An investigation into the presence of gestural and oral expressions in the performance of the Yajna (sacred fire) : a Vedic viewpoint.
This dissertation is accompanied by a video recording of the performance of the yajna and an audio recording of the mantras (sacred verses) recited during the performance. This thesis endeavors to illustrate how oral style elements are used to accentuate the mantras during the performance of the yajna. The mantras and the yajna itself, have its roots in the Vedic scriptures which have been transmitted orally from generation to generation. In chapter one, "Introduction", a brief description of the concept of Hinduism which forms the basis of my investigation is presented. An individual's life, according to Hinduism, is divided into four stages and the performance of yajna features prominently in the sixteen Vedic sanskaras. In chapter two, the term yajna is defined and the origin of yajna as reflected in the Purusa Sukta is discussed. The five main daily duties or Panca Mahayajna, presented for the welfare and progress of the individual and society are explained. It must be noted that the Panca Mahayajna are not necessarily all rituals or rites but rather social or human commitments, which are a part of the Vedic code of ethics. However, the Deva Yajna or Agni-hotra or yajna as it is very commonly known to Hindus, is a ritual that is performed. The Devayajna forms an integral part of the Panca Mahayajna. The third chapter outlines some of Marcel Jousse's thoughts, views and ideas about oral style expressions relevant to the yajna. The universal anthropological laws of Formulism, Bilateralism, Mimism and Rhythmism as propounded by Marcel Jousse are highlighted. Key concepts like gesture, memory, rhythm and oral expression, used as facilitators for the transmission of knowledge are explained. this chapter forms part of the conceptional framework of the study. Chapter four focusses on the definition of oral tradition The Vedas, an example of Hindu literature reflecting oral tradition, are discussed. Some interesting comments tracing the authenticity of the Vedas and facts declaring the Vedas as the source head of all knowledge about human behaviour also feature in this chapter. In the fifth chapter, the procedure, explanation and analysis of the gestural and oral expressions as reflected in the performance of the yajna are examined. The anthropological laws of Marcel Jousse are applied in the recitation of the mantras and the actual performance of the yajna. Mnemotechnical devices that facilitate memorisation, featuring in the mantras are discussed. The conclusion emphasises the role of oral style elements that are evident in the yajna and explores the possibility for further research in Vedic literature.