waters at t¢rtha
(ford). This is related by TS,
6.1.1. The formula for sprinkling on the sacrificer and for his bath (TS
,1.2.1)72 are prayers to waters for purifications.
a bath at consecration, the sacrificer is required to sip the water. He
thereby becomes pure within.73
5.6.1. collects thirteen74
formulae, all addressed to waters, in connection with the kumbheÀ¶hak¡s in Agni-rite.
One of the formulae compares the blissful savour of water with the
mother's75 milk. The related
Br¡hma¸a (TS, 5.6.2), while
commenting on the formulae, declare that,76
the waters are ambrosia, therefore
they sprinkle with water, him, who has fainted
- (Cf. Bha¶¶a Bh¡skara here, - avat¡ntam
the T¡n£naptra offerings (in
Soma sacrifice) the ghee and
ladle come near the Soma, placed on Ësand¢,
near Ëhavan¢ya fire place.
Soma becomes afraid of them, for gods once made the ghee a weapon and ladle arms and had struck him. The Îtviks
sprinkle the frightened soma
with waters and make him swell. Mait
S77 here remarks that - Ëll
sprinkle him with water who has fainted'.
preparation of ukh¡ pot (of
clay), one has to dig the earth. In digging he acts harshly on earth. He
therefore pours water on the pit and says78
- 'the waters are for
appeasing' - verily with waters be appeased, thus he calms her pains.
a similar context Mait S79
states that 'the waters are tranquilizer for the disturbed'.
cause the plants to grow. TS states80 - 'where there
are waters, the plants take root (and where plants take root, cattle find
support through them)'.
the drops of milk fall down on earth, while milking a cow, one should pour
water over the drops - for, as Mait S81 states - waters
avert pain, they are restoration/cure, they are medicine. Wherever the
waters fall on earth, the excellent plants grow abundantly.
by the unique characteristics of water, S¡ya¸a, commenting on ÎV,
82 I.161.9 states - 'there
exists no better element83 other
than water which is more benificent to the living beings. Hence waters are
the context of placing NakÀatreÀ¶ak¡s
in Agniciti, TS84 and Mait
S prescribe - 'waters are
the deities, which preside over P£rv¡À¡·h¡
constellation; and Vi¿vedev¡Å
over Uttar¡À¡·h¡'. Mait S85
further states that waters themselves are Vi¿vedev¡Å.
is also regarded to be a deity presiding over waters, and is associated
with the ¿atabhiÀak87 constellation. Here the name ¿atabhiÀak is self-explanatory.
desired to be sturdy and steady. He offered a puro·¡¿a
to (i)Varu¸a, (ii) the constellation ¿atabhiÀaj,
and (iii) bhiÀaj. He became
sturdy and steady. Thus Varu¸a, with the divinity and waters, is related
to medicine and cures; even in ritualistic performances.
Soma-sacrifice concludes with Avabh¤tha iÀ¶i, in which a cake is offered to Varu[¸a. All the
offerings in this iÀ¶i are
offered in waters, because according to TS,89
Varu¸a dwells in waters. In this iÀ¶i
the sacrificer beholds the waters and murmurs a verse, meaning - "O
Varu¸a, the ruler, you possess hundreds90
or thousands of medicines." According to áBr,
the Avabh¤tha bath is a
whirlpool91 in the waters and
that indeed is either Varu¸a's son or brother. That whirlpool in water is
praised in the Avabh¤tha, with
the verses prominently
addressed to waters.92
a Soma-sacrifice Vasat¢var¢
waters are drawn from a flowing stream and not from a stagnant pool. TS
says that the stagnant waters are seized by Varu¸a.93
The flowing waters are therefore pure, the stagnant impure. Thus what is
covered is also seized by Varu¸a.
dreadful drop is also caused by the wrath of Varu¸a. A94
sacrifice is offered to him for atonement.
the two aspects of Varu¸a - the cosmic ruler95
and a deity presiding over waters are interrelated with each other, due to
their medicinal and curing qualities. The wrath of Varu¸a also works
through (impure) waters.
of five bh£tas Tejas may be regarded as a dominating bh£ta. Tejas, the broader
aspect of Agni is always seen
rising from its physical, i.e., material state to divine height and from
the divine height to the metaphysical light,
which is its essential characteristic.
the G¤hya Sa=msk¡ras, from
conception to cremation, and all the ¿rauta rites beginning from Agny¡dh¡na
to AntyeÀ¶i are performed
in constant associ-ation with Agni,
which is never missed.
the rite of Agny¡dh¡na, the
Fire is churned out, from the lower and upper enkindling logs called ara¸¢s,
representing Urva¿¢ and Pur£ravas, the
female and male forms. According
to Vedic tradition, the seer Atharvan was held responsible for inventing
the engendering of fire by the device of churning. All further sacrifices
are performed with libations offered on this fire.
