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Vedic and Tantric Rituals – a Comparison

Alexander Jacob

Vedic and Tantric rituals – a comparisonWhen one considers the extraordinary cosmological and philosophical insights that inform the religions of the ancient world one cannot escape the conclusion that these insights could have been achieved only through divine revelation or through the exercise of such techniques of mind- and body control as developed by the various systems of Yoga. The probability that Yoga was indeed the source of this wisdom seems to be confirmed by the Brahmānda Purāna (I, i,3,8), for instance, and we note that, in the Mahābhārata, XIII (Anushāsana Parva) 14,[1] Shiva himself is constantly addressed as the “soul of yoga” and the object of all yogic meditation. Similarly, his son, Skanda (the god Muruga of the Dravidians) is described as being endowed with yogic powers in Mbh IX (Shalya Parva), 44.

As for the earliest religious forms of the ancient Indo-European wisdom, we note that, among the Krita Yuga avatārs of Vishnu listed in the Bhāgavata Purāna I,3,[2] Kapila (the name of the historical founder of Sāmkhya Yoga) precedes Yajna (representing Vedic sacrifice), who in turn precedes Rishabha (the name of the historical founder of Jainism). The avatārs of the Krita Yuga are of course cosmic phenomena rather than earthly, but the sequence of these names suggests that Sāmkhya-Yoga may indeed have preceded Vedic Brāhmanism, which in turn preceded Jainism. While the origins of Yoga and of Jainism and Brāhmanism are difficult to date since they locate their founders in the very remote Treta and Dvāpara Yugas, the Tantric religions associated with the temple-worship of the Hamitic[3] cultures that followed them are relatively easier to place since they flourish around the beginning of the Kali Yuga, which is traditionally fixed at the historical date of.3102 B.C.[4] – even though early temple cults are attested already in the sixth millennium B.C., in Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.[5]

As regards Buddhism, which is the last of the ascetic, as opposed to sacrificing, sects, it must be noted that it too incorporated various Tantric rituals from the 7th century A.D. onwards especially in its Vajrayāna branch, which, unlike the Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna schools, emphasises the importance of ritual rather than mere meditation. Scholars such as A. Sanderson and S. Hatley have suggested that Tantric practices may have penetrated Buddhism already in the 5th century from Shaivaite sources.[6] The Manjushri Mūlakalpa text attributed to the Boddhisattva Manjushri of the Mahāyāna tradition, and dating from the 6th century A.D., is, for example, based on Shaiva as well as Vaishnava Tantric texts.

Jainism too adopted Tantric practices to a certain extent but mostly focused on the use of mantras and yantras rather than visualisation or meditation.[7] Jain Tantra, unlike Buddhist, does not aim at liberation but rather at achieving worldly gains such as health, wealth, and power. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the canonical scriptures of the Jains are called – exactly as in the Tantra tradition – Āgamas (inherited scriptures), and traced back by the Jains to the first tirthankara, Rishaba, though they were compiled by a certain Gautamaswami around the 6th or 4th century B.C. in Prākrit, rather than Sanskrit These Āgamas are said to be based on the discourses of the first tirthankara of the present era, Rishaba.

In all of the most ancient religions of the Āryan as well as of the Hamitic peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt the understanding of the relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm may be traced back to a Yogic source. For instance, the Tantric Yogic notion of the Kundalini serpent and the awakening of this serpentine form to the light of Brahman lies at the basis of the Egyptian drama of Osiris in the underworld, as well as of the concept of the universal Tree of Life which features in the cosmologies of all the ancient Indo-European cultures. All of the ancient Indo-European religions are, furthermore, based on a vision of the Godhead as a Supreme Soul (Ātman) that manifests itself first as an Ideal and then as a Cosmic Man, or Purusha. This Purusha is castrated by his son (Chronos/Shiva/Time), though his seminal force is restored in our universe as the sun by a son of Chronos (Zeus/Dionysus/Muruga).[8] This Purusha, as we shall see, is the same as the Self of the human microcosm as well.

While the Purusha cosmology informs all the early religious forms of the Indo-Europeans, Brāhmanism, Zoroastrianism, and Tantra employ this mythology in their various rituals mostly in order to recover the divine dimensions of both the macrocosm and the microcosm. Sāmkhya-Yoga and the ascetic Shramana traditions following it, on the other hand, use it mostly as a theoretical background for ethical systems that seek to escape from cosmic manifestation and earthly incarnation altogether. In this focus on the escape from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth they take special care to stress the importance of the precept of non-dualism which was particularly crystallised in the Advaita Vedanta [Non-Dualistic Upanishadic] school of Indian philosophy associated with the sage Shankara (8th c. A.D.).

The aim of all enlightenment, whether it be through the fire-worship of the Āryans or the forms of worship evident in Tantra, is, however, the ultimate identification of the individual soul, ātman, with Brahman. The term “yoga” itself means “yoking” and may signify the union of the individual soul to the supreme which is brought about through several strict physiological and mental austerities. However, the means of achieving this end apparently varied with the changes in the ages, or yugas, that constitute our present epoch, kalpa. According to Manusmriti, I,86, the chief means of enlightenment in the first of the four ages was austerities:

In the Krita age the chief [virtue] is declared to be [performance of] austerities [tapas], in the Treta [divine] knowledge [jnānam], in the Dvapara [the performance of] sacrifices [yajnam], in the Kali liberality [dānam] alone.

We see that the Brāhmanical sacrifices are not, like yogic ‘tapas’ and ‘jnāna’, associated with the Krita Yuga or the Treta Yuga but only with the Dvāpara Yuga. It may be mentioned here that later Āgamic texts like the Tārapradīpa, Ch.1, state, contrary to the Manusmriti, that in the Satya (Krita) age Vaidika Upāsana [Vedic meditation] prevailed. In the Treta age, worship followed the Smriti prevailed. while in the Dvāpara there were both Smriti[9] and Purāna. Finally, in the Kaliyuga the Tantrika rather than the Vaidika Dharma has come to predominate. The Tantra Shastra was taught at the end of Dvāpara age and the beginning of Kaliyuga. However, we may assume that the meditation associated with the Krita age was indeed yogic meditation since we find the primacy of yogic worship over sacrificial maintained also in the Rigveda and the epics themselves. RV I,84,2, for instance, declares – regarding the forms of worship of the sages and the sacrifices offered by householders – that Indra attended ‘eulogies‘ sung by Rishis and ‘yajnas‘ conducted by humans. So it is apparent that Vedic sacrifices were necessary only for humans. In the MBh, VII (Anushāsana Parva), 16, too, Tandi, a sage of the Krita Yuga, is said to have “adored Shiva for 10,000 years with the aid of yogic meditation.

