The Vedic Concepts ā́gas and énas

in Vedic Cosmology and Ethics
Open Access

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1 Introduction

Some years ago I planned to write a monograph on virtues and vices, merits and demerits, and good karman and sins in the Veda, but soon discovered that several preliminary studies would be required. See already Bodewitz (1997–1998, 590 ff.; this vol. p. 8 f.) on sukṛta (good action or doing good) and duṣkṛta (bad action or doing wrong) which by some scholars have been misinterpreted as well and poorly performed sacrifice instead of merit and demerit. Even the term ahiṁsā (non-injury, one of the five virtues in the ChU) has been associated by some colleagues with the Vedic ritual tradition, though killing and eating cattle are characteristic of Vedic rituals (see Bodewitz 1999a, 39 f.). Vedic texts, indeed, are dominated by ritual and ethics and moral issues do not play a major role before the Upaniṣads, but this does not imply that all terms occurring in the Vedic texts should be interpreted as referring to ritual.

I decided first to concentrate on the negative concepts of evil and sin in the Veda. Though some monographs on these concepts are available, it turned out that the definition of the contents of the concept of sin is problematic and that several terms translated with sin are unclear about the nature of the assumed sins. In this connection my attention was drawn by two terms which sometimes are equated, sometimes compared. The two Sanskrit words ā́gas and énas are the only terms which Hartog (1939) accepts as the Vedic equivalents of sin. Rodhe (1946, 139) seems to be inclined to regard ā́gas and énas as synonyms. He (139, n. 13) criticizes Lefever (1935, 26), who observed that ā́gas “may be taken to signify sin in its deepest and most ethical sense.” Rodhe states: “… that āgas has a more ethical sense than enas cannot be proved.”

The problem of these two words1 and their translation is that the concept of sin is not uniform, but has different aspects in different cultures. As was already observed by me in my study of the Vedic conceptions of the soul (Bodewitz 1991, 35 f.), the ideas of the studied culture itself should be taken as starting points for the formulation of definitions. Terms like soul or sin are specific for particular cultures.

Words like ā́gas and énas may denote the committed sin as well as its results or consequences in the form of some sort of pollution or disease. Sometimes a term expressing this pollution also refers to a situation which has not been produced by the own sinful actions of the one who is suffering. So terms associated with sin may refer to evil done by someone as well as to evil from which one is suffering and which may have been inflicted without any responsibility of the victim of this evil. This need not imply that the Vedic conception of sin even included evil which one has not done or committed. In modern, Western languages the word sin may sometimes also denote things happening or situations which one regrets, but for which one is not morally responsible (e.g. English “it’s a crying sin,” “it’s a downright sin”).

One of the few scholars who really paid attention to the theoretical starting points of the concept of sin was Hartog (1939). I do not fully accept his conclusions, but will now first discuss his views. Hartog takes ethics as the origin of the concept of sin. Disease, pollution and infection, which sometimes are denoted by terms often interpreted as sin, would belong to the pre-ethical way of thinking. However, he fails to make a distinction between committed sins and their results (often in the form of pollution or disease) which may be denoted by the same terms in Vedic texts. He distinguishes conscious and deliberate trespasses from the unconscious ones and rightly only regards the first category as real sins, in our ideas. However, in my view we should take into account that the own culture cannot be exclusively taken as the one and only criterion.

Hartog (p. 13) makes a distinction between on the one hand “Unrecht, Übertretung, Vergehen, Missetat, Untat, Verbrechen, Frevel, Niedertracht” (concepts belonging to the sphere of law and society) and real sin lying in the sphere of religion, though he admits that this cannot be the only criterion and that in the study of particular cultures it cannot always be satisfactorily applied. Admitting that in the oldest stage of Vedic culture some of his distinctions are not yet made, he goes on with making another distinction, namely between external standards and values and the internal sense of values, the conscience. Especially the latter would concern the concept of sin.

This is a doubtful starting point. A thief committing a crime like murder may have an underdeveloped sense of guilt, but this does not make his murder less sinful. And the fact that in most cultures murder is punishable by profane law does not disqualify it for being included in the category sin. According to Hartog, however, the qualification sin would only apply to an act which has been confessed to God and which represents “eine nur noch dem Täter selbst als Vergehen erscheinende oder eine nur ihm selbst bekannte Handlung” (p. 19). This rather strict definition and the limitation to religious ethics are disputable.

McKenzie (1922) had already observed that ethics are often combined with religion. In his first chapter dealing with the oldest Vedic text, the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā, he missed a discussion on ethics, but discovered “The springs of ethical thinking of the Hindus” (p. 1) and “germs from which ethical ideas developed” (p. 2). The problem with McKenzie and some other Indologists is that on the one hand they deny (or underestimate) the ethical standard of the oldest stage of the Veda, but on the other hand have to admit that sometimes we find traces of it. McKenzie lacks the strictness of Indologists like Hartog.

Lefever (1935) does not accept the thesis of previous scholars like Hopkins (1924) that there would hardly be any sense of guilt in the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā. According to him bad health and misfortune are acknowledged as the result of the own bad behaviour. However, he admits that “… the hymns reveal a marked lack of real contrition in the sinners’ attitude towards the Gods themselves” (p. 19); “… there is no personal sense of shame before a God who is himself wronged by the sin” (p. 20). Unlike Hartog he does not draw the conclusion that in such cases the concept of sin would be entirely missing. The attitude of someone who has done wrong to the gods would be like the attitude displayed to a judge or a king: fear rather than repentance, no son-father relationship. He observes: “On the one hand, we find a genuine regard for the moral and religious imperative … On the other hand, when sin is confessed … the fear of punishment and desire for reward are predominant thoughts” (p. 21). This looks more realistic than Hartog’s views. Lefever’s explanation for this attitude of the Vedic sinner (or of the authors of the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā) starts from the assumption that the religious statutes would “have their origin, not so much in the pure will of the Gods, as in the transcendent ṛta. Therefore the breach of such statutes is not so much a personal offence against the Gods as a violation of the ṛta which the Gods protect. The sole duty of the Gods, as guardians of ṛta, is to punish the violation or to reward the keeping of ṛta.” This analysis looks ingenious. Explaining away the direct commitment of the gods Lefever turns sin into a crime and this equation of sin and crime would solve the problem of the distinction between sin and crime later assumed by Hartog. I am afraid that for a definition of sin Lefever just like Hartog was influenced by non-Indian (especially Christian) ideas about sin. This appears from his analysis of repentance and its possible absence. The Roman-Catholic church makes a distinction between perfect, absolute repentance and imperfect, incomplete repentance, which would mainly consist of fear for punishment. The conception of the gods as some sort of police-officers almost induces Lefever to conclude that, since gods and human beings more or less act on the same level, even offences against gods cannot be called sin in the strict sense: “Sin implies the breach of a universal and transcendent will” (p. 23). Ultimately he saves the concept of sin by stating that the cosmic order (the Ṛta) takes over the role of the gods. However, in later texts the Ṛta hardly plays a role anymore and one would expect that Lefever for this period acknowledges the man-god relationship as the basis for his real sin. However, in his view the Ṛta is not replaced by God, but (as to be expected in polytheism) by the gods in general and thus a radical change in the essential notion of sin does not take place: “Though sin is now regarded as against the Gods, this divine class is too wide and general for any deep personal remorse to be felt towards them. Offences against the Gods are still not regarded as really personal offences, disturbing an intimate personal relationship between God and man” (p. 46).

I stop making quotations from these Europe-centric approaches of the mentioned scholars who start from a Christian, monotheistic point of view, and now will make clear my own views, which are only formulated in the framework of a preliminary study and may become modified in course of time, since the texts of the studied culture should form the basis of definite conclusions. At this stage I will not deal with the Vedic ideas on sin in general, since terms interpreted as sin by some translators or scholars hardly give enough information on the contents of the Vedic conceptions of sins. A final conclusion should be based on a collection of concrete sins committed by people and characterized as such by criticism and by the mentioning of possible evil consequences. Moreover, not only the specified, committed sins play a role. Just as other cultures Vedism also mentions a limited set of so-called cardinal sins which may but need not summarize the particular, committed sins and to some extent are no more than evil characteristics or vices or passions. These will not be treated in this preliminary study which only deals with two terms denoting evil in the sphere of sin. I am convinced that more Vedic terms should be studied in this connection. Therefore I do not agree with Hartog who only accepts ā́gas and énas.

It is clear that the most ethical concept of sin presupposes a committed sin and especially an action which was consciously and on purpose done by the sinner. Ideally this consciousness should result in repentance and a personal relationship with the god who inflicts evil or punishment. Even if not all these elements are present in an early culture like Vedism, it is obvious that the committing of an action which has evil consequences is connected with a more ethical concept than the mere existence of evil or pollution for which one is not responsible at all. The fact that such evils are denoted by the same term which also refers to committed sins and their consequences need not imply that evil overcoming people belongs to the Vedic conceptions of sin.2

In this article I hope to show some differences between ā́gas and énas in this respect. The wrong idea that both words would denote almost the same may be explained by the circumstance that ā́gas is rapidly disappearing in Vedic texts after the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā and that perhaps énas has gradually taken over its role. The term ā́gas is more exclusively associated with committed sin than énas.

Another problem in the interpretation of these two words is that beside “sin” other translations are found in the dictionaries. Some of them have no relation at all with the concept of sin, even if we do not restrict its definition to the purely ethical aspects.

The basic problem is the distinction between evil done or sin committed and its evil results on the one hand and evil overcoming someone but not based on evil done or sin committed. For evil done or sin committed a study of the verbs used in this connection (especially the verb kar) is important. The evil overcoming someone likewise should be studied on the basis of the verbs used in the context. Evil in the form of a pollution caused by one’s own sin should be removed. Evil overcoming someone from outside should be kept away, but if already afflicted it should likewise be removed. Therefore my treatment of the texts is partly based on the occurrence of comparable turns of phrase with comparable verbs. On the other hand, as already indicated above, the chronology of the texts plays a role, since the according to some scholars comparable or even equal two terms actually show a shift of meaning and of frequency of occurrence. This explains the chosen arrangement of some of the following sections.

2 ā́gas and énas in the Dictionaries


Böhtlingk and Roth’s dictionary (1855–1875) starts from two basic meanings of ā́gas: “Aergerniss, Anstoss” and “Fehlen, Vergehen.” This distinction is (at least partly) based on the Indian tradition. See the observation added between brackets after the reference to the Indian authorities: “fast überall in zwei Begriffe getheilt.” Mylius (1975) follows this distinction and gives two meanings: “1. Ärgernis, Anstoss. 2. Sünde.” Indeed, if these two meanings would actually be present in the texts, they are rather different. We find (without an explicit numbering) similar interpretations in the etymological dictionaries of Mayrhofer (1956): “Anstoss, Vergehen, Schuld” (but in the English version only “transgression, fault”) and (1988): “Anstoss, Fehler, Vergehen, Sünde.”

It is remarkable that “Ärgerniss” and “Anstoss” are missing with Grassman (1873), who only deals with the oldest Vedic text, in which his translation is “Sünde, Unrecht.” This is even more remarkable since ā́gas hardly occurs in later Vedic texts. It is also striking that the meaning “Sünde” is missing with BR and Mayrhofer (1956), but again turns up in Mayrhofer (1988).

Monier-Williams (1899) gives the following list of meanings (without an explicit twofold distribution): “transgression, offence, injury, sin, fault.”

The traditional association of ā́gas with Greek agos “sin” is no more undisputed. The translation “Anstoss, Ärgernis” will be criticized in this article in which we will show that it is only based on some passages in the ŚB. Among the few words compounded with ā́gas it is especially ánāgas which frequently occurs. BR translates with “schuldlos, unschuldig,” MW with “sinless, blameless” and Mylius with “schuldlos.” Here “Anstoss” and “Ärgernis” hardly play a role.


The other term (énas) is translated as follows: “1. Frevel, Unthat (welche widerfährt), Fluch, Unglück (welches von Andern kommt). 2. Sünde, Sündenschuld. 3. Tadel” (BR); “Sünde, Unheil” (Mylius); “mischief, crime, sin, offence, fault; evil, unhappiness, misfortune, calamity; censure, blame” (MW); “Verbrechen, Sünde, Unglück/crime, sin, misfortune” (Mayrhofer 1956); “Frevel, Untat, Unglück” (Mayrhofer 1988).

We may conclude that “evil, misfortune (coming from outside)” as well as “committed crime” or “sin” are the two central meanings assumed by the dictionaries for Vedic texts.

Grassmann starts from a development of meaning: “ursprünglich ‘Gewaltthat’ … daher ‘Frevel, Bedrängnis’ ” (based on the etymology) and translates with “Frevel, Sünde, Sündenschuld, Bedrängniss, Unglück.” However, the etymology is uncertain.

The term énas occurs more frequently than ā́gas in Vedic literature, especially in the Middle-Vedic texts, and in some post-Vedic texts.

3 Vedic ā́gas after the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā

In the Vedic literature after its oldest text ā́gas hardly survives. It is totally missing in the Upaniṣads, texts which according to some scholars would show the first traces of real ethics. It is found once in the Āraṇyakas ( 2, 6, 2) and in the Brāhmaṇas only in one text, the ŚB (six occurrences). In the AV only two places without parallels in the ṚV occur. In the Yajurvedic Saṁhitās it is missing in the prose sections and in the verses it hardly occurs without complete or remote parallels in the ṚV.

The assumed meanings “Anstoss, Ärgernis” (also found in the Indian tradition) seem to be based on some passages in the ŚB. Therefore this text will be treated first.

3.1 ā́gas in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa

In ŚB 1, 3, 3, 16 (= ŚBK 2, 3, 2, 15) the possible spilling of an oblation is treated. Whatever falls outside the enclosing-sticks is not really spilt, because the earth outside these sticks was entered in the past by three former Agnis, who now are the enclosing-sticks. What falls outside the fire (outside Agni) is their share. It is offered in the three former Agnis. The passage concludes with tásmād u ha nā́ga iva skannáṁ syād “hence no sin attaches to what (butter) is spilt” (Eggeling 1882). I would prefer: “Therefore the spilling is not a sin (or: fault).” The Kāṇva recension reads tásmād skándan nā́ga iva kurvīta “Therefore one would not commit a sin (or make a fault) when spilling.” Here, indeed, ā́gas seems to denote a ritual fault rather than a moral transgression.

ŚB 1, 6, 1, 4 and 1, 7, 4, 2 have the construction ā́gas + genitive (devā́nām). In 1, 7, 4, 2 the incest of Prajāpati “was a sin in the eyes of the gods” (Eggeling 1882). In 1, 6, 1, 4, however, Eggeling (1882) translates: “This now caused anxiety to the gods,” probably because in his view this ā́gas was not as sinful as the incest of Prajāpati. Here ā́gas concerns the following situation. The Seasons did not get a share in the sacrifice of the gods and deserted to the Asuras. These became as thriving as the gods. While the foremost of the Asuras were still ploughing and sowing, the Asuras behind them were already making the harvest. This meant of course that the seasons were left out in the process of agriculture due to a trick of the Seasons who allowed to be passed over. Apparently Eggeling thought that the gods were only irritated and did not regard this behaviour as a sin. ŚB 1, 6, 1, 4, indeed, explicitly states that the desertion of the Seasons and doing harm to each other as such are not problematic. The trick of the Seasons, however, did not belong to the rules of the game and went too far according to the gods. What the Seasons did, was at least a transgression and probably a sin. In my view the sin (ā́gas) consisted in not keeping to the rules of the Ṛta (cosmic order), which i.a. concerns the regular order of the seasons: no harvest without the lapse of a season. So in the two discussed passages of the ŚB ā́gas can be taken as sin or transgression.

The parallel passages of 1, 6, 1, 4 and 1, 7, 4, 2 in the Kāṇva recension (2, 5, 3, 2 and 2, 7, 2, 3) read tád u vaí devā́nām átathāsa. This means that átathā and ā́gas are (more or less) equivalents. The exact meaning of átathā is uncertain. It is, however, obvious that a moral judgement is expressed in this construction with the genitive devā́nām. This is especially evident in the continuation of ŚB 1, 7, 4, 2 and ŚBK 2, 7, 2, 3, where Prajāpati’s act is qualified as atisaṁdháṁ vā́ ayáṁ carati, translated by Eggeling with “This one, surely, commits a sin.” See also Rodhe (1946, 68): “This one transgresses the law.”

The construction of ā́gas with the genitive devā́nām also seems to point to a judgement rather than to an emotional reaction of gods being annoyed. This genitive has the function of a dative.3 For the gods (i.e. in their judgement) the incest of Prajāpati and the leaving out of the seasons was not correct (átathā) or a sin (ā́gas) rather than an “anxiety” (Eggeling), an “Aergerniss” (BR) or an “Anstoss” (BR; Mayrhofer).

ŚB 4, 6, 7, 9–10 describes the enclosing of the Sadas on all sides with the argumentation that inside this Sadas a woman, i.e. speech (ṚV and SV), and a man, i.e. mind (YV), form a procreating couple. It is vyṛ̀ddha (“improper”?)4 to see this. Therefore, thus the text explains, husband and wife separate from each other, when they are seen during intercourse, because ā́ga evá kurvate. Eggeling translates: “for they give offence.” However, in most contexts kar + ā́gas means “to commit sin.” Why should this meaning not be acceptable here? Sex as such is not a sin, but intercourse in public definitely is.

ŚB 11, 5, 3, 8–12 deals with expiations for the extinction of fires during the Agnihotra ritual, but the main emphasis falls on the equation of these fires with the prāṇas and its implications.5 If one would continue the ritual without taking measures and without knowing the secret equations of the fires and the lifebreaths, then several people would die. Uddālaka Āruṇi knows the implications and the solution. After having mentioned the expiation he concludes every time: ná tád ā́gaḥ kurvīya, which is translated by Eggeling (1900): “He should not be committing that sin.” I would prefer: “Then (or: thereby = tád) I would not commit a sin.” Anyhow the sin is not only the ritual mistake but also and primarily the thereby caused killing of the sacrificer and his relatives. Uddālaka’s solution prevents this sin of killing.

