Matters of religion-1

Indrasena had arrived at the house of Somakhya and Lootika for learning mysterious matters of religion. Entering their fire-room he saw Somakhya seated beside the square altar on a mat of bovine skin and Lootika seated beside the circular altar on a similar skin with a yoktra girdle around her waist. Indrasena seating himself in the svastikāsana on a mat at the appropriate corner said: “Agnishad, the brāhmaṇa from Cerapada, was a notable somayājin. Having performed the agniṣṭoma he drank soma. But he apparently did not know the rahasya rituals. Hence, one day he was struck by the vajra of deva Rudra and was killed. I do not wish to go that way. O Somakhya and Lootika I seek the rahasya-s pertaining the mysterious rituals that you were to impart to me.”

Somakhya: “These rituals are indeed mysterious. We cannot claim by any means to have understood their mysteries in completeness. They certainly lie beyond the reach of the nominal brāhmaṇa, who has not penetrated the depths of the śruti or merely carries the śruti as a donkey carrying sandalwood. We, following the path of the great Atharvan-s who have gone before us to the realm of the frightful Yama, have grasped the merest tip of the iceberg of mysteries placed in the śruti by the ṛṣi-s of yore. You need not be told this O Indrasena, still let me repeat, such mysteries can only be understood by making the offerings in the realm that is known as Vivasvant’s seat. When the yajamāna-s make offerings without knowing Vivasvant’s seat he is exposed to the danger of becoming a samidh in the offering to Vivasvant’s black son before his time. Even if does know it, he remains in danger, for the darts of Paśupati are many. Now dear Lootika let us ensure that you are fit to be the mistress of the ritual mysteries in this instruction of our friend Indrasena: Expound the seat of Vivasvant.”

Lootika: “In the sūkta whose seer is unknown there is the triṣṭubh mantra:
yasmin devā vidathe mādayante
vivasvataḥ sadane dhārayante |
sūrye jyotir adadhur māsy aktūn
pari dyotaniṃ carato ajasrā ||
(In which ritual assembly the deva-s are exhilarated,
in the seat of Vivasvant they cause to uphold [the laws]
they placed the light in the sun and nights in the moon
the two move the splendor in cycles unceasingly.)

The deva-s uphold the vrata-s or the laws which govern all existence in the seat of Vivasvant. To the old ārya-s the glowing of the sun, the lunar phases, and the cyclic movement of the sun and the moon in the sky, were embodiments of these laws. That seat of Vivasvant is hence the universe. At its origin the deva-s manifested as those laws. But the seat of Vivasvant is also the ritual assembly where the deva-s are exhilarated with the offerings of the yajamāna. Thus, when the ritualist performs a ritual the ritual arena becomes an abstraction of the seat of Vivasvant.”

Somakhya: “Good, you are keeping with your founding father vipra Dīrghatamas Aucāthya. Indrasena would you back up Lootika’s statement that the deva-s are upholding the vrata-s?”

Indrasena: “An ancient āṅgirasa states:
yasyā devā upasthe
vratā viśve dhārayante |
sūryāmāsā dṛśe kam ||

(She in whose lap, deva-s
cause to uphold all laws,
for seeing the sun and moon.)

Here, we see a parallel to the mantra Lootika expounded and vrata is explicitly mentioned. Just as the seat of Vivasvant is the universe represented as the ritual arena, so also the lap of the goddess Pṛśni, the consort of Rudra and the mother of the Marut-s, is also a metaphor for the same, the female cognate of the same. Hence, Lootika was correct in supplying vrata-s in the previous mantra.”

Somakhya: “Good. With the knowledge of Vivasvant’s seat and its other cognates in place the ritualist must call upon Vivasvant so that he makes us fearless of the fears culminating in the approach of his son. So the ritualist utters the incantation:
vivasvān no abhyaṃ kṛṇotu |
(May Vivasvant make us fearless.)

Now Indrasena drink the soma from the graha and utter the mantra of the ‘avarodhana’ (the descending bridge) to protect yourself from Yama Vaivasvata and expound it.”

Indrasena: “The ṛṣi Kaśyapa, who was one of the first Soma ritualists, said in his mantra:
atra rājā vaivasvato yatrāvarodhanaṃ divaḥ |
yatrāmūr yahvatīr āpas tatra mām amṛtaṃ kṛdhī indrāyendo pari srava ||
(Here where Vaivasvata is king, there is a descending bridge from the heaven,
where the fresh, ever-flowing waters are, there make me immortal, may the Soma drop flow around for Indra!)

