SB1.4.1

The following story which represents the spread of Vedic culture to the east, is taken from the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (1.4.1). The gist of the story is the following:

Gotama Rāhūgaṇa, the priest of the king Videgha Māthava, wanted to venture east to spread the Vedic culture (the main feature of which was the yajña). Initially the king was reluctant, but agreed after some persuasion. They both ventured out, starting from the Sarasvatī river and going east till they reached the boundary of the Vedic civilization of that time, represented by the Sadānīra river (modern Gandak). From there they spread the Vedic culture beyond the river further to the east and the king settled down there. The spread of the Vedic culture is symbolically described as Agni moving ahead while scorching the earth. This story also indicates that the Sarasvatī was still flowing when these events occurred.

विदघो ह माथवोऽग्निं वैश्वानरं मुखे बभार । तस्य गोतमो राहूगण ऋषिः पुरोहित आस । तस्मै ह स्मामन्त्र्यमाणो न प्रतिशृणोति नेन्मेऽग्निर्वैश्वानरो मुखान्निष्पद्याताऽइति ॥ १० ॥

King Videgha (विदघः ह), son of Mathu (माथवः), carried Agni Vaiśvānara in his mouth (अग्निं वैश्वानरं मुखे बभार). The ṛṣi Gotama (गोतमः), the son of Rahūgaṇa (राहूगणः) was his family priest (तस्य पुरोहितः आस). On being addressed by him (Gotama) (तस्मै ह स्म आमन्त्र्यमाणः) he (Videgha ) did not reply (न प्रतिशृणोति), (thinking) (इति) “(If I reply), Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निः वैश्वानरः) will fall out (निष्पद्याताः) my mouth (मे मुखात्), so I will not speak (न इत्)”

Note: Sāyaṇa reads माधवः instead of माथवः ।

तमृग्भिर्ह्वयितुं दध्रे । वीतिहोत्रं त्वा कवे द्युमन्तं समिधीमहि अग्ने भृहन्तमध्वरे विदेघेति ॥ ११ ॥

He (Gotama) decided to address him (तं ह्वयितुं दध्रे) using ṛks (ऋग्भिः). O Vidagha (विदघ) –
वी॒तिहो॑त्रं त्वा कवे द्यु॒मन्तं॒ समि॑धीमहि । अग्ने॑ बृ॒हन्त॑मध्व॒रे ॥ ऋ० ५.२६.३ ॥ – O wise Agni (अग्रे कवे)! We kindle you (त्वा समिधीमहि) in this great (बृहन्तम्), brilliant (द्युमन्तम्), and luminous (वीतिहोत्रम्) sacrifice (अध्वरे)!

स न प्रतिशुश्राव । उदग्ने शुचयस्तव शुक्रा भाजन्त ईरते । तव ज्योतींष्यर्च्चयो विदेघाऽइति ॥ १२ ॥

He (सः) (Videgha) did not reply (न प्रतिशुश्राव ह). (Gotama continued) – विदेघा३ ! (सायणः – प्लुतिः असूयार्था – pluta used to indicate displeasure) उद॑ग्ने॒ शुच॑य॒स्तव॑ शु॒क्रा भ्राज॑न्त ईरते । तव॒ ज्योतीं॑ष्य॒र्चयः॑ ॥ (ऋ० ८.४४.१७ ॥ – O Agni (अग्ने)! Your pure (तव शुचयः), bright (शुक्राः), luminous (भ्राजन्तः) flames (अर्चयः), spread (उत् ईरते) your luster (तव तेजांसि)!

