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The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa is one of the two brāhmaṇas of the Rgvedasaṃhitā, the other one being the Kauṣītaki or Śāṅkhāyana Brāhmaṇa. It deals mainly with the soma sacrifice.
The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa is one of the two brāhmaṇas of the Rgvedasaṃhitā, the other one being the Kauṣītaki or Śāṅkhāyana Brāhmaṇa in 30 chapters. The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa is the more important of the two and comprehends 40 chapters called “lessons” (adhyāya); it is divided in 8 books called “pentads” (pañcikā), due to the fact that each of them contains 5 sections (see ; edition and translation ; edition ; translation ; for a discussion about Haug’s edition, see ; further edition ). Ascribed by the commentator Sāyaṇa to a single redactor named Mahīdāsa Aitareya, according to the current opinion, it is a composite work; in particular the last ten adhyāyas (pañcikās 7 and 8), dealing with animal sacrifice, expiatory rites, and royal consecration rite, are probably a later addition, aiming to fill a gap in the Kauṣītaki Brāhmaṇa, which does not treat these subjects. More, the authenticity of pañcikā 6 has been questioned, because it seems a supplement and because it presents signs of confusion and unnecessary repetitions and internal inconsistency with parallel passages in the preceding part of the text. The ascribed author, Mahīdāsa Aitareya, according to the Skanda Purāṇa is the son of the sage Māṇḍuki by his first wife, Itarā, the name Aitareya being a matronymic. When he was a boy, he used to repeat mentally the mantra in honor to Kṛṣṇa, namo bhagavate vāsudevāya, and being almost silent, he was mistaken by his father as a stupid. Dissatisfied with him and desiring to have intelligent sons, Māṇḍuki married as a second wife Piṅgā and subsequently had from her four sons, and all of them became learned. Once Itarā complained with Aitareya that his father used to insult her for having begot so unworthy a son to him. She resolved to commit suicide in order to expiate this fault. Aitareya dissuaded her from committing suicide; then Viṣṇu appeared and blessed both of them, mother and son. Aitareya took part to a sacrifice guided by Harimedhya at Koṭitīrthsa, and he pronounced a learned speech on the Vedas; Harimedhya was so pleased with him that he conceded his daughter in marriage to him. The adherence of the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa to the corresponding saṃhitā is impressive: the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa quotes 647 verses from the Rgvedasaṃhitā, 119 out of them being repeated, the number or repetitions amounting to 216; the number of complete hymns (sūkta) being quoted amounts to 150, because part of the partial quotations represents a complete hymn. The content of the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa may be summarized as follows: Pañcikā 1 treats the introduction to the soma sacrifice, according to the following articulation: consecration rites (adhyāya 1), introductory sacrifice (adhyāya 2), buying and bringing of the soma (adhyāya 3), pouring of milk into a heated vessel, pravargya (adhyāya 4), carrying forward of the fire, soma, and the offering to the high altar (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 2 treats the continuation of the soma sacrifice, according to the following articulation: animal sacrifice (adhyāya 1); continuation of animal sacrifice and morning litany (adhyāya 2); a rite related to Agni, aponaptrīya, and other ceremonies (adhyāya 3); the various cups used in the rite (adhyāya 4); and the reciting of the ājyaśastra (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 3 treats the continuation of the soma sacrifice, according to the following articulation: different recitings and invocations, praügaśastra, vaṣat, and nivid (adhyāya 1;, two recitings, marutvatīyaśastra and niṣkevalyaśastra (adhyāya 2); two recitings, vaiśvadeva and āgnimāruta (adhyāya 3); general considerations about the ceremony of the agniṣṭoma (adhyāya 4); and specific details pertaining to the sacrifice (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 4 treats the continuation of the soma sacrifice, according to the following articulation: the sacrifices ṣoḍaśin and atirātra (adhyāya 1), the reciting aśvinaśastra and the ceremony gavāmayana (adhyāya 2), the 6-day festival ṣaḍaha and the central day viṣuvat ceremonies (adhyāya 3), the 12-day dvādaśāha rite (adhyāya 4), and the first 2 days of the dvādaśāha (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 5 treats the continuation of the soma sacrifice, according to the following articulation: the third and fourth day of the dvādaśāha (adhyāya 1), the fifth and sixth day of the dvādaśāha (adhyāya 2), the seventh and eighth day of the dvādaśāha (adhyāya 3), the ninth and tenth day of the dvādaśāha (adhyāya 4), and the agnihotra and the brahman priest (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 6 treats the recitings (śastras) of the oblators (hotrakas), according to the following articulation: the office of the grāvastut and subrahmaṇyā (adhyāya 1); the śastras of the hotrakas during the sacrificial sessions sattras and ahīnas (adhyāya 2); miscellaneous points pertaining to the hotrakas (adhyāya 3); the hymns and recitings saṃpāta, valakhilyā, and dūrohaṇa (adhyāya 4); and the reciting śilpaśastra during the third pressing of the soma (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 7 treats the animal offering, expiations, and royal consecration, according to the following articulation: distribution of the portions of the victim (adhyāya 1), expiations of errors in the sacrifices (adhyāya 2), the story of Śunaḥśepa (adhyāya 3), the preparations for the royal consecration (adhyāya 4), and the sacrificial drink of the king (adhyāya 5). Pañcikā 8 treats the continuation of the royal consecration, according to the following articulation: the stotras and śastras of the soma day (adhyāya 1), the anointing of the king (adhyāya 2), the great anointing of Indra (adhyāya 3), the great anointing of the king (adhyāya 4), and the office of the royal domestic chaplain, purohita (adhyāya 5). While quoting rival authorities, the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa chooses the ritualist point of view, refusing the esoteric (brahmavādin) interpretation of hymns and rites. Four commentaries on the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa are available by Govindasvāmin, Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara, Ṣaḍguruśiṣya, and Sāyaṇa: generally the commentaries on Vedic prose texts are more reliable than those on metrical texts. A question much debated is the possible identity of the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa with a supposedly lost text, the Āśvalāyana Brāhmaṇa.
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