Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/171

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of course held the chief command. On important occasions, such as the eve of a battle, it was also his duty to offer sacrifice on behalf of his tribe, either performing the rites himself, or employing a priest to do so.

Every tribe doubtless possessed a family of singers who attended the king, praising his deeds as well as composing hymns to accompany the sacrifice in honour of the gods. Depending on the liberality of their patrons, these poets naturally did not neglect to lay stress on the efficacy of their invocations, and on the importance of rewarding them well for their services. The priest whom a king appointed to officiate for him was called a purohita or domestic chaplain. Vasishṭha occupied that position in the employ of King Sudās; and in one of his hymns (vii. 33) he does not fail to point out that the victory of the Tṛitsus was due to his prayers. The panegyrics on liberal patrons contain manifest exaggerations, partly, no doubt, intended to act as an incentive to other princes. Nevertheless, the gifts in gold, cows, horses, chariots, and garments bestowed by kings on their chief priests must often have been considerable, especially after important victories. Under the later Brahmanic hierarchy liberality to the priestly caste became a duty, while the amount of the sacrificial fee was fixed for each particular rite.

The employment of Purohitas by kings as their substitutes in the performance of sacrificial functions is to be regarded as the beginning and the oldest form of the priesthood in India. It became the starting-point of the historically unique hierarchical order in which the sacerdotal caste occupied the supreme position in society, and the State was completely merged in the Church. Such, indeed, was the ideal of the Catholic Church in the