Vajapeya Yajna- The Olympic games of Ancient India? (Post No.4221)

Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 17 September 2017


Time uploaded in London- 16-39


Post No. 4221


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


What does Vajapeya yajna show?

Vedic Hindus were very sportive; they were highly civilized; even the religious, ritualistic sacrifices had great sports events such as horse races with the beating of the drums. They aimed high in everything; they always aimed at victory. They were positive thinking people. Like todays festivals religion and art went together. Even the utensils and vessels used in the sacrifice were elevated to sacred objects.


Atal Bihari Vajapayee was the tenth prime minister of India. He belongs to the family of Vajapeya performers. Because of him the word Vajapeya became familiar.


Hillebrandt goes so far as to compare it to the Olympic games (Vedische mythologie, 1, 247). Because the yajna is full of games, dance and music.


Vajapeya is the name of a fire ceremony which according to the Satapata Brahmana is performed by a Brahmin or Kshatriya. The book insists that this sacrifice is superior to the Rajasuya, but the consensus of others assigns to it merely the place of a preliminary to the Brhaspatisava in the case of a priest, and to the Rajasuya in the case of a king, while the Satapata is compelled to identify the Brhaspatisava with the Vajapeya.


(Brhaspatisava: It is the name of a sacrifice which according to the T

aittiriya Brahmana, the priest who desired to become a Purohita obtained that office. According to the Asvalayana Srauta Sutra it was the sacrifice to be performed by a priest after the Vajapeya, while the king performed the Rajasuya. It is identified with Vajapeya in the Satapata Brahmana.)

The essential ceremony is a chariot race in which the sacrifice is victorious. There is evidence in the sankhyayana Srauta Sutra showing that once the festival was one which any Hindu could perform.


Eggeling holds the view that the Vajapeya was a preliminary rite performed by a Brahmin prior to his formal installation as a Purohita, or by a king prior to his consecration. The Kuru Vajapeya was specially well known (Sankhyayana and Apastmaba Srauta Sutras).


Satapata Brahmana belongs to Sukla (white) Yajur Veda. Satapata is called 10 paths or sections (sata=100). Book 5 is taken up with the two great sacrifices of Vajapeya and Rajasuya or inauguration of a King. Vajapeya means Drink of Strength or Race cup.


Sangam age Tamil kings performed Rajasuya 2000 years ago according to Purananuru. But there is no reference to Vajapeya in ancient Tamil literature. Yudhishthira performed according to Mahabharata. It is very interesting to see that these Yagas and yajnas were rooted in Tamil Nadu 2000 years ago. Yudhishthira performed it 3100 years before the Tamils!


He who offers the Vajapeya wins food, for Vajapeya doubtless means the same as Anna-peya (food and drink).


Thereupon while looking in different directions, he mutters “ ours be your power, your manhood and intelligence, ours be your energies! For he who offers Vajapeya sacrifice wins everything as he does Prajapati, and Prajapati being everywhere here – having appropriated to himself the glory, the power and the strength of this all, he now lays them within himself, makes them his own; that is why he mutters, while looking in the different directions.  – Sat.Br. 5-2-1-15


The many ritual details of the Vajapeya (Vaja= Food, Peya= Drink) show that the rite is a variety of the Soma sacrifice with which coalesced various popular festivals and rites. It was performed in autumn; the season in later times kings set out on military expeditions for annexing contiguous or distant territories. In addition to Brahmins and Kshatrias, even Vaisyas (business community) performed it for prosperity.


The cups and ladles used in the Yajna were considered sacred or divine; deification of the  wheel  shaped cake in the Vajapeya sacrifice, the torch, the golden plater representing the sun by night, the Mahavira cauldron in the Pravargya rite are cases in the point.

Also read my old article:

Tamil Olympics | Tamil and Vedas

Posts about Tamil Olympics written by Tamil and Vedas




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