Kṛṣṇacandra Dāsa  – Vrṇdavan:  The term ṛtvik or ritvik is a Sanskrit term that has been widely misrepresented within ISKCON. Following are some facts regarding this term from both Śrīla Prabhupāda ’s explanation to general explanations from outside ISKCON.­

As I had personally not spent much of my time on understanding the term ‘ṛtvik’, I simply accepted the idea and thoughts of my friends and what little I had read about it. I only searched out the term when it began to be used by Tamal Kṛṣṇa Goswami and others when discussing the future of initiations in ISKCON. It was only a month or so ago that I decided to re read the July 9th Document without bias, or at least without the ideas I gained from my circle of friends etc. It was then that I noticed that what I was reading did not coincide with my understanding of the role of a ṛtvik.

For all these years I had thought one thing and here in the very document that I was reading I saw another… I wrote my previous paper “The Rtvik Representatives of the Ācārya” as my response to my stupidity, which I believe makes more logical sense to my understanding of this issue. I also realized the power of suggestion in my understanding of any issue and again vowed to read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings much more closely and without bias…  After all I am only a jīva baddha…

The other misconception is to term the July 9th document a ‘letter’ rather than an official document. This was an official mandate issued by Śrīla Prabhupāda to be incorporated into ISKCON’s management system and not a simple letter.

It is not so much the term ṛtvik that is the issue, it is the terms of its use in the initiation process that Śrīla Prabhupāda ordered for his society in his absence that is the issue. Śrīla Prabhupāda was, as we know, no fool nor was he ignorant of Vedānta. He knows what a ṛtvik is better than we do.

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the term as “In this connection, four classes of priests, known as ṛtvik, are required. They are mentioned as hotā, adhvaryu, brahmā and udgātā.”

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.3.30

tvam sapta-tantūn vitanoṣi tanvā

trayyā catur-hotraka-vidyayā ca

tvam eka ātmātmavatām anādir

ananta-pāraḥ kavir antarātmā


tvam — you; sapta-tantūn — the seven kinds of Vedic ritualistic ceremonies, beginning from the agniṣṭoma-yajña; vitanoṣi — spread; tanvā — by your body; trayyā — the three Vedas; catuḥ-hotraka — of the four kinds of Vedic priests, known as hotā, adhvaryu, brahmā and udgātā; vidyayā — by the necessary knowledge; ca — also; tvam — you; ekah– one; ātmā — the Supersoul; ātma-vatām — of all living entities; anādiḥ — without beginning; ananta-pāraḥ — without end; kaviḥ — the supreme inspirer; antaḥ-ātmā — the Supersoul within the core of the heart.


My dear lord, by your form as the Vedas personified and through knowledge relating to the activities of all the yajñic brāhmaṇas, you spread the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies of the seven kinds of sacrifices, headed by agniṣṭoma. Indeed, you inspire the yajñic brāhmaṇas to perform the rituals mentioned in the three Vedas. Being the Supreme Soul, the Supersoul of all living entities, you are beginningless, endless and omniscient, beyond the limits of time and space.


The Vedic ritualistic ceremonies, the knowledge thereof, and the person who agrees to perform them are inspired by the Supreme Soul. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā, mattahsmrtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca: [Bg. 15.15] from the Lord come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. The Supersoul is situated in everyone’s heart (sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ, īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ‘rjuna tiṣṭhati [Bg. 18.61]), and when one is advanced in Vedic knowledge, the Supersoul gives him directions. Acting as Supersoul, the Lord gives inspiration to a suitable person to perform the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. In this connection, four classes of priests, known as ṛtvik, are required. They are mentioned as hotā, adhvaryu, brahmā and udgātā.

A ṛtvik is a priest or Brahmin who conducts ceremonies… Here are some more interpretations of the term ṛtvik to satisfy the most doubtful.

Spoken Sanskrit Dictionary

Ṛtvik                      m.           priest

Ṛtviktva                n.            state of being a Rtvij or priest

Ṛtvikpatha          m.           path of the priest on the sacrificial ground

Ṛtvikphala           n.            reward of a priest


Dictionary of Spiritual Terms

ṛtvik    (ṛtvik)

(Language:  Sanskrit)

Alternate Spellings:

Short Description:            Priest, especially one associated with sacrifices.



Source: Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by M. Monier William

Description:  rtv-ik ( in comp. for rtvij below )

• -tva n. the state of being a Ṛtvij or priest.

