Guide to The Agnicayana Ritual in India, 1975-1976

Collection ID:
Gardner, Robert, 1925-2014
Staal, Frits
Narration in English.
Physical Description:
Film reels
color sound, 22,000 feet

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Full film record of the twelve-day Nambudiri Agnicayana ritual performed in Panjal, India, the world's oldest surviving ritual, a Vedic sacrifice to Agni, the god of fire. Filmed in Kerala, southwest India, this 12-day ritual was performed in 1975 for perhaps the last time. Footage documents the material and spatial preparations for the event and ritual rehersals for the ceremony which was staged as a way of reviving an important observance in Nambudirir Vedic tradition. Shots include: construction of ritual implements and materials by carpenters, potters, and brickmakers; surveying and preparation of the ground for the sacrificial enclosures and for the main enclosure (salsa) in which the ceremony is performed; gathering of soma vines; and the complex enactment of the Agnicayana ritual itself which features extended and repetitive sequences of Vedic textual recitation and chanting. Detailed documentation of ritual phases featuring consecrations and construction of altars, oblations of ghee and various symbolic sacrifices upon the altars by priests and assistants; the preparations of soma and the rite of soma drinking; and the five-day construction and consecration of the main altar (Agni) accompanied by prescribed recitations of Vedic texts and the chanting of mantras. Various interviews with Vedic scholars and local authorities attending the event. Ritual concludes with the ceremonial buring of the ritual compound. The edited film ALTAR OF FIRE was produced from this film project.
Collection contains supplementary materials, namely, associated texts and annotations (recorded narratives).
Legacy Keywords: Ceremony India ; Liturgies recitation of vedas ; Chanting mantras as part of liturgy ; Ritual oblations Vedic ; Sacrifice goats Vedic ritual ; Priests ritual Vedic ; Religious structures consecration of sala ; Garb ceremonial dhoti priests ; Tradition Vedic revival of ; Acolytes religious Vedic ; Kilns ceremonial pottery making of Vedic ritual ; Pottery ceremonial use of Vedic ritual ; Carpentry Vedic ritual ; Baths ritual purification Vedic ; Temples Vedic Hindi ; Bricks use of in ritual Vedic ; Horses use of in ritual Vedic ; Turbans ritual use of Vedic ; Plants ritual use of soma vines palasa leaves ; Incense ritual use of Vedic ; Firemaking ritual aspect of Vedic ; Prayer in Vedic liturgy ; Milk ritual use of Vedic ; Prostrations in ritual Vedic ; Language and culture
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.
CAMERAMAN: Burke, Kevin
PRIEST YAJAMANA: C.V. Neelakanthan Somayajipad
PRIEST: Cherumukku Vaidikan Shridharan Nambudiri; Erkkara Raman Nambudiri; Nellikat Neelakanthan Akkitirpad; Cherumukku Vaidkan Vasudevan Akkitirpad
HOTAR: Naramangalath Narayanan Nambudirirpad
MAITRAVARUNA: Cherumukku Vaidikan Shridharan Nambudiri
ACCHAVAKA: Tekku Cherumukku Parameshvaran Nambudiri
BRAHAMANACCHAMSIN: Tekkamparampattu Narayanan Nambudirirpad
AGNIDHRA: Kunnam Padmanabhan Nambudiri
UDGATAR: Muttathukath Itti Ravi Nambudiri
PRASTOTAR: Thottam Narayanan Nambudirirpad
PRATHIHARTAR: Nellikat Vasudevan Nambudiri
ADHVARYU: C.V. Krishnan Nambudiri
PRATIPRASTHATAR: Kavapra Marath Sankaranarayanan Nambudiri
NESTAR: Cherumukku Vaidikan Vallabhan Nambudiri
UNNETAR: Kavapra Marath Neelakanthan Nambudiri
SADASYA: Erkkara Raman Nambudiri

Cataloging supported by Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Received in 1976.
Processing Information
Titles are supplied by the archivist for untitled films.

Local Numbers
Local Numbers
HSFA 1976.2.1

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Preferred Citation
The Agnicayana Ritual in India, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution

More Information

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Kerala (India) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
South Asia Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agnicayana (Hindu rite) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound films Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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Human Studies Film Archives
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