About the Book
The experience and knowledge from our past are recorded in manuscripts which have been handed down to us over several thousand years. The Government of India, through the Department of Culture, took note of till' vast tangible heritage and in order to locate, preserve and conserve as well as to make access to this wealth easy established the National Mission for Manuscripts. While looking ahead to reconnect with the knowledge of the past, the Mission is in the process of trying to re-contextualize the knowledge contained in manuscripts for the present and the future generations. National Mission for Manuscripts organizes seminars in collaboration with academic Institutions all over India on particular topics of Indian Knowledge system. The research-oriented papers as presented in the seminars by distinguished scholars are published under the Samikshika series.
The Seminar on "Vedalaks.uja Texts: Research and Analysis" was organized in Kolkata in collaboration with School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University and Dr. Nabanarayan a Bandopadhyaya was the coordinator of this seminar.
The Seminar focused on Manuscripts related to Vedalaksana texts, mainly PratiSakhya and Siksa literature of the Vedas.
The National Mission for Manuscripts organizes national level seminars in different academic institutions all over India to promote research and interest in Indian knowledge systems with particular emphasis on manuscripts. The present Samikshika series brings forth the research papers on Vedalaksana texts as were presented by the scholars in the seminar "Vedalaksana Texts: Search and Analysis" organized at School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata.
The Laksana-granthas of Vedas deal with phonetics, grammar, anukramanis, modes of recitation etc. These are of ancillary nature and come under Vedanga, Siksa is considered to be the most important among them.
Siksa is the science of phonetics under which syllabication of sound (varna), accent (varna), sound measurement (matra, place of articulation (prayatna), etc. are elaborately explained. In Vedic period, lot of importance was given to the correct pronunciation of the mantras at the time of their utterance.
Under Siksa Vedanga, come two types of compositions, viz. Pratisakhya and Siksa. Pratisakhyas are the first treatises under Siksa Vedanga dealing with the phonetic pecularities of all the sakhas of a praticular Veda. Siksa-texts, too, are related to particular recentions of the Vedas but these texts are posterior to the Pratisakhyas. These texts are mostly found in Karika-form leaving some which are written in the Sutra-form. All Veda-laksana texts render their help to understand the Vedas in true perspective.
There are a lot of manuscripts related to Vedalaksanas which have not been critically edited till date. Young scholars need to be encouraged to delve into those manuscripts in order to bring fourth the underlying implications of Vedic texts.
The Mission acknowledges the contribution of Prof. Nabanarayan Bandyopadhyay, Director, School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharti University, Kolkata. The organisation of the seminar and publication of this volume wouldn't have been possible without his sincere cooperation. The Mission also thanks Dev Publishers & Distributors for bringing out this volume.
I do hope that the topics dealt with in this volume would help the readers to acquire knowledge of this genre of Vedic literature.
It is not generally realized that the texts on Veda-laksana (mainly extant in South Indian Vedic tradition) contain an abundance of valuable material of Vedic studies relating to Phonetics. The Laksana-granthas or texts which dilate upon the characteristics and the special features of Vedic texts are generally termed Veda-laksana. They are of ancillary nature and generally regarded as a component of the Vedanga. Veda-laksana texts can be classified into four categories: (a) works (mainly Siksa and Pratiakhya) on Vedic phonetics, phonology, grammar (also designated as 'Nomenclative Grammatical Works', according to Surya- kanta), etc., (b) works on Anukramanis, (c) works containing lists of words having peculiar characteristics in the Vedic texts, and d) works dealing mainly with modes of recitation, There are a large number of important texts, very few of which are available in print. An account of them can be trailed from various descriptive catalogues of manuscripts largely published from many institutes of South India and a voluminous work entitled Yedalaksana: Vedic Ancillary Literature: A Descriptive Bibliography by K. Parameswara Aithal, (Franz Verlag Stuttgart, 1991, an Indian reprint also published from MLBD, Delhi). It would be appropriate to focus our attention on these works concerning different aspects of Vedic learning. The practice of reciting the Vedas in the traditional manner is becoming fast extinct yet there has been in recent years a growing interest in the study of the oral and exegetic tradition of Vedic recitation amongst a select section of people.
The printed editions, with only a few exceptions, are either edited in a very uncritical manner, or contain a great deal of confusion regarding the authorship, titles, extent of the texts, etc. The unsatisfactory state of the printed editions on Laksanas is more evident from various publications which are full of errors due to mixing together of texts in the basic manuscript etc. or do contain the extraneous portions.
As we all know, there are two different aspects of the system of learning of the Vedas traditionally - the svadhyaya and the prayoga. Though a study of these aspects relate mainly to the recitation of the Vedas of one's own sakha, yet the study of the history of grammatical traditions in India as well as different branches of manuscriptology are bound to come with all their importance, thus adding an interdisciplinary essence to the matter as far as possible.
As a growing interest has been found in recent years in the study of the oral tradition of Vedic recitation it seems appropriate to undertake the study and research on these types of texts. The purpose and significance of preparing text-critical edition of the hitherto unpublished Laksana texts along with their critical analysis and translation is to attract due attention to this particular branch of Vedic studies which unfortunately appears to have dwindled to the point of extinction despite efforts made by great scholars interested in this particular field more than a century ago. The significance lies mainly in the history of the study of Indian grammatical and linguistic traditions which begins with the Siksa and the Pratisakhya. Though they contain instructions on pronunciation, intonation, euphonic changes of sounds in word combinations, elongation of vowels etc, the holistic manner of recitation of the Samhitas is not itself actual works of grammar still they deal with subjects which belong to grammar and linguistics.
They bear the testimony of the "fact that the texts of the Samhitas have been preserved without any change throughout all these centuries since the time of the Pratisakhya, the Rgveda Pratisakhya being the oldest text book of Vedic phonetics. And the fact that the practice of different modes of recitation or the method of instruction is emphatically necessary for the proper understanding and transmission of any kind of Vedic text, hence the effort to undertake the pr