The bridge, which descends from the divine realm to that of Vaivasvata, should be seen as the stars in the region of the constellation of Orion, where the two dogs of Yama (Canis Major and Canis Minor) stand guard. The fresh ever-flowing waters there represent the Milky Way. The Indu in the ritual arena is the Ephedra juice but in the celestial realm is actually the moon, the celestial Soma. That is why the prefix pari is used with verb sru.”

Somakhya then continued: “You have mastered the rahasya of the avarodhana and thus protected yourself. The ritualist then needs to be mindful of the link to the seat of Vivasvant, which is like an umbilical cord connecting him during the ritual, where he experiences the presence of the deva-s. This has been laid out by the prince Parucchepa Daivodāsi in his mantra thusly:
astu śrauṣaṭ puro agnīṃ dhiyā dadha
ā nu tac chardho divyaṃ vṛṇīmaha indravāyū vṛṇīmahe |
yad dha krāṇā vivasvati nābhā saṃdāyi navyasī |
adha pra sū na upa yantu dhītayo devāṃ acchā na dhītayaḥ ||
(So be it, he shall hear! I place Agni in front through my mantra-thought,
Now here we choose the divine host (Marut-s); we chose Indra and Vayu.
When indeed we are swiftly linked to the nave in Vivasvant’s [seat],
then may our mantra-thoughts travel forth, as if the mantra-thoughts are going towards the deva-s.)

Note that the astu śrauṣaṭ is one of the five ritual calls that are said to constitute the ritual itself and also stand for the five animals the old ārya-s greatly valued. They are
o3 śrāvaya (Make the devatā hear)
astu śrauṣaṭ (So be it, he shall hear)
yaja (worship [the devatā])
ye3 yajāmahe (we are those who worship) [the devatā]
vau3ṣaṭ (May [Agni] bear the offering [to the deva-s]

Thus, having known this, at the seat of Vivasvant he invokes the fierce Indra the lord of the battle.”

Looking at fire at his altar Somakhya gave the call: “indram ā3 vaha |
He then followed it with the ghee offering directly with the sruva: ye3 yajāmahe indraṃ svāhā| idam indrāya na mama |

Indrasena note that these svāhā offerings should be made with the devatā in the accusative case because the deity is the object of the verb yajāmahe.

Somakhya invoked Indra: “
yudhendro mahnā varivaś cakāra
devebhyaḥ satpatiś carṣaṇiprāḥ |
vivasvataḥ sadane asya tāni
viprā ukthebhiḥ kavayo gṛṇanti || śrau3ṣaṭ
(In battle through his greatness Indra had made the wide space for the deva-s,
he is the lord of all that exists, the leader of all the peoples.
At the seat of Vivasvant these [acts] of his
the vipra-s, the kavi-s recite with their chants.)”

Then he said: “With this mantra of the great ṛṣi Viśvāmitra we should invoke Indra, who through his great acts in battle made the universe that of the deva-s, and then with the name of Viṣṇu filling the sruk with the sruva make the offering.
ye3 yajāmahe
sasānātyāṃ uta sūryaṃ sasānendraḥ
sasāna purubhojasaṃ gām |
hiraṇyayam uta bhogaṃ sasāna
hatvī dasyūn prāryaṃ varṇam āvat || vau3ṣaṭ | idam indrāya na mama ||
(Indra won the horses, and also he gained the sun,
he gained the cow, the source of much food,
and also the wealth of gold he conquered;
Having slain the dasyu-s he aided the ārya color.)

Thus, we must worship Indra so that we are sthavira-s in the battle with the dasyu-s.”

Turning to Lootika, Somakhya called upon her: “aindryā gārhapatyam upatiṣṭhasva |
Lootika then clarified this point to Indrasena: “Note the use of the verb upa-sthā in the ātmanepada. This has been specified by the sūtra: upān mantra-karaṇe | of sage Pāṇini. When the when prefix upa is used with verb sthā in the context of ritual to the deva-s then the verb takes the ātmanepada.

The Lootika continued with the invocation at her altar:
ahastā yad apadī vardhata kṣāḥ śacībhir vedyānām |
Śuṣṇam pari pradakṣiṇid viśvāyave ni śiśnathaḥ || śrau3ṣaṭ
(When handless and footless the earth grew by her powers of wise means,
you went clockwise around Śuṣṇa and for all life [or for all the āyu-s ] you struck him down.)”

Then she made an offering with the juhū ladle into the fire at her altar:
ye yajāmahe
vy ānaḻ indraḥ pṛtanāḥ svojā āsmai yatante sakhyāya pūrvīḥ |

ā smā rathaṃ na pṛtanāsu tiṣṭha yam bhadrayā sumatyā codayāse || vau3ṣaṭ | idam indrāya na mama ||
(The most mighty indra has pierced the enemy ranks;
Many foremost [warriors] go to him for friendship.
[O Indra]mount your car as though for battle;
you drive forth for [bringing] fortune and favor.)

