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http://sir.sagepub.com/ ''In the footprint of I?a'' : An EarIy Image of Sacrificial Cosmology in Vedic Tradition
Adla Sandness Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 2010 39: 509 originally published online 14 October 2010 DOI: 10.1177/0008429810379970 The online version of this article can be found at: http://sir.sagepub.com/content/39/4/509

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Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses 39(4) 509521 The Author(s) / Le(s) auteur(s), 2010 Reprints and permission/ Reproduction et permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0008429810379970 sr.sagepub.com

: In the footprint of Ila An Early Image of Sacrificial Cosmology in Vedic Tradition


la Sandness Ade St. Francis Xavier University

Abstract: The poets of the R g-Veda speak of the navel of the earth, which is the oldest expressions available which describe a place footprint of Ila . It is among the of ritual offering to the gods. In this case, it is an impression in the ground thought to have been the footprint of a cow, into which was poured milk and butter. The word names the footprint in the Indo-Iranian expression in the footprint of Ila pada . Yet pada also means word and the etymologically related term pa da means a stanza of the sacred poetry sung by the ancient visionary poets as they sang their world into being. The footprints are thus also those of the cow Speech whose supreme place is parallel to the place of offering which is the footprint of Ila . This paper will track the footprints of Ila and those of the cow Speech in the R g-Veda. ` tes du R g-Veda parlent du nombril de la terre qui est lempreinte sume : Les poe Re crire le lieu du rite doffrande Ila . Cest lune des expressions les plus anciennes pour de tait une empreinte de vache dans laquelle on versait du lait et aux dieux. Ce lieu e signe lempreinte dans lexpression Indo-Iranienne qui de du beurre. Le mot pada e timologique lempreinte dIla signifie aussi mot et le terme pa da qui lui est relie sie sacre e chante e par les anciens visionnaires. ment veut dire strophe dune poe me place est paralle ` le Ainsi, les empreintes sont celles de la vache Parole dont la supre lempreinte dIla au lieu du rite doffrande nomme . Ce texte va retracer les empreintes Ila et celles de la vache Parole dans le R g-Veda.

Corresponding author / Adresse de correspondance : la Sandness Ade Department of Religious Studies, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada Email: asandnes@stfx.ca

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Keywords nu Vedic, myth, sacrifice, goddess, poetry, Sanskrit, footprint, offering, cosmology, Ila , Ma s Mots cle dique, le mythe, le sacrifice, la de esse, la poe sie, le sanscrit, lempreinte, loffrande, la Ve nu cosmologie, Ila , Ma
I have set you down in this most excellent part of the earth, in the footprint of Il on this most beautiful day of days. On the [river] Drsadvat, among the descendants of Manu, on the [river] pay. On the [river] Srasvat, shine, O Agn, (so as to yield) riches.

