By Swami Harshananda
Abhisava literally means ‘to press out’.
This is a technical term used in Vedic liturgy to indicate the extracting of soma juice from soma stalks, by pressing them. There are two kinds of pressing:
- Kṣullakābhiṣava - the little pressing
- Mahābhiṣava - the great pressing
In the kṣullakābhiṣava, the Adhvaryu (one of the principal priests who does most of the ritual acts and recites the mantras from the Yajurveda) places a few soma stalks on one of the lower grinding stones (called upara), pours consecrated water (called nigrābhya) and beats the stalks in three turns consisting respectively of 8, 11 and 12 single beatings. The juice extracted is collected in a cup.
In the mahābhisava, four priests sit around the hide that hold the pressing stones (called adhiṣavaṇacarman) and beat the stalks in three turns after sprinkling them with consecrated water. They use crushing stones (called grāvan) for the operation. The whole act is a ceremonial ritual, forming part of Soma yagna.
Abhisava is also the technical name given to the ceremonial bath taken before religious rites, especially yajna-s.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore