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Satapatha Brahmana – Third Kandha – Fourth Adhyaya

Satapatha Brahmana

Third Kânda – Fourth Adhyâya

The âtithya, or guest-offering (hospitable reception given to king Soma).

First Brâhmana

1Verily, the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice, and the Prâyanîya and Udayanîya are its arms. But the arms are on both sides of the head: therefore those two oblations, the Prâyanîya and Udayanîya, are on both sides of the guest-offering.
2Now as to why it is called ‘guest-offering.’ He, the purchased Soma, truly comes as his (the sacrificer’s) guest, to him (is offered) that (hospitable reception): even as for a king or a Brâhman one would cook a large ox or a large he-goat for that is human (fare offered to a guest), and the oblation is that of the gods so he prepares for him that guest-offering.
3Here now they say, ‘Let him first walk past (Soma) and take out (the material for offering)!’ For (they argue) where people do not show respect to a worthy person (arhant) who has come to them, he becomes angry, and in this way he (Soma) is indeed honoured.
4Then only one (of the oxen) is to be unyoked, and the other to be left unyoked[1]; and thereupon he is to take out (the material for offering): for (they argue) in that one of them is unyoked, thereby he (Soma) has arrived; and in that the other is left unyoked, thereby he is honoured.
5Let him, however, not do this but let him take out (the material for offering) only after unyoking (both oxen) and after making (Soma) enter (the hall); for the ways of men are in accordance with those of the gods. And accordingly, in human practice, so long as (a guest) has not unyoked, people do not bring water to him and show him no honour, for so long he has not yet arrived; but when he has unyoked, then they bring him water and show him honour, for then he has indeed arrived: let him therefore take out (the material for offering) only after unyoking and after making (Soma) enter (the hall).
6Let him take it out with all speed, for thus he (Soma) is honoured. The housewife holds on to it from behind[2]; for the sacrificer holds on to him (Soma), while he is driven around, and here his wife does so. Thus they enclose him on the two sides by a (married) couple: and, indeed, wherever a worthy person comes, there all the inmates of the house bestir themselves, for thus he is honoured.
7Let him take out (the material) with a different formula from that wherewith (one takes out) any other oblations[3], since, when he (Soma) is bought, he is bought for one special destination, for the sovereignty of the metres, for the supreme sovereignty of the metres. The metres act as attendants about him; even as the non-royal king-makers, the heralds and headmen, (attend upon) the king, so do the metres act as attendants about him (Soma).
8In no wise, then, is it befitting that he should take out any (material for offering) solely ‘for the metres[4];’ for whenever people cook food for some worthy person[5], then the attendants about him, the non-royal king-makers, the heralds and headmen, have their share (of the food) assigned to them; after (or along with their master): hence, when he takes out that (oblation to Soma), let him assign the metres a share in it along with (the deity).
9He takes it out, with the text (Vâg. S. V, 1), ‘Thou art Agni’s body, thee (I take) for Vishnu!’ the Gâyatrî is Agni: to Gâyatrî he thus assigns her share.
10‘Thou art Soma’s body, thee for Vishnu!’ Soma is the nobility, and the Trishtubh is the nobility: to Trishtubh he thus assigns her share.
11‘Thou art the guest’s hospitable entertainment[6], thee for Vishnu!’ This is his (Soma’s) special share: as there is a special share for a chief, so is this his special share apart from the metres.
12‘Thee for the Soma-bearing falcon! thee for Vishnu!’ thereby he assigns to Gâyatrî her share. Because Gâyatrî, in the form of a falcon, carried off Soma from the sky, therefore she is the Soma-bearing falcon: in virtue of that heroic deed he now assigns to her a second share.
13‘Thee for Agni, the bestower of prosperity! thee for Vishnu!’ Prosperity means cattle, and the Gagatî (the moving, living one) means cattle: to Gagatî he thereby assigns her share.
14Now as to his taking five times; the sacrifice is of equal measure with the year, and five seasons there are in the year: the latter he gains in five (divisions); for this reason he takes five times. And as to his taking it with ‘For Vishnu (I take) thee! for Vishnu thee!’ it is because he who takes out (material) for the sacrifice, takes it for Vishnu.
