THE VEDIC HYMN THAT HYPTONIZED THE WORLD GATHERING
--Inaugural recording of HMV
(DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, MARCH 2013)
Vedas are the oldest literature of the human race. “Agnimeele purohitam” is the first mantra of Rig Veda, the oldest among the four Vedas. “In the most primordial time when the people of Europe were jumping like Chimpanzees, from tree to tree and branch to branch when they did not know how to cover their bodies, but with fig leaves, did not know agriculture, lived by hunting and lived in caves, at that remote past, Indians had attained high civilization and they gave to the world universal philosophers in the form of sages” said Max Muller in his speech addressing a learned audience. The words Europe, Hindu and India were later coined after the deliverance of Rigveda. Max Muller had no idea as to the date of Vedas and he only knew that it existed long before the dawn of civilization in Europe. Christianity later tried to equate itself with the date of Vedas and even said Bible appeared much earlier, based on the personal opinion of a Christian religious authority.
Gramophone was invented by Thomas Alva Edison as you all know which could record human voice for posterity. Edison wanted to record the voice of an eminent scholar on his first piece.
His obvious choice was Max Muller, a great Sanskrit scholar of the 19th century. His voice was recorded in a disc. This disc was played to eminent scholars of Europe who had gathered in England for the Inaugural ceremony. Max Muller surprised the scholarly audience chanting the first Mantra of Rigveda in the inaugural recording for HMV (His Masters Voice).
But why did Max Mueller think of a hymn from Rigveda though a Christian? He was a Sanskrit scholar well versed in the study of Rigveda. Even to-day the word Religion is not found in Sanskrit dictionary. The Institutionalized worship and Service was designated later as religion. This was the origin of great religions of the world--Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Vedas say that there is One Truth called Eternal Supreme Principle and One Tradition called Dharma. This is what the then humanity called as Sanathana Dharma. Followers of this Dharma were later designated as Hindus and Indians by others who took to institutionalized approach. Later these Hindus also started copying some aspects of Institutionalized Worship as is practiced today by many. Universal Dharma got restricted in practice, and certain aspects of it were glorified which brought out institutionalized groups who called themselves as belonging to a religion (Latin: religious). Neither Jesus nor Buddha or the other prophets started any religion named after them; they only fought against the tendency to go out of the spirit of Sanatana Dharma; their followers did and gave it a name after their chosen leader as is popular today.
The first Rigvedic Hymn is in praise of the Supreme Principle (Brahman) sung for Its (Brahman is neither male nor female) service and worship by the sages. Impressed by Max Mueller’s speech and motivated by Sanaatana Dharma Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of Electricity got this Vedic Mantra recorded in the inaugural gramophone record of His Master’s Voice and played it to the august assembly of learned scholars. It brought him world tributes and success.
Rigveda starts with this first Mantra: “Agnimeele purohitam | yajnasya devam ritvijam\hotaaram ratnadhaatamam”. Its meaning and explanation runs as follows:
Approximate meaning of Vedic words:
Agni= Fire God Agni; (the Illuminator)
Purohitam=the household priest; (to sacrifice)
Deva=the divine qualified with good qualities like charity; shining self (to shine with power)
Ritvijam=(to guide rightly, steer)
Ritvik=officially authorized priest - Ministrant
Yajnasya=of the sacrifice; (to exalt; to offer oblation)
Hotaaram=special priest who recites the prayers of the Rigveda(saman) at a sacrifice; (call)
Ratnadhaatamam - the best one who bestows wealth (ratna=please; Dhaatamam=put)
Hotri is the Purohita who is like the spiritual advisor of the king in all his religious duties who fullfils his wishes; so Agni, the Hotri offers oblations in Fire (homa) of the sacrifices. The meaning within brackets suggests the alternative.
Meaning of the Mantra:
I praise Agni, the household priest, the divine, Ministrant of the sacrifice, the Hotri and one who is the best who bestows wealth. (By Sayana)
[I praise the Illuminator (Supreme Principle), the foremost Leader of exalted action, the glorious one who is aroused in the performance of righteousness, who reveals himself, the Creator and the Sustainer of all that is pleasant.]
