Monday, 5 December 2011

The allies meet at Kaithal

The early morning chanting of hymns and prayers by several priests in unison, infused Kaithal settlement with divinity. The settlement was an important religious centre of the Purus. Situated on the banks of the Apaya river, it wasn’t too far from the confluence of Apaya and Drishadvati with the mighty Saraswati. Just outside the settlement, towards the west, lay the Manusa lake, which along with the rivers was considered sacred as well.

Several centuries ago, the Puru tribe’s expansion to the east and south, was led by two descendants of the illustrious Bharata - Devasravas and Devavata. On reaching the lake, they bathed there and reported feeling a sense of immediate rejuvenation and cleansing from within.

Then moving onto the banks of the Apaya, they performed a grand yagna (ritualistic prayer) asking their Gods to help them in their cause to spread in the new lands, to give them strong offspring who would spread even further and faster and finally to ensure their people had plenty of cattle and food at all times.

Author's Note: Rig Veda 03.023.04 is explicit in what the kings prayed for. (see Notes & References below).

They also vowed that the sacrificial fire kindled during the yagna would remain lit forever. A family of Angirasa priests were asked to take that responsibility and they became the first inhabitants of what came to be known as the Kaithal settlement.

Bharadvaja had chosen Kaithal settlement as the venue for holding the alliance talk. On reaching Kaithal, Bharadvaja, Srnjaya, Vadhryasva and Cayamana, took a dip in the Manusa lake. They then headed straight to pay homage to the Devavata fire as it had come to be known. As a further mark of their respect, they arranged to feed the entire priestly families who lived right next to the Apaya and constantly tended to the Devavata fire.

After lunch, the four, ensconced themselves in a simple yet cool mud dwelling offered to them by their priest hosts. For each man in the dwelling, there was a deep-rooted purpose for being there.

Notes & References

The Rig Veda Mandala III has a very specific reference to the eternal sacrificial fire and the yagna performed by Devavata.

RUBBED into life, well stablished in the dwelling, Leader of sacrifice, the Sage, the youthful,
Here in the wasting fuel Jatavedas, eternal, hath assumed immortal being.

Both Bharatas, Devasravas, Devavata, have strongly rubbed to life effectual Agni.
O Agni, look thou forth with ample riches: be, every day, bearer of food to feed us.

Him nobly born of old the fingers ten produced, him whom his Mothers counted dear.
Praise Devavata's Agni, thou Devasravas, him who shall be the people's Lord.

He set thee in the earth's most lovely station, in Ila's place, in days of fair bright weather.
On man, on Apaya, Agni! on the rivers Drsadvati, Sarasvati, shine richly.

Agni, as holy food to thine invoker give wealth in cattle, lasting, rich in marvels.
To us be born a son and spreading offspring Agni, be this thy gracious will to us-ward

The Mahabharta actually references these locations as shown by the following verses:

Mbh. III.81.53-54: “Then from there one should go to the world-famous ManuSa… By bathing (in the lake) there, a man who is chaste and master of his senses is cleansed of all evils, and (he) glories in the world of heaven.”

Mbh. III.81.55-56: “The distance of a cry east of MAnuSa, there is a river called ApagA, visited by the Siddhas;… when one brahmin is fed there, it is as though a crore of them have been fed.”

Mbh. III.81.62-64: “Thereupon one should go to the world-famous SAraka… There is also there the Abode-of-IlA Ford (IlAspada): by bathing there and worshipping the ancestors and Gods, one suffers no misfortune…”

Mbh. III.81.73: “By bathing in the DRSadvatI and satisfying the deities, a man finds the reward of a Land-of-the-fire (AgniSToma) and an Overnight-Sacrifice (AtirAtra).”

Historian, M.L. Bhargava, in his brilliant research on the subject points out that these places are still extant: MAnuSa is still known as MAnas, still a pilgrim centre, a village 3½ miles northwest of Kaithal; the ApayA or ApagA tIrtha is still recognised at Gadli between MAnas and Kaithal; and ILAyAspada or ILaspada at SAraka is the present-day Shergadh, 2 miles to the southeast of Kaithal: “MAnuSa and IlAspada were thus situated on the right and left sides of the ApayA, about 5½ miles apart, and in the tract between the DRSadvatI and the SarasvatI.

Kaithal exists even today as one of the districts in the state of Haryana, India.

A link to website on modern day Kaithal with references to its past, including Vedic past may be found here:


  1. Surely Agni was paramount during the Vedic times! Must have been exciting as it was obviously the first discovery of man which could be duplicated! 'rubbed to life effectual Agni'

  2. Indeed, there is so much to interpret from these four verses.

    As pointed out by you, obviously, the fire was kindled by act of rubbing, and then the next verse refers to "fingers ten produced".

    The event obviously occurred during a day of fair bright weather and finally, verse 1 mentions "hath assumed immortal being", implying that the intent was to ensure that the fire thus lit, does not ever die down.