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Akuli And Kilata – Two Asura Priests – Story Of Yajna

Akuli and Kilata were the priests of the Asuras and they are mentioned in the Satapatha Brahmana. (kilatakuliti hasura brahma vastuha – Satapatha Brahmana 1/1/4/14). Their vile role in persuading Manu, the first progenitor of mankind after the pralaya (deluge), to agree to let them perform an animal sacrifice is described in Satapatha Brahmana Kanda 1.

Manu had been saved by the great fish that dragged his boat to the Himalaya mountains in the North. When the waters recede, he performed worship and pakayajna (food sacrifice), after which he met a woman who proved helpful in performing yajna and increasing progeny (Satapatha Brahmana 1/8/1/1-10).

According to a legend in the Brahmana, a bull appeared. Vak (sound) entered that ox and when it breathed, roared and bellowed, the asuras and rakshasas were destroyed. Then to save them, their priests Akuli and kilata approached Manu and persuaded him to let them perform a sacrificial ritual for him and in order to do that they killed the ox. Vak then entered Manu’s wife, but the asura priests again managed to kill her. Vak then entered the yajna (fire-ritual) and its utensils from which the asura priests could not drag it out (Satapatha Brahmana (1/14/14-17). The tradition of yajnas continued unhindered.

The Hindi poet Jaya Shankara Prasad’s Kamayani is based on the above story of Manu and Shraddha (Kamayani). In the poem, Akuli and Kilata were eager to get Manu’s bull sacrificed because they wanted its flesh. But that episode brought an unfortunate discord in the harmonious marital life of Manu with Shraddha who had brought up the animal with love and care (Kamayani chapter 8, Karma). Thus Kamayani incorporates tender human feelings in the story. In the introduction (amukha) of Kamayani, Prasada refers to the story given in Satapatha Brahmana.

The story illustrates the contradiction between human culture and demoniac conduct and the consequences of the misinterpretation and perversion of Vedic rites.

  • The Satapatha Brahmana, according to the text of the Madhyandina School (2008) edited and translated by Julius Eggeling – Oxford University Press.
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume I – page 159 – 160 – IHRF