In the Kāṇva recension ā́gas occurs in 1, 2, 2, 11–12. This passage has a parallel in ŚB, where, however, the term ā́gas is missing. Eggeling (1882) translates the Kāṇva parallel in a note on 2, 2, 2, 17 with: “As to this, there is a source of anxiety (ā́gas) to some, fearing that ‘it (that fire) might go out (anvagan)’.” Eggeling’s translation is not convincing in some respects. E.g. he renders the past tenses as if an optative would have been used. The construction tád dhaíkeṣām ā́ga iva bhavaty reminds us of tád vaí devā́nām ā́ga āsa in ŚB 1, 6, 1, 4 and 1, 7, 4, 2, which Eggeling translates with “This now caused anxiety to the gods,” resp. “This assuredly was a sin in the eyes of the gods.” I follow the latter interpretation and assume that the past forms of verbs of a quotation ending with iti do not refer to anxiety about what might happen, but to an actual situation which describes a real ā́gas (a sin or a ritual fault). This ā́gas will not have been committed, when the fires symbolically have become interiorized. Cf. ŚB 11, 5, 3, 8–12 discussed above. So tád refers to the situation in which a carriage or a chariot actually has passed between the fires. Such an interruption is symbolically excluded, because no carriage can pass between the prāṇas. The ā́gas therefore is not an anxiety of some people, but a transgression or sin in the eyes of some people. The quotation ending with iti does not refer to the contents of an anxiety of some people, but describes what is the ritual sin (mostly to be expiated but here to be prevented by symbolical equations of ritual elements with items in the own body in some sort of interiorization of the sacrifice). The quotations ánv agann íti and antárāgād íti simply denote “the going out (of the fire)” and “the passing (of something between the fires).” This íti may also introduce a dependent clause to be translated with “that”: “in the eyes of some people it is an ā́gas that something has passed between the fires or that the fires have gone out.”

We may conclude that the material of the ŚB does not support any other interpretation of ā́gas than “sin, transgression, fault.” The interpretation of ā́gas as offence given to persons or as anxiety produced to persons is based on a misunderstanding of the genitive with the function of a dative. The persons in the genitive regard something as a fault or as a sin. A judgement is given and personal annoyance does not play a role. It is striking that in this ritualistic text the nature of the ā́gas is specified everywhere: incest, violation of the cosmic order (Ṛta), sexual intercourse in public (equated with a detail of the ritual), killing (again equated with disturbance of the ritual), and spilling of an oblation. As far as ritual faults are concerned, they are either associated with esoteric equations or explained as irrelevant on account of esoteric knowledge of the background of ritual details.

3.2 ā́gas in the Atharvaveda Saṁhitā

The two original verses with ā́gas in the AV deal with sins against a Brahmin and thereby against gods.

In AV 12, 4, 50 not giving a cow is regarded as an ā́gas. It is punished by the gods. Whitney (1905) translates with “offense.”

In AV 13, 3, 1 ff. the refrain is translated by Whitney with “against that god, angered, [is] this offense (ā́gas); whoso scathes a Brahman that knows thus, do thou, O ruddy one, make him quake, destroy him; fasten on the fetters of the Brahman-scather.” The god concerned is the sun. Since someone who injures a Brahmin is always a sinner, and here he is destroyed and bound with fetters of sin, we may assume that (just as in AV 12, 4, 50) “sin” rather than “offense” is the correct translation.6

In AVP 5, 26, 5 all beings or powers should slay or kill Arāti, like one kills a Dāsa woman in case of committed sin (āgasi).

The scanty Vedic material after the ṚV Saṁhitā shows that ā́gas almost everywhere means sin, sometimes without moral implications, but then always referring to faults in the ritual or religious sphere at large.

4 ā́gas in the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā

4.1 Self-Committed ā́gas

In the ṚV ā́gas occurs nineteen times. In most cases it denotes self-committed sin. Often the verb kar is used with ā́gas. Some verses have formulaic turns of phrase:

a) yát sīm ā́gas cakṛmā́ “whatever sin we have committed” (1, 179, 5; 5, 85, 7; 7, 93, 7).

It is striking that translators do not give one, uniform rendering of this formula. In 1, 179, 5 ā́gas is interpreted as sin by Geldner (1951) and O’Flaherty (1981, 251). The same translators choose a different rendering in 5, 85, 7 (“Unrecht,” resp. “offence,” tr. O’Flaherty on p. 211). In 7, 93, 7 Geldner translates with “Versehen.” It is hardly assumable that in such a formula entirely different connotations of ā́gas would play a role. Perhaps sin was preferred in 1, 179, 5 because sex was involved. However, Renou translates with “péché” (1965, 56) in 7, 93, 7, whereas he prefers “faute” in 5, 85, 7 (1959, 7).7 The faults or sins are not specified, but seem to refer to poetical or ritual faults in 7, 93, 7 and to cheating in gambling in 5, 85, 7 (if this verse should be connected with the following). Only in two of the three contexts ethical aspects play a role.

The particle sīm after yád implies that yád should be taken as a relative pronoun rather than as a conjunction, as was done by Geldner and O’Flaherty and (in 5, 85, 7) by Lommel (1955, 67). For this function of sīm see Macdonell (1916, paragr. 180) and Renou (1952, paragr. 442).8

b) yáccakṛmā́ kác cid ā́gas “whatever sin we have committed” (1, 185, 8; 2, 27, 14; 4, 12, 4)

Geldner translates with “Unrecht,” “Sünde” and “Unrecht.” I do not see any reason to make a distinction between “Unrecht” and “Sünde” in these verses in which ā́gas is (i.a.) committed against gods. Renou (1959, 1964, 1966) translates with “faute” in all these text places, but sometimes interprets yád as a conjunction, sometimes as a relative pronoun.

c) yád va ā́gah puruṣátā kárāma … “what sin we commit against you, as is usual among human beings” (7, 57, 4; 10, 15, 6)

Geldner translates with “Sünde” and “Verstoss,” Lommel (1955, 111) with “Unrecht” (in 10, 15, 6) and Macdonell (1917, 180) with “sin” (in 10, 15, 6).

All these formulas (a–c, discussed above) refer to unspecified, general “sins.” The formulaic character appears from the fact that unexpectedly the formula appears in 1, 179, 5 (see a above) in a very specific context (sex of an Ṛṣi) where neither “whatever sin” nor “if any sin” makes any sense at all, since there can be no doubt about the sinfulness of the activity nor about the nature of the sin committed. The other verses refer to an undefined sort of ā́gas. There is no reason to make a distinction between sin and offence, fault etc. In most cases the ā́gas is made or committed against persons, especially gods, which points to sins.

These discussed eight text places have a verb form of kar in the first person. The third person is found in 7, 88, 6, where, however, the poet denotes himself with the third person: “Wenn dein gewohnter Genosse …, Varuṇa, sich gegen dich versündigt hat …” (tr. Geldner).

The pf. pt. of the active of kar is used twice with ā́gas: 7, 87, 7 “… Varuṇa, der auch dem Sünder verzeihen möge” (Geldner) and 10, 137, 1 “… auch dem, ihr Götter, der eine Sünde getan hat, schenket ihr Götter das Leben” (Geldner). In cakrúṣe cid ā́go and utā́gaś cakrúṣam the particles cid and utá (“even”) seem to refer to the exceptional kindness of the gods.9

In all the discussed eleven places in which a construction of kar with ā́gas occurs, it is obvious that ā́gas is an evil action which one has committed oneself, mostly against others like gods. Transgression, fault and especially sin are the meanings required here.

That sin has been committed may also appear from the following verses:

In 2, 29, 5 the speaker states that he alone has committed the many sins: prá va éko mimaya bhū́ry ā́go … “Ich allein habe viele Sünden gegen euch gefehlt” (Geldner, who regards ā́gas as “Akk. des Resultats”). Renou (1959, 11) tries to solve the problem of the construction by adding something between brackets: “C’ est moi seul qui vous ai abusés (par) un péché multiple.” Renou (1958, 41) also refers to Thieme (1941, 92) for the construction (“Ich habe Euch eine grosse Schuld getäuscht”)10 and observes that anyhow ā́gas would be an internal accusative.

In 4, 3, 5 the question is asked “What is our sin?” (kán na ā́gaḥ). Geldner translates with “Vergehen,” Renou (1964, 6) with “crime.” A committed sin is implied, but this sin is not specified, as appears from the question.

A similar question is found in 7, 86, 4: kím ā́ga āsa varuṇa jyéṣṭham. Geldner translates with “Vergehen,” Renou (1959, 70) with “méfait,” Lommel (1955, 68) with “Sünde,” O’Flaherty (1981, 213) with “crime.” It is remarkable that in the preceding verse (3) the question concerns énas. Here Geldner translates with “Sünde,” Renou with “péché,” Lommel with “Schuld” and O’Flaherty with “transgression.” Assuming that énas and ā́gas are not synonyms (at least not here) I would prefer to take ā́gas as the committed sin (in 4) and énas as “evil, pollution, distress with which one has become afflicted” (in 3). In 3 one asks for the cause of the énas (which need not be self-committed sin), in 4 one seems to accept that this cause may be self-committed sin (but inquires about the exact nature of this sin).11

8, 45, 34 states that neither one, nor two, or three, nor even many ā́gāṁsi may be a reason for Indra to kill the sinner. The plural implies that sinful or criminal actions are meant.

All the fifteen text places treated so far concern evil or sinful actions of somebody who is afraid of their consequences or is already suffering from them. Remorse or repentance are missing in almost all cases. Complaints and surprise are predominant. In some cases fear plays a role. The purely ethical aspects are (with one exception) absent. Some scholars are rather surprised about the lack of remorse, as has been indicated in my introduction. We should, however, take into account that such implications of sin perhaps are not to be expected in Ṛgvedic hymns, which for the greatest part are not documents of confessional literature. The poets mostly make their hymns for patrons who give fees. These patrons may be interested in liberation from the pollution of sin, but hardly in a description or detailed specification of their own sins. Only exceptionally the authors speak on behalf of themselves, e.g. when asking support against rivals and enemies. This may refer to slander, accusations or inimical magic, but not to their own behaviour.

4.2 Missing Indications of Self-Committed ā́gas

In the following four places the own role is not expressed.

In 2, 28, 5 Varuṇa is invoked for support. He should release the ā́gas from the poet as one releases someone from a rope. References to a committed sin are missing. The poet seems to place the ā́gas in the context of his own work of making religious poetry. When in verse 8 he mentions the possibility of his own “sins” (mátkṛtāni, sc. énāṁsi?), he immediately adds that he does not want to pay the penalty for the “sins” of somebody else or suffer from the evil transferred to him by others. In this hymn ā́gas apparently has the same function as énas and denotes evil produced by someone else, or at least evil rather than committed sin.

The removal of ā́gas in 2, 29, 1 may refer to evil or distress produced as the result of sinful actions. In verse 5 of the same hymn committed sin occurs, but in verse 1 the removal of the impurity of sin is mentioned. Geldner translates āré mát karta … ā́gas with “beseitigt meine Sünde,” Renou (1959, 10) with “faites que le péché soit loin de moi.”

Finally I will discuss 5, 3, 7 and 12, in which ā́gas seems to have been sent to a victim by his enemies or rivals. He himself has not committed a sin.

5, 3, 7 yó na ā́go abhy éno bhárāty ádhīd aghám agháśaṁse dadhāta is translated by Geldner with “Wer auf uns Sünde and Unrecht bringen möchte, auf diesen Verleumder ladet das Übel ab!” Renou (1964, 20) similarly assumes an asyndeton of ā́gas and énas and translates these terms with “faute” and “tort” without explaining the fact that these two concepts are mentioned in addition to each other. In a note on p. 107 Renou distinguishes two sorts of sin, but this does not clarify the situation. If two different concepts are expressed by ā́gas and énas, the dependent clause would be a shortening of yó na ā́go yó na éno abhi bhárāti. Perhaps, however, the asyndeton of ā́gas and énas is a specification of the one term by the other and the ā́gas is specified as énas (i.e. evil produced by someone else).

5, 3, 12 states in the conclusion of this hymn that hereby support is asked from Agni, or rather that ā́gas has been reported to him. Geldner translates tád íd ā́go avāci with “ward dieses Unrecht gemeldet.” Does ā́gas here refer to what is done by a slanderer? The situation is not entirely clear.

4.3 Actions against ā́gas

After having treated the activities of the supposed sinners and their consequences I will now deal with actions against these evil results. Here the gods mostly play a role. They are asked to undo these evils.

4.3.1 The Loosening of ā́gas

The verb śrath (“to loosen”) is used with ā́gas in 2, 28, 5; 5, 85, 7 and 7, 93, 7.

In 2, 28, 5 (ví mác chrathāya raśanám ivā́gas “Löse die Sünde von mir wie ein Gurt,” tr. Geldner) Varuṇa is addressed. It is not quite clear what kind of ā́gas has been committed (see 4.2).

On the one hand the poet asks for release from áṁhas in the next verse, and this need not imply any committed sin. On the other hand énas (in verse 7) and ṛṇā́ (in verse 9) occur with the root kar. This may point to committed sins. Anyhow it is clear that one asks to be freed from the bonds of ā́gas. There is no reference to pardoning the ā́gas.

Varuṇa is again requested to loosen the ā́gas in 5, 85, 7 occurring in a hymn which deals with committed sin in this verse and in the following, last one, in which the verb vi-ṣā (“to loosen”) is used in connection with the committed sin of cheating. The metaphor concerns the release of shackled prisoners.12

In 7, 93, 7 the verb śrath is used with ā́gas without any explicit reference to Varuṇa.

The dictionary of MW mentions as one of the meanings of vi-śrath “to remit, pardon (a sin).” However, this is a rather free and incorrect rendering. There is a great difference between “to pardon” and “to loosen.” This also appears from the fact that this verse contains the imperatives mṛḷa and śiśrathantu side by side. The verb mṛḷ means “to pardon” and refers to the committed sin; the other refers to its evil consequences. For mṛḷ with ā́gas as object see also 1, 179, 5; 2, 27, 14 and 7, 87, 7. A committed sin should be forgiven by Soma in 1, 179, 5; by Aditi, Mitra and Varuṇa in 2, 27, 14 and by Varuṇa in 7, 87, 7.

4.3.2 The Removing of ā́gas and of the Anger of the Gods

Just as verbs meaning “to loosen” are associated with the consequences of committed sin, the removing of the evil consequences of committed sin (ā́gas) may play a role.

In ṚV 2, 29, 1 the Ādityas should remove (āré kar) ā́gas like a woman removes her illegitimate child. This getting rid of has nothing to do with pardoning. In verse 5 the fetters (pā́śāḥ) and the evils (aghā́ni) should be far away (āré) after ā́gas has been committed. In combination these two verses clearly show the double aspect of ā́gas: committed sin as well as the resulting evil.

In 1, 185, 8 the measures taken against the consequences of committed sins seem to consist of an apology expressed by the sinners. Geldner translates devā́n vā yác cakṛmā́ kác cid ā́gaḥ … iyáṁ dhī́r bhūyā avayā́nam eṣām with “Wenn wir irgend ein Unrecht getan haben, sei es den Göttern …, so möge diese Dichtung ihnen eine Abbitte sein.” Renou (1966, 118) does not make eṣām refer to the persons against whom is sinned, but to the sinners themselves: “pour ces (êtres coupables) une déprécation,” which is hardly possible. O’Flaherty (1981, 205) follows Geldner and translates: “let the thought in this hymn be an apology.” Probably avayā́nam indeed is the keeping at bay by prayer of the (wrath of the) persons against whom one has sinned. Here the persons and their wrath rather than the sin and its consequences are warded off.

We may compare 7, 86, 4, where likewise a prayer or hymn is a means of warding off rather than a real apology. Here the verb ava-yā is used. Geldner translates kím ā́ga āsa varuṇa jyéṣṭhamáva tvānenā́ námasā turā́ iyām with “Was war das grösste Vergehen, Varuṇa … Ich möchte (dem) zuvorkommend von Sünde befreit unter Verbeugung dir Abbitte tun.” So one tries to keep away the wrath of Varuṇa produced by one’s sin. Again the measure (a prayer: námas) does not directly concern the sin or its consequence (some sort of pollution) but the person against whom one has sinned and his wrath.

In practice the implications may seem to be more or less the same. One tries to ward off the evil consequences of one’s sins and by addressing with a prayer the gods who produce these evil consequences one tries to get a pardon for the committed sin. It is, however, doubtful whether the verb ava-yā with as its direct object a god literally means “to apologize to.” The avayā́na is not an expression of remorse. The speaker does not say that he is sorry for what he has done. Removal of the god and of his wrath seems to be denoted by ava-yā. Just as ava-yaj means “to remove (a god or his wrath) by worship”13 the verb ava-yā (and ava-i?) means “to get rid off by praying to.”14

5 Gonda’s Views on ā́gas and ánāgas in the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā

In a publication on gods and powers Gonda (1957a, 79–91) deals with ā́gas and the adjective ánāgas in connection with the goddess Aditi and the concept of a power denoted by the term áditi. On p. 76 he had already observed that Aditi/áditi represents “width, broadness, deliverance and freedom” and that the deity delivers from guilt. On p. 78 he concludes (on the evidence of the ṚV Saṁhitā) that “Aditi is, as a rule with some of her sons, or even with all of them, expected to extend protection to human beings …, to deliver them from distress, fear, pollution, impurity, guilt, enmity.”

He interprets ánāgas in ṚV 1, 24, 15 as “without pollution” and remarks: “It would appear to me that in interpreting this stanza scholars have laid too much stress on the moral side of the term for ‘sin’, ā́gas. In this connection the bonds from which the person praying wants to be delivered certainly consist of disease” (p. 79).

Gonda here overlooks the fact that the bonds from which one wants to be freed may have been caused by the sin of the one who complains and that these bonds in the form of evil or disease may have been produced by Ādityas like Varuṇa by way of punishment. These gods are not exclusively invoked to deliver from all kinds of amoral evils. Gonda bases his argumentation too much on the etymology of the term á-diti.

