The majority of Ṛgvedic hymns were composed as the verbal portion of the elaborate ritual performances. This chapter treats the shared features of all Vedic rituals, particularly the three fires that define the ritual space, and the details of various rituals, particularly the most prominent one, the Soma Sacrifice, which provided the occasion for most by far of the Ṛgvedic hymns, including the entire IXth Maṇḍala, which consists of hymns to “Self-purifying Soma.” The chapter also considers what evidence we have for the details of Ṛgvedic ritual and discusses the likely changes between Ṛgvedic ritual and the later śrauta system of the middle Vedic texts, as well as the Indo-Iranian ritual system from which Ṛgvedic ritual developed.
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