Illustrated Dictionary of Vedic Rituals


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The present lexicon explains the meaning and significance of ritualistic terms frequently occurring in the Srautasutras, together with a short description of the sacrificial rites connected or meant therewith. It is an outcome o the engagement of the author with the Srauta ritual for a very long time. He has not only a first hand knowledge of the texts but also a practical acquaintance with the subject acquired through participating in such sacrifices. Every term has been traced back to its original source for which exact references have been provided. A proper understanding of the technical terminology of the Vedic ritual is a precondition for understanding ritualistic texts connected with the Vedas and also the sacrificial performances mentioned therein. No proper understanding of a Srautasutra is possible without knowing the basic concepts and the details of the ritualistic terms. Sketches and photographs of Vedic implements and performances are an added advantage of this lexicon, which will help the reader immensely in understanding the related terms.

The dictionary is the first of its kind in view of its vast coverage, authenticity and reliability. We are sure that it will prove to be an indispensable asset for every scholar who wants to familiarize himself with the Vedic ritual and the philosophy behind if.

Prof. H G Ranade, Ex-Editor and Coordinator of the 'Sanskrit-English Encyclopaedic Dictionary on Historical Principles' at the Deccan College, Pune, had the honour of completing his education with first class throughout at the Benaras Hindu University (1955-61) and did his Ph. D. on A Study of the Satapatha Brahmana as a Commentary on the Vajasaneya Samhita from the University of Bombay in 1970. Being in the profession of teaching and research, he has developed a special liking for Vedic ritual, the tradition of which is dwindling day by day. After completing his first English translations of the Katyayana - and Asvalayana-srautasutras (published in 1978, 1983-86), e prepared a critical edition of the Latyayana-srautasutra with its first English translation under the auspices of the IGNCA (published in 1998).

He also regularly attended the performances of important Soma-sacrifices in India and later delivered lectures on Vedic and later delivered lectures on Vedic rituals abroad discussing problems therein with noted scholars. Enriching thus his knowledge of the Vedic ritualistic terminology through participating in the Vedic sacrifices, he purposefully devoted himself to the compilation of this Illustrated Dictionary of Vedic Rituals, his magnum opus, which is going to be a landmark in the history of the Vedic scholarship.

For his outstanding contributions towards facilitating the understanding of the Srautasutras, he was honoured as a 'Vedanga-Vidvan' by the Rashtriya Vedavidya Pratishthan. At present, he is engaged in preparing a critical edition of the Jaiminiya-brahmana with its English translation as a project of the IGNCA.


It is more extensive in its entries o relevant lexical items. The previous works, namely the Srautapadartha Nirvacana, Joshi (ed.) 1931, the Vocabulaire du Rituel Vedique, L Renou 1954 (Paris) and the Dictionary of Vedic Ritual, CB Sen 1978, deal with hardly a thousand lexical items whereas the present dictionary comprises of about 5000 entries of technical importance.

The previous dictionaries give hardly any or at the best a very few illustrations which throw light on the technical aspects of the lexical items. Renou and Sen give the picture of a limited number of utensils employed in the Vedic rituals such as the ladles of various kinds and so on. The other works like the Yajnayudhani, Dharmadhikari (ed.), Vaidik Samsodhana Mandal, 1992 (Pune) and the Picture Album published earlier by the Mimamsa Vidyalaya, Pune include a bigger number of pictures. But they do not deal with the functional aspect of these ritual implements. For instance, the ladles Juhu and Upabhrt, are shown separately placed side by side. It is , however, necessary to show how the Upabhrt, which is a supporting ladle is held below the Juhu. One should take note of the fact that the Juhu alone is used for offering the oblations and the Upabhrt is never used for this purpose. This kind of functional presentation refers to the composition and derivation of the concerned terms. This is a distinctive feature of the present work.

The present dictionary also provides textual references from the Vedic literature more richly than is the case with the above said works. The Srautapadartha Nirvacana does not give any textual references. It has its own definitions for various ritualistic terms. The term Isti for instance, in its Paurodasika section as compared to the Saumika one, is a rite which is performed by the four priests officiating in it: Adhvaryu, Hotr, Brahman and Agnidhra with the sacrificer as the fifth. Although this definition is rightly based on the facts of Vedic sacrifice, there is no particular Vedic text which defines the term in these words. The works of Renou and Sen also do not include references from the term in these words. The works of Renou and Sen also do not include references from the texts which explain certain terms, for instance the verses indicated, as Jyotismati or Agravati have not been supported with references, where and in what exact form they occur. Sen's 1978 Dictionary of Vedic Ritual is almost the English version of Renou's French Vocabulair du rituel Vedique, 1954, and they depend mainly on Caland and Henry's L'agnistoma as a source book. It is understandable that it could have no idea of the Srautakosa (Sanskrit and English) published by the Vaidik Samsodhana Mandal, Pune in 1960s and later. The aspect of references to Vedic texts and articles published on the terms has not unfortunately received much attention in the voluminous Srauta Kosa (Sanskrit as well as English, so far in 3 Vol.) edited by Kashikar and Dandekar respectively. They have mostly relied on symbolical terms (like Jyotismati, etc) without giving reference to original texts. The present illustrated dictionary has tried to makeup for this lacuna. The information in this dictionary is based on five aspects, as pointed out by Bss 24.1, namely Samhita, Brahmana, Pratyaya, Nyaya and Srauta Grhya and Sulba Sutras. The vocabulary is mainly collected from Visvabandhu's Vedic Index, Hoshiyarpur but care has been taken of other indices like Sulba-Index by A. Michael and those given at the end of the Vedic texts and their translations. Vedic Bibliography (5 Vols.) by Dandekar was of great help in referring to the articles on the entry-words. The Srautakosa Index (VSM, Pune) and the Index of Dharmasastra by PV Kane, Vol. II have also been consulted.

The Terms have been illustrated mainly with the hand-drawings and photographs taken at the time of actual performance of various sacrifices at different Indian sites in different years. The work of photography was undertaken during my field-work in 1982 with the financial assistance of the University Grants Commission, New Delhi. Some of the hand-drawings are presented for the first time, for instance adharamulam and anvadhana. The names of Samans have been given alongwith the sacrificial situation in which they are chanted as far as possible.