A mantra fossil from the vedo-tAntric transition in charaka

The chikitsAsthAna of the charaka saMhitA cites a formula to be recited during the compounding of the agada termed the mahAgandhahasti (23.90):
mama mAtA jayA nAma jayo nAmeti me pitA |
sohaM jayajayAputro vijaye.atha jayAmi cha |
namaH puruShasiMhAya viShNave vishvakarmaNe |
sanAtanAya kR^iShNAya bhavAya vibhavAya cha |
tejo vR^iShakapeH sAkShAt tejo brahmendroyor yame |
yathA a.haM nAbhijAnAmi vAsudevaparAjayaM |
mAtush cha pANigrahaNaM samudrasya cha shoShaNaM |
anena satyavAkyena siddhyatAm agado hy ayam |
hili mili saMspR^iShTe rakSha sarva bheShajottame svAhA ||

The agada is a preparation that it specially used to kill or counter a disease-causing agent or poison and is contrasted from other drugs which help to provide nutrients or enhance particular functions. This mahAgandhahasti formula is interesting in several ways. In its opening part it has a peculiar formulaic structure of X is the mother, Y is the father etc. This is a very old atharvanic formula and is seen right from an early atharvanic spell in the R^igveda (RV10.97.9; iShkR^itir nAma vo mAtA) and similar forms in the atharvaveda. Interestingly, it is praised thus:
yatra cha sannihito.ayaM na tatra bAlagrahA na rakShAMsi |
na cha kArmaNa vetAlA vahanti nAtharvaNa mantrAH || (23.88)

When it is applied or placed [on a person] it is supposed to protect against bAlagraha-s, rakSha-s, abhichAra rites, vetAla-s and atharvanic mantra-s. Thus, its structure and its “target”, i.e. the AV mantra-s suggest that it belongs to a relatively early period, prior to the ascendancy of the classical tAntrika material. Yet on the other hand we encounter elements that link it to the tAntrika mantra shAstra such as the formula “hili mili”. Moreover, we note that while it invokes a wide range of deities (i.e. viShNu, bhAva=rudra?, vR^iShakapi, brahma, indra and yama), the most prominent deity here is viShNu. Specifically his vibhava-s such as puruShasiMha (nR^isiMha) and kR^iShNa are mentioned and perhaps even vR^iShakapi here is identified with viShNu. Also mentioned is vAsudeva, a name not found in the earlier vaidika layer of the vaiShNava shAsana, but emerging in the vaikhAnasa and pA~ncharAtra traditions. There is hardly any mention of nR^isiMha in the great epic which already contains early allusions to pA~ncharAtra and vaikhAnasa. However, nR^isiMha is prominent alongside with vAsudeva and the vyUha-s in the vaikhAnasa mantra-pATha. Hence, we suspect that this mantra from charaka belongs to the same layer as the vaiShNava mantra material of the vaikhAnasa mantra-pATha, which probably post-dates their precursors alluded to in the great epic. The mantra also preserves an old style Indo-European oath statement (satyavAkya) albeit with a vaiShNava statement — i.e. just as I do not know of the defeat of vAsudeva, and just as one does not take ones mother’s hand in marriage and just as the ocean does not dry up so also let this drug be successful. This again suggests that the mahAgandhahasti is a “fossil” mantra from the transitional period from the vaidika and tantrika mantra-shAstra-s along side other such examples we have previously pointed out, such as those of the AV parishiShTha-s. This may also be significant in being one of the relatively early vaiShNava mantra-s to mention narasiMha and gives a small window into the pre-classical mantra-s of the vaiShNava-shAsana.

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