Śrauta is a Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti", that is, anything based on the Vedas of Hinduism.[1][2] It is an adjective and prefix for texts, ceremonies or person associated with śruti.[3] The term, for example, refers to Brahmins who specialise in the śruti corpus of texts,[4] and Śrauta Brahmin traditions in modern times have been reported from Coastal Andhra.[5]

Nambūdiri Brahmin performing śrauta homa rites

Etymology and meaning

The Sanskrit word Śrauta is rooted in śruti (that which is heard, referring to scriptures of Hinduism). Śrauta, states Johnson, is an adjective that is applied to a text, ritual practice or person, when related to śruti.[3] Klostermaier states that the prefix means "belonging to śruti", and includes ceremonies and texts related to śruti.[1] The word is sometimes spelled Shrauta in scholarly literature.[6][7]


Spread via Indian religions, homa traditions are found all across Asia, from Samarkand to Japan, over a 3000-year history.[8] A homa, in all its Asian variations, is a ceremonial ritual that offers food to fire and is ultimately descended from the Vedic religion.[8] The tradition reflects a ritual eclecticism for fire and cooked food (Paka-yajna) that developed in Indian religions, and the Brahmana layers of the Vedas are the earliest surviving records of this.[9]

Yajna or vedic fire sacrifice ritual, in Indian context, became a distinct feature of the early śruti (Vedic) rituals.[8] A śrauta ritual is a form of quid pro quo where through the fire ritual, a sacrificer offered something to the gods, and the sacrificer expected something in return.[10][11] The Vedic ritual consisted of sacrificial offerings of something edible or drinkable,[12] such as milk, clarified butter, yoghurt, rice, barley, an animal, or anything of value, offered to the gods with the assistance of fire priests.[13][14] This Vedic tradition split into Śrauta (śruti-based) and Smarta (Smriti-based).[8]

The Śrauta rituals, states Michael Witzel, are an active area of study and are incompletely understood.[15]

Śrauta "fire ritual" practices were copied by different Buddhist and Jain traditions, states Phyllis Granoff, with their texts appropriating the "ritual eclecticism" of Hindu traditions, albeit with variations that evolved through the medieval times.[8][16][17] The homa-style Vedic sacrifice ritual, states Musashi Tachikawa, was absorbed into Mahayana Buddhism and homa rituals continue to be performed in some Buddhist traditions in Tibet, China and Japan.[18][19]


Śrautasutras texts containing Kalpa sutras known[20]
Veda Sutras
Rigveda Asvalayana-sutra (§), Sankhayana-sutra (§), Saunaka-sutra (¶)
Samaveda Latyayana-sutra (§), Drahyayana-sutra (§), Nidana-sutra (§), Pushpa-sutra (§), Anustotra-sutra (§)[21]
Yajurveda Manava-sutra (§), Bharadvaja-sutra (¶), Vadhuna-sutra (¶), Vaikhanasa-sutra (¶), Laugakshi-sutra (¶), Maitra-sutra (¶), Katha-sutra (¶), Varaha-sutra (¶), Apastamba-sutra (§), Baudhayana-sutra (§)[22]
Atharvaveda Kusika-sutra (§)
¶: only quotes survive; §: text survives

Śrautasūtras are ritual-related sutras based on the śruti. The first versions of the Kalpa (Vedanga) sutras were probably composed by the sixth century BCE, starting about the same time as the Brahmana layer of the Vedas were composed and most ritual sutras were complete by around 300 BCE.[23] They were attributed to famous Vedic sages in the Hindu tradition.[24] These texts are written aphoristic sutras style, and therefore are taxonomies or terse guidebooks rather than detailed manuals or handbooks for any ceremony.[25]

The Śrautasūtras differ from the smārtasūtra based on smṛti (that which is remembered, traditions).[26] The Smartasutras, in ancient vedic and post-vedic literature, typically refer to the gṛhyasūtras (householder's rites of passage) and sāmayācārikasūtras (right way to live one's life with duties to self and to relationships with others, dharmaśāstras).[26][27]

Śrauta Sutras

Verses 1-2 of the Baudhayāna śulbasūtra state that the squares of any rectangle's width and length add up to the square of its diagonal.[28] This is known in western literature as the Pythagorean theorem.

The Śrautasūtras form a part of the corpus of Sanskrit sutra literature. Their topics include instructions relating to the use of the śruti corpus in great rituals and the correct performance of these major vedic ceremonies, are same as those found in the Brahmana layers of the Vedas, but presented in more systematic and detailed manner.[29]

Definition of a Vedic sacrifice

Yajña, sacrifice, is an act by which we surrender something for the sake of the gods. Such an act must rest on a sacred authority (āgama), and serve for man's salvation (śreyortha). The nature of the gift is of less importance. It may be cake (puroḍāśa), pulse (karu), mixed milk (sāṃnāyya), an animal (paśu), the juice of soma-plant (soma), etc; nay, the smallest offerings of butter, flour, and milk may serve for the purpose of a sacrifice.

Apastamba Yajna Paribhasa-sutras 1.1, Translator: M Dhavamony[14][30]

Baudhayana srautasutra is probably the oldest text in the śrautasūtra genre, and includes in its appendix a paribhāṣāsūtra (definitions, glossary section).[31] Other texts such as the early Apastamba śrautasūtra and later composed Katyayana start with Paribhasa-sutra section.[31] The śulbasūtras or śulvasūtras are appendices in the śrautasūtras and deal with the mathematical methodology to construct geometries for the vedi (Vedic altar).[32] The Sanskrit word śulba means "cord", and these texts are "rules of the cord".[33] They provide, states Kim Plofker, what in modern mathematical terminology would be called "area preserving transformations of plane figures", tersely describing geometric formulae and constants.[33] Five śulbasutras have survived through history, of which the oldest surviving is likely the Baudhayāna śulbasūtra (800-500 BCE), while the one by Kātyāyana may be chronologically the youngest (≈300 BCE).[34]


Śrauta rituals and ceremonies refer to those found in the Brahmana layers of the Vedas. These include rituals related to fire, full moon, new moon, soma, animal sacrifice, as well as seasonal offerings made during Vedic times.[35] These rituals and ceremonies in the Brahmanas texts are mixed and difficult to follow. A clearer description of the ritual procedures appeared in the Vedanga Kalpa-sutras.[36]

The Vedic rituals, states Burde, can be "divided into Śrauta and Gṛhya rituals".[37] Śrauta rites relating to public ceremonies were relegated to the Śrautasutras, while most Vedic rituals relating to rites of passage and household ceremonies were incorporated in the Gṛhyasūtras (literally, homely; also called Laukika or popular, states Lubin).[8][38] However, the Gṛhyasūtras also added many new non-Śrauta ceremonies over time.[8] The śrautasūtras generally focus on large expensive public ceremonies, while gṛhyasūtras focus on householders and saṃskāras (rites of passage) such as childbirth, marriage, renunciation and cremation.[36][2][37]

The śrautasūtra ceremonies are usually elaborate and require the services of multiple priests,[2] while gṛhyasūtra rituals can be performed without or with the assistance of a priest in the Hindu traditions.[39][40]

Animal versus vegetarian sacrificial offerings

The Śrauta rituals varied in complexity. The first step of a Śrauta ritual was making of an altar, then the initiation of fire, next of Havir-yajnas recitations, then offering of milk or drinkable liquid drops into the fire, then prayers all with mantras.[41]

More complex Śrauta rituals were based on moon's cycle (Darshapurnamasa) and the seasonal rituals.[41] The lunar cycle Śrauta sacrifices had no animal sacrifices, offered a Purodasha (baked grain cake) and Ghee (clarified butter) as an offering to gods, with recitation of mantras.[42]

According to Witzel, "the Pasubandha or “Animal Sacrifice” is also integrated into the Soma ritual, and involves the killing of an animal." The killing was considered inauspicious, and "bloodless" suffocation of the animal outside the offering grounds was practiced.[38] The killing was viewed as a form of evil and pollution (papa, agha, enas), and reforms were introduced to avoid this evil in late/post-Rigvedic times.[43] According to Timothy Lubin, the substitution of animal sacrifice in Śrauta ritual with shaped dough (pistapasu) or pots of ghee (ajyapasu) has been practiced for at least 600 years, although such a substitution is not condoned in Śrauta ritual texts.[44]

The discussions about substituting animal sacrifice with vegetarian offering, states Usha Grover, appear in section 1.2.3 of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajurveda.[45] This section, states Grover, presents the progressive change in the material offered to gods during a Śrauta ritual.[45] The change, adds Grover, may be related to Ahimsa (non-violence principle), or merely a means to preserve the number of cattle, or lack of availability of sacrificial animals. however, according to Grover, the ancient text suggests that "animal sacrifice was given up", and offering had become "vegetable, grains, milk and ghee".[45] The view that ancient Vedic texts had begun asserting that vegetable offerings were as efficient as animal offerings, for certain sacrifices, is shared by Max Müller and others.[46]


According to Alexis Sanderson, Śrauta ceremonies declined from the fifth to the thirteenth century CE.[47] This period saw a shift from Śrauta sacrifices to charitable grant of gifts such as giving cows, land, issuing endowments to build temples and sattrani (feeding houses), and water tanks as part of religious ceremonies.[48][49]

