Vedic Heritage Interpretation Centre
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Principal Co-ordinator
Shri. P. S. Ramanathan
Curator & Academic Adviser :
Vedic Heritage Interpretation Centre
Ramanathapuram, Palakkad – 678001

Our Vedic tradition which is one of the greatest human heritage, apart from oral tradition, has a strong base in its evolved ritualistic practices. In order to preserve the knowledge acquired in the process of its ritualistic evolution, in the absence of archeological artifacts, the prototypes have to be created and preserved for posterity. This collection could serve as the reference to future practitioners and research scholars. Thus this attempt.

A comprehensive visualisation capturing the essence of design, utility, aesthetics, their intricate and symbiotic relation with nature of the Vedic culture and related rituals (Yagas or Yajnas).

The story line starts with the Universe as the prime subject of importance and then the solar system, the earth, analysed step by step, in the formation of the greatest planet of the universe - the Earth. Until today we have not been able to locate any other planet with such a great magnitude of life forms. It is said that along-side the creation of mankind yajna or sacrifice too was created for sustenance. From food creatures come forth; the production of food is from rain; rain comes forth from sacrifice; sacrifice is born of action. Thus through yajna man became very close to nature. Linking cosmos and man, nature with the power of ritual acts provided him everything for his existence, at the same time it has also provided a temperament called ‘greed’ which has gone beyond a level of irreversibility, has already paved a way to disaster. We have almost reached the fag end of the cliff and unless we look back to correct ourselves, we are never going to make it. It is a stark truth that nature always wins where humans can’t. Man has to give back to nature the already drawn and exhausted powers of nature and that is according to Indian tradition is possible only through performance of certain yajnas as ordained in the Veda. But due to passage of time the cult of yajnas too has become endangered.

Even in the present level of understanding of the environmental degradation, the commonly discussed solution seems to be tilted towards alternate energy source which is less polluting whereas the problem could be more of an overall imbalance created and perpetuated by excessive use of technology aimed at accelerating economic/commercial growth. Perhaps, the vedic concepts as propounded and reflected in vedic practices could throw some light on potential solutions through creating the right balance between nature and humanity. A Vedic Heritage Interpretation Centre, the one we have planned to set up now, can throw light on various components and complexities of yajna and its functions which can be taken up for scientific studies. We are planning to exhibit the materials that can be visualised in its original size wherever possible and the scaled down models in the case of yagasalas, chitis, etc.

The final phase of the exhibits could be highly user friendly with state of the art custom made technical devices like the IR Controlled Self Narrating Devices (IRCSND), Sound Synchronized Visual Displays (SSVD) and the video media for describing the contents of the Veda. The narration for the display panels are going to be trilingual and selectable, i.e., English, Hindi and Malayalam for a better response from the public. This initiates and reaches far more people to use this facility.

Scope of the Project

The project as planned on the above mentioned subject has to be executed in a comprehensive manner.

The scholars who are working or associated with the Vedic literature or the ritualistic practices have acquaintance with the three-fold systems of the yajna institution, i.e., Paka-yajna, Havir-yajna and Srauta-yajnas called samsthas. All the three have different objects and are related to a particular textual tradition which is prevalent to this day at least from 8th century BC, i.e., after the evolvement of written tradition. Ancient Rishis like Baudhayana, Apastamba, Manava, Katyayana, Satyashadha Hiranyakesin, Bharadvaja, Varaha, Vadhula, Asvalayana, Latyayana and Drahyayana have written manuals for performance of the srauta rituals. These manuals called the Srauta-sutras (Kalpa-sutras) have close relationship with a particular Vedic recension as well as geographical boundary where specific rituals are performed. These are our most important source for the understanding of the elaborate Vedic rites.

For example, the Apastamba school is very much in vogue in the Southern region of the country and Katyayana is prevalent in Northern India starting from Maharashtra. Likewise other srauta manuals too have geographical diversifications. What we would like to point out is that in each and every ritual, implements and materials as prescribed in the relevant srauta manual is utilised. Taking into account the above points, the description of the various implements discussed in the Veda as well as srauta, smarta and prayoga texts, are to be collected focusing the attention of the relevant traditions and schools of thought.

The principal objective of this project is to formulate/to prepare a complete manual of the materials used in various vaidika-yajnas like ishti, soma and agni-chayana performed in different regions of the country as well as that according to available ritualistic traditions taking into account their original size, shape, material and utility along with exhaustive documentation.

The utensils are generally made of Asvattha (Ficus religiosa), Udumbara (Ficus glomerata), Khadira (Acacia catechu), Palasa (Butea frondosa), Vikankata (Flacourtia sapida), Varana (Crateva magna), Bilva (Aegle marmelos), Vibhitaka (Terminalia bellerica), Nyagrodha (Ficus Indica), etc. etc. A herbarium also could be made supplementing it with original photographs of the trees, its leaf, bark, flowers and fruits which will throw light on identification and the botany involved in the yajna tradition. Some of the patras are made in clay also.

For the performance of the Vedic yajnas certain vedis and agnis have to be constructed. A vedi is a raised area on which the yajna is performed. The main vedis include the darsa-purnamasa-vedi, the sautramani-vedi, the mahavedi, etc.

An agni (a technical term not to be identified as fire) is a raised altar made of bricks for keeping the fire and is considered as the seat of fire (agni-kshetra). The fire-altars were of two types, the perpetual one called nitya and the optional one called kamya. The perpetual fire-altars are the garhapatya (round), the ahavaniya (square) and the daksinagni (semi-circle) on which the nitya sacrifices like agnihotra, ishtis, etc. are performed. The syena-chiti, the prauga-chiti, the kanka-chiti, the drona-chiti, the ratha-cakra-chiti, the alaja-chiti, the chandas-chiti, the ubhayata-prauga-chiti, the paricayya-chiti, the kurma-chiti and the smasana-chiti are included in the list of kamya-chitis. For our purpose, scaled down models of all kinds of vedis would be taken up in different phases. With regard to the chitis also scaled down models involving the same geometircal propositions as described in the Sulba-sutras (a branch of the srauta sutra (Kalpa) texts) will be made in wood, painted with different colours to show the difference in the shape of the bricks involved. A full size brick of all different shapes used in a chiti according to the different srauta traditions could also be exhibited along-side showing the methods of calculations and construction.

Then comes the layout of different yaga-salas or halls where the yajnas are performed. The lay-out of the different sacrifices itself makes an elaborate study.

Areas that can be covered as per textual tradition.

Southern region : Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka-Gokarna, Maharashtra.

Eastern region : North East, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa.
(It is to be investigated whether vaidika-yajna institutions are prevalent in Eastern region.)

Western region :
Maharashtra, Gujarat and a portion of Karnataka/Andhra.

Northern region :
Traditions prevalent in the northern-most part of the country upto Ladakh.

Comparative study especially with regard to its size, shape and design, ethnicity, reference, botanical authenticity, documentation, exhibition, cataloguing, publication, etc. should be undertaken under the guidance of expert srautins.

The project is conceived in THREE phases.

The FIRST phase -- researching and procurement, etc. covering four traditions, viz., Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka. The patras will fall under four main groups in each tradition, viz., Aishtika, Pasuka, Saumika and Pravargya.

IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts) has come forward to support the first phase of the project.

The SECOND phase -- enhancing the collection covering other regions and capturing the regional and ethnic variations across the country and also construction of models of various vedis, citis and yaga-salas.

The THIRD phase -- creating a central repository of the collection, display using modern methods, comprehensive documentation, exhibition and facilitation of further research.

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