स ह नैव प्रतिशुश्राव । तं त्वा घृतस्नवीमहऽइत्येवाभिव्याहरद् । अथाऽस्य घृतकीर्त्तावेवाग्निर्वैश्वानरो मुखादुज्जज्वाल । तन्न शशाक धारयितुं सोऽस्य मुखान्निष्पेदे सऽइमां पृथिवीं प्रापादः ॥ १३ ॥

Even then (एव) he (सः) (Videgha) did not reply (न प्रतिशुश्राव ह). (Gotama) then recited (अभिव्याहरत्) only the part (इति एव) – तं त्वा॑ घृतस्नवीमहे (ऋ० ५.२६.२) – O one kindled by ghee (घृतस्नो), we pray to you (तं त्वा ईमहे) ! Then Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निः वैश्वानरः), on hearing the praise of ghee (घृतकीर्तौ एव), immediately flashed out of his (Videgha‘s) mouth (अस्य मुखात् उज्जज्वाल). He (Videgha) was not able (न शशाक) to hold it (तं धारयितुम्); he (सः) (Agni) issued forth from his mouth (अस्य मुखात् निष्पेदे) and he fell down on this earth (सः इमां पृथिवीं प्रापादः).

तर्हि विदेघो माथव आस सरस्वत्यां । स तत एव प्राङ्दहन्नभीयायेमां पृथिवीं । तं गोतमश्च राहूगणो विदेघश्च माथवः पश्चाद्दहन्तमन्वीयतुः । स इमाः सर्वा नदीरतिददाह | सदानीरेत्युत्तराद्गिरेर्निर्धावति । तां हैव नातिददाह । तां ह स्म तां पुरा ब्राह्मणा न तरन्त्यनतिदग्धाग्निना वैश्वानरेणेति ॥ १४ ॥

Then (तर्हि) Videgha (विदघः ह), son of Mathu (माथवः), immersed himself (आस) in the Sarasvatī (आस) (or dwelt on the banks of the Sarasvatī). He (सः) (Agni) starting from that spot (ततः एव) , scorching his way (दहन्) crossed the earth moving east (इमां पृथिवीं प्राङ् अभि इयाय). Gotama (गोतमः च), the son of Rahūgaṇa (राहूगणः) and Videgha (विदघः च), son of Mathu (माथवः) followed (पश्चात् अन्वीयतुः) the scorching (दहन्तम्) (Agni). He (Agni) scorched (the earth) (सः ददाह) beyond all these rivers (इमाः नदीः अति). (Now, he came to the river) named Sadānīra (सदानीरा इति) that flows down (निर्धावति) from the northern mountains (उत्तरात् गिरेः) (Himalayas). However he did not scorch beyond it (तां ह एव न अतिददाह) । In earlier times brāhmaṇas (पुरा ब्राह्मणाः) would not cross that river (तां ह स्म न तरन्ति), thinking (इति) “She (i.e. Sadānīra) has not been scorched over (अनतिदग्धा) by Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निना वैश्वानरेण)”. (i.e. no one worships Agni in the region beyond this point).

Note
सायणः – अत एव सदा सर्वदा नीरं जलमस्यामस्तीति व्युत्पत्त्या सदानीरा इत्युच्यते । तथा च निघण्टुः – करतोया सदानीरा बाह्वदा सैतवाहिनीति ’- Sadānīra is so called because it always has water. It is also mentioned in the Amarakośa: करतोया सदानीरा बाह्वदा सैतवाहिनीति (अमरकोशः १.१०.३२) – करतोया is explained this – करस्य तोयम् । तदत्रास्ति । गौरीविवाहे शङ्करहस्तच्युतम् ॥ However these are two different rivers. Some scholars mistakenly think that they are the same. Sadānīra is identified by some scholars as the Gandaki (Gandak). The Karatoya River is further to the east and now flows through Bangladesh. See:

तत एतर्हि प्राचीनं बहवो ब्राह्मणास्तद्धाक्षेत्रतरमिवास स्रावितरमिवास्वदितमग्निना वैश्वानरेणेति ॥ १५ ॥

Nowadays (एतर्हि) many brāhmaṇas (बहवः ब्राह्मणाः) live to the east of it (ततः प्राचिनम्). That region earlier was (तत् ह आस) like an uninhabitable place (अक्षेत्रतरम् इव), incapable of yielding (स्रावितरम् इव) because it had not been tasted (अस्वदितम्) by Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निना वैश्वानरेण) (hence it was not pure).