The “divine knowledge” (jnāna) mentioned in the Manusmriti as having prevailed in the following Treta Yuga may have been derived from the ascetic disciplines practised in the Krita Yuga. In the Treta Yuga, Manu himself is described in the MP as practising tapas, or austerities, on “Mt. Malaya”, but also as sacrificing (BP VIII,24). Manu, the survivor of the “flood” and the counterpart of Noah is also called Satyavrata, King of Dravida. In the Biblical account of the ‘deluge’, Noah is the counterpart of Manu and said to be a descendant of Adam’s son, Seth. That Noah represents the wisdom of Seth is evident from the Gnostic tradition.[10] Seth himself is described by Josephus as one who

strove after virtue and, being himself excellent, left descendants who imitated the same virtues. All of these, being virtuous, lived in happiness in the same land without civil strife, with nothing unpleasant coming upon them until after their death. And they discovered the science with regard to the heavenly bodies and their orderly arrangement.[11]

Josephus identifies the land of Seth as located around “Seiris”, which is also the land of Noah. In the Christian Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum of Pseudo-Chrysostom, the books of Seth were supposed to have been hidden by Noah in the land of Šir, and the so-called “cave of treasures” in which they were hidden is identifiable with Mt. Ararat.[12] In Genesis 14:6, the Horites, or Hurrians, are particularly identified with Mt. Seir, and we note a close identification of the proto-Hurrians with the proto-Dravidians of BP, according to which Manu is King of Dravida. The brāhmans who are considered to be the “sons of Seth” must have originally constituted the priesthood of the proto-Hurrian/proto-Dravidian population,[13] though it is true that the Āryan (Indo-Iranian), and particularly Indo-Āryan, line deriving from this original population, as well as the modern Dravidians, seem to have retained the brāhmanical tradition best of all. As regards the identity of the proto-Dravidian race, we may resort to Lahovary’s description of the Mediterranean race, which he equated to the Dravidian, as being the original inhabitants of the ancient Near East “in its largest meaning”, that is, including “Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Caucasia, Persia, Mesopotamia with its extensions towards India, as well as Arabia and the African regions facing Arabia, i.e. from the Nile valley to the high tablelands of East Africa”.[14]

We have noted that all the accounts of the religious practice characteristic of the Krita Yuga declare it to have been marked by austerities and tapas, or internal heat. As for the practice of austerities themselves, the Rāmāyana, Uttara Kanda, Sec.87, states that only the Brāhmans practised austerities in the Krita Yuga. In the following Treta Yuga, Kshatriyas were born and, gaining equal spiritual dignity with the Brāhmans, practised austerities alongside them, while the Vaisyas and Shūdras served them. Then in the Dvāpara Yuga Vaisyas started to practise austerities as well, just as the Shūdras too began practising austerities in the Kali Yuga.

The statement in the Rāmāyana that these austerities were originally the privilege of Brāhmans contrasts with the general view that yajna was the typical custom of the Āryan Brāhmans. Sacrifices or yajna appears only in the Dvāpara Yuga, according to the Manusmriti, and were followed by Puranic beliefs and Tantric. However, some maintain that fire-worship began already in the Krita Yuga. Shriram Sharma, for instance, has suggested that “yajnas” were performed intensively already in the Krita Yuga:

The yajnas were … performed in the divine Krita Yuga, by the rishis [i.e. the seven sages] and the demigods since the demigods themselves were manifest on earth.[15]

These “yajnas” of the Krita Yuga performed by the seven sages and demigods may, however, have been different from the human fire-sacrifices which appeared after Manu Vaivasvata. Shriram Sharma[16] points out that “In comparison to what man attains via yajnas, great Rishis attain much more via sankalpa/ strength of resolve and eulogy to God (YV 17,28).” However, he suggests that “this power of eulogy was attained by the Rishis via fire worship (AV IV,23,5)”.[17] The Atharvavedic reference he gives represents Indra as being aided by Agni in his battle against the sources of resistance (Panis) which obstruct the rise of the solar force into our system. It is possible that both yoga and fire-worship may have originally developed from a focus on the thawing power of fire required to release the solar force in microcosm as well as macrocosm. In the former, it is manifest as the “heat” of yogic austerities or “tapas”. Fire-worship, on the other hand, is a more external dramatic recreation of the macrocosmic solar force.

It is interesting to note in this context that Pargiter suggested that Brāhmanism was originally a Dravidian religious institution and that it was considerably transformed by the Āryans. While the original Dravidian priesthood was characterised by the practice of yogic austerities (tapas) which gave them magical powers, the Āryan was preoccupied with the performance of sacrifices involving the worship of fire.[18] Pargiter may indeed have been right if he were referring to a ‘proto-Dravidian’, rather than a later Dravidian, source, for it is not improbable that the Brāhmanical and Tantric traditions may have been derived from a single proto-Dravidian/Noachidian source that split into fire-worshipping and Tantric temple-worshipping cultures.




The Vedas in their present form are primarily sacrificial liturgies aimed at restoring the creation to its ideal status as the Primordial Man. These sacrifices focus on the macrocosmic elements of the divine manifestation rather more than on the human microcosmic. The esoteric spiritual significance of the Vedas itself does not emerge in the predominantly liturgical Vedas so much as in the Upanishadic (Vedānta) literature, especially in the Yoga-based Upanishads derived largely from the Krishna and Shukla Yajur Vedas.[19]

Indeed, the Upanishads, and particularly the yoga-based ones, give a clear account of the actual spiritual basis of the identification of the individual self with the universal. The power of ‘tapas’ (fervour/heat) in the formation of the mind and the sense faculties in the macrocosm before the creation even of the gods is vividly depicted in AV XI,8:


3. Ten Gods before the Gods were born together in the ancient time.

Whoso may know them face to face may now pronounce the mighty word.

4. Inbreath and outbreath, eye and ear, decay and freedom from decay,

Spiration upward and diffused, voice, mind have brought us wish and plan.

5. As yet the Seasons were unborn, and Dhātar and Prajāpati,

Both Asvins, Indra, Agni. Whom then did they worship as supreme?

6. Fervour and Action were the two, in depths of the great billowy sea;

Fervour sprang up from Action: this they served and worshipped as supreme.


The descriptions of the Light of Brahman and the inner fire of the tapasvin [practictioner of austerities] in the yoga-based Upanishads provide further clues to the cosmic significance of the Vedic deities invoked during the fire-rituals of the Indo-Āryans. We may, for instance, recall the extraordinary description that is to be found in the yoga-based Mandalabrāhmana Upanishad, I of the different forms of primal light that the enlightened yogi is able to perceive:

In order to cross the ocean of samsara … one should adhere to the subtle path and overstepping tattva and other gunas should look out for Taraka. Taraka is Brahman which, being in the middle of the two eyebrows, is of the nature of the spiritual effulgence of Sachchidananda. The (spiritual) seeing through the three lakshyas (or the three kinds of introvision) is the means to It (Brahman). Sushumna which is from the muladhara to brahmarandhra has the radiance of the sun. In the centre of it is kundalini shining like crores of lightning and subtle as the thread in the lotus-stalk. Tamas is destroyed there … When the mind is fixed on it, it sees a blue light between the eyes as also in the heart. (This is antarlakshya or internal introvison). In the bahirlakshya (or external introvision) one sees in order before his nose at distance of 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 digits, the space of blue colour, then a colour resembling syama (indigo-black) and then shining as rakta (red) wave and then with the two pita (yellow and orange red) colours. Then he is a yogin. When one looks at the external space, moving the eyes and sees streaks of light at the corners of his eyes, then his vision can be made steady. When one sees jyotis (spiritual light) above his head 12 digits in length, then he attains the state of nectar. In the madhyalakshya (or the middle one), one sees the variegated colours of the morning As if the sun, the moon , and the fire had joined together in the Ukas that is without them. Then he comes to have their nature (of light). Through practice, he becomes one with akas, devoid of all gunas and peculiarities. At first akas with its shining stars becomes to him Para-akas as dark as tamas itself, and he becomes one with Paraakas shining with stars and deep as tamas. (Then) he becomes one with Maha-akas resplendent (as) with the fire of the deluge. Then he becomes one with Tattva-akas, lighted with the brightness which is the highest and the best of all. Then he becomes one with Surya-akas (sun-akas) brightened by a crore of suns. By practising thus, he becomes one with them. He who knows them becomes thus.