• -patha m. the path of the priest on the sacrificial ground.

• -phala n. the reward of a priest Jaim.


Modified for ease of reading from: Facts.org

ṛtvik (rtvij)

The collective term for the priests who perform the Vedic srauta sacrifices. They are usually divided into four groups: advaryus, brahmans (masc. (1)), hotrs, and udgatrs.


Veda, Yajur Veda, Ṛg Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, Brāhmaṇas, Srautasutras, Aranyakas, Upaniṣads veda ritual vedic priests fires practice action yajamāna

In Vedic or Brahmanical religion, an adjective applied to a person, practice, or text ‘related or adhering to the ritual actions enjoined in śruti’ (i.e. the Veda). It therefore refers to the expanded and extended public ritualism of those who choose to perform the śrauta sacrifices (srauta-yajñas), as opposed to the limited, single fire (ekagni) ritualism of the domestic (gṛhya) sacrificer.

The minimum qualification for a śrauta sacrificer (known as the yajamāna—‘the patron of the sacrifice’) is birth into one of the three higher varṇas, to have received upanayana, to be married (the yajamāna and his wife act as a ritual unit), and to have set up the grhyagni (‘domestic fire’).

From the latter, three (or in some Vedic schools, five) sacred fires are installed: the garhapatyagni, the ahavaniya, and the dakṣiṇāgni (the fourth and fifth being the sabhya and the avasathya).

Sacrifices are performed in an enclosure set up for the duration, composed of the three (or five) fires, and a vedi, or altar. The basic components of the sacrifice are Vedic mantras enjoining the action, the action itself (an offering to a deity or the pitṛs, made into a fire), and the fees (dakṣiṇa) paid to the officiating priests.

Once the sacred fires have been installed, the yajamāna has an obligation to carry out a particular sequence of rites for the rest of his life (unless he becomes a samnyasin, or infirm), each rite presupposing that preceding it.

The sequence is as follows: the agnihotra, the darsapurnamasa, the cāturmāsya, the pasubandha, the agniṣṭoma. Notable optional śrauta rites include the agnicayana, and, for kings, the rājasūya and the aśvamedha.

All the larger śrauta rituals (i.e.those succeeding the agnihotra) require the collaboration of four groups of hereditary brahmin priests (one representing each Veda):

  1. The adhvaryu priests (Yajur Veda)
  2. The hotrs / hotar – (Rg Veda) The name of the chief priest at the Vedic srauta sacrifice; his main responsibility is to recite the appropriate verses (mantras) from the Rg Veda. The term is also used generically to refer to any officiating priest who offers an oblation (homa).
  3. The udgatrs (Sama Veda) A member of one of the four groups of priests responsible for performing the Vedic srauta ritual. The udgatr is the priest of the Sama Veda, responsible for the complex melodic singing of the samans, mostly during the soma sacrifice, a kind of chanting referred to as udgitha.
  4. The brahmans (masc.) (Atharva Veda), the last being a somewhat later addition.

The practice and theology of srauta ritual were explicated at length in the Brahmanas, which provided the core material for Mimamsaka analysis. (The Srautasutras are simply concerned with the detailed rules for correct performance.) Srauta ritual’s paradigmatic significance is therefore immense, but its actual practice must have always been limited, given the expense and time involved.

Even in the Brahmanas themselves, condensed or internalized forms of ritual are being advocated, a process carried further still in the Aranyakas and Upanisads. Nevertheless, some brahmins, notably the Nambudiris of Kerala, appear to have maintained the tradition for 2 000 years or more. See also yajña.


For those who are stuck on the term rittick, which is more than likely a typo, that was written in the July 9th Document [rittik – representative of the acarya] here is a rather comical meaning of this term from:

Urban Dictionary:

1. rittik – Extremely sexy man that refuses to wear pants.

This is a modern term and one that Śrīla Prabhupāda would not have known or inferred to unless of course he had the last joke…

I have no idea why the term ṛtvik or ritvik was later used by Tamal Krsna Goswami and others to describe the title and function the way they did, in the various conversations that they had about the future of the initiation process within ISKCON, but somehow or another this term got mixed up and confused.

The term as Śrīla Prabhupāda has given in his books is for a priest who performs ceremonies for the various Vedas and most certainly has never been used, as far as I have researched, for someone who officiates on behalf of another. I am sure that this can happen in the performance of any Vedic ceremony or rite but usually: “Acting as Supersoul, the Lord gives inspiration to a suitable person to perform the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. In this connection, four classes of priests, known as ṛtvik, are required.”

