1. Students study the RV (here the first hymn to Agni 'Fire') in Barsi, Maharashtra, in the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram. The setting is somewhat formal, with the students introducing themselves first to the teacher before the actual repetition starts. The continuous text (samhita) is here learned and repeated paadashah 'foot by foot', the sandhi between the paadas is resolved. Intended public: students in Indology, Indian Studies, Ritual Studies, History of Education. With thanks to Pdt. Dixit Vijay N. Manerikar and students and to the staff of the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram, Barsi. Filmed by Jan Houben, February 2002.

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  2. Pre-dawn study of the Saamaveda by Pdt. Mukund R. Joshi and students in Barsi, Maharashtra, in the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram. A few days before the performance of one of the major forms of the Soma-ritual, the Atyagnistoma, the Saaman practiced here is the Mahavaisvanaravratam-Saaman. Having arrived in the Barsi Ashram the day before in order to study and film the upcoming Atyagnistoma, I was woken up by the sound of the chant which gave me an experience that evoked William Wordsworth's lines "... And heard that instant in an unknown tongue, Which yet I understood ..."
    The Vedic school followed is the rare Ranayaniya. In the planned Atyagnistoma (19-24 February 2001), Pdt. Joshi functioned as Prastotar and was in charge of singing this and other Saamans in the Pravargya that is performed on the days preceding the pressing day.
    Another teacher at the Ashram, Pdt. Sunil C. Limaye (who will be Adhvaryu in the planned Atyagnistoma), explained me the general principle behind the study in early morning hours: an hour or so before sunrise is suitable for repeating what was learned up to one or two weeks ago; after breakfast the later hours in the morning are for studying entirely new matter; after lunch, the afternoon is either for repeating older chapters or for playing cricket.
    For those who are still in need of a confirmation of the predominantly oral nature of Vedic education (see my articles ), the present clip provides a significant illustration. After around three minutes there is a power failure and the light goes off. Teacher and students are not in the least disturbed as they already master the text and melody by heart.

    See the following moments:
    minute 3:26 power failure
    minute 4:25 someone brought a torch
    minute 5:39 light goes on
    minute 5:43 I find the button "nightshot" on my camera

    On the orality of the Vedic tradition see also my studies
    (1)
    J.E.M. HOUBEN, 2011, « Vedic ritual as medium in ancient and pre-colonial South Asia: its expansion and survival between orality and writing », in J.E.M. HOUBEN – J.ROTARU (dir.), Veda-Vedāṅga et Avesta entre oralité et écriture. Travaux de symposium international : Le livre. La Roumanie. L’Europe. Troisième édition – 20-24 septembre 2010, III/A, Bucarest, Bibliothèque de Bucarest, pp. 147-183.
    (2)
    « Les perfectibles (sādhyá) entre circularité et causalité du rituel védique. », in Silvia D’Intino and Caterina Guenzi (dir.), Aux Abords de la Clairière : études indiennes et comparées en l’honneur de Charles Malamoud, Turnhout, Brepols, pp. 11-43.

    Intended public: students in Indology, Indian Studies, Ritual Studies, History of Education.

    With thanks to the staff and students of the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram, Barsi.
    Filmed by Jan Houben, February 2001.

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  3. Pre-dawn study of the Saamaveda by Pdt. Mukund R. Joshi and students in Barsi, Maharashtra, in the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram (ctd.). The millennia old Saamans (chants) practiced here are Candram, Gharmarocanam, Ausanam and Pravad-bhaargavam (first part). The matrix mantra (yoni-mantra) on which the Candram is sung is SV 1.2.2.1.3, parallel to RV 1.84.15, in the translation of Louis Renou (1969 p. 33):
    "C'est là que (les sages) comprirent le nom secret de la vache de Tvastr, (qui résidait) dans la maison de la lune."
    ["This is where (the sages) understood the secret name of the cow of Tvastr, (who lived) in the house of the moon."]

    The Vedic school followed is the rare Ranayaniya, which in its chants differs marginally from the better known school of Kauthuma, whose Samhita they share. In the planned Atyagnistoma (19-24 February 2001), Pdt. Joshi functioned as Prastotar and was in charge of singing, together with students and assistants, these and other Saamans that are employed in the Prayaniyesti (Praayaniiyaa-isti), the Atithyesti (Aatithyaa-isti) and in the Pravargya on the days preceding the pressing day.

    A Western music tradition that can be to some extent compared to the Sama-Veda is Gregorian chant, in which a line from the Psalms is the basis for a chant which lengthens and occasionally modifies syllables and puts them to several notes, sung by a choir monophonically.

    Intended public: students in Indology, Indian Studies, Ritual Studies, History of Education, History of Music, Ethnomusicology.

    With thanks to the staff and students of the Shri Yogiraj Vedavigyan Ashram, Barsi. Filmed by Jan Houben, February 2001.

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  4. The Vedic Pravargya Ritual: Performances in Delhi, December 11-12, 1996.
    System VHS/PAL 59 min. Leiden, 1999.
    Camera, location sound, analysis and presentation: Jan Houben, 1999.
    Voice (Intro), editing (Intro, Part I, Part II): Nandini Bedi, 1999.
    Adaptation for Vimeo (Intro, Part I, Part II): Jan Houben and Erik de Maaker, 2015.
    This part contains the Introduction to the film.
    "In South Asia, Vedic ritual has a long history which starts more than a millennium before common era, and continues to some extent to the present day. The main outlines of a basic set of Vedic rituals were fixed in the Srauta Sutras (Kalpa Vedanga), originally orally transmitted texts, composed some two or more centuries before common era.
    Vedic ritual can be studied from several perspectives. In this film (consisting of this Introduction, Part I and Part II) the main aim is to clarify the organization structure of one of these rituals, the Pravargya, which is already referred to in the Rgveda, and to highlight the roles of the main canonical actors: the Yajamaana (sacrificer), Patni (his wife), the Hotar, Adhvarya and Brahmaa and their teams. In the Delhi performance, the general supervisor of all ritual acts was the renowned and most experienced Yajurveda specialists, Vishwanatha Srouti, from Nelur, Andhra Pradesh. This was Vishwanatha Srouti's last big Srauta ritual, as he passed away in March 1997."
    A selection of further studies which clarify and are in turn illustrated and clarified by this film on the Pravargya:
    J.A.B. van Buitenen, The Pravargya: An Ancient Indian Iconic Ritual, Described and Annotated, Poona: Deccan College, 1968.
    J.E.M. Houben, The Pravargya Brahmana of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.
    J.E.M. Houben, "The ritual pragmatics of a Vedic hymn: The 'riddle hymn' (Rgveda 1.164) and the Pravargya-ritual", Journal of the American Oriental Society 120.4 (2000): 499-536.
    J.E.M. Houben, "On the earliest attestable forms of the Pravargya-ritual: Rg-Vedic references to the Gharma-Pravargya, especially in the Atri-family book (book 5)", Indo-Iranian Journal 43 (2000): 1-25.
    J.E.M. Houben, "The ritual and textual tradition of the Pravargya", in: Sabdabrahma -- Wisdom Indologica: Prof. A.C. Sarangi Felicitation Volume (ed. Radhamadhab Dash & Subash Chandra Dash, Delhi: Pratibha Prakashan, 2013.
    See also: http://www.jyotistoma.nl

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  5. The Vedic Pravargya Ritual: Performances in Delhi, December 11-12, 1996. PART I.
    System VHS/PAL 59 min. Leiden, 1999.
    Camera, location sound, analysis and presentation: Jan Houben, 1999.
    Voice (Intro), editing (Intro, Part I, Part II): Nandini Bedi, 1999.
    Adaptation for Vimeo (Intro, Part I, Part II): Jan Houben and Erik de Maaker, 2015.
    This is Part I. See for further information also The Vedic Pravargya Ritual -- Intro:
    "In South Asia, Vedic ritual has a long history which starts more than a millennium before common era, and continues to some extent to the present day. The main outlines of a basic set of Vedic rituals were fixed in the Srauta Sutras (Kalpa Vedanga), originally orally transmitted texts, composed some two or more centuries before common era.
    Vedic ritual can be studied from several perspectives. In this film (consisting of this Introduction, Part I and Part II) the main aim is to clarify the organization structure of one of these rituals, the Pravargya, which is already referred to in the Rgveda, and to highlight the roles of the main canonical actors: the Yajamaana (sacrificer), Patni (his wife), the Hotar, Adhvarya and Brahmaa and their teams. In the Delhi performance, the general supervisor of all ritual acts was the renowned and most experienced Yajurveda specialists, Vishwanatha Srouti, from Nelur, Andhra Pradesh. This was Vishwanatha Srouti's last big Srauta ritual, as he passed away in March 1997."
    A selection of further studies which clarify and are in turn illustrated and clarified by this film on the Pravargya:
    J.A.B. van Buitenen, The Pravargya: An Ancient Indian Iconic Ritual, Described and Annotated, Poona: Deccan College, 1968.
    J.E.M. Houben, The Pravargya Brahmana of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.
    J.E.M. Houben, "The ritual pragmatics of a Vedic hymn: The 'riddle hymn' (Rgveda 1.164) and the Pravargya-ritual", Journal of the American Oriental Society 120.4 (2000): 499-536.
    J.E.M. Houben, "On the earliest attestable forms of the Pravargya-ritual: Rg-Vedic references to the Gharma-Pravargya, especially in the Atri-family book (book 5)", Indo-Iranian Journal 43 (2000): 1-25.
    J.E.M. Houben, "The ritual and textual tradition of the Pravargya", in: Sabdabrahma -- Wisdom Indologica: Prof. A.C. Sarangi Felicitation Volume (ed. Radhamadhab Dash & Subash Chandra Dash), Delhi: Pratibha Prakashan, 2013.

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Vedic Ritual

Jan Houben

The scientific study of Vedic ritual requires the analysis of ancient ritual manuals, Vedic hymns and verses, and familiarity with traditional and modern interpretative theories. The study of actual performances of the ancient rituals is indispensable.…


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The scientific study of Vedic ritual requires the analysis of ancient ritual manuals, Vedic hymns and verses, and familiarity with traditional and modern interpretative theories. The study of actual performances of the ancient rituals is indispensable. The channel welcomes submissions that contribute to understanding the structure and morphology of Vedic ritual in synchronic and diachronic perspective, esp. with regard to memory culture, natural and social environment, etc. ...

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