Contemporary practices

Most Śrauta rituals are not performed in the modern era, and those that are, are rare.[50] Some Śrauta traditions have been observed and studied by scholars, as in the rural parts of Andhra Pradesh, and elsewhere in India and Nepal.[51] Śrauta traditions from Coastal Andhra have been reported by David Knipe,[5] and an elaborate śrauta ceremony was video recorded in Kerala by Frits Staal in 1975.[52] According to Axel Michaels, the homa sacrifice rituals found in modern Hindu and Buddhist contexts evolved as a simpler version of the Vedic Śrauta ritual.[50]

Knipe has published a book on Śrauta practices from rural Andhra. The Śrauta ritual system, states Knipe, "is an extended one, in the sense that a simple domestic routine has been replaced by one far more demanding on the religious energies of the sacrificer and his wife," and is initiated by augmenting a family's single fire Grihya system to a three fire Śrauta system.[53] The community that continues to teach the Śrauta tradition to the next generation also teaches the Smarta tradition, the choice left to the youth.[54] The Andhra tradition may be, states Knipe, rooted in the ancient Apstamba Śrauta and Grihya Sutras.[55] In the Andhra traditions, after one has established the routine of the twice-daily routine of agnihotra offerings and biweekly dara pūrṇamāsa offerings, one is eligible to perform the agniṣṭoma, the simplest soma rite.[51] After the agniṣṭoma, one is eligible to perform more extensive soma rites and agnicayana rites.[56]

Śrauta brahmins specialise in conducting rituals according to the śruti corpus of texts, in contrast to smarta brahmins, known for conducting rituals according to smriti texts.[4][57]

Women reciting mantras at śrauta ceremonies of Hinduism from ancient times have been suggested by a number of scholars such as Mary McGee, Stephanie Jamison, Katherine Young, and Laurie Patton.[58][59]

Defunct practices

The Ashvamedha and Rajasuya are not practiced anymore.[60] There is doubt the Purushamedha, a human sacrifice, was ever performed.[60][61]


The Śrauta rituals were complex and expensive, states Robert Bellah, and "we should not forget that the rites were created for royalty and nobility".[62] A Brahmin, adds Bellah, would need to be very rich to sponsor and incur the expense of an elaborate Śrauta rite.[62] In ancient times, through the middle of 1st millennium CE, events such as royal consecration sponsored the Śrauta rites, and thereafter they declined as alternative rites such as temple and philanthropic actions became more popular with the royalty.[63]

The Upanishads, states Brian Smith, were a movement towards the demise of the Śrauta-style social rituals and the worldview these rites represented.[64] The Upanishadic doctrines were not a culmination, but a destruction of Vedic ritualism.[64] This had a lasting influence on the Indian religions that gained prominence in the 1st millennium BCE, not only in terms of the Vedanta and other schools of Hindu philosophy that emerged, but also in terms of Buddhist and Jaina influence among the royal class of the ancient Indian society.[64]

In the Upanishads, one might be witnessing the conclusion of Vedism, not in the sense of its culmination but in the sense of its destruction. In the proto-Vedantic view, the universe and ritual order based on resemblance has collapsed, and a very different configuration based on identity has emerged. Upanishadic monism, one might say, blew the lid off a system contained, as well as regulated, by hierarchical resemblance. The formulation of a monistic philosophy of ultimate identity - arguably one indication of Vedism dissipating and reforming into a new systematic vision of the world and its fundamental principles - was born outside the normative classification schema of Vedic social life and became institutionalized as a counterpoint to life in the world.[64]

With time, scholars of ancient India composed Upanishads, such as the Pranagnihotra Upanishad, that evolved the focus from external rituals to self-knowledge and to inner rituals within man. The Pranagnihotra is, states Henk Bodewitz, an internalized direct private ritual that substituted external public Agnihotra ritual (a srauta rite).[65]

This evolution hinged on the Vedic idea of devas (gods) referring to the sense organs within one's body, and that the human body is the temple of Brahman, the metaphysical unchanging reality. This principle is found in many Upanishads, including the Pranagnihotra Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad section 2.2,[66] Kaushitaki Upanishad sections 1.4 and 2.1–2.5,[67] Prasna Upanishad chapter 2,[68][69] and others.[70] The idea is also found and developed by other minor Upanishads such as the ancient Brahma Upanishad which opens by describing human body as the "divine city of Brahman".[70]

Bodewitz states that this reflects the stage in ancient Indian thought where "the self or the person as a totality became central, with the self or soul as the manifestation of the highest principle or god".[71] This evolution marked a shift in spiritual rite from the external to the internal, from public performance through srauta-like rituals to performance in thought through introspection, from gods in nature to gods within.[71]

The Śrauta Agnihotra sacrifice thus evolved into Prana-Agnihotra sacrifice concept. Heesterman describes the pranagnihotra sacrifice as one where the practitioner performs the sacrifice with food and his own body as the temple, without any outside help or reciprocity, and this ritual allows the Hindu to "stay in the society while maintaining his independence from it", its simplicity thus marks the "end station of Vedic ritualism".[72]

See also


  1. ^ a b Klaus K. Klostermaier (2014). A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Oneworld Publications. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-78074-672-2.
  2. ^ a b c Frits Staal (2008). Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights. Penguin Books. pp. 123–127, 224–225. ISBN 978-0-14-309986-4.
  3. ^ a b W. J. Johnson (2010). "Śrauta". A Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198610250.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-861026-7.
  4. ^ a b Flood 2006, p. 8.
  5. ^ a b Knipe 2015, p. 1-246.
  6. ^ Shrauta sutra, Encyclopædia Britannica (2015)
  7. ^ Patton, Laurie L. (2005). "Can Women Be Priests? Brief Notes Toward an Argument From the Ancient Hindu World". Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies. 18 (1): 17. doi:10.7825/2164-6279.1340.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Timothy Lubin (2015). Michael Witzel, ed. Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 143–166. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
  9. ^ Timothy Lubin (2015). Michael Witzel, ed. Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 143–145, 148. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9., Quote: "The homa, the ritual offering of food in a fire, has had a prolific career in Asia over the course of more than three millennia. In various forms, rites of this type have become a part of most of the religions that arose in India as well as their extensions and offsprings from Samarqand to Japan. All of these homas ultimately descend from those of the Vedic religions, but at no point has the homa been stable. (...) The rules of Vedic fire offerings have come down to us in two parallel systems. A few of the later exegetical passages (brahmana) in the Vedas refer to cooked food (paka) offerings contrasted with the multiple-fire ritual otherwise being prescribed. (...) several ways in which a homa employing a cooked offering (pakayajana) can be distinguished from a Srauta offering (...)"
  10. ^ Richard Payne (2015). Michael Witzel, ed. Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
  11. ^ Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  12. ^ Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  13. ^ Sushil Mittal; Gene Thursby (2006). Religions of South Asia: An Introduction. Routledge. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-1-134-59322-4.
  14. ^ a b M Dhavamony (1974). Hindu Worship: Sacrifices and Sacraments. Studia Missionalia. 23. Gregorian Press, Universita Gregoriana, Roma. pp. 107–108.
  15. ^ Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7. Quote: A thorough interpretation of the Śrauta ritual that uses a wealth of Vedic descriptions and contemporaneous native interpretation is a desideratum. Though begun a hundred years ago (...), a comprehensive interpretation still is outstanding.
  16. ^ Phyllis Granoff (2000), Other people's rituals: Ritual Eclecticism in early medieval Indian religious, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 28, Issue 4, pages 399-424
  17. ^ Christian K. Wedemeyer (2014). Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in the Indian Traditions. Columbia University Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 978-0-231-16241-8.
  18. ^ Musashi Tachikawa; S. S. Bahulkar; Madhavi Bhaskar Kolhatkar (2001). Indian Fire Ritual. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 2–3, 21–22. ISBN 978-81-208-1781-4.
  19. ^ Musashi Tachikawa (2015). Michael Witzel, ed. Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 126–141. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
  20. ^ Max Muller, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Oxford University Press, pages 198-199
  21. ^ Max Muller, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Oxford University Press, page 210
  22. ^ Knipe 2015, p. 37.
  23. ^ Brian Smith 1998, p. 120 with footnote 1.
  24. ^ James Lochtefeld (2002), "Kalpa" in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, page 339
  25. ^ Brian Smith 1998, pp. 120–137 with footnotes.
  26. ^ a b Friedrich Max Müller (1860). A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature. Williams and Norgate. pp. 200–201.
  27. ^ P. Holler (1901). The Student's Manual of Indian-Vedic-Sanskrit-Prakrut-Pali Literature. Kalavati. pp. ii–iii.
  28. ^ Kim Plofker 2009, p. 18 with note 13.
  29. ^ Brian Smith 1998, pp. 138–139 with footnote 62.
  30. ^ Jan Gonda (1980). Handbuch Der Orientalistik: Indien. Zweite Abteilung. BRILL Academic. pp. 345–346. ISBN 978-90-04-06210-8.
  31. ^ a b Brian Smith 1998, p. 123 with footnotes.
  32. ^ Pradip Kumar Sengupta (2010). History of Science and Philosophy of Science. Pearson. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-81-317-1930-5.
  33. ^ a b Kim Plofker 2009, p. 17.
  34. ^ Kim Plofker 2009, pp. 17-18.
  35. ^ Maurice Winternitz 1963, p. 253.
  36. ^ a b Maurice Winternitz 1963, pp. 252-262.
  37. ^ a b Jayant Burde (1 January 2004). Rituals, Mantras, and Science: An Integral Perspective. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-81-208-2053-1.
  38. ^ a b Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  39. ^ Muralidhar Shrinivas Bhat (1987). Vedic Tantrism: A Study of R̥gvidhāna of Śaunaka with Text and Translation. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 13. ISBN 978-81-208-0197-4.
  40. ^ Brian Smith 1998, p. 137-142 with footnotes.
  41. ^ a b Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  42. ^ Usha Grover (1994). Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat; et al., eds. Pandit N.R. Bhatt Felicitation Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-81-208-1183-6.
  43. ^ Michael Witzel (2008). Gavin Flood, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  44. ^ Timothy Lubin (2015). Michael Witzel, ed. Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
  45. ^ a b c Usha Grover (1994). Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat; et al., eds. Pandit N.R. Bhatt Felicitation Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-81-208-1183-6.
  46. ^ Julius Eggeling, The Sacred Books of the East Part 1 Books I and II, Satapatha Brahmana -, Oxford University Press, pages 50-52 with footnotes
  47. ^ Sanderson, Alexis (2009). "The Śaiva Age: The Rise and Dominance of Śaivism during the Early Medieval Period (University of Tokyo Institute of Oriental Culture Special Series, 23)". In Einoo, Shingo. Genesis and Development of Tantrism. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture. pp. 41–43.
  48. ^ Sanderson, Alexis (2009). "The Śaiva Age: The Rise and Dominance of Śaivism during the Early Medieval Period (University of Tokyo Institute of Oriental Culture Special Series, 23)". In Einoo, Shingo. Genesis and Development of Tantrism. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture. pp. 268–269.
  49. ^ Nicholas Dirks (1976), Political Authority and Structural Change in Early South Indian History, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Volume 13, pages 144–157
  50. ^ a b Axel Michaels (2016). Homo Ritualis: Hindu Ritual and Its Significance for Ritual Theory. Oxford University Press. pp. 237–238. ISBN 978-0-19-026263-1.
  51. ^ a b Knipe 2015, pp. 41-49, 220-221.
  52. ^ Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 347–348 with footnote 17. ISBN 978-3-11-024003-0.
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  54. ^ Knipe 2015, pp. 35-36.
  55. ^ Knipe 2015, p. 32.
  56. ^ Knipe 2015, pp. 46-47, 220-233.
  57. ^ William J. Jackson; Tyāgarāja (1991). Tyāgarāja: life and lyrics. Oxford University Press. p. 31.
  58. ^ Patton, Laurie L. (2005). "Can Women Be Priests? Brief Notes Toward an Argument From the Ancient Hindu World". Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies. 18 (1): 17–21. doi:10.7825/2164-6279.1340.
  59. ^ Mary McGee (2002). Laurie Patton, ed. Jewels of Authority: Women and Textual Tradition in Hindu India. Oxford University Press. pp. 32–37. ISBN 978-0-19-513478-0.
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  61. ^ Oliver Leaman (2006), Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415172813, page 557, Quote: "It should be mentioned that although provision is made for human sacrifice (purusha-medha) this was purely symbolic and did not involve harm to anyone".
  62. ^ a b Robert N. Bellah (2011). Religion in Human Evolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 499–501. ISBN 978-0-674-06309-9.
  63. ^ Sanderson, Alexis (2009). "The Śaiva Age: The Rise and Dominance of Śaivism during the Early Medieval Period (University of Tokyo Institute of Oriental Culture Special Series, 23)". In Einoo, Shingo. Genesis and Development of Tantrism. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture. pp. 41–43, 268–270 with footnotes.
  64. ^ a b c d Brian Smith 1998, p. 195-196.
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  66. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Robert Hume (Translator), Oxford University Press, pp. 96–97
  67. ^ Kausitaki Upanishad Robert Hume (Translator), Oxford University Press, pp. 302–303, 307–310, 327–328
  68. ^ Robert Hume, Prasna Upanishad, Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pp. 381
  69. ^ The Prasnopanishad with Sri Shankara's Commentary SS Sastri (Translator), pp. 118–119
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  71. ^ a b Henk Bodewitz (1997), Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa I, 1–65: Translation and Commentary, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004036048, pp. 328–329
  72. ^ Heesterman, J. C. (1985). The Inner Conflict of Tradition: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship, and Society. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-32299-5.


External links


The Agnicayana (ati-rātrá agní-cayana "the building up of the fire altar") or Athirathram (Malayalam: അതിരാത്രം) is a category of advanced Śrauta rituals.

After one has established the routine of the twice-daily routine of Agnihotra offerings and biweekly dara-purna-masa offerings, one is eligible to perform the Agnistoma, the simplest soma rite. After the agnistoma, one is eligible to perform more extensive soma rites and Agnicayana rites. There are various varieties of Agnicayana.Agnicayana continues to be performed in Andhra.


Agnihotra (IAST: Agnihotra, Devanagari: अग्निहोत्र) refers to the twice-daily heated milk offering made by those in the Śrauta tradition. This tradition dates back to the Vedic age; the Brahmans perform the Agnihotra ritual chanting the verses from the Rigveda. The tradition is now practiced in many parts of South Asia in the Indian sub-continent, including primarily India and most particularly in Nepal. The Brahman who performs Agnihotra ritual is called Agnihotri.

The history of Agnihotra ritual — the casting of cow milk (or ghee) into the fire, at every sunset and at every sunrise — has been traced from a common Indo-Iranian fire-worship ritual including Zoroastrian Yasna Haptaŋhāiti ritual mentioned in the Old Avestan. This was already popular in India with Upaniṣads as religious performance.


Apri (āprī) in Sanskrit means "conciliation, propitiation" and refers to special invocations spoken previous to the offering of oblations. RV 1.13 is known as the Apri-hymn of the Kanvas, and Sayana in the context of this hymn enumerates twelve Apris propitiating twelve deities, also known as Apris (āpryas). These are deified objects belonging to the fire sacrifice of Vedic religion, the fuel, the sacred grass, the enclosure, etc. The Apris are all regarded as different manifestations of Agni.

The identification of individual Rigvedic verses as "Apris" (f. pl. either Āpríyas or Āpryas)

is found in Shrauta Sutra literature.

The āśvalāyana-śrauta-sūtra (3.2.5ff) states that these hymns are chosen differently in different schools. Thus, RV 5.28.1 is the Apri of the śaunaka school, RV 7.2.1 in that of vasaiṣṭha, and RV 10.110.1 that of others. Gargya Narayana later gives ten entire Rigvedic hymns (suktas) as "Āprīsūktas" belonging to different gotras.


The Ashvamedha (Sanskrit: अश्वमेध aśvamedhá) is a horse sacrifice ritual followed by the Śrauta tradition of Vedic religion. It was used by ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty: a horse accompanied by the king's warriors would be released to wander for a period of one year. In the territory traversed by the horse, any rival could dispute the king's authority by challenging the warriors accompanying it. After one year, if no enemy had managed to kill or capture the horse, the animal would be guided back to the king's capital. It would be then sacrificed, and the king would be declared as an undisputed sovereign.


The dhoti, also known as panche, vesti, dhuti, mardani, chaadra, dhotar or panchey, is a traditional men's garment worn in the Indian subcontinent. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist.

Erkkara Raman Nambudiri


Erkkara Raman Nambudiri (1898–1983) was a Śrauta High Priest and scholar who helped to revive the ancient Vedam-Yajnam traditions in Kerala, India, that had begun to decline due to the onslaught of Western culture and influence after Indian Independence.

Gayatri Mantra

The Gāyatrī Mantra, also known as the Sāvitrī Mantra, is a highly revered mantra from the Rig Veda (Mandala 3.62.10), dedicated to Savitr, the sun deity. Gāyatrī is the name of the Vedic meter in which the verse is composed. Its recitation is traditionally preceded by oṃ and the formula bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ, known as the mahāvyāhṛti, or "great (mystical) utterance". Vishvamitra is said to have created the Gayatri mantra.

Even in kaliyug Gayatri mantra is recited by most hindus.

The Gayatri mantra is cited widely in Vedic and post-Vedic texts, such as the mantra listings of the Śrauta liturgy, and classical Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, Harivamsa, and Manusmṛti. It is also praised by the Buddha in the Pali Canon.

The mantra is an important part of the upanayana ceremony for young males in Hinduism, and has long been recited by dvija men as part of their daily rituals. Modern Hindu reform movements spread the practice of the mantra to include women and all castes and its use is now very widespread.

Greater Magadha

Greater Magadha is a concept in the early historiography of India. It is used to refer to the political and cultural sphere that developed in the lower Gangetic plains during the Vedic age. The name derives from the kingdom of Magadha that later arose in this region. The culture of Greater Magadha developed separately from the orthodox śrauta culture that was characteristic of the upper Gangetic basin (the Ganga-Yamuna doab) to its west. The concept was developed by the indologist Johannes Bronkhorst in his work Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India, where he defines the region to comprise of modern day Bihar and easter Uttar Pradesh. According to Jeffrey D. Long, although the inhabitants of Greater Magadha revered the same deities as the srauta Brahmins, they developed an ideological opposition to the ritual slaying and sacrifice of animals, even going so far as to regard all violence as undesirable in the path towards liberation (mokṣa or nirvāṇa ).

Out of the ideological opposition between these two cultural spheres - the orthodox śrauta realm of Kuru-Panchala in the west, and Greater Magadha in the east - developed the two main spiritual ideologies of Vedic India. Śrauta practiced by Brahmanas, which placed a lot of importance on the system of sacrifice and ritual correctness, arose out of the culture of the erstwhile Kuru-Panchala realm, while the śramaṇa tradition which placed emphasis on the spiritual striving towards liberation (and later giving rise to the Buddhist and Jain religions) developed in Greater Magadha.

Historical Vedic religion

The historical Vedic religion (also known as Vedism, Brahmanism, Vedic Brahmanism, and ancient Hinduism) refers to the religious ideas and practices among Indo-Aryan-speaking peoples of ancient India after about 1500 BCE. These ideas and practices are found in the Vedic texts, and they were one of the major influences that shaped contemporary Hinduism. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, in the Hindu tradition and particularly in India, the Vedic religion is considered to be a part of Hinduism.According to Heinrich von Stietencron, in the 19th century western publications, the Vedic religion was believed to be different from and unrelated to Hinduism. The Hindu religion was thought to be linked to the Hindu epics and the Puranas through sects based on Purohita, Tantras and Bhakti. In the 20th century, a better understanding of the Vedic religion, its shared heritage and theology with contemporary Hinduism, has led scholars to gradually encompass Brahmanism and the Vedic religion into "Hinduism". The Hindu reform movements and the Neo-Vedanta emphasized the Vedic heritage and "ancient Hinduism", and this term has been co-opted by some Hindus. Vedic religion is now generally accepted to be a predecessor of Hinduism, but they are not the same because the textual evidence suggests significant differences between the two.The Vedic religion is described in the Vedas and associated voluminous Vedic literature preserved into the modern times by the different priestly schools. The Vedic religion texts are cerebral, orderly and intellectual, but it is unclear if the theory in diverse Vedic texts actually reflect the folk practices, iconography and other practical aspects of the Vedic religion. The evidence suggests that the Vedic religion evolved in "two superficially contradictory directions", state Jamison and Witzel. One part evolved into ever more "elaborate, expensive, and specialized system of rituals", while another part questioned all of it and emphasized "abstraction and internalization of the principles underlying ritual and cosmic speculation" within oneself. Both of these traditions impacted Indic religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, and in particular Hinduism. The complex Vedic rituals of Śrauta continue to be practiced in Kerala and coastal Andhra.Some scholars consider the Vedic religion to have been a composite of the religions of the Indo-Aryans, "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian, new Indo-European elements", which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" from the Bactria–Margiana culture, and the remnants of the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley.

Kalpa (Vedanga)

Kalpa (Sanskrit: कल्प) means "proper, fit" and is one of the six disciplines of the Vedānga, or ancillary science connected with the Vedas – the scriptures of Hinduism. This field of study focused on procedures and ceremonies associated with Vedic ritual practice.The major texts of Kalpa Vedanga are called Kalpa Sutras in Hinduism. The scope of these texts includes Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as personal conduct and proper duties in the life of an individual. Most Kalpasutras texts have experienced interpolation, changes and consequent corruption over their history, and Apasthamba Kalpasutra ancillary to the Yajurveda may be the best preserved text in this genre.Kalpa Sutras are also found in other Indian traditions such as Jainism.


The Nambudiri, also transliterated Nambūdiri, Namboodiri, Namboothiri, and Nampūtiri, are a Malayali Brahmin caste, native to Kerala.

As the traditional feudal elite, Nambudiris owned a large portion of the land in the region of Malabar until the Kerala Land Reforms starting in 1957. Nambudiris have been noted for their unique practices such as the adherence to srauta ritualism and orthodox tradition. Cyriac Pullapilly mentions that the dominating influence of the Nambudiris was to be found in all matters: religion, politics, society, economics and culture of Kerala.


Pariśiṣṭa (Devanagari: परिशिष्ट, "supplement, appendix") is the term applied to various ancillary works of Vedic literature dealing with details and elaborations not covered in the texts logically and chronologically prior to them: the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Sutras.

Parisista works exist for each of the four Vedas. However, only the literature associated with the Atharvaveda is extensive.


Purushamedha (or, 'Naramedha') is a Śrauta ritual of human sacrifice, closely related to the Ashvamedha. The Vajasaneyi Samhita-Sataphana Brahmana-Katyayana Srauta Sutra sequence of White Yajur Veda texts contains the most details. Whether actual human sacrifice was taking place has been debated since Colebrooke brought the issue under attention in 1805. He regarded it as a symbolic ritual. Since there is no inscriptural or other record of Purushamedha ever being performed, some scholars suggest it was invented simply to round out sacrificial possibilities. Asko Parpola suggests actual human sacrifices are described in Vedic texts, while the Brahmanas show the practice diminishing. In Shatapatha Brahmana 13.6.2, an ethereal voice intervenes to halt the proceedings.

The dhatupatha of Aṣṭādhyāyī by Pāṇini defines the root medha as synergizing the energy to perform something fruitfull. Naramedha simply means dedicating life for a spiritual or social cause.


Rajasuya (Imperial Sacrifice or the king's inauguration sacrifice) is a Śrauta ritual of the Vedic religion. It is a consecration of a king.


A shakha (Sanskrit śākhā, "branch" or "limb"), is a Hindu theological school that specializes in learning certain Vedic texts, or else the traditional texts followed by such a school. An individual follower of a particular school or recension is called a śākhin. The term is also used in Hindu philosophy to refer to an adherent of a particular orthodox system.A related term caraṇa, ("conduct of life" or "behavior") is also used to refer to such a Vedic school: "although the words caraṇa and śākhā are sometimes used synonymously, yet caraṇa properly applies to the sect or collection of persons united in one school, and śākhā to the traditional text followed, as in the phrase śākhām adhite, ("he recites a particular version of the Veda")". The schools have different points of view, described as "difference of (Vedic) school" (śākhābhedaḥ). Each school would learn a specific Vedic Saṃhita (one of the "four Vedas" properly so-called), as well as its associated Brahmana, Aranyakas, Shrautasutras, Grhyasutras and Upanishads.In traditional Hindu society affiliation with a specific school is an important aspect of class identity. By the end of the Rig Vedic period the term Brāhmaṇa had come to be applied to all members of the priestly class, but there were subdivisions within this order based both on caste and on the shakha (branch) with which they were affiliated. A Brāhmaṇa who changed school would be called "a defector of his śākhā" (śākhāraṇḍaḥ).

Shulba Sutras

The Shulba Sutras or Śulbasūtras (Sanskrit śulba: "string, cord, rope") are sutra texts belonging to the Śrauta ritual and containing geometry related to fire-altar construction.


Upākarma "Beginning" (Sanskrit: उपाकर्म), also called Āvaṇi Aviṭṭam (Tamil: ஆவணி அவிட்டம்) and Janivārada Huṇṇime (Kannada: ಜನಿವಾರದ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆ),Gamha Purnima (Odia: ଗହ୍ମା ପୂର୍ଣିମା), is a Vedic ritual practiced by Hindus of the Vishwakarma Brahmin caste. This ritual is also practiced by the Kshatriya and Vaishya community, who are dvijas and therefore have the rights to do Sandhyavandanam, the daily ablution ritual.

Upākarma is conducted once a year during the shravana or Dhaniṣṭhā nakṣatra of the Hindu calendrical month Śrāvana, when Brahmins ritually change their upanayana thread accompanied by relevant śrauta rituals, making śrāddha offerings to the rishis, whom Hindus believe composed the Vedic hymns. The day, also called Śrāvana Pūrnima "Full Moon of Śrāvana" in other parts of India, usually occurs the day after the Śravana nákṣatra, which also marks the Onam festival of Kerala.

On the following day, usually coinciding with the Raksha Bandhan festival in Northern and Central India, the Gayatri Mantra is recited 1008 times.

Brahmins belonging to the Samaveda do not perform upakarma rituals or change their thread on this day but rather on Bhādrapada tritiya, the third day of the month Bhādrapada with Hastaa nakshatra. Shukla Yajurvedic Brahmins of North India and Odisha do upakarma the previous day if the full moon spans two days.

Vedic period

The Vedic period, or Vedic age (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE), is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. It gets its name from the Vedas, which are liturgical texts containing details of life during this period that have been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Vedic culture to be traced and inferred.The Vedas were composed and orally transmitted with precision by speakers of an Old Indo-Aryan language who had migrated into the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent early in this period. The Vedic society was patriarchal and patrilineal. Early Vedic Aryans were a Late Bronze Age society centred in the Punjab, organised into tribes rather than kingdoms, and primarily sustained by a pastoral way of life. Around c. 1200–1000 BCE, Vedic Aryans spread eastward to the fertile western Ganges Plain and adopted iron tools which allowed for clearing of forest and the adoption of a more settled, agricultural way of life. The second half of the Vedic period was characterised by the emergence of towns, kingdoms, and a complex social differentiation distinctive to India, and the Kuru Kingdom's codification of orthodox sacrificial ritual. During this time, the central Ganges Plain was dominated by a related but non-Vedic Indo-Aryan culture. The end of the Vedic period witnessed the rise of true cities and large states (called mahajanapadas) as well as śramaṇa movements (including Jainism and Buddhism) which challenged the Vedic orthodoxy.The Vedic period saw the emergence of a hierarchy of social classes that would remain influential. Vedic religion developed into Brahmanical orthodoxy, and around the beginning of the Common Era, the Vedic tradition formed one of the main constituents of the so-called "Hindu synthesis".Archaeological cultures identified with phases of Vedic material culture include the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture, the Gandhara grave culture, the Black and red ware culture and the Painted Grey Ware culture.

Vedic religion

Vedic religion may refer to:

Historical Vedic religion, the religion of the Indo-Aryans of northern India during the Vedic period

Hinduism, which developed out of the merger of Vedic religion with numerous local religious traditions

Śrauta, surviving conservative traditions within Hinduism

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