In the adjective ánāgas the noun ā́gas cannot have a meaning which is totally different from that of the uncompounded noun ā́gas, which, as shown above, mostly refers to self-committed sin. The evil consequences (ā́gas as evil, distress, pollution, disease, etc.) do not play a dominant role here and evil produced by other beings is more associated with énas than with ā́gas.

The adj. ánāgas can mean “having become freed from ā́gas,” but also “being without ā́gas.” In the mentioned verse 1, 24, 15, indeed, the verb śrath is found with pā́śa as its object, and therefore ánāgas refers to liberation from ā́gas, from the bonds produced by sins. However, this does not imply that everywhere ánāgas refers to such a liberation.

Gonda (1957a, 80) holds that ā́gas should be pollution rather than guilt in 1, 24, 15, but on p. 83 he translates ánāgas with “free from sin,” probably because in 7, 87, 7 ā́gas is explicitly mentioned as committed sin. He even refers to European ideas on deliverance from the bonds of sins. See also p. 84 on “delivering man from ‘sin’ ” in 1, 162, 22 (anāgastváṁ no áditiḥ kṛṇotu). However, on p. 85 f. he observes: “Owing, not so much to the paucity of our sources, but to their uniformity, and to the very character of the sphere of thought to which these concepts belong, it is very difficult to describe in exact terms what Vedic man understood by ā́gas. So much is certain that the usual translations—‘Sünde, Unrecht’ (Grassmann), ‘transgression, offence, injury, sin, fault’ (Monier-Williams), ‘Vergehen’ (Geldner), etc.—give no complete picture of the idea conveyed by this term.” Gonda criticizes the mentioned translations, but does not provide us with a real solution. In the next passages he only sketches some problems (and creates some new).

Returning to the compound ánāgas he states: “Many instances of the adjective anāgas are of some help in solving the problem. From ṚV 5, 83, 2 it appears that an anāgas-, i.e. a pure or taintless man may be the opposite of an evil-doer” (p. 86). I do not see why Geldner’s translation “Auch der Schuldlose geht dem Bullenstarken aus dem Wege, wenn Parjanya donnernd die Übeltäter erschlägt” would be wrong. The opposite of duṣkṛ́t, namely the ánāgas, need not be “pure or taintless.” He simply is not a sinner. See also O’Flaherty (1981, 173): “the sinless man.” It is clear that ánāgas here is not somebody who has been freed from pollution or the consequences of sin, but someone who is not inclined or used to commit sin. Not only the sinners are afraid of the fury of Parjanya, but even those who never commit any sin and therefore should not have any reason to be afraid.

According to Gonda (p. 87) “The nature of the ‘sin’ or rather ‘taint’ or ‘pollution’ may be illustrated by passages such as ṚV 8, 47, 18 which … runs as follows: ‘Today we have been successful and gained the victory and we have shaken off the ā́gas (have become anāgas-): O Uṣas (Dawn) the evil dreams … must disappear by (with) thy light’.” He rejects Geldner’s suggestion that evil dreams would be “sündhafte Träume” and further refers for this verse to ṚV 10, 164, 5. However, both 8, 47 and 10, 164 primarily deal with the removal of sins. Geldner translates vayám abhūmā́nāgaso with “wir sind der Sünde ledig geworden” and is followed by O’Flaherty (1981, 288) in her translation of 10, 164, 5. It is also remarkable that the preceding verses 3–4 refer to committed sins (duṣkṛtā́ni; abhidrohá). So one may doubt whether Gonda’s interpretation of ā́gas as “taint” or “pollution” is correct.

Even if ā́gas in the compound ánāgas in this context would denote the consequences of sin rather than committed sin itself, this ā́gas is not simply taint.

If the bad dream would not be a sinful but a horrible dream, then this dream of which one becomes freed (just as one wants to be liberated from one’s ā́gas) may be regarded as a premonition of death.15 Indeed, 8, 47, 15 gives an example of such an inauspicious dream, but 10, 164, 1–3 deals with bad thoughts and intentions during sleep and when one is awake, and this supports Geldner’s interpretation of the bad dreams.

However, the following hymn 10, 165 mentions a dove which enters the house and this may be a premonition of death (just like bad dreams). Gonda (p. 87) interprets ánāgas which qualifies the dove as “ ‘harmless’, not bearing and spreading āgas,” and observes: “It does not appear from the context whether this āgas is the result of someone’s making.”

Obviously such a dove cannot be called “sinless” or “freed from sin.” On the other hand the uncompounded noun ā́gas nowhere denotes harm as such. Perhaps ánāgas said of an inauspicious being could mean in this isolated occurrence that here it does not (as usual) announce the inauspiciousness of ā́gas, the result of sin.

The only place in the ṚV in which ánāgas does not characterize a living being is 10, 63, 10, where the speaker wants to mount a divine ship which is ánāgas. Geldner translates the compound with “sündlose” and observes in a note: “worin keine Sünder aufgenommen werden. … Oder: frei von Übel.” However, both explanations do not convince. The second member of the compound (ā́gas) cannot denote a sinner, but perhaps “without sin” would stand for “without sinners on board.” That the ship would not show any “Übel” and be in a perfect condition is already indicated by ásravantīm “not leaky.”

We should also take into account that this is not a real but a metaphorical ship by which one wants to reach heaven. Cf. verse 14 in which a chariot is mounted. Both ship and chariot denote the sacrifice.16 The ánāgas boat is a sacrifice without faults. Indeed, sacrificial faults or mistakes are not ethical sins, but incidentally such religious faults may be denoted by the term ā́gas. The boat which does not make errors reaches its goal. The metaphorical boat (the sacrifice) likewise reaches its goal, heaven. Gonda (p. 90 f.) discusses this place without offering a clear solution or interpretation. This is symptomatic for Gonda’s treatment of ánāgas.

On p. 91 Gonda criticizes the interpretation of 4, 12, 4 kṛdhī́ sv àsmā́n̐ áditer ánāgān of scholars who take the genitive áditer as a genitivus pro dativo and prefers the “pure genitive: ‘Aditi’s pure ones,’ ‘āgas-less ones of freedom,’ i.e. ‘āgas-less and free’.” See, however, p. 79, where the dative is used and ánāgaso áditaye syāma (1, 24, 15) is rendered with “may we then … belong, without pollution, to Aditi” and p. 81 where ánāgasas túbhyaṁ cāsyaí ca syāma (ŚB 6, 7, 3, 8) is translated: “may we be free from pollution for thee and her” (with as preferred alternative “free from pollution may we belong to thee and her”).

It is evident that Gonda interprets the genitive áditer as well as the dative áditaye as expressing the belonging to Aditi and that he does not directly connect ánāgas with Aditi. Other places, however, use the locative instead of the dative (and genitive). See 10, 36, 12, where Gonda (p. 90) translates with “free from āgas with regard to Mitra and Varuṇa” (ánāga mitré váruṇe svástaye). This proves that a direct relationship of ánāgas with a deity should be assumed and that Gonda’s interpretation of the genitive áditer and of the dative áditaye (mentioned above) is untenable. One wants to be free from ā́gas “for” or “with regard to” Aditi.

Gonda (p. 91) rejects the “genitive instead of a dative” in the Veda with weak argumentation.17 I do not see much difference between ā́gas with the genitive in ŚB 1, 6, 1, 4 and 1, 7, 4, 2 (treated above in section 3) and ánāgas with the genitive.

We may conclude that Gonda’s interpretation of ā́gas perhaps was too much influenced by his focus on ánāgas in connection with Aditi. The simplex ā́gas predominantly denotes a committed sin, only in a few instances its consequences, especially with verbs expressing removal or loosening. If this ā́gas may sometimes make the impression of being some sort of disease or pollution, it is only pollution by sin.

6 énas in the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā

6.1 The Verb kar Used with énas

6.1.1 Finite Forms of the Verb and the Active Participle

The verb kar occurs with énas but not in the first person. This forms a difference with ā́gas. There are only two places in which finite forms of the verb kar are found:

In 7, 18, 18 Indra is asked to kill the enemy who commits evil or sin against the mortals who praise this god (mártān̐ éna stuvató yáḥ kṛṇóti …). Here énas (translated with “Frevel” by Geldner) may be compared with ā́gas, but it is unclear whether the evil done to the victims can be interpreted as sin.

In 10, 79, 6 the question seems to be asked what énas Agni had done (kíṁ devéṣu tyája énas cakartha) that he has become an eater without teeth. Apparently the loss of teeth of Agni (the fire which only licks what it eats) was (perhaps not too seriously) interpreted as some sort of punishment by the gods. However, the idea that Agni would be a sinner (who has committed énas) looks strange. Geldner translates énas with “Frevel,” Renou (1965, 19) with “faute.”

We should take into account that the gods (against whom Agni would be supposed to have sinned) are in the locative, not in the accusative. Moreover tyájas occurs in apposition with énas. Geldner translates this term with “Feindselichkeit,” Renou with “déréliction.” Oldenberg (1901, 281) had already observed that the etymological connection with the root tyaj should be maintained. Gonda (1957b, 52) rightly stated: “The thesis might indeed be defended that tyajas ‘originally’ denoted the idea of ‘abandonment’ in both senses: ‘the act of giving up, relinquishing, or forsaking’ and ‘the state of being forsaken’.”

Now the question arises who is forsaken and is connected with the énas which this forsaking involves. Moreover, an énas, if it would have a meaning similar to ā́gas, might be committed, but it is doubtful whether one can be said to commit a tyájas. Therefore it is possible that the verb kar here does not mean “to commit” but “to produce, create, bring about.” In that case Agni would have caused énas in the form of tyájas with the gods. The gods would have deserted Agni and the question amounts to: “What is the cause of the énas in the form of tyájas which you provoked with the gods?” It is even possible that kím here is not an interrogative pronoun, but introduces a question. The two terms énas and tyájas occur together (but not in apposition) in ṚV 8, 47, 7–8. From the context it appears that evil coming from outside is meant with these two terms, though Geldner translates énas with “Schuld” and Renou (1959, 107) with “péché.”

Since the result is that Agni eats without teeth as an old man and this old man is associated with tyájas, one might suppose that Agni is compared with an old man who has been deserted by his relatives.18 In that case the gods have inflicted énas in the form of tyájas on Agni.

The active pt. kṛṇvántam occurs with énas in 2, 28, 7, where Varuṇa is asked not to kill with the weapons with which he kills the énaḥ kṛṇvántam,19 i.e. the sinner. Here the difference between ā́gas and énas seems to be absent in this construction with kar.20

6.1.2 The kṛtám énas

The past pt. pass. kṛtá, which is never found with ā́gas (with the exception of the compound kṛtā́gas), sometimes occurs with énas (which never is compounded as kṛta-énas). The kṛtā́gas is a sinner,21 but we have to find out whether kṛtá qualifying énas always means “committed” and énas in this case “sin.”

In 1, 24, 14 the plural énāṁsi … kṛtā́ni evidently refers to committed sins. The use of the verb śrath in this context indicates that the results or consequences of committed sins are meant. These manifest themselves as some sort of diseases, pollutions, bonds etc.

That kṛtám énas especially denotes the consequences of sin manifesting themselves on the body of the sinner appears from 6, 74, 3, where énas should not only be freed from the person concerned, but is even said to be bound on his body (tanū́ṣu baddhám).

To kṛtám énas the particle cid is added in 1, 24, 9; 3, 7, 10 and 6, 51, 8. The interpretation of this particle varies. Grassmann’s dictionary takes cid as “verallgemeinernd in dem Sinne ‘jeder; alle’.” Geldner translates with “auch” (“auch die getane Sünde”), Lommel (1955, 28) likewise with “auch” (“auch getanes Unrecht”) (in 6, 51, 8). The latter two translations imply that even not-self-committed sins could be punished. Here we may ask what are not-self-committed sins.

Renou follows Geldner in his translation of 1, 24, 9 “même commis” (1959, 94), but renders with “une fois commis” in 6, 51, 8 (1959, 36) and with “fût-il (déjà) commis” in 3, 7, 10 (1964, 57). In these contexts verbs denoting removal or liberation play a role. Liberation from sin “even if this has already been committed” looks strange. Probably Renou was influenced by Geldner’s interpretation of 10, 63, 8, in which the opposite of kṛtá is denoted as ákṛta: “erlöset uns von getaner und bewahret uns vor ungetaner Sünde” (an interpretation found in Geldner’s note; the translation runs: “schützet uns heute vor getaner, vor ungetaner Sünde”). However, the moment of the action (done or still not done) is not relevant. The énas refers to evils which may be the consequence of the own, committed sin, but also to other influences.

The opposition of kṛtá and ákṛta seems to refer to the opposition of svákṛta and anyákṛta. This supposition is confirmed or supported by 6, 51, 7 (preceding verse 8 with kṛtáṁ cid énas): “Nicht möchten wir fremde Sünde wider euch büssen … Der Schelm soll sich selbst Schaden antun” (mā́ vo éno anyákṛtaṁ bhuñjema … svayáṁ ripús tanvàṁ rīriṣīṣṭa).

For this opposition see also 2, 28, 9 (discussed above) in which ṛṇā́ mátkṛtāni represents kṛtā́ni … énāṁsi and anyákṛtam the ákṛtam énas.

If our interpretation of kṛtám as svákṛtam is correct, the particle cid indeed means “even.” One asks to be freed from énas even if one is responsible oneself for this.

For this use of cid cf. 4, 12, 5, where Agni is asked to liberate from énas “even if it is great” (maháś cid agna énaso). The verb has to be added in this elliptic sentence. Renou (1964, 15) adds “(Libère nous)” and does not translate the particle cid. Geldner renders with “(Bewahre uns) … auch vor grosser Gewalttat.” On account of the fact that énas is qualified as “even if it is great,” one expects that énas would denote (self-committed) sin and that a verb expressing liberation would have to be added.

Looking at the preceding verse 4 we see that minor faults or sins are mentioned there: “Denn, wenn wir auch, wie es unter Menschen vorkommt, aus Unkenntnis irgend ein Unrecht [= ā́gas] dir getan haben … so mache uns fein vor Aditi frei von Schuld [= ánāgas]; erlass uns ganzlich die Sünden [= vy énāṁsi śiśratho víṣvag], O Agni!” In this verse 4 both ā́gas (the committed sin) and énas (the resulting evil) should be unbound. The committed sin and its results are not described as very serious. In the following verse (5) Agni is requested to liberate even (cid) from great énas (the result of great sin).

In 7, 20, 1 Geldner translates trātā́ na índra énaso maháś cit with “Indra ist uns ein Retter auch aus grosser Sünde.” Indra even saves the sinner of (the results of) great sins.

The meaning “even” of cid also appears in 8, 67, 17, if we follow Geldner’s translation of śáśvantaṁ hí pracetasaḥ pratiyántaṁ cid énasaḥ dévāḥ kṛṇuthá jiváse “Denn jeden, auch wenn er seiner Sünde bewusst ist, lasset ihr Fürsorglichen leben, ihr Götter.” Renou (1960, 97) has a different interpretation of pratiyántam and prefers “qui revient (d’ avoir péché) = qui a péché (d’ où cid).” Renou refers to 8, 18, 12 śárma … yán múmocati énasvantaṁ cid énas which he translates (1959, 106) with “protection … qui puisse délivrer le pécheur même du péché.” Geldner here renders: “diesen Schutz … der selbst den Sünder von der Sünde befreit.”

This verse clearly shows that cid means “even” and also gives more information on kṛtáṁ cid énas in 1, 24, 9; 3, 7, 10 and 6, 51, 8 (discussed above). The particle cid after énasvantam emphasizes that one self is the cause of the énas from which one wants to be freed. After kṛtám it expresses that one self has caused the énas. This means that the opposite of kṛtá is not simply ákṛta but anyákṛta.

The next problem is the correct interpretation of kṛtá. In connection with sin kṛtá is mostly expected to mean “committed.” However, kar “to commit” is usually connected with ā́gas. Very clear and convincing indications that together with énas this verb also means “to commit” are missing in almost all the places of the ṚV. The énas is not the committed sin, but predominantly the consequence of a sin, i.e. the evil with which someone becomes afflicted.

If the énas is not kṛtá by one self but by someone else (anyákṛta), the meaning “sin” becomes questionable. Of course transfer of merits is possible in Ancient India and its counterpart, demerit, may incidentally also be transmitted to someone else.22 One may sometimes suffer from the sin committed by relatives. The AV contains some evidence for this. However, in the ṚV there is no clear evidence for this transfer of committed énas in the sense of sin.23

The énas is some sort of evil or pollution sticking to a person, often due to his self-committed sins, but it may also be the result of evil planned against him (which need not be a transfer of sin). This implies that kṛtá in connection with énas (at least originally) did not mean “committed” but rather “produced, brought about.”

See 5, 3, 7, where énas (as well as ā́gas) is brought (abhibhar) on somebody and then as evil or distress (aghám)24 should be returned to the agháśaṁsa (the one who plans evil for his rival or enemy or speaks evil on him).

That the éno anyákṛtam in 6, 51, 7 (discussed above) probably does not mean “sin committed by someone else” may also appear from 7, 52, 2, where an anyájātam énas is mentioned instead of an anyákṛtam. Geldner translates with “anderer Sünde,” Renou (1959, 105) with “le péché commis par autrui” and Hoffmann (1967, 95) with “den von andern hervorgebrachten Frevel.” Hoffmann’s translation is more correct than Renou’s. Evidently jātá does not mean “committed” but “produced.” The compound anyájāta has one parallel, in 7, 4, 7, where a child is characterized or qualified. Grassmann’s dictionary translates with “von anderen gezeugt oder hervorgebracht.” If one suffers from an énas which has been produced by someone else, this need not imply that the other person has committed a sin himself, but probably it indicates that the evil of énas was produced by someone else for one or other reason. Anyhow anyájātam is not “committed by someone else.” In 6, 51, 7 and 7, 52, 2 the translators may have been influenced in their interpretation of énas by the occurrence of the verb bhoj which by some scholars has been interpreted as “to atone for” and therefore could be associated with sin (see section 6.2.3).

