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by David Gordon White
David Gordon White
History of Religions
Updated: September 4th, 2012
David Gordon White D0G S D I E
The aSvamedha or horse sacrifice was a rite which, in spite of its great renown, was poorly known in its ritual details by the close of the second millennium B.c.E.' Not the least of these details was the ritual killing of a "four-eyed dog" (catur-aksa Svan). In this paper, I will decode this apparently obscure ritual element in the following manner: first, I will develop a semantic field for the three constituent parts of this utterance so as to recreate, as much as possible, the linguistic context in which this ritual text was embedded. In so doing, I will undertake a discussion of three key concepts that were implicit to the rite: this second facet of the study will deal with the symbolic interplay between the symbolism of (1) dogs and death, (2) dice and death, and
(3) dogs and dice. The concept of binding, as it relates to these three D's-dogs, dice, and death-and to the rite itself will also be treated. Finally, I will summarize and explain the ritual text itself of the sacrifice of the four-eyed dog, as it is found in various Srauta siitras and brijhmanas, in the light of its semantic and symbolic context.
The ritual sacrifice of the catur-ak~a Svan, which is described in Apastamba ~rauta Siitra 20.3.6-14, Baudhciyana ~rauta Siitra 15.4- 6, Kijtyciyana ~rauta Siitra 20.1-5, Sh-rikhijyana ~rauta Siitra 16.1-9,
"Even in ancient times this sacrifice must have been rare. The Taittiriya Samhitd
5.4.123 and Satapatha Brdhmana 188.8.131.52 both state that the ASvamedha was a sacrifice which was utsanna (gone out of vogue)": P. V. Kane, History of DharmaSdstra (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1941), 2.2:1237.
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~ata~athaBrdhmana 184.108.40.206, Taittiriya Briihmana 3.8.4-5,' and elsewhere, took place at the beginning (or midpoint, if the primary year of diksd is taken into account) of the greatest royal and imperialistic sacrifice of ancient India, the aivamedha. This ritual killing of the four-eyed dog constituted a pre-sacrifice of sorts, inasmuch as it was only after this rite that the horse was set free to wander, for a period of one year. This year of wandering was a ritualized conquest. On whatever territory or land the horse trod, an accompanying army was obliged to make certain that that land's ruler recognize the authority of the royal sacrificer whom the horse represented. If such recognition was not forthcoming, it was the duty of the accompanying army to defeat that prince in battle and exact his submission by force. It thus goes without saying that the aSvamedha was a potentially dangerous sacrifice and one probably not undertaken by kings not already sure of the fealty of their neighbors. If the horse's year of wandering came to an end without defeat to its accompanying army, the animal was brought back to the king's sacrificial grounds to itself be put to death along with numerous other creatures. At the successful conclusion of this two-year sacrifice, the officiating priest declared the king a uni- versal sovereign3
This study will concentrate on the meaning of this preliminary dog sacrifice and the sense of the qualification "four-eyed" that was ap- plied to it. Or rather the non-sense-for the texts themselves as well
2 In the preparation of this study, I have referred to the following editions: The fiauta Siitra of Apastamba belonging to the Taittiriya Samhitd, ed, Richard Garbe (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1902), vol. 3; W. Caland, Das Srauta Siitra des Apastamba, achtes bis fiinfzehnten Buch aus dem Sanskrit iibersetzt, Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, Afdeeling Letterkunde, Nieeuw Reeks, 24:2 (Wiesbaden, 1927, 1969); Taittiriya Brdhmana of the Black Yajur Veda with the commentary of SHyana, ed. Narayana Sastri, AnandBSrama Sanskrta GranthHvali, no. 37, 2d ed. (Poona, 1938); Taittiriya Brdhmana of the Black Yajur Veda, ed. Rajendralal Mitra (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1859-62), vol. 5; Kdtydyana grautasiitra, with the commentary of KarkHcHrya, ed. Madmohan Misra, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, no. 19 (Varanasi: Chowkhamba, 1903-6); Baudhdyana Srauta Siitra belonging to the Taittiriya Sfmhitd, ed. W. Caland (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1907), vol. 2; ~drikhd~ana
Srautasiitra with the commentary of Vara- d?tta Anaratiya, ed. Alfred Hillebrandt (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1888), vol. 1; Satapatha Brdhmana with the commentary of SByana, ed. by several learned persons (Bombay: Venkateshwar Steam Press, 1940), vol. 5. Dogs not qualified as having four eyes are sacrificed in Rig Veda 4.18.13 and Atharva Veda 7.5.5.
3 We find long ritual descriptions of the ASvamedha ritual in gatapatha Brahmans 13.1-5; Taittiriya Brdhmana73.8-9; Maitrdyani Samhitd 3.12- 16; Apastamba fiauta Siitra 20.1 -23; &valdyana Srauta Siitra 10.6-10; Baudhdyana &aura Siitra 15.1-38; HiranyakeSin ~rauta Siitra- 14.1-5; KG!ydyana ~rauta Siitra 20.1-217; kirydyana Srnuta Siitra 9.9-1 1; and Sdrikhdyana Srauta Siitra 16.1-9. See also P.-E. Dumont, :.'ASvamedha: Description du sacrifice solonnel du cheval dans le culte vedique d'apres ies textes du Yajurveda blanc (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1927), pp. 27-28,250-51, 298-300.
as three thousand years of commentary offer only very superficial explanations for it. The most common of these is that the generally black dog has light spots above its two eyes which thus give the impression of two supplementary eyes. For Siiyana, commenting on Taittiriya Brdhmana 220.127.116.11, two of the four eyes are spots (bin- dudvaya). Uvata, commenting on this term in another context (Vdja- saneyi Samhitd 22.5), speaks of two lines (pundra) over the dog's eyes. Elsewhere, Sgyana, commenting on Atharva Veda 4.20.7, ex- plains four eyes with a tautology: catvdri aksini yasydh sd caturaksi tddyjydh. Elsewhere, we find certain more functionalist explanations: the dog is said to have four eyes because it sees in all four directions (Kdtydyana fiauta Siitra 20.1.38, with the commentary of Siiyana), or by day and night (Paippaldda Samhitd 3.22.5; 8.6.5; Taittiriya hanyaka 1.8.8).
In other contexts, this dog is said to be related to Yama, the god of death who himself possesses two dogs who watch over the paths taken by the dead, the pitys, on their way to his abode. In fact, Yama's two dogs, Syiima and Sabala-or, taken together, the Siira- meyau, the sons of the divine bitch SaramB-are each described as having four eyes.4 This leads us to the third D of our study-that is, death and its canine (as in "dog," the first D) symbolism in ancient India. In fact, the dog-and, to a certain extent, although perhaps not in the context of the aivamedha itself, the horse-is the prime Indo-European theriomorphic representative of death, the lord of the dead, and the path to the land of the dead.