However it is more likely that the original 11 ṛtvik representatives of the Acharya intentionally misconstrued the meaning to be that they were to conduct the ceremony and give initiation to a candidate on behalf of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Hansadutta in this expose revealed the heart of the matter.

I distinctly remember when I received the July 9, 1977, letter in Sri Lanka that it was clear to me that this letter was Srila Prabhupada’s arrangement for initiations for the future. I also remember feeling some disappointment with the obvious conditional authority that the “Ṛtvik Representative of the Acarya” designation implied, because I actually had a great desire to be a Guru like Śrīla Prabhupāda, and I think many of the leaders did have similar desires. Still, I understood it was a very responsible and authoritative appointment. [ Hansadutta Dasa ]

The “obvious conditional authority that the ‘Ṛtvik representative of the Acarya’ designation implied,” was very clearly defined in the July 9th Document, as is discussed here. Hansadutta was disappointed that the role delineated in the July 9th document meant that a ‘representative of the acharya’ was not what he wanted it to be, which was, in his own words, “a guru like Śrīla Prabhupāda.”

Topanga Canyon Pyramid House Talks – 1980

Tamal Krsna Goswami: Actually, Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He didn’t appoint eleven gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus. Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the last three years (28 now and now 31) because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus.

The July 9th document was an official mandate that made the 11 senior GBC men into representatives of the Acharya, His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Śrīla Prabhupāda, whose role, function and powers were clearly defined therein.

Of course they do not wish to be seen as being ambitious, so they explain away their ‘post Samadhi’ actions as being a ‘mistake’ or that they interpreted it in this way. But wait a second, these were the devotees who should have known better. They had the closest association with Śrīla Prabhupāda, they were GBC… They knew better. They knew exactly what they were doing, like they have known all along.

But they wanted what Śrīla Prabhupāda had. They wanted disciples and to be big big gurus even if they were not qualified – which proved to be more than obvious as the years rolled on. If there were any qualified devotees in the physical presence of His Divine Grace then he would have ‘appointed’ them as his successors but he did not he in fact gave his instructions on his initiation system found in the Initiation System given on July 9th 1977.

How many devotees left ISKCON after they took over with their heretical interpretation or mistake or whatever they would like us to believe? Thousands! They abused, forced and tortured thousands of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s dear disciples because of their greed to be gurus.

They wanted to be gurus so badly that after Śrīla Prabhupāda left, they used their positional power as GBC’s and their ‘interpreted’ meaning of the July 9th document and the various conversations that were left about the initiation issue; and forcefully morphed their title and role into diksa gurus just like Śrīla Prabhupāda.

They began the propaganda program that they were appointed as gurus by Śrīla Prabhupāda and that they were pure devotees and therefore should be worshipped as such by everyone.

The infamous 11 wanted us to believe that the July 9th document gave them the authority to be gurus, even if it was a ṛtvik guru, but alas and forsooth I believe Śrīla Prabhupāda fooled them all in the end…

Now that they were at the helm of ISKCON or actually FISKCON they systematically used the interpretive method of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions ever since. Instead of taking the direct meaning as Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches us to use, they use the interpretative method.

And for the better part, those of us who have refused to give up on ISKCON, believed in the idea that there was such a thing as a rtvik guru… The rtvik guru myth began as an opposition to the rubberstamped guru fraud. The July 9th document puts an end to the idea that the ṛtvik representatives of the acharya were rtvik gurus or any such guru.

A ṛtvik is a priest who conducts Vedic ceremonies. The photo in this article shows a ṛtvik priest conducting a fire sacrifice in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s physical presence which does not exclude his spiritual presence after he entered into samadhi just as it does not exclude the Lord / guru parampara etc being present.

As I have said here

“So we can all stop dreaming of being a diska guru or a ṛtvik guru and allow the pure devotee, the suddha bhakta, the mahatma, the pandita, the devotee bhagavata, the seventh Goswami, the jagat guru and ISKCON’s diksa guru, our parama guru His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Śrīla Prabhupāda be who he is – the divine representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Kṛṣṇa.

We on the other hand “represent” Śrīla Prabhupāda in the role of śikṣā guru.”

All Glories to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Śrīla Prabhupāda!