6.2 Other Verbs Used with énas

6.2.1 Bearing énas

In 2, 12, 10 almost all translators interpret dhā as “to commit” in máhy éno dádhānān. See Macdonell (1917, 52): “that commit great sin”; Rodhe (1946, 145): “those who commit sin”; Geldner: “die grossen Frevel begehen”; Lommel (1955, 53): “die grossen Frevel verübten”; Thieme (1969, 23): “die … Reihe des Frevelden”; O’Flaherty (1981, 161): “those who had committed a great sin”; Gonda (1989a, 111): “those that commit great sin.”

These translators did not realize that dádhānān is not a perfect, but a present participle, and that Indra is not expected to kill these human beings “while they are committing a sin.” Moreover they especially overlooked the fact that a pt. of the middle25 is used here. Renou (1969, 58) correctly interprets the middle and translates: “qui ont assumé une grande faute.” I would prefer to express the present tense more accurately: “those who are bearing a great énas (i.e. some sort of pollution by sin).”

Perhaps énas was interpreted as committed sin instead of its result on account of the adjective máhi. However, in 8, 47, 8 the gods free from great and small énas, and this énas is not the committed sin but its results, or even not based at all on one’s own sin.

6.2.2 Falling into énas

In constructions with verbs like ni-gam and ā-ar the object énas does not denote sin but evil or distress, which may, but need not, be caused by one’s own committed sin. See 10, 128, 4 éno mā́ ní gāṁ katamác caná translated by Geldner with “Nicht möchte ich irgend einen Verstoss begehen.” In a note he observes: “Ein Versehen im Opfer oder in der Rede, durch das er eine Niederlage herbeiführen könnte.” See also the parallels AV 5, 3, 4 and TS 4, 7, 14, 2, where the translators (Griffith 1895–1896; Whitney 1905; Keith 1914) use similar translations. However, nigā meaning “to commit” is very doubtful. See also Renou (1967, 168) referring for nigā to AV 12, 3, 14, where mā́ dámpatī paútram agháṁ ní gātam refers to people who should not attain, or fall into, distress or sorrow (aghám, a term sometimes misinterpreted as sin, but always denoting sorrow, distress, evil).26 We should also take into account that 10, 128 is a hymn which deals with rivalry and competition. See verses 5 and 6, in which protection against enemies is asked from the gods.

Geldner refers to 10, 132, 5 as a parallel, where he translates the obscure verse asmín sv ètác chákapūta éno hité mitré nígatān hanti vīrā́n “Auf diesen Śakapūta fällt fein die Schuld: Er tötet die Manner, die nach geschlossener Freundschaft die Schuld begangen haben.” Renou (1959, 89) rightly does not translate énas twice (once as a nom., once as an acc. with nígatān) and renders with: “C’ est sur ce Śakapūta que (retombe) le dit péché: (une fois) le pacte conclu il tue les guerriers qui avaient pris refuge.”

It is clear that énas with the loc. asmín is the pollution of guilt and not committed sin (of the mentioned soldiers). Killing people after a treaty is the sin to which this verse refers. In the preceding verse 10, 132, 4 again the finite form of the verb is missing and énasā occurs in the instr. It seems to qualify a person, as Oldenberg (1912, 349) rightly assumes: énasā (bhavati) “er verfällt einer Schuld.” So nígatān should not be taken with énas, and in this context the verb nigam means “sich niederlassen auf, bei” (BR 1858, 681) (followed by Renou).

The situation with ā-ar in 1, 125, 7 is similar to that of ni-gam in 10, 128, 4. The wish is expressed that the liberal patrons may not fall into énas (mā́ pṛṇánto dúritam éna ā́ran). Geldner is wrong in translating “Die Spender sollen nicht in Sünde und Schuld fallen,” a rather strange wish after the preceding verses in which it is said that these patrons will obtain every prosperity on earth and in heaven. The poet does not pray that they will not become sinners, but wishes that they will not fall into any misfortune, evil or distress. Both dúritam and énas refer to misery, misfortune etc. Any implication of sins of his liberal patrons seems to be out of the question.

6.2.3 Suffering from the énas of Someone Else

In section 6.1.2, I have discussed people who become the victim of énas coming from someone else. Here I will further discuss the use of the verb bhoj in this connection. It is found in 6, 51, 7 and 7, 52, 2, and has been interpreted by most scholars as “to atone for.” In his treatment of the relevant passages Hoffmann (1967, 95) mentions three parallels in which bhoj is found: 7, 88, 6 mā́ ta énasvanto yakṣin bhujema (“lasst uns Frevelhafte nicht (den Frevel) gegen dich büssen, du Ungeheuerlicher”), 5, 70, 4 mā́ kásyādbhutakratū yakṣáṁ bhujema tanū́bhiḥ (“lasst uns nicht, ihr mit untrüglicher Einsicht, irgend eines mit unsern Leibern büssen”) and 4, 3, 13 mā́ sákhyur dákṣaṁ ripór bhujema (“lass uns nicht die Fertigkeit eines betrügerischen Genossen büssen”). Hoffmann assumes that yakṣá (occurring in the same verse) and dakṣá would be “poetische Variationen” of énas. This is doubtful, at least does not prove that énas here should be taken as sin. Geldner translates yakṣá (in 5, 70, 4) with “Heimlichkeit” and mā́ bhujema with “wir möchten nicht auskosten.” Renou’s interpretation of 5, 70, 4 (1959, 83) likewise does not seem to assume that yakṣá would lie in the sphere of a committed sin (transferred to someone else). He translates “Puissions-nous … ne pas subir, (venant) de qui que ce soit, de maléfice en (nos) corps,” which is rather vague. However, in his note (1960, 94) he regards yakṣá as “synonyme de énas ‘faute’.” On the other hand he observes in a note on 4, 3, 13 (1964, 94) that “yakṣá est ici ‘chose maléfique’; aussi 5, 70, 4.” The formula with dakṣá is translated by him (1964, 7): “Puissions nous ne pas éprouver la force-agissante d’ un ami, d’ un ennemi!”

Obviously yakṣá and dakṣá are not sins committed by someone else and transferred to the speaker. They denote evils planned against him. The two terms point to cleverness, smartness and tricks of people who by means of magic try to do harm to someone. The two terms refer to extraordinary ingeniousness and cunningness. The gods addressed are likewise described as persons with such sort of qualities. See 5, 70, 4, where Mitra and Varuṇa are called adbhutakratu and the object of bhoj is yakṣá. If yakṣá would be something like énas and énas be sin, then it would be very strange to call a god yakṣín, as is done in 7, 88, 6 (mā́ ta énasvanto yakṣin bhujema), where Varuṇa is addressed. Here Geldner translates yakṣin with “Geheimnisvoller.” In 4, 3, 13 mā́ … dakṣáṁ ripór bhujema is preceded by mā́ kásya yakṣáṁ sádam íd dhuró gāḥ (addressed to Agni): “Geh nicht zu der Heimlichkeit irgend eines Unehrlichen” (tr. Geldner, who observes in a note: “yakṣám: Heimlichkeit oder Blendwerk. yakṣá ist etwas Geheimnisvolles, Rätselhaftes, Wunderbares.”). For this aspect of miraculousness see also adbhutakratū (qualifying Mitra and Varuṇa in 5, 70, 4).

If indeed, as Geldner assumes, yakṣá means “delusion, deception, illusion” and should be associated both with gods and with rivals and enemies, this implies that yakṣá cannot be put on a line with énas, provided this would mean sin or crime. It rather looks like māyā, which refers to supernatural powers of a deity as well as to tricks and illusion of other living beings. The parallel formulas with mā́ bhujema express the wish that one does not want to become the victim of énas deceitfully transferred by other beings.

Some translators render bhoj with “büssen.” See e.g. Rodhe (1946, 138) “to atone for.” One can atone for a sin and for énas, if this would mean sin here. One cannot atone for yakṣá and dakṣá planned by other people. The correct meaning seems to be “to suffer from,” “to reap or taste the bitter fruit of.” MW rightly translates bhoj with i.a. “to suffer, experience, undergo.” See also BhG 3, 13 bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātmakaraṇāt and Manu 3, 118 aghaṁ sa kevalaṁ bhuṅkte ya pacaty ātmakaraṇāt, where the wordplay of “to eat” and “to suffer” plays a role. Here agham is like énas misinterpreted by some translators as “sin” instead of “evil, distress.”27 So we may conclude that mā́ bhujema énas does not mean “may we not atone for sin (committed by others),” but “may we not suffer from evil (produced by someone else).”

6.2.4 Overcoming énas by Prayer

With a prayer one wishes to make the kṛtáṁ cid énas harmless(?)28 in 6, 51, 8. The meaning of ā́ vivāse is unclear. Geldner’s interpretation “bitte ich … ab” is rather doubtful. Renou (1959, 36) translates “je l’ attire (pour le détruire).” The desiderative ā-vivās with the instr. namasā́ is also found in 5, 83, 1; 8, 96, 12 and 10, 63, 5. Here Geldner does not translate with “abbitten” but with “herbitten.” Lommel (1955, 28) like Geldner translates with “abbitten” in 6, 51, 8, but in 5, 83, 1 he renders with “gewogen machen” on p. 93; cf. Thieme (1969, 55) “gewinnen”; O’Flaherty (1981, 173) “to win over”; Renou (1966, 111) “gagner” and in 10, 63, 5 “chercher à gagner” (1959, 53). Mostly (ā)vivās + namasā́ means “to seek to win over with homage” and the object is a god. Probably the exaltation of the power of námas (produced by the human beings, the poets, themselves) results in the strange formulation of 6, 51, 8: “I seek to win (i.e. overcome) even the (consequence of the) committed sin (or the produced evil) with homage.” Does ā-vivās here mean “to try to get in one’s power”?

In 7, 58, 5 both “abbitten” (with as object énas) and “herbitten” (with as object the Maruts, the sons of Rudra) occur in Geldner’s translation, but here “herbitten” is the rendering of ā-vivās and “abbitten” of the verb ava-yā.29 Geldner translates 7, 58, 5 (second half) yát sasvártā jihīḷiré yád āvír áva tád éna imahe turā́ṇām with “Wenn sie heimlich, wenn sie offen Groll hegen, so bitten wir den Übermächtigendie Beleidigung ab.” The énas would come from the human beings (as “Beleidigung”). Renou (1962, 45) even explicitly attributes the énas to them: “nous dépréquons cette faute (commise par nous).” I doubt whether indeed énas is a fault or sin of these human beings. The verse clearly states that for one or other reason the Maruts are angry with them (probably because they have misbehaved). The object of ava-yā is the result of the anger of these gods manifesting itself as énas (evil). There is no indication that énas as such here denotes the human sin. In 7, 86, 4 (discussed in connection with ā́gas) énas itself is not the direct object of ava-yā, but Varuṇa. Still the subject hopes to become anenás by his avayā́na of Varuṇa. Obviously the verb ava-yā aims at a removal of the angry god or of his énas (the concrete result of the god’s anger). The énas is an evil sent by a god which one wants to remove by worshipping the god with hymns or prayers.

6.2.5 Becoming Released from énas by the Gods

Most other verbs with énas refer to actions undertaken by gods at the request of the authors of the hymns. The énas then often is the result of sin or the pollution by sin. In some cases it is not clear whether the énas has been caused by the victim himself.

The verb moc “to release” twice plays a role. See 1, 24, 9, where Varuṇa is asked to untie the chain of the kṛtáṁ cid énas. This énas evidently represents the consequences of self-committed sin, though cid may imply that énas caused by others is not to be excluded. The image of a chain is also found in 1, 24, 14, where the verb śrath occurs with énāṁsi kṛtā́ni. In the preceding verse 13 pā́śān is the object of the verb moc. In 6, 74, 3 the tanū́ṣu baddháṁ kṛtám énas should be released (moc). The verb ava-sā is used here together with moc. Perhaps the énas here is not only described as a chain, but also as a disease on the body. See Geldner’s note.

The verb śrath is not only found in 1, 24, 14 (see above), but also occurs in 2, 28, 7, be it not directly in connection with énas in the same verse. The object of vi-śrath is mṛ́dhas translated with “Unbilden” by Geldner. In verse 5 the object of vi-śrath is ā́gas (compared with a raśaná). In verse 6 áṁhas (compared with a dā́nu) is the object of vi-moc. It is evident that énas belongs to the sphere of fetters which should be released.

The énāṁsi should be released (vi-śrath) in 4, 12, 4. In the same verse ā́gas (with kar) is mentioned. Probably ā́gas is the committed sin and énas the consequences from which one wants to be freed. Keith (1914) translates énāṁsi with “evil deeds” and ā́gas with “sin” in the parallel TS 4, 7, 15, 7. In the following verse (4, 12, 5) the ablative énasas is found, but the finite form of a verb (probably a root like śrath) is missing. This énas is compared with the mythical ūrvá, i.e. the Vala. Geldner translates “(Bewahre uns) rechtzeitig auch vor grosser Gewalttat, Agni, vor einem (zweiten) Ūrva der Götter und Sterblichen.” See also Renou (1964, 15): “(Libère nous) du grand tort, o Agni, à l’ instant-critique, de l’ encerclement des dieux et des mortels!” Geldner seems to take énas as a danger coming from outside, but translates énāṁsi in the preceding verse with “Sünde,” whereas apparently Renou starts from a rescuing operation out of the results of a great sin. If Renou is right, énas here represents a being locked up in some sort of metaphorical prison (compared with the Vala cave).

In 7, 20, 1 Indra is called trātā́ … énaso maháś cit “ein Erretter auch aus grosser Sünde” (Geldner). See also Gonda (1989a, 18) “who saves from sin.” Indra is often invoked as protector and rescuer in Vedic texts. However, saving from sin or rescuing out of the evil resulting from committed sin is hardly typical for Indra,30 who protects against attacks and evil coming from enemies and rivals. The whole hymn 7, 20 does not contain any further reference to sin. Therefore énas here most likely is evil in general. See also Rodhe (1946, 137, n. 9).

The situation is different in 10, 63, 8, where pari-par is used in a construction with the abl. kṛtā́d ákṛtād énasas, i.e. “evil for which one is responsible oneself and evil coming from others.”

6.2.6 Transference of énas by the Gods

Transference of énas on other people occurs in ṚV 1, 125, 7; 5, 3, 7; 6, 51, 7; 10, 36, 9; 10, 37, 12.

In 1, 125, 7 the liberal patrons should not fall into dúritam and énas. The distress (śókāḥ) should go to the non-liberals. Probably śókāḥ summarizes dúritam and énas. This does not concern a transfer of demerits or sins.

The aghám is returned to the agháśaṁsa, who had brought ā́gas and énas to the victim of evil, in 5, 3, 7. The occurrence of aghá and agháśaṁsa implies that énas does not refer to self-committed sin.

Similarly the evil person who is responsible for éno anyákṛtam in 6, 51, 7, should suffer himself (probably from the énas which he had transferred himself). In both places there is an exchange (or return) of evil rather than a transference of sin.

In 10, 36, 9 the brahmadvíṣaḥ should bear the énas. A real transference of énas need not be assumed in the absence of a preverb with bhar. However, in the same verse the adj. ánāgas qualifies the own party. Therefore ā́gas = énas may be regarded as transferred to the enemies, though the situation is unclear and the verse perhaps only states that sinners (specified as brahmadvíṣaḥ) rather than people without sin (ánāgas) should bear the énas.

The own devahéḷanam is mentioned in the first half of 10, 37, 12 and then the gods are asked to deposit (ni-dhā) this énas with the enemy. Here énas definitely means the consequence of sin and this sin is transferred to someone else.31

Though at least in one place énas denotes the result of the own committed sin, its translation with “Sünde” by Geldner in the other places where énas is transferred does not convince.

6.2.7 Keeping Away of énas by the Gods

Agni is requested to ward off (yuyodhi) the juhurāṇám énas in ṚV 1, 189, 1, where Geldner translates with “die Sünde die auf Abwege führt.” Renou (1964, 39) translates: “Éloigne de nous la faute qui égare.” This verse does not completely clarify what is the tenor of its contents, but it occurs in several texts, which give useful information on its context. Especially ŚB 3, 6, 3, 11 is helpful. The prose commentary makes it clear that sin does not play a role at all, though Eggeling translates énas with sin. See also Keith (1914) rendering TS 1, 1, 14, 3 with “Keep away from us the sin that makes us wander.” In the same verse Agni is asked to “lead by a fair path to wealth.” I assume that what is kept away during the metaphorical journey is evil coming from outside rather than sin which one commits oneself.

The verb uruṣy is used in 8, 47, 8, where the Ādityas are asked to deliver from great or small énas. Geldner translates: “Ihr machete uns von grosser, ihr von kleiner Schuld frei.” He is followed by Renou (1959, 107) (who renders with “péché”). If the self-committed sin would be referred to, then it concerns its evil consequences and Geldner’s “Schuld” might be correct. However, the whole hymn, in which anehás occurs in the refrain (“ohne Fehler,” Geldner; “à l’ abri de l’ envie-mauvaise,” Renou), contains several references to dangers or evils produced by other people than the victims themselves. See drúh (verse 1), aghám (verse 1, 2, and 5) and tyájas (verse 7), words which do not denote a committed sin. It seems that evil is coming from outside and that uruṣy here means “to give room out of áṁhas.” The énas is something threatening out of which one should be kept.

The rather rich material of the ṚV Saṁhitā on énas shows that mainly the consequences of committed or attributed sins are expressed by this term. As far as self-committed or self-produced énas is concerned, its removal is looked for. Only in a few places the own responsibility is (rather vaguely) acknowledged. One admits the possibility that the énas is svákṛtam and sometimes even then the own responsibility is minimalized (e.g. by saying that it was done by carelessness). Apologies and polite requests to become pardoned are exceptional. Further énas may also denote evil for which one is not responsible at all. There is only a small amount of overlap with ā́gas, which mainly refers to self-committed sin.

7 énas in the Atharvaveda (Śaunaka)

In the AV Saṁhitā énas occurs (without parallels in the ṚV) about twenty times, whereas ā́gas has almost disappeared there.

