The Vedas are supposed to be the first literary creations of the world and in this part of the Globe; these are considered as the most sacred as well as the source of all knowledge. As a matter of fact the Vedic literature contains a lot of material for the study of ancient Indian cultural history including the religious, philosophical, political, social and economic life of the then people. From the traditional point of view the Vedas are meant for the solemnized activities called yarria or sacrifice which is a means for ceremonially worshipping different divinities through prayer and offerings of pleasurable objects to them in order to obtain their blessings as well as to get various worldly desires fulfilled. These activities are broadly known as Vedic rituals, often included in the term Veda and considered as sacred as the Vedas. Thus the Vedic literature basically contains the mantras for prayers, injunctions and procedures for the performance of sacrifices or offering rituals. It will be interesting to note that the most infamous abhicara is directly or indirectly associated with both the above contents of the Vedic literature, i.e. mantras and performances.
The word abhicara means black magic in general. It is derived from the root 'car' (to move or to go) with the suffix ghair (in the sense of the state of action: bhave) and with the prefix ‘abhi’. Literary the word means "the action of moving towards or the action of moving forward". This ultimately refers to the enemy and therefore the word abhicara stands for the magical activities in the form of Vedic rituals done against an enemy) One finds the use of the forms of abhi-car in the RV.(10.34.10), in the A V.(8.2.26, 10.1.9, 10.3.7, 11.1.22 and 19.9.9) and more frequently in the later Vedic texts.
There is general belief that Vedic religion is connected mainly with the worship of natural phenomena and obtainment of heaven. But really speaking this is only one aspect of the Vedic religion. Vedic religion is closely connected with many magical elements and it is often very difficult to separate these two from each other in the Vedic texts.2 theoretically, religion means belief in some superior powers beyond human capacity and propitiation of them through various means for the benefit of men. Magic, on the other hand emphasizes on elevating one's will power in order to keep control over the all-pervading powers and compelling them to serve according to one's desires. These two types of thinking are found side by side in the Vedic texts.' In the Vedic prayer as well as practices, both of these devices, i.e. propitiating and compelling the super human powers often coexist.
Abhicara, standing for all types of harmful ritual practices, is an all pervading phenomenon in ancient Indian religious life and literature. It is found in all sorts of sacred texts in ancient India. Many times it is believed that abhicara is found only in some parts of the AV. But it is revealed through a careful study of the Veda that abhicara is present everywhere in the Vedic literature. Magic is generally divided in to white and black types, i.e. beneficent and maleficent respectively. Both these types of magic pervade the Vedic as well as later literature.
Here it is proposed to study on black magic or the maleficent rituals found in the Veda and for which the materials have been drawn from the Vedic literature as a whole. Rgvedic, Yajurvedic and Samavedic texts are not free from abhicara.
Moreover, it is often incorrectly opined that abhicara is limited to the sacrifice called Syena. Minzarnsa texts try to defend Vedic religion arguing that the Vedic texts do not themselves prescribe the performance of sacrifices like Syena and consequently the abhicara but only provide the way of performing the abhicara for those who desire to perform it through the sacrifices like Syena. An effort is made here to show that abhicara is not limited to the sacrifices like Syena only. Furthermore abhicara in the Vedic literature is not always optional but at times obligatory also. In addition to the optional abhicara rites like Syena there are many obligatory rites forming the parts of some famous Vedic sacrifices like New moon and Full moon sacrifices or Agni stoma sacrifice etc. which are described to be harmful to the enemy. One has to perform these rituals even if one does not desire to harm one's enemy. Thus black magic is often obligatory and contrary to the MTnuirhsa doctrine. It is a part of the Vedic religion prescribed to be performed by the Vedic texts.
It is intended here to show how the abhicara was an all pervading phenomenon in the Vedic religion and as such how it forms a very important and central part of the Vedic religion of the classes as well as of the masses. Such a study will throw a good light on the ancient Indian cultural life in general. Magic is basically a social problem and particularly the black magic is usually considered as contemptible. But in the form of abhicara its inclusion in the Vedic ritual systems is really interesting. Thus it will be clear that the study of Vedic abhicara will prove to be very much rewarding so far the socio-religious study of ancient India is concerned. Even though occasional studies on abhicara have been made by the modern scholars, no systematic and comprehensive work has been done on this subject. Therefore, here it is an attempt in this direction. There are numerous abhicara rites in both the branches of Vedic ritual namely Srauta and grhya (domestic). The Srauta ritual consists of various Vedic sacrificial performances starting from the establishment of the sacred fires agnyadhana up to the great Some-sacrifices. During the performances of these sacrifices two types of abhicara rites are performed. One is obligatory and another is optional. The obligatory abhicara rites constitute the parts of the Vedic sacrifices in general. The performers while performing various rites belonging to those sacrifices have to perform some abhicara rites also. And it is said in the ritual texts that the performance of these particular rites brings harm to the enemy of the performer. As mentioned above, it is not necessary in these cases, that the performer should desire to do harm to his enemy. It is also not possible on the part of the performer to neglect or avoid the performance of such rites so that his enemy will not be affected, because the performance of these rites in their respective sacrifices is obligatory and any willfull avoidance or unmindful negligence in this regard would amount to be a ritual fault which would further require to be procedurally atoned by the performer.
The optional abhicara rites are to be performed occasionally during the performance of the Vedic sacrifices if the performers, i.e. the sacrificers and the priests desire to practise sorcery, or if they hate anybody and anybody hates them or if they want to cause any kind of harm to their enemies magically. In such cases the performers are instructed to perform some details of rites in a manner different from the normal performance, by introducing changes or modifications in the normal procedures (e.g. changes in the use of various objects and materials, in their quality, changes in the verbal utterances, recitations and chants, change in the place and time, sequence, direction etc.) to drop the performance of certain obligatory rites etc. In addition to these there are some special abhicara rites to be performed during the performance of some Vedic sacrifices. There are also some special sits, animal sacrifices as some optional Soma- abhicara-sacrifices like .yena, sathdath§a etc. meant for the desiring individuals to perform in order to harm their enemies. Interestingly enough one finds a provision of protection from the black magic performed by others which is again of the nature of magical ritual known as pratyabhicara or counter-black magic. It is believed to be more effective than the usual black magic or abhicara in the sense that it not only protects the person against whom abhicara has been performed but makes the practiced sorcery return back to its practices and attack him. Thus the pratyabhicara is both defensive and offensive.
The grhya or domestic ritual has a wider scope than its grout counterpart so far as the number of performers is concerned. Even the people who have not established the .route fires can also perform the grhya rites. Thus a larger part of the society including women can perform the same. The abhicara rites coming under the grhya rituals are mainly found in the Kaugika Grhya Sutra. This text (Kau.Sii) belongs to the Atharvanic tradition and prescribes the domestic rituals in which the mantras from the AV are to be applied. A complete chapter in this text is devoted to the abhicara or black magical rituals. In addition to this there is a counter black magical rite known as krtyiipratiharana or counter-acting of krtya (the personified black magic), and a lot of other harmful domestic rites are detailed. There are instructions for the performance of abhicara rites at the time of battle in order to make the rival army terrify, flee away, annoy or to make confusion among them. Similarly some other black magical rites are to be performed by a woman against her co wives or by a husband against the paramour of his wife or to bring misfortune on a woman or to prevent a woman from giving birth to a male child or to make her sterile etc.
In the Vedic sacrificial performances three types of utterances are used. These are recitations of hymns or verses
Brahma Sutras (81)
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