The indrajAla-sUktaM and the atharvan military ritual

An atharvan military ritual for kShatriya-s headed to war involves deployment of AV-vulgate 8.8 or its cognate AV-P 16.29. The ritual is specified by the kaushika sUtra 16.9-20 and some details are provided by the atharvan commentators dArila and keshava.

The atharvan purohita uses a fire drill with an ashvattha (Pipal) plank and a badhaka drill-bit (One tradition holds that this plant is Taxus baccata) and generates fire via friction using the below churning mantra:

indro manthatu manthitA shakraH shUraH puraMdaraH |
yathA hanAma senA amitrANAM sahasrashaH ||1||
indra the shaker, shake up the enemies, the mighty hero, the breaker of forts, so that we might slaughter the armies of our enemies by the thousands.

When he sees the sparks he places an old rope with the incantation (in place of amUm he may use the name of the enemy army throughout this deployment):
pUtirajjur upadhmAnI pUtiM senAM kR^iNotv amUm |

When he sees the rope smoking he utters the incantation:
dhUmam parAdR^ishyA .amitrA hR^itsu A dadhatAM bhayam |

When the rope catches fire he recites the mantra:
agnim parAdR^ishyA .amitrA hR^itsu A dadhatAM bhayam |

These are derived from the R^ik
pUtirajjur upadhmAnI pUtiM senAM kR^iNotv amUm |
dhUmam agnim parAdR^ishyA .amitrA hR^itsv A dadhatAM bhayam ||2||
Let the putrid rope, blowing forth make that army putrid; let fear be in our enemies hearts seeing the smoke and fire from afar.

Then he places samidh-s of the ashvattha, badhaka, tAjadbha~Nga (castor), Ahva (palAsha= Butea monosperma), khadira (Acacia) and shara (arrow-grass) with the below mantras:

amUn ashvattha niH shR^iNIhi khAdAmUn khadirAjiram |
tAjadbha~Nga iva bhajantAM hantv enAn vadhako vadhaiH ||3||
O pipal, pound those forces, devour them O khadira, break them O castor plant, kill them with weapons, O vadhaka!

paruShAn amUn paruShAhvaH kR^iNotu hantv enAn vadhako vadhaiH |
kShipraM shara iva bhajantAM bR^ihajjAlena saMditAH ||4||
O piercing plant make those of the enemy army pierced, may the vadhaka plant slay them weapons! Quickly like a reed may they be broken and entrapped in the great snare.

Then the objects of war invoked in the rest of the sUktaM are serially offered dual offerings by the atharvan ritualist: with his right hand he makes a ghee oblation with his darvi ladle ending with svAhA for objects of war of his side and to gods for his side; e.g. jAlAya svAhA | jAladaNDAya svAhA | indrAya svAhA | idam indrAya na mama | etc
With his left hand he makes oblations of i~NgiDa oil to the same fire on the badhaka wood with a deprecation for this foes; e.g. dasyUnAM senAyai durAhA | na mama idaM |

antarikShaM jAlam AsIj jAladaNDA disho mahIH |
tenAbhidhAya dasyUnAM shakraH senAm apAvapat ||5||
The atmosphere was the net, the great directions were were the net-rods; entrapping them therewith indra uprooted the army of the dasyu-s.

bR^ihad dhi jAlaM bR^ihataH shakrasya vAjinIvataH |
tena shatrUn abhi sarvAn ny ubja yathA na muchyAtai katamash chanaiShAm ||6||
Great indeed is the web of the mighty indra, of the vigorous one; therewith may you swoop upon all enemies, such that no one of them may escape.

bR^ihat te jAlaM bR^ihata indra shUra sahasrArghasya shatavIryasya |
tena shataM sahasram ayutaM nyarbudaM jaghAna shakro dasyUnAm abhidhAya senayA ||7||
Great, O indra the valiant, is the web of yours, which is great worth a thousand, with hundred-fold powers; therewith entrapping the army of the dasyu-s, indra slew a hundred, a thousand, a ten thousand and a hundred million!

ayaM loko jAlam AsIch Chakrasya mahato mahAn |
tenAham indrajAlenAmUMs tamasAbhi dadhAmi sarvAn ||8||
This great world itself was the web of the great indra; with that web I deliver the entire enemy army into darkness!

sedir ugrA vyR^iddhir Artish chAnapavAchanA |
shramas tandrIsh cha mohash cha tair amUn abhi dadhAmi sarvAn ||9||
Illness, fierce misfortune, mishaps which cannot be countered by their mantras, toil, lassitude, and delusion with these I entrap the enemy army.

mR^ityave .amUn pra yaChAmi mR^ityupAshair amI sitAH |
mR^ityor ye aghalA dUtAs tebhya enAn prati nayAmi baddhvA ||10|| 
To death I deliver the enemy army, with the nooses of death the enemy army is bound, having bound them I take them to meet the funereal messengers of death!