a cake (puro·¡¿a) baked on
twelve potsherds to be offered to Vai¿v¡nara.96 Y¡ska states that the
Agni in mid-region and that in heaven is named as Vai¿v¡nara, and
Agni on the earth is Vai¿v¡nara, which is born of the upper two
fires.97 The fire of lightning,
i.e., vaidyuta and the Agni
of Ëditya, the sun, are the fires of mid-region and heaven -
respectively. These Agnis
appear to be physical, but are deified, since the libation is offered to a
deity Vai¿v¡nara Agni, born of
upper two Agnis, who are also
divine. According to Y¡ska, there are only three divinities. viz, (i) Agni - whose sphere is
earth, (ii) V¡yu or Indra,
whose sphere is mid-region, and (iii) S£rya
- whose sphere is heaven. It means that V¡yu
or Indra is regarded by him, as a form creating Agni in mid-region. Y¡ska therefore repeatedly warns that one
should not think that there is only one fire which is on the earth. There
are fires in upper two regions98
the K¡r¢r¢À¶i, performed
for rains; a cake is offered to Agni,
Maruts and S£rya; (the deities of three regions) because, as TS
states - Agni thence causes the
rains to arise, the Maruts lead
it out when produced, when yonder Sun moves low with his rays, then it
view is corroborated by TË which describes that - Agni100
(on earth) is a former form, Ëditya
- the Sun is a latter form; water in mid-region is a compound and the
lightning is the uniting force.
the mid-region, Agni assumes the
speed of wind. This is described in ÎV.101
commenting on this verse, S¡ya¸a explains that this fire is Vaidyuta.
He further states, only Agni
knows how to expel waters from the clouds.102
The three sacrificial fires viz. DakÀina,
G¡rhapatya and Ëhavan¢ya,
therefore represent the three regions.103
daily Agnihotra, therefore, a libation is offered to Agni
in the evening and to S£rya in
the morning.104 Occasionally in ParjanyeÀ¶i, it is offered to the deity of mid-region.
X 88.6 states105 -
the head of all, i.e., Sun becomes Agni
during night, then at the rising, Agni
is born as a Sun.
also concurs with this view when it states that Agni106
enters in sun in the morning and the sun into Agni in the evening. Thus the Agni
on earth and the sun in the third region are
identified with each other.
Vedic ritual tradition, Agniciti is an important rite, which is generally augmented to
Soma-sacrifices, wherein Agni is
identified with Rudra, having two aspects, viz. benevolent and malevolent.107
and An£y¡ja oblations in iÀ¶i,
are offered to different forms of Agni.
In Pa¿u sacrifice, the Y¡jy¡ verses, termed as Ëpr¢s,
are utilised in praise of the various forms of Agni. Thus Agni is deified
in various forms.108
while leaving his residence on journey, the sacrificer - the yajam¡na
requests Agni to exchange their
names, until he returns, with the words109
- 'the name that first, O all knower (Agni),
my father and mother bestowed upon me aforetime - do thou bear it, until I
return. O Agni, may I bear thy
name. My name and thine - O J¡tavedas,
which like men changing garments, we bear, let us exchange'.
this prayer brings about his heart-felt feelings towards Agni.
To him, Agni is not only a
physical element but something beyond that,
with whom he can communicate and establish with him, some sort of
personal relations, nay identify his soul with Agni.
Sacrificer wishing to pile an altar, first symbolically deposits his
sacrificial fire in his own person with the words - 'In me I first take Agni
- the immortal Agni, who has
entered into mortals, within the hearts, may we enclose him in our Ëtman. May he not abandon us and go afar'.110
having thus deposited Agni in himself the sacrificer proceeds for piling the Agniciti.
«áBr. here remarks 'being111
about to construct fire altar, he takes Agni,
in his own self. . . . when he constructs Agniciti
after taking Agni into his
ownself, he causes Agni to be
born from Agni, the immortal
X.1.4.14 puts a question - what is done here in
constructing an Agniciti, whereby the sacrificer wins over the re-birth? The answer
is - well, he who builds an altar, becomes Agni
. . . . Agni indeed is immortal,
with two Agnihotra offerings, to
the two Jyotis - viz. Agni
and S£rya, the sacrificer is said to be relieved of cycles of births.
This is promised by «áBr,
184.108.40.206 - which says - 'This
is the release from death in the Agnihotra
and verily he who knows that release from
death in the Agnihotra is
freed from death.113
therefore rightly states that this flame is immortal in
is therefore concerned here in the form of the Ved¡ntic immortal Ëtman.
