Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David R. Kinsley
The subject of this thesis is the Agnyadheya, the Vedic ritual, through which are established the three or five sacred fires essential to Vedic sacrifice. The thesis aims at an understanding of that rite and proposes that the process of coming to an understanding is analogous to that of learning a new language. The ritual is taken as a syntactic unit and its actions and materials are viewed as a sort of symbolic vocabulary. The denotations and connotations of this vocabulary are then sought in parallel usage in other Vedic rites and the mythology of the Vedic texts. The thesis suggests that establishment of the srauta fires accompanied the sacrificer's accession to the head of his household. It then sets about to learn the significance of that event and how each segment of the ritual portrays various aspects of it. An identification of the sacrificer with his fire is discovered, and the transformation of his domestic fire into the "fire of the master of the house" and other srauta fires is compared to the sacrificer's transformation to a new role. Within the spatial organization of the firehall is found an emphasis on the individual and independent life of the sacrificer as against social ties, the former represented a long an axis extending toward the gods in the east and the latter along an axis extending toward one's ancestors in the south. The Vedic view that immortality consists in living a full life is placed in this context, and the Agnyadheya is seen as the beginning of a sacrificial career which progresses toward heaven in the east. In pursuing its task the thesis has occasion to comment on folk beliefs concerning a variety of substances employed in the ritual including lists of soils which make up the fireplaces and trees which serve as fuel. It also offers new interpretations of a number of myths, the best known of which are those of Pururavas and Urvast and of the boar Prajapti.
Moody, Timothy Floyd, "The Agnyadheya establishment of the sacred fires" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2944.