Rgvedic Legends: Through the Ages

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About The Book

he subject of Dr. HARIYAPPA'S thesis was originally undertaken by him with a view to collecting all the legends which were referred to in the Rgveda and have been transmitted to us through subsequent Vedic and post-Vedic literature including the Epics and the Puranas and studying the transformation which the legends underwent from age to age. Actual experience, however, proved that such a study of all the legends recorded in the Rgveda was too vast to be undertaken by a single individual. The author had, therefore, to confine himself to the investigations with regard to only three legends viz. (1) Sarama, (2) Sunasgepa and (3) Vasistha-Vigvamitra, and I am happy to see that the results of his investigations are now available to the scholars and students of Sanskrit.

Foreword

The present volume constitutes the ninth of the Institute's series entitled the Deccan College Dissertation Series, inaugurated in 1946 with the Historical Grammar of Old Kannada by Dr. Go S. GAI. Since then the Institute has brought out during the past seven years seven volumes in the Series embodying the results of the researches carried on by its students during the last few years in different branches of Indology. particularly Linguistics and History, and I consider it a great privilege to present to the world of scholars the Institute's latest publication entitled Rgvedic Legends through the Ages* by Dr. H. L. HARIYAPPA, now an Assistant Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Mysore and a former student of this Institute for his Ph.D. Course.

The subject of Dr. HARIYAPPA'S thesis which is styled Rgvedic Legends through the Ages was originally undertaken by him with a view to collecting all the legends which were referred to in the Rgveda and have been transmitted to us through subsequent Vedic and post-Vedic literature including the Epics and the Puranas and studying the transformation which the legends underwent from age to age. Actual experience, however, proved that such a study of all the legends recorded in the fig, veda was too vast to be undertaken by a. single individual. The author had, therefore, to confine himself to the investigations with regard to only three legends viz. (1) Sarama, (2) .-unassepa and Vasisitha-Vivaamitra, and I am happy to see that the results of his investigations are now available to the scholars and students of Sanskrit.

It is hoped that the publication of the present volume as also of the several others in the Institute's Dissertation Series will inspire our younger generation to undertake the study of numerous problems of Indian literature which forms the cultural heritage of India.

Preface

MYTHOLOGY, FOLKLORE AND LEGEND are terms more are less applied to the same type of popular tradition handed down through centuries from antiquity to posterity. In Bhara-tavarsa (India), such a tradition has endured in the shape of itihasa and putilna, which once upon a time lived in the mouths of the paurat) ikas (story-tellers) and which, in later times, found embodiment in the two great epics and the eighteen puraijas. Narration of legends before the assembly (sadas) provided an agreeable diversion in the daily routine of the famous Sacrifices from immemorial times. The reason is that, whatever name it goes by myth, legend or folk-tale the story attracts and holds the imagination of the listener. The very mould in which it is presented, itihaasa (`thus it was') is sufficient to arrest the faculty of belief, the love of the wonderful and the sensus numinis, which are innate in man. Thus we find that the myths and legends thrive on the fertile soil of popular credulity. Both the narrator and the listener together build up the vast legendary love of the nations and races.

Indeed, the myth or legend cannot come into being with out a kernel of truth which is sometimes a natural phenomenon or a hero with superhuman strength and achievement. But passing through the mouth of generations, what proportion it assumes, what texture, colour and pattern it presents, and what authority and influence it wields on the belief and conduct of the common folk, is all a marvel to meditate. The legends of India are rooted in the Rgveda which happens to be the first literary document of the human race. Their analogues are of the course found in the mytho-logy of other nations. In India itself, the legends developed and ramified through the ages and found themselves reflected in the continuous streem of literature. This bp.ok, RGVEDIC LEGENDS THROUGH THE AGES, is an attempt to study this historical evolution of the legends with a view to unravelling the complexities incidental to it. The legends are numerous and should be the life-work of many an eager scholar to study. In the short compass of this book, however, three legends have been presented—Sarama, Sunasgepa and Vasistha-ViSvamitra. It is revealed that Sarama is not the dog of heaven; she is verily a goddess and ally of Indra; the progenitor perhaps of the canine species. Sunassepa (`source of joy' not 'dog-tailed' as commonly understood: see p. 230 et seq) was saved from the thousanded god stakes, hence a symbol of divine grace and man's emancipation. That he was the middle one (madhyama) of a fraternity with canine attributes is fiction out-and-out. Vasistha-ViSva-mitra feud is equally a myth; it has no vedic authority; possibly the two sages were friends! In fact, they stand out as two magnificent personalities representing ancient society. Vasistha (the Excellent) and ViSvamitra (the Friend of All). One point of supreme importance may be noted here. Legends everywhere are narrated in order to please and to edify. In promoting these two objects„ it is noticeable that both story-teller and his listener go to extremes. There is endless and unbridled concoction which renders the story ridiculous betraying much low taste: witness the unaasepa legend in the Devi-Bhagavata for instance (p. 216) witness also, in our own day, the daring harikatha-performer whose discourses are, more often than not, such travesty of the scriptures. It is therefore not surprising that, in this Age of Reason, the Puranas do not appeal to the intelligent public. The writer however feals that in attempting to know our antiquity it is worthy to address ourselves to the study of original sources and help a better and more sensible understanding of the Past.

It is my most pleasant duty to record my sincere acknowledgment of the help received by me in the preparation and publication of this thesis. The University of Mysore granted me a Research Fellowship for three years and also permission to work in the Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute (DCPRI). They were also pleased to permit me to submit the thesis for the degree of Ph.D. of the University of Bombay. I am deeply grateful to my Alma-Mater, the Mysore University.

Professor C, R. Narasimhasastri, M.A., directed my work first. I owe it to him to have suggested the topic of my research. He was my teacher throughout my College career. It is no exaggeration to say that his profound scholarship enlivened by an inimitable sense of with and humour brought me lasting enlightenment. After his retirement, I studied entirely under the auspices of the DCPRI, first under Dr. V. M. APTE, M.A., Ph.D. (Cantab.) and then under Dr. S. M. Katre, M.A., Ph.D. (London). It was by the fostering care bestowed on me by Dr. KATRE that I was able to complete my work successfully. He has showered on me unbounded grace by publishing this Volume in the Dissertation Series of the DCPRI. No word can sufficiently express my gratitude to him. He hates nothing but praise; loves everything but self.

**Contents and Sample Pages**