From the Jacket
This book of Asvalayana, the pupil of Saunaka, pertains to the Vedic Samskaras that are obligatory for man's purification. The elaborate ritual and the manner it is performed indicate the extent to which the life of a Vedic Aryan was involved in ceremonial acts.
This book is arranged into four chapters:
Ch. I consists of 24 sections. It enjoins rites obligatory for the house-holder, the period and tenure of rites such as Initiation, Tonsure, Marriage etc. it elaborates on the establishment of domestic fire, on the offering of oblation son the new and full moon days, on the ritual of animal and Caitya sacrifices. It dwells upon securing the conception of a male child or preventing disturbances likely to endanger the embryo. It deals with the ceremonies of parting the hair, the birth of a child, his nomenclature, his first partaking of the solid food or the Tonsure of his head.
Ch. II is arranged into 10 sections and is primarily concerned with the rites of the full moon day in the months of Sravana, Asvayuj, Margasirsa and the Astaka rites on the eighth days of the four dark fortnights of Hemanta and Sisira seasons. It describes the anvastakya ceremony following the astakas. The ceremony of mounting a chariot or building a house.
Ch. III is divided into 12 sections. It deals with miscellaneous topics, such as the fire sacrifices, the recitation of Vedic texts, satiating the deities and sages, the rite by which the annual course of study opens and the ceremony of attaining to one's desires.
Ch. IV contains 9 sections and deals with the funereal rites of the deceased person.
My sole aim of presenting this book to the reader has been just to cultivate his interest in the field of Vedic ritual which during the Brahmana period of the Vedic Age had formed an integral part of cultural activities of Indo-Aryan community. The elaborate ritual prescribed for the Aryan house-holder indicates that what in the beginning was simply natural became purely cultural among the Aryan people in the Vedic Age.
The text of this Grhyasutra is commented upon by Naidhruva Narayana. In editing the text and commentary I have availed of an old manuscript which is in the possession of Pandit B. P. Tiwari of Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh. On examining the manuscript I found that It was wanting in Parisista and the Karikas of Bhatta Kumarila that are annexed to the printed editions. On further investigation about this matter I found that the English translation of this Grhyasutra as printed in the SBE Series, too, did not include the Parisista and the Karikas. I have, therefore, dropped the parisista and the Karikas. Their inclusion would have increased the bulk and the cost of the book.
As for my English translation of the text, I acknowledge that I have derived help from the SBE Series translation of the text, adopting at places the same expression and construction. Nevertheless, I have substantially differed on the interpretation of several passages in the text. In this I have strictly followed the commentary of Narayana in preference over the SBE Series translation of the text.
I have appended References and Notes as well as a Glossarial Index. I have made an analysis of contents and discussed the problems of date, authenticity etc. of the author in the preliminary pages. These cab be exploited by any scholar who has set out in the pursuit of further investigation in this field.
The sacramental beliefs and practices have existed in different cultures or countries from time immemorial. They are universal and can still be recognized within the framework of modern religion.
In ancient India, the sacramental rites were incumbent on each and every householder who had, as a rule, to propitiate a deity or deities with or without an aim, by pouring oblations into the Sacrificial fire. As a result of it, a class of literature known as the Srauta and Grhya Sutras came into being in very ancient days. As these were related to the Vedas which had grown in numerous recensions, the Grhyasutras also multiplied. But with the decline of the Vedic culture, as the old order changed for the new one, the Srauta and Grhya rites fell into disuse and gradually the number of these treatises also declined. Hence, we have very few Sakhas and very few Srauta and Grhya Sutras today.
The extant Grhya Sutras reveal to us a number of sacramental rites, the aim of which is to secure the welfare of the recipient. They also have a cultural value, for they form an important part of our investigation into the origin and development of our civilization and culture.
The Grhya Sutra of Asvalayana, the pupil of Saunaka, is related to the Rgveda, the oldest of the four Vedas. It deals with the Samskaras which are performed at various periods in the life of an individual from conception to cremation or burial. Asvalayana recognizes eleven Samskaras out of the later-day sixteen-a factor that would assign Asvalayana to a date prior to the period when the Samskaras had settled their position and stopped progress.
The writers of Sutra literature had thought that brevity was the very soul of wit. They wrote compositions in the aphoristic style which was quite intelligible when the Grhya Sutras were in vogue. But, in course of time, the Sutras went out of use and became unintelligible. Hence, we have a number of bhasyas, Vrttis on the Sutra. Devatrata Devasvamin wrote a comprehensive exegesis on the Grhyasutra of Asvala-yana. As a literary piece, it was helpful in understanding the text but as a practical guide it could not come up to the mark. To fill up the gap Naidhruva Narayana, son of Divakara, wrote an illuminating commentary the Narayana Vrtti. The present edition contains the complete text of this Vrtti.