The hellhound, starting with the familiar Kerberos/Cerberus of Greco-Roman tradition (whose name, we might add, is a cognate of that of Yama's dog Sabala) is a perennial death symbol, from Iceland to India. Closest to the Vedic tradition is that of second-century B.C. Iran, as reported in the Avesta (Vendidad 8.16-18), which describes the place of a four-eyed dog (spdnam CaOru Cairnam) in the funerary rite known as Sag-did, the "dog's gaze."5 Generally, the Indo-Euro- pean hellhound is, as in the Indian case, double: there are two dogs, generally psychopomps, of which one is light (Sabala) and one dark (Sy2rna), who, on the threshold of two worlds-of day and night, of
4 Rig Veda 7.55.2-4; 1.161.13; 10.14.10-12; Arharva Veda 8.1.9; 18.2.1 1-14. Maurice Bloomfield, "Contributions to the Interpretation of the Veda, 3d Series. 11. The Two Dogs of Yama in a New Role," Journal of the American Oriental Society 15 (1891): 163-72 remains a valuable general discussion of the SBrameyau and other Vedic dogs.
5 Helena Willman-Grabowska, La chien dans IXvesta et dans le Veda (Crakow, 1931), pp. 6-10. In the language of the Avesta, the adjective "four-eyed" (c'drfaim)is applied to all domestic animals having dark spots over their eyes: Willman-Grabowska,
p. 9, citing Christian Bartholomea, Altiranisches Worterbuch (1905), p. 579.
the world of the living and that of the dead-lead from life to death, and from death to another existence in the land of the dead or the an~estors.~
In India, death itself may be said to be double: like the hellhounds and their eyes, the god of death himself has a name that means "the twin"; and Yama is in fact the twin of Yami, or of ~anu.' Elsewhere, the two hellhounds are said to belong to Yama's own lineage.' We are not prepared to give an explanation for this redupli- cation of things deathly: let it suffice here to take note of this pattern, especially as it concerns the doubling of canine eyes.g
The dogs of death may bless or blast. In the brahmanic tradition, any agnihotra sacrifice not offered on one of the two "thresholds" of day and night-that is, either at dawn or dusk-is condemned to being devoured by either Syarna or Sabala, one of the two dogs of Yams." Also in Vedic India, a ritual injunction is made to the cremated dead that he pass quickly over the path guarded by Syama and Sabala, lest he be devoured by them and so be deprived of a stay in Yamaloka." In the same funerary context, and with parallels in other Indo-European traditions, the dead ancestor's body is exposed or cremated along with a "sop" of some sort,I2 with which he is to distract the hellhounds and thereby slip past them; yet, the same two Vedic dogs are said to guide those dead who do not stray from the path.13 The dog's liminal position in its roles of house guardian and herding and hunting animal, as well as its notorious battlefield and burning ground necrophagy should account, to a certain extent, for its symbolic connection with death in India and all over the world.
6 On the Indo-European (double) hellhound, see esp. Bruce Lincoln, "The Hellhound," Journal of Indo-European Studies 7, nos. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1979): 273-85; Bernfried Schlerath, "Der Hund bei den Indogermanen," Paideuma 6 (1954): 27-39; Manfred Lurker, "Der Hund als Symboltier fur tibergang vom Diesseits in das Jenseits," Zeitschrifr fur Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 35, no. 2 (1983): 132-44, and "Hund und Wolf in ihrer Beziehung zum Tode," Antaios 10 (1969): 199-216.
7 Rig Veda 10.10.1- 14. Compare Jaan Puhvel, Comparative Mythology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), pp. 284-88, who argues for Manu.
8 Albrecht Weber (Indische Studien: Beitrage fiir die Kunde des Indischen Alter- thums [Berlin: F. Dummler, 18521, 2:296) citing a prayer appended to the ASvalrSyana Grhya Szitra; and SByana, in his commentary on Atharva Veda 18.2.1 1.
9 On the symbolism of eyes in ancient India, see J. Gonda, Eye and Gaze in the Veda (Amsterdam, 1969). A general study of "doubling" in Vedic tradition is J. Gonda, The Dual Deities in the Religion of the Veda, Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Vetenschappen, Letterkunde, n.s. 81 (Amsterdam and London, 1974).
10 Jaiminiya Brdhmana 1.5-6; Kausitaki BrrShmana 2.9.9-17. 11 Rig Veda 10.14.10-1 1; Atharva Veda 18.2.1 1-12; cf. Atharva Veda 8.1.9; and Hiral?yakeSipitymedhasatra 6. 12 ASvaldyana Grhya Siitra 4.3.21; and Atharva Veda 18.2.11 , with the commentary of Sgyana. On Indo-European parallels, see Schlerath, p. 35. 13 Atharva Veda 8.1.9; 11.2.30.
Now, returning to our commentaries on the four-eyed dog of the aivamedha ritual, we find that, regardless of the fragmentary "truth" of each of them, all are ultimately unsatisfying. It would appear, in fact, that the commentators are vainly grasping at straws. I say this because the brahmanic tradition to which this rite belonged was one in which the overdetermination of symbolic elements relating to the metaphorical body, in ritual, doctrine and myth, was a rule to which there were no exceptions. To understand this, we need only think of all the objects, beings, processes, and theoretical constructs to which the fire altar, or the aSvamedha horse itself, were compared. The minimal and even sketchy explanations reviewed above show nothing of this classifying, analogizing, "scribalizing" (to borrow a term from Jonathan Z. Smith) spirit.14 If no less than a half a dozen different sources exact a selfsame ritual requirement-in this case, an earthly (and not a divine) dog possessed of four eyes, of catur-aksa-there must be at least one reason, and undoubtedly an elaborate one, for this fact. This reason should moreover bear a logical or rather ana- logical relationship to the sacrifice as a theoretical construct (the adhiyajiiam level of symbolization), to the body or person of the sacrificer (adhyitman), and to the universe (adhidevatam). There is no such thing as a gratuitous or fortuitous symbol, least of all in the tradition under study here.
Let us look for a moment at the three members of the compound that describes this dog whc so jauntily flaunted the laws of animal physiognomy: catur-aksa $van. Catur is of course "four," as in "quart"; and $van is "dog," as in chien, canis, and "hound." But aksa is merely the form that the nominative neuter aksi takes in com- pounds to signify "eye," as in Augen and oculus. However, aksa(h) as an uncompounded masculine nominative singular form has two other meanings: one is "axle" and the other "die," the singular of dice.15
Now just what if catur-aksa Svan meant, instead of-or rather at the same time as-"four-eyed dog," a "four-dice dog?" With this, we come to the heart of this study: the implicit relationship drawn between the four-eyed dog as death animal killed at the beginning of the ajvamedha, and the game of dice (our second D) in ancient India. On at least one level, it is this play on the words catur-aksa Svan that
14 Jonathan 2.Smith, Map Is Not Territory (Leiden: Brill, 1987), p. 70.
15 PBnini discusses the term aksa, "dice" in 3.3.70 (aksesu glahah) and 2.1.10 (ak~a- pari). Sir Ralph Turner, A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), S.V. "aksa-," "aksa (m.)," and "aksa (n.)" [nos. 21, 22, 231 provides a great number of Indo-European cognates for these terms.
serves as the key to its comprehension. The philological and sym- bolical expos6 that we will make of the ancient Indian game of dice vis-a-vis this rite is not found in any ritual text. Perhaps its meaning was so obvious to its cultural context that no need was felt for such an interpretive tool-then five hundred years passed, and its meaning was lost.