The Vedic goddess Il is one of a group of three Vedic goddesses found most frequently known as the pr s verses. These three goddesses symbolically in the series of Vedic verses represent the three regions of the Vedic cosmos: the heaven, the earth and the atmospheric realm in-between, which is characterized by the movement of the sacrificial offering substances as they flow, or are carried, from humans to the gods. One of the earliest sites of the sacrificial offerings is the footprint of a cow, in which dairy products were poured. Such a place is named in the Vedic expression in the footprint of Il (lys pad) where the fire R g-Veda (RV) 3.23.4. The god Agn is placed, for example, in the above cited passage, expression in the footprint of Il (lys pad) is one of a series of parallel expressions in the R g-Veda. The text knows, also, the footprint of the cow Speech (pad gh) and the or place of rt (rtsya pad). This paper proffers the argument that Ils footprint, footprint like Il herself, is a container of an offering substance which takes the form appropriate to the region of the cosmos in which it is found. On the earth, it is a footprint of a cow containing l, physical dairy products used as offerings. In the dimension of the atmospheric or intermediate realm, it is the footprint of the cow Speech, the offering substance that is words, as containers of the milk or essence of speech. In the celestial realm, it is the footprint, place or conduit of the milk of rt, the flow of abundance which is the consequence of cosmic order; that flow in turn manifests as the source of offering substances in the physical world. The footprint of Il, as the location of sacrifice, thus provides the means of commu ancestors and the gods; both triple and one, although differing in nion between humans, the form, it is the same in essence as it appears in parallel dimensions of the Vedic world. The footprints of Il, of the cow Speech and of rt may be tracked by the Vedic poets because cow. or indicators of the same they are the signs Il is one of a fixed group of goddesses in the Vedic tradition known as the three god (tisr dev desses h). She appears as the second in this triad along with Bhrat and goddesses would remain a fixed intellectual construct in ancient Sarasvat. The three Indian and Hindu traditions. Sarasvat, Gyatr and Svitr appear as three consorts of Brahm in the Matsya (3.44) and Visnu (1.7) Purnas. The Dev-Mhtmya of the , Laksm and Prvat (or Kl) as the Mrkandeya-Purna celebrates Sarasvat In contemporary Hindu devotionalthree aspects of the Mahdev, the Great Goddess. ism, the Mahdev is worshipped in the fall festival known as Navartr, or nine nights. During this festival, the Great Goddess of the Dev-Mhtmya is worshipped in three three-day cycles of offerings to her three forms: Laksm, Prvat and Sarasvat.
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The three goddesses of ancient Indian tradition represent the three regions of the Vedic cosmos. While the Vedic cosmos is also divisible in terms of five, seven, or multiples of three, the principal landscape of the Vedic cosmos is tripartite. The primary divisions are earth and sky. The sky is perceived either as everything above the earth, or as only the blue arch that covers the earth. Above the arch, beyond the limitations of normal human perception, is the invisible world that is the place of the gods (devalok). The sky or upper region is thus also the lower limit of the place of things hidden, mysterious and invisible. Between the sky and the earth is the third region, the antriksam. This inter mediate space both separates and connects the sky and the earth. It is the visible sky, as opposed to the invisible sky beyond the blue arch. To this tripartite division is added an invisible fourth world: there are the three visible spaces of the sky and earth and space in-between as well as the additional hidden, invisible world of mystery beyond. The infinite, one world of the invisible both transcends and pervades the three visible worlds. The three goddesses are, in middle Vedic literature, expressly identified with the three visible cosmic sub-divisions. atapatha-Brhmana 4.2.1.32 names Bhrat as represent ing the celestial region and the hotr, the hotr being a group of sacrificial officials who convey the sacrifice to the gods. In atapatha-Brhmana 2.1.1.3, Il is associated with food and thus with the realm of the earth. Sarasvat isascribed the intermediate space. In Vjasaneyi-Samhit 19.18, Sarasvat is identified with the gndra, the place where the sacrificial fire is kindled, which is, in turn, identified with the middle region of the cosmos in atapatha-Brhmana 9.2.3.15. Sarasvat is also praised as being of the middle regions and Nighantu 5.4 (cf. Gonda, 1985a: 25f.). in Brhad-Devat 4.85 of the three goddesses with the three cosmic regions is While the explicit identification reserved for middle Vedic tradition, the three goddesses are also affiliated with the three divisions of the cosmos in the R g-Veda. In the repeating series of R gvedic verses known grass or barhs. The s verses, the three goddesses as the pr are asked to be seated on the barhs is a bed made of darbh grass that forms both a seat for the gods who are invited to the sacrifice and a place on which oblations are offered to them (Renou, 1954: 118). The barhs is threefold. Its three divisions also correspond to the three regions of the cosmos (cf. Bergaigne, I: 289). Taittirya-Samhit 1.3.1d and atapatha-Brhmana 3.6.1.12 indi vital essence cate that the priest endows the threeworlds with strength or vigor (rj), and (rasa), by spreading the barhs (cf. Gonda, 1985b: 147f.). In the Rg-Veda, the three goddesses are three mothers of a single son, the fire god Agn, born in a different form in each of the three worlds. In his celestial form, Agn is identified with the sun. In the intermediate space, Agn is identified with lightning. As child of the waters, Agn enters the womb of plants, by means of which he is reborn as earthly fire that shines even at night. Agn of the earth is known especially as the sacrificial flame, and thus as both Poet and Priest: these three forms, because they span the three worlds, permit Agn to perform his priestly role as conveyor of the sacrifice and his poetic role as messenger between the worlds of humans and of the gods. That Agn, single son of the three goddesses, is both triple and one, is much emphasized. Agn has three forms with three essences found in three places. He has three tongues, three heads, three births in three places, and three bodies dear to the gods. Middle Vedic tradition tells us that Agni chose to give himself three bodies as he came into the three worlds. atapatha-Brhmana 2.2.1.1315 recounts: When Agni passed
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from the world of the gods to the world of men, he said to himself: I must not pass into the world of men with all of my person. He divided his three bodies as here into the three worlds the rsi saw this and offered these (three) oblations. Thus men, when they their sacrificial fires, ensure for themselves that they have put Agni in solemnly instal place in a form that is complete and un-mutilated. Agni is able to create such forms for himself as a result of my, understood in the Vedic context as the power to generate multiplicity. Malamoud (1989: 267f.) observes that these forms of Agni are not mere illusion; each is a distinct person. So separate are these persons of Agni that they argue with one another, and the poet must ask them to reconcile their differences and live together peacefully. The triple barhs is a tripartite expression of the grass as such. The triple Agn expresses three forms of a single god. The three goddesses are forms of the feminine divine corresponding to three regions of the single Vedic cosmos. Any grouping of three becomes, in Vedic tradition, representative of the three worlds of the Vedic cosmos, their separation and their connection, such that the three form parts of a whole. Each unit in the grouping of three can also represent the entirety of the manifest finite tripartite group and, additionally, the transcending infinite aspect. The three goddesses, for example, not only pervade the three parts of the cosmos. They also represent three aspects c, or Speech, who herself, triple and one, pervades the three worlds. In of the goddess V the Brhad-Devat, Vc is said to be composed of three lights. The earthly form is Il, who there with terrestrial Agni; the middle form is Sarasvat, who occupies this region is found with middle Agni; the celestial form of Vc is Bhrat, associated with Agnis celestial form (1.90, 97; 3.12f.; 1.112; 2.76; cf. 2.79; 1.74; 3.14; 8.91; 6.121; 7.107; 4.39; 2.51). In Brhad-Devat 2.40, Vc, truth and the whole world are defined as identical with Brahman. c, however, is also considered an element that extends beyond these limitations into V c are part of the consistent Vedic the fourth world. The three goddesses in relation to V pattern whereby three perceptible and finite elements give way to an additional fourth, which itself provides a gateway to infinity. As presented by Malamoud (1989: 141 142), other examples of this pattern are found in relation to other elements or parts of speech. The Gyatr meter, for example, consists of three quarters (pda); a fourth is said to shine resplendent in the atmosphere (Brhad-Arnyaka-Upanisad 5.14.45). Just as Taittir ya-Samhit 2.6.4.2), there are three worlds plus the non-world (cf. there are three sacred speeches plus silence (Renou, 1978: 73). To the three mystical utterances bhuh, bhuvah, and svah, whose reduced but literal translation may be understood as earth, space, and sky, is added the syllable OM as a fourth element that completes, encom passes or transcends the first three. The theological grammarians, playing on numbers and words, also relate the three syllables of the word for manifest speech, aksara, to the single manifest aspects syllable word for speech itself, vc (atapatha-Brhmana 6.3.1.43). The of speech, its phonemes, syllables, words and verses, are finite, like the three manifest aspects of the Vedic world, but Speech itself, these thinkers suggest, remains a goal to be attained by those who would seek the hidden world beyond, and within, manifest form (cf. Aitareya-Brhmana 5.3; Malamoud, 1989: 289f.). of three goddesses perceived as a unit which represents the three So it is that Il is one worlds. Each of the three goddesses is not only part of the triad but also equal to the

