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Vrat Divine and Human in the Early Veda Author(s): Timothy Lubin Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of the

American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 2001), pp. 565579 Published by: American Oriental Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 20/01/2012 15:38
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TIMOTHY LUBIN WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY The relationship between Rigvedic and post-Rigvedic usages of the word vratd has not been adequately explained, despite several studies of the concept. This paper distinguishes three aspects of the word's meaning in the Rg Veda and in the "mantra-period"texts: (1) 'rule' in the general sense of a fixed articulation of will or authority; (2) as the attribute of a god, it denotes the distinctive natural and social laws that the god ordains and maintains; (3) in verses in which the god's vratd is closely linked with specific rites (the morning and evening offerings, the three soma pressings) it acquires the sense of 'rule of ritual observance'. In these contexts, this rule of ritual performance is an obligation to be fulfilled by "descendants of Manu,"who may be called vratyas of the god. RV 7.103.1 and AV 4.11 foreshadow the narrower, technical application of the word in the prose yajus texts, the brahmanas, and the ritual sutras, viz., an ascetical regimen undertaken by a yajamana or student, under the superintendence of Agni Vratapati.


BEGINNINGWITH THE prose yajus mantras and the brahmana texts, the word vratd denotes a specifically defined, somewhat ascetic regimen (e.g., the vrata of an isti rite, the soma diksa, the observances of a student of Veda) intended to purify and empower the performer, giving him a quasi-divine capacity to accomplish special rites or to study. In the dharma literature (and in usage up to the present), vrata refers to a (mildly) ascetic regimen of behavior (such as a fast), often combined with a program of worship to a specified deity, by which the performer may obtain virtually any specified mundane or otherworldly objective-especially divine assistance in some matter, such as worldly prosperity or the expiation of guilt. In fact, vrata becomes the most generic term in Brahmanism for rules or regimens in which a fixed rule of behavior, involving restrictions as well as prescribed actions, is thought to produce specified results for whoever performs it. Compared with the term's clear semantic contours in later times, the Rigvedic meaning has long been dis-

puted. The current consensus derives vratd from PIE *wer-/wre- ('speak'); it thus closely parallels Av. uruuata ('command', 'rule').1 A few studies have attempted to specify the Vedic meaning of the word. Hanns-Peter Schmidt has argued at great length that vratd in all cases means 'Geltibde' ('vow') in the sense of "a sort of promissory oath."2 The gods' vratas in the Rg Veda would thus be promises they make to humanity, which their actions fulfill. Paul Hacker refuted Schmidt's

1 Hanns-PeterSchmidt (Vedisch 'vrata'und awestisch 'urvata' [Hamburg:DeGruyter, 1958], 7-14), gives a history of research on this term and of the various etymologies suggested. Among them, W. D. Whitney ("On the Etymology of the SanskritNoun vratd," JAOS 11 [1885]: ccxxix-ccxxxi), was led to derive it from the root vrt-, 'turn, proceed', based on the traditional notion of a vrata as a path, something "gone on" or "followed"; so too, separately,A. Ludwig (Der Rigveda [Prague, 1876-88], 3: 266). Abel Bergaigne (Le religion vedique d'apres les hymnes du Rig-Veda [Paris: Vieweg, 1883], 3:210-71) and F Max Muller (Rig-Veda-Sanhita[London, 1869], 1: 225-28) derive it from vr- ('protect'),giving as its earliest meaning 'what is protected, set apart'.R. Roth (Uber Yasna 31 [Tubingen, 1876]) recognized the connection with Av. uruuata, and the etymology from PIE *wer-/wre- ('speak') was first proposed by Adalbert Bezzenberger, Bezzenberger's Beitrdge 1 (1877): 253f. See ManfredMayrhofer,Kurtzgefasstesetymologisches Wirterbuch des Altindischen (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1956-80), 3: 278f., for more references. 2 Schmidt, op. cit. 565

I am happy to acknowledge the support of a junior research fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, and valuable suggestions received at various stages from Mary McGee, Richard Lariviere, Stephanie Jamison, and an anonymous reviewer for the Journal. An early version of this paper was presented as part of a panel on vrata in Hinduism at the 1994 annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, in Boston.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

findings in a long article. He notes first that even the vratas of the classical literature are not properly called 'vows' (despite similarities with Christian vows, and the ubiquity of this gloss in translations). Although the element of "act, service, or way of life" for a divine purpose represents the later idea of vrata well enough, the word "vow" preeminently denotes the promise or declaration of intent. The vrataper se consists in a set of regular activities, and the verbal or mental declaration of intent-when it is mentioned at all-is designated as the samkalpa, which is "what makes a series of actions or abstentions into a vrata."3 I would carry Hacker's objections on this point a bit further. In Classical Greek and Latin usage, a "vow" (e6iXi, votum) was a promise to make an offering to a divinity, contingent upon first receiving a god's helpMarcel Mauss' do ut des. This contingency, in particular, is quite foreign to the Indian notion, which regards the actual regimen-and not the declaration of intention, or promise-as essential to producing the result. In fact, the "contingent vow" is attested in modern times in

commandmentand so is considered an expression of that commandment";and (3) "'authority',the power to command, to oblige someone to do something."5He shows that the vratas of the gods are authoritative:they determine the order of all things and beings in the world, and imply the idea of man's moral obligation to adhere to divine models. Although Hacker also stresses this point, he resists equating vrata with 'commandment',for this word points to the assertion of authoritywhich is never (in the Rg Veda) directly referred to, and obscures the fact that divine will-represented by the vrati-is embodied in paradigmatic divine actions. Thus, he says, a god's vrata "is established through [that god's] concrete activity, i.e., not through an act of lawgiving."6It is an order or pattern,arising directly out of divine precedent, that is continually actualized in the world, such that creatures and things adapt themselves to it, and comply with it. The verbs taking vrata as their object most frequently in the Rg Veda define a coherent set of actions: on the one hand, the upholding or protection of, and compliance with, vratis; on the other, the destruction or violation of them. Hacker observes7 that in most cases the Rajasthani bolari, bolma, or votand, and the Marathi the vrati is something the gods follow ([anu-]sac-, navas, all of which are distinguished from vrata.4 Joel Brereton has adjudicated this debate, finding in anu-i-, [anu-]car-, etc.), keep (raks-, pa-, dhr-), violate Hacker'sfavor. He argues that a vrati is (1) a command([pra-]mi-), or deceive (dabh-); he supposes "that the word originally and properlybelongs to the sphere of the ment, implying an obligation (and not a promise, as Schmidt claimed); (2) "an action which is governed by a gods, and that the human vratas are so called perhaps only by analogy to those of the gods."8 I will show that the Rg Veda does sometimes envision 3 PaulHacker, Nachrichten derAkademie derWissenthe vrata as a regular course of ritual observance correVrata, Vanden- sponding to the particularcharacterof the deity to whom schaftin Gottingen, Phil.-hist.KI., no. 5 (Gottingen: hoeck& Ruprecht, the rites pertain. This indicates a semantic extension of Ekddaistattva, 1973).Raghunandana, quoted in P.V.Kane, Bhandarkar Orithe term vrata from 'rule'in the sense of 'governance'or (Poona: Historyof Dharmasastra entalResearch Institute, 1974),5: 30, n. 63: samkalpa-visaya- 'ordinance'to "rule of ritual action'. This paves the way tat-tat-karmaivavratam ("A vrata is the ritual action defined by for later, more narrowapplications of the word to desigan intention"). nate specific, initiatory regimens required for worship 4 See, e.g., Ann Grodzins Gold, Fruitful Journeys: The Ways and Veda study. This semantic development shows that of Rajasthani Pilgrims(Berkeleyand Los Angeles:Univ. of California Press,1988),142, 186-87; Lindsey Harlan, Religion 5 Joel Brereton,The RgvedicAdityas,AmericanOriental andRajputWomen andLos Angeles:Univ.of Cali(Berkeley forniaPress, 1992),48-49. Goldglosses the Rajasthani terms Series, no. 63 (New Haven: American Oriental Society, as "pledge"or "vow"(the terms are derivedfrom verbs of 1981), 70f. 6 Thesevows usuallyarepromises to go on pilgrimHacker,121. 7 Ibid.,121-22. speaking). 8 certain riteswhileon pilgrimage. Ibid., 116. T. Elizarenkova (Language and Style of the age, or to perform MaryMcGee ("Desired Fruits: MotiveandIntention in the VotiveRites Vedic Rsis [Albany: StateUniv.of New York Press,1995),52of Hindu Women,"in Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women,ed. in Rigvediclan53) sees this dual usage as a broadpattern J. Leslie [Rutherford, N.J.: FairleighDickinsonUniv. Press, of wordsdepends on whether guage,in whichthe significance the contextis one of divineor human 1991],80-81) explainsnavasas a "kindof votiverite,whichI activity.She glosses the call 'contractual'or 'conditional'..." One of McGee's infortermas "(god's)behest"or "divinelaw"in the firstcase, and mantsexplained: "Avratais serviceto Godwithout vow" in the second. Her argument is worth anyexpec"(worshipper's) but she does not explainthe relationship tations; a navas puts God on the spot" (navas devds sankat between considering, the two sensesadequately. ghdlne; vrat nirapeks seva karne [McGee's trans.]).


Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


the usual gloss 'vow' or 'Geliibde' is not apt, since a ritual vrata is a rule adopted, not a promise made.9In what follows, I will review selected passages to illustrate the range of applications of the term, the ways in which divine vratas are distinctive of the gods to whom they belong, and ways in which the vratas of certain gods are
closely associated with a course of ritual observance in-

cumbent upon those "descendants of Manus" who have established a relationship with the gods.

rule, concordant," respectively.1 These compounds in -vrata constitute a fixed idiomatic usage, in which the meaning of vratd is relatively constricted: 'rule' as an expression of authority is reduced to 'tendency' or 'manner'. Numerous verse mantras from post-Rg Veda sources use vratd alongside words for interior, mental and psychological, states, which suggests that vrata crystallizes an act of will. Some of these verses are applied in the rite of initiation into Veda study, at the moment when the teacher touches the student'sheart, e.g., RVkh3.15:
mama vrate h.dayam te dadhami mama cittdm dnu cittdm te astu mama vdcdm ekavratd12 jusasva brhdspatis tvd ni yunaktu mdhyam13

Before turning to passages in which a vrata figures as a law governing divine or ritual action (which might be called religiously "marked"usage, insofar as vratd becomes a technical term), we should note the contexts in which it appears to mean 'rule', 'standard mode of action', in a general sense. In such an unmarked context, there seems to be little sense of moral obligation; rather the vrata is what is characteristic of someone or something. The word vratd often has this meaning when it occurs in final position in adjectival (bahuvrihi) compounds.10 "Let Heaven and Earth-they who drip honey, who milk out honey, whose rule is honey (i.e.,
sweet)-prepare honey for us" (mddhu no dyavaprthivi

I place yourheartundermy rule (vrata).Let yourthought followmy thought. Takedelightin my wordas one whohas a single rule (eka-vratd)14(or:single-minded [eka-manas]). Let Brhaspati join you to me. In the initiation, the preceptorspeaks these words so that the initiate will become amenable to his will. Almost the same words are uttered in the wedding ceremony to subordinate the bride to the groom (e.g., PGS 1.8.6-8); indeed, the marriage has frequently been styled the Vedic initiation of a woman, and she stands in the same relation to her husband as the student to the teacher-one of absolute obedience and humility. In the latter ritual application, the name of the "lord of progeny,"Prajapati, is inserted in place of the name of the "lord of prayer," Brhaspati,since Prajapatiis more directly concerned with the purposes of marriage, while Brhaspati governs the study of Veda. These ritual contexts reinforce the impression given by the mantraitself: the speaker aims at bringing about conformity in the "heart,"that is, the seat of cognition (mdnas) and will, of another.Vrata here is the authority
11 vivrata: RV 8.12.15, 10.55.3; AV 3.8.5 = 6.94.1. sdvrata:

mimiksatam madhuscutd madhudu'ghemddhuvrate [RV 6.70.5ab]). "Let this bull, who follows the rule of the bull, purifying himself, striking those who curse (us), make riches for the worshiper" (esd vr'savratah pdvamdno asastiha I kdrad vdsuni dis'iuse [9.62.11]). "Who follows the rule of the bull" means "who acts like a bull," who is virile by nature, or, perhaps more precisely, who, as a rule, is fecundating.

Agni is known by his golden demeanor: "Here the gods have set... shining Agni of the shining chariot, of the yellow rule of conduct (hdrivratam)... impatient, very splendid... " (candrdmagnim candrdrathamhdrivratam ... bhurnim devasa iha susrlyam dadhuh [RV
3.3.5ad]). Hdrivratam is virtually glossed by the adjec-

tives candrdm, candrdratham, and susrfyam, which all

describe Agni's apparent form and action. The terms

vivrata and sdvrata are antonyms meaning "following divergent rules, discordant" and "following the same of vratidenoted 9 Despitethefactthattheetymon something spoken, I prefer to avoid Brereton's gloss 'commandment', whichseemsto emphasize the speechcomponent, since unduly theRg Vedaneveralludesto the pronouncing or declaring of a vrata. 10See Schmidt, 93-101 (substitutingfor "Geliibde"as necessary).

RV3.30.3, 3.54.6, 6.70.3, 10.65.8.

12 Other texts have in place of ekavrata: ekavrato; or (AGS,

13 SGS 2.4.1; AGS 1.21.7; PGS 2.2.16; MB 1.2.21 (te hrdayam dadhdtu); GGS 2.1.24; KhGS 1.3.31; JGS 1.12:11.1516 (mayi vrate ... ). 14 ekavrata, although probably a bahuvrihi, shows anomalous accent and case ending (as if from eka-vratds-, cf. JGSs ekamana[h]). However it might also be a karmadhdrayawith the rare instrumental singular in -d, but with regular accent, which would translate as "with a single rule."


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

wielded by the teacher (or husband) over the thoughts of the student (or wife). Mama vacam ("my word, my voice"), in a rarejuxtaposition with vratdm, may evoke the etymological sense of "command."Yet the variant reading points the other way: the variant readings in the textual sources of ekamanah ("having only one thought, single-minded") and ekavratd ("having only one rule" or "with one rule"), in the same position in the sentence may reflect a perceived synonymy. Since manas and vrata occur side-by-side in several similar mantras (see below), their alternationsuggests that in such usage they are close in meaning. In referring to one who is obedient or amenable, their similarity probably lies in their evocation of the initiate's interior, volitional disposition. The reading ekavratah nicely suggests the convergence of two vratas: the initiate's will is subordinated tobecomes one and the same as-the master's. The Atharva Veda is particularly rich in passages in
which vratd occurs parallel to mdnas, cetas, cittd, hr-



daya, and/or dkiti (e.g., 2.30.2, 6.64.2 and 3 [= RV

10.191.3 and 4, MS 2.2.6, TB]). AV 3.8.5-6 (=

6.94.1-2) is worth noting, especially since these verses are prescribed for use in the upanayana (e.g., KausS
55.17-18), which introduces the vrata of brahmacarya:

sdm vo mdnamsi sdm vrata sdm dkutir namamasi ami ye vfvrata(h) sthdna tan vah sdm namaydmasi15 (5) ahdm grbhnami mdnasa mdndmsi mdma cittdm dnu cittebhir eta mama vdsesu hidayani vah krnomi mdma yatdm dnuvartamana eta (6) We bend together your thoughts, your rules (vratd), your

we makethoseof you therewho arediscordant intentions; bend(yourwills) together. (vivrata) I grasp(your)mindswith (my) mind;follow my thought I putyourheartsin my powers;go and withyourthoughts; follow alongmy way. The vivid language of coercion reinforces the idea that vratd is an interior phenomenon akin to thought and intention. Moreover, a comparison of RVkh3.15a (above) with AV 3.8.6c shows vrate in a context nearly parallel to (plural) vdsesu ("in [my] will").

If vrata'in the generic sense means 'rule' in the sense of a fixed, characteristicmode of behavior that manifests one's will (whether or not the idea is present that it results from or is expressed in a command), what of the vratas of the gods? In this context, we shall see that the general notion of rule is developed into an ideal of divine governance. The Vedic poet-theologian takes perennial empirical "facts" as evidence of the gods' authorityover the world, an authoritymade real through their action in the world. The ubiquity and apparentpersistence of such facts are made the basis for a notion of immutable and eternal law. Moreover, although we may speak broadly of divine vrataisas an aspect of Vedic views of divinity, we must also recognize that they do not compose a homogeneous group. Each deity's vratd defines its nature and role in the world. Likewise, different deities play differing roles in the context of worship; thus, a survey of the vratas of the various gods will throw light also on the ritual vratas. We must begin by observing that some gods are more noted for their vratds than others. Vratdsare attributed to most of the gods at some point in the Rg Veda corpus, but when we can ascertain the divine agent of the vratd-about half of the time-it is most frequently Varuna(twenty-four instances, including eight instances jointly with Mitra, and once jointly with Mitra and Savitr), Agni (fifteen, plus two jointly), Soma (twelve), Indra (twelve, plus two jointly), Savitr (ten), and the "All Gods" (Visve Devah) (seventeen).16Relative to the number of hymns and mentions each of them receives in the corpus, it seems that the vratas of Varuna and Savitr (and the Visve Devah) get disproportionate attention. This has led some scholars, especially Liiders, Thieme, and Brereton, to link the concept of vratd historically and conceptually to the Adityas, in general, and to Varuna,in particular.17

In his study of the group of deities called Adityas, Brereton defends the claim that vrata and vdruna are
16 Tabulations fromSchmidt,15-16, slightlyadjusted. 17 See, e.g., Heinrich Liiders, Varuna, 2 vols. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1951-59). In the Rg Veda, Varunais the main addressee of barely ten hymns (together with Mitra, in another twenty-three; with Indra, in six); Savitr gets only eleven; the Vigve Devaih receive about sixty-five full hymns. Compare this with Indra's two hundred fifty-odd hymns, and Agni's two hundred,and Soma's one hundredtwenty.

15 vivrata's missing visarga is found in MS 2.2.6 and many AV manuscripts (W. D. Whitney, tr., Atharva-Veda Sarihita,

HOS7-8 [Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard Univ.Press,1905],97). Othervariants: MS2.7.1lab, TS4.2.5.lab, VS 12.58ab.

LUBIN: Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


etymologically related, and indeed that they mean virtually the same thing: "commandment" or "authority."18 Thus, he defines Varuna as the god of commandments, preeminent among the group of personified abstract principles called the "Children of Innocence (Aditi)," who are the heavenly sponsors and defenders of the rules of good conduct, and the punishers of offense (agas) against those rules. Whether or not we fully accept this etymological argument, or this understanding of Varuna's name, it is likely that the Vedic poets made this connection. Varuna governs first the primordial disposition of space (as Indra is even more frequently said to do): vertically, by propping apart the two firmaments, heaven and earth, to create the mid-space; laterally, by extending the earth outward (hence its epithets, prth[i]vt and urv{, 'the wide, extensive'). Within this matrix, he ordains for all things a position and an ambit: dstabhnad dydm dsuro visvdvedd dmimita varimanam prthivyah dsidad visva bhuvandni samrad visvet tani vdrunasya vratani (8.42.1) The all-knowing lord propped up the sky; he measured out the breadth of the earth. The sovereign has taken his seat before all creatures. All these are Varuna'slaws (vratd). Varuna's vratds-the things he has willed-constitute (despite the lack of any formal utterance) a sort of law, an ordainment by action. His vratds likewise determine the proper alternation of night and day: 18 Brereton, 83-92; this etymological relation goes back to A. Meillet, "Le dieu indo-iranien Mitra," Journal asiatique 10(10) (1907): 143-59. Georg von Simson ("Vom Ursprung der Gotter Mitra und Varuna," Indo-Iranian Journal 40 [1997]: 1-35) has argued that the deities Mitra and Varunawere originally one, with the title *mitrd (raja) vdrunas (cf. the odd vocative mitrardjanavaruna of 5.62.3b, which he deems a later reanalysis of the misunderstood title). The last word he sees as a genitive form of a proposed substantive *vdru ('wide space', cf. uru and Av. vouru, 'wide'), surviving only in this fixed formula, where it was misunderstood as a nominative and assigned to a separate deity. The title would mean "mediator of the wide space," and was applied, he claims, to the planet Venus, in its dual role as morning- (Mitra) and evening-star (Varuna). However, an anonymous reviewer for the Journal points out an importantgrammatical objection to von Simson's theory: "the -n extension in the oblique of neuter n-stems is not all that old and so such a form is unlikely to form part of a fixed, old collocation."

ami yd rksa nihitasa uccd ndktamdddrsre kuha cid diveyuh ddabdhdni vdrunasya vratdni vicdkasac candrdma ndktam eti (1.24.10) Those stars, which, fixed above, shine at night, must go somewhere by day-Varuna's laws (vratd) are not violated!-the moon goes shining brightly at night. The establishment of order in complementary opposition is Varuna's primary concern: thus, day and night are the white and black garments that Varuna makes for himself to wear, "according to his ordinances" (dnu vratd, 8.41.10). Similarly, just as Varuna and Mitra together establish the basic order (rtad)of the cosmos (e.g., 5.62.3), they are also the source of the social order in its broadest sense: "By (your) rule, you have made a secure abode (for humanity); by (your) establishment, you make the peoples occupy their (proper) places" (vratena stho dhruvaksemi dhdrmana yitaydjjana, 5.72.2ab). Here, vratd (a crystallization of authority) and dhdrman (lit., 'that which is established or upheld') are complementary manifestations of the gods' authority: their paradigmatic acts created the habitable world for mankind; the moral aspect of their rule-a corollary to the cosmogonic aspectdetermines the proper and harmonious organization of society. The parallelism here suggests to me a convergence in meaning.19 Besides his role as benevolent ruler, Varuna, who monitors human action20 and who cannot be deceived (ddabdha, e.g., 7.60.5), punishes those who deceitfully violate his vratds. Brereton notes that while the Adityas as a group are praised for upholding righteousness (rtd) and punishing transgressors, Varuna alone tends to be invoked when the transgressor himself prays for mercy (7.87.7, 88.6, 89.5).21 Here, the wrongdoer-no longer a voice and portrayed as some "other," a rival-acquires admits his fault: ydc cid dhi te viso yatha prd deva varuna vratdm/ minlmdsi dydvi-dyavi ma no vadhdya hatndve jihilandasya riradhah / ma` hrnadndsya manydve (1.25.1-2) 19 Hacker in fact proposes that the relationship between vratd and dhdrmancan be explained by the use of forms of the verb dhr- with vratd, especially in the bahuvrlhi compound dhrtdvrata,which he interpretsas "who has laid down a vratd" (Hacker, 127-33). 20 RV 1.25.11; 1.50.6; 6.68.3; 7.60.3, 61.5, 65.1; 8.25.9; by means of spies: 1.25.13; 6.67.5; 7.61.3, 87.3. 21 Brereton, 96-97.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

Even though we violate your ordinance (vratd) day after day, O god Varuna, as the people (violate a king's), do not subject us to the deadly weapon of the enraged, nor to the fury of one who is angry. The poet enters a guilty plea in hopes of a suspended sentence from the judge. He acknowledges his guilt, but insists that he has erred through human nature, that such behavior is typical of human beings. By thus diffusing the responsibility, he hopes to incline the god toward patience and mercy. But these passages definitely suggest that humans, of all creation, are most inclined to deviate from divine vratas, a theme that recurs in passages that discuss other gods' vratds as well. Similar prayers for forgiveness are addressed to other gods too. (See 4.54.3 to Savitr, and 8.48.9 and 10.25.3 to Soma, all cited below.) Yet these other gods show mercy merely by not withholding their gifts to men; Varuna, as god of Order (rtd), is more vividly described as moved to anger and penal retribution. Varuna punishes by binding the guilty. Even then, the bound prisoner may apply for parole, affirming that he will henceforth "stay clean" by adhering to Varuna's will, by following his law: td uttamdmvaruna pasam asmdd dvddhamdmvi madhyamdm srathdya dthd vaydmaditya vrate tdvanagaso dditaye sydma (1.24.15) Loosen up the upper snare from us, O Varuna,loosen down the lower, loosen away the middle one. Then may we be under your rule (vratd), 0 Aditya, guiltless so that we may be unbound (dditaye). Renewed conformity to the divine vratd restores one to a state of "freedom from fetters" (dditi).22 Varuna's ordinances (vratd) are thus the standard of an ethical order as well as of the cosmic order: they govern the broadest range of activities, although ritual obligations are sometimes specified. By adhering to his ordinances one can overcome typically human weaknesses. Savitr Savitr in the Rg Veda wields the power of instigation or impulse. He is invoked especially at sunset,23 as in the goes further, translating dditi as "innocence." This clarifies an important aspect of the term's meaning, but obscures the central imagery of punishment and forgiveness as binding and release: dditi as a noun denotes the absence of bonds or restrictions. 23 HarryFalk ("Savitr und die Savitri,"WienerZeitschriftfiir die Kunde Siidasiens 32 [1988]: 5-33) argues not only that 22 Brereton

