The Aitareyabrahmana is one of the collections of the
sayings of ancient Brahmana priests (divines and philosophers
illustrative and explanatory of the duties of the so-called
Hotr-priests. The latter performing the principal part of
their duties by means of the mantras, termed and contained in the so-called Rgveda Samhita, the Aitareya is therefore
one of the Brahmanas belonging to the Rgveda. There must
have been, as we may learn from Panini and Patanjali's
Mahabhasya, a much larger number of Brahmanas belonging
to each Veda and even Sayana, who lived only about four
hundred years ago, was acquainted with more Brahmanas,
To the Rgveda we know at present besides the Aitareya, only
the Kausitaki Brahmana, which is also called Sankhayana.
Both appear to have been known to the grammarian Panini,
as one may gather from the rule (v. I. 62) which he gives
regarding the formation of names of Brahmanas consisting
of thirty and forty Adhyayas for the Kausitaki actually
consists of thirty and the Aitareya of forty Adhyayas, which
were afterwards divided into eight Pancikas, each of which
comprises five Adhyayas.
It treats in its eight books, or forty chapters, each of
which is subdivided into a certain number of whichis subdivided into a certain number of Kandikas
small sections, paragraphs, almost exclusively of the duties.of
the seven Hotr-priests at the great .Soma sacrifices and the
different royal inauguration ceremonies. All minor sacrifices
and Istis, although they require the services of a Hota, are
excluded. The Hotr-priests are . to be divided into three
distinct classes: (1) The Hota, the chief of all Hotr-priests;
(2) The Hotrakas, i.e. the Iittle Rotas these are Maitravaruna
(Prasastar) Bramanachamsi, and Achhavaka and (3) The Hoai-saamsinah; i.e. the repeaters of the Hatr verses; they are, Potar, Nestar and Agnidhra.
The first thirteen chapters (the two first books, and the
three first chapters of the third) treat of the duties of the chief Hots at the Agnistoma Soma sacrifice only; for this is the model (prakrti) of all Soma 'Sacrifices which last for one day only (the so-called aikahikas) ; all other Soma sacrifices of the same duration are mere modifications (vikrti) of it. It is regarded as an integral part of the Jyotistoma, and said to consist of the following seven sacrifices: (1) Agnistoma, (2)
Atyagnistoma, (3) Ukthya, (4) solasi, (5) Atiratra, (6)
Vajapeya, (7) Aptoryama (Asv, Sr. S. 6. 11). In many places, however, the term Jyotistoma is equivalent to Agnistoma. The Aitareya does not know these seven parts, as belonging together, but simply remarks, that they follow the Agnistoma as their prakrti (3. 41). The Atyagni~toma is not even mentioned in it at all.
All the duties of the Hota at the Agnistoma are mentioned almost in the exact order in which they are required, It lasts generally for five days. The ceremonies are then divided as follows:
First day.-Preliminary ceremonies, such as the election
of the priests, giving them presents (madhuparka), the Diksaniya Isti, and the Diksa itself.
Second day.-The Prayantya or opening Isti; the buying
of the Soma; the Atithya Isti, Pravargya, and Upasad twice (once in the forenoon, and once in the afternoon).
Third day.-Pravargya and Upasad twice again.
Fourth day-Agnipranayanam, Agni-Soma-pranayanam
Havirdhana pranayanam, The animal sacrifice.
Fifth day.- The squeezing, offering, and drinking of the
Soma juice at the three great libations, viz. the morning;
midday, and evening libations. The concluding Isti (udayaniya), Ablution (avabhrta).
The ceremonies of the four first days are only introductory, but absolutely necessary; for without them no one is allowed to sacrifice and drink the soma juice. The Soma Ceremony is the holiest rite in the whole Brahmanical sacrifice.
With particular care are the so-called Sastras or recitations of the Hotr priests treated. in the Aitareyabrahmana. fifth chapter of the second, and the three first chapters of third book are entirely taken up with the exposition of the as of the Hota at the morning, midday, and evening ions, As the reader may learn from a perusal principally le third book, the Sastras always belong to Stotras or performances by the Sama singers, viz. the Udgatar or chief singer, the Prastotar who chants the prelude, and the- Pratihartar who chants the response Their recitations must be
ancient, as we have seen; for they are by the name uktha exactly corresponding to ukhdhem in the Zend language) frequently mentioned in the Samhita. A closer examination of them will throw much light on the history of the composion of the Vedic hymns. As ancient as the Sastras are the stomas, the exposition of which forms one of the topics the Samavedic Brahmanas. The word stoma is also known in the Zend-A vesta. The Parsi priests understood a particular sacrificial ceremony of minor importance,
h consists in consecrating a meal (meat is at this occasion indispensable) in the honour of an angel or a' deceased person enjoyed afterwards by the whole party assembled. That idea of "sacrificial rite" was attached also by the brhmanas to the word, clearly follows from the terms, Agnistoma and Jyotistoma, The musical- performance which originally alone called a stoma, formed a necessary part certain sacrifices, and was then, as pars pro toto, applied to whole rite.
The universal character of the Agnistoma and its mean
is treated especially in the fourth chapter of the third
book. In its last chapter, and in the first two of the fourth principal modifications of the Agnistoma are mentioned briefly described, viz. the Ukthya, Solasi and Atiratra, along with the Asvina Sastra.
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