As regards the physiological constitution of the human microcosm, the Yogatattva Upanishad, for instance, specifies the parts of the human body governed by the several cosmic deities:

83b: There are five elements: Prithvi, Apas, Agni, Vāyu and Ākāsha.

84-87a: To the body of the five elements, there is the fivefold Dharana. From the feet to the knees is said to be the region of Prithvi

87b. The region of Apas is said to extend from the knees to the anus.

91. From the anus to the heart is said to be the region of Agni.

94b: From the heart to the middle of the eyebrows is said to be the region of Vāyu.

97-98. From the centre of the eyebrows to the top of the head is said to be the region of Ākāsha.

In the Brahma Upanishad, the macrocosmic Man, or Purusha, itself is revealed to be entirely concentrated within the human microcosm:

2: This being or Self is fully self-extended (into world-forms), he is the indwelling controller of things and beings, he is the Bird, the Crab, the Lotus, he is the Purusha, the Prana, the destroyer, the cause and the effect, the Brahman, the Atman, he is the Devata making everything known.

3: Now this Purusha has four seats, the navel, the heart, the throat and the head. In these shines forth the Brahman with four aspects: the state of wakefulness, of dream, of dreamless sleep, and the fourth or transcendent state.

21: The heart (i.e. the inner chamber of the heart) resembles the calyx of a lotus, full of cavities and also with its face turned downwards. Know that to be the great habitat of the whole universe.

22: Know the wakeful state to have for its centre the eyes; the dreaming state should be assigned to the throat; the state of dreamless sleep is in the heart; and the transcendent state is in the crown of the head.

The Katha Upanishad II,4,12, identifies the Purusha with the Self in the following manner: ‘The person (Purusha), of the size of a thumb, stands in the middle of the Self, as lord of the past and the future, and henceforward fears no more’. SB X,6,3,2 too understands the Purusha as the Self:

this golden Purusha in the heart [is] even as a smokeless light, it is greater than the sky, greater than the ether, greater than the earth, greater than all existing things;–that self of the spirit (breath) is my self: on passing away from hence I shall obtain that self.

The Garbha Upanishad outlines part of the yogic method to be employed in the realisation of the individual self as the Supreme Self or Purusha:

Through yoga, it should be brought from the middle of the eyebrows to the end of sushumnā (viz., the pineal gland), when he becomes the cognizer of the Real like the child in the womb. In the body of this nature, Āṭmā is latent and deathless and is the witness and Purusha. It lives in this body, being enveloped (by māyā). Prānī (or the jīva having prāna) has abhimāna (identification with the body) on account of avidyā. Ajñāna [ignorance] which surrounds it is the seed; the antahkarana (internal organ) is the sprout and the body is the tree.

The jīva or personal ego is deluded by the illusory power of māya into thinking that it is identical to the body and it is this error that is sought to be corrected through yoga. By contemplating the Yajna Purusha as the Supreme Soul, Ātman, however, we may acquire the cosmic consciousness of Brahman. The identification of the individual ātman with Brahman is the same as the attainment of the abode of the Purusha/Vishnu, which is informed by Brahman, and hence equal to Brahmaloka, from which one is not reborn. As Biardeau explains,

il y a une hiérarchie de plans qui va des organes sensoriels au Purusa suprême, nommé … Visnu … L’atman est au-delà de l’ego limitateur et fait accéder à un stade où le Réel est non manifesté, l’atman lui-même se trouvant absorbé dans ce Réel informe avant d’accéder au Purusa Visnu, en qui il trouve la délivrance finale.[20]




The esoteric significance of the various components of the Vedic fire-rituals is explained in detail in the Upanishads. The ‘Vaishvānara Vidya (knowledge of the soul of the universe)’ at the conclusion of Ch.V of the Chāndogya Upanishad points to the different forms of the divine Soul in the individual body as well as in the All (Vaishvānara). Of particular interest is the association of the heart, mind and mouth with the three sacrificial fires of the Āryans:

Of that Vaisvânara Self the head is Sutegas (having good light),[21] the eye Visvarûpa (multiform),[22] the breath Prithagvartman (having various courses),[23] the trunk Bahula (full),[24] the bladder Rayi (wealth),[25] the feet the earth,[26] the chest the altar, the hairs the grass on the altar, the heart the Gârhapatya fire, the mind the Anvâhârya fire, the mouth the Âhavanîya fire.

The Vaishvānara, however, is the same as the Purusha within the human soul “as a span long and as identical with [oneself]” (V,18,1).

Indeed, the Vedic texts reveal a more than scientific understanding both of the several forms of heat that pervade the human microcosm and of the different parts of the flames of external fire. The metaphysical significance of the fire-rituals is detailed in the Panchāgni Vidya of the Chāndogya Upanishad, V,4ff, which identifies the five spiritual fires within the macrocosm (heaven, the atmosphere, and earth) and the macrocosm (man and woman). Such an understanding is clearly due to the supernatural yogic discipline that informed the original religion of the brāhmans and identifies them not just as wise men but indeed as “magicians”. This is, of course, the reason why the term “magi” used for their Iranian counterparts has long been equated with “magicians”.

The Prānāgnihotra Upanishad similarly mentions five fires, four of which are within the human body:

19.The fire of the sun in the form of the solar disk whence millions of rays are diffused is found in the head corresponding to the Ekarshi fire.

The fire of vision is found … in the mouth corresponding to the Ahavaniya fire.

The gastric fire which supports the digestive function is found … in the heart, corresponding to the Dakshinagni.

Then there is the intestinal fire which cooks that which has been eaten, drunk, licked and masticated and is found towards the navel, corresponding to the Garhapatya fire.

20. Finally, there is the expiatory fire which is found under [the navel] and shares with it the three principal nadis (ida, pingala, and sushumna) as its common spouses and activates the process of procreation by means of the lunar light which circulates through them.