beautiful hymn 2.38, in which the god's vratd is mentioned five times. Here, "Savitr, has divided the species according to their places" (sthaso jdanmdni savita vy akah [7c]): the aquatic creatures in the waters, the wild animals on the dry land, the birds in the woods, the herds in the paddock (vv. 7-8). Yet even more prominent is his role as bringer of rest at the end of the day: "Stirring, he has risen (and) divided up the set times (rtu)" (at samhaydsthdd vy rtumrradardhar [4c]). He comes at dusk, and neither nature nor humanity can resist him: visvasya hi srustdye devd irdhvdh prd bahdva prthulpanih sisarti apas cid asya vratd d nimrgra aydm cid vato ramate pdrijman (2) cid ydn vi mucdti nundm driramad dtamanam cid adsubhis etoh ahydrsunamcin ny aydm avisyam dnu vratdmsavitur mdky agat (3) samavavarti visthito jigistur vifvesaim kamas cdratam amabhut sdsvadm dpo vikrtam hitvy dgid dnu vratdm savitur daivyasya (6) Since to have the obedience of everyone, the high, broadpalmed god stretches forth his arms,24 under his rule (vratd) even the waters are still, even this wind rests in its circulation. Even the one who goes with swift (horses) now unharnesses (them); he has made even the wanderer rest from his journeying; he has checked the eagerness even of those who dart like snakes (? ahydrsu): in accordance with Savitr's rule (vratd), the Release25has come. Savitr in the Rg Veda must be distinguished from the sun, but that "der Schwerpunkt der Aktivitat Savitrs liegt also zu Beginn der Nacht" (ibid., 13), as Bergaigne also observed (see n. 1). Falk identifies Savitr with the Milky Way, as it touches the horizon in India around twilight at the summer solstice, which links Savitr with the rainy season and the opening of the period of Veda study. 24 In this image of two extended arms, Falk sees the two halves of the Milky Way rising from the horizon at dusk at the summer solstice (as he calculates that they did in north India in the second millennium B.C.), signalling the start of the rainy season. 25 m6kl, lit., "release" (hapax legomenon); generally understood to mean 'nightfall'. Falk (ibid., 28-29) sees a doubleentendre throughoutthe verse. The first line refers to the wind in the midspace, and also to the rapacious vratyas as they desist from their raids at the start of the monsoon. Likewise, the is both peacock and vratyabearing ahydrsu("SchlangenspieBer")

LUBIN: Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


The adventurer(jigisu) who has gone far away turns back; the desire of all who wander has turnedhomeward.26 Everyone has come back, leaving his work unfinished, in accordance with the rule (vrata) of the divine (daivya) Savitr. even those He rules over all things, and none-not inclined to lawlessness, not even the gods themselves these vratas (cf. 7cd). (v. 9)-violate The special character of Savitr's vrata is indicated by his name. He is generally called Deva Savitr, which, though it serves as a name, is clearly a descriptive title: "heavenly impeller" or "impeller god." This literal sense was recognized by the poets, who frequently adjoined other forms of the root su- ("impel, stimulate, arouse") to the name, as in the very first line of the present hymn: "The Impeller God (Deva Savitr), the Driver (vdhni), has gotten up to give impulse, as is continually his task" (id u syd devdh savita savaya sasvattamdm tddapd vdhnir asthat [lab]).27 Brereton has noted that the terms (pra)savd and sdviman seem to function as synonyms for vratd, especially in the context of Savitr.28 I would rather say that these terms clarify the particular nature of Savitr's vrata: to impel. Savitr's impulse is not merely inspiration or stimulation; it is an enlivening energy that propels things and beings to action and brings them to rest in good time. Yet even if this energy is virtually irresistible, it is not prinexactly the same as vrata in general-compelling for instance, it is never ciple, law, or authority-since, said to be violated or followed.29 On the other hand, Savitr's epithet satydsava points to the nature of his vrata, indicating that his impulse is efficacious: "Whatever he with his lovely fingers set in motion (si-) upon the breadth of the earth and on heaven's height, that (effect) of his is real (satydm asya tat)" (ydt prthivya vdrimann a svahgurir vdrsman divdahsuvdti satydm asya tdt [4.54.4cd]). By his impulse, the Impeller, like Varuna in 1.25.1, has the power to remove the guilt of human error: the staff tied with snake-skin. He notes that mdki can then suggest the "Befreiung" from the vrata (ritual rule of conduct) to which they normally adhere. All this is in line with his interpretationof the hymn as an evocation of the onset of the rainy season. 26 Falk (ibid., 30) takes this line to have the vratya as its subject, and sees double meanings throughoutthe verse. 27 A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Strassburg: Trubner, 1898), 34. 28 Brereton, 308-14. 29 For this reason, I would avoid Brereton's translations of (pra)savd and sdviman as "compulse" or "compelling commandment,"which obscure the distinctive aspects of Savitr's activity by assimilating it fully to the notion of vrata.

dcitti ydc cakrma daivye jane dinair ddksaihprdbhFtipirusatvdti devesu ca savitar manusesu ca tvdm no dtra suvatad andgasah (4.54.3) If we have acted thoughtlessly before the divine folk, by (our) weak intelligence, by (our feeble) power, (our mere) humanness, among both gods and men, O Savitr, impel us (si-) (to become) guiltless here. Savitr's regular advent correlates with specific ritual obligations on the part of worshipers30 (the offspring of Manu), which, when fulfilled, entitle men to a share of what the gods enjoy: dbhad devdh savita vdndyo nd na iddnim dhna upavacyo nrbhih vi y6 rdtnd bhdjati manavebhyah srestham no dtra drdvinam ydtha dddhat devebhyo hi prathamdmyajiiyebhyo 'mrtatvdmsuvdsi bhagdm uttamdm d id d damanam savitar vy urnuse 'nicina jivita manusebhyah (4.54.1-2) Arisen is the Impeller God whom we should praise, whom men should address at this time of the day-who distributes wealth to the offspring of Manu-so that he may lay before us here the best goods. While, first, you send (su-) immortality, as the highest share, for the venerable gods, then, O Savitr, you reveal (your) gift to humans: lives upon lives.31 Savitr gives to religiously observant men a gift only slightly less wonderful than what he has already given the gods, an idea found also in 2.38.1: "While now he distributes wealth to the gods, so he provides the offering-maker a share in well-being (svastf)" (nind.m devebhyo vi hi dhdti rdtnam dthdbhajad vltihotram svastau); and in verse 5ab of 4.54, where Savitr provides mountains for the gods and houses for men.32 Man's ritual obligation is suggested in verse 6ab: "Your thrice-daily impellings (savd), which send (a-su-) By "worshiper"I mean the yajamana, the sponsor of Vedic rites. 31 I.e., the regular succession of generations, from father to son, which is the early Vedic conception of worldly immortality. This ideal is enunciated in a series of wisdom verses in AiB 7.13 (33.1). 32 In a somewhat elliptical verse: indrajyesthan brhddbhyah pdrvatebhyah ksdyami ebhyah (sc. men) suvasi pastyavatah. See Brereton, 94-96, n. 45; Ralph L. Turner,A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979), s.v. 8017. 30