7.1 The Verb kar Used with énas

7.1.1 Finite Forms of the Verb and the Active Participle

The finite form of the verb kar is found with énas in AV 6, 115, 1–2, where yád … énāṁsi … cakṛmā́ vayám and yádi … énaḥ … ákaram refer to self-committed sins, because one is said to have committed them knowing or unknowing, awake or asleep. It also occurs in 10, 3, 8, where sin committed by several people, mother, father, own people and finally oneself (yád énaś cakṛmā́ vayám), is mentioned. Since one wants to be freed from all this énas, we may assume that the sin of relatives can be transferred and that kar with as object énas here means “to commit sin.” The effects of such a sin are meant, as appears from the next and last verse of this hymn, where purification plays a role.

Further the past pt. active occurs in 2, 35, 3 (yád énaś cakṛvā́n). Probably the so-called “sin” is a fault of the Yajamāna in treating the priest in a former sacrifice.

7.1.2 The kṛtám énas

Compounded with mātṛ́ and pitṛ́ the perfect pt. passive is found in 5, 30, 4. It is not certain whether mātṛ́kṛtam and pitṛ́kṛtam énas really denote sin committed by the mentioned relatives, as is assumed by Griffith, Whitney, Bloomfield (1897, 59) and Rodhe (1946, 151). The hymn deals with a disease and such a disease may have various causes, e.g. a self-committed sin (see 5, 30, 3), and also a sin committed by relatives. In the latter case an inherited sin committed by them might play a role.32 However, in verse 2 of the same hymn the possibility is left open that the disease would have been caused by an incantation made by a kinsman or by a stranger. So the disease is a manifestation of evil (énas) which may have been produced by several people. Has one inherited énas (= sin) committed by parents or did these parents produce or bring this énas (= evil) for their son in order to get rid of it or to do harm to him?

In verse 5 of this hymn it is not clear what the first half (yát te mātā́ yát te pitā́ jamír bhrā́tā ca sárjataḥ) means. Griffith takes yát with bheṣajám in the next line (pratyák sevasva bheṣajám …) and translates: “Accept the healing, the balm thy mother and thy sire, thy sister and thy brother bring.” Bloomfield (1897, 59) starts from the same construction, but assumes a refusal of the medicine: “Fight shy of the medicine which thy mother … let out against thee.” In a note on p. 456 he qualifies the verse (“not without hesitancy”) as a plea of the professional medicineman in behalf of his art, and against domestic remedial expedients (“hausmittelchen”). This is doubtful, since the conclusion jarádaṣṭiṁ kṛṇomi tvā misses an explicit and emphatic mentioning of the medicineman like ahám (“I, and not these other persons”). Whitney rightly assumes that bheṣajám should not be connected with yát in the first half of the verse and translates: “What thy mother … shall infuse (? sárjatas)—heed (sev) thou the opposing remedy.” It seems that he takes sarj as the infusion of an unsuccessful medicine, which has to be replaced by the medicine of the medicineman. In a note he rejects the interpretation of BR (1872–1875, 792): “Zauber spinnen.” Though one may doubt the translation “spinnen,” I think that BR rightly makes sarj refer to inimical activities of relatives, against which the diseased should accept the medicine offered by the medicineman or priest. We may compare yát te mātā́ … sárjataḥ (5, 30, 5) with yát tvābhicerúḥ púruṣaḥ svó yád áraṇo jánaḥ (5, 30, 2) and yā́ṁ te cakrúr … āmé māṁsé kṛtyā́ṁ yā́ṁ cakrúḥ púnaḥ práti harāmi tā́m (5, 31, 1). The priest takes countermeasures against witchcraft of enemies or even relatives of the victim. The vague yát as object of sarj may be interpreted as énas occurring in the ablative in the preceding verse, where the énas is connected with kar (mātṛ́kṛtāc, pitṛ́kṛtāc), a verb perhaps meaning “to produce” in this context. For sarj meaning “to produce” or “to send” in connection with énas and with the own relatives as the subject cf. also 6, 116, 2 (mātúr yád éna iṣitáṁ nas …) discussed below.

In 6, 116, 2–3 énas is said to come to someone from a mother, father, son or brother and this énas has been sent (iṣitám) to him. This is at least the interpretation of Whitney, whereas Griffith assumes that énas (sin) is coming from this person and would be directed against his relatives. On account of the usual meaning of iṣitám (translated by Griffith with “hasty” instead of “sent”) and of the ablatives mātúr, pitúr and putrā́d followed by the postposition pári Griffith’s interpretation is not convincing. In verse 2 the father is even stated to be angry because he has been wronged (i.e. by his son). This means that here no sin has been inherited, but that a son has been punished with evil (énas) by his angry father.

So in 5, 30, 4 the énas which is pitṛ́kṛtam or mātṛ́kṛtam may likewise have been produced or brought about (kṛtám) rather than committed and this énas may be evil rather than sin.

7.2 Other Verbs Used with énas

7.2.1 Becoming Released from énas

Other verbs used with énas refer to liberation from evil or pollution (whatever may have been its cause).

The verb moc occurs in AV 2, 35, 3; 5, 30, 4; 6, 84, 2; 6, 115, 1–3; 7, 64, 2; 7, 77, 3; 12, 2, 12; 14, 2, 44 and 14, 2, 59–62.

The self-committed sin does not play a role in 5, 30, 4 (see above). In this verse and the two preceding ones a refrain is found in which deliverance and release (unmocanapramocané) from énas coming from other people as well as from own malice practised against others is pronounced by an Atharvavedic priest. A human being and not a god gives release from énas. This may be explained by the specific function of the AV. In 7, 64, 2 the Gārhapatya-fire is requested to release (prá muñcatu) from an énas which was produced by a black bird. Again the release is not made by a god and the énas is not produced by oneself. Therefore translations like “guilt” (Griffith) and “sin” (Whitney; Bloomfield 1897, 167; Rodhe 1946, 151) are wrong. Pollution by the bird which has defiled the victim with his mouth (see Bloomfield 1897, 555) is removed by carrying a fire-brand (from the Gārhapatya-fire) around him. In the preceding verse pollution produced by this bird by dropping something on him is removed by washing him with water. In verse 2 énas only means “pollution, evil.”

In 6, 115, 1–2 the All-gods are asked to free from sin which one has committed knowing or unknowing, awake or asleep (see above). In the next verse (3) this being freed is described with the verb śumbh (though in parallel texts the verb muñc is also found) and this release from énas is compared with being freed from a post (like a thief), with cleansing of a sweating body by a bath and with purification of the sacrificial butter by a purifier. This verse proves that release from committed sin (verses 1–2) also implies release from the defilement as a result of sin.

The man in 2, 35, 3 who has committed énas, is bound and should be released (tám … prá muñca) by Viśvakarman, is only metaphorically bound on account of his énas, since this énas seems to be an error in the sacrifice and he has not been arrested like a thief. So the committed énas might be a fault rather than a sin and the release concerns the consequences of the error. On the other hand this ritual fault (Whitney calls this hymn in its title “To expiate errors in the sacrifice”) does not refer to mistakes made in a particular ritual by the priests, since expiations should be made directly after their occurrence; moreover the person concerned is the Yajamāna. The original application was meant to expiate former énas in connection with a sacrifice. In the preceding verse (2) the present Yajamāna is called by the Ṛṣis énasā … nírbhaktam (“by reason of sin disportioned,” tr. Whitney; “amerced through sin,” tr. Griffith). Gonda (1965b, 423 ff.) elaborately discusses this hymn and its application in the Kauśikasūtra and criticizes former interpretations. On p. 424 he observes on verse 2: “The ‘sin’ (in casu, the ritual imperfections) and the ‘evil’ resulting from it prevent the sacrificer from deriving profit from his rites.” He rightly remarks on verse 3: “The offence which the author has in view is not so obscure as was supposed by Whitney (p. 80): the sacrificer has contracted the bad consequences of ‘sin’ (enaḥ) because he has not given a dakṣiṇā” (p. 425). Indeed the énas refers to Dakṣiṇās. Whether too small Dakṣiṇās or Dakṣiṇās given to the wrong persons are meant is uncertain. Not giving Dakṣiṇās, however, seems to be out of the question. This énas is not a ritual fault or error, but indeed a sin, like all instances of not giving enough fees or presents to the Brahmins.33 Probably this special application of the hymn in Purastāddhomas was only prescribed in case the Yajamāna was (by the present priests) supposed to have been failing in this respect because his economic success was deficient. One cannot expect its general application in all the Atharvavedic Savayajñas, since it would offend the ordinary Yajamāna.

People here and yonder should be released from énas in 6, 84, 2 by a deity who in the text is bhūte (voc.), to be emended to bhūme (earth), who in the preceding verse was identified with Nirṛti. The earth is Nirṛti because perdition is the goddess living under the earth. In the earth a libation is poured according to this hymn in which Yama also plays a role. The short hymn also mentions people who are bound and iron bounds as well as an iron pillar to which people are bound. The adjective “iron” may point to metaphorical items. People in this hymn are fettered with the bonds of death (= Nirṛti). The release from these bonds is the same as the release from énas (translated with “sin” by Griffith and Whitney). In the last (fourth) verse of this hymn Nirṛti should together with Yama and the Pitṛs make “this man” ascend to the highest firmament. The singular “this man” implies that the hymn is used in a magic, healing practice, in which a diseased (probably unconscious) person should be saved from death. Therefore I have some doubts about the translation “sin” of énas in verse 2. Not all diseased and almost dead persons are sinners. Here the énas is an evil in the form of an almost or actually mortal disease. There is no indication of sin. In the parallels TS 1, 8, 1, 1 and TB 1, 6, 1, 3, which differ in some details, the release should be from áṁhas (evil).

In 7, 77, 3 the Maruts are asked to release from the fetters of énas (translated with “sin” by Griffith and Whitney). The tenor of this hymn, however, is against such an interpretation. In the preceding verse the help of the Maruts is invoked against an enemy who desires to kill the man who in verse 3 should be released (pra-moc) from énas. Around this enemy the fetters of drúh (mischief) should be fastened (pratimoc). It is evident that the énas by which the speakers of the hymn are fastened is the drúh applied on them by the enemy. This énas is evil, distress. There is no trace of self-committed sin. The freeing from énas here looks like the freeing from áṁhas. The parallel TS 4, 3, 13, 4 indeed reads áṁhasaḥ.

Even god Agni is supposed to be freed from sin (mucyámāno nír énaso) in 12, 2, 12 according to the translations of Griffith (who renders with “transgression”) and Whitney. See also Rodhe (1946, 150). In the preceding verse (11) we read that Agni leaves impurity (riprá) and that he passes over énas (translated with “sin” by Whitney as well as this time by Griffith, who, however, completely misunderstood the construction of the line). In this hymn the succession of the funeral fire by a new Gārhapatya-fire is treated. It is evident that Agni leaves the impurity (énas) of death and gets a new, positive role. Rodhe identifies sin with pollution, because in verse 11 both occur together (“are parallelised” in his own words), but he does not realize that the term énas is not always the equivalent of sin. The pollution denoted as énas need not always be interpreted as sin or as the result of sin. Neither the dead person nor the fire which cremates him is a sinner.

In the nuptial hymn 14, 2 the new husband addresses his wife after the first night passed together in verse 44 and says: “Clothing myself anew, fragrant, well-dressed, I have risen alive unto the outshining dawns; as a bird from the egg, I have been released out of all sin.” (tr. Whitney). However, what kind of sin (a term also used by Griffith) would be meant here? Sex itself can hardly be meant. According to Kauśikasūtra 79, 29 the verse would have been recited by the priest after washing the bridal garment. In that case the énas would be the pollution found on the garment. More likely the husband speaks these words and states that he has come out of the evil of the dark night (often associated with pāpmán or death). In the next verse (45) the now beautiful heaven and earth and the seven divine waters are invoked by husband and wife to free (again the verb moc) from distress (áṁhas), probably the same distress which in the preceding verse was associated with the night and denoted as énas. Light (of the sun) and water (of the seven rivers, in the ceremony probably represented by water which is poured out) make clean and purify. Sin as such (i.e. committed by husband or wife) does not play a role at all.

In the same hymn verses 59 ff. deal (i.a.) with the mourning and dancing of women at the moment when the bride leaves the house for the wedding. They are said to do (kar) aghám and from this énas Agni and Savitṛ should release the father of the bride. Griffith translates aghám with “sin” and énas with “guilt,” Whitney with “evil” and with “sin.” According to Rodhe (1946, 44) aghám (in a construction with kar) would mean “committed evil” and énas be a parallel (i.e. committed sin or evil). However, the father has not carried out the mourning and one may ask how he could be released from something not done by himself and not negatively directed against him, since the mourning has a positive function. As shown by me in an other publication34 the énas is evil caused by people who show distress (aghám) which could be associated with funerals. The distress is shown (kar) and the evil (énas) is caused by the evil of funerals with which one might confuse this. Again no trace of committed sin (neither in aghám nor in énas).

Beside the verb moc the release from énas is also once expressed with the verb sarj. In 2, 10, 8 (belonging to a hymn probably used for healing a diseased person; see also TB 2, 5, 6, 3, where Sāyaṇa’s commentary renders énas with pāpam) the priest says in the refrain that he will free (moc) the man from disease, imprecation, mischief and Varuṇa’s fetter. In connection with the line preceding this refrain a comparison is made with the gods who released (nis-sarj) the sun and the Ṛta out of énas by freeing (moc) them from darkness and the demon Grāhi. Griffith, Whitney and Bloomfield (1897, 15) translate énas with “sin.” Indeed the refrain also states that the priest will make the man ánāgas by his charm and ánāgas is often translated with “sinless” or “without guilt.” Since curses, drúh etc., do not belong to the responsibility of the victim, one may ask what kind of ā́gas (in the sense of sin) this man would have committed. Moreover the comparison with the release of the sun from énas, would imply that the sun had committed a sin, if énas here means “sin.” On the possible sin of the sun Bloomfield (1897, 294) observes: “The moralising cause of the sun’s mishap, his énas (sin), is not expressed distinctly anywhere, nor is it to be taken au grand sérieux.” Lanman’s note on Whitney’s translation contains the interesting remark: “For énas, W’s first draft has ‘evil,’ which is better.” Indeed this translation has to be preferred. See also Zehnder (1999, 28) translating with “Übel” in the parallel AVP 2, 3, 4, though elsewhere he prefers “Sünde.” However, Jamison (1991, 288 ff. dealing with “What Did the Sun Do Wrong”) does not agree with Lanman and tries to find a real sin as the background of the Svarbhānu myth by assuming that Prajāpati who committed incest was replacing Sūrya: “This myth must be simply a later variant of an older form, with Prajāpati substituting for Sūrya” (p. 293). I think that every sinner would be glad with such a simple substitution in which his own role disappears without further explanation. This is the weak point in Jamison’s story, which I can hardly call a theory or hypothesis, since all evidence is missing. She observes herself: “Thus, circumstantial evidence suggests that Sūrya was ‘pierced with darkness’ by Agni for a serious offense, incest with his daughter” (p. 302). The circumstantial evidence does not convince and nobody accuses Sūrya in the Veda on the basis of this circumstantial evidence. The assumed penalty given by the gods for this hypothetical sin is even rejected by the gods themselves who try to remove the darkness from the sun, because man needs the light of the sun. The gods did not only free the sun but also the Ṛta. See Jamison (1991, 289, n. 270) observing: “I think it best to take it as belonging to the familiar ṛta- ‘truth’, though this otherwise does not figure in the myth.” The Ṛta evidently means cosmic order here. This was disturbed by the darkness of the sun. The gods free the sun and the cosmic order represented by the sun by removing darkness. The taint inflicted on the sun is compared in our AV verse with a taint inflicted on a human victim, who like the sun is not accused of any committed sin. If the gods themselves would have produced the darkness of the sun, they would have sinned against the Ṛta.

7.2.2 Removal of énas by the Gods

In AV 6, 113, 1 the verb marj is used in connection with énas. The gods wiped off a particular sin (denoted as etád énas and therefore associated with a sin mentioned in the preceding hymn) on Trita who in his turn wiped in on the human beings. Therefore this shift of énas inspires the author of this hymn in verse 2 to wipe a disease (Grāhi) on a more serious or real sinner, the killer of an embryo. If the connection with the preceding hymn is acceptable, then the original sin of a human being afflicted by the mentioned disease (Grāhi) would be the sin of an older brother whose younger brother marries before him or of the younger brother who marries first. On this subject see Bloomfield’s note (1897, 521 ff.). However, the verse occurs in a different context in TB 3, 7, 12, 5. Anyhow the énas is the pollution of sin and this may be transferred to someone else. Trita as a scapegoat is the example for the human victim of such a transmission of sin and impurity.

In 6, 119, 3 a person who has not paid his debts, wants to be purified by Vaiśvānara and states that he drives away (apa-sav) the énas (sin or its result) which plays a role here.

In 10, 3, 8 the verb vārayati is used with tátas (= tásmād) referring back to énas committed by the person concerned and his relatives. The subject of vārayiṣyate is a plant called Varaṇa. By magic this “will be our guard and sure defence” (Griffith); “from that [i.e. sin] this divine tree will protect us” (Bloomfield1897, 82); “from that [i.e. sin] shall this divine forest-tree shield us” (Whitney). Here we are confronted with the strange situation that someone wants to be protected in the future against sins which have already been committed. The whole hymn 10, 3 deals with dangers coming from outside. So the verb vārayati does not refer to prevention, but to removing the result of sin committed. Above we have interpreted énas as “sin” and kar as “to commit” in the beginning of this section. Or does kar not denote the committing but the producing of énas, which then should mean “evil, distress” rather than “sin”?

In 10, 5, 24 (= 16, 1, 10–11) removal of énas (sin? the result of sin: evil?) is expressed by the verb apa/pra-vah and the subject of this verb are the cleansing waters, which might imply that pollution or defilement rather than sin is meant. This also appears from the fact that together with énas also riprám, duritám, duṣvápnyam and málam are mentioned. Griffith and Whitney translate énas with “sin,” but it is uncertain whether énas here is defilement caused by sin or just defilement or evil coming from outside.