The Panchāgni-vidya includes not only knowledge of the fires within the body but also that of the different intensities within the flames of fire. According to the Mundaka Upanishad (I,2,4), Agni contains seven flames, Kâlî (black), Karâlî (terrific), Manogavâ (swift as thought), Sulohitâ (crimson), Sudhûmravarnâ (purple), Sphulinginî (sparkling), and brilliant Visvarûpî (having all forms), which, like the sun-rays bear the sacrificer to the world of the gods.  Agni is thus the vital link between Heaven and Earth. Within the body itself the ancients identify the following fires:

Durgarshatā = bodily strength

Jyoti = aura

Tāpa = body temperature

Pāka = digestive fire

Prakash = wisdom

Shauch = fire that destroys bodily dirt

Rāg = fire that possesses magnetic attraction

Laghu =fire that makes the body light

Taishnya = fire that raises the mental powers

Urdhwagaman = fire that joins the mental powers to the divine powers (demigods)

As Shriram Sharma points out,[27] these ten qualities and functions of fire are related to the five prānas and five sub-prānas of the body.

The Garbha Upanishad mentions three forms of fire within the human body, koshta agni, darshana agni and gnāna agni, relating to digestion, sight, and knowledge. These are located in the stomach, face, and heart respectively and correspond to the three fires, gārhaptniyāgni, āhavaniyāgni and dakshināgni, in the fire-ritual:

And of how many kinds is that agni? It has three bodies, three retas (seeds or progeny), three puras (cities), three dhātus, and three kinds of agni threefold. Of these three, Vaiśvānara is bodiless. And that agni becomes (or is subdivided into) Jñānāgni (wisdom-fire), Darśanāgni (eye-fire), and Koshthāgni (digestive fire). Of these Jñānāgni pertains to the mind; Darśanāgni pertains to the senses; and Koshthāgni pertains to dahara and daily cooks (or digests) equally whatever is eaten, drunk, licked, or sucked through prāna and apāna. Darśanāgni is (in) the eye itself and is the cause of vijñāna and enables one to see all objects of form. It has three seats, the (spiritual) eye itself being the (primary) seat, and the eyeballs being the accessory seats.

This Upanishad also describes in great detail the internal heat within the human body in terms of an internal fire-ritual:

Dakshināgni is in the heart, Gārhapaṭya is in the belly, and in the face is Āhavanīya. (In this sacrifice with the three agnis), the Purusha is himself the sacrificer; buddhi becomes his wife; santosha (contentment) becomes the dīkshā (vow) taken; the mind and the organs of the senses become the sacrificial vessels; the karmendriyas (organs of action) are the sacrificial instruments. In this sacrifice of the body, the several devas who become the rtvijas (sacrificial priests) perform their parts following the master of the sacrifice, (viz., the true individuality), wherever he goes. In this (sacrifice), the body is the sacrificial place, the skull of the head is the fire-pit, the hairs are the kuśa grass; the mouth is the antarvedi (raised platform in sacrifice); kāma (or passion) is the clarified butter; the period of life is the period of sacrifice; nāda (sound) produced in dahara (heart) is the sāmaveda (recited during the sacrifice); vaikharī is the yajus (or yajurveḍa hymns); parā, paśyanti, and madhyamā are the rks (or rgveḍa hymns); cruel words are the atharvas (atharvaveda hymns) and khilas (supplementary texts of each veḍa); true words are the vyāhrtis. Life, strength, and bile are the paśus (sacrificial creatures) and death is avabhrta (the bath which concludes the sacrifice). In this sacrifice, the (three) fires blaze up and then according to (the desires of) the worldly the devas bless him.

We see therefore that the fire rituals of the Āryans involve magical evocations of the macrocosmic fire through manipulation of the fire within the ritual-altar (represented by the three sacred fires) and that within the human microcosm. These rituals serve to sustain the entire cosmos as well as the sacrificer, who, guided by the brahman priest, becomes identified with the solar force, Brahman.




We may briefly compare here the Zoroastrian understanding of and reverence for the sacred fire, Atar, which is symbolic of Ahura Mazda himself and of the Truth. The Greater Bundahishn I,a describes the process whereby Ahura Mazda manifests himself materially. First, he draws forth, from his own Endless Light, Fire, and then Ether (the Sky) out of Fire, Water out of Ether, and Earth out of Water. Then he produces “the Tree” (which corresponds to the Tree of Life representing our universe), followed by “the Beneficent Animal” (the Cow) and “the Holy Man” (Gayomaretan/the First Man). The Fire derived from the Endless Light is called Khvarag (4).

In the Greater Bundahishn Ch.XVIII and the Lesser Bundahishn Ch.XVII, mention is made of five fires, the Berezi-savang, Vohufryan, Urvazisht, Vazisht (one of the sages in the Indian tradition), and Spenisht. The Berezi-savang is “the fire which glitters before Ohrmazd the Lord”. The fire Spenisht is that which is lit in the material world. The Vohufryan is “that which is in the bodies of men and animals”, the Urvazisht is that which is in plants, and Vazisht that which is in clouds. Of Spenisht, the three principal fires are Farnbag, Gushnasp and Burzin Mihr. Descriptions of the various fires worshipped by the Zoroastrians are given also in the Greater Bundahishn, Ch. VIG, where the fire Vasisht is said to facilitate the production of rain, and the fires Farnbag, Gushpasp and Burzin Mihr the protection of the world and the preservation of the creatures. Other fires such as those within the plants, men and beneficent animals maintain and increase the life of these species.

The Greater Bundahishn Ch.XVIII also provides an account of the fires Burzen Mihr, Adar Gushnasp and Farnbag. Of these, the fire Farnbag is considered to be the “athravan” (priest) of the fires, the fire Gushnasp the warrior, and the fire Birzin Mihr the husbandman. “They are the protectors of the world until the renovation of the universe” (17). Thus Farnbag has the ritualistic eminence of Agni as the brāhmanical god among the Indo-Āryans. He is assisted by the two other fires, representing the warrior and the peasant, in his protection of the world.

Regarding the kinds of fire-rituals practised by the Zoroastrians, the Avesta mentions three consecrated fires, a house-hold fire, a communal fire and a national. The ritual employing the domestic hearth fire, called Ātash Dādgāh, is the lowest, for this fire is turned into a more significant cult fire by putting it in an appropriate place, i.e. a fire-temple. The fire room in the temple was itself constructed in the form of a dome recalling the dome of heaven.[28] The Avesta (Yasna 62,5) values most of all the national fire, the Ātash Bahram, the fire of victory. This was the cult fire of the royal house of the Sassanians. The king himself is believed to be endowed with khvarena, the sacred victory-giving glory that is dispensed by Mithra.[29] The consecration of the Atash Bahram is conducted with a collection of the sixteen fires mentioned in the Vendidad, Ch.8. The hymns used for its consecration are mostly directed to Srosh, the assistant of Mithra[30] and the guardian of all that is pure and sacred in the world. The sacred fire of the second grade is called Ātash Adarān, meaning fire of [different] fires, i.e. taken from the embers of the hearth fires of the various castes, priests, warriors, farmers, and artisans.

We see that the primary focus in Zoroastrian fire-worship is on the external and macrocosmic forms of fire. There is little yogic understanding of the internal thermal energies that inform the human microcosm. However, Grether, who has attempted to demonstrate the close resemblances between the Tantric homa and the Zoroastrian fire-rituals, points out that, at least in the case of the Zoroastrian chief priest, there is a clear correlation between the deity and the fire.[31] The Lord of Wisdom is believed to be present in the form of fire as well as in the body of the priest. Thus the Zoroastrian priest’s role is that of a representative of the Lord of Wisdom, of Ahura Mazda, who has become visible to the worshippers in the form of the ritual fire.




