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The Question of the Vidátha in Vedic India Author(s): Jagdish Prasad Sharma and H. W.
The Question of the Vidátha in Vedic India Author(s): Jagdish Prasad Sharma and H. W.

The Question of the Vidátha in Vedic India Author(s): Jagdish Prasad Sharma and H. W. Bailey

Source: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 1/2 (Apr.,

1965), pp. 43-56 Published by: Cambridge University Press

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THE QUESTION OF THE VIDATHA

By

Jagdish

Prasad

Sharma

IN VEDIC

INDIA

There

are

more

views

the

number

of

scholars

and

who

opinions

have

about

worked

the

on

nature

and

the

subject.

character

That

the

of

the

sources

sources

viddtha

viddtha

are

open

than

to

different

ment

interpretations

is obvious

from the divergent

views held about

the origin,

chief

vague the Atharva Veda mentions

develop

and functions of the sabhd (council) and sdmiti (assembly),

India. The Vedic

literature provides

numerous

20 hymns. The

references

to the viddtha.Most

of

refer to it, while the Brahmanas

the evidence,

and

the

political

to the

institutions of Vedic

viddtha. In the Rg Veda alone at least 97 verses

Vdjasaneyi Samhitd,

also

references

it in about

contain

the Taittiriya Aranyaka

is provided

by

the

Rg Vedic hymns, and references to this institution are fewer in the later compositions of

however,

Vedic

literature.

To

substantiate

our

quote

from the Rg and Atharva Vedas which refer explicitly to the viddtha and reveal its character

important verses

interpretation we

below

some of

themost

and composition

and the role it played

in the Vedic

period.1

1.

"To

him

who

worships,

Soma

active knowledge;

Skilled

inhome duties, meet

gives

the

milch-cow,

a

fleet

for the viddtha, for council meet

steed,

and

a man

of

(sabhe'yam), a glory

to

his

father."2

2. "May

the most

sapient Maruts,

with

protection,

with

lofty

heaven,

approach

us;

Now

when

their

team

of

the most

noble

horses

speeds

limit.3

 

best boons

even

on

the

brought

from

sea's

extremest

Well-grasped,

bright, decked with

gold,

Like

Like

a young woman refined speech

or bride of a man

in the viddtha."*

like a spear carried rearward;

going

out

secretly

(with another man);

their car

3. the young men in the viddtha;

"Upon

glory, mighty

When

your

song,

Maruts,

arose,

hymn

in worship."5

set the Maiden

(Rodasl-Lightning)

and,

with

oblation,

the

Somapourer

wedded

sang

to

his

4. "O Brahmanaspati,

All

children;

that theGods

be

thou controller

of

this our hymn,

regard with

love is blessed. Lord may we

and prosper

thou our

speak, with heroes,

in

 

the

viddtha."*

 

1 The

versions

are

those

of

Griffith

with

occasional

emendation

(Hymns

of

the $g

Veda,

2

vols.,

Benares,

a

1896-97).

 

8

#Vtl,

91,

20,

sddanyam

vidathydm

sabhiyampitr-frdvanamyd

dddaiadasmai.

4 Ibid.,

167, 2.

   

5 Ibid.,

167,

3, guha

cdrantl mdnuso

nd ydsd

sabhdvatl

vidathyeva

sdm

v&k.

Ibid.,

167,

6,

dsthapayanta

yuvatlm

yuvanah

iubhi

nlmi&ldm

viddthesu

pajrdm/arkd

ydd

vo maruto

havtsmdn

Ibid.,

gayadg&thdm

II, 24,

sutd-somo

duvasydn. tdd bhadrdm ydd dvanti devd brhdd vadema viddthe suvirab; (the sabhd occurs

16, vl&vaw

in verse

13); AV,

XVIII,

3, 25.

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44 THE QUESTION OF THE VIDATHA IN VEDIC INDIA

5.

"Yea

(Dawn),

even

this blessed Morning,

heavenly

lustre, hath

shone out for man;

rich

in store

of

food,

splendid with

Since they, as was

the wish

of yearning gods, brought

forth that yearning Agni

for

the

viddtha

as

priest."1

6. "Let PQsan take thy (Surya's) hand

and hence

conduct

on

Go

their

car

transport

to

the house

to

be

thee.

the householder's

mistress,

viddtha.2

thee; may

and

speak

the two ASvins

as

lady

to

thy

Happy

be

household

thou and prosper with in this home.

thy children

here:

be vigilant

to manage

thy

Closely

unite

thy body with

this man,

thy lord;

So

shall ye, full of years,

speak

to the viddtha."z

7. "We, band on band and

troop

following

lands Agni's

With

spotted

splendour

and theMaruts'

deer for

steeds, with wealth

troop

(gandm-ganam),

entreat with

fair

might.

that never

fails,

they (the gods), wise

ones,

come

to the sacrifice (yajndm) at our

viddtha."*

8. "The pleasant priest (Agni) has come into the viddtha, true, skilled in sacrifice, the

most

Agni,

his

wise

ordainer.

the son of strength, whose

lustre

on

earth."6

car is lightning, whose

hair

is flame, has

shown

9. "Agni,

must

Aryaman,

thou

be

O

thou

art

king

Varuna

implored.

heroes'

Lord,

art

god."6

whose

thou,

laws

stand

enriching

fast;

f a s t ;

all,

and

as Mitra

liberal

wonder-worker,

ArnSa

in

the

thou

viddtha,

10. "At JStavedas' viddtha Iwill

steer.

A pure and fresher hymn

made

pure."7

speak aloud

the conquering might

of the swift red-hued

flows

to VaiSvanara,

even

so for Agni

lovely Soma

is

11. "The princely worshippers or reward graced with

who

kine and

send to those who

steeds?

sing thy praise, O Agni,

guerdon

Lead

thou both

these and us forward

to higher bliss, with

brave men

or heroes

in

the

viddtha,

may

we

speak

aloud."8

12.

"May

Indra come

companion;

to us

for our protection;

here

be

the hero

praised,

our

feast

1

Ibid., X,

2

3 Ibid.,

4 Ibid.,

8, ydd

*

6

7 Ibid.,

Ibid.,

8

11,3,

yddlm

esd

uSdntam

bhdvdti;

uiatdm

dnu krdtumagnltn

1, 20.

hdtdram

viddtham

agnir

kavltamah

viddth&ya jfjanan.

d

vaddsi;

cf. AV,

XIV,

cf. AV,

marutSm

XIV,

dja

sd

viddthe

vedhdb.

deva

bhdjayub

viddthS jdtdvedasah.

conclude

with

The

sdmitioccurs

1, 20.

1, 21.

Imahe prsad

this pdda.

in verse

aivaso

agna

85,

85, 27,

sdmitir

gaccha

cf. AV, XVIII,

ydthdso

26, grhdn

Ill,

14,

II,

VI,

II,

1, 4,

gfhdpatnl

sdm

yajhdm

viddthUny

rdjd

vdruno

vailril

jlvrl

tvdm

viddtham

end pdtyd

26,

gdntSro

1, d hdta mandrd

6,

tvdm

agne

8,

1, 16, brhdd

\,prksdsya

tanvdm

vrdtam-vrdtam

srjasvddhd

d vaddthab;

bhdmam

Ibid.,

anavabhrd-r&dhaso

Ibid.,

Ibid.,

gandm-ganam

viddthesu

asthSt

sat yd

dhrtd-vratas

nd

suvfrdh;

sdhah prd

23 hymns

suiastibhir

dhfrQh.

ydjvd

tvdm dmio

n& vocam

vfaqo arusdsya

vadema

viddthe

in this mana'ala

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THE

QUESTION

OF

THE

VIDATHA

IN VEDIC

INDIA

45

13.

May

he whose

powers

are many,

waxen mighty,

cherish,

like Dyaus

(the Asura)

his

own

supreme

dominion.

Here magnify

his (Indra's) great heroic exploits, most

with

Whose

bounties;

is

will

like

a

sovereign

(samrdf)

in

the

glorious

viddtha,

one,

enriching men

invocation

to

the

triumphant,

all

surpassing."1

"Agni,

the Hotar-priest,

the accomplisher

chief controller

of the thought?

Him,

yea, none other

small alike."2

than thyself, does man

of

the

viddtha, waker

of knowledge,

elect at sacrificial offerings, great and

Here Agni,

the arrangers,

viddtha.

those attached

to thee, elect

thee as their priest

in the

When

men with

strewn clipped grass and sacrificial gifts offer thee entertainment,

piously

inclined."3

14. "The glorious Agni,

have

I praised with

the sacred food.

May

Agni

deck

the gods for us.

Between

both

viddthas he goes on his embassy,

May

all the others die away."4

the wise;

15. "The Maruts watch

theman

who

him who worships.

Seat you

on

sacred grass

the

bouquet."6

in our

sings their praises,

promoters

of

the thought of

viddthas, this day, with

friendly minds,

to share

16.