That is why Agni at places is
referred to as Praj¡pati115 or Brahman.
states - 'the PuruÀa, made known in Ëditya
is Indra. He is Praj¡pati. He is Brahman.116
epithets of Agni like J¡tavedas
- meaning all knower, or kavikratuÅ
- having the intuition of a prophet - also aim at praising Agni
in its Divine or Omniscient form.
is the presiding deity of svaÅ; the yonder world, the Vedic heaven. In fact, the s£rya
is the ¡tm¡ of moving and stable world.117
It is an inexhaustible source of energy. According to ÎV, the sun is a perpetual flame.118
commenting on the formula119 of TS, I.6.6, both
the commentators viz., Bha¶ta Bh¡skara120
and S¡ya¸a121 unanimously
describe the inner PuruÀa in s£rya
as an entrance to salvation.
aims to point out that Agni is
indicative of immortality - when it enjoins - 'Make122
the altar ready, set the Agni in
blaze, let we two (i.e., the sacrificer and wife) perform a sacrifice,
which is indicative of immortality'.
altar here appears to be an inner one where Divine force is to be kept
ablaze. It is there the sacrifice of awakening of the consciousness to
immortality is performed.
in Vedic tradition is not only a material physical element. It transcends
its physical character. Even its physical state appears to be controlled
by its metaphysical essential.
or wind plays an important role in the environment. Accordingly,
the Vedic ÎÀis recognised air as a vital cosmic constituent and included
it in five elements.124 V¡yu
is referred to as a deity presiding over the mid-region.125
concept of Vedic sacrifice is supposed to be an outcome of cosmological
reflections of ÎÀis. It is
maintained that Adhvaryu sets
the sacrifice in motion with V¡ta
and finally he bestows it again in V¡ta.126
V¡ta-offerings are enjoined at
least in Pravargya,127
and K¡r¢r¢ iÀ¶i.129
is referred to as the soul of sacrifice.130
In the formulae for v¡ta-offerings
in Agniciti, v¡ta
is addressed as áa=mbhu131 and Mayobh£,
i.e., bringing welfare and happiness.
formulae and Br¡hma¸a for V¡ta-offerings
in k¡r¢r¢ and placing v¡yavy¡ brick in Agniciti
reveal the rain bringing character of v¡yu.132
it may be pointed out that Durg¡c¡rya on Nirukta,
X.1 divided V¡ta in four
categories of which the last brings the rains.133
the role of wind in bringing
rains was observed by Vedic ÎÀis.
It is not at all necessary to dilate on the point of necessity of rains
for the livelihood of all living organisms on earth.
the pure, unpolluted air is a source of health, happiness and consequently
of long life, was also observed by the Vedic
ÎÀis. Two small Îgvedic s£ktas; X. 188134
and X. 137,135 may be regarded
important from this point of view.
ÎV, X.186, V¡ta
is referred to as causing welfare and happiness. The ÎÀi
is also emotional to this element that he addresses V¡ta
as his father, brother and friend. V¡ta
is a store-house of ambrosia for him. He prays for it and requests it to
blow with its medicinal qualities.
X.137 divides the wind into two categories, the one bringing vigour
and the other blowing away the evil. Since v¡ta
is the Universal medicine, he prays the wind to blow with its medicinal
TS and Maitt
S positively state that whatever smells ill, is spread out in a windy
place, for V¡yu is its purifier.136
This is seen in the context of drawing aindrav¡yava-graha
of Soma. The myth137 is as
gods wished to slay Soma. They could not kill him, because V¡yu the breath had pervaded the Soma from within. The gods
directed v¡yu to leave Soma and
take to the resort of the gods. V¡yu
did so. The gods then killed Soma. The Soma so killed became foul. The
gods were disgusted due to the foul smell. V¡yu
then said - I shall make him palatable and delicious. V¡yu entered Soma from within. He thus made Soma delicious. Hence
they spread the fermentation Soma in a windy place . . . . S¡ya¸a
commenting on this passage is more explicit.
account of this purifying nature, V¡yu,
i.e., wind appears to be identified with Yajµa
- the sacrifice. This is the view of Ch.