No less a person than Albert Einstein invoked religious motives for the lifetime he had devoted to the development of his theories of relativity. As he put it, his profound dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics was based on an inability to believe that "God plays dice with the universe."I6 Ancient India, while probably unschooled in quantum mechanics, would certainly not have thought to formulate an Einsteinian theory of relativity, for it was altogether convinced that God did in fact play dice with the universe: "King Varuna sees all that exists between the two firmaments, and what lies beyond. By him are counted people's eye blinks: just as a gamester counts his dice, so he does these things."" Another alternative was that the gods were themselves like dice: "The gods move around like dice throws which give us wealth and which take it away."18 In this latter case, it would not be God or the gods who played dice with the universe but, rather, the universe that played dice with the gods and, by extension, with all living creatures.
In India, the terms bhaga and bhagya (from the verb bhaj "to divide, allot") connote the allotted portion (or apportioned lot) that falls to each individual in the cosmic order. On the universal level, we find the term daiva, the general fate that befalls this world as the result of divine acts, acts of the gods (deva).But it is not as simple as this; for it is often the case that the gods themselves are victims of a daiva that is beyond them. Deva (the gods) and daiva (the odds) are augmented forms of the root div, "to shine, be luminous." But since the time of the Rig Veda, in the sphere of "folk etymology" at any rate, this same root has had the meaning "to gamble with dice." From this root div is derived the noun dyiita "the game of dice; combat," which should not be completely dissociated from another root derived
16 Max Born, Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance (New York: 1949), p. 122, cited in Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 268.
17 Atharva Veda 4.16.5. Yama's four-eyed dogs are also "watchers of the comings and goings of men": Atharva Veda 18.2.12 , with the commentary of SHyana. 18 Rig Veda 10.116.9.
from div: this is dyut, meaning "to shine," which is etymologically connected with jyot, whence the nouns jyotis ("light, heavenly body") and jyotisa ("astronomy, astrologyw)-this bringing us back to chance and fate once more. This identification is an obvious one in a context in which the gods move about like dice in the sky.19
Of course, India does not hold a monopoly on the use of a metaphor that draws a correspondence between a game of chance and the way things are in the world of men. Numerous examples may be cited from western traditions in which the game of politics is com- pared to a dice game or roulette. Furthermore, in addition to the uses of the term "lot" (as in "drawing lots"), we find the term "wager" (as in "to wage war" and the "wages of sin"). A single proto-Germanic root, *wadh20 generates a great number of gambling terms: these include "wager," "g(u)ageW (whence "engage," to bind, in a contractual sense), and even "pledge" and "wed," as well as the French verb gagner, to win. While there is no precise Sanskrit cognate for this all-purpose Germanic root, I indicate it here as a means of showing that ours is a conceptual apparatus comparable to that of Vedic India.
The Vedic god who is most closely identified with the maintenance of the cosmic order (rta, from the root r, of which one meaning is "to set, fix") is Varuna, the god who shares with Indra and Agni the epithet "thousand-eyed" (sahasr~ksa).~' He is possessed of a great number of eyes in order that he might better observe the acts of humans, whom he binds and punishes with his bonds or fetters (padas) in cases where humans stray from the proper path of conduct. It is in this context that he "sees" (in the already cited verse which we reproduce here) "just as a gamester counts his dice." There is a pun here that plays on the word "eye." Varuna sees (vi-cak~, from caksus, "eye") with his thousand eyes (aksas) the blinking of eyes (nimisas) of people, as a gamester (sees) his dice (aksas). As we have mentioned,
19 On gambling (Hindi jud, from dynta, div, "gamble") in present-day India, on the Divdli (from div, "shine") festival in the month of Kgrttika, see The Ocean of Story Being C. H. TawneyS Translation of Somadeva's Kathd Sarit Sdgara, ed. N. M. Penzer (London: Chas. J. Sawyer, 1924), 2:232n, and William Crooke, Religion and Folklore of Northern India (New Delhi: S. Chand, 1925, 1972), p. 346. Divali gam- bling, which has been observed within the family context since at least the eleventh century, differs but little from the ancient ritual dice games of the Srauta szitras, in which the king played dice with his family, as a means to insuring perennial good fortune, in the agnyddheya rite; see below, n. 72.
20 The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, rev. and ed. Calvert Watkins (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985), S.V. "wadh-." 21 Rig Veda 7.34.10; Atharva Veda 4.16.4. On Indra as sahasrdksa, see Atharva Veda
aksa means both "die/dicefl and "eye," the latter being the weak form (aksan) that the neuter root aksi takes in compounds like sahasriksa or caturaksa.
This passage also offers us two other precious bits of information as concerns the relationship between dice and dogs: on the one hand, it emphasizes the fact that the dice game involves counting-for we know that this was more a game of skill than of luck. On the other hand, it supplies us with one of the principal terms for the gamester or dice player. This term is Svaghnin which, according to a popular, even canonized folk etymology, is the "killer" (-ghnin, from han, "slay") of, or through the agency of, the dog (~VU).'~
But the hunter of dogs is, in this play of meanings, a hunter of goods (sva, like the Latin ma)-in this case the goods or possessions of his adversary in the dice game. So it is that Ssyana, in his commentary on Atharva Veda 7.52.6, invokes Ysska (Nirukta 5.22, on Rig Veda 10.43.5) in the following terms: "The ivaghnin, when he is a gambler [and not one who hunts with dogs] strikes down goods (svam). [In this way] the goods are taken back: so Yaska says . . . 'The gambler strikes down the goods of another [his opponent].'" In a passage which brings together both the notion of inexorable fate and the loss of goods, the Rig Veda (1.92.10) tells us that "like a 4vaghnin who causes [his opponent's] stake to disappear, the goddess [here: Usas, the dawn] consumes the life-span of mortal^."'^ We will return to this particular meaning of the word Svan in due course.
At this point, I shall discuss the rules of the Vedic dice game, inasmuch as such are available to us through extrapolation from the ancient texts.24 The game was played in a sabhii, which doubled as a
22 T. Burrow ("~va~hnin," Kratylos 17 [1972/74]: 157) demonstrates that the "true" etymological root of Svaghnin would have been *Svagh, "to gamble."
23 Compare Rig Veda 8.45.38, 10.42.9, and 2.12.4. In the last passage, Indra, also compared with a Svaghnin, takes away the wealth of his enemies. A later source, Bhartrhari's VairagyaSataka (39b), compares day and night to the gods of time and entropy (Kgla and KH1T)-gods whose names evoke the last yuga and the worst dice throw-and depicts these as playing dice with living creatures.