When we turn to the fire-rituals that were conducted within the Tantric tradition we find that they reflect a more pristine system of ritual practice than even the Indo-Āryan Vedic fire-rituals. As Grether has pointed out,

None of the elements common to homa are exclusively Vedic. However, all of the quintessential portions—structure and efficacy—do have parallels in the Iranian cultural paradigm.  Therefore, tantric homa rites are more properly characterized as Indo-Iranian in origin.[32]

As she suggests, ’the ritual efficacy common to all homa rites can be found in the Central Asian culture dating back to the pre-Vedic period but re-articulated in the tantric period.’ Further, Biardeau too has pointed out that “le ‘sacrifiant’ du culte agamique – qui est toujours, par la force des choses, un notable, au moins local – se rapproche ainsi beaucoup plus au roi que du maître de maison ordinaire”.[33] This suggests that the Tantric sacrifices retain the public significance of the early sacred rituals of the Indo-Iranians rather more than the rituals of the later Vedic Āryans, which tended to be more domestic, and exclusive, affairs.

However, it is not likely that the original sacrificial rituals of the Tantric or the Vedic Indians were derived directly from those of the Iranians. The Iranians are represented in Herodotus as worshipping the “circle of heaven” (Ahura, from Ashur/Anshar=circle of heaven) as well as the heavenly bodies. The incantation that the priest utters during the animal sacrifice is supposed to evoke the creation of the heavenly bodies. The Iranians discussed by Herodotus, however, did not build temples or worship statuary representations of their deities (I,131), and this emphasises their ancient affiliation with the Scythians, while the Mitanni- and the Hittite-Hurrians, however, were certainly not averse to such representations.

Besides, the Iranian rituals are described by Herodotus as not involving fire, even though the later Zoroastrian religion – like the Indic – is indeed typified by its worship of fire, Atar. More recently Mary Boyce has pointed out that “no actual ruins of a fire temple have been identified from before the Parthian period [i.e. before the 3rd c. B.C.]”.[34] This suggests once again that the Iranians, like their Mitanni kinsmen, must have come into contact in the south with the Purūruva Ailas [Elamites/Hurrians], who, as we shall see, derived their worship of fire from the Gandharvas, or the inhabitants of the Gandhara Grave culture (ca. 1700-1400 B.C.), which followed the Bactro-Margiana Archaeological Complex (ca. 2200-1700 B.C.).[35] Indeed the Iranians seem originally to have been nomadic peoples, as is attested by the imagery of the Old Avesta, wherein the cosmos is viewed as an enormous tent.[36]

The relatives of the Iranians, the ancient Scythians, too do not exhibit any developed form of religious worship that may ascribed to yogic understanding. The royal hearth was the most sacred place in the Scythian domain and solemn oaths were sworn there (Herodotus IV,68). This may be related to the veneration of the Royal Fire, the Ātash Bahram, among the Iranians.[37] When the king died, the royal funeral cortege travelled throughout the Scythian kingdom for forty days in order to receive the homage of the people, some of whom even mutilated themselves in partial self-sacrifice.

Other practices that link the Scythians to the Indo-Iranians is their custom of soma-drinking which accounts for their ancient designation as “hoamavarga”, or “soma-drinking”, Scythians. However, Eliade’s researches in Central Asian shamanism, which may be a vestige of ancient Scythian religious practice, point to a rather rudimentary practical application of the spiritual basis of the cosmological religion of the ancients in the shamanistic rituals.[38] The use of intoxicants for the acquisition of transcendental states is, according to Eliade, a relatively inferior path in comparison to the inner spiritual discipline advocated by yoga,[39] and the reduction of yogic knowledge to ecstatic flights among the shamans is an indication of a certain degeneration of the wisdom of the ancient Near East in its transmission to the north. As Eliade pointed out, let us emphasize once again the structural difference that distinguishes classic Yoga from shamanism. Although the latter is not without certain techniques of concentration, … its final goal is always ecstasy and the soul’s ecstatic journey through the various cosmic regions, whereas Yoga pursues entasis, final concentration on the spirit and “escape” from the cosmos.[40]

To discern the original tradition of the Indo-Iranians from whom the Tantric, Vedic, and Zoroastrian rituals were all derived, we may turn once again to the Indic Purānas, where we find that Purūravas, the early Aila [=Elamite?] king, is said to have obtained sacrificial fire from the “Gandharvas”, who also taught him the constitution of the three sacred fires of the Āryans.[41] Purūravas is stated in the Puranas to be an Aila king of Pratishthana, Aila itself designating a descendant of Ila, the offspring of Manu and originator of the Lunar dynasty of kshatriyas, while Manu’s son, Ikshvāku is the author of the Solar dynasty. The Ailas are designated as Karddameyas, which relates them to the river Karddama in Iran, particularly in the region of Balkh.[42] The kshatriya ruler of the lunar dynasty, Pururavas, is, according to the Bhavishya Purāna, Pratisarg 3, the son of Budh, the son of the Moon, Chandra,[43] who himself was the son of the sage Atri born of Brahma. The rise of both Chandra and Purūravas is dated to the Treta Yuga. Fire-worship was thus perhaps not universal among the earliest Āryan tribes. The fact that the Purūravas are said to have learnt the fire-rituals from the Gandharvas suggests that the early Hurrians of Elam and the earliest Iranians did not worship fire and learnt it from another group of Āryans who must have, at a very early date, moved eastwards from their Anatolian/Armenian homeland. However, even the Gandharas are included among the Aila [=Elamite?] dynasties in the Purānas, which suggests that these Āryans too were a branch of the original Noachidian family that we have called proto-Dravidian/Hurrian.




Given the intimate relationship between Yoga, Upanishadic Brāhmanism and Tantra and the reference in Manusmriti, I,86, to the fact that austerities marked by tapas preceded the development of fire-rituals, it is important to descry the relations between the Vedic and Tantric rituals. That Tantra is closely related to Brāhmanism is clear from the many similarities in their respective ritual practices. In fact, even the apparently unorthodox practices of the Shaiva Tantric Kaula [non-dualistic but liberal] sect are a practical application of Advaita Vedic knowledge, as Woodroffe pointed out:

The Kularnava (III. 113) says that there is no knowledge higher than that of Veda and no doctrine equal to KaulaHere a distinction is drawn between Veda which is Vidya and the Kaula teaching which he calls Darshana [school of philosophy].[44]

Ch.29 of Abhināvagupta’s Tantraloka details the ‘kula prakriya’ rite as involving the unorthodox consumption of meat, alcohol, fish and the performance of ritual sex.[45] However, as Flood points out, the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad (IV,3,21) too describes the realisation of the self as the Absolute in sexual terms, while the Chāndogya Upanishad (II,13,1-2) identifies Vedic recitation itself with the sexual act.[46] Yael Bentor has also recently noted that