"This

Soma

existence.

here,

the wise,

the all-obtainer,

flows

on his way

as kings

of

all

17.

Driving

the

drops

at

our

viddthas,

Indu

completely

traverses

the

fleecy

filter."8

"How

shall I serve thee,Maghavan,

that thou hast accomplished?

And

the fresh deeds which

viddthas"1

thou wilt

though knowing

fully well what

heroic

do, mighty!

these too, will we declare

deeds

in the

same.

18.

"As

itwere

some goodly

to Bhrgu;

treasureMStariSvan

brought,

as a gift the glorious

priest

Banner

of the viddtha, the good protector,

child of two births,

the swiftly moving

envoy

(Agni)."8

19. "Slight us not Varuna,

When

we

declare

amid

Aryman,

the

viddtha

or Mitra,

the

virtues

Rbhuksan,

Indra, Ayu

or the Maruts,

of

the

strong-steed,

god-descended."9

1

8

4

Ibid., IV, 21,2, ydsya krdtur vldathyb nd samrdfsdhvdn

Ibid., X,

Ibid., 91, 9, tvdm Iddtra

Ibid., VHI, 39,1, agnlr devdm anaktu na ubhi hi viddthe kavlr antdi cdrati dutydm ndbhantdm anyaki

tdrutro abhy dsttkrsfib*

agnim

91,

8, medhdkdrdm

viddthasya

vrnate

tvdydvo

prasddhanam

hdtdram

agne

hdtdramparibhatamam

vedhdsah.

matlm.

viddthesu

4

7

9 Ibid.,

Ibid., VII, 57, 2, asmdkam adyd viddthesu barhlr d vltdye saaata

Ibid., IX, 97, 56, sdmo vl&vasya bhuvanasya rdjd drapsdm Irdyan viddthesv Induh.

Ibid.,

pipriydrtdb.

vlry&ni.

V,

29,

I, 60,

co

1, vdhnim

13, yd

na

ndvya

yaidsam

krndvah

viddthasya

iavisfha

ketum

prid

u

suprdvydm

td te viddthesu

dutdm

viddthe

bravdma.

sadyd-artham;

Ibid., 162,1, ydd vdjlno devd-jdtasya sdptefypravaksydmo

cf. %V,

III,

3,

3.

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46

THE

QUESTION

OF

THE

VIDATHA

IN VEDIC

INDIA

20. "I,

0

in remembrance

viddtha (of the day).

of

thine ancient

favor, have

sung my

hymns

Agni,

give us wealth with

store of heroes

and mighty

strength

in this our third

in food and noble

offspring."1

21. "The

fair-tongued

Savitar,

the golden-handed,

from heaven

in our

viddtha.

comes

thrice

(for daily

sacrifices)

Bear

to the gods

this song of praise,

and

send us,

then, Savitar,

complete

and

perfect

safety."2

22. "Streams! The wise

gods

(vihedevas)

have

thrice three habitations.

Child

Three

of

threemothers

(? three seasons),

are the holy

ladies of

the waters

he

is Lord

in the viddthas.

(IIS, Sarasvati,

Bharati),

thrice (at three

daily

sacrifices) here from heaven

supreme

in our viddtha."3

23.

"The

viddtha, in which (sddane).

the gods

rejoice,

Has

given

maintain

the Moon

their brightness."4

his

beams,

the

seated

sun his

in Vivasvat's

splendor;

(the sun's)

dwelling

the

two

unweariedly

24.

"At

the great

viddthawill

I laud thy (Indra's)

two bay steeds;

1 prize

His who

whose

the sweet strong drink of

thee, the warrior

pours

form hath holden

lovely oil as

itwere with

tints."6

yellow

god.

drops.

Let my

songs enter

thee

25. "Of Indra is the might celestial nobly formed; the singer in the house (grhe? kavih)

is Agni,

he

the prudent

sage;

And

is the sacrifice (yajndh) in the viddtha, fair, most

near.

We ask for freedom and complete felicity."6

26.

27.

"This

world's

imperial

kings,

O

Mitra-Varuna,

ye

rule

in

the

viddtha,

looking

on

the light.