24 The classic source on the game remains Heinrich Liiders, "Das Wiirfelspiel im alten Indien," Abhandlungen der Koniglich Gesellschaft der Wissenschaftlichen zu Gottingen, Philologisch-historischen Klasse, Neue Folge 9,2 (Berlin, 1907), pp. 3-74. Also useful are C. Panduranga Bhatta, Dice-Play in Sanskrit Literature (a Study) (Delhi: Amar Prakashan, 1985); A. B. Keith, "The Game of Dice," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1908), pp. 824-28; and K. de Vreese, "The Game of Dice in Ancient India," Orientalia Neerlandica: A Volume of Oriental Studies (Leiden: Sijthoff, 1948), pp. 349-62. Of limited interest are N. N. Bhattacarya, "The King and the Dice: A Study in the Rituals of the Rgjasnya," Journal of the Oriental Institute of Baroda
gambling and assembly hall and which was located at or near the southern door to the town.25 The dicing circle (dyiitamandala, adhi- devana), located in the center or southern end of the hall, was an earthen circle slightly inset into the floor of the edifice.26
The aksas or dice of the most ancient form of the game, and that form with which we are concerned in this study, were actually the nuts or dried fruits of the vibhitaka tree (Terminalia bellerica, one of the myrobalans), a tree that is native to the entire Indian subconti- nent, growing as far north as the upper Indus River valley.27 The vibhitaka tree was often called aksa, after the generic term for the "dice" that grew on it; the same tree was also called kali, a term to which we will return.28 These nuts were spheroid but irregular in shape; they certainly were without sides and thus quite unlike the cubical dice to which we are accustomed. The ancient Indian dice game was played with a great number of these vibhitaka nuts. In ritual contexts at least, the numbers 49, 100, 104, 150, 250, 400, or 1,000 are given.29
In the ancient Indian game, each of the two players had a great number of dice at his disposal. These were thrown alternately, until one of the players brought the total number of dice on the table up to a predetermined amount, called krta ("done," "complete[d]"). The krta was the most desirable of throws because with it a player won the game. The krta throw became more or less standardized, during the Vedic age, in which it came to signify a throw of dice (glaha) that brought the total number of dice thrown (aya) in the circle up to a
23, no. 4 (1974): 288-307; and M. M. Patkar, "The Role of Gambling in Ancient Indian Society," Viiveivarananda Indological Journal 1, no. 1 (March 1963): 141-43.
25 Apastamba Dharma Siitra 2.25.5. The Latin term forum has a similar double meaning: forus at once means meeting hall and gaming table: Felix Gaffiot, ed., Dictionaire Latin-Francais, s.v. "forus."
26 The gaming hall and playing circle are described, in the context of the RHjasOya and AgnyHdheya rites, in the Apastamba Dharma Siitra 2.25.12; Apastamba Grhya Siitra 7.18.1; Apastamba Srauta Siitra 5.19.2; Baudhayana Srauta Siitra 2.8; Hiranyakeiin Grhya Siitra 2.7.2; and Satapatha Brahmana 18.104.22.168 , cited in Luders, p. 12.
27 Rig Veda 7.86.6; 10.34.1,5; Atharva Veda 7.114.7. 28 Amarakosa 2.4.58; Halfyudha 2.463; Hemacandra Abhiddnacintdmani 1145; and Mahdbhdrata 3.72.38,41; see Luders, p. 18.
29 Forty-nine dice are used in the agnyadheya rite, according to the Baudhdyana Srauta Siitra (2.8), in the Apastamba fiaura Siitra (5.19.4), the figure of 100 is given. In the context of the ritual dice game of the rajasuya, figures of "over 100," "over 1,000" and 400 dice are prescribed, in Apasramba Srauta Siirra 18.19.1,5. For variants, in which 104, 150, and 250 dice are mentioned, see Johannes C. Heesterman's (The Ancient Indian Royal Consecration [The Hague: Mouton, 19571, pp. 144-451) dis- cussion of Hiranyakeiin $rauta Siitra 13.6.25-32; Katyayana Srauta Siitra 15.202-6, and Baudhayana Srauta Siitra 12.15. The Rig Veda (10.34.12) speaks of tripaficaiah, which Luders (pp. 24-25) construes as thrice fifty dice.
quantity that was a multiple of, or divisible by, four.30 As such, the four throw was dreaded: "He who holds the four (caturas) in his hand, may he be feared when he throws (his dice)."31
A match could last for as few as two throws: if the responding throw to an original throw brought the total up to a multiple of four, that krta throw won the game. On the other hand, throws that were not krta could be theoretically exchanged until the dice were exhausted. The element of skill in the game would thus have entailed an ability to make one's dice "dance" so as to make counting them difficult for one's opponent; but more important than this was the capacity to count a large number of dice with great rapidity.32
Less auspicious than the krta (for him who held the dice) were throws that left remainders of one, two, or three dice. These throws, too, had explicit names. In the earliest sources, a remainder (pari) of one die was called ekapara; a remainder of two was called dvipara. This use of pari is made clear by Panini's rule on the matter: ak~aia- lrikasamkhyih Later, in dice games in which krta remained the winning four-throw, the names for throws which left a remainder were standardized into more familiar names: after the krta throw there came the treta; that is, a throw which left a remainder of three above a total that was a multiple of four. Following the treta were the dvripara and kali throws, in which the remainders were of two and one, respectively.
It is tempting but most likely anachronistic to see in these terms the designations, of a later period, for the four yugas. Any immediate identification of the four yugas, with the four ayas of the earliest Vedic dice traditions, faces two problems. First, the game and the names of the ayas changed some time between the Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda, such that the winning throw, called kali (or aksariji or abhibhii) in the latter came to be a multiple of five rather than of
Second, the yugas of the Vedic period were not the astro- nomical eras of later periods but, rather, five-year cycles. The names of these cycles, rather than corresponding to the four "standard"
30 Liiders, pp. 38-54; and Keith, "Game of Dice," p. 826.
3' Rig Veda 1.41.9, cited in Liiders, pp. 55-56; cf. Boris Oguibenine, "Sur le terme yoga, le verbe yuj- et quelques-uns de leurs dtrivts dans les hymnes vtdiques," Indo- Iranian Journal 27, no. 2 (April 1984): 97.
32 Arharva Veda 4.38.1-4 and Mahdbhdrara 2.59.7, 3.72.7. As we have already seen, Varuna's skill in overseeing all human acts is compared to that of the gambler in counting dice: Atharva Veda 4.16.5.
33 Liiders, p. 64, citing PHnini 2.1.10; and Liiders, p. 37, citing Patafijali's gloss of PHnini 2.1.10; see also Keith, "Game of Dice," p. 825, on the use of the termspara and pari in counting dice.
34 Liiders, pp. 38-43, 54, 56.
names for the yugas in later literature, were altogether different, each ending in -vatSara. The late identification of the four yugas (the lot of the universe) with the four ayas (the lots one cast), in spite of its analogical correctness, was thus an ex post facto one.
These considerations aside, what is important to us here is that an opponent's dread krta throw made him the Svaghnin of one's own wager and wealth-and even, as the Aksasiikta, "The Hymn to the Dice," of Rig Veda 10.34 indicates, of one's own family, wife, and personal freedom.35 We know of the important position that this dice game occupied in the life of the king where, much more than a form of diversion, it had a place in the rite of royal consecration (raja- ~iiya),~~
served an oracular function, and was recognized as a form of combat.37
This latter aspect of the dice game was important enough in ancient India to serve as the crux of the plot, as well as the motive for universal war, in the Mahabhdrata. There, king Yudhisfhira loses his kingdom, his wealth, and the freedom of his family, himself, and his wife, in a "loaded" game of dice played in the sabha against Sakuni (the brother-in-law of his paternal uncle), himself an incarnation of the Dvapara A bit more skill or cleverness on the part of Yudhisfhira might have perhaps spared the lives of the majority of the human race and of his family-but daiva does not work that way.
35 The term Svaghnin bears the sense of professional gambler, rather than "one who hunts with dogs" in Rig Veda 7.52.6, 8.45.38, 10.42.9, 10.43.5; Atharva Veda 7.52.6, 7.109.1-7; and Nirukta 5.22.