Then Somakhya stood up recited the praise of Indra:
tvam āyasam prati vartayo gor
divo aśmānam upanītam ṛbhvā |
kutsāya yatra puruhūta vanvañ
chuṣṇam anantaiḥ pariyāsi vadhaiḥ ||+ oṃ
(You, the skillful one, spun away the metal stone of heaven led close to the cow;
when for Kutsa, O much invoked one, winning over Śuṣṇa you surrounded him with endless deadly missiles.)

purā yat sūras tamaso apītes
tam adrivaḥ phaligaṃ hetim asya |
Śuṣṇasya cit parihitaṃ yad ojo
divas pari sugrathitaṃ tad ādaḥ ||
(Before when the sun enters the darkness, hurl the missile at the cave, O one with the stones!
Indeed, the might of Śuṣṇa which surrounded him, that you tore off from the heaven [though] it was well-knotted around [it].

indro divaḥ pratimānam pṛthivyā
viśvā veda savanā hanti Śuṣṇam |
mahīṃ cid dyām ātanot sūryeṇa
cāskambha cit kambhanena skabhīyān ||+oṃ
(Indra is the image of heaven and earth,
he knows all the [Soma] pressings [and] slays Śuṣṇa,
indeed, earth and heaven he extended with the sun,
He verily held up the world by the world-axis, he is the primary world axis.)”

Indrasena: “There are many mysteries here that are not easily grasped.”
Somakhya: “That is true. Some of them lie beyond our reach because the original aindra religion of our ancestors has been fogged by the later dominance of the divergent sects. Yet,we must admire the great effort of prime minister Sāyaṇa who attempted to penetrate these mysteries as one of the first tasks when the nation of the Hindus was revived from the Śuṣṇa-like grip of the marūnmatta-s.”
Indrasena: “No doubt we must uphold the tradition of Śaunaka as that somapāyin who followed the deva-dharma from the Rāṣṭraka country had said to me when I was young. We must labor on with what survives, deprecating the kautsa ignorance that spread among the ritualists.”

Lootika: “The lesser mysteries are those of grammar. Indrasena, you might have noticed that the reduplicated perfect form of the verb skambh as being cāskambha. In every day language we use caskambha. This elongation of the first syllable in the śruti is accounted for by the great grammarian under the sūtra: ‘tujādīnām dīrgho ‘bhyāsasya |‘…”
Indrasena: “Yes. Another well-known example of that would be the perfect verb in: ‘sa dādhāra yaḥ pṛthivīṃ dyām uta |‘”
Lootika: “Correct. Further, because it is liṭ of skambh it refers to the ancient, unwitnessed past (i.e. parokṣe liṭ). Hence it refers to the time of the origin, when Indra made the universe expand. He is that which holds the boundaries of the universe wide apart; hence he is called the skabhīyān. Another grammatical point of note in this regard is the loss of the ‘s’ from the word skambhana in the śruti after the cit. Thus, we have cit kambhanena. Indra is also the model of the universe itself; hence, indro divaḥ pratimānam pṛthivyā.”
Indrasena: “Indeed, that is affirmed by ṛṣi Gṛtsamada: yo viśvasya pratimānam babhūva |
Somakhya: “Good. This, O Indrasena, is the rahasya the Atharvan is mindful off when he utters the incantation: oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ suvar janad vṛdhat karad ruhan mahat tac cham om indravato havāmahe |

To continue on the matter of grammar that Lootika brought up, as a historical aside, it appears that the reduplicated liṭ was at best weak in the core Indo-European language. It appears to have developed as an obligate form, which we see in our language, only in the group that includes Graeco-Armenian and Indo-Iranian. We suspect that this supports a Graeco-Armeno-Aryan clade in the ancestor of which this development occurred in the Caucasus region. Under this hypothesis the satem development happened after the Indo-Iranian split off and then moved in proximity to the clade Balto-Slavic to influence it.”

Indrasena: “The Graeco-Armeno-Aryan clade is also probably supported by the emergence of the prefix-augmented imperfects (laṅ) and aorists (luṅ) occurring along side the unaugmented forms resembling them.”

Somakhya: “I also tend to favor that view – the simultaneous occurrence of the augmented and unaugmented forms is likely to be a synapomorphy of the Graeco-Armeno-Aryan clade. However, the repeated loss of it, both on the Greek and our side warrants us to be a bit cautious. While we are talking about these forms you might have noted that prati vartayaḥ and vardhata in the deployed mantra-s, which are such unaugmented parasmai- and ātmane-pada formations.”

