Ṛtvij(ऋत्विज्) Varna

This post is in follow of the earlier one, Varna-Veda-and-stuff, where Varna is shown to be same as the tripartite executive+judiciary+legislature plus the business constructs of state. No doubt, there is plenty to research after in the connection, and the genealogy, between these terms on one hand and others such as दक्ष, रुद्र, विश् – of Varna- on the other hand.

Talking of researches, and scholars, though, all their tools and methodologies, evidently, break down when handling the Veda and the Rsis. How can one explain away, for instance, the insights of an Einstein? Linear time (and closed systems) are not applicable at places of “discontinuities”; “something”, for example, may come in, but “something” may not come out of your system, and vice-versa. And, that net unexplained “something” can be big enough to change everything around it, in space and in time.

So, in the present context, once we decide to see the work of Rsis as a net “something”, we can look for the imprint, or the D.N.A., inside Veda, of the changes caused by it outside. If Varna is attributed to the efforts of Rbhus (ऋभु), the Rsi-like people who no doubt graduated from the Rsis’ schools, their efforts and motivation should have an image in Veda.

But, then, the domain of Rbhus was works, and enlightenment was that of Rsis. Varna, in its most general form, is related with works, after all, so there is seemingly no common ground between Rbhu and Rsi. Is there no work, of professional character, in Veda? Well, there is.

Veda’s soul is Yagna, or Sacrifice, which is the mechanism for a continuous growth, and evolution, into Immortality. And, rituals are the tools used, very festively, to create a conducive environment for the same.

Moreover, it was good fun to the Rsis, who doubled up as Rtvijas and conducted the Yagna rituals. The question is, granted the Yagna ritual belonged to works, was it seen sufficiently in that light by Rsis, and therefore professionally undertaken?

If the painstakingly detailed rituals described in the later texts such as Brahmanas and Srautas are any indication, or if the sophisticated Soma rites still performed in some parts of India are any evidence, certainly, the Yagna rituals were very professionally performed.

In addition, if the likes of (future) Rbhus were to be inspired, the Rsis had to show the way of works in their rituals, in which, indeed, the students too played their parts.

So what we know today for sure, based mainly on Rig Vedic body itself, the Rtvijas had a fourfold division: the Hotr (होतृ), Brahmán (ब्रह्मन्), Udgatr (उद्गातृ), and Adhvaryu (अध्वर्यु). The fourfold Varna of Rtvij.

Among these, Brahman’s work was to observe and to steer the event in a purposeful direction, by the use of timely interjections. Udgatr, the Chanter, on the other hand, was moved with Faith, Love, and Devotion; in his songs the ritual achieved its culmination and fulfilment. Adhvaryu, the Skilled one, was responsible for connecting all diverse elements of Yagna, for a hassle free passage of the events, which he did in a most graceful manner. Finally, Hotr was responsible for apparently everything, doing bits of direction, chanting and manipulation. Hotr was, above all, also responsible for money matters, and interactions with the patron, or Yajmana (यजमान) of the Yagna.

To be explicit, Hotr, Brahman, Udgatr and Adhvaryu correspond, respectively, to the example of Varna that we discussed earlier: Vispati, Brahman, Rudra and Daksha.

As discussed in Kalicharan’s Veda, though, the real motivation of the Rbhus behind the establishment of Varna in the urban society was the evolution of the state of affairs from the Dasyu mode (of Asat) to the Dyava-Prithivi (Heaven-Earth) mode of Agni.

It necessitates the existence of the Earth counterparts of the aforementioned Rtvijas. And Rig Veda doesn’t disappoint, either. Hence, we have Potr (पोतृ) for Hotr, Nestr (नेष्ट्र) for Brahman, Prashastr (प्रशास्तृ) for Adhavaryu, and Agnidh (अग्नीध्) for Udgatr. If Hotr represents the whole Soma (Homa), the presiding God of Heaven, then Potr speaks for the whole Pusan, the presiding God of Earth in the Veda. Each of these Rtvij classes were, apparently, divided into subclasses which themselves were of Dyava-Prithvi, or Varna, constitution: this elaboration was required when the Yagna ritual and event grew voluminous.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

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