Friday, 12 August 2011

A yagna before the journey

It was a day before the Panchala royals were to set out on their journey to Rishi Bharadvaja’s ashram. Crowds had begun to gather at the centre of the Ahichhatra where a yagna was being arranged. The yagna would be performed by Dabhiti himself to seek and secure a safe journey of the royals by invoking Pusan, the deva who showed the way.

Bhumanyu and a few other purohits (priests) were frantically trying to organize and get the yagna underway. It had been several years that a yagna of this scale had been performed in Ahichhatra. Mudgala’s prolonged illness and then passing away had been a dampner.

Children were running helter-skelter, screaming in excitement. The elders tried to silence them and pretended not to show their enthusiasm. But from their dressing it was obvious that a grand occasion was unfolding and they very much wanted to be a part of it. The men had turned up in their fine cotton, having dispensed anything made of hide or animal skin, which they typically wore during their daily chores. The women, in addition, had decked themselves in beads of precious stone. A few amongst the very wealthy had some gold jewelry to show off as well.

Finally, Bhumanyu and the others seemed to have got things in control and concluded with the preparations. It was time for the royals and Dabhiti to make an appearance. A hushed silence descended on the crowd in anticipation. Then to the deafening sound of shanks (counch) and dhunis (small leather drum), the rajan and Dabhiti appeared in their chariots. The queen was being carried in a palanquin.

Praise in the name of Vadhryasva and Menaka rent the air and occasionally, Dabhiti was named as well. The royals greeted the people with folded hands. It felt nice to see the warmth and respect that the people had for them. The royals, finally wound their way to the venue of the yagna, and then walked to the area where the yagna kundhas (fire altars) were placed.

Dabhiti kindled the fire in the three yagna kundhas in the exact manner prescribed and began to chant the hymns to Pusan, directing Vadhryasva and Menaka to offer oblations from time to time.

Author's note: There are several hymns in Mandala VI that invoke Pusan. It is very likely that one or more of them was certainly invoked prior to a journey being undertaken. I reproduce the entire hymn RV 6.054 in its exact form as translated by Griffith – to produce it in any other form, would have been a travesty.

O PUSAN, bring us to the man who knows, who shall direct us straight,
And say unto us, It is here.

May we go forth with Pusan who shall point the houses out to us,
And say to us, These same are they.

Unharmed is Pusan's chariot wheel; the box ne'er falleth to the ground,
Nor doth the loosened felIy shake.

Pusan forgetteth not the man who serveth him with offered gift:
That man is first to gather wealth.

May Pusan follow near our kine; may Pusan keep our horses safe:
May Pusan gather gear for us.

Follow the kine of him who pours libations out and worships thee;
And ours who sing thee songs of praise.

Let none be lost, none injured, none sink in a pit and break a limb.
Return with these all safe and sound.

Pusan who listens to our prayers, the Strong whose wealth is never lost,
The Lord of riches, we implore.

Secure in thy protecting care, O Pusan, never may we fail.
We here are they who sing thy praise.

From out the distance, far and wide, may Pusan stretch his right hand forth,
And drive our lost again to us.

Notes & References

1 comment:

  1. Hi Y,
    great read. I assume there is more to come. Reminds me of the impression the epics of Mahabharat used to make on me. But this is older (and new land to me)