15It is a sacrificial cake on nine potsherds; for the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice, and the Gâyatrî consists of nine syllables[7]: eight (syllables) are those he recites and the sacred syllable[8] is the ninth; and the Gâyatrî is the fore-part of the sacrifice[9], and so is that (cake) the fore-part of the sacrifice: therefore it is a cake on nine potsherds.
16The enclosing-sticks are of kârshmarya wood (Gmelina Arborea[10]), for the gods, once upon a time, perceived that one, the kârshmarya, to be the Rakshas-killer among trees. Now, the guest-offering being the head of the sacrifice, the enclosing-sticks are of kârshmarya wood, in order that the evil spirits may not injure the head of the sacrifice.
17The prastara-bunch[11] is of asvavâla-grass (Saccharum Spontaneum). For, once upon a time, the sacrifice escaped from the gods. It became a horse (asva) and sped away from them. The gods, rushing after it, took hold of its tail (vâla) and tore it out; and having torn it out, they threw it down in a lump, and what had been the hairs of the horse’s tail then grew up as those plants (of asvavâla-grass). Now the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice, and the tail is the hind-part (of animals): hence by the prastara being of asvavâla-grass he encompasses the sacrifice on both sides.
18There are two vidhritis[12] of sugar-cane, lest the barhis and the prastara should become mixed up together. Having then purified the ghee[13], he takes all the butter-portions in four ladlings[14], for at this (sacrifice) there are no after-offerings.
19When he has placed the sacrificial dishes (on the altar)[15], he churns the fire. For the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice; and in churning (the fire) they produce that (sacrifice); and one who is born is born with the head first: hence he thereby makes the sacrifice to be produced with the head first. Further, Agni means all the gods, since offering is made in the fire to all gods; and the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice: hence, through all the deities, he secures success to the sacrifice from the very head (beginning). This is why he churns the fire[16].
20He takes the bottom piece of wood[17], with the text (Vâg. S. V, 2), ‘Thou art the birth-place of Agni;’ for it is thereon that Agni is produced: hence he says, ‘Thou art the birth-place of Agni.’
21Thereon he lays two sprouts of a kusa stalk (with the tops towards the east), with, ‘Ye are males[18];’ thereby these two are as two (sons) born together here from a woman.
22Thereon he lays the lower churning-stick (with the top to the north), with, ‘Thou art Urvasî!’ He then touches the (ghee in the) ghee-pan with the upper churning-stick, with, ‘Thou art Âyu,’ he puts it down (on the lower arani) with, ‘Thou art Purûravas.’ For Urvasî was a nymph, and Purûravas was her husband; and the (child) which sprung from that union was Âyu[19]: in like manner does he now produce the sacrifice from that union. Thereupon he says (to the Hotri), ‘Recite to Agni, as he is churned[20]!’
23He churns, with the texts, ‘With the Gâyatrî metre I churn thee! With the Trishtubh metre I churn thee! With the Gagatî metre I churn thee!’ For it is with the metres that he churns him (Agni, the fire); the metres he recites to him when he is churned, whereby he attaches the metres to the sacrifice, even as the rays (are attached) to yonder sun. ’Recite to the born one!’ he says, when he (Agni) is produced[21]; and ‘To him who is thrown[22]!’ when he throws him (on the old Âhavanîya fire).
24He throws (the fire on the hearth), with the text (Vâg. S. V, 3), ‘For our sake be ye two (fires) friendly to one another, of one mind, unblemished! Injure not the sacrifice, nor the lord of the sacrifice! be gracious unto us this day, ye knowers of beings!’ He thus bespeaks peacefulness between them, that they may not injure each other.
25He then takes out some clarified butter with the dipping-spoon, and pours it on the fire, with the text (Vâg. S. V, 4), ‘Agni resorteth to Agni, he the son of the seers that shieldeth us from curses: graciously offer thou for us now with good offering, never withholding the oblation from the gods, Hail!’ For the purpose of offering they have produced him, and by this offering he has now gratified him: that is why he thus makes offering unto him.
26It (the guest-offering) ends with the Idâ; no after-offerings are performed. For the guest-offering is the head of the sacrifice, and the head is the fore-part: he thus fits him up as the head of the sacrifice. But were he to perform the after-offerings, it would be as if, by reversing, he were to put the feet in the place of the head. Hence it ends with the Idâ, and no after-offerings are performed.


