APASTAMBIYA SRAUTA PRAYOGAH, Vol. 1 — From Agnihotra up to Agnistoma: Text in Sanskrit with preface in English. Edited by M.S. Aswatthanarayana Avadhani; pub. by Shruti Shankara Samskrita Samsodhana Pratishthanam, Mattur, Shimoga-577203. Rs. 400.
The life of man in society is compared to an act of sacrifice. Agnihotra, for example, is obligatory for a householder. Whatever activity he undertakes with scriptural sanction is congenial for the welfare of him and his family and the society as a whole. All the rituals done with a sense of detachment and offered to the Supreme Being will bring in the desired results. This is the quintessence of the elaborate rituals mentioned in the Shrutis.
Yajnas are of several kinds, says the Gita (ch. 17). It speaks of different types of sacrifices depending on the sattvic, rajasic and tamasic dispositions of the persons who perform them. It also points out that yajna, dana and tapas are a means of purifying a person and that they should never be given up. They must be performed without any desire for personal benefit.
The tradition of performing rituals as laid down in the Srutis is quite old. The methodology involved is quite systematic, symbolic and interesting. The branch of learning (darsana) that deals with the interpretation and implementation of these rituals is called Mimamsa. It is a pity that at present, this branch of study is not receiving the kind of attention that other darsanas like Nyaya and Vyakarana receive.
This publication is a great boon to those who are keeping alive the tradition of performing rituals. One is happy that, even in this age of general neglect of such Vedic legacies, there are experts dedicated to the study and exposition of the vast lore dealing with this science. Sage Apastamba is one of the celebrated writers of Kalpasutras governing the performance of these rituals. In the work under review, he gives a lucid explanation of the method of performing Agnihotra, Darsapurnamasa, Pindapitriyajna, Chaturmasya, Nirudhapasubandha, Agrayana and Somayaga, in that order.
Understanding these rules and carrying out the rituals flawlessly is absolutely necessary for bringing in universal welfare. It is in this context that the effort of Sruti Shankara Samskrita Samsodhana Pratishtanam at Mattur (Shimoga) in bringing out this volume deserves rich encomiums.
The publication is the first of its kind. It brings out the ritualistic part of the obligatory (nitya) rituals, beginning with the setting up of the sacred fire up to the Somayaga.
The credit of compiling the text, editing it and codifying the topics in a systematic manner with explanatory notes, goes to M.S. Ashwatthanarayana Avadhani. The detailed introduction, indexes containing valuable information about the articles required for performing the Agnistoma, Agnyadhana and Pasubandha, sketches of sites where the rituals are to be conducted, as also the colour photographs of the various implements used in these rituals make this volume extremely useful.
The explanatory notes on various components of the sacrifice such as Varuna Praghasa and Somaprayoga, the characteristics of Yajamana and Ritvik, and the importance and nature of Dakshina, Annadana, etc, are very useful.
The editor deserves to be commended for this noble task of unearthing a great treasure of ritualistic tradition.