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Daily वे॑द Quote #43: 2022 November 22 द॑स्यवेवृ॑क 11/22/2022 (Tue) 01:20:33 ID:029e7a No. 2282
अग्निः॑ प्रा॑श्नातु प्रथमः॑। स॑ हि॑ वे॑द य॑था हविः॑। अ॑रिष्टमस्मा॑कं कृण्व॑न्। ब्राह्मणो॑ ब्राह्मणे॑भियः॥ —आपस्तम्बमन्त्रप्रश्न॑ 2.10.7 . (This is the metrically restored version. The सं॑हिता has a deficient syllable with ब्राह्मणे॑भ्यः. The first two lines are also तैत्तिरीयब्रा॑ह्मण–4 and काठसं॑हिता 13.15.10, but the latter are unique to this text.) . Translation: "Let अग्नि॑ consume the oblation first—because He knows thus—making us safe from injury, the ब्राह्मण॑ for ब्राह्मण॑s." . Word-by-word: अग्नि॑स् < अग्नि॑, प्र॑ अश्नातु < प्र॑ अश् "consume", प्रथम॑स् < प्रथम॑ "first", स॑स् < स॑ "He", हि॑ "because", वे॑द < विद् "know", य॑था "thus", हवि॑स् "oblation", अ॑- "not", रिष्टम् < रिष्ट॑ < रिष् "injury", अस्मा॑कम् < वय॑म् "we", कृण्व॑न् < कृ "make", ब्राह्मण॑स् < ब्राह्मण॑, ब्राह्मणे॑भियस् < ब्राह्मण॑. . Meter: अनुष्टु॑भ् . Context: According to आपस्तम्बगृह्यसू॑त्र 5.13.16, this verse is to be recited by a host while sacrificing the belly of a cow into the fire in honor of a guest. Contrary to modern Hindu nationalist narratives, bulls and cows were certainly killed and eaten in Vedic times; but contrary to liberal narratives, they were only killed in special circumstances rather than regularly like other animals, and otherwise were called अ॑घ्न्य "not to kill". According to आपस्तम्ब, for example: एतावद्गोरालम्भनमतिथिः पितरो विवाहश्च। "Thus (the occasions for) the sacrifice of a cow are a guest, the Fathers, and a marriage." —आपस्तम्बगृह्यसू॑त्र 1.3.9 . Interpretation: Before men consume the oblation (in this case a cow), its best part must be offered first to the Gods through Their messenger अग्नि॑. Even in modern Hinduism this concept of offering first to the Gods exists as प्रसाद, but in Vedic times the oblation was literally sacrificed into the fire rather than being symbolic. In return for the oblation, अग्नि॑ will keep His worshipers safe from harm. . As mentioned a couple days ago, अग्नि॑ is the ब्रह्म॑न् (priest) of the Gods, making him a ब्राह्मण॑ (Brahmin): hence the last line, implying that the ब्राह्मण॑s reciting this verse are being protected by a fellow ब्राह्मण॑ among the Gods. . What is meant by स॑ हि॑ वे॑द य॑था "because He knows thus"? The phrase य॑था विद् "know thus" is synonymous with एवं॑ विद् found in the much more famous formula य॑ एवं॑ वे॑द "he who knows thus", and refers to the esoteric, spiritual knowledge of the trained priest, who perceives the deepest workings of the universe and comprehends the cosmic import of the ritual act. अग्नि॑ Himself is a sacrificer who "knows thus", and therefore deserves the first share of the oblation. . Interesting Vedic grammar: प्रथम॑स्, though semantically a क्रियाविशेषण/adverb here, is in the प्रथमा/nominative to indicate that अग्नि॑ is being described, since its adverb form प्रथम॑म् is identical to the द्वितीया/accusative that would be used to describe the oblation. Thus: "Let अग्नि॑ consume the oblation first" rather than "Let अग्नि॑ consume the first oblation." But it is especially fitting since अग्नि॑ Himself is first in all matters, the पुरो॑हित (first-placed) worshiped before anyone else. . अस्मा॑कम् in later Sanskrit is always a षष्ठी/genitive, "of us", but in the म॑न्त्रs अस्मा॑क is also used as a possessive adjective (here in the द्वितीया/accusative), "our (people, cattle, things, etc.)". However, I translated it as "us" above for the sake of simplicity.