36 The classic source on the rdjasPya in its entirety is Heesterman. The ritual dice game is described in galapatha BrFhmana 22.214.171.124; Maitrdyani Samhitd 4.4.6; Taittiriya Brdhmana 126.96.36.199; Kdtydyana Srauta SPtra 15.7.5,13-26; Apastamba fiauta SPtra 18.18.16, 18.19.6-8; and Baudhdyana Gauta SPtra 2.8-9.
37 Indra is often invoked in such contexts. See Rig Veda 1.100.9, 1.132.1, 4.20.3, 8.81.1, 9.97.58, 9.106.3, 10.43.5, and 10.102.2, cited in Liiders, pp. 45-50. Compare Oguibenine, pp. 90-92,97.
38 The dice game of the Sabhd Parvan is the subject of three studies. These are Alf Hiltebeitel, The Ritual of Battle (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976), chap. 4, "Krishna's Absence from the Dice Game and the Disrobing of Draupadi," pp. 86-101; Garrett Jan Held, The Mahdbhdrata: An Ethnological Study (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1935), chap. 5, "Gambling," pp. 243-93; and J. A. B. Van Buitenen, "On the Structure of the SabhHparvan of the MahHbhBrata," in India Maior: Con- gratulatory Volume Presented to Jan Gonda, ed. J. Ensinck and P. Gaeffke (Leiden: Brill, 1972), pp. 68-84. This last study, also found in reduced form in the same author's introduction to the second volume of his translation of the Mahdbhdrata, argues convincingly that the rigged dice game, rather than being a flaw in Yudhisthira's epic character, is possessed of its own mytho-logic. The entire Sabhd Parvan, as Van Buitenen demonstrates, is the narrative playing out of the rqasPya, of which the final ritual consists of a game of dice. By playing (and losing) according to the rules, against a cheating Sakuni, Yudhisthira, rather than acting contrary to his characteristic mod- eration, is in fact showing himself to be a worthy prince and ruler (Van Buitenen, p. 83).
We find, in ancient Greek and Latin, respectively, the terms ktidn and canis ("dog") employed to signify the losing throw in the game of dice.39 $van, however, seems never to have had this explicit mean- ing in the ancient Indian context, except for the play on words between "dog" (Sva-) and the "goods" (sva-) that are struck down by one's Svaghnin opponent. According to Indo-European philologists however, this is nothing but a folk etymology: Svaghnin would be a derivative of a proto-Indo-European verb *Svagh, "to wager."
Whether or not the traditional etymology of Svaghnin was a "true" one, it was certainly a meaningful one to ancient India, as evinced in a ritual cure described in the siitra literat~re.~' This was the rite employed to cure a boy of an attack of epilepsy. The term for epilepsy itself is apasmnra ("loss of memory") or kumira ("pertaining to boys"), but the attack itself is called Svagraha, "seizure by the dog."4' It is the treatment of this seizure that is of great relevance to our
The father of the boy, or his ritual surrogate, having performed tapas, covers the boy with a net (jd~a),~)
and while gongs are being sounded,44 brings the victim into the gambling hall, the sabhn, through a hole in the roof. He then lays him on the gaming board, the adhidevana, which has already been strewn with a great number of dice. He is sprinkled with salt and curds while mantras invoking
39 Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Alterturnswissenschaft, reed. Georg Wis- sowa (Stuttgart, 1896, 1958), S.V. "astragalos," 2:2, p. 1792; and "lusoria tabula," 13, pp. 1956-61.
40 Apastarnba Gyhya Siitra 7.18.1-2; HiranyakeSin Grhya Siitra 188.8.131.52-5; Psi-askara Grhya Siitra 1.16.24-25; and Mantrapd!ha 2.16.1-1 1.
41 Epilepsy is discussed in the Ayurvedic classic, the As!drigahydaya (UttarasthHna 3.16, also known as the "Kaumarantantra"), of which a transcription, translation, and commentary are provided by Jean Filliozat in "Le Kumaratantra de RHvana," Journal Asiatique 226 (1935): 48-65, esp. pp. 52, 54. Verses 40-61 of this source describe medical treatments for the five demonic "seizers," of which the dog is one. On the same subject, the commentary of Sri KapardeSvari on Apastarnba Glhya Siitra 7.18.2 (ed.
S. Subrahmanyasastri [Kumbhaghonam, 19521) states: "(Concerning) Svagraha, doglike sounds are emitted by him who is seized (gyhita).Svagraha is that disease having the form of a seizure. Boys as well as dogs are seized by it."
42 This is the subject of an excellent short article by V. M. Apte, "A Problem Presented by the Word fiaghnin in the Rig Veda," Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Institste 31 (1950): 165-68.
43 Apastarnba Grhya Siitra 7.18.1. The jda, the net or snare, is the weapon of the fowler. It is also the "magical" weapon of the god Indra, a weapon associated with rnayd. As a weapon that fetters its victim, it is also associated with thepija or noose of the god Varuna: Rig Veda 1.24.15, 6.74.4, 7.65.3, 7.84.2, 10.85.24. Yama, the Hindu god of death, also carries apaia (Rig Veda 10.97.16).
44 HiranyakeSin Grhya Sacra 184.108.40.206 stipulates that the gong is to be beaten toward the south.
mythic dogs, or dogs in general, are pronounced: these are requested to release the boy and leave him in peace:
"0barking one, 0 sweet-barking one, 0 dog, binder of boys [bdlabandhana]! Cet, cet! Doggy, let go! Salutations to you, 0 Sisara! Yelper! Convulser! It is true that the gods gave you a boon. Is this indeed the very boy you have chosen? Cet, cet! Doggy, let go! Salutations to you 0 Sisara! Yelper! Con- vulser! It is true that SaramB is your mother, that Sisara is your father, and the SBrameyau your two brothers.45 Cet, cet! Doggy, let go. . . !" The ritual is repeated three times in the day, in the morning, at noon and at night. Then, the performer of the rite touches the boy with "He is not under the influence, he is not crying, he is not convulsing, he is not faint, he to whom we are speaking and whom we are touching."46
With this, the boy is healed. In this therapeutic rite, we once again find the dog placed in connection with the game of dice. And, by extension, we may also qualify the ritual technician here as a Svaghnin, inasmuch as he strikes down, with his remedy (prcTyaScitta), the dog that has seized the child: the image of the gambler as dog (-demon) killer is reinforced by the fact that the remedy is effected on a dicing board.47 Furthermore, the act of lowering the afflicted boy through a hole in the roof onto the adhidevana appears to constitute an explicit
|rapprochement between the three levels of symbolism-the||macro-|
An astonishing parallel between this Indian rite and ancient Roman institutions is found in certain practices regarding the flamen Dialis,
45 It is a commonplace that SaramH is the mother of the two four-eyed SHrameyau mentioned above. The sole context in which the SHrameyau's father is mentioned in Hindu literature is this (Pdraskara Grhya Siitra 1.16.24-25) one. The mantra implies that the dog afflicting the boy in his epileptic attack here would thus be a third brother of the Sarameyau; however, the dog is also itself called Sisara, the name of the sire himself. While it apparently treats of the same rite, Mantrapd!ha 2.16.1-1 1 differs greatly from Priraskara. The Mantrapitha passage too, however, contains a reference to a boon granted to a dog. This time, it is Indra who grants the boon to SaramH-a possible reference to Rig Veda 1.108.1-11, 1.62.3, 3.31.6 (with SHyana's commentary); and Vdjasaneyi Samhird 33.59 (with Mahidhara's commentary)-who is the only dog granted a boon in Vedic literature.
46 This is the recitation made according to Pdraskara Grhya SPtra 1.16.24-25. The mantras are quite different in HiranyakeSin Grhya Siitra 220.127.116.11-4; Bhdradvrija Grhya Siitra 2.7; and Manrrapd!ha 2.16.1-11.
47 Apte, p. 168. Another explicit ritual identification of the game of dice with dogs- this time the two dogs of Yama-is the rarnindm-havim~i,the offerin s made to the king's rarnin courtiers, in the context of the rHjastiya. Here, SyHma, 8abala, Rudra, and the aksdvdpa, the royal dice keeper, are mentioned together in Tairririya Brdhmana
1:7.3.6. Compare Taittiriya Samhird 1.8.9; Maitrdyani Sarphird 2.6.3,5; Apastamba Srauta SPrra 18.10.18-21; BaudhrTyana Sraura Siirra 12.5; and Heesterman (n. 29 above), pp. 49-57.
the priest of the cult of Jupiter, the Roman god of the first function. According to Plutarch, if an enchained man entered into the home of the flamen Dialis, he had to be set free, and his chains removed, not through the door, but through the roof of the edifice!48
Returning to our Indian example, we observe that the child, bound up in a net, is healed of a seizure (graha), which is both the way in which Varuna, the "binder" and "enforcer" of the first function, punishes people,49 and a term for a throw, or handful of dice." This imagery corresponds to an Indo-European commonplace of fighting knots with knots: the ritual practitioner in this rite is binding or slaying the dog by whom the boy is bound. The same imagery appears in the rules of the ancient Indian dice game, according to which one who did not immediately pay his gambling debts was "bound" to the dicing board and was prohibited from entering into a new game until he had paid off his debts: in one case, the player is made to wear a necklace of dice.'' In the "Hymn of the Dice," the gambler's family, forsaking him and his profligate ways, says "lead him away b~und."'~
Certain Indo-European parallels are worth noting here as well. According to Varro, the best throw in the Roman game of dice, the Venus or Victoria throw, was so called "not because it wins [vincere], but because it binds [vincire]. The word Victoria itself comes from the fact that the defeated party is actually bound."s3 The worst throw
48 Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae [Moralia] 11 1). For parallel passages, see Mircea Eliade, Images et symboles: Essais sur le symbolisme magico-religieuse (Paris: Gal- limard, 1952), p. 122; and Georges Dumtzil, Flamen-Brahman (Paris: Geuthner, 1935), pp. 66-67. As for the flamen himself, he was not permitted to wear any knots on his person (Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1015; Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae 112). Moreover, the flamen was prohibited from contact with the dog or the goat. In the case of the former, it hindered supplicants, like a living fetter, from approaching the flamen; moreover, the sight of a dog suspended the flamen's "unbinding" effects. The flamen Quirinalis sacrificed a dog at the Robigalia festival, while the flamen Dialis played a role in sacrifice of a dog at the Lupercalia (Quaestiones Romanae 111, cited in Dumtzil, p. 69, n. B). The flamen could not approach the goat because of its con- nections with the "bonds" of e ilepsy!
49 See, e.g., the legend of !unahhepa: Aifareya Brdhmana 7.13-16. This legend is recited, in the context of the rdjasiiya, immediately before or after the king engages in a ritual game of dice. Indra is said to "bind the binder" (Vytra, whose name, like Varuna's, means "enveloper, binder") (Rig Veda 10.1 13.6, cited in Jean Varenne, Cosmogonies vddiques [Milan: Arche, 19821, p. 114).
50 Liiders (n. 24 above), pp. 26-28; but see PHnini's (3.3.70) rule on the phonetic alternation between graha and glaha. The verb for the act of throwing the dice (as opposed to "piling upn-vi-ci-the dice) is ud-bhid(onthis term, see Luders, p. 51), of which the literal meaning is "pierce, cut through": in the context of magical bonds, the releasing of one's glaha may be interpreted as an attempt at cutting through the fetters of one's opponent's "seizures."
51 Ibid., pp. 10-1 1, citing Ndrada Smrti 17.5-6.
52 Rig Veda 10.34.4:pitd mdtd bhrdtara enam dhur na jdnimo nayatd baddham etam.
53 Varro, De lingua Latina 18.104.22.168-2. I am grateful to John Sheid for this reference.
in dice, that throw most apt to be "bound" by the Venus throw, and the throw that bound the gambler who threw it, was the canis (the "dog") throw. What precisely was the canis throw? In the Roman game of tali, it was four "ones." And what was the single indentation on the die called in the Roman game? An "eye" (oculus), like our "snake eyes." But in the Roman case, it was not snake eyes, but a four-eyed dog (a "quattour oculatus canis," although we never en- counter the term) that lost every time.54
The symbolism of bondage, as a theme that ties together the three elements of the compound catur-akja ivan, is equally implicit to the dog sacrifice in the aivamedha rite that we took it as our task to decode at the beginning of this study. Here then is the rite.