The brahmanas and upanisads contain various passages linking the fire offering to sexual intercourse and conception.~~ The milk offered into the fire has been related to semen and the boiling of the milk to orgasm … Also, the kindling of the fire from the friction of the two fire sticks (arani) is correlated to sexual intercourse.[47]

Those who have studied Vedic sacrifical rituals will also remember the dramatic performance of copulation between the king’s wife and the dead horse in the Ashvamedha sacrifice and may reasonably suppose this to have been a part of the original Purushamedha (human sacrifice) as well. As Brajalal Mukherji also explained,

All Vedic yajnas are based on the idea that Maithunikarana (coitus) leads to spiritual happiness. Sexual intercourse is Agnihotra (SB XI, 6,2,10). Maithunakarana is consecration (SB III, 2,1,2, etc.) … [Yajnas] direct the observance and performance of Maithuna as a religious rite or part of a religious rite … and they direct that Mantras are to be uttered during the observance of this rite.[48]

What is interesting is that many of the other aspects of Tantric ritual also have counterparts in Vedic ritual. Mukherji highlighted similarities between the divinisation rituals of the Āgamic tradition and some of the Vedic rituals:

The worship in both Vaidik and Tantrik rites begins with Acamana, which is a form of ablution in which certains parts of the body are touched with water ….  They purify themselves by uttering some Mantras as Bijas while contemplating the Deities of certain parts of their bodies and touching such parts with their fingers … They make use of certain sounds for removing unclean spirits, e.g., Khat, Phat, Hum … They attribute a Deity to each letter in a Mantra … They make gestures with their fingers as part of their religious rites … and locate the Devatas of particular sounds in particular parts of their bodies … [49]

However, a closer study of the Vedic and Tantric rituals will reveal certain significant differences between them. We may for the purpose of such a comparison consider the Tantric fire rituals or ’homa’ sacrifices performed by both the Indians and the Asiatic Buddhists who adopted these Indian rituals in Tibet and the Orient. The primal deity in the homa is indeed the god of fire, Agni. The Tantric Shaiva Siddhānta sacrificial ritual envisages a symbolic birth of the deity into the ritual enclosure. As Richard Payne has pointed out,

This involves the full range of sexual imagery, that is, impregnation, gestation, and birth, as well as the other rituals of childhood: Two deities (identified as Brahmā and Sarasvati) are installed in the hearth altar, and burning coals identified as Śiva’s semen are then poured in while the practitioner visualizes the act of impregnation. By these ritual actions, Agni is born as the ritual fire in the hearth-altar.[50]

The identification of the forms of Agni, or Agni Vaishvanara, with the three sacrificial fires used in the Kālachakra Tantric rituals of Vajrayāna Buddhism – just as they are in the Vedic – has been noted by Vesna Wallace:

The first is the southern fire (dakshinagni), identified with lightning that resides in a bow-shaped firepit in the heart cakra. The second is the domestic fire (garhyapatya), which is identified with the sun that dwells in a circular firepit within the throat cakra; the third is the consecrated fire taken from the perpetual domestic fire (ahavaniya), or the flesh-consuming fire (kravyada), which is located in a quadrangular firepit within the navel cakra. Above these three fires, at the edge of darkness, where neither the light of lightning, the sun, the moon, or the planets shine, there is an additional fire, the fire of gnosis (jnanagni). This fourth fire is of the nature of joy (ananda) located in the secret and forehead cakras, and it has been there since beginningless time.[51]

We see that the sacrificial fires are simultaneously identified with the thermal energies located within the chakras of the human body. The internal homa of the Tantric Tibetans is even more illustrative of the movement of Agni or termal energy within the chakras of the human body in such a way that the practitioner transforms his sexual energy into a source of enlightenment. For example, in the Tibetan yoga of the subtle body (linga sharīra),

inner heat (gtum-mo) is generated in the navel (or in the junction of the central channel with the ro-ma and rkyang-ma below the navel) and blazes up through the central channel. As a result of the bodhicitta, the white drop located at the head’s center, melts and meets with the red drop, the gtum-mo fire. The practice culminates in the realization of supreme nondual enlightened wisdom.[52]

In Tantric worship, the virtual creation of Agni in the fire-altar and the worship of Agni through oblations and entreaties are accompanied by the divinisation of the priest. This aspect of Tantric worship will be observed also in the adjunct to the homa, the pūja, where the sādhaka is divinised before he can venerate the deity manifest in temple idols. The fire that is created in the fire-altar is in fact created by the priest from within his own heart. This is evident especially in the Kālachakra Tantra rituals studied by Vesna Wallace.[53] Grether too has noted that

Vedic priests may identify parts of their bodies with a variety of gods, but “there is no unified nor even consistent parallel of worshipper and god” …  Tantric rites, on the other hand, tend to focus on a direct correlation between a singular divine being — who becomes present in the fire — and the worshipper.[54]

Thus we may agree with Bentor thatTantric rituals, external rituals included, are in fact ritualized meditations’.[55] Indeed, the entire office of the brahman priest in the Vedic ritual stresses the internal signficance of the external fire-rituals:

The role of the brahman priest in vedic rituals also points to the importance of the mental aspect in outer vedic sacrifices. While the other priests, such as the adhvaryu and hotr, perform the ritual actions and recite, the brahman follows the ritual mentally. Whenever an error in the performance occurs he corrects it not by ritual actions, but through his mental powers.[56]

Heesterman’s conjecture that yogic asceticism was an “internalisation” of the Vedic sacrifices is thus clearly inaccurate in its suggestion of the priority of sacrifice.[57] The fire-rituals of the brāhmans may more likely have been an externalisation of the thermal disciplines of yoga since the Rgveda (X,154,2) itself mentions [yogic] tapas as that by which “one attains the light of the sun”.

As regards the use of mantras in these various rituals, Grether points out that the recitation of Vedic mantras merely narrates the defeat of evil while the tantric mantras, on the other hand, actually effect the destruction. Another indication that the Vedic fire-rituals were not prior to yogic practices among the earliest Indo-Europeans is that the implements used in the latter often have a sexual significance, as when the ladle symbolises a penis and the hearth a vagina. This significance is derived from Tantric symbolism, as Wheelock reminds us:

[In the Tantric ritual] not only the worshipper is made identical to the central deity … but all of the components of the ritual as well.[58]

Wheelock also notes that, in the system of correspondences between the external objects of the ritual and their cosmic referents, the Vedic  practice is not so comprehensive as the Tantric:

the transformations of objects in the Vedic ritual arena does not generate a precisely ordered mandala that replicates the divine powers in a one-to-one fashion. Rather, one finds a more variegated and constantly changing amalgam of divine resonances.[59]


The Tantric ritual in an even more systematic fashion transforms a mundane setting into a precisely and minutely conceived replica of a sacred cosmos. The purification and cosmicisation of ritual components covers everything from the individual worshipper (sadhaka), whose body becomes an image of the deity in both transcendent and manifest form, to the altar on which the offerings are made, which is changed into a mandala housing the entire retinue of divine beings, the manifold body  of the supreme deity.