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entirety of these parts of the cosmos and of speech.1 Il appears as the second in this triad s along with Bhrat and Srasvat in the series of Rgvedic verses known as the pr by Bloomfield and Gonda, among verses.2 They are relatively fixed formulae, considered others, to be examples of ancient formulae inherited by the R gvedic poets from much s formulae date from a period when the earlier times.3 Gonda suggests that the pr domestic offerings to the fire god Agn were simple and without accompanying animal sacrifice (1974: 135f., 1975: 104, 1985a: 17). The expression ls pad or lys pad names an early place of offering which is remarkable in its simplicity and anterior in its origins to the complex brick altars of the brahmanic period with their multiple layers of meaning and form. The word pad means footstep, trace, mark, or track. Like its etymological equivalents, however the Avestan pada, Greek pdon and Hittite pedan the Vedic pad also has the sense of place or ground. While the cognate Greek pdon has lost any meaning as track and has come to mean only place, site or ground, it is nevertheless frequently found in identical syntactical constructions with the genitive of a gods name. We find, for example, Zns euthals pdon (the flourishing ground of Zeus; Bacchylides 8.5), Krisaon pedon (the ground of Krisis; Sophocles, Electra 730), Loxou pdon (the ground of Apollo; Aeschylos, Choephori 1036) and Palldos pdon (the ground of Athena; Aristophanes, Plutus 772). Pre-Christian Lithuanian folklore, a related Indo-European tradition, tells us of the footprints of Velinas (Velnio pedos); so powerful is Velinas that when he stops on a rock his footprints remain. The rainwater that falls in these footprints acquires magical properties, and women come to the rock seeking fertility (Thompson, 1995: 1617). The most widely known Vedic footprint is the footprint of Vsnu (vsnoh pad). Vsnu the Vedic world is famous for taking three strides or steps that span the three regions of (cf. Kuiper). In R g-Veda 1.154 (trans. Doniger, 1981: 226), the poet sings:
Let me now sing the heroic deeds of Visnu, who has measured apart the realms of earth, who propped up the upper dwelling-place, striding far as he stepped forth three times. Let this song of inspiration go forth to Visnu, the wide-striding bull who lives in the mountains, who alone with but three steps measured apart this long, far-reaching dwellingplace. His three footprints, inexhaustibly full of honey, rejoice in the sacrificial drink. Alone, he supports threefold the earth and the sky all creatures. Would that I might reach his dear place of refuge, where men who love the gods rejoice. For there, one draws close to the wide-striding Visnu; there, in his highest footstep is the fountain of honey.

