From the Jacket
Dirghatamas is the second volume in the series Life and Vision of Vedic Seers intended to cover as many seers as possible. Started with visvamitra, it is likely to go up to vamadeva, atri, Bharadvaja and vasistha. The present volume concerns the seer of this name who has seen Rgveda 1. 140-164. Dirghatamas is that great seer who has seen that well-known mantra which states that Reality is one though spoken of variously by seers.
The hymn in which this mantra occurs is known as Asyavamiya. It is the most philosophical hymn in the whole of the Veda and has served as the foundation not only of Vedanta but also of Bharthari’s philosophy of language as expouned in his Vakyapadiya. In this long hymn Dirghatamas has envisioned intimate relationship not only between the world and the reality but also between the word and reality. The word as Om has been serving since the vedic age as the most efficient means to spiritual sadhana in several religions of the world. He is also the first in the human history to have given the idea of Kalacakra based on astronomical events. The idea of horse-sacrifice, agvamedha, as expounded by him in two hymns, has subsequently served as a great determinant in the political history of India. In view of these and many more facts of seminal significance, the publication is expected to be of immense interest not only to those who are involved in the understanding of the secret of the Vedic wisdom but also to those who are interested in the history of ideas, religions, philosophical, linguistic, cultural and even scientific. Overall, if one wants to have a taste of the Vedic ethos in its making as well as culmination, one cannot afford to ignore the present publication and much more so the series it is placed in.
About the Author
Born in the year 1934 near Varanasi, Prof. Satya Prakash Singh is a product of the Banaras Hindu University as also a D.Litt. of the Aligarh Muslim University. Having served the Aligarh Muslim University as a Lecturer, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, he retired as Chairman of the Department of Sanskrit in 1994. He has also served as Director of the Dharam Hinduja International Centre of Indic Research, Delhi for a period of four years. He is a Senior Fellow of the Maharashi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain as also Incharge of the Vedic Research Centre, New Delhi. By virture of his merits as a scholar of repute he has been honoured by several awards such as the Ganganath Jha award and the Banabhatta Puraskara of the Sanskrit Academy, Uttar Pradesh, Rajaji Literary Award of the Bharatiya Vidya Shavan, Bombay, Swami Pranavananda Best Book of the Year in Pscychology Award, Patna and the Vedic Scholar of Eminence Award of Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain. His works have been translated extensively in several languages of India and aboard namely Malayalam, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish and German. Besides scores of research papers having to his credit, Professor Singh has published a number of books of high merit including.
1. Sri Aurobindo and Whitehead
2. Philosophy of Dirghatamas
3. Upanisadic Symbolism
4. Vedic Symbolism
5. Sri Aurobindo, Jung and VedicYoga
6. Life and Vision of Vedic Seers Visvamitra
The present work makes a departure from the prevalent approach in which Vedic thought has been sought to be studied as a whole compressing together the ideas of a multitude of seers and sages. Works like Vedic Mythology, Vedische Mythologie, Religion of the Veda and Upanishads are illustrative of this approach. Such works, no doubt, have the utility of their own. They introduce the reader to the entire range of Vedic thought in a summary and convenient form. But, proceeding beyond this introductory state, when we go deeper into the matter, we cannot escape the conclusion that broad uniformity of language and style notwithstanding, each seer has his own individuality, characteristic way of expression and viewpoint of understanding. We can, therefore, understand him properly only if we pay due attention to his individuality in respect of ideation as well as expression. If the Veda, in a way, is an expression of the common psyche of the Vedic people, it is but natural to find uniformity of views in it. But at the same time each seer must have his characteristic way of looking at things. As such, if one wants to understand him in his sharpness, one would have to study him also individually. Generalization, indeed, is a secondary process brought in by blunting, to a considerable extent, the sharpness of individual thinkers. Now, when we have embarked upon the second phase of Vedic study after covering a long distance of editing, translating and indexing, it is necessary that we make intensive study of the thought- content of each notable seer. The present study is an attempt in this direction.
This, however, does not mean to say that any Vedic seer, much less Dirghatamas, has not been subjected to study individually at all so far. In fact, not to say of other seers, Dirghatamas himself has been made subject of several studies in the modern times. On account of its special fascination, the Asyavamiya hymn of him has drawn the attention of almost all those translators who have rendered Vedic mantras even selectively. Apart from Wilson and Griffith who have translated the hymn in course of rendering the whole of the Rgveda, Norman Brown, Panikkar and V.S. Agrawal are notable amongst them. All of them invariably have found this hymn as the most tedious in the whole of the Samhita. In view of the difficulty involved in the understanding of the hymn, as also on account of its fascination, Norman Brown devoted a whole session in his Vedic Seminar to the interpretation of it. Prima facie he admits that “the hymn does not seem so much a series of riddles as a highly figurative and allusive presentation of ideas.” But coming down to exposition of the ideas underlying the mantras, he treads upon the same old track of naturalism mixed with sacerdotalism as was left before him by his predecessors. His interpretation of even the celebrated dva suparna mantra is sacerdotal in effect. Consequently, the whole of the long hymn of fifty two choicest mantras yields to him precious little except naturalistic syzygy of the Dawn and the Sun and the sacrificial exercises of the priest along with fire and word. He displays this paucity of higher ideas in the interpretation of the mantras in spite of his cognizance as follows:
But how does a seeker win such a vision, gain such transcendental knowledge? It does not come to him easily; it comes only through intense mental application and concentration.
This contradiction between cognizance of “transcendental contradiction” in the hymn on the one hand and application of rank naturalism in interpreting it on the other, leaves Norman Brown’s work on the Asyavamiya in quandary.
By far the most notable work on this hymn so far is V.S. Agarwal’s Vision in Long Darkness. Through his English translation and detailed notes, he, for the first time, has shown that the so-called riddle hymn is replete with profound ideas, particularly of scientific and spiritual nature. While commenting on mantras of the hymn, he has elucidated this viewpoint with the help of copious material drawn from Brahmanas and Puranas. His view of the hymn can best be stated in his own words:
His (Dirghatamas’) single purpose is to bring together a number of Vedic doctrines about cosmogony which in one word, we may say, was srsti—vidya. He has by choice employed the whole gamut of Vadic ideas about the cosmos and its creation and has adopted a symbolical language constituted by the entire alphabet of the many vidyas or lores relating to the gods (deva-vidyas), metre