Numbers, Names, Trails, and Tradition Reconsidering the Phrase “Thrice Seven” in the R̥gveda and Atharvaveda

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Jarrod Whitaker



This paper examines the meaning and significance of the numerical phrase tríḥ saptá and its compounded form triṣaptá in the R̥gveda and Atharvaveda in order to understand its use in the opening hymn of the Śaunakīya Saṃhitā (AVŚ.1.1.1– 4). It argues that by invoking Vācaspati and the “Thrice Seven” (triṣaptā́ḥ) the hymn’s composer makes a complex poetic and mythological statement about the cosmological importance of his ritual tradition, its founding fathers, and the powerful nature of ritual speech and knowledge, a message that the redactors of the Śaunakīya Saṃhitā wished to foreground by opening their text with this hymn.

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