The footsteps of Vsnu result in footprints. They are containers of sweetness and abun the footprints of Visnu, like the footprints of the Buddha, are dance. Even today in India that is, places of sacrificial offering. places of worship. Temples are built around them, The Vedic formula in the footprint of Il has a direct Avestan correlate (padit frasrt iaii) which refers to the practice of pouring oblations of milk and butter into the footprints of cows. Says Thompson (1995: 1617):
From this practice derives the use of the Indo-Iranian term *pada to refer metaphorically, it would appear, to an altar, i.e. to a place of worship onto which oblations are poured. The

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frequently suggested etymology of Vedic vdi as *(a)va-zd-i (i.e. from ava-sad-) would seem to support that view that the phrase footprint of milk refers to an altar All of this would suggest that the archaic Indo-Iranian priest poured libations of milk and butter (i.e. cow products) into something called *pada, the footprint of a sacred or sacrificial cow perhaps, or perhaps rather, an altar or oblation-place conceived as the footprint of a god. We should recall that the vdi was not a raised altar, but was a shallow depression in the ground, to which the gods were expected to come and sit.

Il personifies the oblation materials which, as a common noun, carry the same name. Theword l is an enlargement of the noun root s to stream out, pour out, incite, animate to grow, to make to grow, to nourish or fortify (cf. Minard, II: 606a). The or promote, technical sense that the word l would come to have in middle Vedic literature is: the part taken from all (principal)offering substance, divided into four, or more often five, and, having been sprinkled with the jya, that is the clarified butter or ghee, it is consumed communally by the participants in the sacrifice (pastamba-rauta-Stra 3.1.1; Renou, 1954: 34). It is a solemn offering consisting of four dairy products: butter, whey, sour cream and soft cheese (Lvi, 1966: 115; cf. Malamoud, 1989: 50 n. 43). The l thus is a common source of nourishment, invigoration and pleasure (cf. R V 3.53.1, 3.59.3) for in the sacrifice and both gods and men who come together to participate communally to take of this life-giving essence. Il does, in fact, have a foot. In her goddess form, she has hands and feet that drip with (RV 7.16.8a, 10.70.8d). Her foot leaves footprints (cf. Gonda, 1969: 176). As the butter embodiment of oblation materials derived from dairy products, she also has a body as a cow (cf. Gonda, 1985a: 4143). The word appears as a synonym of cow in Nighantu 2.11. Ils footprints are visible in the footprints left in the ground, which are footprints of a cow. They are the location of sacrifice. The cow Il, however, is a celestial cow. Her udder is swollen with the milk of rt, that is the milk ofcosmic Order, and through this udder passes or is manifest a full spectrum of liquid offering substances that move between humans and gods: water, butter, milk and speech. R g-Veda 3.55.1213 tells us, for example:
There where the mother and the daughter [Sky and Earth], the two Cows miraculously good to milk let themselves be suckled [by their single calf, Agni as Sun], both of them in the seat of Order [or rt]: I invoke them here. Great is the asuryan power of the gods, the only power. (One of them), licking the calf of the other, has lowed. Across what existence has the cow hidden her udder? It is there the liquid offering [il] has swollen with the milk of rt. Great is the asuryan power of the gods, the only power.

