collection of hauma hamiddha's scattered posts

The pravargya ritual

The pravargya is an exalted vedic sacrifice performed by an Arya to
the ashvins and offers a glimpse of the fusion of the two ancient
ritual streams of the ancient Aryan past. One component of it is the
ancient gharma rite to the Ashvins probably instituted by the bhR^igus
under the great atharvan chyavAna. ChyavAna was revived from
decrepitude and disease by the ashvins and went on to win sukanya the
daughter of shAryAti and accordingly in their honor offered the great
sacrifice of milk. Then the bhArgava dadhichi, gained the madhuvidyas
from the ashvins who had fixed on him the head of the horse, hence he
worshipped them as the gods of medicine. These ancient memories
resulted in the atharvans instituting a sacrificial pouring for the
Ashvins with the mantra AV 7.73 (Shaunaka SaMhita of AV,
samiddhoagnir…). Simultaneously in the Vedic stream of the bhAratas,
the school of the prAjapatya vAishvAmitras instituted a rite to
commemorate the twelve month year also known as prajapati, with a
twelve day pouring two the deities: savitA, agni, mAtarishvAn, the
Adityas, the nakshatras, the R^ita, dhAtA, bR^ihaspati, mitra, varuNa,
indra and soma. The end of the year was marked symbolically by the
beheading of prajapati by rudra. The restoration of his head in the
new year was through the surgery of the ashvins.

The myth of the cephalic surgery on prajapati and dadhichi served as
the fusion point of these rites during the early settlement of the
bhAratas in the sub-continent. This resulted in the pravargya rite in
which marks the restoration of the head of yagna or the prajapati also
called makha’s head in the brAhmaNa literature. Thus the taittiriya
AraNyaka states:
te devA ashvinAvabruvan.h | bhishhajau vai staH | idaM yagnasya shiraH
prati dhattameti |…
The head in the pravargya rite is symbolically denoted by a parvargya
pot. Thus is the rite performed:
The adhvaryu first set up sacrficial fire and offers ghee to savitA.
Then he mixes clay and makes the pravargya pot with an hour glass like
shape with a spout in the top half from three pieces of clay. He also
makes the other chamasas and the ladles for the rite with the
remaining clay. They are sun dried and then the adhvaryu fumigates
them in a fire fueled by horse dung. Then they are heated in the fire
in the sacrificial pit taken out and cooled by the pouring of goat’s
milk. On the day of the rite the adhvaryu uses his forceps to hold the
pravargya pot over the AhAvaniya fire and melts ghee in it and the
prastotA priest sings the pravargya sAmans during this process. The
pot is then place on a raised altar on a silver disk. Ghee is poured
again into it and its heated by the adhvaryu and then surrounded by
samids and covered with a gold lid and a fire lit. It is fanned with 3
fans till the pot becomes redhot and all except the yajamAna’s wife
look at it chanting yajushes. Finally the other participants leave and
the pratiprastAtA priest and yajmAna’s wife not looking at the pot
chant the fertility yajushes to tvashTa. Then a goat and a cow are
milked and the milk is poured into the pravargya pot. It is then held
by tongs and taken to the AhAvaniya fire and the gharma offering to
the ashvins is made. An indra pouring with the formula “svAhendrAya
svAhendrA vaD.h” is made and the milk is made to overflow from the pot
into the fire. The pourings to pUshaN and rudra are made. Then after
performing the agnihotra and worshiping the prANa as indra and agni
with the formula “prANa evainaM indratamegnau juhoti” the yajamAna,
his wife and priests eat the congealed milk of the gharma with honey.
The adhvaryu then disposes the sacrificial implements used in the
rite: the forceps, the tripod, the fans, two fire pokers in the east
by arranging them in the shape of a man. The prastotA priest sings the
rakshoha sAmans during the process. Then singing the shukra samans,
the yajamAna, his wife and the priests dispose the pravargya pot on
the east on the west sides of the uttaravedi platform. If he desires
to slay his foes he lays a death-dealing charm invoking
agni-vaishvAnara and disposes it on the branch of an audumbara fig
tree. He may also dispose it near a termite heap with darbha grass for
successful farming.

Also finally the soma while not directly offered in the Taittiriya
AraNyaka form of the rite, it was possibly originally present as in
the soma offering of the bhR^igus to the ashvins. A relic of this is
seen in the pavamAna sAmans sung in course of the rite.

Now the issue is that the pravargya pot is a very distinctive
structure that necessarily must appear in the archaeological record.
Especially given the gold/silver base and lid of the pot finding such
structures may be possible. I would like to hear from list members
regarding any pottery that may fit into the parvargya apparatus and
their possible dates and associations. Is there any such material from
Kalibangan for example? Sankalia mentions some pot associated with the
Malwa culture would anyone have details on it?

Interested readers may also consult: J Houben, J Gonda and J
Buitenen’s works on parvargya. Houben’s is a good brief summary with
English translation. Buitenen’s interpretations of the rite are in my
humble opinion completely flawed. Gonda talks of psychic effects of
soma, and ghee drinking in the rite…. But i doubt these were really
relevant.

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