Etymology of the words 'vedi' in ritual context

George Thompson GthomGt at CS.COM
Tue Jun 27 15:28:45 UTC 2000

In a message dated 6/27/00 3:35:16 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN writes:

>  You are right. The word vedi has relationship to the verb "to know".
>  Kindly look up RV I-164-39, read with I-164-35 and contemplate what do
>  those mantras say.
>  I do not think the etymology given by Dr. Witzel  (from veda  = grass)
>  applies to the word vedi as used in rituals. "barhi" has entirely
>  different meaning from "sacred grass".
>  -- Himanshu
dIrghatamas, the author of this famous sUkta, was certainly interested in
esoteric veda and may well be associating the words ve'di and ve'da
[knowledge -- note the accent, vs. veda', 'grass'] in these passages.

But how shall we interpret all of the other RV passages where one sets fires
on vedis, or pours oblations on vedis, or strews grasses on vedis?

A ritual context is the only context in which one will find a vedi, because
it is ritual locus.

Just to show that the association of ve'di and veda', 'grass', is not a
construction of Western etymologists, and to respond to S. Palaniappan's
question, I quote P.V. Kane, *History of DharmazAstra*, vol. 2, part 2,  pp.
1034-37 [I quote only the relevant passages]:

"To the west of the AhavanIya he constructs a vedi, which is in length as
much as the height of the sacrificer or which is as long as required for
one's purpose and which has curved sides.  The sacrificer repeats a verse "I
make a mansion for him etc.' [TB 3.7.6] and touches the spot where the vedi
is to be made.  The adhvaryu sweeps the spot of the vedi with the veda bunch
once with the mantra 'they knew the vedi by means of the veda bunch etc.' [TB

....The adhvaryu takes the sphya [wooden sword].... [more ritual accompanied
by mantras]....

.... The Agnidhra digs up with the sphya the upper layer of dust [with
appropriate mantra] and carries the dust so dug to the utkara... The Agnidhra
digs the ground from west to east for making the vedi [with appropriate
mantras].... Whatever roots remain in the ground he removes with the sphya,
and all dust that remains he removes to the utkara...."

Hope that helps.


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