The first wave of the Waters is called the wave of l (RV 7.47.1). The clouds drip with produces l (R V 7.102.3, Il (RV 3.54.20). Parjnya, whose name means cloud, 6.52.16); rain itself is called rich in l (lvat) (R V 9.97.17; cf. 7.65.4b). Parallel to the footprint of Il (lys pad) is the footprint of the cow (pad gh). construction. They are also parallel in location in the These are parallel in their syntactical Vedic cosmos. They provide a means of communication between regions of the Vedic world because they are footprints of a single cow.

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The footprint of Il is the earthly location where dairy products are given as offerings. At the place of offering, that is, in the footprint of Il, is Agn the fire god, as priest and sacrificial flame (R V 1.128.1). He instals himself there (R V 6.1.2), is born there (R V 10.1.6), is lighted there (RV 2.10.1), and is placed at the footprint of Il, this navel of the earth, in order to carry the offering to the world of the gods (R V 3.29.4). Awakened by the sacrificial officiate, Agn hastens to the footprint of Il (R V 10.91.1). He is born of Il and is called son of Il (R V 3.29.2). The relationship is reciprocal: Agn, in turn, is accompanied by Il (R V 5.4.4), is son and father of hymns (R V 3.26.9 and 6.52.16). 3.15.2) and gives birth to Il (R V Yet we have seen that Il is also a cow. She is a celestial cow. Her milk is that of rt. As three goddesses who are aspects of Speech. These aspects, a goddess, she is one of the or parts, of Speech are identifiable with her and relate to her as three finite aspects in relation c or Speech. to an additional infinite one. Il is thus identifiable with, and distinct from, V So also is her footprint. The place of the cow (pad gh) is that of the cow Speech (Rg Veda 3.55.1):
When the first dawns shone, the great (thing), the Verb (aksra) was born from the place of the Cow; corroborating thus the wishes of the gods (I proclaim): Great is the gods asuryan power, the one (power)!

Hymns in the R g-Veda are frequently referred to as cows for they contain oblation goddess Speech herself. R g-Veda 8.100.1011 tells us: materials as does the
c [the goddess Speech], the stimulating queen of the When uttering inscrutable things, V gods, settled down. She let flow milk, fourfold, nourishment, streams of milk! Where has the supreme (part) of Her gone? c. Beasts of all forms utter Her. This The gods have given birth to the goddess V stimulating c come to us! Milk-cow, letting flow nourishment and strength Highly praised may V

As the footprint or place of the cow Speech, pad comes to mean word. In later con da would texts pad would also carry the meaning of syllable and the related term p come to mean a stanza of poetry. We find in Brhad-ranyaka-Upanisad 5.14.7:
Gayatri you are one-footed, two-footed, three-footed, four-footed. You are also footless since you do not go about (on foot). Homage to you, the fourth, the beautiful foot-print that is above space. (trans. Thompson, 1995: 9)

A word is perceived by the Vedic poets as a container of the offering substance that the poet-priest offers to the gods, in the same way that the footprint of Il is a container of the offering substance, or il, poured out at the place of offering. The footprint of the cow Speech, like the footprint of Il, is a means by which the a hidden track or sign that ancient poet-priest traced a pathway to the gods. The word is the poet seeks, a track that one follows in order to find hidden realities (RV 9.96.6, 18; cf. the gods where Renou, 1958: 22). Its path leads from the place of sacrifice to the place of the offering substance will be received. It thus traces the way from the visible manifest

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world to the invisible, or hidden, infinite world beyond and provides a means of communication between them. We are told (R V 1.72.6):
The Sages discovered (inside Agn) the three times seven pad hidden, and found there the secret laws of sacred Speech.