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

(ye te trir dhan savitah good fortune day by day..." savaso dive-dive saubhagam dsuvdnti). This verse con-

tains a word-play: savd is both 'impelling' and '[soma-] pressing', so Savitr's impellings correspond to the times for pressing the soma. Both 2.38 and 4.54 begin by pointing to the evening, at the third soma pressing, as the time when Savitr arrives to provide a share of the gods' wealth. In this case, verse 2 quantifies this gift in terms of life: just as he brings about immortality (amrtatvd) for the gods, he gives to "the descendants of Manu" (manusa, i.e., the community of worshipers) "lives in due sequence" (ancinad jivitdh), that is, the unending sequence of generations. In this hymn, the poet expresses many of Savitr's actions by the verb sii- (the root of savd, etc.): he stimulates, impels, and sets gifts in motion to gods and men. And this activity produces enduring, real (satyd) effects (v. 4): the gods he directs to reside in the mountains;humans, in their households. The assignment of a proper place to each being, which other gods accomplish by other means (that embody their vratas), is here the result of Savitr's impulse (savd) (v. 5). Agni If Varunaand Savitr rule from on high, Agni's vratas, while no less grand and world-shaping, spring from a much nearer and more tangible source: the fire itself, Agni's body. Agni's household presence is invoked at the time of Savitr's evening savd (2.38.5ab): "In various houses, a whole life long, stands forth Agni's mighty,
household flame" (nanaiukdmsi dturyo visvam ayur vi tisthate prabhavdh soko agneh). Agni's own vratas

again and again on earth whenever fire is lit, whenever a sacrifice is prepared. Agni is not just the effective agent of sacrificial offering; he is also the luminous signal of worship, indicating the occasion and place of worship: "Agni appears with pious intention (dhf) as the ancient beacon of worship, for his aim is to cross (between the worlds)" (agnir
dhiya sd cetati ketdr yajndsya purvydh / drtham hy asya

taradni [3.11.3]). Agni's shining flame is emblematic of the worshiper's ardent wish to please the gods-he embodies dhl, inward vision or insight that leaps up in inspired words of praise. It is this dual ritual role in the household-of embodying the prayer and carrying the offering, conveying them both to heaven-that justifies his being called "the undeceivable leader, the swift ever-new chariot of the tribes of the descendants of Manus" (ddibhyah puraeta visam agnir manusinam / turmnrdthah sddi ndvah

[3.11.5]). We shall see below that, because his divine activity (his serving as messenger between earth and heaven) belongs so fully to the ritual sphere, his vratas often must be understood as rules governing men's ritual duties as well. These rules are what distinguish the tribes of Manu from the Dasyus, the pious from "those not governed by the rules of worship" (avratd, dpavrata).33 Indra The rushing waters are girls (yuvat), ever young, united in Indra'srule:
sanat sdnild avdnir avdtd vrata raksante amrtah sdhobhih purd sahdsra janayo nd pdtnir duvasydnti svdsaro dhrayanam (1.62.10). From of old the immortal, unquenched, sibling streams, by

manifest his krdtu (intention), which gives rise to his characteristic activities:
vratd te agne mahatd mahani tdva krdtva r6dasi a tatantha tvdmduto abhavojayamdnas tvdmnetd vrsabha carsaninam (3.65)

the manythousand (their)force,havekeptthe ordinances; sisters,like married women,aredevotedto the boldone. The "bold one" is Indra, by whose authority the waters flow as they do. Their powers (sdhas) are the force of their currents,34 and these demonstrate the zeal of their 33 Schmidt, 93-98, surveyspassageswiththeseterms.

Thelaws(vratd) of you,thegreatone,aregreat,O Agni:by the two worlds.As you were your will you have spanned theleaderof beingborn,O bull,youbecamethemessenger, the peoples. Agni's characteristicact is to move between heaven and earth, providing a conduit for men's offerings to reach the world of the gods. Agni willingly serves as the worshiper's messenger to the gods, bringing invitation to the sacrifice. "[When you were] being born (jayamana)" suggests a primordialmoment when he "became (abhavah)" messenger and leader, when his vratas were established. But it also points to the fact that Agni is born

34 K. F Geldner (Der Rig-Veda aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche ibersetzt. HOS 33-35 [Cambridge,Mass.: HarvardUniv. Press, 1951] [= RVU], 1: 82) construes this verse differently: "Seit alters halten die verschwisterten Str6me, die unsterblichen, die durch keine Gewalten bezwungen werden, seine Gebote. Viele tausend Schwestern beeifern sich (um ihn) wie vermahlte Frauen um den nicht Schiichteren." Sayana glosses avdnih with "the fingers," i.e., the fingers of the offerer that

LUBIN: Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


devotion to the god. As it happens, several verses clearly show that Indra's vratas govern the waters (1.101.3, 2.24.12, 7.47.3, 8.40.8), but this is also sometimes said of the vratds of other gods (e.g., of Soma in 9.82.5). In fact, the obedience of the waters might be considered a trope used of divine vratds in general. The special character of Indra'svratas emerges more clearly in verses that recall his heroism. In particular, the soma-offerer is keen to invite him "who alone is preeminent by his wondrous deeds, great and mighty
by his vratas" (yd eko dsti damsdnd mahami ugrd abhi

King Soma, have mercyon us with your blessing;know thatwe areyourdevotees.Intelligence (ddksa)andexcitement(manyt)arestirring (withinus), O Drop;do not hand us overcapriciously to the stranger (i.e., ourrival). Sinceyou, O Soma,protector of ourbody,havesatdownin eachlimb as an overseer(nrcdksas), if we violateyourorhavemercyon us kindly,as a goodfriend,O god. dinances, The second line of stanza 8 describes the effect of drinking the soma juice, which probably constitutes Soma's blessing (svasti). Drinking soma presupposes pressing the soma ritually, a complex gesture of homage to the god Soma. Stanza 9 clarifies the relationship between the soma-presser and the god. The human soma-drinker is subject to King Soma's laws because Soma, by pervading the whole body of the devotee and filling it with vital energy, becomes governor of that body. Soma observes men (nrcdksas) from an intimate vantage point. Whereas Varuna and Mitra and Savitr are said to supervise men from heaven, Soma does so from within the body itself!36 If the devotee then violates Soma's laws, we should note (recalling 1.25.1) that the violation arises from a typical human failing in the face of divine vratas in general, and not from a singular occurrence: "Indeed, I violate your ordinances through simpleness, O Soma. So be merciful to us, as a father to a son" (utd
vratani soma te prdhdm mindmi pdkya / ddha piteva sindve ... mrladno abhi. .. [10.25.3abce]).

vrataih [8.1.27ab]), "Indra, whose great manliness Heaven and Earth (strengthen),35in whose rule (vratd) are Varuna and Surya, whose rule the rivers follow"
(ydsya dyavdprthivf paiumsyam mahdd ydsya vrate vdruno ydsya suryah / ydsyendrasya sindhavah sa's'cati

vratdm [1.101.3abc]). These verses set vratda parallel, in poetic phrasing, with Indra's marvelous activity (damsdnd) and virility (paumsya). This parallelism clarifies the special nature of Indra'svrata, much as it helped us connect Savitr's vratds with his impulse ([pra]savd).

Soma, who is both god and the plant that provides the drink of immortality, is generally described in the context of the ritual of pressing the plants, offering the juice in sacrifice, and drinking it. Thus, when the poet says, "King Soma, have mercy on us with (your) blessing; know that we are your devotees," he speaks on behalf of himself and other good worshipers who are dedicated to Soma's ordinance or ritual observance (8.48.8ab). In the
phrase tdva smasi vratyas tdsya viddhi, vratya denotes one

who follows Soma's vratd.But what sort of vrata is that? The answer appears when we consider the whole thought:
s6ma rajan mrldya nah svasti tdva smasi vratyas tdsya viddhi alarti ddksa utd manytir indo md no aryo anukmdampdra dah tvdm hi nas tanvah soma gopa gatre-gatre nisasdtthd nrcdksdh vratani sd no mrla susakhd deva ydt te vaydm praminadma vdsyah (8.48.8-9) assist him in making offerings, a common idea in ritual discussions. Given Sayana's assumption that the vratas are "rites connected with Indra"(indrasambandhinikarmdni), this reading is reasonable. 35 Sc. vardhatah; cf. 8.15.8, etc. I thank a reviewer for the Journal for this reference.