The imprecision in the correspondences noted above is further highlighted by a comparison of the Tantric ‘puja’, which is, apart from ‘homa’, the other common form of Tantric worship, with the Vedic fire-ritual. As Wheelock states:

One noteworthy difference from the Tantric ritual is that the Vedic priest … identifies parts of his body with parts of a variety of different gods. There is no unified nor even consistent parallel of worshipper and god.[60]

In the ‘puja‘, on the other hand, there proceeds a process of divinisation of the worshipper that follows a series of steps that steadily recall the macrocosmic dimensions of the human microcosm. These steps have been well studied by Wheelock,[61] whom I shall cite here. The first step is ‘bhūtashuddhi’:

Bhutashuddhi, as the name implies (purification of the elements) involves visualising the refining of the worshipper’s own body by a process inwardly re-enacting the destruction of the cosmos and the reabsorption of the basic elements into primal, undifferentiated matter … With some variation in different texts, the worshipper proceeds to visualise the cosmic fire being extinguished with earth and the resultiing ashes finally being washed away with wáter, completing the process of purification.

Bhūtashuddhi is followed by the recreation of the worshipper’s body, now as an image of the cosmos. This is accomplished through the process of ‘nyāsa’ (placing):

Like bhutashuddhi, nyāsa involves the use of nonsentence mantras but with an accompanying physical act, touching various parts of the body. The mantras, in effect, are applied to the body manually. Two basic types of mantras are used. First, the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are placed in order on different parts of the body (matrka-nyasa) providing the worshipper’s body with the fifty basic elements of the Tantric cosmogony.

Next, a series of essentially reverential mantras are offered to the parts of the  body (anga-nyāsa)

to consecrate them as implicity identical to those of the supreme deity. The mantras of the anga-nyasa then transmute the purified body of the worshipper into the fully manifest form of the supreme deity.

The entire Tantric ritual is thus viewed ‘as god offering worship to god’.

In the idol-worship section of Tantra, the liturgy begins with  invocation of the deity and moves to providing the deity with a detailed manifest form.[62] This begins with ‘the establishment of the life breaths in the image (yantra, statue) that the invoked deity has just entered.  This is the rite of ‘prāna pratishtha’. However, as Wheelock points out:

the deity is not descending from the distant heaven of the Vedic cosmology but is drawn out from the very heart of the worshipper and asked to become manifest in some concrete object in the ritual- For example, Siva is invoked into the temple’s lingam.

In the deity’s acquisition of a manifest form the worship of the limbs of the divine body is conducted using a set of mantras employed in the Tantric worshipper’s rite of nyāsa. As with the rite of nyāsa, the point of these mantras is to identify parts of the mandala with parts of the deity’s body. This focus on the physical aspect of the deity is different from the Vedic ritual, as Wheelock points out:

that an important part of the homage expressed in the Tantric puja concerns the physical traits of the deity. This is certainly not the case in the Vedic ritual, where one mentions the deeds and functions of the god with almost no mention of his physical appearance.

Further, the fact that the idol-worship prescribed as part of Tantric worship corresponds closely to the original yogic meditation is made clear in the description of such worship in the Mandalabrāhmana Upanishad II:

Not being troubled by any thoughts (of the world) then constitutes the ḍhyāna. The abandoning of all karmas constitutes āvāhana (invocation of god). Being firm in the unshaken (spiritual) wisdom constitutes āsana (posture). Being in the state of unmanī constitutes the pāḍya (offering of water for washing the feet of god). Preserving the state of amanaska (when manas is offered as sacrifice) constitutes the arghya (offering of water as oblation generally). Being in state of eternal brightness and shoreless nectar constitutes snāna (bathing). The contemplation of Āṭmā as present in all constitutes (the application to the idol of) sandal. The remaining in the real state of the ḍṛk (spiritual eye) is (the worshipping with) akshaṭa;(non-broken rice). The attaining of Chiṭ (consciousness) is (the worshipping with) flower. The real state of agni (fire) of Chiṭ is the ḍhūpa (burning of incense). The state of the sun of Chiṭ is the ḍīpa (light waved before the image). The union of oneself with the nectar of full moon is the naivēḍya (offering of food, etc.). The immobility in that state (of the ego being one with all) is praḍakshiṇa (going round the image). The conception of ‘I am He’ is namaskāra (prostration). The silence (then) is the sṭuṭi (praise). The all-contentment (or serenity then) is the visarjana (giving leave to god or finishing worship). (This is the worship of Āṭmā by all Raja-yogins). He who knows this knows all.

Another index of the original quality of Tantric ritual is the importance of mantras in it. Every god is indeed represented by a ‘bīja’ or seminal mantra which embodies the essence of the god. Thus the syllable ‘ram’ betokens Agni, ‘dam’ Vishnu, ‘horum’ Shiva, etc. A connected series of bīja mantras in the form of a mūla, or root, mantra of the deity is used in the climactic rite of ‘japa’ at the end of the pūja in such a way that the multiple repetitions of the mūla-mantra serve as a means of producing a concrete sonic manifestation of the deity. As Wheelock points out:

In the Tantric ritual] the deity becomes manifest as the world first by taking on Sonic form, the concrete objects or referents (artha) of those primordial words following afterward in the course of cosmic evolution.

In contrast,

the orthodox formulation of the Vedic tradition, the Purva-Mimamsa, virtually ignores mantras. Its key task is to determine a valid means (pramana) for ascertaining dharma … Only the set of explicit injunctions to action (vidhi) found in the brahmana section of sruti are to be counted as relevant to defining dharma.




We see therefore that Tantric worship is much more detailed in its divinisation of the worshipper than the Vedic. Tantric Āgama indeed considers the universe as a whole whose every single part bears an influence on the others. Thus a system of sympathetic magic was developed out of it in which the final aim of the spiritual adept (sādhaka) is to transform, within his consciousness, his own person as well as cult-objects and rites into that which these phenomena essentially are. And the ultimate aim of Tantra, called ‘siddhi’ or spiritual perfection, is a practical realisation of the Upanishadic equation of the individual ātman with Brahman (“tat tvam asi”/that art thou).

Thus it is not surprising that, although drawing on the Vedic tradition, Āgama claims to supersede it. As Flood points out, “The mainstream tantric texts of the Pancharatra and Shaiva Siddhanta maintain a close proximity to the vedic tradition and prescribe a whole way of life that incorporates vedic rites of passage [samskaras] … along with the supererogatory tantric rites of their tradition”.[63] Kulluka Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on Manu, for instance, says that Shruti is of two kinds, Vaidik and Tantrik, while the Niruttara Tantra also calls Tantra the Fifth Veda.

We have noted that the Vedic fire-rituals do not exhibit the correspondences between the elements of the external altar and the thermal energies within the body so closely as the Tantric homa rituals do. The sexual connotations of the fire-ritual also point to the fact that the latter was an externalisation of the yogic understanding of the forces within the chakras of the human body rather than vice-versa. Besides, the Tantric homa as practised by certain Tibetan Buddhists display a greater understanding of the internal sexual transformations that are meant to take place in the sacrificer during a fire-ritual. The divinisation process detailed in Tantric pūjas also demonstrates a stricter adherence to the yogic mode of transcendence through the chakras than the temporary elevation of the sacrificer with the help of the officiating priests in the Vedic ritual does. Finally, the utilisation of mantras in the Vedic rituals is less forceful than in the Tantric, where the chanting effectively reproduces the primal sonic aspect of the divine creation.