We hear:
Speech was divided into four tracks. The Brahmins who have insight know this. The three that are hidden, people do not set in motion. They speak (only) the fourth track of Speech. (trans. Thompson, 1995: 6)

The poet knows that the hidden place or footprint of Speech, that is the word, is to be tracked by following the visible footprint of Il from the place of Offering. The singer sings (R V 10.71.3):
Through the sacrifice they traced the path of Speech and found it inside the sages. They held it and portioned it out to many; together the seven singers praised it.

The footprint of Il leads to that of the cow Speech. They are connected because they the same cow. This cow simply takes the form, and name, appropriate are the footprint of to the region, or dimension, of the cosmos in which it is found. The milk of this same cow flows from rtsya pad, the track, trace, footprint or seat of rt. We are told (R V 10.177.2):
The bird carries in his heart Speech that the divine youth spoke of inside the womb. The poets guard this revelation that shines like the sun in the footprint of rt.

Silburn (1955: 12) presents rt as the agencement exact or exact alignment of cosmic parts.
R ta, the harmonized cosmos which is well-done (sukrta), where the days and nights are well constructed (sumeka), is the opposite of anrta, the non-aligned cosmos where only dissolu tion and chaos (nirrti) reign. In this primordial non-alignment, the yet undivided worlds form, according to some texts, the primordial androgyne [R V 1.160.3]. There was thus nei ther space, nor time, nor movement then, as the pathway of rta was blocked [atapatha Brhmana 1.4.1.2223]. The son of the worlds, the poet of space, had not yet separated the two worlds by measuring them; he had not yet then gathered them back together and organized them [R V 1.160.4]. This son, which is the sun, props up the sky and is the most frequently invoked witness to this alignment, to this proper placement whose perfection is the wonder of the rsi [RV 4.13.5]. This propping up does not only consist of the lifting up of a mass, or its increase (RV 2.11); it is also, and especially, the circulating that serves in the manner of a prop; the sun, by circling in the sky, holds up the luminous arch as it goes along its celestial path while conferring on all beings duration [Atharva-Veda 13.1.18, 10.8.4, 10.7.11 and 12; RV 3.55.7]. No other idea has, as much as rta, incited such a luxury of metaphors which are all images of continuity: stream (dhra) of rta, yoke or harness of rta, path of rta, net (prasiti) of rta, web of rta, wheel of rta, etc. (trans. Sandness)
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This continuity of circulation ensures the continuity of life. For the R gvedic poet, life depended on the alignment of days and nights, filled with a vital energy.As this vital force yus) was susceptible to being prolonged day after day, the word yus finished by sig( nifying the duration of life. In this regard, Silburn (1955: 2) cites Benveniste:
The two neuter words yu and yus name the vital force as an individual [R V 1.89.9] or universal [yur vivyuh, R V 10.89.8] principle this concept develops from a human and quasi-physical representation: the force which animates the being and gives it life, a force both unique and double, transient and permanent, exhausting itself and being reborn in the course of the generations, abolishing itself in its own renewal and forever subsisting by its finitude always renewed. The life force implies incessant re-creation of the principle that nourishes it

The constancy in the movement of the animating essence perceived as the stream of rt manifests, in the finite worlds of the Vedic cosmos, in the continuity that is the uninterrupted flow of oblation materials. Malamoud (1989: 73) observes that:
The sacrifice without gap, the world without fault, this is the rta, the precise alignment: the correct performance of the ritual work is at once the image and cause of the harmonious alternation of days and nights, of the succession of the seasons, of the rain that falls at the right moment, of the ordered meeting of eater and eaten [Aitareya-ranyaka 2.1.2]. System of sys tems of pieces joined: cosmic order, ritual efficacy, truth as perfect, such are the principal components of the notion of rta. So it is that rta, the supreme principle in Vedic ideology, is defined as the absence of lack: the word is derived from the same root as the adverb aram, sufficiently.

