The Science of Kingship in Ancient India, Part 30


BY: SUN STAFF - 23.8 2018

King Mrtyu (Yama, King of Death)

The religious dictates that influenced kingship in Vedic culture.


Finally we may mention a ceremony which 584) in so far resembles an anointment that the king is sprinkled with a powerful fluid 585). Actually it is in the first place a complex of rites 586) intended to keep the king in good condition and to prevent him from being hurt by evil 587); it is explicitly called the most efficacious rite for appeasing evil influences (santi-) 588) and for allaying evil portents (ulputantakara-); it is a mahgala-, a solemn auspicious ceremony producing or stimulating welfare and happiness.

In accordance with this character it should be conducted by the purohita and the astrologer (daivavid- "he who knows what comes from the divine powers"), at a time when evil portents and calamities are afflicting the realm, at the moment of an eclipse, of the appearance of a comet etc. It is considered very salutary when a ruler longs for a son, when he aspires to the position of an emperor, and also on the occasion of his inauguration; besides it is, as a matter of course, conducive to longevity, increase of progeny, and happiness. That it is no inauguration in the proper sense of the term appears from the statement that the ruler who in the same manner causes his horses and elephants to be washed —washing being the most characteristic feature of this ceremony— shall see them free from disease and as efficient as possible.

A fit place for the ceremony is some spot in the forest covered with shrubs, young trees, spreading plants, etc. and abounding with lovely and sweet-smelling trees, some wood's skirt resounding with the noises of birds, a pure (suci-) building on consecrated ground, a beautiful sandy river bank, a spot near a lake with an abundance of lotus flowers, a cow-station gay with the lowing of calves, the seaside crowded with happily arrived splendid ships, a hermitage, a house blessed with beautiful women, hallowed shrines, bathing-places, public gardens, spots with beautiful scenery, a tract of land sloping down to the north-east 589).

It may be remembered that the Indians always attach much value to the auspicious character of the place where a rite is to be performed. Forests are appropriate places for …those powers which are connected with vegetation 590) lovely and fertile spots, the sight of happy and beautiful beings, in short the presence of any representation of luck contributes to the success of a rite intended to ward off evil. The soil on which the ceremony is to be conducted should therefore, to be conducive to victory, be plain, sweet and good-smelling. After having departed by night from the town in an easterly, northernly, or northeasterly direction, the astrologer, minister and priest (yajaka-), by which term the purohita must be meant invokes all divine beings who are desirous to receive their worship, adding that after having obtained his worship they are expected to leave the next day giving appeasement (santi-) to the sovereign.

The purohita prepares the ground by drawing lines and diagrams which are assigned to various classes of powerful beings, including gods, demons, planets, ancestors, seers, and honours each of them—details which are given in detail can be passed over in silence—, performs an act of worship (puja) on an altar situated in the western part of the ground where the "bathing" (snana-) is to take place. In the corners of that altar are arranged jars covered with sprouts and fruits and containing water mixed with gems and with the substance for the washing. The choice of the plants used for that purpose is based on the principle of nomen omen 591): there is the jyotismati, lit. the brilliant, having the brilliance (of the celestial luminaries), the trayamana, lit. "the preserving" (a ficus), the abhaya "the safety" (a name of the root of the andropogon muricatum, a fragment grass which is often used in rites), the vijaya- "victory" etc. etc.; further all sorts of seed, gold, and objects held auspicious at festivities so far as available.

Next four skins—of a bull with auspicious marks who died from old age, of a red fighting bull, of a lion, of a tiger— are spread out to bear a throne. After having laid a piece of gold on it, the king who wears a new linen garment—because he is to enter upon a new stage in his life—sits down, surrounded by ministers, priests, persons of an auspicious name, etc. The purohita then pours over him the contents of the jais, whilst reciting an old prayer which runs as follows 592): "(This) glossy liquid (ajya-) is identified with tejas ("the splendour and energy of majesty"); it is the best expeller of evil; it is the food of the gods; on it the worlds are founded. Whatever evil ("sin"), earthly, atmospherical, or celestial has reached thee, let it all come to nought by contact with this ajya-".