We

"To

pray

for rain, your boon,

(roaring winds)

and

immortality; take their way."7

sacrifice (prdhcam yajhdrh) have we

through heaven

turned; may

the thunderers

the eastern

with wood

and worship

shall they (the priests) honour Agni.

and over

the hymn

earth

aid

it;

From

heaven

the viddthas of

the wise

have

learned

it; even

for

the quick

and

strong

28. "Within

they

the

seek

house

advancement."8

(duroni) of the viddtha.

accomplisher

sat

the

Bedewed with holy

oil he

shines widely,

king

Agni,

immortal

of mortals

(Agni),

the

the knower

of all secret wisdom."9

dpyds

1

8

4

6

7

8

Ibid.,

Ibid., Ill, 54,11, hlranya-pdnih

Ibid.,

trir d divd viddthe pdtyamandh;

Ibid.,

II,

56,

4,

8,

nd

te pdrvasydvaso

ddhltau

savitd

trttye

viddthe mdnma

trlr d divd

utd

trimdtd

sddane

te vanve

d sarvdtdtim

vanuso

dditim

mltrd-varund

cit

viddthe

tavdse gilt Am

iamsi.

sujihvds

trlb

kavlndm

viddthe pdtyamdnafr.

viddthesu

5,

trf sadhdsthd

devd

sindhavas

viddthe

samrdf/rtdvarlr

AV,

XVIII,

mdaam;

vrnlmahe.

svar-dfi&.

Isub', cf.

Sayana

ydsanas

1, 35.

AV, XX,

and

tisrd

30,1.

see also

verse

8.

viddthe mdddyante

 

vivdsvatafr

iamsisam

carur

hdrlprd

dntama

rdjatho

gftsdya

X,

12, 7, ydsmin

96,

1,prd

100, 6, yajHdi

te mahi

V,

Ill,

63,

2,

samrdjOv

1, 2, divdh

iaidsur

dhdrdyante;

haryatdm

Ibid.,

Ibid.,

Ibid.,

Ibid.,

ca bhQd viddthe

asyd

bhuvanasya

viddtha

kavlndm

Ludwig's

comments.

Ibid.,

1,18,

ni durone* amfto

mdrtyandm

rdjdsasdda

viddthdni

sddhan.

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THE QUESTION OF THBVIDATHAIN VEDIC INDIA 47

29.

"Immortal

urging

sacrificer,

god

(Agni) with

the great

viddthas on."1

wonderous

power,

he

leads

the way

30. "We have beheld the brightness of her (Dawn's)

the

darksome

monster.

shining;

it spreads and drives away

31.

Like

tints that deck

the post

wondrous

splendour."2

at the viddthas, heaven's

daughter

has attained

her

"Bring ye

before

Bhaga who

(ViSvedevas)

you,

the great Aramati

as the hero of

this hymn with

and Pusan

looks upon

Purandhi."3

(? personification

of

religious worship)

the viddtha, favor, and, as our strength,

the bountiful

32.

"In

every age bestow

ever

new.

upon

the singers wealth,

worthy

of

King

(Agni) undecaying,

as

lightning-flash."4

itwere with

like a tree with

sharpened bolt,

the viddtha, glorious,

smite down

the sinner

33. "Like babes in arms reposing on their mothers, let the gods (the Visvedevas) sit

upon

the

grass's

summit.

Let general fire make

bright

viddtha."*

the flame of worship:

scorn us not Agni,

in the gods'

34.

35.

"Thou

(Lightning) whom

anew for hurling?do

ail the gods created,

thou be sung in the viddtha, be merciful to us;

the bold ones

(the gods) making

To

thee as such be homage,

O Goddess."8

all

"What of you

is joyous, O Fathers,

and delectable

for you are of

(your) own

splendour;

(somyd), there will be at hand,

Do

you,

rapid

poets,

listen,

invoked

at

the

viddtha"1

36. (Agni) obstructing

"Come you

the track of death,

assuming

lifetime;

Sitting

in your

Then

may

we,

station

living,

(sadhdsthe),

speak

to

the

thrust you

viddtha."*

(away) death;

furthermore

a longer

37.

"Thou

(sun) goest

about Trta

streams,

the

heaven-gaining

(?), thou goest

viddtha.

about

the fountain

of

a

thousand

Thine

of Indra, are heroisms manifold;

do thou fill us with

cattle of all forms,

set

me

in comfort in the highest firmament."9

 

1 Ibid.,

*

Ibid.,

9 Ibid.,

Ill,

I, 92,

27,

7, hdtd devd

5, svdrum

36,

as

8.

8,

5,

8, prd

"the

yugi-yuge

dmartyab

na pe"io viddthesv

purdstdd

afiidfi

grnddbhyd

anaktv

tdsyai

S. D.

a

sadhdsthi

irnota

eti mdydyd

citrdm

md

divd

prd

O.S.