Abundance is assured in the Vedic cosmos by means of the articulate and exact precision of the sacrificial ritual. This ritual is itself in alignment with, a microcosmic representation of, and a physical conduit of, the uninterrupted flow of the life-giving stream of rt into the manifest world of humans. This is the milk of rt which flows from the place of rt by means of Speech and the offerings. Agn is born in the cosmic cow Il, container, like her footprint, of sacrificial birthplace of rt, which is the birthplace of food (R V 5.21.4). Milk-cows rise up from rt with their udders swollen with milk (R V 1.73.6). When set in motion, this milk streams from the infinite and invisible into the created and finite world. In return, it will be offered to the gods, contained in the worldly form of offerings of dairy substances poured in the footprint of Il. of footprints of a single cow thus transcends the finite world and leads to the This series invisible. They are hidden in the mysterious (cf. Thompson, 1995: 1112) and hard to find. The poet seeks them out, and having found them, tracks the way to a greater knowing of the sacred mystery. The poets speak of themselves as knowers of the track ) or track seekers (padav (padaj ) (cf. Thompson, 1995: 20). Just as one can infer and track the presence of the gods, and the source of the life-force, by means of footprints, so also do the poets communicate by means of signs, the words, their own footprints, which serve as tracks to be traced by their descendants, the poets who will follow them (R V 4.5.89, trans. Doniger, 1981: 114).
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What of this speech of mine should I proclaim? They murmur about the sacred hidden in the depths: when they have opened the mystery of the cows of dawn, like a door upon a flood, [Agn] protects the beloved head of the earth-cow, the place of the bird. This is that great face of the great gods, that the cow of dawn followed as it went in front. I found it shining in the place of the rt, moving swiftly, swiftly.

Il and Agn together are sources of life. They are paired at the place of sacrifice. There is offered to the gods. Having received this offering, the gods in turn continue to circulate food this essence, or milk, of life by giving to humans those blessings, such as physical cows, which permit humans to continue to give of the source of life in offering at the place of Il. This relationship between Il and the priestly fire god Agn is paralleled in the middle Vedic relationship between Manu, he who sacrifices, and Il, that which is given. of death, who is king of Vedic tradition knows the Indo-Iranian deity Yma, god the ancestors and a founder of the human race (cf. Malamoud, 2002: 8). Yma has a brother named Mnu who is, like Yma, son of the sun. The sun in the sky is, as we know, the celestial form of Agn, the fire god who is placed in the footprint of Il and prop which between the Vedic is, and which permits, the circulation of the luminous source of life parallel cosmic worlds. Mnu, in the stories, is known as he who sacrifices. All of us are descended from Mnu and Il. The story is told in the atapatha-Brhmana 1.8.1:
Manu was brought water in the morning for the washing of hands. As he was washing, a fish came into his hands and said, Care for me and I will save you. From what will you save me? A flood will carry away all these creatures; I will save you from it. How should you be cared for? As long as we are tiny, said the fish, our destruction is great, for fish swallows fish. Care for me at first in a pot, and when I outgrow it, dig a trench and care for me in it. And when I outgrow that, then take me down to the ocean, for then I will be beyond destruction. So the fish grew steadily, and it said, In a certain year, the flood will come. Then you will build a ship and come to me, and when the flood has risen you will enter the ship, and I will save you from the flood. So Manu cared for the fish, and built the ship, and the day came when the floods arose, and the fish swam up to Manu, and he fastened the rope of the ship to the horn of the fish, and with it he sailed through to the northern mountain the flood swept away all other creatures, and Manu alone remained here. Yet Manu became lonely in his solitude. Desiring offspring he began to engage in performing sacrifice. He offered in the waters clarified butter, sour milk, whey and curds. From these a woman arose, quite solid, although clarified butter gathered in her footprint. Manu said to her, Who are you? Your daughter, she replied. How, O illustrious one, are you my daughter? he asked. She said, Those offerings of clarified butter, sour milk, whey and curds, which you made in the waters, with them you have begotten me. I am the blessing, the benediction, make use of me at the sacrifice With her, Manu went on worshipping and performing austerities, wishing for offspring. Through her he generated this race, which is the race of Manu; and whatever blessing he invoked through her, all that was granted to him.