I take this opportunity to remark that this Grhyasutra together with the Narayani Vrtti remained out of print for the last two decades. I am glad that now it has been made available to scholars by Dr. Narendra Nath Sharma of Government Education Service, Madhya Pradesh. I feel much pleasure to find that he has spared no pains in re-constructing the text with the help of Narayana's commentary which he has included in the book and also in presenting English Translation of the Text with References and Notes. It is greatly creditable that he has supplied a critical introduction and a Glossarial Index. He deserves my hearty congratulations for so ably and carefully editing the work. No less credit is due to M/S the Eastern Book Linkers, Vijaya Nagar, Delhi who have brought out this edition with nice printing, paper and get up.
The book is now before the world of scholars and I am sure it will be well received.
1. GRHYA RITES, THEIR PURPOSE
There are very few ceremonies that are executed without an aim. A great majority of them are motivated by desire to counteract evil influences and attract beneficial ones. All the ritual activities that are defined in the Grhya-sutra-s are based upon particular mundane motivations and might as such be said to belong to the sphere of- desire. Strictly speaking, all Vedic ritual is done out of motivation to promote human aims. According to Manu there on t his cart h there is no ritual what- soever performed by any body without a purpose. Anything that is performed is performed by the urge of desire.'
In fact, the Vedic ritual is circumscribed by twofold purpose, viz. popular and priestly." In the first category come all those riles which are performed to remove the unfavourable influences. For this purpose, goblins, demons, and other un-canny spirits are offered praise, oblations and food so that they may be satisfied with our offerings and cause no injury to us. The present Grhya Sutra, enjoins that we should offer oblations of duly cooked food to both: the day-walking and the
night-walking beings, to gods as well as demons. The evil-doers were to be appeased and satiated with praise, oblations or gifts for warding off evil as we were to propitiate the benevolent spirits for favour of wealth such as a cultivable land, cattle and offspring. Evil spirits are more harmful than good spirits. The former are more dreadful than the latter and hence, perhaps, they have forced their entry into the Vedic ritual.
For instance, after renovating, white-washing and cleaning the house, we are asked to pay our reverence to the unnamed white one, perhaps the presiding deity of the house, to remove for us the danger of serpents. the sons of prajapati, Furthermore, if by chance, a dove, believed to be a messenger of death, were to visit our house we are to perform a sacrifice to ward off the coming dangers Majority of mantras, both Vedic and Tantric are devoted to the propitiation and appeasement of gods and demons who, it was supposed, would bring prosperity and avert evil. Even a cursory glance over the contents of this Grhya Sutra would convince even a general reader that the
life of an individual was centred in danger and that there was no other course but to murmur mantras and to, perform prescribed rites in favour of a deity who, it was thought, would bestow fortune and put off danger. Thus, for instances when after completing the study, the student were to leave for home he was to recite certain mantras to ward off danger expected on the way. If he heard unpleasant voices of birds- or of the deer he was to murmur another set of mantras. To ward off danger from a direction or a person, he was to throw to that direction or towards the person a fire-brand burning on both sides, or he was to twirl about a churning stick from the right to the left. Or if an unknown danger came to him from a side, he was to sacrifice eight ajya oblations.' If at the spur of moment this was not physically possible he could do the same mentally, or he could perform a Sulagava sacrifice to propitiate Rudra and to invoke his help to drive away evil. The un- favourable activities of the foul spirits were counteracted either by satiating them or by scaring them by bold assertions. Thus we see that the sacramental rites were responsible for the safety and protection of the individual.
When the evil influences were thus attacked and driven off "the ground was carefully prepared for the reception of favourable influences. The gods were invoked and their presence was sought-after at the altar of sacrifice. If they were pleased with the performer they would attend the sacrifice, partake' of their share of feast and in return bestow riches in the form of gold, kine, fertile field and offspring. These were the direct gains which were not less in importance than the indirect ones secured by warding off evil influences. But this material gain- direct or indirect--was less in proportion to the moral gain which the samskaras imparted to the individual.
We find that in course of time the Samskaras grew up and ripened in moral virtues and the recipient of the Samskaras became rich not only in the material content but also in the growth of moral character that helped in the right formation and developlment of his personality.
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