Performance of over 15 Vedic Yajnas, 2000 Years ago under the patronage of a Hindu Queen
- Dr. R. Nagaswamy, First Vice Chancellor, Kanchipuram University
Queen Nagannika, the patron for performance of Vedic Sacrifices
Nagannika, was a daughter of Maharathi of Angiba, and Queen of the Satavahana King Sri Satakarni, who ruled in the First cent. BCE., that is 2000 years ago. Satakarni was a great conqueror and very powerful ruler of Dakshinapada. The Satavahana rulers ruled over Maharashtra, Madhyapradesh, Andhradesa, and Karnataka regions, and patronised Buddhism greatly by building Stupas, Cave temples, and Caityas. Some of the most famous Buddhist monuments came into existence by their support, and yet they were the staunch followers of Vedic system.
Nagannika had two sons – Vedi Sri and Saktisri. She is described as a noble lady observing all religious vows – Vratas properly and full of compassion and grace, given to liberally make gifts etc. She was one of the most distinguished women of India. In a long inscription, written in Brahmi script and Prakrit language, the record details the several Vedic Yajnas, she performed with her husband, which are listed below.
The List of Vedic Sacrifices
1. Agni – adheya yajna
2. Anvaraamtaniya yajna
5. Sapta dasa ratra yajna
6. Bagala dasa ratra yajna
7. Garga – atiratra yajna
8. Gargamayana yajna
9. Aptoryama – yajna
10. Angirasoma yajna
11. Sat – atiratra yajna
12. Angirasa – atiratra
13. Chandoga – pavamana Atratra
14. Angirasa – amayana yajna
15. Trayodasatiratra yajna. etc
Most of these sacrifices are called specifically as Yajnas and she has performed many more, the names of which are either only partially available or only the word yajna is available, the other names withered due to loss or weathering on the rock. She also performed in several instances the same yajnas several times, which are seen repeated, and at every time she performed she has made gifts as dakshina which are recounted. Unfortunately the long inscription is worn off and withered so much so details of many other of her yajnas are lost to posterity. However, what remains do show her abiding faith in the Vaidika sacrifices. Besides mentioning a number of Yajnas, it gives the number of cows, or other gifts like animals, chariots, horses, and land, which exhibits a great sense of documentation and responsibility.
Speaking about her greatness the inscription calls her Maasopavasini (observing regularly upavasa every month), grahatapasvi (performing Tapas at home), “Carita Brahmacarya” (observing Brahmacarya), Dikshavrata saunda Yajnah Kritah” – performed Yanjas.
It is important to state at this juncture that her inscription begins as “Siddham, Prajapataye, Dharmaya namah”. Usually wherever a king records his gift, he invokes the blessings of Vishnu, Siva, Sakti, Buddha or Jaina, which was his favourite deity or in the alternative to which ever faith he gifts, salutes that Supreme God of that religion, as for example if a gift is made to a Buddhist monastery, the grant will begin with a salutation to Buddha. In this case of Nagannika, she invokes Prajapataye – Dharma. We may see Nagannika is invocating the following in the invocatory part of the inscription.
Prajapataye Dharmaya namah Indraya namah. Samkarshana Vasudevabhyam Candra Suryabhyam Mahimavadbhyam, Chaturbhyasca Lokapalebhyasca, Yama Varuna, Kubera Vasavebhyo namah”.
As mentioned earlier, the salutations to Prajapati at the beginning of this inscription is significant in the context of over 15 Vedic Yajnas in the record. One has to look for the importance of Prajapati in Vedic Yajnas. This particular aspect has escaped the attention of all scholars so far.
Pavamana and Prajapatya hymns
In all the Vedic Yajnas, there are some preliminary rituals called Punyaham, Agnimukham, Pavamana suktam, Prajapatya homam, Prayasitta homan etc., which are essential before the special Yajna is started. It is an amazing sequence in which all these rites are organised by the ancient Vedic rishis. The Paramana hymns which are recited for purifying the sakta (hymns) themselves. It is interesting to see that the list of Vedic Yajnas, performed by the Queen Nagannika, one is called “Chandoma-Pavamana-Atiratra”.
But more important is the “Prajapatya homa” which is addressed to Prajapati as the lord of both two footed and four footed beings (Dvipad Catushpad); Dvipad stands for human beings, and Catushpad will include animals, birds and reptiles. We find the Prajapatya homa, Indra, Yama, Varuna, Vasava (Indra), and Agni Yama, Varuna, Kubera, and Vaseva are the lokapalas (also called Dikpalas) where Dharma, Surya and Chandra are called Agnis of the celestial region. Indra is specially addressed separately. Evidently the invocation in the Nagannika inscription is reflective of the beginning of all Vedic Yajnas. This is the significant aspect of this record.
Balarama and Krishna –Vedic Sastras
There is another importance too. Prajapati, Indra, Dharma, Chandra and Surya (who are very powerful – Mahimavantah) and the four lokapalas are all Vedic Devatas. This inscription includes two more deities. Sankarshna Vasudeva – Sankarshava is Balarama and Vasudeva is Krishna. In ancient times, the word Vasudeva referred to here is Krishna. These two are deities of Itihasa – Mahabharata, who are also raised to the level of Vedic deities. Rama and Krishna’s life and teaching were considered the essence of Vedas. Mahabharata is called a Veda – “Bharatam pancamo Vedah” is an ancient saying. Balarama and Vasudeva were in ancient times worshipped as dual deities. The Sangam Paripadal poem praises Balarama and Vasudeva, as ever praised by Vedic Rishis. That Balarama and Krishna were considered as Vedic deities by Hindu tradition is attested by this inscription of Nagannika, the Queen of Satakarni King, who ruled in the first century before the current era.
The inscription written in Brahmi script and in Prakrit language is found in a cave at the top of Nanaghat, a pass leading from Konkan to Junnar in Poona district of Maharashtra. Many scholars have written about this inscription, considered a landmark inscription of India.