[Advaita-l] A lost Vedic ritual is brought alive

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Oct 29 12:26:29 CDT 2005

On Wed, 26 Oct 2005, Abhishek RK wrote:

>  Could the scholars on this list elaborate about this Yagam? What is a
> "Snarta" Yagam? Is it "Smarta"?

I assume it is a typo for Smarta (in the broader sense of ordaine by Smrti
not in the sectarian sense.)  There is no such word as Snarta.

> Hyderabad: The ancient ritual of Ashwamedha Yagam, conducted by emperors to
> extend their domains, will be resurrected in Hyderabad on December 11. In
> the modern age, however, the ritual is intended to extend the domain of
> peace and tranquillity across the world.

No it wasn't.  It was supposed to confer blessings on the King performing
it and confirm him as a Samrat (emperor.)  As part of the vidhi, the
sacrificial horse had to wander for a year beyond the borders of the land
and the rulers of any other territory it traveled through either had to
submit to the sacrificer or be conquered by him--hardly a recipe for

> It was a popular Vedic ritual in ancient India

It was never popular.  At the most it would have been performed a couple
of times in each generation.  But that's why it left such a vivid
impression on the chroniclers of history.

> but became rare in the last
> 2,000 years. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Dr P.V. Sesha
> Sai, the yaga kartha or organiser. Ashwamedha Yagam is of two kinds — Snarta
> Ashwamedha Yagam and Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam. Kings used to perform Srouta
> Yagam and would sacrifice a horse at the end of the ritual. The Snarta Yagam
> was performed by saints without animal sacrifice.

I find this highly dubious.  There is a Smarta version of Agnihotra and
Darsha-purnamasa Ishtis but not other Shrauta yajnas.  This is the first
I've ever heard about a Smarta Ashvamedha.

> "We are going to observe the Snarta variety in Hyderabad, reviving a
> tradition which became extinct long ago,"

...Or was made up the day before yesterday.  I would be interested to know
what shastraic or historical basis they have for this.

> said Dr Sesha Sai. It is a Vedic
> ritual which has a deeply secular and political dimensions.

Secular either means not pertaining to religion or neutral to religion.
how can a religious event itself be secular?  This is the kind of nonsense
that plagues intellectual life in todays India.

But that it has a deep political dimension I have no doubt.

> However, the horse is also the symbol for life-energy inside the human being
> and in the cosmos. Medha means "offering" as well as "intelligence". In the
> "inward rite", Ashwamedha is an offering of the life force to the deity.

Yep, they're making it up as they go along.

As for this Abrahamic religion subthread;  I think it is a pretty silly
basis to make distinctions on pro or con.  For one thing, any Christian or
Muslim willing to attend a yajna, is not the kind we need to be worried
about.  Secondly, Shankaracharya and other acharyas were quick to
criticize "Hindu" religions that fell short of the mark as well.  The
distinction between Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions is irrelevant.
Only the distinction between Advaita and non-Advaita is.  Mostly the whole
topic is irrelevant.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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