The bulk of the Rigvedic hymns to Soma are those of Mandala 9, which address Soma Pavamana, Soma as he purifies himself (as the pressed juice flows through the woolen strainer).These hymns form an explicitly "liturgical" text, a hymnal for the soma-pressingceremony. In this context, Soma, like Agni, crosses between the realms of the gods and of men:
Is'nd imd bhtivanani viyase yujind indo haritah suparnyah ta2ste ksarantu mddhumadghrtdm pdyas tdva vrate soma tisthantu krstdyah (9.86.37) As master you traversethese worlds, O Drop, yoking (your)

fine-wingedbay mares. May the peoples pour out the 36 Cf. 9.70.4d,whereSomathusoverseesbothgodsandmen:
"as overseer (nrcdksas), (Soma) supervises both the tribes (i.e., divine and human)" (ubhe nrcdksa dnu pasyate visau). Translations of the adjective nrcdksas vary: Whitney: "surveyor of

"mit Herrscheraugen"; Renou:"au regardde men";Geldner:

maitre" (Etudes vddiques et pdnineennes, 18 vols. [Paris: Institut de civilisation indienne, 1955-69] [= EVP]). "Overseer"is a compromise.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001) In none of the verses and hymns to Soma are we ever far from the actions of the sacrificial ritual. The vratd followed by the vratyi of 8.48.8 (above) implies not merely some abstract conception of the god Soma's agency in the world, but the regular observance of the rules of soma ritual, by means of which Soma's divine potential is activated on behalf of men. In a hymn (10.57) entreating the gods and ancestors for long life, on the occasion of a soma sacrifice (v. 3), the poet begins: "Let us not depart from the path, nor from sacrifice of the soma-offerer, O Indra"(ma prd gdma pathd vaydm ma yajdnd indra somfnah ... [lab]). The hymn ends (v. 6): "May we, O Soma, follow in your ordinance (vratd), bearing mind in (our) bodies (and) having
offspring" (vaya'm soma vrate tdva mdnas tanusu bibh-

honeyedghee (and)the milk for you; may they remainin 0 Soma. yourrule(vratd), Remaining under the rule of Soma means making sacrificial offerings in the soma rites. Rule as governance takes concrete form as a rule of conduct, a ritual precept incumbent upon the five peoples (lit., "plowings," krstiO. If all the gods delight in Soma's vrata (9.102.5), it is because this means drinking the soma-drinkthat is offered to them in worship. In 9.61.24 Soma Pavamana is encouraged to be vigilant over (jdgrhi) his vratas; he is enjoined in 9.53.3 to smash him who attacks his vratas, which are "not to be challenged by the evil-minded" (nddhr'se.. . dudhya); in 9.70.4 he protects "the vratas of the lovely ambrosia": especially the latter passage, which alludes to the soma-drink,suggests that the vratas meant in such verses are ritual institutions, rather than abstractcosmic laws. Finally, the movement of the flowing soma-juice as it is pressed and strained in the rites provides the basis for three overlapping analogies:
isur nd dhdnvan prdti dhiyate matir vatso nd mdtdr tupa sarjy ddhani duhe dgra ayaty dsya vratesv dpi sdma isyate uriudhdreva

ratah /prajavantah sacemahi). The ritual context makes it clear that Soma's vrata implies the offering of soma sacrifices. The ideal of following in the vrata is explicated by the first verse: not straying from the path, which is the worship ritual (yajid) of the soma-offerer. Summary The vratas of the gods constitute a manifestation of divine will in the "natural"patterns and processes of phenomena (such as the flow of water) in the observable world. The "way the world is" then is seen as a confirmationof divine agency. More particularly,the vratas of individual gods reflect the primaryattributeor special function associated with each deity. Hence, Varuna's vrata makes him protector of what is right and true, and punisher of wrong-doers; Savitr's vrata is perceived in his instigation of activity and in all things in the world, as well as its suspension at set times; Agni's vrata is to serve as a link between men and the gods, between earth
and heaven; Indra's vratd is to display manly strength and power; Soma's is to fill the earth and the worshiper with Indra-like bodily vigor and quasi-immortality by flowing in the ritual. RV 9.112.1 recognizes that vratas (human, but also divine) naturally differ: nanandm vd u no dhiyo vi vratani jdndndm tdksa ristdm rutam bhisdg brahmd sunvdntam ichatindrayendo pdri srava Our thoughts are various; the rules (vratd) of men diverge:

(9.69.1) As an arrowuponthe bow, the thoughtis placed;it is let as a (cow) of broad loose, as a calf to its mother's udder; streams, comingat the head(of the herd),he gives milkto/inthis (worshiper)'s observances too, does Soma (vratd), gush.37 When soma stalks are placed upon the pressing stones, a thought, a prayer, an intention is conceived-embodied physically in the plant, the potential offering. As the juice is pressed, the arrow (the prayer) is set in motion toward its mark, and, in another sense, Soma hastens toward the sacrifice like a hungry calf to the cow. Finally, the poet likens the pressing of the stalks to the cow that eagerly rushes milking of a "broad-streamed" milked. In the last line, the poet "translates"these images for us: Soma eagerly flows toward his vratds, which we must again take to mean-most immediately, anyway-the ritual observances themselves. 37 Padad has given rise to divergent Geldinterpretations.
ner, RVU, 3: 59: "Zu den Werken dieses [in a footnote: "des Dichters oder des Opfernden?"] ist der Soma erwiinscht"; Renou, EVP, 9: 18: "le soma se met-en-marche vers les obligations-rituelles de (l'officiant que) voici" (cf. note, p. 77).

the carpenter seeks whatis broken; the doctor,a sick man; the priest,a soma-presser; O Drop,flow roundfor Indra! Vratdhere is a habitual occupation, profession, or regular pursuit. It is a function of will, but of a mundane ratherthan divine or pious sort. The opening lines have

Note thatbothauthorities assumea ritualmeaning for vratesu. The locativecouldalso mean"in his observances."

LUBIN: Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


the sound of a maxim, illustrating a truism of common experience. And the refrain, providing the transition to a divine context, encourages Soma Pavamana-Soma being purified for offering-to follow his own inclination and profession: to flow for Indra.

the bright Thejoyful god Agni with his chariotembraces

dwellings with might. May we, in (our) home, attend with well-turned verses to

the vratdsof him who nourishes many. Agni's governing and beneficent presence (pari-bhu-) "with his might" in every human habitation is cited as the justification for men to attend to (upa-bhus-) his vratas with the fruits of their mental powers, the "wellturned verses." The domestic setting, in both halves of the verse, points to the centrality of the fire service as the basis of this reciprocity. When Agni is acting in his priestly capacity, his vrata is spoken of as a course of ritual that he proceeds to (pra-i-) (cf. the later use of upa-i- with vrata):
eti prd htad vratdm asya maydyordhvam dddhdnah 'ticipesasam dhiyam abhi srucah kramatedaksinavrtoyd asya dhamaprathamdm ha nfmsate (1.144.1)

In the passages examined so far, the vrata has been a patternof divine agency and authoritydistinctive of each god's character. Collectively, they define a cosmic and social order that calls for a human response: for righteousness and ritual piety, in general. In many cases, especially in hymns to Agni and Soma, the word vratd takes on a ritual significance, although we still have not reached its late-Vedic meaning: a class of specific observances ancillary to the business of ritual worship (yajia). Yet we may identify even in the Rg Veda some passages that anticipate that meaning by explicitly associating the vrata with a concrete set of rites.38These passages often take the form of a more or less formulaic reference to a divine vrata that is juxtaposed with a specific ritual activity, such that the parallelism appears to explain the vrata. We have seen this already in the hymns to Soma: "May the peoples pour out the honeyed ghee (and) the milk for you; may they remain in your rule (vratd), 0 Soma" (tas te ksarantu mddhumadghrtdm pdyas tdva vrate soma tisthantu krstdyah [9.86.37cd]). Similarly, the poet of RV 2.8.3 speaks of a vrata of regular ritual service when he invokes Agni, "who is praised for his beauty in houses at dusk and dawn, whose ordinanceis not violated... " (yd u sriya ddmesu
a doso6sdsi prasasyate / ydsya vratd'm nd mfyate). This

The priest[Agni]goes forthto his observance (vratd)with

(divine) ability, sending up his brightly adornedthought; he ladles, which are the very approachesthe rightward-turning first to kiss his [Agni's] dwelling-place.

line points to the agnihotra (or its archaic prototype), the simple offering into the fire at the morning and evening twilights. The vrata here is not simply a distant, heavenly matter, but is fulfilled ddmesu, in households, which is where Agni carries out much of his work. RV 3.3.9 poetically illustrates the reciprocity between the gods and men that inheres in ritual practice:
vibhdvd devdh surdnah pdri ksitir agnir babhava sdvasa sumddrathah tdsya vratani bhariposino vaydm upa bhisema ddma a suvrktibhih

Agni's vrata here is at once his ordained divine function and the mundanepriestly function.39 Agni himself is still the (divine) actor here, but the vrati should be understood as the regularprogramof worship. Other passages make explicit the idea that the deity's vrata belongs also to those who perform services of worship to that deity. In 1.128.1, Agni's vrata is twinned with the human ritualist's vrata, which reflects and mimics its divine prototype:
ayd'mjayata mdnuso dhdrimani h6ta ydjistha usijim dnu vratdm agnih svdm dnu vratdm visvdsrustih sakhiyate rayir iva sravasyate ddabdho h6td ni sadad ilds pade pdrivita ilds pade

He was bornin Manus' establishment (dhdriman)40-Agni,

best-worshiping offering-priest (hotr) according to the rule (vratd) of those who are zealous, according to his own rule

38 In fact, scholasticauthorities vratd frequently regarded as a synonym forkdrman, withYaska,who virtually beginning Nirukta2.13 (on RV 3.59.2 and gives this gloss consistently: 1.24.15= VS 12.12), 11.23 (on RV 10.64.5), 12.32 (on RV 9.73.3), 12.45(on RV5.46.7=AV 7.49.1).

