agni, the divine hotars and the adhrigupraiShasaMpraiSha
Before the animal sacrifice of the pashubandha the maitravaruNa priest utters the chant (RV 4.15.1-3):
agnir hotA no adhvare vAjI san pari nIyate/ devo deveShu yaGNYiyaH //
agni, the hotar, being the booty bearing horse, is led around in our sacrifice; a deva to be worshipped amongst the devas.
a pari triviShTy adhvaraM yAty agnI rathIr iva / A deveShu prayo dadhat //
agni, like a car-warrior, goes around 3 times in our sacrifice, distributing amongst the devas the sacrificial offerings.
agni, the lord of the booty, the seer, has walked around the oblations, conferrings gems to the worshipper.
Then he chants the formula of adhrigu, the ancient dashagva.
The formula of the great dashagva goes thus:
ajaid agnir asanad vAjaM ni devo devebhyo havyA .avAT pra~nchobhir hinvAno dhenAbhiH kalpamAno yaGNYasyAyuH pratirann upapreShya hotar havyA devebhyaH //
agni has conquered; he has captured the booty; the deva has conducted the oblations to the devas, being impelled by those facing forward, being made fit with chants, extending the life of the ritual. Impel, O hotar the oblations to the gods.
This is also paralleled by a triShtubh chant similar to the gAyatri chant of the maitravaruNa which was noted above. It is from the same vAmadeva collection (RV 4.6).From these it is clear that one of the divine hotars was agni. This was never in much doubt because the very first hymn of the RV mentions agni explicitly as the divine R^itvik and hotar, who gives gems:
agnIm ILe purohitaM yaGNYasya devam R^itvijaM / hotAraM ratnadhAtamaM //
The same point is suggested by a parallel triShtubh chant to the gAyatri chant of the maitravaruNa which was noted above. It is from the same vAmadeva collection (RV 4.6.2):
But then the AprIis mention two divine always hotars (even the soma only AprI of the kAshyapas). So who were the 2 hotars? The bR^ihaddevatA explains that the two hotars of the AprIs are the terrestrial and the middle forms of agni (BD3.11). This explanation was evidently prevalent in the Vedic world as is suggested by yAska’s statement in the nirukta: “daivyau hotArav ayaM chAgnir asau cha madhyamaH (Nk8.2)”. They are said to be daivya because both the middle and the earthly forms of agni are born from the celestial (divya) agni. Elsewhere, the BD clarifies these earthly and middle forms of agni.
BD 1.91: Because this [terrestrial agni] is lead by men and that [other agni] leads him from this [other world], therefore these two [agnis], while having the same name, have performed their work separately.
1.92: Because he is know when born (jAtaH) or because his known here by all beings (jAtaiH), therefore these two, while having an identical name pervade both worlds separately.
1.93: He as the middlemost if these 3 agnis, shines in the air discharging rain: accordingly some name of agni are only incidently.
1.94: This (terrestrial) agni is hairy with flames, and the middle one with lightning branches, while that (celestial one) is hairy with rays: So the (R^ishi) calls them the hairy ones (this is an allusion to the 3 hairy ones in dirghatamas’s hymn: 1.164.44). The 3 forms of agni are mentioned as agni, jAtavedas and vaishvAnara. The first two being the divine hotars.