Satavalekar's

suviddtrd

'thajlvdso

vtddthdntpracoddyan.

duhitd

pusdnam

Texts,

bhdnum

airet.

vidathydm

IV,

p.

nd

yaidsam

dhehi

mfdhas

VII,

ardmatim

21,

n.

vo mahtm

never-resting

ardmatim

Earth";

krnudhvam

cf. Muir,

vlrdm;

Sayana

Hymns

of

of Bloomfield

1957.

Pardi,

the

takes

mahim

W,

with

317; Griffith,

ndvyaslm.

kab.

are

those

II, P.

4

9 Ibid.,

4 AV,

occasional

7

9 Ibid., XII,

Ibid.,

Ibid.,

VI,

VII,

1,13,4,

XVIII,

vidathyam

%gnerayim

dgne te ndmo astu devi.

3,

sa no mraa alterations.

43,

d

vt&vacl vldathydm

viddthe grndnd

The

texts

is from

3,

19,

te1armnah

dslnd mrtytim

kavaya

nudatd

no devdtdtd

The

edition,

viddthe

viddtham

versions

3rd

impression,

huydmdndb.

a vadema.

2,30,

Ibid., XVII,

1,15,

tvdm

trtdm

tvdm pdryesy

utsam

sahdsra-dhdram

viddtham

svar-vldam

tdved

visno

bahudhd

vlry&ni.

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48 THE QUESTION OF THE VIDAtHA IN VEDIC INDIA

38. "The offered ghee,

the milk, which

ye A$vins;

come,

is in the ruddy (kine), that is your portion

here,

Ye

sweet

Lords

of

ones,

maintainers

of

the

viddtha,

the good,

drink ye the heated ghee or oblation

space

of

the

sky."2

(gharmd)1 in the shining

39. "Where the eagles in the viddtha sound incessantly (anime$dm) unto the drought of

he

there intome

amfta?thus (dtmd) the wise

the

shepherd

one entered

of

all

existence

(yUvasya

bMvanasya

gopdh)

that am simple."3

40. "The (two) invokers of the gods, first, well-voiced, shaping the sacrifice (yajndm)

forward at the viddthas, the

for man

(two) singers (kdrfi) pointing

(mdnufo) to sacrifice (ydjadhyai);

out

the ancient

urging

light through

the fore-regions."4

According

giver

of

the

to Roth,

orders",

is vague

the sense of viddtha is primarily

then

and

so

the

far

"assembly"

for

secular

as we

once

ordain)

know

viddtha

thought

and

that

thence

"order",

or

is never

religious

used

the main

"sacrifice".7

which

or

gives

interpretation

orders.6 Oldenberg

(from

vi-dhd,

dispose,

"ordinance"

then "the concrete

body

ends

in

the

idea of

or

for

sense

the

war.6

of

This

"order"

viddtha was

There

are

various

views

about the derivation of the word, and its origin from vid, to know, ismost probable, but it has been taken to stand for sacrifice in some passages of the Rg Veda8 and the Atharva

Veda.9 Ludwig thought that the root idea of the

the Magadhans and the Brahmanas.10 In some of the verses theword occurs in the sense of

viddtha was an "assembly", especially of

a mere

that

gathering

the

word

or

assemblage

primarily

meant

of

people,

"knowledge",

and

has

no

political

connotation.11

"wisdom",

"priestly-lore",

Geldner

held

then

"sacrifice"

and "spiritual authority".12 This view also appears to be only partially right, though more convincing than the others. However, there is not much evidence to show that only the

learned and the wise were

concerned with

the viddtha and

that itmeant

spiritual authority.

in the first

place (from vid, acquire) and then to the "sacrifice" as connected with the house.13 In the

opinion of Keith and Macdonell "this

agree with this interpretation entirely, although in some cases the viddtha stands for sacrifice.

Its connection with house is misleading. Bloomfield's derivation of the word from vid, to acquire, is doubtful. This connotation may have been given to the word at a later period.

Bloomfield,

on

the other hand,

insisted that the viddtha referred to a "house"

appears to suit all the passages".14 We do not

1

8 AV,

Ibid.,

4 Ibid.,

9

Cf. M.

Williams,

VII,

IX,

73,4,

9,

V,

7,

prdcfnam

12,

Sanskrit-English

mddhvl

22, ydtrd

aalvyd

dhartdrd

suparnd

Dictionary,

vidathasya

amftasya

prathamd

diidntd.

s.v.

s.v.

gharma.

taptdm gharmdm

satpatl

pibantam

rocane' divdb.

ydjadhyai/pracoddyantd

117, 25;

p.

p.

23,

52 ff.

n.

III,