nayatAmUn mR^ityudUtA yamadUtA apombhata |
paraH sahasrA hanyantAM tR^iNeDhv enAn matyaM bhavasya ||11||
May you lead them O messengers of death; O agents of yama strangle them, may they be killed in numbers greater than thousands; let the hammer of rudra smash them!

sAdhyA ekaM jAladaNDam udyatya yanty ojasA |
rudrA ekaM vasava ekam Adityair eka udyataH ||12||
The sAdhya-s go lifting with might one of the net-rods; the rudra-s one, the vasu-s one, by the aditya-s one is lifted.

vishve devAH upariShTAd ubjanto yantv ojasA |
madhyena ghnanto yantu senAm a~Ngiraso mahIm ||13||
Let all the gods from the sky arrive swooping with might; let the a~Ngirasa-s go midway slaying the mighty army.

vanaspatIn vAnaspatyAn oShadhIr uta vIrudhaH |
dvipAch chatuShpAd iShNAmi yathA senAm amUM hanan ||14||
The trees, substances from trees, herbs and plants, what ever is bipedal and quadrupedal I send that they may kill the enemy army.

gandharvApsarasaH sarpAn devAn puNyajanAn pitR^In |
dR^iShTAn adR^iShTAn iShNAmi yathA senAm amUM hanan ||15||
The gandharva-s the apsaras-es, the snakes, the deva-s, the holy ones, the ancestors, those seen and those unseen I dispatch to kill the enemy army.

ima uptA mR^ityupAshA yAn Akramya na muchyase |
amuShyA hantu senAyA idaM kUTaM sahasrashaH ||16||
Here are spread out the nooses of death, if you step into which you are not released; let this spike kill the enemy army by the thousands.

gharmaH samiddho agninAyaM homaH sahasrahaH |
bhavash cha pR^ishni-bAhush cha sharva senAm amUM hatam ||17||
The gharma is offered via the kindled fire as this thousand-slaying oblation; bhava, one having pR^iShni in his arms, sharva [names of rudra] slay that enemy army!

mR^ityor ASham A padyantAM kShudhaM sediM vadham bhayam |
indrash chAkShu-jAlAbhyAM sharva senAm amUM hatam ||18||
May the enemy be death’s food, may they fall into hunger, illness, the deadly weapon and fear; by the trap and web O indra and rudra, the archer, slay the enemy army!

parAjitAH pra trasatAmitrA nuttA dhAvata brahmaNA |
bR^ihaspati pranuttAnAM mAm IShAM mochi kash chana ||19||
Being defeated, being harassed, O enemies, run being expelled by brahman power; expelled by bR^ihaspati may none of the enemy ever be freed!

ava padyantAm eShAm AyudhAni mA shakan pratidhAm iShum |
athaiShAM bahu bibhyatAm iShavaH ghnantu marmaNi ||20||
Let their weapons fall down; let them not be able aim their arrow; then as they are in much fear let the arrows strike their marman points.

saM kroshatAm enAn dyAvApR^ithivI sam antarikShaM saha devatAbhiH |
mA j~nAtAraM mA pratiShThAM vidanta mitho vighnAnA upa yantu mR^ityum ||21||
The heaven and earth roar at them together; let the atmosphere together with the deities roar at them; let them not have a knowledgeable one in their midst, let them not find a foundation; mutually striking each other may they go unto death!

dishash chatasro .ashvataryo deva-rathasya purodAshAH shaphA antarikSham uddhiH |
dyAvApR^ithivI pakShasI R^itavo .abhIshavo .antardeshAH kimkarA vAk parirathyam ||22||
The 4 directions are the mules of the god-chariot; the ritual cakes are hoofs; the atmosphere the seat; heaven and earth the two sides; the seasons the reins; the intermediate directions the attendants and speech the chariot armor.

saMvatsaro rathaH parivatsaro rathopastho virAD IShAgnI rathamukham |
indraH savyaShThAsh chandramAH sArathiH ||23||
The year is the chariot; the parivatsara year the chariot base; virAT the pole; agni the mouth of the chariot; indra the one standing on the chariot; moon the charioteer.

ito jayeto vi jaya saM jaya jaya svAhA |
Conquer here, conquer the foes here, conquer completely, conquer; hail!

ime jayantu parAmI jayantAM svAhaibhyo durAhAmIbhyaH |
nIlalohitenAmUn abhyavatanomi ||24||
Let those enemies be conquered; hail to these; wail to the enemies; with the aid of the blue-red rudra (nilalohita) I stretch the web out upon those enemies!

After the last svAhA and durAhA he takes a red shoot of the ashvattha tree and entwines it with red and blue threads. Then he sticks it into the north of the fire and uttering the incantation nilalohitena… he pulls out the shoot towards the right with the threads.

While the ritual itself is symbolic, the traps and the web alluded to in the sUktaM is hardly symbolic and represent real snares that are likely to be poisoned with castor. This is also likely to be combined with fire and smoke.

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