7.3 The Result of énas (Sin) Caused by Not Giving a Cow to the Brahmins

The hymn AV 12, 4 deals with the necessity to give a sterile cow to the Brahmins, as is especially emphasized in verse 10. In the preceding verses 2–9 the risks of keeping such a cow are mentioned and in verse 9 the throwing together of her dung with lye by a serving-maid is said to produce a lasting stain or defilement on account of this énas. Griffith, Whitney and Bloomfield (1897, 175) translate “from that/this sin.” What is this sin? Griffith observes in a note that the collecting of the droppings “could hardly be considered a sinful act.” Whitney’s note “the meaning is ‘if such a precious stuff is carelessly treated by a slave-woman’ ” is hardly helpful. Gonda (1965b, 358 f.) tries to give an explanation: “As … lye apparently was a means of cleansing for household purposes, and cow-dung a highly valued purificator for many moral and ritual transgressions and other religious purposes …, the transgression meant in this stanza may seem to have been the mixing of these two and, hence, the desecration of the latter. … The fact that a female slave or maid-servant …, who was considered ritually impure, touched the dung, only aggravated the ‘sin’.” Gonda, however, also gives an alternative interpretation in which yád asyā́ḥ pálpūlanaṁ śákṛd dāsī́ samásyati is interpreted as “If a female slave mixes her dung, (which so to say is) lye (with water, etc.)” (see also p. 103). Indeed, I don’t think that the fact that this girl is a slave implies any sin, since these girls collect the dung and do the cleansing with water containing lye (see Witzel 1986, 190). I think that Witzel’s observation (1986, 190) “A dāsī woman is said to throw together the palpūlana and the dung of a cow …: this is regarded as an evil act resulting in misbirths” is not correct. The evil result of the activity of the girl (tátó ’parūpaṁ jāyate) has nothing to do with birth and jāyate simply means “is produced.” The áparūpam refers to a defilement and this defilement is said to be ávyeṣyat, an adjective which also has been misinterpreted in the translations: “inseparable [sc. from that sin]” (Griffith); “what will not escape [sc. from that sin]” (Whitney); “that will be inseparably associated [sc. with this sin]” (Gonda 1965b, 104). Bloomfield (1897, 175) has a different interpretation: “[disfigurement] that passeth not away.” In my view áparūpam does not refer to form but to colour or outward appearance.35 This bad colour is the result of the use of a particular means of cleansing. It is a stain which will not disappear (ávyeṣyat). Now the question remains what exactly she does when it is said that she samasyati pálpūlanaṁ śákṛt. Either she mixes (samasyati) two objects occurring as an asyndeton: pálpūlanam and śákṛt. Both substances are used for cleansing and purification, but for washing e.g. clothes (usually done with pálpūlanam) the use of śákṛt (dung) looks strange. In Gonda’s second (and preferred) option (1965b, 359) the pálpūlanam and the śákṛt form an apposition and the one item is identified with the other: “the dung may have been called apalpūlana- (this word to be taken in a wider sense ‘means of purifying’) and the verb implies ‘(mixing) with water’.” The implication that “water” has to be added to samasyati (meaning “to mix with”) does not convince, but the apposition looks attractive. Bloomfield (1897, 174 f.) likewise prefers an apposition to an asyndeton and translates “If the serving-maid sweeps together her dung, that bites as lye.” Combining the interpretations of Bloomfield and Gonda we might translate: “If the serving-maid collects her dung as a means of purification, a lasting stain is produced.” The effect of her work is opposite to what one hopes “on account of this sin,” i.e. “on account of the fact that the material has been taken from a sterile cow which sinfully has been withheld from the Brahmins.” The slave-girl does not commit any sin, but the disaster is produced by the sin of the owner of the cow. See also verse 4 “Flow of blood attacks the cattle-owner from the spot where her dung is deposited” (tr. Bloomfield). No new sins have been committed. The fact that the cow has not been given to a Brahmin is a lasting sin with evil results for the owner. His sin is a stain which becomes visible when products or parts of this cow are used or play a role.

This treatment of énas in the Śaunaka rec. of the AV clearly shows that in comparison with ā́gas the term énas has obtained a dominant position. In this connection it also takes over the meaning “committed sin” from ā́gas, but predominantly it denotes the results of committed sin in the form of pollution or evil and very often it does not refer at all to sin, but is associated with all kinds of evil or distress which may be produced by other people than the victim who is suffering. In the Paippalāda rec. we find several places without parallels in the Śaunaka rec. These will be treated now. They reveal the same situation as described in our treatment of the Śaunaka recension.

8 enas in the Atharvaveda (Paippalāda)

8.1 The Verb kar Used with enas

8.1.1 Finite Forms of the Verb kar

AVP 2, 49, 1–5 has a refrain yad deveṣu pitṛṣu manuṣyeṣv enaś cakārāyaṁ tvaṁ tasyāvayajanam asi, in which enas is sin and the locative denotes the persons against whom one has sinned (see Zehnder 1999, 116). On the other hand avayajanam mostly refers to the evil or wrath coming from the gods (see n. 13 on avayaj and avayā). Zehnder translates with “Sühnemittel.” Probably enas here denotes the committed sin and its consequences.

In AVP 6, 3, 13, in which liberation from defilement is asked, the relative clause yāny36 enāṁsi cakṛmā tanūbhiḥ “if we have committed any sins ourselves” denotes the possible cause of this defilement.

AVP 9, 22, 5 uses (together with duṣkṛtam and śamalam) the term enas as the object of cakṛmā vayam. Here enas evidently is the self-committed sin.

8.1.2 The kṛtam enas

In AVP 2, 24, 3 the enas from which one wants to be freed may be anyakṛtam or ātmakṛtam. There is no reason to interpret kṛta here as “committed” and enas as “sin,” since enas is found together with aṁhas in this verse and the hymn deals with the removal of a disease (yakṣma) which has been sent (iṣita)37 by gods and by Pitṛs in verse 2. This disease should meet with someone else and, thus the refrain of this hymn states, “we drive (pra suvāmasi)38 it away for him.” Evidently the enas (distress, evil) manifests itself as a disease and the origin of this enas is not specified. So enas here need not have any relation with sin. The party of the victim transfers the enas/disease to someone else. Zehnder (1999, 75), however, translates: “Die Sünde in welche du … geraten bist.”

The enas from which Jātavedas should release the victim is anyakṛtam, i.e. “produced by someone else” in AVP 2, 30, 5. In a parallel MS 4, 14, 17 and TB 3, 7, 12, 2 replace anyakṛtam by devákṛtam. In order to emphasize that the victim need not be the cause of this énas another qualification is added by MS: ánādiṣṭam, replaced by ánājñātam in the TB, for which cf. anājñātajñātakṛtasya (enaso ’vayajanam asi) (VaitS 23, 12).39 So the enas has been produced by someone who is unknown and the victim of this evil is not responsible. Zehnder (1999, 86) mistranslates: “was ein von anderen verschuldetes Vergehen ist.” The enas is an evil from which one suffers and which has been caused by someone else. There is no transfer of sin.

The enas from which ghee should free someone in AVP 5, 18, 6 is ātmakṛtam. Though the evil of enas obviously is caused by one’s own sin, this does not imply that enas here means sin and ātmakṛta “committed by oneself.” Lubotsky (2002, 92) correctly translates enas with “mischief”: “get released … from a mischief, produced by yourself …”

8.2 Other Verbs Used with enas

8.2.1 Falling into enas

AVP 1, 27, 3 has a partial parallel in AV 6, 40, 2, where, however, the term énas does not occur. Whitney characterizes 6, 40 as “For freedom from fear” and in both hymns ábhayam plays an important role. In the two remote parallels the grā́ma should be free from evil or danger. The Paippalāda recension reads māyaṁ grāmo duritam ena ārad (“Let this village not fall into misfortune, into enas”). The Śaunaka has a positive approach: “For this village [let] the four directions—let Savitar make for us sustenance, wellbeing, welfare” (Whitney). This indicates that enas just like duritam forms the opposition of prosperity and has nothing to do with sin. It is just evil. Its opposite is abhayam.

A similar fear for future evil (now without an explicit falling into evil) occurs AVP 1, 65, where the earth is invoked not to announce enas and kilbiṣāni for the people concerned. The hymn refers to external dangers (evil, distress), not to self-committed sin, and the wish is expressed that one may live long in peace and in friendship with the earth.

Just as in 1, 27, 3 the verb ā-ar occurs with enas in 2, 24, 3: yat tvam eno anyakṛtaṁ yad ātmakṛtam āritha tasmāt tvā viśvā bhūtāni muñcantu pary aṁhasaḥ. Someone falls into an enas which may have been produced by himself or by someone else. There is no reason to interpret kṛta in the compounds as “committed.” He has to be released from this evil, which is also denoted by the term aṁhas. The hymn deals with the removal of a disease (yakṣma) which has been sent (iṣita) by gods and by Pitṛs in verse 2. This disease should meet with someone else and we drive (pra suvāmasi)40 it away for him, thus the refrain of this hymn says. Evidently the enas (distress, evil) manifests itself as disease and the origin of this enas is not specified. So enas need not have any relation with sin and the party of the victim transfers the enas/disease to someone else. Zehnder (1999, 75) mistranslates: “Die Sünde in welche du … geraten bist.”

In the preceding section I have already discussed 5, 18, 6, where one has run into (the verb ā-ar is used) enas (evil, mischief) caused by oneself.

8.2.2 Becoming Released from enas by the Gods

AVP 2, 24, 3 expresses the wish that all beings should release (muñcantu) a diseased person from enas produced by himself or by someone else (see the treatment of this place in section 8.1.2) and from aṁhas. External dangers partly play a role in the evil of enas.

In AVP 2, 26, 1–2 one wants to be released (moc) by Agni and Soma from enas which stands in apposition with aṁhas. This aṁhas/enas is the result of sins committed by the victim himself, since these sins are specified (e.g. swearing a false oath and cheating in gambling).

Jātavedas should release (mumugdhi) from enas which is produced by someone else in AVP 2, 30, 5 (see section 8.1.2). Because in this verse curses (śaṁsa) from specified relatives also play a role, we may assume that the enas produced by others and called anādiṣṭam (unspecified) belongs to the same sphere as the curses made by relatives. This enas is not sin but evil threatening the victim from outside.

AVP 5, 17 is a hymn in which a mentally disturbed person is tried to be healed. In verse 3 a comparison is made with a Muni whom the deities released (nis-sarj) from enas. In the same way Indra should now release (moc) him from enas. The verse does not make it clear what this enas might have been. However, in verse 1 he is called devainasād unmaditam and this verse has a parallel in AV 6, 111, 3 where the person concerned is likewise called devainasā́d únmaditam. The compound devainasá has been translated by Griffith with “sin against the Gods” and with the same words by Whitney. Bloomfield (1897, 32) translates with “the sin of the gods”; see also p. 520: “Indeed, devainasá seems to mean outright ‘the sins committed by the gods’.” I agree with the interpretation in as far as there is no sin committed against the gods. In the same verse the insanity is also attributed to Rākṣasas. However, the word enas need not mean “sin.” It is an evil or distress produced by gods and demons. These powers do not commit sins in order to transfer them to a human being, nor do they create sins for these human beings. For one or other reason they afflict human beings with insanity. Sin does not play a role at all. The enas is only evil or distress produced by superhuman beings. Lubotsky (2002, 88) translates with “mischief.” The verb denoting the release from this evil is moc as well as nis-sarj. Cf. AV 2,10, 8 (discussed above), where the same verb nis-sarj is used and likewise a comparison is made which shows that enas has nothing to do with sin.

In AVP 9, 22, 1 release (moc) from sin (or its result) or from evil is the aim. In the first half of this verse this sin or evil is denoted as kilbiṣa (in the plural). In its second half these sins or evils are specified as abhidroha, duṣkṛta and enas, terms which on the one hand may be interpreted as sin (duṣkṛta), on the other as evil threatening from outside (abhidroha). The results of both are impurities and therefore the verb is used to specify the release as a purification. From 9, 22, 3 onward the refrain ayaṁ mā tasmād odanaḥ pavitraḥ pātv aṁhasaḥ occurs. The aṁhas against one should be protected is the result of several evil actions or sins. In verse 3 sin (duṣkṛtam) committed by the mother while the son still was an embryo, results in this aṁhas; see also TB 3, 7, 12, 3; 2, 3, 1. Here evidently committed sin has been inherited. In the other verses sins committed by the person himself are enumerated and specified. For 9, 22, 5, where enas is the object of a finite form of the verb kar in the first person see 8.1.1.

8.2.3 Protection Against enas

The verb sometimes (not only in this text) plays a role. Protection normally means prevention. Something should not take place. In connection with sin one does not expect the use of this verb. In AVP 5, 11, 3 Indra and Agni should protect (pari-pā) against an enas, which consists of the situation in which a woman would not obtain a son. No sin is involved here and enas is just distress, unhappiness or evil against which should be protected. Lubotsky (2002, 65), however, takes the enas against which these two gods should protect as her own fault, which causes her remaining without a child. The verb pari-pā (especially in connection with the verbal prefix pari) denotes the protection against evil or aṁhas surrounding a possible victim and can hardly be used for prevention of sins or faults of the person concerned.

The refrain of AVP 9, 22, 3 ff. (a place discussed in 8.2.2) runs ayaṁ mā tasmād odanaḥ pavitraḥ pātv aṁhasaḥ. The aṁhas against which one should be protected is the result of evil actions, not only done by outsiders. Here apparently one does not only want to counteract external influences, but also the results or consequences of the self-committed sins (explicitly mentioned in verse 5) in order that they should not take place. This illustrates the problem of the interpretation of enas, which denotes in post-Ṛgvedic Saṁhitā texts evil produced by self-committed sin as well as evil coming from outside.

9 énas in the Yajurveda Saṁhitās

9.1 The énas Which is devákṛtam

The compound devákṛta qualifying énas has created problems for some translators who interpreted énas as sin. TS 1, 4, 45, 2 áva devaír devákṛtam éno yakṣi, áva martyaír martyákṛtam is translated “thou hast removed by sacrifice the sin committed by the gods, through the gods, the sin committed by mortals, through mortals” by Keith (1914, 66) who observes in a note: “I take devaír devákṛtam as an emphatic ‘god wrought,’ i.e. the sins of the gods; Griffith takes it as ‘by aid of the gods’ and the ‘sin done to the gods’.” For Griffith’s interpretation of devákṛta see also Eggeling (1882, 406) tr. ŚB 2, 5, 2, 47; (1885, 385) tr. ŚB 4, 4, 5, 22 (where indeed devaír is explained in the prose text as “with the help of the gods”); (1900, 266) tr. ŚB 12, 9, 2, 4. Rodhe (1946, 155, n. 59) observes on devákṛtam: “Grammatically both translations seem to be justifiable. Sin against the gods is a more natural conception than sin committed by the gods, especially in texts speaking of human purification from sin. But on the other hand the Vedic texts know of sins committed by gods, too. … It is not improbable that the texts imply both possibilities of meaning.” This solution does not convince.

The compound is also found in TS 3, 2, 5, 7 and parallels in the mantra devákṛtasyaínaso ’vayájanam asi … translated with “Thou art the expiation of sin committed by the gods” by Keith (1914) and “Of sin committed by the gods … thou art the expiation” by Rodhe (1946, 155) who on the next page translates devákṛtam énas (discussed above) with “sin (enas) committed against the gods.” In the version of the TS of the mantra the énas may also be kṛtá by or against men, but in the version of VS 8, 13 the énas of fathers and the ātmákṛtam énas is added. Especially the latter qualification points to an interpretation of the compound in which the first member has the function of an instrumental case. Instead of ātmákṛta we find asmatkṛta in PB 1, 6, 10, where Caland (1931, 12) translates “Of the guilt incurred by us.” See also MNU 415–416, where ātmakṛtasya as well as asmatkṛtasya and even anyakṛtasya occur together and Varenne (1960, 98) translates with “De la faute commise par.”

In my view the problem is not whether an action is made “by” or “against,” but what is the exact meaning of énas and consequently of kṛtá (a problem discussed before in section 5.1). I cannot imagine why a human sacrificer should bother about sins in general made by gods, Fathers or any human being. The concern of a sacrificer is his own position. The énas which is kṛtám by gods and other beings is something directed against himself. In ŚB 12, 9, 2, 4 preceding the mantra discussed above a delivery from varuṇyā̀d énasas is mentioned. Eggeling translates: “he thereby delivers him from sin against Varuṇa.” However, the adj. varuṇyá means “coming from Varuṇa, belonging to Varuṇa.” See ṚV 10, 97, 16 “Sie sollen mich von den Folgen eines Fluches erlösen und von (der Schlinge) des Varuṇa” (tr. Geldner, who supplements pā́śa to this adjective in his interpretation); ŚB 5, 2, 5, 16 tát sárvasmād evaítád varuṇapāśā́t sárvasmād varuṇyā̀t prajā́ḥ prá muñcati, translated by Eggeling (1894, 57) with “he thereby frees the creatures from every snare of Varuṇa, from all that comes from Varuṇa,” which shows that varuṇyà need not be associated with pā́śa but anyhow belongs to the sphere of punishment, wrath and evil. In a note Eggeling admits that in 3, 8, 5, 10 he had interpreted varuṇyà as “(guilt) against Varuṇa.” His argumentation that varuṇyà would imply the guilt incurred by the infringement of Varuṇa’s laws as well as his punishment, does not convince. See also 12, 7, 2, 17, where Varuṇa is said to seize him who is seized by evil (pāpmán) and that through Varuṇa one frees someone from Varuṇa’s power, i.e. varuṇyā̀d. So énas which is varuṇyà is evil coming from Varuṇa from which one wants to be freed.

For devákṛtam see also MS 4, 14, 17 treated in section 9.3.

We may compare devákṛtam énas with devainasám, which in my view means “evil coming from the gods.” The compound occurs in the ablative in AV 6, 111, 3; 10, 1, 12 and AVP 5, 17, 1; 5, 37, 4; 10, 4, 4–5; 16, 36, 2. It denotes the origin of evil coming to the victim. In AV 10, 1, 12 and AVP 5, 17, 1 another origin of evil, pítryād (sc. énasas or enasā́d), is mentioned and in AVP 10, 4, 4–5 pitryeṇa has the same function. So énas produced by gods and by Fathers causes evil from which one wants to be freed. Still Whitney translates devainasā́d in the two AV places with “sin against the gods” and pítryād in AV 10, 1, 12 with “sin … against the Fathers”; see also Griffith’s translation. Bloomfield (1897, 32 and 73) translates with “sin of the gods” and “of the fathers.” The evil overcoming the victim in AV 6, 111, 3 is insanity, a disease for which a curse (or wrath) from the gods or the Fathers rather than the own sin is the cause. Of course this énas coming from the gods or from the Fathers may be caused by the (sinful) behaviour of the (now) insane man. However other causes are also mentioned. The demons may also cause the insanity and sinning against demons is hardly imaginable. The dictionaries agree in interpreting devainasá as “curse coming from the gods.”41

This implies that devákṛtam énas should be interpreted as “énas (evil) produced by the gods.” This interpretation is also confirmed by e.g. Sāyaṇa’s commentary on PB 1, 6, 10: devakṛtasya devaiḥ kṛtasya enasaḥ pāpasya kṛtāparādheṣu asmāsu devaiḥ yat kṛtaṁ pāpam “the evil which has been produced by the gods after we had made a transgression.”42

9.2 Committed énas

No doubt seems to be possible about énas meaning “sin” and kar meaning “to commit” in the mantra yád grā́me yád áraṇye yát sabhā́yāṁ yád indriyé … énas cakṛmā́ vayám found in TS 1, 8, 3, 1 and (with small differences) in parallels,43 because the place where the énas has been committed is explicitly mentioned as well as the victim of the énas (the Śūdra or the Aryan) also occurring in this verse. However, the verses recited at the pouring out of a libation end with tásyāvayájanam asi. The object of ava-yaj is either a god or his wrath. Caland (1924, 26) refers in a note on his translation of ĀpŚS 8, 6, 24 to TB 1, 6, 5, 3, where an explanation of this avayájanam is given: yathóditam evá váruṇam avayajate (translated by Caland with “dadurch opfert er den Varuṇa, wie gesagt, weg”) and he adds: “(d.h. sowohl den strafenden Gott wie die Frevel selber?).” Grammatrically tásya can only refer back to énas, but the avayájanam then concerns the evil consequences of the committed sin, the énas coming from a deity. In MS 1, 10, 2 the text reads tásya sárvasyā́ṁhaso ’vayájanam asi instead of tásyāvayájanam asi. The áṁhas is the result of committed sin and comes from the deities.

TS 1, 8, 5, 3 has parallels in other Saṁhitās, even in AV 6, 120, 1 (where the term énas does not occur). From the énas (also called duṣkṛtám) consisting of hurting atmosphere, earth, sky, father and mother the Gārhapatya-fire should free (un-nī) the sacrificer in an offering to the Pitṛs. The sin is rather unspecified.

MS 3, 11, 10 (cf. 4, 14, 17) yád devā devahéḍanaṁ dévāsaś cakṛmā́ vayám / agnír mā tásmād énaso víśvān muñcatv áṁhasaḥ has a parallel in AV 6, 114, 1, where, however, énas does not occur in the second half. ŚB 12, 9, 2, 2 indeed interprets devahéḍanam as devákṛtam énas, taken as énas committed against the gods by Eggeling (1900, 265). The parallelism of énas and devahéḍanam as well as áṁhas points to evil coming from outside, but based on the results of one’s own activities. In the following verses Agni is replaced by Vāyu and Sūrya. The causes of the énas from which one wants to be released are yádi svapán yádi jā́grad énāṁsi cakṛmā́ vayám and yádi dívā yádi náktam énāṁsi cakṛmā́ vayám. ŚB 12, 9, 2, 2 explains the daily and nightly sins as manuṣyakilbiṣám and pitṛkilbiṣám, according to Eggeling “sin against men and Fathers.” However, kílbiṣa does not always denote sin committed against the first member of the compound. See e.g. ṚV 10, 97, 16, where a person wants to be freed from effects of a curse, from what comes from Varuṇa, from Yama’s fetter and from every devakilbiṣá. Here one expects that the kílbiṣa is sent by the gods as an evil and is not a sin committed against the gods. O’Flaherty (1981, 286 f.) tries to solve the problem by translating “from every offence of the gods” and observing in a note: “Offences committed by men against the gods … and offences committed by the gods against men, offences themselves consisting in diseases.” She at least realized that in the context the latter interpretation should be taken into account.

In the quoted verse of MS 3, 11, 10 the subject vayám and the object seem to refer to the same person(s) and therefore the énas from which one wants to be freed apparently is committed by the person who is suffering from it. However, in the parallel TB 2, 4, 4, 9 we read yádi dívā yádi náktam éna enasyò ’karat instead of yádi dívā yádi náktam énāṁsi cakṛmā́ vayám. Here the third person singular (enasyà) may be someone different from .

In MS 4, 1, 9 énas occurs in a prose section: yáṁ suptáṁ sū́ryo ’bhyudéti … éno nā́tyeti. The énas is the result of a fault (or sin) in the ritual from which one does not escape.

Likewise in a prose section in MS (4, 3, 9) it is said that the aṁhomúc mantra delivers the one who offers with this verse an ékādaśakapāla to Indra, from sin (énas) committed since his birth (yád evá kíṁ ca … énas karóti) and implicitly from its result (in the form of áṁhas) from which the amhomúc verse delivers. Here énas is the committed sin, but includes its results.

In TS 3, 1, 4, 3 Agni should release from énas and áṁhas caused by the fact that the victim at the sacrifice has uttered a cry or strikes with his feet his breast. Here the sin (énas, i.e. its result, the áṁhas) is a ritual fault. Rodhe (1946, 153) observes that “the sin from which the sacrificer wants to be delivered does not consist of anything he has committed himself but of something committed by the animal that is sacrificed.” However, the fault or “sin” of the sacrificer (or his priest) is that he has not prevented the taking place of something which represents an ill omen.

The sin (énas) for which one should be punished in TS 2, 6, 10, 2 has been specified. It concerns brutal actions against brahmins.

TS 6, 6, 3 gives a prose commentary on the ritual of offering the formulas for the final bath (Avabhṛtha), of which the verses are found in 1, 4, 45. In 1, 4, 45, 1 the verse ṚV 1, 24, 9 (“Remove from us whatever sin has been committed”) occurs. In 6, 6, 3, 1 the function of the Avabhṛtha is explained: “whatever sin he has committed in the year before, verily that thereby he propitiates” (tr. Keith 1914, 549). This evidently refers to committed sin.

The result of sin is expressed with the instrumental énasā in TS 6, 3, 10, 1. Someone is said to be “with (the pollution of) sin.” His committed sin is not speaking the truth. Keith (1914, 525) translates: “He … (is burdened) with sin.”

9.3 énas (Evil) Produced (kṛtám) by Oneself or by Others

In a prose commentary on ṚV 8, 79, 3 tváṁ soma tanūkṛ́dbhyo dvéṣobhyo ’nyákṛtebhyaḥ / urú yantā́si várūtham is explained by MS 3, 9, 1 as yád evá tanúkṛ́taṁ cānyákṛtaṁ caínas tád eténā́vayajati. The parallelism of énas and dveṣas and the occurrence of várūtham and the verb ava-yaj may imply that énas as such need not be taken as sin. The root kar occurring in the compounds with tanū- and anyá- does not mean “to commit” but “to produce, bring about” in the ṚV verse, which has been misinterpreted by Geldner: “Du, Soma, pflegst (deinen) leiblichen Erzeugern (note: Den Somapriestern) eine weite Schutzwehr gegen die von anderen angetanen Feindselichkeiten.” See Renou (1961a, 125) and O’Flaherty (1981, 121). The verse is also quoted by ŚB 3, 6, 3, 7 and completely misunderstood by Eggeling (1885, 157). See also the problematic note of Keith (1914, 515) on his translation of TS 6, 3, 2, 2. A correct translation was already given by Caland (1924) in his rendering of ĀpŚS 11, 16, 16: “Du bist … der weitreichende Schirm wider die Anfeindungen, die von uns selbst und von den anderen ins Werk gesetzt sind.” This confirms my interpretation of svákṛtam énas and anyákṛtam énas in section 6.1.2. So tanūkṛ́t = tanúkṛtam = svákṛtam = ātmákṛtam = kṛtám énas, the evil produced by oneself (by sinning) and the opposite is anyákṛtam or ákṛtam énas, the evil of which one is oneself not the cause.44

MS 3, 16, 5 (= 4, 14, 7) has a parallel in the AV (namely in 4, 27, 1–7), where, however, áṁhasas is found instead of énasas. The refrain sá no muñcatv énasas occurs in a series of hymns in which various gods are invoked for help. There is no indication that sin plays a role. See also TS 4, 7, 15, 4–5, where Keith (1914, 389) translates énas with “evil.” The evil or distress may in some cases have been caused by committed sin, but it is not clear why in the parallels of the YV Saṁhitās the one time énas and the other áṁhas is the item from which one wants to be freed. In MS 3, 16, 5 áṁhas, ā́gas and énas occur side by side and there is no indication why the one god should free from áṁhas, the other from ā́gas and yet another from énas. If both énas and ā́gas would mean the own sin, then the persons to be freed should be notorious sinners in view of the very long enumeration of divine rescuers. See also TS 4, 7, 15, 5, where the All-gods should free from énas and this invoking is preceded by words which seem to be a specification of this énas: “That which now consumeth me, From deed of men or gods” (tr. Keith); cf. AV 4, 26, 7. Here at least énas should mean evil rather than sin.

MS 4, 14, 17 ánādhṛṣṭaṁ devákṛtaṁ yád énas has a parallel in AVP 2, 30, 5 (see section 8.1.2), where instead of ánādhṛṣṭam we find anādiṣṭam and instead of devákṛtam the reading anyakṛtam. Evidently devákṛtam énas is an evil which is not svákṛtam. However, in the next verse violence against i.a. father and mother is called an énas from which Agni and the Gārhapatya-fire should release. This does not indicate that devákṛtam … énas in 4, 14, 17 should be taken as “sin committed against the gods” instead of “evil caused by the gods.”

In the YV Saṁhitās in most cases énas still means “evil” or “the result of committed sin.” Sometimes it may also denote the committed sin, as is to be expected since ā́gas was disappearing in the later Vedic texts.

10 énas in the Brāhmaṇas

The term énas, which occurs only twice in the Upaniṣads (but only in quotations), is totally missing in several Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas, e.g. in all the Sāmavedic texts, with one occurrence, be it in a quotation, in the PB (1, 6, 10, see 9.1), and is mainly found in the Yajurvedic texts (often with parallels in older texts). Though enas did not disappear in post-Vedic texts, the Vedic term énas seems to have become archaic. It does not play any role in the discourse on ethics, but is restricted to the ritualistic sphere of purification from every kind of evil, whether produced by oneself or coming from outside. The ritualists concerned (especially the Yajamāna) should have an insurance against all kinds of oppression, impurity and evil which might overcome him. Therefore the ritualistic context mostly concerns the ritual bath (Avabhṛtha) taking place at the end of a ritual. Not all sacrificers are regular sinners.

AB 5, 21, 20 deals with liberation from enas. Keith (1920, 247) translates with “sin.” Preceding this statement we read that in the nine days of the Chandomas ritual “much is done that is forbidden” (Keith). However, vāraṇam may have a different meaning and not refer to something which is forbidden (in spite of the dictionaries of BR and MW). See e.g. ṢaḍvB 3, 1, 17 dealing with the going to the water for the expiatory bath (Avabhṛtha). In the context the suppressing of evil and the repulsing of the demons is treated. Bollée (1956, 69) correctly interprets vāraṇam on the one hand as “means of warding off” on the other as “obstacle.” The demons dwelling in the wilderness are obstacles as it were. They represent obstacles for the ritual. The Aticchandas metre of a verse chanted on the way to the Avabhṛtha is “a means of warding off (the demons), as it were” (tr. Bollée). Probably the prefix ati in the name Aticchandas (which in this case is also a special one, the Atyaṣṭi) refers to overcoming (ati) the obstacles in the form of the demons. Now in AB 5, 21, 20 we likewise find a reference to ati in the verse sa naḥ parṣad ati dviṣaḥ (“May he convey us beyond our foes …,” tr. Keith) recited on this occasion, which is explained as sarvasmād evaināṁs tad enasaḥ pramuñcati. This means that the dviṣas (“enemies”) which should be passed are the vāraṇam (“obstacle”) which should be overcome and the enas from which one wants to be freed. Evidently enas does not mean “sin” here, but should be taken as “evil.”

In the parallel treatment of this ritual ŚB 4, 4, 5, 5 explains the end of ṚV 1, 24, 8 (= i.a.VS 8, 23; TS 1, 4, 45, 1) utā́pavaktā́ hṛdayāvídhaś cid with tád enaṁ sárvasmād dhṛ́dyād énasaḥ pāpmánaḥ pramuñcati translated by Eggeling (1885) with “thus he frees him from every guilt and evil of the heart.” It is evident that neither in the original verse nor in its ritual application hṛdayāvídh has any relation with sin or guilt. It refers to pain in the heart and énas here means “sore in the heart” as also appears from the fact that pāpmán (“sore, evil”) functions as an explanatory apposition to énas.

Release from enas (here combined with pāpam) also plays a role in AB 7, 18, 13, where the telling of the Śunaḥśepa story frees (pramoc) the king from this enas (translated by Keith with “sin”). According to 7, 18, 15 na hāsminn alpaṁ canainaḥ pariśiṣyate. Indeed enas may denote sin here, though the nature of a possibly committed sin is unclear and “evil” or “distress, unhappiness” might also be meant. If Śunaḥśepa should function as the example for the king in the Rājasūya, then release from sin can hardly be assumed, since Śunaḥśepa had not committed any sin, but was released from evil or distress in the form of death.

In AB 5, 30 the offering of the Agnihotra twice a day is discussed. It should be done after sunrise and after sunset. The one who receives the oblation is Agni and he is regarded as the one guest who arrives at evening. Offering before sunset deprives this guest who arrives at evening from his food; offering before sunrise implies that the guest is still asleep. In 5, 30, 11 a Gāthā is quoted (see Horsch 1966, 76) which seems to refer to this situation. It reads anenasam enasā so ’bhiśastād enasvato vāpaharād enaḥ …, translated by Keith with “Let him heap blame on the blameless, Or take away blame from the blameworthy …” and by Horsch with “Möge er dem Schuldlosen Schuld vorwerfen oder die Schuld dem Schuldigen absprechen …” Perhaps the behaviour of the one who offers at the wrong time is compared with a man who refuses hospitality to a guest. The imperative abhiśastād and the conjunctive apaharād may be taken as concessive45 in the sense that such small faults do not play an important role. What is a really important sin is rejecting a single guest, which makes the possible host a thief like a thief of lotus fibres (see the end of the Gāthā). This means that enas as the object of abhiśas is not a committed sin, but a false accusation or an imprecation. Taking away enas from the enasvat is rather strange, but may refer to a transfer of demerit or sin from the one to the other.

TB 1, 5, 9, 5–6 comments on the verse ugráṁ váco ápāvadhiṁ svā́hā (TS 1, 2, 11, 2) used in the Upasadāhuti and explains the two types of speech that may threaten the sacrificer or his priest, the “harsh speech” and the “angry speech” (tr. Keith 1914, 30; other renderings may be possible). The ugrám (“word”?) is explained as hunger and thirst, the tveṣám as énas and vaírahatyam (“murder”). Thus, the text states, the gods have driven away a fourfold evil (pāpmán). Indeed hunger and thirst are evils overcoming man, not sins. Probably the murder is likewise a threat and in this case énas is something coming from outside, an evil, not a sin.46

TB 2, 6, 6, 1–4 deals with formulas recited at the Avabhṛtha. They are also found as parallels in ŚB 12, 9, 2, 2–7 and most of them are already found in the YV Saṁhitās. In some cases the AV provides parallels. For TB 2, 6, 6, 1 cf. 2, 4, 4, 9. In the ŚB parallel Eggeling (1900) translates énas with “sin,” but it is remarkable that in ŚB 12, 9, 2, 7 evil (pāpmán) and darkness (támas) are parallel concepts from which one wants to be freed, which may indicate that evil and distress (brought about by self-committed sin or by other causes) play a role.

Similar verses are found in TB 3, 7, 12, 1–5, mostly taken from MS 4, 14, 17, in 3, 7, 12, 5 with a parallel from AV 6, 113, 1 (see above in section 7.2.2) dealing with the transference of pollution on someone else. There is no earlier parallel for 3, 7, 12, 2–3 yád vācā́ yán mánasā bāhúbhyām ūrúbhyām aṣṭhīvádbhyām śiśnaír yád ánṛtaṁ cakṛmā́ vayám agnír mā tásmād énasaḥ (… pramuñcatu). Here the committed “sin” (rather strangely specified) is denoted by ánṛtam and its result by énas, which expresses some sort of pollution. Likewise without an earlier parallel is one of the following mantras: yán máyi mātā́ gárbhe satí énaś cakā́ra yát pitā́, agnír mā tásmād énasaḥ … (3, 7, 12, 3–4) in which the first énas (in the dependent clause) may be committed sin, but in this case it has been committed by the parents and its result has been inherited by the embryo, a strange form of inherited sin. The mantra yád énaś cakṛmā́ nū́tanaṁ yát purāṇám (3, 7, 12, 5) in this form is new and seems to refer to self-committed sins. However, the next verse átikrāmāmi durítam yád énas obviously does not denote énas as committed sin but as some sort of evil or misfortune (durítam), which in the following main clause is characterized as riprám. Of course this misfortune or impurity may have been caused by the person concerned himself on account of his sins.

ŚB 1, 2, 3, 3–4 deals with the transference of the evil consequences of the killing of Viśvarūpa by Indra on those who were present and knew it, Trita and his fellow Āptyas: úpaivémá éno gacchantu yé ’syá bádhyasyā́vediṣur, translated by Eggeling (1882, 48) with “Let those be guilty of the sin who knew about his going to be killed!” Instead of “be guilty of the sin” I prefer “fall into the evil caused by a sin (of someone else).” The transference of this evil (manifesting itself as an impurity) is expressed with the verb marj (to wipe off upon). This transference of evil or demerit is continued by the Āptyas who wipe the énas off upon human beings who sacrifice without giving Dakṣiṇās. Cf. AV 6, 113, 1–2, where ultimately the embryo-slayers become the receivers of the evil (énas) originally produced by Indra who killed Viśvarūpa. Indra is the “sinner” (actually the one who becomes defiled by killing an enemy), Trita is the scapegoat, who was only present but did not shed the blood, and the human beings are the real sinners, who cannot become more defiled than they were already.

ŚB 3, 6, 3, 11 comments on ṚV 1, 189, 1, a verse in which Agni is asked to keep someone from the path which makes mistakes and this path is specified as énas translated with “sin” by Eggeling (1885, 158). However, in the prose context it is said that Agni should repel the evil spirits and that in this way danger and injury could be avoided. It is obvious that énas does not refer to any sin of the possible victim but to evil or distress which might overcome him on his path. The same verse occurs in 4, 3, 4, 12 without this clear explanation.

ŚB 4, 1, 2, 4 tries to explain the background of the purification of the soma. God Soma had oppressed the divine Purohita Bṛhaspati, had reconciled him by restoring the property to him, but then still some énas had remained, because Bṛhaspati, representing the priesthood, had observed this fault of Soma consisting of the oppression of the priesthood. Evidently énas here denotes a committed sin as well as its evil consequence, a pollution from which one should become purified. The purification is performed by the priests who had not committed any sin themselves.

In ŚB 5, 1, 2, 18 the Adhvaryu and the Neṣṭṛ priest dissociate the Soma and the Surā in the Vājapeya with the formula “Disunited you are: disunite me from evil (= pāpmán, represented by Surā).” The conclusion is that no énas remains in him. This énas forms a parallel with pāpmán and may denote evil, but apparently sin (represented as an impurity) is meant here.

11 Conclusion

Our elaborate treatment of the two terms which often have onesidedly been interpreted as sin, shows that both have lost their position in the course of the Vedic period and afterwards. Especially ā́gas almost disappeared after the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā. The other term énas occurs more frequently, but mainly in mantras and formulas and is missing in the Upaniṣads and in several Brāhmaṇas. For a discussion on sin in these texts both terms hardly play a role, which means that they have been replaced by other terms, since the phenomenon of sin did not lose its interest. It is probable, however, that already in the earlier period especially énas often did not denote sin (i.e. committed sin) as such, but mainly referred to all kinds of evil which may but need not have been the result of committed sins.

The difference between the two terms is that ā́gas mainly denotes the committed sin and sometimes also its results (some form of evil), whereas énas originally meant evil caused by sin or by other influences and apparently took over the role of the disappearing other term by denoting sometimes committed sin.

In this connection the diverging meanings of the root kar (the verb, the participles and their use in compounds) is striking. Together with ā́gas the verb means “to commit” and with énas mainly “to produce.”

The committed ā́gas may produce énas and the person who has committed this sin is a kṛtā́gas, whereas the enasvín or the énasvat is somebody who bears the burden of the one or other sort of evil; he is ridden or cursed with this evil, but need not be a sinner. Sometimes it is not clear whether one has committed (kar) the sin or produced (kar) the evil himself or even bears no responsibility.

This unclearness of the term énas may have disqualified it for its use in the more or less ethical discussions on sin. The more ethical term ā́gas had already lost its role in the older Vedic literature. Both words do not play a role in the texts on merits and demerits and on the doctrine of karman.

*First published in Indo-Iranian Journal 49, 2006, pp. 225–271.
1The two terms ā́gas and énas have been treated together and unsuccessfully compared by Manessy (1961, 89–93).
2Gonda (1960, 39) mixes up all these different aspects of a term in his treatment of the word énas which according to him means “Sünde” as well as “Unglück”: “Das Vergehen an sich, selbst das unbewußte oder unbeabsichtigte, erzeugte die Sündenbefleckung … Dieser Sündenmakel wurde verbrannt, weggewischt … dabei war es gleichgültig ob ihm nach unserem Maßstabe ein moralisches Vergehen, ein Unglück, eine versäumte Observanz oder ein ritueller Fehler oder sogar ein von menschlichen Willen unabhängiger ungünstlicher Vorfall zugrunde lag.” I doubt whether the difference between committed sin and evil planned against somebody was completely misunderstood by the Vedic people. The results of both indeed are an evil in the form of a pollution.
3Gonda (1957a, 91) speaks about “the utter rarity of the ‘genitive instead of a dative’ in the Veda” and in this connection refers to Speijer (1896, 20) and Delbrück (1888, 162). However, as shown by Oertel in some publications, its Vedic use cannot be denied. See Gonda (1971, 116), with further references.
4Minard (1949, 540 b) criticizes this translation of Eggeling (1885) and follows BR (1855): “misslungen.” However, I am not convinced of the correctness of this rendering here. Indeed mostly vyṛ̀ddha refers to details of the sacrifice. It is not a moral disqualification, but states that something is unfit or wrong in its performance. However, sex seen by other people need not be unsuccessful as such, but is morally wrong. The sexual metaphor makes the opportunity to see this ritual mithunam result in an unsuccessful sacrifice, but the disqualification in this context is moral.
5See Bodewitz (1976, 137): “ŚB has a long esoteric rather than ritualistic, passage on this subject.”
6Bloomfield (1897) and Griffith (1895–1896) indeed use this translation for AV 12, 4, 50. In AV 13, 3, 1 Griffith renders tásya devásya kruddhásyaitád ā́go yá … with “This god is wroth offended by the sinner who …” The construction of ā́gas with the genitive devásya, however, is comparable with ā́gas with the genitive devā́nām in the ŚB (discussed above). The genitive has the function of a dative. In the eyes of someone a particular behaviour is an ā́gas, a sin. The relative sentence yá eváṁ vidvā́ṁsaṁ brāhmaṇáṁ jinā́ti represents the contents of the criticized ā́gas and this dependent clause should be taken with the preceding main clause. The correct translation then runs: “In the eyes of this enraged god this is a sin, namely if someone scathes a Brahmin who knows thus.” The dependent clause is introduced with the relative pronoun ya which should be taken as yadi kaścid. See Delbrück (1888, 562) and Speijer (1896, 85) on this construction.
7Rodhe (1946, 147) dealing with sin understood as a transgression observes that 7, 93, 7 “is knit to the kindling of the sacrificial fire, and when ā́gas appears in st. 7 it is natural to think of mistakes in that performance.” However, the hymn 7, 93 also deals with the competition of poets. The possible faults made by some poets may be “poetical sins” rather than ritualistic faults. Indeed, such “sins” do not have moral implications.
8Thieme (1969) correctly interprets yád as a relative pronoun, but takes sīm in 1, 179, 5 and in 5, 85, 7 as an anaphoric pronoun. In the first text place it would refer back to god Soma, who is also asked to forgive the ā́gas (committed against himself!!!), in the second to human victims of the committed ā́gas (see also Renou 1959, 70). Thieme completely overlooked the formulaic character of these phrases.
9In my treatment of énas we will see that cid has to be taken with the pf. pt. p. kṛtám and then refers to the fact that the one who suffers is responsible himself and has committed a sin. This implication is less prominent here.
10Whatever may be the exact meaning and etymology of mimaya, I doubt whether Oldenberg (1909) was right in translating this line with “Ich Einer habe viel Sünde vor euch beseitigt (gut gemacht),” since this does not make sense in a context in which the speaker asks not to be punished and definitely not in his son, because he (the father) and no one else had committed the sins.
11See also Rodhe (1946, 140) on this verse in which he translates ā́gas with “transgression.” According to him, however, the poet would not be conscious of any sin.
12In a note on 5, 85, 8 O’Flaherty (1981, 212) observes: “The bonds are both the offences themselves and the bonds with which Varuṇa punishes those who offend.” This note also applies to verse 7 in which ā́gas is the object of śrath. It is doubtful whether the unloosening of the result of sins exclusively refers to Varuṇa. The turn of phrase is found in various forms in contexts in which Varuṇa does not play a role. This concept of sin concerns the committed sin as well as its results.
13The noun avayā́na is often misinterpreted as expiation. See e.g. Rodhe (1946, 155). Indeed, this term may be connected with énas, but since énas mostly does not refer to a committed sin but to some evil which may or may not be the result of one’s own committed sin, removal rather than appeasement or apology is expressed by this term.
14Therefore I have some doubts about translations like “propitier” (Renou 1959, 70) and “appease” (Rodhe 1946, 140; Macdonell 1917, 138). Lommel translates 7, 86, 4 áva … iyām with “will ich … entkommen.” He is rightly criticized by Renou (1960, 21), who takes ave as ava-yā and observes that “le motif en ‘áva’ ” would be “distinctement varuṇien.” O’Flaherty (1981, 214) seems to interpret ava as ‘downward’ in 7, 86, 4 and translates “I may hasten to prostate myself.”
15See Bodewitz (2002b, 65, n. 226).
16See Bodewitz (1976), index s.v. “sacrifice.”
17See n. 3 and n. 6.
18On the incidental references to such “Aussetzung” of an uddhita see Sprockhoff (1979). Oldenberg (1912, 282–283) remarks on adán: “Zahnlos, denn atti jihváyā v. 2.” Cf. Sprockhoff (1979, 407): “Der Greis (jarī) gleicht einen zahnlosen Hunde, der einen Knochen nur noch beleckt.”
19Renou (1959, 68) assumes a construction which is different from Geldner’s (“(Triff) uns nicht … mit deinen Waffen, die bei deiner Suche nach dem Sündigen … (diesen) versehren”; cf. also O’Flaherty 1981, 218) and translates “tandis que tu cherches celui qui commet le péché!” For the interpretation of énas this does not make any difference.
20It should, however, be observed that 2, 28 does not only refer to self-committed sin and that ā́gas as well as énas play a role here. In 2, 28, 5 Varuṇa should unbind áṁhas, but also keep away fear. In 2, 28, 7 Varuṇa should not kill the speaker as he kills the énaḥ kṛṇvántam, but in the same verse he is asked to release him from mṛ́dh, a term referring to something coming from outside the speaker himself (whatever may be the exact meaning of mṛ́dh). In 2, 28, 9 the own (mátkṛtāni) ṛṇā́ as well as what has been committed or produced by someone else (anyákṛta) are mentioned. In 2, 28, 10 protection against enemies is invoked. So énaḥ kṛṇvántam (which does not directly refer to the speaker himself in 2, 28, 7) may perhaps denote an evil person who does harm. Only ā́gas in v. 5 and ṛṇā́ … mátkṛtāni in v. 9 explicitly denote the own sin and its consequences. We are not completely sure that énas is sin in the discussed verse.
21The term enasvín denoting a sinner occurs for the first time in AVP 7, 3, 6 and then turns up again in the ŚB. See Griffiths (2004, 279). In the AV place it is found together with compounds in which the root kar plays a role: duṣkṛtakṛt and kilbiṣakṛt. It is not clear why compounds like enasvín and énasvat are used in Vedic and post-Vedic texts, whereas enaskṛt (just like kṛtainas) is missing. In post-Vedic texts āgaskṛt occurs. Perhaps this may indicate that ā́gas is more associated with committed sin than énas, which in compounds like enasvín and énasvat denotes someone who is polluted by sin or evil in general.
22On the incurring of demerit through the agency of other people see Wezler (1997, 567–589), who, however, does not provide us with much material in this publication. In another article (1995, 101, n. 19) he observes: “Gleichwohl gibt es, worauf HALBFASS in der Diskussion hinwies, einen gemeinsamen Kern dieser Theorien [i.e. karma theories], der in der Grundüberzeugung besteht, dass nichts was man nicht selbst getan hat, im Sinne der Wirkung einen treffen könne (ákṛtābhyāgama).” This might indicate that the transfer of demerits was rejected by the classical karman doctrine, but it may have played a role in earlier times.
23ṚV 10, 37, 12 forms an exception. Here the gods are asked to transfer the removed énas (caused by offence committed against the gods, a devahéḷana) to one’s enemy. In the preceding hymn (10, 36, 9) people who wish to be ánāgas themselves ask the gods that the brahmadvíṣaḥ (the non-religious people) should bear the énas (apparently coming from them). For a possible transfer of ā́gas, whether planned or not, see 2, 29, 5, where a father who has committed many sins asks the gods that his son may not be punished and suffer from the evils (aghā́ni) resulting from these sins of the father. Probably the gods could transfer the results of sins on the children of the sinner. In 7, 86, 5 the gods are requested to remove the drugdhā́ni pítryā as well as those which one has committed oneself (“Erlass uns die väterlichen Sünden, erlass uns, was wir selbst getan,” tr. Geldner). Here transfer of drugdhá on children (intended by the father or made inherited by the gods) is implied. It is, however, uncertain whether drugdhá means “committed sin.” Remarkably the gods play a dominant role in this transfer of demerits.
24See Bodewitz (2006a; this vol. ch. 20).
25The active of dhā with énas is found (with the preverb ni) in 10, 37, 12, where the gods are asked to transfer énas, the result of devahéḷanam, on one’s enemy. See section 6.2.6.
26See Bodewitz (2006a; this vol. ch. 20).
27See Bodewitz (2006a; this vol. ch. 20).
28In 3, 7, 10 Agni is asked to forgive (sám … daśasya) even the kṛtám énas. The compound with sám and the meaning “to forgive,” however, are without parallels.
29For ava-yā and the noun avayā́na in connection with ā́gas see 4.3.2, where it is shown that the object of the verb ava-yā is a god and his wrath.
30See Oberlies (1998, 345, n. 53) on “Bitten an Indra.” See also Gonda (1989a, 144): “Utterances concerning sins or offences which the poet … says he has made, in order to escape from these transgressions and their consequences are in the Indra hymns very rare.”
31See n. 25.
32Cf. ṚV 7, 86, 5 (see n. 23) and TB 3, 7, 12, 2.
33See section 3.2 on ā́gas against Brahmins in the AV.
34See Bodewitz (2006a, this vol. ch. 20).
35For rūpa having this meaning see Bodewitz (1985, this vol. ch. 6). For apa in the beginning of compounds see Bodewitz (1974b, 5 ff.). Probably the compound áparūpam may be compared with apayaśas and similar compounds in which the pejorative apa disqualifies something positive. So áparūpam is dirtiness in contrast with beauty, nice appearance, clean colour.
36When the singular énas is used with the verb kar and the dependent clause is introduced with yád, one may take this yád either as a relative pronoun or as a conjunction. See Gonda (1965b, 425) who prefers the pronoun. The plural yāni definitely is a pronoun here, but it can hardly be translated as such, since enāṁsi is not the object of moc. So even the singular yád may elsewhere be translated with “if any.”
37Cf. AV 6, 116, 2, where mātúr yád éna iṣitám refers to énas sent by relatives. So there énas might be taken as evil rather than as sin.
38Cf. AV 6, 19, 3, where the verb sav with the verbal prefix apa has énas as its object.
39Caland (1910) incorrectly translates this with “des von Unwissendem und Wissendem begangenen (Frevels Wegopferung).”
40Cf. AV 6, 19, 3, where the verb sav with the verbal prefix apa has énas as its object.
41However, manuṣyainasá (occurring in AV 6, 113, 3) is generally interpreted as sin of man.
42Too often the verb kar has been taken as “to commit” instead of “to produce” or “to cause.” See e.g. the compound devahéḷanam in a construction with kar. Rodhe (1946, 136) observes that héḷas only means “wrath” and that devahéḷanam is “offense against the gods, committed by means of a sin.” Indeed, a human sin may make the gods angry, but this does not imply that the term héḷanam means “sin” or the verb kar “to commit.” See AV 6, 114, 1, where Griffith translates yád … devahéḷanam … cakṛmā́ vayám with “Whatever God-provoking wrong we have done,” Bloomfield (1897, 164) with “The god-angering (deed) … that we … have committed” and Whitney with “Whatever cause of the wrath of the gods we … have committed.” I would prefer: “If we have produced any enraging of the gods” or even (since héḷanam does not belong to the transitive or causative of the verb heḷ) “If we have ever brought about the anger of the gods.” ŚB 12, 9, 2, 2 explains devahéḷanam in its commentary on the verse as devákṛtam énas, which Eggeling translates with “sin committed against the gods.” However, the énas and the héḷanam of the gods are caused by man rather than committed by him, since the énas and the héḷanam are coming from the gods and directed against man.
43The opposition of village and wilderness corresponds to that of “in the assembly” and “in our organ of sense (i.e. probably in our mind).” The opposition is between “in public” and “in secret.” Some translators did not realize this. MS 1, 10, 2 and KS 9, 4 add yád ápsaś cakṛmā́ vayám to yád énaś cakṛmā́ vayām. The meaning of ápsas is uncertain. If MW is correct in interpreting this as “hidden fault,” then the same opposition may be found here.
44For tanúkṛtam énas cf. the construction kar + enas + tanūbhis found in AVP 6, 3, 13 (see section 8.1.1 where the possibility is mentioned that enas may be evil or defilement rather than committed sin). See also ṚV 7, 86, 5 for the same construction but now with drugdhā́ni (instead of énas) as object (see n. 23). Again the opposition is between self-committed or caused by one self and committed or caused by other people.
45See Hoffmann (1967, 93) on the concessive function of these moods.
46Sāyaṇa’s commentary apparently did not want to interpret énas as evil but as sin, since it explains the first two pāpmáns as an upapātakam and the second (énas and vaírahatyam) as a mahāpātakam, a minor and a capital sin. The murder of man is a mahāpātakam, the hunger produced by the killing of cattle would be an upapātakam. This interpretation is not convincing. Still Sāyaṇa seems to have realized that the two + two evils (pāpmáns) are coming from outside. The ugrám term (vácas) reflects the impression which is made on the mind of someone who is confronted with hunger and thirst (the indirect causes of death). Anyhow the two terms (the ugráṁ vácas and the tveṣáṁ vácas) seem to be euphemisms for future or (immediately) impending death, and énas is one of these evils rather than a term denoting sin.

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Vedic Cosmology and Ethics

Selected Studies


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