Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": 'AFFORD HIM EASY ACCESS, EARTH'

A VEDIC FUNERARY HYMN


('Rig Veda,' X, I 8)

1. Go hence, 0 Death, 1 pursue thy special pathway
apart from that which gods are wont to travel. To thee I say it who hast eyes and hearest: touch not our offspring, injure not our heroes.

2. As ye have come effacing Mrityu's footstep,2 to
farther times prolonging your existence,
May ye be rich in children and possessions, cleansed, purified, and meet for sacrificing.

3. Divided from the dead are- these, the living: now
is our calling on the gods successful
We have come forth for dancing and for laughter,
to farther times prolonging our existence.

4. Here I erect this rampart for the living, let none
of these, none other reach this limit.
May they survive a hundred lengthened autumns,
and may they bury Death beneath this mountain. 3

5. As the days follow days in close succession, as with
the seasons duly come the seasons,
As each successor fails not his foregoer, so form the lives of these,
0 great Ordainer 4

6. Live your full lives and find old age delightful, all of
you striving one behind the other. 5
May Tvashtar, 6 maker of fair things, be gracious,
and lengthen out the days of your existence.

7. Let these unwidowed dames with noble husbands
adorn themselves with fragrant faint and unguent.
Decked with fair jewels, tearless, free from sorrow,
first let the wives ascend unto the place .7

8. Rise, come unto the world of life, 0 woman: come
he is lifeless by whose side thou liest.
Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion,
who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover. 8

9. From his dead hand I take the bow he carried , that
it may be our power and might and glory
There art thou, there; and here with noble heroes
may we o'ercome all hosts that fight against us.

10. Betake thee 9 to the lap of the earth the mother,
of earth far-spreading, very kind and gracious.
Young dame, wool-soft unto the guerdon-giver,
may she preserve thee from Destruction's bosom.

11. Heave thyself, Earth, nor press thee downward
heavily: afford him easy access, gently tending him.
Earth, as a mother wraps her shirt about her child,
so cover him.

12. Now let the heaving earth be free from motion: yea,
let a thousand clods remain above him.
Be they to him a home distilling fatness, here let
them ever be his place of refuge.

13. 1 stay the earth from thee, while over thee I place
this piece of earth. May I be free from injury.
Here let the Fathers keep this pillar firm for thee,
and there let Yama make thee an abiding place 10

14. Even as an arrow's feathers, they have laid me down
at day's decline.
My parting speech have I drawn back as 'twere a
courser with the rein.


Notes

1 Mrityu, a personification of death, while Yama (see stanza 13 below) is the god who rules the spirits of the departed.

2 i.e., losing' Death by erasing his tracks and frustrating his approach. The stanza is addressed to those assembled for the funeral rites.

3 Having absolved the living from impurity (stanza 2), the adhvaryu priest now raises a stone or earth mound, likened to a 'mountain,' to further bar the Path of Death and to limit his domain.

4 Dhitar, a divine being who is creator, arranger and maintainer of all things, and who is particularly associated with matrimony and fertility.

5 Human lives should succeed one another, with their ideal 'hundred autumns' each, in as orderly a fashion as the seasons.

6 The divine artisan, shaper of forms; a god celebrated for his generative powers.

7 At this point the women now go up to the raised 'place' (yoni, a word which also means 'womb,' 'Place of origin'), where the corpse lies with his widow beside him.

8 This stanza is addressed to the widow, either by the priest or by the husbands brother, as she is summoned to return to the realm of the living. (The levirate marriage is mentioned elsewhere in Rig Veda, X, e.g. 40-2).

9 The deceased.

10 After the committal of the body to the earth the priest has perhaps placed a beam or lid across the grave to 'stay the earth' and make the bodily resting place as secure as that which Yama provides for the spirit in the other world. This priestly act is cautious, nonetheless, as 'injury' may accrue from contact with the impurity of death. Stanza 14 is obviously a later addition.


Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, IV (Benares, 1892), PP. 137-9; adapted by M. Eliade

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