first chapter of the Aitareya-âranyaka is a mere continuation of the Aitareya-brÂhmana, and gives the description of the Mahâvrata, the last day but one of the Gavâmayana, a sattra or sacrifice which is supposed to last a whole year. The duties which are to be performed by the Hotri priests are described in the Aitareya-âranyaka; not all, however, but those only which are peculiar to the Mahâvrata day. The general rules for the performance of the Mahâvrata are to be taken over from other sacrifices, such as the Visvagit, Katurvimsa, &c, which form the type (prakriti) of the Mahâvrata. Thus the two sastras or recitations, called âgya-praüga, are taken over from the Visvagit, the sastras of the Hotrakas from the Katurvimsa. The Mahâvrata is treated here as belonging to the Gavâmayana sattra, which is described in a different Sâkhâ, see Taittirîya Samhitâ VII, 5, 8, and partly in other Vedas. It is the day preceding the udayanîya, the last day of the sattra. It can be celebrated, however, by itself also, as an ekâha or ahîna sacrifice, and in the latter case it is the tenth day of the Ekadasarâtra (eleven nights sacrifice) called Pundarîka.
Sâyana does not hesitate to speak of the Aitareya-âranyaka as a part of the Brâhmana; and a still earlier authority, Sankara, by calling the Aitareya-upanishad by the name of Bahvrika-brâhmana-upanishad, seems to imply that both the Upanishad and the Âranyaka may be classed as Brâhmana.
The Aitareya-âranyaka appears at first sight a miscellaneous work, consisting of liturgical treatises in the first, fourth, and fifth Âranyakas, and of three Upanishads, in the second and third Âranyakas. This, however, is not the case. The first Âranyaka is purely liturgical, giving a description of the Mahâvrata, so far as it concerns the Hotri priest. It is written in the ordinary Brâhmana style. Then follows the first Upanishad, Âranyaka II, 1-3, showing
- Aitareyabrâhmane 'sti kândam âranyakâbhidham (introduction), a remark which he repeats in the fifth Âranyaka. He also speaks of the Âranyaka-vratarûpam brâhmanam; see p. cxiv, 1. 24.
- In the same manner the Kaushîtaki-upanishad is properly called Kaushîtaki-brâhmana-upanishad, though occurring in the Âranyaka; see Kaushîtaki-brâhmana-upanishad, ed. Cowell, p. 30