तदु हैतर्हि क्षेत्रतरमिव । ब्राह्मणा उ हि नूनमेनद्यज्ञैरसिष्वदंत्सापि जघन्ये नैदाघे समिवैव कोपयति । तावच्छीतानतिदग्धा ह्यग्निना वैश्वानरेण ॥ १६ ॥

But nowadays (एतर्हि) it is inhabitable (तत् उ क्षत्रतरम् इव). Brāhmaṇas have indeed (ब्राह्मणाःनूनम् हि) made (Agni) taste it (एनत् असिष्विदन् उ) by performing sacrifices (यज्ञैः). She (Sadānīra), even in the worst of summer (जघन्ये नैदाघे अपि एव) appears to be in a rage (सम् कोपयति इव) (i.e. flows rapidly). It is cold as long as it (तावत् शीता) has not been scorched over (अनतिदग्धा) by Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निना वैश्वानरेण) .

स होवाच विदेघो माथवः क्वाहं भवानीत्यत एव ते प्राचीनं भुवनमिति होवाच सैषाप्येतर्हि कोसलविदेहानां मर्यादा ते हि माथवाः ॥ १७ ॥

Videgha (सः विदघः), son of Mathu (माथवः), said (to Agni) (इति उवाच ह) – “Where should I dwell (क्व अहं भवानि)?” (Agni replied) (उवाच ह), “Your dwelling place (ते) should be the region to the east (प्राचीनं भुवनम्) of this (river) (अतः एव)”. Therefore, even now (एतर्हि), this (Sadānīra) (सा एषा) is the boundary (मर्यादा) of the Kosalas and the Videhas (कोसलविदेहानाम्) . Therefore they (ते) (Kosala and Videha kingdoms) are referred to as Māthavas (हि माथवाः).

अथ होवाच गोतमो राहूगणः कथं नु म आमन्त्र्यमाणो न प्रत्यश्रौषीरिति स होवाचाग्निर्मे वैश्वानरो मुखे ऽभुत्स नेन्मे मुखान्निष्पद्यातै तस्मात्ते न प्रतिश्रौषमिति ॥ १८ ॥

Now (अथ) Gotama (गोतमः च), the son of Rahūgaṇa (राहूगणः) said (इति उवाच ह), “Why (कथं नु) did you not reply (न प्रयश्रौषीः) when addressed by me (मे आमन्त्र्यमाणः)? He (सः) (Videgha) said (इति उवाच ह), “Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निः वैश्वानरः) was in my mouth (मुखे अभूत्), I did not reply to you (तस्मात् ते न प्रतिश्रौषम्) lest he (सः न इत्) should fall out (निष्पद्यातै) of my mouth (मे मुखात्)”.

Note: Here Sāyaṇa makes an interesting observation regarding the tenses used – परोक्षत्वात्पूर्वं श्रुतिवाक्ये लिट्प्रयोगः । गोतममाधवयोः प्रश्नप्रतिवचनरूपवाक्ये त भूताद्यतनत्वाल्लुङ्प्रयोगो विशेषः ।

तदु कथमभूदिति । यत्रैव त्वं घृतस्नवीमह इत्यभिव्याहार्षीस्तदेव मे घृतकीर्तावग्निर्वैश्वानरो मुखादुदज्वालीत्तं नाशकं धारयितुं स मे मुखान्निरपादीति ॥ १९ ॥

(Gotama said) (इति) “Then how did it happen (तत् उ कथम् अभूत्)?” The moment (यत्र एव) you addressed me (त्वम् इति अभिव्याहार्षीः) with “O one kindled by ghee (घृतस्नो), we pray to you (ईमहे) ! “, right then (तद् एव), on the mention of ghee (घृतकीर्तौ) Agni Vaiśvānara (अग्निः वैश्वानरः) flashed forth (उदज्वालीत्) from my mouth (मे मुखात्). I was not able (न अशकम्) to hold him (तं धारयितुम्), and he fell out (सः निरपादि) of my mouth (मे मुखात्)”


 

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