PuNDarIka sacrifice

Francois Voegeli francois.voegeli at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 2 10:09:14 UTC 2012

Dear Members of the Indology List,

I recently stumbled on a sacrifice called "puNDarIka-" in a Gupta inscription edited by Fleet (Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum vol. III, No. 59, pp. 252–254, "Bijayagadh Stone Pillar Inscription of Vishnuvardhana").
In this inscription it is said that having performed the "puNDarIka", king ViSNuvardhana erected a yUpa: "kRtau puNDarIke yUpo yam pratiSThApitas [...] zrI ViSNuvarddhanena" (Fleet op. cit. p. 253, l. 3). This post seems to be the stone pillar where this inscription is found and which is shaped like a vedic yUpa, set up on a platform near the south wall of a fort now located at Bayana in the Bharatpur District of Rajasthan.

I cannot see exactly what kind of sacrifice this "puNDarIka" is. It is nowhere to be found in the lexicons devoted to Vedic ritual (Renou 1954, Sen 1978, Mylius 1995), or in fundamental textbooks on ritual like that of Hillebrandt (1897, repr. 1981), or in the section of Kane's Hist. of Dh. devoted to sacrifices and rituals (Vol. II pp. 976–1255). 

The dictionaries (MW, PW) give, among the possible meanings of puNDarIka, "a kind of sacrifice/ein best. Opfer" with references to the MahAbhArata, among which the most significant I could find seems to be: 

MBh 3.13.16 azvamedho rAjasUyaH puNDarIko 'tha gosavaH / etair api mahAyajJair iSTaM te bhUridakSiNaiH. 

There it is said to be a "great sacrifice". In this context this qualification seems to imply that it is a zrauta ritual, as it is mentioned together with other well known zrauta sacrifices described by the ZrautasUtras, most of them regalians, but the ZrautasUtras do not, to my knowledge, describe any kind of puNDarIka rite.

A puNDarIka sacrifice is otherwise mentioned a number of times as bringing some unspecified but usually great reward in the "tIrtha" section of the MBh (3.81–82; e.g. ), where we also learn that there was a "puNDarIka" place of pilgrimage, and that going there rewards the pilgrim with the fruits of a... puNDarIka sacrice (MBh 3.18.69 zuklapakSe dazamyAM tu puNDarIkaM samAvizet, tatra snAtvA naro rAjan puNDarIkaphalaM labhet). 
In this section of the MBh the puNDarIka sacrifice sometimes appears close to, or is contrasted with, the azvamedha, e.g. in MBh 3.82.24ff., or the vAjapeya in a surprising passage where a yUpa appears, but we do not know if it was erected for/as a result of a sacrifice and which kind it could have been:

MBh 3.82.74–75 tato brahmasaro gacched dharmAraNyopazobhitam / pauNDarIkam avApnoti prabhAtAm eva zarvarIm [74] tasmin sarasi rAjendra brahmaNo yUpa ucchritaH / yUpaM pradakSiNaṃM kRtvA vAjapeyaphalaM labhet

Another passage of the MBh where puNDarIka and vAjapeya appear side by side is 2.5.89 kratUn ekacitto vAjapeyAMz ca sarvazaH / puNDarIkAMz ca kArtsnyena yatase kartum AtmavAn.

Both MBh 2.5.89 and 3.28.74–75 seem to rule out the possibility that "puNDarIka" may sometimes have been a synonym of "vAjapeya" in the MBh, as I first thought could have been the case. 
The data I have collected so far nevertheless suggest that this "puNDarIka" sacrifce was a zrauta ceremony of some kind, that involved the erection of a yUpa, and thus an animal sacrifice following the Vedic norms.

Could anyone on the list tell me more about this sacrifice? All help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Dr François Voegeli

Senior FNS Researcher
Institut d'Archéologie et des Sciences de l'Antiquité
Anthropole, bureau 4018
Faculté des Lettres
Université de Lausanne
CH-1015 Lausanne

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list