39 Sayana understands a human priest here, but also considers the possibility that Agni himself is being called the hotr-

of the gods. priestin thathe is the invoker(ahvatr)

40 dhdriman here may refer concretely to Manus' ritual arena, which he has "set up" (a reading supported by padas f and g), or more abstractly to the ritual institutions that Manus embraces.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001) guide ("the one has appeared who is best at finding the way to go, in whom [the gods] set the rules," ddarsi gatuvittamo ydsmin vratani ddadhiuh[8.103[93].lab]). Agni will be confirmed in this role in later mantra and brahmanatexts, where the scope of the vrata is radically narrowed to apply only to the yajamdna, the "worshiper" who sponsors the yajia. The worshiper declaring his adoption of the vrata regimen for an isti service invokes the aid of Agni "Vratabhrt" (Bearer of Vratas), and declares his intention to Agni "Vratapati"(Lord of the Vrata):"O Agni, Lord of the Regimen, I will take up the regimen. We declare it to you; guard it for us. May we be equal to it" (dgne vratapate vratdm alapsye tdt te
prdbrtmas tdn no gopiya tani sakeyam [MS 1.4.1; cf.

(vratd).He who has the obedienceof all41(comes)to him as wealth (comes) to one who who seeks his friendship, has sat down seeks glory.The undeceivable offering-priest at the placeof libation(id), enrobed at (withtheparidhis?) the placeof libation. Agni's vratd is placed in apposition to the vrata of "the zealous ones" (usfj)-those who are willing and eager to praise and sacrifice. Indeed, Agni himself is elsewhere described with this word (RV 1.60.4; 3.2.4, 9; 3.3.7, 8; 3.27.10; 10.45.7): "He is the immortal offering-bearer,
the eager (usij), well-disposed messenger . . " (sd hav-

yaval dmartya usfg dutds cdnohitah [3.11.2]). Vedic ritualists, the descendants of Manus, carry on the age-old tradition (viz., the dhdriman) of fire-offering (see below), made possible by Agni's exemplary and benevolent service as the best of offering-makers (h6tr), for which he is often praised. Adhering to Agni's vrata becomes a criterion of belonging to the society of those who are obedient to Agni and who seek his friendship (1.128.1c). Those who adhere to Agni's ritual rule by performing sacrifices (yajia)-namely, Manus' tribes, mdanuso visah)receive his aid, while those who do not adopt this rule are overcome:
agnim hataram llate yajinsu mdnuso visah nand hy agne 'vase spdrdhante rdyo arydh turvanto ddsyum tydvo vrataih s'ksanto avratdm (6.14.2cd-3)

Manus'tribes venerateAgni the offering-priest in (their) services(yajfid). worship Forin various vie for (your) waystherichesof the stranger aid, O Agni. The Ayus overcomethe Dasyu, seeking to
defeat the vratd-less with vratds.

In this passage, the avratd Dasyu is defined by his lack of the ritual observance that is the basis of the success of those who revere Agni. In recognition of his indispensable ritual role, Agni is regarded as the god in charge of all the divinely ordained rules ("all the fixed rules [vratd] that the gods made meet in you," tve visva sdmgatani vrata dhruva yani devaldkrnvata [1.36.5]), as well as the pious man's
41 Renoutranslates as "pretant oreille a toutes visvda'rustih

TS 1.6.7, KS 31.15, MS 1.4.5, SB]).42 A similar formula is used by the new brahmacirin during his initiation into the vrata of brahmacarya (e.g., MB 1.6.1014): "Agni, Lord of the Regimen, I will follow the regimen (vratam carisyami). . ." In verses addressed to Soma or Indra, the ritual dimensions of vrati are often those of the soma pressing. We have seen that Soma's vratas are discussed so fully within the rubric of the ritual that it is difficult to form a more abstract idea of them. Standing in Soma's law means making offerings (9.86.37); following in Soma's ordinance implies sticking to the path of the somasacrificer (10.57.1-6). The soma-juice itself rushes eagerly to the vratais-that is, the ritual observances-of the soma-sacrificer, like a cow eager to be milked, like a calf eager to suckle, like an arrowoff the bow (9.69.1). The vratya of 8.48.8-the observer of Soma's vrata-is the soma-sacrificer; indeed, this word comes close to vratacdrin (first appearance:RV 7.103.1). Indra'svratas, in turn, are typically mentioned in connection with the Soma rites, for the soma drink is a key factor in Indra's manliness, and is a source of strength and immortality for the human ritualist, as in 1.83.3:
ddhi dvdyor adadha ukthyam vdco yatdsruca mithund yd saparydtah dsamyatto vrate te kseti pisyati bhadrd saktir ydjamdnaya sunvate You have placed a speech full of praise on the two, the couple

whowaiton (you),holding outtheladle;unopposed, he lives andthrives in yourrule(vratd); (your)goodpoweris forthe

worshiperwho presses (soma for you).

choses"(EVP,12:30), andGeldner (RVU,1: 178)andSchmidt Worter(p. 66) read"allerh6rend" (followingH. Grassmann, buchzumRigveda[Leipzig:F A. Brockhaus, 1872-75], col.,
1305), but I think we must understand it in the context of

Living in Indra's vrata here implies pressing the soma and making offerings of it. From this regularobservance
The Padapatha reads: tdt chakeyam and singular verbs.

2.38.1 and 1.69.7,wheresrustiseems to denote"compliance" or "obedience."

I sakeyam; KS

4.14 has tdc


Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


of the ritual, the worshiperpartakesof the god's blessed power, his manliness and vigor. There are besides these a few exceptional cases where the word vratd is (or may be) meant in one of the technical senses in which it occurs in the ritual codes. The famous "Frog Hymn" at the end of Mandala 7 of the Rg Veda, begins by comparing the frogs revived by the monsoon rains to "brahmins following a vratd" (brahmana vrataciarnah, 7.103.1), alluding both to the beginning of the "school year" (v. 5) and to the commencing of a Soma sacrifice (using the technical term atirdtrd in v. 7). Both these events call for the observance of a vrata: that of the brahmacarinand that of the diksita, respectively. The hymn can hardly be referring to anything else, although this is the only unambiguous case of the term used in this sense in the Rg Veda. Another stanza praises the cow that provides milk for the offerings as vrata-ni:
yd gaur vartanim paryeti niskrtdm pdyo duhana vratantr avardtah sa prabruvand vdrundya dgsuse devebhyo dasad dhavisi vivdsvate (10.65.6) The cow that travels the path to the appointed place, giving milk, bringing the vratd hither, let her, announcing (the offering) to Varuna [and] to the worshiper, offer worship with the oblation to the gods, to Vivasvat. Of course, vratd in this compound may simply be "divine ordinance" in the abstract, but the concrete, ritual setting, and the juxtaposition with milk-giving, provide a basis for interpreting the compound as "carrying out the rule" of the worship service (as Geldner suggests). It is quite conceivable that in this instance vratd might designate the milk-preparation allotted to the diksita as his sole sustenance during the course of the sacrificemilk which is supposed to be taken from a designated cow. In any case, the verb ni- is not otherwise used with vratd to mean "carry out" or "follow."43 This would not be the only case of a term known otherwise from the srauta ritual literature making a rare appearance in the 43 Geldner (RVU, 3: 238) and Renou (EVP, 5: 57) read vrata-ni as "die Vorschrift ausfiihrend" and "qui conduit le voeu (divin)," respectively. Schmidt (p. 69) points out that ninever means "ausfiihren"and so rejects Geldner's reading. The Petersburgdictionary (0. von Bohtlingk and R. von Roth, Sanskrit-Worterbuch, 7 vols. [St. Petersburg: Buchdruckerei der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1855-75], s.v.) offers "die Vrata-milch ftihrend" as a possibility for vratani, but Schmidt, who considers the phrase "ganz ungewiB," is inclined to doubt that this technical usage goes back so far.

Rg Veda; atiratrd (7.103.7) is another, more obvious example. Moreover, it makes sense to speak of the lowing cow as announcing the imminent offerings both to the gods and to the yajamana (the disvds): her lowing as she is brought to be milked signals the start of the yajamana's diksd fast, which, in turn, marks the start of the soma ritual. Her milk might normally be offered in the daily Agnihotras; the vrata-milk is equated with the Agnihotra oblation, and actually replaces it during the soma performance.44 Figuratively speaking, by providing this milk she herself becomes a worshiper making an oblation of her own (ddsad dhavisd)! A (probably later) hymn from the Atharva Veda mentions a vrata that seems to be a specific ritual. In AV 4.11, the sun, addressed metaphorically as the draft-ox (anadvdh), surveys the cattle (i.e., all living creatures?); "milks out" all beings, past, present, and future (bhutadm bhavisydd bhuvand duhdnah); and supports, measures out, and pervades "the three paths" (earth, midspace, and heaven) (vv. 1-2). It thereby "follows all the vratas of the gods" (sdrvd devand.m carati vratdni) (v. 2). What is important here is that the sun/draft-ox is also called a "heated hot milk pot" (gharmds taptdh) (v. 3), indeed, "that gharmd which is four-footed" (gharmdm ... yatamds cdtuspat) (v. 5). The gharmd is the clay pot that is heated on a fire, filled with milk, and then poured out in offering (mixed cow's and goat's milk for the Asvins, and then curds for Indra) during the Pravargya rite.45 The gharmd is mentioned in the Rg Veda; it was probably

44 On the vrata-cow and the vrata-milk, see, for example, SB, BSS 6.6-7, BhSS 10.9.11-10.11.14; on the vratamilk = Agnihotra, see KB 7.3. 45 For the Pravargyarite, see J. A. B. van Buitenen, The Pravargya: An Ancient Indian Iconic Ritual Described and Annotated (Poona: Deccan College, 1968); Stella Kramrisch, "The Mahavira Vessel and the Plant Putika,"JAOS 95 (1975): 22235; Jan Houben, The Pravargya Brdhmana of the Taittiriya Aranyaka (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991), 21-25 (esp. nn. 39-41), 34-35, 131, n. 153; and idem, "On the Earliest Attestable Forms of the PravargyaRitual: Rg-Vedic references to the Gharma-Pravargya,Especially in the Atri-family Book (Book 5)," Indo-Iranian Journal 43 (2000): 9-33. The heating of the vessel capturesthe heat and brightness of the sun, and transfers it to the worshiper.The Pravargyamantrasand brahmana-also known by the older name sukriyaniin the Taittiriyacorpus-are a part of the saumya kanda, study of which itself requires the observance of the sukriya vrata. Thus, study of the Pravargya passages required a double strengtheningof the brahmacarya. (This avantaradlksd is distinct from that the soma sacrifice, which is an intensification of the diksa regimen before the actual soma pressing.)


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

an independent rite, but was later made ancillary to the soma ritual. This hymn mentions a vratai"of the hotmilk pot" and "of the draft-ox":
yena devah svar druruhurhitva sdriram am.tasya ndbhim tena gesma sukrtdsya lokdm gharmdsya vratena tdpasd yasasydvah (6) dvddasa vd eta ratrir vrdtya ahuh prajdpateh tdtrdpa brdhmay6 veda tdd vd anaduho vratdm (11)

diksa of the srauta system insofar as it is a vrata linked with a specific offering. These latter regimens purify and symbolically divinize the worshiper through his observance of ascetic discipline so that he may approachthe gods in the yajna. Like the brahmacdrin'svrata, they are rules overseen by Agni Vratapati,who is invoked to witness and aid the practitioner'spious toil.46

to heaven,quitting By meansof whomthe gods ascended the body,to the navelof the immortal, by him may we go deeds,by meansof desiring gloryto theworldof well-done the regimenof the hot-milk-pot vratena),by (gharmdsya meansof fervor(tdpasa). of Prajapati (rdtrir They say that these regimen-nights aretwelve;he whoknowsthatbrahman is in thatvrdtydh) thatis the "regimen of the draft-ox (anaduho vratdm)." If the gharmd/draft-oxis a divinity, then the meaning of 'divine law' might apply. But the juxtaposition with tdpas, 'fervor', encourages us to envision a ritual context, since tdpas is the product of strenuous activity, especially sacrificial activity. But what ritual context? Does the gharmd here pertain to the Pravargyarite (or its presrauta ancestor)? The three milkings mentioned in verse 12, on the other hand, correspond to the three somapressings. Considering that the draft-ox has earlier been identified with Indra, there is reason to think the soma sacrifice is meant. Here, perhaps, the vrataiis not simply commitment to
ritual practice, but a formal ritualized consecration for the diksd observed by the soma worworship-viz.,

shiper for the duration of the ceremonies. The fourteenth-centurycommentatorSayana glosses tapas as that "which arises from observing the rules of diksd, etc.,
and from fasting and so forth" (tapasa diksadiniyamajanitena anasanadind ca). He quotes TS and KS

23.6 as evidence that the consecration lasts twelve nights-hence, the twelve nights of the "draft-ox's vratd" (v. 11). Alternatively, there is Jan Houben's suggestion that this gharmdsya vratd refers to the avan-

In the Rg Vedawe encounter the vratd as a fundamental attribute of divine authority, a law determining the shape and patternsof the physical and social world. Each deity's vratds are distinctive, manifesting that deity's characteristic activity. Divine vratas also call for conformity in human behavior, particularly in the form of ritual observance. Certain verses-particularly those devoted to Agni, Soma, and Indra, the primary recipients of sacrificial offerings-require a reading of vrata as a routine practice of sacrificial service which the patronof the offering has an obligation to perform. Moreover, in such verses (examined in the last section) the vrata is the rule of performing specific rites, such as Agnihotra (in the case of Agni) and the soma sacrifice (for Indra or Soma). To be in the god's vrat--and thereby to receive his blessings (and avert his wrath)-is to follow the prescribed course of worship. In most cases (i.e., except in RV 7.103 and perhaps 10.65), there is still no indication of what this observance requires beyond the offerings themselves, but the idea is there that yajia entails conformity to a divine model, a conformity that must be consciously adopted and maintained as an act of allegiance and obedience to the deity. In the Rg Veda, the ritual vrata appears to apply to all ritual participants, and is not restricted to the yajamdna until the period representedin the literatureof the YajurVeda. In AV 4.11.6 and 11, the vrata attains a form resembling the "classical" one, namely, a temporary ascetic regimen serving as a consecration for making a particular type of oblation, a regimen resembling the vrata of
brahmacarya (attested amply in AV 11.5 and SB 11.5.4) and the srauta vrata and diksd as described in the Yajur

taradiksd, an intensification of the Veda student's general vrata of brahmacarya and the required regimen prescribed for studying the mantras and brahmana of the Pravargya. Considering that none of the particular ascetic characteristics of either of those regimens is mentioned, the "draft-ox vratd" may simply be a fixed twelve-day sequence of gharmd offerings, aimed at generating tdpas and earning divine favor. But it may still be considered a step toward the isti-vrata and soma-

Veda. In these last texts, the term vrata becomes the ritual technical term that it remains thereafter.In retrospect, what the early Veda contributes to the later46 See KS23.1-6, 31.15-32.7; MS 1.4.10, 3.6.1-7; TS 1.6.7,
6.1.1-5; SB, 3.1.1-3.2.2, 11.5.4; etc. I analyze these regimens in chs. 3 and 4 of The Uses of Asceticism: Rules of Discipline in the Emergence of Classical Hinduism (to be published).


Vrata Divine and Human in the Early Veda


attested ascetical rules is the basic idea that observing a rule (vratd) of ritual service can put a human worshiper in accordance with divine laws (vratd) and thereby confer divine blessings. The Atharva Veda and the various brahmana texts combine this premise with the notion

that the observance of such rules requires sustained exertion (srama) and fervid dedication to fasting and celibacy (i.e., tapas). The ascetical vrata of the srauta ritual regularizes the notion of conformity by speaking of the ritual divinization of the yajamana.