Given the complexity of the rituals whereby the Tantric priest and worshipper transform their human forms as well as those of idols into divine ones, employing the fires within themselves as well as without, it would appear that the Tantric rituals of India – as well as those of the other idol-worshipping cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt[64] – are indeed closer to the original yogic wisdom of the proto-Dravidian/Hurrian family of Manu/Noah than the Vedic or Zoroastrian fire-rituals are.


[1] Cf. MBh VII (Drona Parva), 202, where Shiva is called Yoga and the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshvara).

[2] According to BP I,3, there are twenty-two avatārs of Vishnu, beginning with

[Krita Yuga] Chatursana (the four sons of Brahma), the boar Varāha, Nārada, Nara-Nārāyana, Kapila, Dattatreya, Yajna, Rishabha,

[Treta Yuga] the fish Matsya, the tortoise Kūrma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Narasimha, Vāmana, Parashurāma, Vyāsa, Rāma,

[Dvāpara Yuga] Balarāma, Krishna,

[Kali Yuga] the Buddha, Kalki.

[3] The Hamitic civilisations would include those of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Dravidian India.

[4] This is the calculation of the early (ca. 6th c. A.D.) astronomical treatise, Sūrya Siddhānta.

[5] See H. Frankfort, Archaeology and the Sumerian Problem, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1932, p.19.

[6] See, for instance, S. Hatley, “Converting the Dākini: Goddess Cults and Tantras of the Yoginis between Buddhism and Saivism” in Tantric Traditions in Transmission and Translation, (ed.) D.B. Gray and R.R. Overbey, N.Y., NY: Oxford University Press, 2016, Ch.2.

[7] See John E. Cort, ‘Worship of Bell-Ears the Great Hero, a Jain Tantric Deity’, in D.G. White (ed.), Tantra

 in Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, p.417.

[8] For a full discussion of this cosmology see A. Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of

the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2005, and A. Jacob, Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the

Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012.

[9] “Smriti” (=remembered wisdom) refers principally to the epics and the Dharmasūtras.

[10] See G.G. Stroumsa, Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1984, p.107. Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, I, 70-71 also makes clear the association of the line of Seth with cosmological learning.

[11] See Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, I:70-1.

[12] See G.G. Stroumsa, op.cit., p.117.

[13] The term “Hurrian” (derived from Suwalliyat/Suwariyat/Sūrya; see below) however may not be equated with “Āryan” since both Iranian and Indian have distinct terms for the sun (sūrya, hvare) and for the community of Aryans (ārya, eira), respectively. Hurrian certainly includes a strong Dravidic element in it (see G.W. Brown, “The possibility of a connection connection between Mitanni and the Dravidian languages”, JAOS, 50 (1930), 273-305).

[14] See N. Lahovary, tr. K.A. Nilakantan, Dravidian Origins origins and the West: Newly discovered ties with the ancient culture and languages, I cluding Basque, of the pre-Indo-European Mediterranean world, Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963, p.2.

[15]  Shriram Sharma, Scientific Basis of Yajnas along with its wisdom aspect, ed. A.N. Rawal and tr. H.A. Kapadia, Ch.20.

[16] S. Sharma, Ibid.

[17]  AV IV,23,5: “With [Agni] as friend the Rishis gave their power new splendour,
with whom they kept aloof the Asuras’ devices”.

[18] See F.E. Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London: Milford, 1922. p.308f.

[19] See K.N. Aiyar, Thirty Minor Upanishads, Madras: Vasanta Press, 1914.

[20] See M. Biardeau, Le sacrifice dans l’inde ancienne, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1976, p.75.

[21] i.e. Heaven (V,12,1).

[22] i.e. the sun (V,13,1).

[23] i.e. air (V,14,1).

[24] i.e. ether (V,15,1).

[25] i.e. water (V,16,1).

[26] Prathishta (V,17,1)

[27] S. Sharma, op.cit., Ch.9.

[28] See J. Darmsteter, Zend Avesta, I, 152f; 169.

[29] Sol Invictus takes the place of the Avestan khvarena in the later Mithraic religion. All the Roman emperors after Commodus (161-192 A.D.) assumed this title.

[30] Cf. Mihir Yasht XXV.

[31] See Holly Grether, “Tantric Homa Rites in the Indo-Iranian Ritual Paradigm,” Journal of Ritual Studies 21.1 (2007), 16-32.

[32] Ibid., p.28.

[33] See M. Biardeau, op.cit., p.139.

[34] See Mary Boyce, “On the Zoroastrian temple-cult of fire”, JOAS, 95/3, p.454.

[35] See A. Parpola, “The Problem of the Aryans”, in G. Erdosy, (ed.) The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p.366.

[36] See P.O. Skjaervo, “The Avesta as source for the early history of the Iranians”, in G. Erdosy (ed.), The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p.168.

[37] See above.

[38] Cf. M. Eliade’s discussion of shamanism among the Scythians, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, 1964, pp.394ff.

[39] See M. Eliade, op.cit., p.401.

[40]  Ibid., p.417.

[41] See F.E. Pargiter, op.cit., p.309. In the Mbh I, 75, too Purūravas is said to have brought the three kinds of sacrificial fire from the Gandharvas.

[42] See Rāmāyana VII,103,21ff.

[43] Budh was married to Ila, the daughter of Manu Vaivaswat.

[44] See John Woodroffe (“Arthur Avalon”), Shakti and Shâkta: Essays and addresses on the Shâkta tantrashâstra, London: Luzac and Co. 1918.

[45] Ibid., p.154ff.

[46] See G. Flood, The Tantric Body: The secret tradition of Hindu religion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.

[47] Yael Bentor, “Interiorized Fire Rituals in India and in Tibet.” JAOS 120.4 (2000), p.600.

[48] In John Woodroffe, op.cit., ‘Note to Ch.IV‘.

[49] Ibid.

[50] See R. Payne, ‘Homa: Tantric Fire Ritual’, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, p.7.

[51] Vesna Wallace, ‘Homa Rituals in the Indian Kālacakra Tradition’, in R.K. Payne and M. Witzel (ed.), Homa Variations: Ritual Change across the Longue Durée. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, p.260.

[52] See Y. Bentor, op.cit., p.597.

[53] See V. Wallace, op.cit.

[54] See H. Grether, op.cit., p.21.

[55] See Y. Bentor, op.cit., p.605.

[56] Ibid., p.605.

[57] See J.C. Heesterman, Broken world: An essay on ancient Indian ritual, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, p.186.

[58] See Wade T. Wheelock,  ‘The Mantra in Vedic and Tantric Ritual’, in H.P. Alper (ed.), Understanding Mantras, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989, p.108.

[59] Ibid., p.105.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Wheelock, op.cit., pp.102ff.

[62] For a further account of the divinisation of idols in the Tantric tradition, see A. Jacob, Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012, Ch.XV.

[63] See G. Flood, op.cit., p.38.

[64] Cf. A. Jacob, Brahman, Chs.XIII-XV.

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