On the 15th of October 1964 the Deccan College celebrates the centenary of its main building, and curiously enough this period coincides with the Silver Jubilee of the Postgraduate and Research Institute which, as successor to the Deccan College, started functioning from 17th August 1939 when members of the teaching faculty reported on duty. When I suggested to members of our faculty the novel idea that the centenary should be celebrated by the publication of a hundred monographs representing the research carried on under the auspices of the Deccan College in its several departments they readily accepted the suggestion. These contributions are from present and past faculty members and research scholars of the Deccan College, giving a cross-section of the manifold research that it has sponsored during the past twenty-five years. From small beginnings in 1939 the Deccan College has now grown into a well developed and developing Research Institute and become a national centre in so far as Linguistics. Archaeology and Ancient Indian History and Anthropology and Sociology as concerned. Its international status is attested by the location of the Indian Institute of German Studies (jointly sponsored by Deccan College and the Goethe Institute of Munich), the American Institute of Indian Studies and a branch of the Evolve Françoise dextrose-Orient in the campus of the Deccan College. The century of monographs not only symbolizes the century of the original building and the silver jubilee of the Research Institute, but also the new spirit of critical enquiry and the promise of more to come.
This study is the outcome of a performance of the Vãjapeya Soma Sacrifice which I had the privilege of watching and recording in Poona some ten years ago. This unforgettable experience, for which thanks are due to the Vaidika Samodhana Mandala of Poona, led over the years to a closer study of rauta ritual. The efforts of earlier scholars, among whom Willem CALAND no doubt was the most eminent, have lain open this rich territory and opened the paths for further exploration. With HILLEBRANDT on the dar.apuramasa,1 Schwab on the paubandka,2 CALAND and HENRY on the agni(oma, DUMONT on the as’vamedha, and in recent years HEESTERMAN on the rãjasüya,5 DUMONT on the agnihotra 6 and GONDA on the savayajflzs, the principal rituals are available in detail to the historian of religions and the students of Indian culture. The rautakoa now in preparation by the Vaidika Sarpodhana Maiçlala8 will bring the efforts of a century further to completion.
Still, there is one ritual that has not attracted the attention it deserves, the Pravargya. As it does not form part of the basic paradigm of the angostura, CALAND and HENRY omitted it from their description. GARBE has published a brief description of it based entirely on Apastamba but at the time could not draw upon other sütras1° Now that far more materials have become available it seems to me that a complete study of the ritual is in order.
Apart from its general usefulness in completing our knowledge of the angostura, a study of the Pravargya is further justified by the extreme interest of the rite itself. I believe that it can be argued, as I shall, that in it we have a Vedic reflection of what must have been in origin an iconic rite. Important aspects it is a mystery ritual with elements that are not generally represented by rauta rites. The Pravargya thus broadens our view of ancient Indian religion.
As it was my intention to make this ritual known to scholars of the history of religion who might not have the technical knowledge which any study of Vedic ritual requires, I have tried to be clear and circumstantial in my description, hoping to open more easily to them a rich field of religious experience and practice.
I am particularly grateful that this book be published from Poona which has more and more become a center for the study of rauta ceremonial. My deep thanks are once more due to Dr. S. M. KATRE, from of old wise mentor and good friend, for his willingness to publish it in the Deccan College series.
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