Sprinkling him with the ritual water which is mixed with fruits and flowers, he next recites a long prayer in which a great variety of divinities and powers are invoked to sprinkle and consecrate the monarch with water which destroys all evil omens (utpata-) and bestow on him hail, long life, and health.

After having honoured the deities, taken the royal umbrella, standard 593), and weapons, the monarch puts on a new 'triumphal' attire (alahkdra-), which has been consecrated with three stanzas taken from the Yajurveda 594). These run as follows: "Bestowing a long life, splendour, increase of wealth and forcing its way towards my aims this brightly shining gold shall be attached to me for victory. This gold is not injured by any demon, for it is might of gods, and their primal offspring. Whoever wears the gold of Daksa's children lives a long life among gods and men. This ornament of gold, which Daksa's children bound with benevolent thoughts, on Satamka, I bind on me for a life of hundred years..." 595). The ruler finally honours the purohita and the astrologer with many gifts and issues an amnesty to his people, freeing the victims in the slaughter places and the prisoners.

A repeated performance of this ceremony at the time of the moon's conjunction with the lunar mansion Pusya makes happiness, renown and wealth increase. From this constellation it has its name Pusyasnana "the washing at (the conjunction of the moon with) Pusya. However, this name is an omen, pusya- meaning also nourishment", or "the best or uppermost of anything." 596)



584) Aspects of Early Visnuism, p. 100 f.

585) Varah. BS. 48.

586) Revealed by (Brahma) Svayambhu, the Self-existent, Uncreated Brahma for Indra's sake and later on handed down to a rsi for the sake of earthly kings.

587) Cf. ibid. 48, 1: because the ruler is to the people what the root is to the tree.

588) For the idea of santi- see also D. J. Hoens, Santi, Thesis Utrecht 1951.

589) I.e. the region of success and victory.

590) I refer to Meyer, Trilogie II, p. 117; III, p. 327. I

591) "Andrerseits aber werden doch gar manche solcher Pflanzen ihre Namen daher haben, dass man ihnen von vorneherein gewisse magische Krafte zuschrieb" (Meyer, Trilogie II, p. 116, n. 2).

592) Ibid. st. 52 f.

593) I must resist the temptation to enlarge upon the standard (dhvaja-) -which is among the regalia believed to be endowed with supernatural power, — reserving this subject for another publication.

594) To wit Yajasaneyi S. 34, 50 ff.

595) Daksa is in the Veda a creative power associated with Aditi. Of the investiture of Satanika no particulars have been preserved.

596) A similar ceremony is described in the Visnudh. Pur. 2, 161. Being different in a great number of details the king is actually sprinkled with melted and clarified butter; the rite is intended to make him victorious; a new and splendid garment is consecrated by the Srisukta (i.e. RV. Khila 2, 6 see J. Scheftelowitz Die Apokryphen des Rgveda, Breslau 1906, p. 72 ff.); and the Arranger of all things, Dhatar, is invoked to bestow sri- upon the ruler, etc. etc. – it is called Ghrtakambalasanti, i.e. the "appeasement with clarified butter and a blanket", a term which is also used by Varahamihira 2, 6 to indicate the pusyasnana-: the king has to put on a woollen blanket (kambala-) while the fluid is poured over him. In religious rites the use of wool is not infrequently required. In the Kausika-sutra 71, 16 f. it is used for cleansing purposes; the wristlet worn by the bride is made of it (see e.g. Kalidasa, Ragh. 16, 87) Cf. J Pley De lanae in antiquorum rtibus usu, Relig. Vers. u. Vorarb. XI, 2; X. Wolters, Notes on antique folklore, Thesis Utrecht 1935, p. 150.