Note: At the time this first Mantra was revealed to humanity there was no Yajna (sacrifice) taking place; there was no fire; there were neither priests nor Hotara to sing the saman. Nothing existed other than the Supreme principle hailed as Brahman, the Ever-growing. Therefore the second meaning is suggested though the first meaning suggests the actual translation. Also the second meaning seems to be more logical if you see the echo and reflection of this mantra in Bhagavadgeetaa. [In this context the discourse on The Yagna in Purushasookta as posted on the Blog Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blogspot.com> is worth comparing. Then also there existed neither the fire, nor the provisions nor the seasons celebrated in the most ancient and sacred hymn.]
Here are two verses from Bhagavdgeetaa that echoes the thoughts conveyed in the premier mantra of Rigveda:
“Aham kratur aham yajnah svadhaaham aham aushadham |
Mantroham aham eva aajyam aham agnir aham hutam || 9-16 ||
[I am the ritual. I am the sacrifice, I am the offering, I am the herb (fagots), I am the mantra, I am the clarified butter, I am the fire, and I am the oblation.]
“Brahmaarpanam Brahma havih Brahmagnau Brahmanaa hutam
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam Brahma-karma-samaadhinaa || 4-24 ||
Brahman is the oblation; Brahman is the clarified butter, etc., constituting the offerings; the oblation is poured into the fire by Brahman (he is the one performing the Yajna); Brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees Brahman in all actions.
As has been said before Geetaa is a compendium of all Vedas and Upanishads and not a spontaneous emergence of new thoughts in a battle-field where two armies were facing each other to win a great battle challenging Dharma. We all know Vedas contain all the wisdom and nothing can enhance or decrease their value. “Vedokhilam dharmamoolam” – Vedas are the ultimate authority on the path of Dharma. Geetaa has been cleverly put through the spokesman Bhagavaan as a narration between the fighting warrior Arjuna and his charioteer and counsel Lord Krishna.
We all are familiar with this Mantra from Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad:
“Om antascharati bhooteshu guhaayaam viswamoortishu | tvam yajnastvam vishnustvam vashatkaarastva(ga)m rudrastvam brahma tvam prajaapatih ||
[Thou who art called by the name Om, move within the cave of the heart of all beings as the inner controller. Thou art the Yajna (sacrifice), Vishnu, Vashatkaara (Sung by Hotri), Rudra, Brahman and Prajapati]
This mantra is also invariably chanted at the conclusion of Shoedasa Upachaara Pooja (16-steps Hindu Worship in temples and at homes) as Mantra Pushpa (mantra offered as flower) along with the first mantra of other three Vedas. Those are reproduced with meaning in the Appendix. A sacred Mantra is offered in lieu of a flower used in worship called Mantrapushpa. Krishna suggests offering one flower with devotion in his worship in Geetaa most (than abundace of offer without devotion)“Patram pushpam phalam toyam yoe may bhktya prayacchaati” whose meaning is familiar to all. There can be no better Matrapushpa than this one premier Mantra of Rigveda Agnimeele purohitam tochant in the prayer.
The Supreme Spirit is but ONE who is responsible for creation, sustenance and dissolution. Vedas praise deities like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Mitra, Vaayu, Vishnu, Rudra, Soorya and others and suggest their worship. This has been clarified in the Vedas themselves: “Ekam sadviprah bahudhaa vadanti | Agnim, yamam, maatarisvamaanuh” –The ONE the worshippers call by many names as Agni, Yama Matarisva and so on. There are also other Mantras in Rigveda Samhita indicating God as only one:
“Ya Eka ittamushtuhi krishteenaam vicharshanih | pratirjagne Vrishakrituh ||( Rigveda VI-45-16).