The daughter of Manu, he who sacrifices, is Il. Il is personified. Most anthropo feet; she lives one hundred winters, morphic of the three goddesses, she has hands and 4 the duration of human life. In the ritual, the word il is the name given to an offering The offering is simple but is consubstance consisting of four products derived from milk. sidered the perfect symbol of faith. (Cf. Lvi, 1966: 115)

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Il is the common meal between humans and gods. It is in this common food, the sacri offering substance, that humans and gods become one, for humans are descendants ficial of Manu: they are the product of he who sacrificed and that which is sacrificed; only humans are able to give and also be that which is given. We can track the footprint of Il back to early stages in the development of Indian tradition. Here we find the human experience, human relationships with gods, the ancestors and one another, defined in terms of offering: it is offering that defines our humanity; it is offering that delineates our cosmos. The footprint of Il, as all humans descended from her, is a container of the life-giving substance that is oblation material: only humans are able to sacrifice and to be sacrificed. (Cf. Malamoud, 1989: 1333) A footprint is a trace, a track or sign by means of which one has visible evidence of an invisible presence. It indicates the presence of a bodily container and is the means by which one infers the existence of the unseen. Il has such a footprint. As one of the three goddesses, she is an aspect of Speech. Like Speech, she is a cow, and hers is the milk of rt. She spans the worlds simultaneously and takes the form that is most appropriate to the world in which she is found. So does her footprint. The footprint in question is both the container and the contained. It is the sacrificial offering substance and the vessel into which it is poured. What is offered? It is the source of life, invisible and manifest, which appears in the form appropriate to the dimension of the Vedic cosmos in which it is found. What is this vessel in which it is poured? It is the place of sacrifice, which is present in and extends throughout the cosmos. It is also the place of union between the subject and object of offering, the place where humans, the ancestors and the gods come together and their life-force conjoins as one. Yet if the poet can trace these footprints to the ancestor poets and the gods, if the poet can track the footprints of Il and the cow Speech to the place of rt, it is because they are footprints of a single animal, the cow, whose four feet, while they appear in various parallel forms, represent parts of a whole. As a container of life, and an altar, the place of Il is arguably both internal and external. The story of Il, sub stance of offering, as an ancestor of humanity, seems to suggest that there is a relationship between the perception of this animating principle which gives life to humans, ancestors and gods alike, and the animating life principle, simultaneously many and one, that would be articulated in the late Vedic period as tman. Baudhyana-Dharma-Stra 2.18.9 and 10 will tell us, for example, that the samnysin, or ascetic renouncer, seeks to internalize the ritual sacrifice by placing inside himself the sacrificial flames, such that he offers himself to his Self in Its form as tman.
Once, the gods and men, as well as the ancestors, drank together (at the sacrifice); it was their common banquet. Then we saw them (when they came to the banquet); today they still come but are invisible. atapatha-Brhmana 3.6.2.26

Notes
1. Cf. Bergaigne, I: 322f. Note that Dumzil associates Sarasvat with the second of the three functions but suggests that she is active at the three levels. Cf. Dumzil, 151, and Lommel, 405413.

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s verses are recited in conjunction with the ten preliminary offerings (prayj) of the 2. The pr hmana animal sacrifice. This use of the verses is noted, for example, in Pacavima-Br pati created the creatures; he thought himself milked out and emptied 15.8.2: Praj out; he saw s (verses) as jya (lauds) and, by means of these, he gratified (aprnt) himself. Milked these pr out, as it were, and emptied out is he who has lauded with the ten days (who has performed as s (verses) are these jya (lauds), thereby he gratifies Chanter the ten-day rite). In that the pr himself (cf. Renou, 1954: 28; Minard, II: 553; Potdar, 131). hymns 1.13 and 3. Bloomfield (17) notes, for example, at least six shared verses between the pr hymns generally, see also Renou, 19551969, EVP II: 11 and 1.142. On the subject of the pr 37; Macdonell, 1963: 154; Gonda, 1975: 102, 187, 215; Gonda, 1985a: 22, 74, 160 note 56; Gonda, 1974: 56sq., 129, 199. 4. This expression athima occurs on four occasions in the R g-Veda (9.74.8d, 1.79.9d, 6.4.8d, in addition to this verse). On each occasion apart from this verse it refers explicitly to the duration of human life. Regarding one hundred years as a human life span, see Kthaka-Samhit 22.8, 64.19; Taittirya-Samhit 5.7.1.3; pastamba-rauta-Stra 17.23.5 and Gonda, 1991: 166. hmana 1.2.1.7; Regarding the request for a life of a hundred years, see Taittirya-Br hmama 25.7 and Gonda, 1966: 32. pastamba-rauta-Stra 5.2.1ff.; Kauitaki-Br

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