The R^itviks

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 18 09:27:50 CST 2000

The R^itvik's are brAhmaNa priests who conduct the YaGYa
 on behalf of the YajamAna, the Sacrificer, and who are
 pleased with the daxiNA (remuneration) given to them by the
 YajamAna. The word "R^itvik" itself is derived from the

 R^itau vasantAdikAle yajanti iti R^itvijaH |

 Those (brAhmaNas) who conduct YaGyas during seasons like the spring,
 on behalf of the YajamAna and who are pleased with the daxiNA are
 called R^itviks or R^itvijs. The sentence above does not mean
 that those who perform YaGYas in seasons such as the spring are
 R^itviks. A YaGYa has to be done on behalf of a YajamAna who is
 responsible for giving the priests appropriate daxiNA. This is the
 rule. An exception to the daxiNA rule is the sattra-yAga where no
 daxiNA is given.

 It usually takes several R^itvik's to perform a YaGYa. Four of the
 important R^itvik's are - 1) HotA (or hotR^i), the priest who recites
 R^ig vedic hymns, 2) adhvaryu the Yajur Vedic priest who is the main
 "conductor" of the YaGYa, 3) udgAtA (or udgAtR^i) who sings the
 sAma songs, and 4) brahmA, the atharva Veda priest who acts as
 a kind of supervisor overseeing the activities of the whole YaGYa.
 The brahmA need not always be an atharva vedic priest but he should
 be proficient in all the Vedas to hold that position.

 The number of priests required for doing a particular type of YaGYa
 is specified in the shruti itself:

 tasmAdagnihotrasya YaGYakratoH | eka R^itvik.h |

 The agnihotra needs one R^itvik. This can, in fact, also be done by
 YajamAna himself or he may get it done by an adhvaryu.

 darsha-pUrNamAsayoryaGYakratoH | chatvAra R^itvijaH |

 The darsha-pUrNamAsa ishhTi requires four R^itviks. These are the
 hotA, adhvaryu, brahmA and the AgnIdhra.

 chAturmAsyAnAM YaGYakratoh | paJNchartvijaH |

 The chAturmAsya ishhTi requires five priests. These are the hotA,
 adhvaryu, brahmA, AgnIdhra, and the pratiprasthAtA who is an assistant
 of the adhvaryu.

 pashubandhasya YaGYakratoH | shhaDR^itvijaH |

 The nirUDha-pashubandha-yAga has six priests. These are the five
 mentioned above with the sixth priest maitrAvaruNa who joins as the
 assistant of the hotA.

 As the Jaimini sUtra says:

  svAmisaptadashAH karmasAmAnyAt.h |

 a soma-yAga must have seventeen participants, including the
 YajamAna. This means it should have sixteen R^itviks.

 These sixteen are as follows:

 Four main R^itviks or mahartvik's - 1) hotA, 2) adhvaryu,
 3) udgAtA, and 4) brahmA

 Four ardhI's who work under the four mahartvik's

 Mahartvik's  ardhI's
 -----------  -------

 hotA         maitrAvaruNa
 adhvaryu     pratiprasthAtA
 udgAtA       prastotA
 brahmA       brAhmaNAchchhaMsI

 Four more assistants called tR^itIyI's

 Mahartvik's  ardhI's        tR^itIyI's
 -----------  -------         ----------
 hotA         maitrAvaruNa    achchhAvAka
 adhvaryu     pratiprasthAtA  neshhTA
 udgAtA       prastotA        pratihartA
 brahmA       brAhmaNAchchhaMsI  AgnIdhra

 Four more assistants called pAdI's :

 Mahartvik's   ardhI's        tR^itIyI's     pAdI's
 -----------   -------        ----------     ------

 hotA          maitrAvaruNa    achchhAvAka    grAvastut
 adhvaryu      pratiprasthAtA  neshhTA        unnetA
 udgAtA        prastotA        pratihartA    subrahmaNya
 brahmA     brAhmaNAchchhaMsI   AgnIdhra     potA

 which makes a total of sixteen R^itviks for the

 The daxiNA's for the ardhI's, tR^itIyI's and pAdI's
 are less than that for the Mahartvik's. An ardhI's
 daxiNA is half that of the Mahartvik's, a tR^itIyI's
 daxiNA is a third of the Mahartvik's, and a pAdI's
 daxiNA is a fourth of the Mahartvik's.

 All this talk of daxiNA may lead one to erroneously conclude
 that a YaGYa is kind of business deal where a YajamAna pays
 the R^itviks and they in turn sell their services to the
 YajamAna. This is far from the truth!

 The very first mantra of the R^ig Veda says:

 agnimILe purohitaM yaGYasya devaM R^itvijam.h |
 hotAraM ratnadhAtamam.h||,

 thereby identifying the God Agni with R^itvik's, hotA and the rest.

 The YajamAna must NOT, therefore, consider the R^itvik's as merely
 charging him daxiNA for services rendered but he should respect them
 as he would Agni Himself. The daxiNA that the YajamAna offers to the
 R^itviks is like offering oblations to Agni Himself.

 On their part, the R^itviks must NOT consider the YajamAna as someone
 who simply wants to get the YaGYa done at the least expense possible
 and so they may just go through the formalities of the YaGYa somehow.
 They must consider the YajamAna as BhagavAn VishhNu Himself, for it
 is said "yaGYo vai yajamAnaH" like it is said "yaGYo vai VishhNuH".
 Just as one performs YaGYa's for the sake of VishhNu, so should the
 R^itviks perform YaGYa for the sake of the YajamAna who represents


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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