8. Tree-Hugger: The Sāmavedic Rite of Audumbarī
Finnian M.M. Gerety [+]
Harvard University, USA
Finnian Gerety analyses the early use of the udumbara tree (Ficus racemosa L.) and its milky, sap-filled wood as a ritual object as well as offering. One rite centered on the udumbara that has received scant attention is the erection of the post of udumbara (audumbaryutthāpana) as described in the Sāmaveda. As his first act in the Soma sacrifice, the udgātar (lead singer) of the Sāmaveda raises the audumbarī, addresses it with mantras and offerings, wraps it with cloth and embraces it. Gerety analyses this rite of tree hugging with special reference to Jaiminīya texts. By advancing the audumbarī rite as the inauguration of the udgātar’s office, the SV texts present an arboreal embodiment of the musical qualities they most prize: swelling,sweetness, nourishment, and vigor. When the singer hugs the trunk, he actualizes this potency in his own performance.