About the Book
This volume brings forth an in-depth study of Rgveda from the sociocultural perspective, analyzing the various aspects of hymns ascribed to the women seers of the “root Veda”. Though modern scholars from the East and the West have made many an attempt in interpreting the hymns of the Rgvedic poetesses, those lacked a thorough study from the sociocultural perspective.
While providing detailed accounts of the women seers of Rgveda, this volume discusses the traditional expositions vis-à-vis the modern interpretations of those accounts. It minutely explains the sociocultural aspects of the select texts, thus exposing the world-view of those women seers. Their personal traits and compositions on the basis of the mythological data available in the Vedic and subsequent literatures enrich the volume further.
Apart from the liturgical peculiarities and literary analysis of the hymns of the women seers, and the languages and stylistics of the texts from a linguistic point of view, the book deals with a study of the sentence patterns which, normally lacks in Sanskrit research works.
About the Author
Mau Das Gupta was awarded the prestigious Eashan Scholarship and the University gold medal along with many other prizes for her outstanding results in graduate and post-graduate examinations of the University of Calcutta. She did her PhD at Jadavpur University. She is an Associate Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Calcutta and was head, Department of Sanskrit till January 2016.
A Vedic scholar, Das Gupta has interests in various fields of literature. A poetess herself, she is also known for writing serious articles on various issues concerning Sanskrit and Bengali literature. She is a Sahitya Akademi Awardee (2015) for her translation of Hazari Prasad Dwivedi’s Anamdas Ka Potha (2012) into Bengali. In 2015, Ramkrishna Mission Institute of Culture published her Gitar dvitiya adhyay (mul saha kabitay).
Though scholars have devoted their time and energy to the study of a literary appreciation of Rgvea and have authored many books and articles, the colourful mind of the women seers of the age, vibrant with all its will and woe, sorrows and happiness, hopes, despair and aspirations, reverberating in the hymns ascribed to them, has largely remained unexplored in the male-dominated society. In my limited capacity I have made a humble attempt to fill a very small part of this vital gap, by concentrating on the sociocultural conditions reflected in the writings of the Rgvedic rsikas, a study of which must be deemed a desideratum.
My work on this book was started in 1993 when I joined the Jadavpur University for a PhD degree as a University Grants Commissions (UGC) awardee of the Junior Research Fellowship of the Government of West Bengal. I worked there till I joined my service in Eebruary 1997. After a gap of about five years, when my time was mostly consumed by my service in West Bengal Education Services at the Lady Brabourne College, Calcutta and When I was passing through one of the critical period in my personal life, the second phase of my research in this direction began in mid-2002 when I came in touch with Abhijit Ghosh, MA, PhD, a teacher of Sanskrit in Jadavpur University . Eventually I was registered in the same year as a PhD research scholar there in the Faculty of Arts, to work with him. In 2005 the UGC sanctioned for this research a grant meant for the Minor Research Projects (MRP), for which I am very grateful. This also acted as an obligatory force for me to finish the marathon started in 1993. The findings of the project were submitted to the UGC as the final report of the MRP in 2007.
In course of my research, besides consulting original Sanskrit texts, I tried to go through a vast amount of secondary literature as well, in English, Bengali, Hindi, German, French and Marathi, sometimes with the assistance of my supervisor. I now humbly present before the scholarly world this book which embodies the fruits of my labour for the past several years, done in conditions not always favourable for academic studies.
My learned guide Dr Abhijit Ghosh supervised the work patiently and astutely over a long period of time, always generously giving me valuable information and invaluable suggestions. I have met a few persons who are characterized by such impressive meticulousness, industriousness and trustworthiness in their dealings with their students. Anyone who knows about the research conditions in India, where one would be happy to have even a fraction of the resources and assistance which are regarded as a matter of course in Western Europe and America, cannot but be amazed at the thoroughness with which my supervisor lovingly guided the young generation working with him, sparing no pains to procure for them even the most obscure sources from various corners of the world by means of often incredible labour and resourcefulness: he has been simply in an altogether different league. It is a great loss for the Sanskrit scholarly world that a sudden and untimely death took him away from us in 2013.
My father Dipankar Das Gupta, who was a linguist of the Anthropological Survey of India, has been the inspiration behind all my academic efforts. So far as this dissertation in concened, he suggested the lay-out of the study of the higher constituents in sentences of the select texts in my dissertation. I have been fortunate that he could see me earning my PhD in 2008 just a year before he passed away.
Mr Debasis Majumdar, an electrical engineer and my relative, lent me a helping hand in preparing the charts and graphs in Chapter 7 of the thesis. Dr Shilpa Sumant of the Tilak Maharashtra University of Pune took the trouble of copying materials from her university library and sending them to me. Grateful thanks are due to all of them for their kind assistance, as also to the staff of the Kolkata libraries I used, including those of all the Gol Park Ramkrishna Mission Institute of Culture, the Asiatic Society, the Lady Brabourne College, and the Central and the Sanskrit Department’s libraries of the Jadavpur University.
I am grateful to my present employers at University of Calcutta in supporting me in every way to publish my thesis. Prof. Suranjan Das, the former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, took no time to sanction a financial grant from the UGC XIIth plan for the publication of this book. My heartfelt gratitudes are due to D.K. Printworld for their wonderful endeavor to publish the book with a perfectionist’s attitude. I feel personally indebted to Mr Susheel Kumar Mittal to have encouraged me to update the work with latest research information and to have borne with patience the long time I took for going through the proofs. My affectionate thanks are due to Nandit Desai, for designing the cover of this book, which projects the strength and trust of an archetypal Indian woman.
An Account of the Hymns of the Women Seers in Rgveda
In both the lists, as given by Brhaddevata (2.82-84) and Arsanukramani (10.100-02), one comes across names of no less than 27 women seers from Rgveda, who are authors of hymns: Ghosa, Godha, Visvara, Apala, Upanisad and Nisad, Brahmajaya Juhu, Agastya’s sister, Aditi, Indrani, Indra-matrs, Sarama, Romasa, Urvasi, Lopamudra, the rivers, Yami, a wife named Sasvati, Sri, Laksa, Sarparajni, Vac, Sraddha, Medha, Daksina, Ratri and Surya Savitri. Of these female seers some are doubtlessly mythical characters, some are non-human objects while again some are celestial beings . For instance, Surya Savitri, Sarama and Yami are, according to schoolars, of mythological provenance, whereas Nadi, Daksina, Medha, Ratri, Sraddha and Vac are considered either to be non-human objects or personified abstract ideas. Similarly, Urvasi, Aditi, Indramatr and Indrani of Rgveda X.86 are celestial beings. Apart from them, one finds only a few poetesses who can be considered to be women in flesh and blood; they are Romasa, Lopamudra, Visvava