chapter  2
15 Pages

Veda and Upani‚ad

ByLaurie L. Patton

It is sunrise; a group of men are standing above a rounded firepit and chanting poeticrhythms. Near the firepit, outside a boundary, the sound of women pounding rice is interspersed with the hymns. Every few verses end with the sound “svåhå.” The men pour an amount of gh⁄ or clarified butter from a wooden bowl, and the fire flares up suddenly. Next to the firepit is a long glistening pole wrapped in yellow, rubbed in an oily substance. The entire scene is a medley of light: the sunrise, the fire, the golden butter, and the yellow pole. The priests are reciting hymns to Agni, the fire god, comparing him to the sun, which is rising now and casting light all around. Their hymns are also likening him to the color of the butter being cast into the pit, making a spectacle of sparks and smoke. Later the rice that the women have pounded will be shaped into balls of rice-offerings, making the arena a place of eating as well as offering for the priests and for the community as a whole.