Priests of the Vedic religion are officiants of the yajna service. As persons trained for the ritual and proficient in its practice, they were called ṛtvij ("regularly-sacrificing"). As members of a social class, they were generically known as vipra "sage" or kavi "seer". Specialization of roles attended the elaboration and development of the ritual corpus over time. Eventually a full complement of sixteen ṛtvijas became the custom for major ceremonies. The sixteen consisted of four chief priests and their assistants.
1 Chief priests
2 Assistants 3 Philological comparisons 4 See also 5 Notes 6 External links
तवाग्ने होत्रं तव
। तव प्रशास्त्रं
चासि गृहपतिश्च नो दमे ॥२॥
Thine is the Herald's task and Cleanser's duly timed; Leader art thou,
and Kindler for the pious man. Thou art Director, thou the ministering
Priest: thou art the Brahman, Lord and Master in our home.
The above hymn enumerate the priests as the hotṛ, potṛ, neṣṭṛ, agnīdh, prashāstṛ (meaning the maitrāvaruna) and adhvaryu.
The hotṛ was the reciter of invocations and litanies. These could consist of single verses (ṛca), strophes (triples called tṛca or pairs called pragātha), or entire hymns (sukta), drawn from the ṛgveda. As each phase of the ritual required an invocation, the hotṛ had a leading or presiding role. The adhvaryu was in charge of the physical details of the sacrifice (in particular the adhvara, a term for the Somayajna). According to Monier-Williams, the adhvaryu "had to measure the ground, to build the altar, to prepare the sacrificial vessels, to fetch wood and water, to light the fire, to bring the animal and immolate it," among other duties. Each action was accompanied by supplicative or benedictive formulas (yajus), drawn from the yajurveda. Over time, the role of the adhvaryu grew in importance, and many verses of the ṛgveda were incorporated, either intact or adapted, into the texts of the yajurveda. The udgātṛ was a chanter of hymns set to melodies (sāman) drawn from the sāmaveda. This was a specialized role in the major soma sacrifices: a characteristic function of the udgātṛ was to sing hymns in praise of the invigorating properties of soma pavamāna, the freshly pressed juice of the soma plant. The brahman was the reciter of hymns from the atharvaveda who was largely silent and observes the procedures and uses Atharvaveda mantras to 'heal' it when mistakes have been made.
With the hotṛ:
the maitrāvaruna the acchāvāka the grāvastut (praising the Soma stones)
With the udgātṛ:
the prastotṛ (who chants the Prastâva) the pratihartṛ ("averter") the subrahmanya
With the adhvaryu:
the pratiprasthātṛ the neṣṭṛ the unnetṛ (who pours the Soma juice into the receptacles )
With the brahman:
the brāhmanācchamsin the agnīdh (priest who kindles the sacred fire) the potṛ ("purifier")
This last classification is incorrect, as the formal assistants of the brahman were actually assistants of the hotṛ and the adhvaryu.[clarification needed] Philological comparisons
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Comparison with the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, a distinct
religion with the same origins, shows the antiquity of terms for
priests such as *atharwan (Vedic atharvan; cognate to Avestan
āθrauuan / aθaurun) and *zhautar (Ved. hotar; Av. zaotar) "invoker,
sacrificer". While *zhautar is well understood, the original meaning
of *atharwan is unknown. The word atharvan appears in the Rig Veda
(e.g., in RV 6.16.13 where
Agnihotra Agnistoma Brahmin Namboothiri Śrāddha
The Turning-Point in