The Ravenous Hyenas and the Wounded Sun

9780801477324: Paperback
Release Date: 7th April 2011

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 360

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Myth and Poetics

Cornell University Press

The Ravenous Hyenas and the Wounded Sun

Myth and Ritual in Ancient India

Jamison addresses the conditions that have limited our understanding of Vedic myth and ritual, such as the profusion and obscurity of the texts and the tendency on the part of scholars to approach mythology and ritual independently.
Paperback / £33.00

Vedic Sanskrit literature contains a wealth of material concerning the mythology and religious practices of India between 1500 and 500 B.C.E.—a crucial period in the formation of traditional Indian culture. Stephanie W. Jamison here addresses the conditions that have limited our understanding of Vedic myth and ritual, such as the profusion and obscurity of the texts and the tendency on the part of scholars to approach mythology and ritual independently. Tracing two key myths through a variety of texts, Jamison provides insight into the relationship between early Indic myth and ritual as well as offering a new methodology for their study.

After a brief survey of Vedic literature and religion, Jamison examines the recurrences of the myths "Indra fed the Yatis to the hyenas" and "Svarbhanu pierced the sun with darkness." Focusing on their verbal form and ritual setting, she essays a general interpretation of the myths and their ritual purpose. Her book sheds new light on some central figures in Vedic mythology and on the evolution of Vedic mythological narrative, and it points to parallels in other cultures as well. Indologists and other scholars and students of South Asian culture, Indo-Eurepeanists, folklorists, historians of religion, classicists, and comparatists will welcome this rich and suggestive introduction to the Vedic tradition.

Foreword by Gregory Nagy


A. "Vedic"

B. The Texts
i. The Vedas
ii. The Yajur Veda and the Brahmanas
iii. The Sutras

C. Vedic Ritual

D. Vedic Mythology

E. The Case Studies

1. Texts

2. Participants
A. The Yatis
i. Ritualists or Shamans?
ii. Death at the Ritual
iii. The Yatis' Killing: A Sin of Indra's?

B. The Salavrkeyas
i. Hyenas and Their Young
ii. Indra and the Mother Hyena

3. The Ritual in the Myth
A. Yatis' Ritual Flaws

B. The Yatis' Place on the Ritual Ground: The Uttaravedi
i. The Uttaravedi: A Dangerous Place
ii. Some Fierce Transformations
iii. Why Is the Uttaravedi Dangerous?

C. The Yatis' Ritual Successes
i. The Sautramani
ii. The Pasubandha
iii. The Varunapraghasa and the Kariri Isti

4. The Episode of the Survivors
A. Syumarasmi and the Horse
i. A Clever Escape and a Second Birth
ii. The Sniff-Kiss
iii. What the Horse Did

B. Indra as Father
Appendix: On Two Recent Treatments of the Yati Myth


5. The Texts and the Myth
A. The Texts

B. Overview of the Myth

6. The Remedies—Skin Diseases, Hair, and Fertility 146
A. Apala: A Parallel to Svarbhanu
i. Apala's Story
ii. Apala, Akupara, and Svarbhanu
iii. The Tortoise Akupara
iv. Apala as Ritualist
v. Apala's Objectives
vi. Indra, Pusan, and Marriage?

B. Ritual and Magic Reflections of the Myth
i. Skin Diseases and the Sun: Samala
ii. The Rite for Splendor
iii. A Charm against Skin Disease

7. Rescuing the Sun—Failed Birth and Rebirth
A. Atri and Company: The Rescuers of the Sun

B. The Rebirth and Failed Birth of the Sun
i. The Rebirth of the Sun
ii. Other Mythic Descriptions of Birth
iii. The Fourth Sheep

C. Some Other Failed Births of the Sun
i. Saving the Sun from Miscarriage
ii. Martanda/Vivasvant
iii. Agni and Surya in the Womb

8. Failed Birth and Rebirth of Atri
A. Atri and Miscarriage

B. The Atreyi
i. The Atreyi in Legal Texts
ii. Legal Reflections in the Brahmanas
iii. The Atreyi in Atri's Mythology

C. Atri as Symbol of Abortion in the Srauta Sutras

D. Atri's Second Birth
i. Atri's Kettle in the RV
ii. A Disguised Parallel in the JB
iii. Wombs and Their Substitutes

9. Atri's Qualifications and Means for Rescuing the Sun 243
A. The Rescue of the Sun: Why Atri?

B. Atri's Parentage

C. Atri's Means
i. The Ritual
ii. 'Mere' Reverence and the Fourth Formulation
iii. The Fourth (Part of) Speech
iv. Creative Imperfection
v. Pied Beauty

10. The Wounding of the Sun
A. Who Is Svarbhanu?

B. What Did Svarbhanu Do to the Sun?
i. The Piercing of the Sun
ii. The Maya of Svarbhanu
iii. Smoke in the Skin-Disease Charm?

C. The Svarbhanu Myth as Reflecting the Physical World
i. Catastrophic Events
ii. Cyclical Events

D. What Did the Sun Say? RV V. 40. 7

E. What Did the Sun Do Wrong?
i. Prajapati's Incest
ii. The Participants
iii. Verbal Parallels between the Myths
iv. Why Heal the Sun?

Glossary of Technical Terms in Vedic Ritual and Religion
A Note on Sanskrit Pronunciation
Index of Passages Cited
Index of Sanskrit Terms
General Index

"In The Ravenous Hyenas and the Wounded Sun, Stephanie Jamison rescues two Vedic myths from oblivion. In the process of this seemingly small task, she restores vigor to Vedic studies in particular and to the study of mythology in general."—Journal of Religion

"This fresh and insightful book engages the complexities of Vedic myth and ritual. It provides a valuable corrective to the trends in Vedic studies that have taken myth and ritual as independent, self-referential realms."—Alf Hiltebeitel, Department of Religion, The George Washington University