Up.138 The wind acquires
this quality of purifying the ill-smelled things through its
ever-moving and constantly active character.139
material over which the wind does not blow belongs to Varu¸a.140 Varu¸a is a deity which covers and consequently does not
allow fresh air to enter.
knot of bag containing paddy for Puro·¡¿a is therefore loosened with a formula141
- Uru-v¡t¡ya (TS,
1.1.4) - 'be widely open to wind'. TBr.
further states - 'one who enters a covered or enclosed place, enters
darkness'.142 This suggests that the wind purifies the material which has
become foul due to storage.
according to vedic ÎÀis, Air
inherits the intrinsic quality of neutralising pollution.
the breath may be regarded as one of the vital forms of air.
the breath and sense-organs, disputed about their superiority. They went
to Brahma who said - one of you
is the most excellent, after whose departure the body is thought to be
worse off. V¡k, CakÀuÅ,
árotram and even Manas departed from the body by turn. Still the body persisted. Then
as the breath was about to
depart, even as a mighty horse of Sindu land, might pull up the
pegs to which his feet are tied, even so did it pull out those organs
together. They said, "Venerable Sir, do not you go out. We shall not
be able to live without you". They confirmed that their firm basis
lies in Pr¡¸a,144
i.e., vital Air.
allegorical discourse appears in B¤. Up., 6.17.13 and also
in Ch. Up., 220.127.116.11.
3.7.2145 corroborates this view
when it states that - By air, as by thread, this world, the other world,
and all beings are held together. . . therefore, when a person dies, his
limbs are loosened. For they were held together by air before
the Vedic ÎÀis were so fully
aware of the medicinal qualities and the intrinsic essentiality of this
environmental element, that they eulogized it to the extent that it forms
an integral part of Praj¡pati.146
also prayed that the wind147 should blow sweet for one
who wishes to offer sacrifice.
delineating p¤thiv¢, I have
already portrayed few characteristics of dyauÅ
- i.e., sky. The word loka (as
stated earlier) originally means the space and secondarily the worlds. The
word Ëk¡¿a denotes space.
Agnciti the lokaÆp¤¸¡
the space-filler-bricks - are placed on the fire altar -
with the formula148 'fill
the space, fill the holes' etc.
c¡tv¡la, i. e., a pit, dug in
earth, towards the north-east of the ved¢,
in sacrifices is identified with Ëk¡¿a
by JU, 1.5.5.
is regarded as a seventeenth Îtvij in the Soma-sacrifices and is related to Ëk¡¿a by ]Sa·vi=m¿a Br.
Ëk¡¿a, according to ]]Sa· Br.
is placed in the midst of bh£tas.
Therefore, they give a seat to sadasya
in the midst of sadas-pa¸·¡l.150
sacrificer in all the three pressings of Soma-sacrifice seeks permission
of the priests for partaking Soma from camasas.
seeking permission from Sadasya-priest he identifies him with Ëk¡¿a in the morning pressing, with the Ëk¡¿a in eye in the midday pressing and with Ëk¡¿a in the body, in the third pressing.151
while requesting the priests to accord sanction to the sacrificial ground
(devayajµam), identifies sadasya
the sacrificer offers (dakÀi¸¡) to Sadasya, he
should say - 'O sadasya, I offer
myself (¡tm¡nam) to you'.
Verily Ëk¡¿a is ¡tm¡, he therefore gives Ëk¡¿a
to Sadasya. As long as Ëk¡¿a
does not decrease, his gifts also do not wane. This is stated by Jbr.153
the identification of sadasya and the gift, with Ëk¡¿a
points out the unwaning characteristic of widely spread Ëk¡¿a.
the context of Vai¿v¡nara-vidy¡,
as propounded in áBr,
Mah¡¿¡la J¡b¡la identifies Vai¿v¡nara154
with Ëk¡¿a which is plenteous. S¡ya¸a, commenting on this passage
states - bahutvam ¡k¡¿asya, sarvagatatv¡t. Thus
plenteousness, the special characteristic of Ëk¡¿a, has been noted here by áBr.
JBr. identifies Ëk¡¿a
and finally PuruÀa with Praj¡pati.
is well-known that khaÆ, i.e., Ëk¡¿a,
according to the UpaniÀads, at
a particular stage of up¡san¡,
is identified with Brahman.156
all the bh£tas in ritual
tradition are not regarded only as material or physical
elements, they really transcend their physical character. They are
deified and raised to the status of Praj¡pati
is corroborated by the UpaniÀads when they state that all the bh£tas are controlled by their metaphysical essential character.
describes that v¡yu could not
blow and Agni could not burn,
even a blade of grass, when the immortal element withdrew from them. Thus
the bh£tas according to this UpaniÀad
are activated only because the immortal element pervades them. It means
that matter, the Prak¤ti, can work only if an essential
element has entered into it.
in his B¤had¡ra¸yaka Up. has
further elaborated this point, when he
states that the Ëtman dwells in
the elements, is within them, whom the elements do not know, whose body is
elements, who controls them from within. He is the inner controller, the
may explain why electrons, protons and neutrons in atoms of the so-called
physical elements move and rotate, and thereby show the characteristic
of the sentient.
©1995 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi