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Aspects of Speech In Vedic Ritual (Rare Book)

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From The Jacket
The Indian mantra has evoked great curiosity and his invited studies on it from many scholars. The mantra as such though efficacious by itself, is important more for the principle of Highest Speech, underlying it.

The present book deals with the concept of Speech and its various aspects as seen in the Vedic ritual. Many ideas occurring in the Vedic ritual, get correlated when once the various aspects of Speech are taken into accounts. These aspects of Speech include not only the rc-s, Yayus-es, saman-s, stotra-s and sastra-s but also metres, silpa-s, mystic utterance such as the word Svaha, Vasat, Hin, Om, the three Vyahrti-s (Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Svah), Sloka-s and gatha-s, as well as singing and playing on instruments, which are the inarticulate forms of Speech, as well as siging and playing on instruments, which are the inarticulate forms of Speech.

With her thousand-fold ‘progeny’ Speech plays a major role in the Vedic ritual. The book takes note of this manifold ‘progeny’ of Speech and the belief connected with it.

Dr. (Mrs.) Sindhu S. Dange is R.G. Bhandarkar Professor of Sanskrit and Head, Department of Sanskrit, University of Bombay, where she teaches Veda and Sanskrit Grammar. Well known in Indian for her contribution in the field of Sanskrit, she is particularly interested in Vedic Ritual and Hindu customs and beliefs. Her books include–

Critiques on Sanskrit Dramas (co-author Dr. S.A. Dange); The Bhagavata Purana – A Mytho-social Study; Hindu Dumestic Rituals – A Critical Glance; Puranic Etymologies and Flexible Forms; and three books in Marathi – Bharatiya Sahityaca Itihasa (Part I); Bauddha Dharma ani Tattvajnana and Jain Dharma ani Tattvajnana. She has conducted various National Seminars at the Bombay University; the Proceeding of three have been published under her Editorship: (1) Myths of Creation; (2) Sacrifice; in India: Concept and Evolution; and (3) Ultimate in Ancient Indian Thought and Discipline.

Mantra (or, prayer) has drawn the attention of a number of scholars, it being the indispensable factor of ritual and worship, not among the Hindus but also other in time and regions. There is, however, something beyond the mantra, of which the mantra is the expressed form. This something which is beyond is the Highest Speech, the various aspects of which in the Vedic ritual tradition the present study has in view. The works (including translations) of scholars writing on Vedic ritual were of great help.

My thanks are Miss Harshada Lavana and Miss Alka Pimdi (the then Research Assistants of the Dept.) for the help they rendered and Mrs. Vidya Joshi, lecturer, J.J. School of Arts, Bombay, for the cover-picture and the line-drawing of the same.

I thank Shri Vikas Arya who has brought out the present study in the form of a book in a neat way and within a short time.

I hope this study will help correlate many unconnected ideas in the Vedic ritual, once the concept of the Highest Speech and its aspects are taken into account.

In the worship of any kind mantra (chant) plays an important part. This is seen all the more patent in the Vedic ritual tradition. A mantra could be in the from of a rc. (which is in the metrical form) or yahus (prose-formula), or simply in the form of uttering some stray words, which may not constitute a sentence. Sometimes a mantra could be some harsh sounds, such as hau, hai, I, u, hum, to form the stobha-s, as is seen in the Samavedic tradition. On some occasions mantra, or a gatha or a sloka (the latter two servong as mantra) is seen to be accompanied with instrumental music. But, in all these modes of mantra, sound (dhvani) of either form-articulate or inarticulate – is thought to be of utmost importance; for, in ritual, it stands as a form of the Highest Speech, which is conceived as far above these modes of expression. Back Guy L. taking a not major textual sources of the Hindus regarding the sacred sound, maintains that Hinduism is essentially a sonic theology.

The idea that there is the eternal Highest form of Speech, beyond the articulate, spoken by the humans, can be traced back to a verse from the Asyavammiya hymn from the Rgveda (I.164.45), which mentions the four divisions of Speech; it says, that the brahmana-s (the wise there is no reference to caste here) who are sagacious known them. Three (forms of Spech) deposited in a secret place do not move, i.e. do not become patent (Sayana, na cestante, na prakasante); of Speech, men speak only fourth division. According to Agrawala, V.S., the verse in question inculcates the full-fledged doctrine of Vak in its twofold aspect, viz. Para Vak and Apara Vak, Amrta Vak and Martya Vak, Indrani Vak, The trascendant Speech existing in Parama Vyoma (the conceptual Highest Place) and the immanent Speech manifesting on the plane of Master.

The later grammatical tradition which evolved and developed the doctrine of sphota, clearly names the Speech beyond as Para Vak. The Para Vak stays in the human body at the mula-cokra (lower end of the spinal cord). The same tradition elaborates the further stages of Vac, viz., Pasyanti as situated at the navel. Madhyama which stays in the heart and Vaikhari which escapes the glottal region to come out of the mouth. This is the aspect of Speech produced by the vibrations of the inner breath and getting expressed in articulate sound.

The Hindu grammatical tradition evolved the concept of sphota which is the name given by it to the residual impression of the sound even when it is uttered and vanished; it is this impression that ultimately helps cognize the meaning of a group of such sound expressed in a set order fixed in a particular language. This is possible because the impression created by each of the letters, and words that gets thus formed, remains to form a coherent combination that enters the meaning side of language. Hence it is, that, though the uttered sounds and words are non-eternal, the sphota of each of them, and of all of them together, is eternal. Nagesa, the author of the Paramalaghumanjusa, explains that the sound made by a drum-without any support and meaningless. The sound made by the Madhyama aspect of Speech is more subtle; it is this sound that suggests the sphota, though inaudible, it is this inaudible sound, prior to its being thrown out of the glottal apparatus, that has the status of sabha-brahman, which is eternal. The grammatical tradition tried to find out the eternal that is beyond the transitory and the non-eternal world. This is common with the traditional Hindu sastra-s from Dharmasastra to Dramaturgy and philosophy to Poetics. At the beginning of his Vakyapadiya Bhartrahari says that the word-principle, the aksara (syllable) is the beginningless and endless immutable (a-ksara) Brahman, from which starts the process of creation of the world. This statement explains the principle of sphota, which is also eternal. On this concept of sphota is also based the theory of Dhvani in the discipline of Sanskrit Poetics, though Bhamaha, the rhetorician seems to be totally against the concept and theory of sphota, as far as Poetics is concerned. Apart from the question of the acceptability or non-acceptibility of sphota, it has to be accepted that the sphota theory, once again, brought to the fore-front the point that there was something beyond the mere uttered sound.

Actually, the concept behind sphota goes back to Yaska (Nirukta I.1), who recorded the opinion of Audumbarayana, that speech is permanent in the organ (either mouth or the ear) associated with speech. In other words, according to this opinion, speech is permanent only as long as it spoken and subsequently heard. Yaska objects to this opinion. He believes that speech is eternal. He argues, that in the event of accepting he opinion of Audumbarayana, the fourfold accepted division of words would not stand, nor could the mutual relationship of words uttered be valid, since the uttered word would vanish before the next is uttered.

The conviction of the eternity of word was a vital point for the ancient system. Take the Purvamimamsa discipline, which deals with the science of sacrifice. In it the mantra occupies the highest importance. In the event of the words being non-eternal, the letters and words in the mantra would be non-existent till the last word in it is uttered. This would make the whole mantra futile, and the very basis of sacrifice would be dashed; because, both, mantra and ritual were equally important for the successful completion of the sacrifice. That is why, this system values word as eternal.

With what has been said above is related the issue whether mantra-s have meaning, or not. The Nirukta records a controversy between Yaska and Kautsa represents the prima facie that the mantra-s have no meaning while Taska assiduously argues and proves that they, indeed have meaning. This substantiates the point that the articulate sound of a mantra is important not only for its own sake, but for something beyond it, which has higher importance and deeper significance.

Urubshurow Victoria describes Indian mantra as ‘trans-formative speech act’. Austin, J.L. while discussing the nature of mantric utterances, calls the mantra-s performatives’; for, such utterances effect a doing of something, rather than a saying of something. The important point to be noted in the case of these various views is, that mantra employed in the Vedic ritual signifies something beyond its mere articulate (or, inarticulate if instrumental music is taken into consideration) form and that it is the Highest Speech (Para Vak) that is indicated thought to be necessary to give psycho-vocal support to the physical ritual. Speech in its, aspect of a mantra is a necessary complementation to ritual. The Ait. Br. Often states that uttering a rc. Or yajus gives perfect form to the sacrifice. These two are only two aspects of the Highest Speech, which has a thousand-fold progeny in the form of mentres, prose formulas, saman-s and so on, and which plays an indispensable role in ritual. As the holy utterance, Vac, in the eyes of her cult, was the final apotheosis of the power of spells charms and incantations. In the Nighantu (5.5) Vac is enumerated among the deities of the atmosphere; it is the thunder, or the madhyamika vac-‘the Voice of the mid-region’ in the terminology of the commentators-which may have been the starting point for the personification. The seer of the Asyavamiya hymn (RV I.164), Dirghatamas, gives a clear indication of this personification, when he says, that Vac, whom he names Gauri (cow), lowed fashioning the tumultuous waters. Gauri is the mid-region cow-Speech that ‘thunders’ giving rise to a multitude of aksara-s. It will be interesting to known that, in the context of the Subrahmanya litany (nigada) Indra is zoomorphed as gaura avaskadin (‘the bull that jumps’). Oblivious of this image of the cow, Sayana understands gauri simply as ‘lowing mid-region speech’ (garanasila madhamika Vak). He futher explains that she is the speech endowed with the Brahman in the form of word (garanasila sabdabrasophical point of view, sound from the mid-region (i.e. thunder)-and, that way, any sound-is to be tracted to the Highest Speech, which forms the concept of the sabha-brahman, as stated by Bhartrhari in later times. However, it can be said that Sayana’s interpretation, based on this philosophical concept has missed the cow-image, which is equally important. Speech suggested itself to the Vedic Aryans primarily in the thunder and its extension in their day-to day life came to be associated with the sound of two important domesticated animals. They were the cow and the horse. As Ghurye has pointed out, like many other ancient people, the Vedic Aryans indicated their socio-mythological attitude as being twofold: the bull-complex and the horse-complex.

The Rgvedic people were fully aware of the two aspects of Speech. Dorghatamas says, that it is the aksara (syllable) of the rc on which the gods in the highest heaven have their seats. He asks, “What will he, who does not known this, accomplish (only) with the rc?” (RV I.164.39). the aksara (syllable; or from another angle, the a-ksara, ‘immutable’) is the highest aspect of Speech. Also, there is the other aspect of Speech, which concerns the actual syllables, or words, in a rc. It is said at another place in RV (X.72.2) that, when wise men create Speech by their minds as they cleanse parched barley grains with a winnowing basket, the associates (of Speech), verily, comprehend friendships (with Speech). In their speech does reside blessed glory. In this verse both aspects of Speech are mentioned. One is the highest aspects which gives inspirant to the seers to compose hymn; the other is that of suitable words and expressions which go to formulate the hymns. The first goes with the dhara aspect of the seer’s acumen; the second concerns his skill of being a karu (artisan; ‘to make’). The Rgveda speaks laudably of a person who has drunk deep at the friendship with Vac; because him none defeats in a learned assembly (X.71.5ab). When the Sat.Br. (IV.6.7.3.) says, that the progeny of Speech is thousand-fold, the expression apparently refers to the rc-s saman-s and yajus-es. However it can be taken to apply to all aspects of Speech occurring in the Vedic ritual tradition. They are statra-s gathas, sloka-s mystic utterances, such as svaha, Om, Hin, Vasat and the like, including the three Vyahrti-s. One is surprised to see that, in the optional and occasional sacrifices, called site-s, the oblation is enjoined to be offered with the, apparently, meaningless sound kikkita. This kikkita sound is said to win over and control the domestic animals; for, at this is said to win over and control the domestic animals; for, at this sound the domestic animals are believed to stay in the master’s residence, while the wild ones run aways (Tait.Sam.III.4.3.5.).

Together with these articulate aspects of Speech, instrumental music, which can be included in the inarticulate aspect of Speech, is also enjoined in the Vedic ritual. The Jaim.Br. (II.45) states that in the Mahavrata festival they bring the vana (lute) having a hundred strings for the Udgatr priest, when he ascends the seat (asandi). Here, the vana is addressed and requested to speak out the great omniform Speech, rendered competent by Indra. In the Dvadasaha (a sacrificial session that lasts for twelve days), in the Prsathya Sadaha session (which forms a unit of six days), six different saman-s are employed. The Jaim.Br. In this context, has interesting details. It relates that the waters were the wives of the gods. They had union with the gods and, as a result, got pregnant. The gods asked them to release the foetus. So, on the first day the waters release the Rathantara saman, which itself was followed by the sound of a chariot. Therefore, it is said, as the Rathantara ssaman is being recited, they make the sound of the chariot. Then, on the second day, the waters released the Brhat saman. Which was followed by the sound of rain. Hence, while chanting the Brhat saman, they beat the drums so that the (god of) rain would desire to send showers (to the earth). On the third day the waters release the Vairupa saman, which was followed by the tumult of the village, (gramaghosa). Hence, while chanting the Vairupa saman, they arouse the tumult in the village. On the fourth day the waters released the Vairaja saman, which was followed by the sound of fire. So, they churn the fire while the Vairaja saman is being chanted. On the fifth day they released the Sakvara saman; following it arrived the sound of the waters. Therefore, when the Sakvara is being chanted they praise the waters. On the sixth day was released the Raivata saman; following it came the noise of the beasts. Hence, when the Raivata is being chanted, they cause the noise of the beasts and the mother-cows bellow for the calves. These are called the aindra sound; as they are believed to be the sounds of waters generated by Indra (Jai.Br. III.118.). a similar account, varying in some details, occurs at another place in the same text (Ibid., III.356). The account detailed above clearly points out that, in the Prsthya Sadaha, together with the chanting of the different saman-s, a variety and a multitude of other sounds were caused to be made. The idea is, obviously, that the various sounds were different aspects of Speech and that their generation would make the sacrifice permeated with Speech of all sorts. The association of a different sound with a saman on each separate day embodies the principle of sympathetic magic. So, Rathantara and the sound of a ratha (chariot) and, though not exact, the Brhat saman is associated with the drum, which sounds aloud (brhat).

The unique status of Speech in the sacrifice is envisaged by the Jaim.Br., which states the Speech itself was the immutable One Principle in the beginning. The description goes on the lines and patterns other accounts of creation. Speech desired that she should be many, create, attain greatness and spread the sacrifice. She offered oblations twelve times, from which were created the twelve days of the Dvadasaha sacrifice. From them came the twenty-four half months, which, in turn, became seven hundred and twenty days and nights. In this way, Speech created the year (samvatsara) and, thus the sacrifice (Jaim.Br. III.326). Hence it is that Speech through any of its aspects, is believed to bestow perfect form (rupasamrddha) on the sacrifice.


Preface ix
Abbreviations xi
Introduction xiii
I. Speech and its Aspects 1
II. Metres and their Magic 36
III. Sampad-s of Metres 113
IV. Mystic Utterances in the Vedic Rituals 146
V. Samas-s and Lauds 182
VI. Songs from Secular tradition 206
VII. Upamsu, Anirukta and Tusnim Offerings 231
VIII. Vocal and Instrumental Music in the Vedic Ritual 247
Bibliography 257
Index 263


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Aspects of Speech In Vedic Ritual (Rare Book)

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