THE RITE The ritual killing of the dog takes place on the opening day of the year-long advamedha rite (following a year of purificatory prepara- tions). It thus follows the dak~ind offered to the four officiating priests, the bridling of the horse who will represent the king in its year of wandering, and the symbolic gift of the kingdom offered by the king to the adhvaryu priest.55 At this point, "they lead a four-eyed dog [dnayanti ivanam catur- akjam], bound by fetters in every direction [viivagbandhena bad-dha~.'~The king's father's younger sister's son [i.e., his patrilineal cousin] leads it from the eastern side; the king's mother's younger sister's son [i.e., his matrilineal cousin] leads it from the western side." Next, the sacrificial instrument ("the club is made of sidhraka wood") and the executioner ("apaumicaleya, the son of a prostitute," or "an dyogava," one of the "mixed castes") are described. This latter, "having had a band wrapped around his knee, follows from behind." It is at this point that certain texts (such as Baudhdyana ~rauta Siitra 15.5) launch into a detailed account of the other members of this procession (other texts save this description for the lustration of
54 Paulys Realencyclopiidie (n. 39 above), s.v. "astragalos," p. 1792. The worst throw, besides being called "dog," was also called "death" in Greco-Roman traditions. Here again, "dog-killer" is an apt term for the winning player, who has "defeated death" (Schlerath [n. 6 above], p. 36). 55 Apastamba Srauta Siitra 20.2.1-20.3.5. The bridling of the horse is also explicitly identified as binding or fettering. It is fitting that the horse, as representative of the king, be bound as well, for, as the Taittiriya Sarphitd (2.4.13) says, the "rajanya is born bound," 56 Apastamba Srauta Siitra 20.3.6; Baudhayana fiauta Siitra 15.1; Taittiriya Brdh- mana 3.8.4. For an alternative interpretation of this rite, see Herta Krick's ingenious article, "Die vieraugige Hund im ASvamedha zur Deutung von TS VII.I.II.1 (b)," Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Sudasiens und Archiv fur indische Philosophie 16 (1972): 27-39. the horse, which directly follows the dog ~acrifice).'~ Around the central square-composed of the dog in the center, the horse in front of the dog, the king's two cousins to either side, and the low-caste executioner behind-are placed the following groups: to the east are the adhvaryu priest and one hundred of the king's sons; to the south, the brahman priest and one hundred nonroyal Ugras (bards); to the west is the hotr priest and one hundred Sfitas (charioteers) and Graminis (village headmen); and to the north, the udgdtr priest and one hundred Ksattrs (grooms) and Samgrahitrs (treasurers). In all, there are four groups of one hundred and one persons surrounding the four central figures and the four-eyed dog. These four groups, and the central square that they enclose, constitute a microcosm of the kingdom and the world. In it are represented the four directions, and numerous kinship ties (bandhus), together with members of the royal household, the brahmin priesthood, the social classes or castes, and various of the king's domestic political connections. It should also be noted that four of the groups especially desig- nated-the Sfitas, Graminis, Samgrahitrs, and Ksattrs-are counted among the king's eleven to thirteen ratnins. These persons also play a role in the rdjasiiya, in which the Samgrahitr and Ksattr are explicitly named, together with the Bhagadugha ("tax collector"), as umpires in the ritual dice game.58 The description of the rite continues: "They lead the horse and dog to a pool located to the south of the sacrificial ground.59 When the dog can no longer touch bottom in the water, the adhvaryu orders the son of the prostitute: 'Kill it.' Then, along with the formula 'He who would kill [jighdmsati] the steed, Varuna runs him down,'60 the son of the prostitute kills [prahanti] the dog with the sidhraka club. He throws the dog beneath the feet of the horse, along with the formula 'Away the man, away the dog! [paro martah parah ~va].'"~' Commentators on this passage generally agree that paras is to be understood in the sense of "away," "beyond," or "defeated." Here we 57 ~atapatha Brdhmana 14.1.31; Zpastamba ~rauta Sfitra 20.4.1-4. Even in this latter case, however, the configuration refers itself to the dog, which has by now been slain. This is made explicit in Zpastamba ~rauta Sfitra 20.4.1, when, at the beginning of the description of the configuration, the adhvaryu priest says "May this king, striving through the sacrifice of this horse, slay the enemy [i.e., the dog]." 58 Apastamba Srauta Satra 18.19.6-8. 59 Baudhrfyana ~rauta Satra 15.5. 60 The passage is from Vaasaneyi Samhitd 22.5. 61 Taittiriya BrMmana 22.214.171.124. This passage is taken from Vrfjasaneyi Samhitrf 22.5 as well. At this point in the rite, according to Krftyrfyana Srauta Sfitra 20.2.2, the dead dog is made to float beneath the belly of the horse, through the agency of a kala, a reed mat or band. should also recall, however, the original meanings of the terms em- ployed for dice throws, as glossed by PBnini (2.1.10): ak;as'aldka- samkhydh parind. In this AvyayibhBva-compound, pari has the sense of "beyond by so many [dice over the agreed upon number]." PBnini's pari has its parallel in the -para ending of the word for a two-throw, dvdpara, an indication, for Liiders, that the two terms had an identical construction at some early period.62 If this is the case, then the term paras which is employed in this ritual passage, a term which is certainly connected etymologically with para, takes on a double sense. Besides meaning "away the man, away the dog," it may also be construed as "there is one man, one dog, too many [in this ritual game of dice]." Returning to the rite, "the adhvaryu then says 'The dog verily is pdpmdn and bhrdtyvya. He [the kinglhorse, by slaying the dog through his ritual surrogate] slays his pdpmdn, his bhrdtrvya."'63 Both of these last terms are "loaded" in the ancient Indian context. Pdpmdn, in the Vedas, is either the name of a demon, or cosmic evil, the flaw in what ought to be a perfect system; a sort of the~dic~.~~ Pdpmdn has its mythic origin in PrajBpati's incest with his daughter Rohini. The gods create Rudra-BhtitavBn and instruct him to "pierce the pdpmdn of Prajiipati," the physical stain of Prajiipati's crime.6s In later contexts, pdpmdn becomes transformed-with the term pdpa- into the more abstract notion of "sin," and this is the sense Siiyana gives to the above passage in his commentary: "The dog represents the evil enemy. Therefore, when the dog is slain, the pdpmdn is killed." As for bhrdtrvya, its general meaning is "enemy, rival, adversary." However, the root of the term is bhrdtr, "brother," and its etymologi- cally "true" meaning is "father's or mother's brother's son; cousin." That such relations should be a source of rivalry or hostility is amply proven in the ~ahdbhdrata,~~ in which the Pandavas are precisely the bhrdtyvya, in both senses of the word, of the Kauravas. In the context of this passage, these terms have the respective meanings of "evil luck, injury" and "opponent, cousin or close relation."67 62 Liiders (n. 24 above), p. 64. 63 Taiffiriya Brdhmana 126.96.36.199. 64 Varenne (n. 49 above), p. 54. 65 Aitareya Brdhmana 3.33. 66 Mahdbhdrata 7.24.18; cf. Blhaddranyaka Upani~ad 1.3.7. 67 In the procession that precedes the killing of the four-eyed dog, it is the sons of the younger sisters of the king's father and mother who accompany the dog, horse, and dyogava. As if to emphasize that it is not these who are potential rivals to the king, the Taitfiriya Brdhmana (188.8.131.52) states, "on those two sides, they [both] uproot evil luck from that [dog]." We may glimpse, in a parallel rite, the Saunakayajiia ("whelp sacri- fice"), a similar situation. Here, a whelp is sacrificed for "he who thirsts to overthrow his bhrdtyvya. "68 To return to the aivarnedha, however, the king, in one fatal, ritual stroke, prepares-through his iyogava or paumScaleya surrogate-for his horse's year of wandering, and his own ritual conquest of the universe: he beats, through the binding and slaying of a four-eyed dog, both his enemies and every unforeseeable peril. The rite concludes when "the dog's corpse is made to float across the pool in a southerly direction," that is, in the direction of death.69 At this time a final formula compares the sacrificer to Indra, the slayer of ~~tra,~' and the horse to one whose weapon is the vajra7'and the dog is never heard from again. DOGS, GODS, DICE, AND DEATH IN ANCIENT INDIA I will begin the summary of the symbolism of the dice game in this ritual killing of a four-eyed dog by referring to the numbers of the members of the procession to the water in which the dog is killed. These four (the horse, the cTyogava or paumicaleya, and the king's two cousins) plus four (the four priests) plus 400 (the groups of 100 people accompanying each of the four priests) living creatures (in all, either 408 creatures or 816 eyes) are the dice in an enormous game that symbolically encompasses every possible permutation of family, social, political, and cosmic relationships or tie~~~-but at the heart of this ensemble, there is the catur-aksa Svan, the "four-dice dog." In 68 Kau~itaki Brdhmana 4.7, translated in Arthur Berriedale Keith, Rigveda Brrfh- manas: The Aitareya and Kausitaki Brdhmanas of the Rig Veda, Harvard Oriental Series, no. 25 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), p. 367. Keith translates bhrdtrvya by "the rival." 