Lootika: “The grammar, with links to earlier IE clades, apart, the semantics are where the greater mysteries lie. One mystery pertains to what the ‘growing of the of the Earth’ means?”
Somakhya: “The learned prime minister holds that it represents the growth of vegetation on the earth. Given that the dānava Śuṣṇa is said to be the demon of drought, when he enveloped the earth, the earth by her ‘wise means’ i.e. counter-māyā made the vegetation grow in spite of him. But there are many other mysteries that are much harder to unveil.”

Lootika: “What is the metal stone of the heaven, alluded to in multiple mantra-s? What is the cow which from which it was turned away? Why does Indra always have to go around or surround Śuṣṇa, as though circling the sacrificial animal, before killing him? What are the knots by which Śuṣṇa is well-tethered to the heavens?”

Indrasena: “These indeed seem rather mysterious when one compares it to the one good survival of the Śuṣṇa legend I am aware of from the brāhmaṇa portion of the Kāṭhaka-saṃhitā:
‘The deva-s and the asura-s were at war. But amṛta was with the asura-s, within Śuṣṇa. Whenever a deva would be killed he could not be revived. But when the deva-s killed an asura, Śuṣṇa would breath upon him with the amṛta and revive him. Indra realized that the amṛta was with the asura-s within Śuṣṇa. So Indra took the form of a ball of honey and placed himself on Śuṣṇa’s path. Śuṣṇa ate it up. Indra immediately became a golden eagle and seizing the amṛta flew out of Śuṣṇa’s mouth. Hence, the golden eagle is the mightiest of the birds because he is one form of Indra. He who knows this possesses the amṛtavidyā.’ There is some subliminal connection between this later reflex of the legend and the earlier ones in the ādiśruti. What could it be?”

Somakhya: “While not all the mysteries are clear to us it is indeed true that these legends have a connection. We posit that the Śuṣṇa cycle had many branches of which only one survives in any detail. There was an earthly version which was associated was probably associated with Śuṣṇa as the bringer of drought. There was a heavenly version, which took multiple forms itself: There are indirect allusions to Śuṣṇa’s serpentine nature, which might relate to him tying himself around the heavens (also perhaps supported by Eastern Iranic etymologies for snake). There is also a form of the legend where Indra is said to steal the wheel of the sun in the sky during the Śuṣṇa battle. E.g. ṛśi Agastya says:
muṣāya sūryaṃ kave
cakram īśāna ojasā |
vaha śuṣṇāya vadhaṃ
kutsaṃ vātasyāśvaiḥ ||
O kavi [Indra] steal the wheel, [i.e.] the sun,
he [Indra] who by his might is the overlord,
bear Kutsa with the horses of wind,
for the slaying of Śuṣṇa

There is the allusion to the sun about head into the darkness of the cave when Indra deploys his missiles. We propose that the cow from which Indra turns away the metal stone is again the sun. We do think these allusions are indeed related to the later reflex of the legend of the Kāṭhaka-s that you narrated. The ball of honey is the sun – a metaphor given the yellowness of honey. Hence, we posit that mysteries of these legends of Śuṣṇa – the stealing of the sun-wheel, the stone of heaven approaching the sun, Śuṣṇa eating the honey ball, Indra slaying Śuṣṇa just as the sun was entering the darkness of the cave – are all associated with the phenomenon of the eclipse. I am sure you see the parallels to the even later reverberations of these through the sphere of legends.”

Indrasena: “How could one not? In the Viṣṇu cycle the serpentine Rāhu swallows the sun; He is one among the asura-s who held the amṛta in his mouth; he achieved it by deploying his māyā; the amṛta was stolen from the asura-s by Viṣṇu in his female form. Viṣṇu severs Rāhu’s head with the cakra. This parallels another legend in which Indra too wields the sun as his cakra to slay Vala; Gṛtsamada states:
avartayat sūryo na cakram
bhinad valam indro aṅgirasvān ||
Lootika: “Thus, we can see many motifs come together in different ways. The eagle stealing the amṛta is of old Indo-European vintage. Moving further afield, the motif of stealing the āmṛta from asura-s reappears in the later legend of āṅgirasa Kaca stealing the saṃjīvanī from Uśanas Kāvya while being within him, having entered via his beer. The same Uśanas Kāvya is associated with the Śuṣṇa-hatya along with Kutsa Ārjuneya; in this legend perhaps the Kutsa is a heavenly figure rather than the āṅgirasa ṛṣi. And then perhaps Indra going around or encircling Śuṣṇa is an allusion to circlings of the heavenly bodies in course of the phenomena like eclipses.”

Somakhya: “Some of these are still at the edge of the veil; some mysteries still remain but mindful of the rahasya-s we do know we must thus perform the ritual to Maghavan.”

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