Praise the one and only Indra who over-sees everything, who brings rain and who is the Lord of all people. (Here Supreme Spirit is addressed as Indra. He should not be confused with the Puranic Indra)
“Tvamagne varunoe Jaayase yattvam mitroe bhavaci yatsamiddhah | tve viswe sahasasputra devaastvamindroe daasushe martyaaya || ( Rigveda V—3—1)
Oh Agni (Fire God)! When you are born you alone are Varuna (water). Night friendly Varuna when he prospers he becomes God Mitra. All divines are in you only. Oh God of Strength! To the performer of the sacrifice who offers fagots you alone are Indra. [Agni referred here is none other than the Supreme Principle. All divines are in Agni only shows its universal manifestation and he is that ONE god. Upanishads repeatedly say that He is in all Beings and all Beings are in Him (Tasmin sarvampratishthitam; Yah asarvabhooteshu tishthan]
Sacchidaatmanyanusyoote nitye Vishnau prakalpitaah | Vyaktayoe vividhaah sarva haatake katakaadivat || (Aatmabodha—9)
All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by imagination upon the substratum which is the Eternal All-pervading Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different ornaments are made out of the same gold.
VEDIC MANTRAS CHANTED DURING 16-STEPS POOJA
“Harih Om! Agnimieelae puroehitam yajnasyadeva mritvijam | hoetaara(g)m ratnadhaatamam | Harih Om!”
Hail! & Glory! To Agni Deva! He, the Lord of the Yajnyas in Whom all our karmas culminate; He who is to be worshipped without fail at the junction of each seasonal time cycle of the year; He who has been present from time immemorial before the commencement of life of every Jeeva (Aatman); He who is helpful to every one for no reason; He who delivers the food offered in the sacrificial fires to the respective divines; He who grants the sublime knowledge and divine happiness that are like precious gems in life; He who stays at the tip of life and draws and attracts the devotees to Himself, I pray to that great Paramaatma who is in the form of Agni and I sing in praise to His endless and eternal glories.
“Harih Om! Ishetvoerje twaa vaayavasthoe paayavastha devoevassavitaa praarpayatu sreshthatamaaya karmana aapyaayadvam-agniyaa devabhaagam oorjasvateeh payasvateeh prajaavateeranameevaa ayakshmaa maavastena-ee-satamaaghasa(ga)msoe rudrasya hetih parivoe vrinaktu dhruvaa asmin goepatau syaata barheer yajamaanasya pasoon paahi | Harih Om”
Hay Bhagavan! I pray to you to grant me the necessary cooked rice and food that are needed and worthy of being offered to You; Give me the strength to lead this life.
Oh! People of the land who have all come from Him, be prepared to reach Him again; May you all lead a noble life worthy of conducting Vedic rituals. The body that you possess is meant for performing Vedic Sacrifices. May it flourish!; May you all lead a life full of noble qualities with good health and strength and enjoy life blessed with noble sons and grand- children; let there be no sickness nor fear from thieves; May you not be provoked to do evil deeds; May you be protected by the weapon of Rudra; May you have unflinching faith in the Paramaatma that resides in you; May the Lord guard your senses (indriyas) and make them worthy of participating in the Yajnyas conducted by the yajamaana (performer).
“Harih Om! Agna aayaahiveetayae ghrinaanoe havyadaatayae nihoetaa satsi barhishi Harih Om! ”
Oh! Agnideva! You who is intent on leading us forward, please come to us for uniting the earth and the celestial sky; please respond to our prayers and accept the Havis (fagots offered as food) offered by us in the sacrificial fires.
“Harih Om! Shanno deveer-abhishtaya aapoe-bhavantu-peetayae sam yoer-abhisravantu nah | Harih Om!”
Oh! Gods of the Waters! Be beneficial to us with regard to our requirements for quenching our thirsts. Grant us the boon to be always happy devoid of sorrow; pray, make available to us milk and curds in plenty always.
[Note: You hear these first Mantras of four Vedas at all worships of the Lord, be that Siva, Vishnu or Sakti or their emanations or family members. You in these prayers do not refer to individual but the community offering services. So the prayer is Universal in nature, a unique feature of Sanatana Dharma, unlike the customary individual’s prayer in Institutionalized religions.]
1) S. M. Krishnamachar, Srivaishnava Dinachari, Sanathana Dharma Sabha, Saraguru,
2) N.S. Anantrangachar, Rigveda Ratna Samputa, DVK Moorthi Publishers, Mysore.
3) N.R.Srinivasan,Sixteen-steps Worship of Deity at Vishnu Temples and at Home,