69 Baudhdyana ~rauta Siitra 15.6; Apastamba ~rauta Siitra 20.3.14; Taittiriya Brdhmana 184.108.40.206. SZyana's commentary on this last passage states that "the pdpmdn [the dog], by floating in the southerly direction, removes that pdpmdn which has the form of a stain from the sacrificer." I will discuss the symbolism of the south below. 70 Apastamba Srauta Stitra 20.3.14-15. The passage is taken from Taittiriya Samhitd 7.4.15, and, with slight variations, from Rig Veda 8.62.11. 71 Taittiriya BrrIhmana 220.127.116.11; cf. Atharva Veda 7.114.4. 72 As I have already mentioned, the dice game was an explicit one in two other ritual contexts, the rdjastiya and the agnyddheya, described in ,4pastamba ~rauta Siitra (5.19.2-4, 18.19.1-8) and Baudhdyana Srauta Siitra (2.8-9). These rites are discussed in Van Buitenen (n. 38 above), p. 71; Liiders (n. 24 above), pp. 52-53; Heesterman (n. 29 above), pp. 143-46; and W. Caland, "Uber das rituelle Siitra des BaudhZyana," Abhandlungen fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes 12 (1903): 17. Both dicing rituals involve the symbolic conquest of the universe, the four directions being symbolized by four players (who are members of the king's extended family) and the krta (four-)throw. A most explicit cosmologization of the dice game is found in the Purusamedha ritual of the Vrfjasaneyi Samhitd (30.18) and Taittiriya Brdhmana (18.104.22.168), which homolo- this giant ritual dice game, whose playing pieces are living creatures, this dog is nothing other than the krta, the throw held against the king by his rival (bhrdtrvya) or by evil luck (pipmdn), by a fate or destiny (daiva, bhdgya) that is beyond his control. It is this dread throw-the four-throw in the hand of his rival (Rig Veda 1.41.9)-that has the power to overthrow all that the king has staked on his great sacrifice. More abstractly, it is also the four-throw in the hand of fate or time itself (see n. 23 above) that the king wishes to counter-for any eventual victories over his rivals would come to nought if he or the horse representing him were to die unexpectedly. It is thus necessary that he beat the perfect four-throw in advance, and once and for all. This is the object of the sacrifice of the four- eyed dog that precedes the horse's year of wanderings in the aivamedha. The ritual texts tell us that the dog is struck down with a club made of sidhraka, which is glossed as "victory," as sadh means "to win, succeed."74 The instrument of death is furthermore identified with the horse (who represents the king in this rite); and with the thunderbolt (vajra), which is generally associated with Indra, the king of the gods, who slays the rival ~rtra.'~ The dog is struck and slain (han), rendering the king both ivaghnin and "ivaghnin-ghnaV-a dog killer (of the "four-eyed dog," and of his own losing throw, as in the Roman game of tali), a killer with dogs (a hunter of other gamblers' throws and goods, as well as of dogs that bind, such as that of epileptic seizures), and a victor over other such dog killers. That is, the king is both the winner of this ritual dice game and of the goods of those eventual princely rivals his horse and its accompanying army might encounter and the victor over any other such "gambler," perhaps even including Kgla and ~ali~~ themselves. gize the cardinal directions with persons and functions associated with dicing; cf. Held (n. 38 above), p. 265; and Luders, p. 38. 73 The "four-ness" of this procession is especially emphasized in Tairtiriya Brihmana 22.214.171.124. 74 Taittiriya Brihmana 126.96.36.199-4. 75 Indra's role as king of the gods and slayer of VGra "the binder," as well as of the enemies of the Aryans, is a Vedic commonplace. This is coupled with his role as Svaghnin in Rig Veda 2.12.4, 4.20.3, 10.42.9, 10.43.5, and 10.102.2, discussed in Luders, pp. 10, 44-52. Mahidhara, in his commentary on Vijasaneyi Samhiti 10.28, identifies the tracing of the dicing circle with the sphya with Indra's striking of Vrtra with his vajra (Luders, p. 12, n. 2). 76 Kali is often personified, in myth and ritual, as evil fate which cannot be avoided. In a general sense, this is the symbolism of the Kali Yuga, the "iron age" in which we are living. More explicit is a passage of the Mahibhgrata [13.127.15-161, which relates kali to dogs and other inauspicious creatures and circumstances: "They say that Kali is in broken vessels.. . all broken beds and vessels are inauspicious, as are cocks and dogs and trees in a house." Preceding and following its ritual killing, the dog is not unbound for one moment: before it is killed, it is "bound in every direction"; after its death, it is bound to a kata mat. Here, the mythological reference is to Varuna, "the binder," whose evocation (along with that of Vrtra, another "binder") at the moment of its killing is also more than coincidence. The god who watches over human acts like a Svaghnin over his dice here watches over the king and his dice in a rite of prophylactic magic (not unlike the therapeutic magic of the Svagraha remedy), in which what is at stake is the maintenance of the cosmic order (rta) of which king Varuna, as sovereign god of the first function, is the custodian. The royal sacrificer here is Varuna's earthly representative; therefore, although he is "bound" to Varuna and the gods on one level, it is he who pulls the ritual strings in this sacrifice. It is therefore essential that he bind his opponent by beating his winning throw, lest he himself be so bound. Once killed, the four-eyed dog is made to float toward the south, the direction of death, and therefore of Yama, the god of the dead. We have seen throughout this and other rites involving dogs and dice, recurring reference to the southerly direction. The pond itself at which the dog is put to death is located to the south of the sacrificial ground (Baudhayana Srauta Siitra 15.5). In the ritual treatment of childhood epilepsy, as described in the HiranyakeSin Grhya Stitra (188.8.131.52), gongs are sounded in the southerly direction when the boy is brought into the gambling hall. The sabha itself is located in, or close to the southern door of the city (Apastamba Dharma Siitra 2.25.5). In the ritual dice game of the royal consecration, the dicing circle is situated, according to certain sources, in the southern part of the gambling hall (Baudhayana Sauta Stitra 2.8). Finally, once dead, it is proper that the four-eyed dog be expedited toward the south-for this is the orientation of the land of the dead, as well as the ritual direction of bhr~t~~a.~~ As the hellhound of Yama (who is the only Vedic god, beside Varuna, who has the noose-piSa-as his magical weapon)78 it is, in a sense, returning home, to its proper place. In the wealth of ritual detail that surrounds the sacrifice of the four-eyed, four-dice dog, every possible counterstroke to the royal horse-in the year of wandering that is to follow-is played out and neutralized in advance. The greatest "player" in the kingdom is as- sured of the victorious conclusion of his sacrifice because he has
77 Sataparha Brdhmapa 184.108.40.206.
78 Yama and Varuna share the role of god of the dead in Rig Veda 10.14.7; both wield the danda and pcija in Rig Veda 10.97.16 and Manu Smlfi 9.245.
already realized it through his pre-sacrifice. He has beaten and bound the dog of death, the dice of death, and the dog of dice; and, as the saying goes, "the eyes have it."79
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79 Or, to use a metaphor from Indian tradition, the king enjoys "a krta- or a kali- throw on both sides" (Theragdthd 462, cited in Liiders [n. 24 above], p. 42). That is, he has it both ways, and if one is to see that one has it both ways, one must, Janus-like, have two heads and four eyes.
At the time this article was written I did not have for consultation Harry Falk, Bruderschaft und Wiirfelspiel (Freiburg: Hedwig Falk, 1986), a careful, classical study of many of the points I have presented.