Bringing the Gods to Mind
Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
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This book has its beginnings in the long sunny hours I spent reading RgVidhana and Ašvalayana Šrauta Sutra with H. G. Ranade at Deccan Col-lege in 1992, and Šabara with Venugopalam on his porch on the hill.That year, while I read many other texts not included in this book, I wasafforded the opportunity to begin to think systematically about issues of...
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It is early morning in a small village in western Maharashtra, India. Thepravargya rite is being performed—an introductory Vedic ritual with anobscure and intriguing history. During the ceremony the doors of thesacrificial arena are closed. Everyone knows that the sacrificer’s wife ispresent, but she is hidden from view. The chanting of Rg Vedic hymns...
Part One: The Theories
1. Poetry, Ritual, and Associational Thought in Early India: The Sources
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In India, the realm of the mental image is not on the defensive.Every Tuesday night, a businessman in Varanasi, India, chants a chapterfrom the Gita as part of his regular bhajan, or chanting group, at aKrsna temple near the south side of the city. He says it puts him in acalmer mood. A middle-aged woman is taking care of her mother, who is...
2. Poetry, Ritual, and Associational Thought in Early India: The Theories
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If we were to ask the Catholic housewife and the Hindu businessmanwhat their reasons were for their modern mantras, they would answerwith some description of inner thought and outer action: in Varanasi oneevening, the businessman said to me: “Whenever I think of Krsna, or singabout Krsna, my mind is settled.” What if the Hindu businessman ele-...
3. Viniyoga: The Recovery of a Hermeneutic Principle
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A discussion of Vedic ritual metonymy leads to a special form of associa-tive thought—a particular form of mantric interpretation called vini-yoga. Viniyoga is a kind of application of Vedic mantra through the cre-ations of new sets of associations in new ritual situations and is a specialform of a hermeneutic principle that involves metonymy. It also involves...
Part Two: The Case Studies
4. Fire, Light, and Ingesting over Time
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In the Vedic world, Indra is asked to consume food and beverages, hungryfor more; Soma is the consumable drink par excellence, which is drunk notonly by the gods but also by the poets. The food imagery of the Rg Vedabecomes used in the Upanisads as representative of the emerging idea of acycle of birth, death, and rebirth; by the very nature of the images in the...
5. The Vedic “Other”: Spoilers of Success
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Imagine for a moment a Vedic householder who has just built a new char-iot. He has carefully blessed each part of the vehicle with mantras, cir-cumambulated the local sacred pond, and drives it to the assembly hall.There, before entering the hall, he utters imprecations against his enemies,wishing that they be trampled underfoot “like frogs underwater.”...
6. A History of the Quest for Mental Power
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One Vedic mantra (8.100.11) describes the creative power of speech,which gives powers of utterances even to the animals—animals of all dif-ferent kinds. It longs for that goddess, the joy-bringing cow who yieldsmeat and drink, to come to the arena, satisfied with her praise. A lovelyimage, it is used in dramatically different circumstances. In one ritual,...
7. The Poetics of Paths: Mantras of Journeys
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What does it mean to lose one’s way? How can we think about the ques-tion of “pathhood” and traveling through space in early India? The imagemost frequently brought to mind is the one of the ašvamedha, where thehorse’s wandering for a year is in fact the horse’s sponsor’s domination ofthe land. Wherever the horse wanders is, de facto, owned by the king who...
8. A Short History of Heaven: From Making to Gaining the Highest Abode
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The idea of loka, or world, is as old as the Veda itself. Poets describe, inequally colorful terms, these imagined places, for humans, for ancestors,and for sacrificed animals alike. The Vedic hymns do not make a system-atic doctrine of sacred geography, although they do speak of Yama’srealm frequently, and in the later books there is mention of triloka, or the...
Conclusions: Laughter and the Creeper Mantra
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At one point in the sattra of 1999, the year-long somayajña in Gangakhed,Maharashtra, it was an appropriate moment to perform the creeper orserpent mantra, the verses to the serpent queen, Sarparajñi (RV 10.189).As they chanted the mantra, the priests tied their dhotis one to another ina long line and move around the sacrificial arena like a creeping vine or...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2005