[1] This is the practice recognised by the Taittirîyas (T. S. VI, 2, 1, 1), on the ground that, if one were to unyoke both oxen, he would interrupt the sacrifice; and if he were to leave them both unyoked, it would be as if a hospitable reception were given to one who has not actually arrived.
[2] That is, by touching the Adhvaryu while he takes out the sacrificial food. See p. 79, note 3.
[3] For the ordinary formula with which material for offering is taken out at an ishti, ‘At the impulse of the divine Savitri, I take thee with the arms of the Asvins, with the hands of Pûshan, thee well-pleasing to !’ see I, 1, 2, 17.
[4] According to Taitt. S. VI, 2, 1, the five portions are taken out for the metres Gâyatrî, Trishtubh, Gagatî, Anushtubh, and Gâyatrî, with the texts, ‘Thou art Agni’s hospitable feast, for Vishnu (I take) thee,’ &c.
[5] ‘Arhant’ seems rather to mean ‘ruler’ here.
[6] Atither âtithyam, ‘the guest’s guest-meal.’
[7] According to Taitt. S. VI, 2, 1, 4, it is because the head has nine seams, ‘navadhâ siro vishyûtam.’
[8] The final syllable of the prayers recited in offering is protracted and nasalized, a final ‘a’ becoming ôm, this drawing out of the syllable is called pranava.
[9] Because the Gâyatrî metre is connected with the prâtahsavana or morning pressing. See IV, 2, 5, 20 seq.; Ait. Br. III, 27 seq.
[10] See I, 3, 3, 19-20, where the approved kinds of wood for the paridhis at an ishti are enumerated.
[11] For the prastara, or bunch of reed-grass, representing the sacrificer, see I, 3, 3, 5 seq.; 8, 3. 11 seq. The asvavâla (horsetail) grass (generally called kâsa) is said to resemble horse-hair, and is used for twine, mats, thatch, &c. Sir H. M. Elliot, ‘Races of the N. W. Prov.’ II, pp. 371, 372, describes it as growing from three to fifteen feet high, and flowering in great profusion after the rains; the base of the flowers being surrounded with a bright silvery fleece, which whitens the neighbouring fields so much as frequently to resemble a fall of snow.
[12] For the vidhriti or stalks laid across the barhis (sacrificial grass covering the altar), to keep the prastara separate from the latter when laid upon it, see I, 3, 4, 10. As no special mention is made of the barhis, the same material has to be used for it as at the model ishti (New and Full-moon sacrifice), viz. Kusa grass (Poa Cynosuroides).
[13] See I, 3, 1, 22-23.
[14] See I, 3, 2, 8-9.
[15] See I, 3, 4, 14.
[16] On the production of the fire by ‘churning,’ see part i, p. 294, note 3.
[17] The adhimanthana sakala is a chip of wood used for the lower churning-stick (adharârani), wherein the upper churning-stick is drilled, to rest upon. It is laid down on the altar-grass (barhis) from south to north. According to Sâyana it is a chip obtained in rough-hewing the sacrificial stake.
[18] In this sense ‘vrishanau’ is taken by Mahîdhara (sektârau, from vrishan), Sâyana, and apparently also by our author. Perhaps it means ‘testicles’ (vrishana) in the text. See III, 6, 3, 10; and part i, p. 389, note 3.
[19] The myth of Purûravas and Urvasî is given at length XI, 5, 1, I-17. Compare also Max Müller, Chips, vol. ii, p.202 seq.; A. Kuhn, Herabkunft des Feuers, p. 78 seq.
[20] The verses which the Hotri has to recite are (a) one to Savitri (the Vivifier, viz. Rig-veda I, 24, 3); (b) to Heaven and Earth (IV, 56, s); (c) a triplet to Agni (VI, 16, 13-15). If fire has not appeared by this time, he recites the so-called Rakshas-killing verses (X, 118), repeating them until fire has been produced. See Ait. Br. I, 17; Âsv. Sr. II, 16.
[21] The Hotri recites the two verses, Rig-veda I, 74, 3; VI, 16, 40.
[22] The verb is ‘pra-hri,’ which is also the common term for the hurling of the thunderbolt. The six verses, recited by the Hotri; are Rig-veda VI, 16, 41-42; I, 12, 6; VIII, 43, 14; VIII, 73, 8; I, 164, 50.

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