Some Women's Rites and Rights in The Veda (An Old and Rare Book)


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On March 5-7, 1984, Professor Harms-Peter Schmidt delivered the Professor P. D. Gune Memorial Lectures (Second Series) at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute on "Some Women's Rites and Rights in the Veda". The Institute has now great pleasure in publishing these lectures in a book-form.

Professor Schmidt is by no means a stranger to India - and certainly not to Poona. He came to India for the first time in 1957 and worked at the Deccan College Research Institute for a couple of years. Thereafter he served at the Saugar University in Madhya Pradesh for two years as Professor of Iranian Studies. Later, after having done some teaching in the United States, he served as Professor, for two years, also at the Kern Institute, Leiden, from where he returned to the University of California, Los Angeles, to resume the professorship in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, which office he is presently holding.

Professor Schmidt may be said to belong to that regrettably small band of savyasacin-s who are adept both in Vedic and Avestan philology. This is amply testified by his many writings from among which may be specially mentioned: Vedisch vrata und awestisch urvata, Bshaspati und Indra, Z,arathustra's Religion and His Pastoral Imagery, “Indo-Iranian Mitra studies: the state of the central problem", "Die Komposition von Yasna 49", "Old and new perspectives in the study of the Gathas of Zarathustra ", "Vedic dhena and Avestan daena", " Iranian Magi in India", "Avestan una and una ", and studies on pathas, aghnya, and

In recent years we have had the privilege of welcoming Professor Schmidt to this Institute several times, and I am happy that I was able to persuade him to deliver the Professor P. D. Gune Memorial Lectures on one such occasion.



I thank the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and its Honorary Secretary, Professor Dr. R. N. Dandekar, for inviting me to deliver the Professor P. D. Gune Memorial Lectures of 1984. It was with deep regret and sorrow that, a few weeks after delivering the lectures, I learned of the passing away of the munificent sponsor of the Lectures, Acharya V. P. Limaye. I had known him for more than a quarter of century and respected him as one of the most learned, liberal and open-minded scholars of his generation. Among those from whose help and advice I have benefited I should first of all mention Professor Dr. M. A. Mehendale who made valuable suggestions and saved me from making some serious mistakes. Mrs. Mona Merideth Reddick checked the English of an earlier version of the manuscript and suggested many stylistic ameliorations. Since the manuscript underwent several revisions all the infelicities which remain are my own responsibility. Mrs. Reddick also assisted me in the collection of the material and pointed out parallels which I would have missed without her help. Other useful suggestions and hints resulted from discussions with my friends and colleagues J. C. Heesterman, Claus Vogel, and Albrecht Wezler.

In the first lecture I hope to have presented a definitive solution of a thorny problem. The other two lectures offer only tentative answers and may serve as a stimulus for others to delve deeper into the problems than it was possible for me to do.



The Apala-sakta is generally considered as one of the popular hymns which do not belong to the solemn ritual with which the vast majority of Rgvedic hymns is concerned. It is also counted among the so-called akhyana- or itihasa-hymns which are based on legends. The question of whether these hymns require a prose narrative to be fully understandable is still a matter of controversy (d. the surveys of the problem by Horsch 1966: 307 ff. and Gonda 1975a: 206 ff.). In spite of the fact that the literal translation of the text of the Apala-sakta does not pose any serious difficulties, there is much disagreement on the original meaning and purport of the hymn. The early Western interpreters understandably followed the native tradition represented by the Brhaddevata, the Vedarthadlpika of Sadgurusisya and Sayana's commentary on the Rgveda. The oldest extensive exegesis of the text, contained in the Satyayana- and jaiminiya- Brahmanas, does not quite agree with the interpretations of the later authors. This clearly shows that there was no firmly established unbroken tradition of indigenous exegesis of the hymn, and it was soon realized that one had to free oneself from the latter interpretation and to independently elicit the original meaning from the text. A decisive step in this direction was taken by Leopold von Schroeder (1908) who based his interpretation on comparative folklore and ethnology. Some fallacies prevented him from arriving at a wholly convincing solution of the problem, and consequently his approach did not find any followers except for Johann Jacob Meyer (1937: 167 ff.) who, while realizing the main error of von Schroeder, unfortunately introduced some misconceptions of his own. Ananda Coomaraswamy (1935: 8 f.; 1945: 393 f.) and Ram Gopal (1964) offered allegorical interpretations, mythological and cosmogonical, which are more ingenious than convincing since they take recourse to often remote associations. The most recent interpretation by Sadashiv A. Dange (1971 : 12 f.; 43; 73 ff.) remains closer to the literal wording of the text and to the context in which Apala occurs in the oldest sources, but destroys the unity of the hymn. Although the interpretations hithero offered are wholly or partly unacceptable, it should be acknowledged that a number of correct observations on significant details made by various authors help us in paving the way to a consistent and coherent understanding of the original meaning of the Apala-sakta.




Lecture I The Affiction of Apala (Rgveda 8.91) 1-29
Lecture II The Predicament of the Brotherless Maiden and the Childless Wife 30-75
Lecture III To choose or not to Choose: How Many Form of Svayamvara? 76-109
  Bibliography 110-130
  Sources 110-113
  Secondary Literature 113-130
  Errate et Addenda 131-134


Sample Pages

Item Code: NAK916
Cover: Paperback
Edition: 1987
Publisher: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Insitute, Pune
Language: English
Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages: 142
Other Details: Weight of the Book: 148 gms