THE VEDIC LITERATURE.
I.-THE VEDIC LITERATURE.
Veil after veil will lift—but there must be Veil upon veil behind.
PROFESSOR Max Muller says: “The Vedic literature” opens to us a chapter in what has been called the education of the human race, to which we can find no parallel anywhere else.”
The Vedic literature consists of (1) The Vedas, (2) The Brahmanas, (3) The Sutras.
The Vedas are four in number and are called the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Atharva Veda, and the Sama Veda. The Rig Veda and the Yajur Veda are the most important of the Vedas, as they respectively deal with the knowledge of things physical, mental and spiritual and the application of that knowledge.
The Vedas are universally admitted to be not only by far the most important work in the Sanskrit language but the greatest work in all literature.
It is nothing short of a miracle that while important works in almost all departments of human learning that were cultivated in ancient India have perished, the most important of them all, the Vedas, the fountain-head of all knowledge and the parent of all literature and science, have come down to us secure and intact. While most of the important Sanskrit works from Manu Smriti, the most ancient code of law in the world, to the
1Light of Asia, p, 21, 2lndia: What can it teach us? p- 89.
Ramayana and the Mahabharata have been tampered with, the Vedas, by the very inimitable grandeur of their language, and the unequalled sublimity of their contents have defied all attempts at interpolation.
As, however, the study of the Vedas has long been neglected, and a thorough knowledge of the Sutras and Vedangas by which alone the Vedic mantras may be interpreted is very rare, the Vedas are rarely well understood even by the learned amongst the Hindus.
( When the Yajur Veda was presented to Voltaire, he expressed his belief that it was the most precious gift for which the. West had been ever indebted to the East.’ `1
Guigault says: “The Rig Veda is the most_Ab. lime conception of the great highways of humanity.”
Mons. Leon Delbos speaks enthusiastically of the grandeur and sublimity of the Vedas. “ There is no monument of Greece or Rome,” he asserts, “ more precious than the Rig Veda.”2
Professor Max Muller says: “In the history of the world, the Veda fills a gap which no literary work in any other language could fill.”3 He also says; “ I main-. tain that to everybody who cares for himself, for his ancestors, for his history, for his intellectual development, a study of Vedic literature is indispensable.”4 The Hindus hold the Vedas to be the Revelation, and its study accordingly is indispensable to every man.
Wilson’s Essays, Vol. III, p. 304.
2Mons. Leon Delbos’ paper on the Vedas read before the International Literary Association at Paris, on 14th July 1884, the venerable Victor Hugo being in the chair.
3Wilson’s Essays, Vol. III, p, 339.
.4Max Muller’s India: What can it teach us? p. 121.
-Ile. Vedas are admittedly the oldest books in the world. “ The age of this venerable hymnal (Rig Veda),” 1.ys Sir,W. W. Hunter,_”_is_u_nknown.” They (the VeaasTare the oldest of,haoks in the—library of mankind,” says Professor gax Muller?. “ They are without, doubt,” says Professor--Heeren, “ the oldest works composed in the Sanskrit.’11 “Even the most ancient Sanskrit writings allow the Vedas as already existing.”2 No country except India and no language except the\ Sanskrit can boast of a possession so ancient or venerable,/ No nation except the Hindus can pretend to stand before the world with such a sacred heirloom in its possession, unapproachable in grandeur and infinitely above all in glory. The Vedas stand alone in their solitary splendour, serving as a beaten of divine light far the on wan/ MA re h of h.u_rn all ty.
The Hindus hold that the Vedas contain the germs of all knowledge, and that their teachings are in complete consonance with the doctrines of true science.3 The
1Historical Researches, Vol. 11, p. 146,
2Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II. p. 127.
‘See P. Guru Datta’s Vedic Texts, No. 2, printed at the Virjanand Press, Lahore, Those who read their own historical theories in the Vedas will do well to. consider the words of Professor Barth. After pointing out some of the metaphysical theories contained in. the Vedas he proceeds: “These alone are sufficient to prove, if necessary, how profoundly sacredotal this poetry is, and they ought to have suggested ,reflections to those who have affected to see in it only the work of primitive shepherds celebrating the praises of their gods as they lead. their flocks to the pasture.”—Barth’s Religions of India, p, 38.
Professor Thielve or Leyden, too, expresses the same opinion, only more strongly in Theologische Todochrift for July 1880. As Professor Max Muller admits, the Europeans “ are still on the mere surface 9f Vedic literature,” and must not reject it as useless if they do not find in it corroboration of their preconceived theories of anthropology. and sociology, Sce India: What can it teach us? p. 113.
late lamented P. Guru Datta of Lahore attempted to interpret a few mantras of the Rig Veda on the strength of Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s commentary on the Vedas. The result was astonishing. Interpreting the 7th mantra of the second sukta of Rig Veda,—
fTiA. i,;st trci
Alm--fri:r i f-ut .9’01-14f
P. Guru Datta says: “This mantra describes the (dhiyam) process, or steps whereby the well-known of liquids, water, can be formed by the combination of two other substances (gritachim sadhanta). The word sadhanta is in the dual number indicating that it is two elementary bodies which combine to form water. What those two elementary substances according to this mantra are, is not a matter of least importance to determine. The words used to indicate those two substances are mitra and raruna,
“The first literal meaning of mitra1 is measurer. The name is given to a substance that stands, as it were, as a measurer or as a standard substance. It is the measurer of density, or of value, otherwise known as quantivalence. The other meaning of mitra is ