By Swami Harshananda
Āgnīdhra literally means ‘one who kindles the fire’.
Liturgical works on sacrifices enumerate four chief priests:
Each of these priests are assisted by a maximum of three more. Āgnīdhra, also called āgnīdh, is an important priest who is the assistant of brahmā but has much to do with the adhvaryu also. As the very name indicates, he is the person who lights the sacrificial fire and tends it. It is also his responsibility to ensure its proper distribution among the various vedis (altars). Apart from this, his chief function is to respond to the āśravaṇa-call of the adhvaryu, with words such as ‘astu śrauṣaṭ.’ He is also given the duty of seeing that everything is in order before invoking the deities. As an insignia of this authority, he holds the wooden sword called sphya.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore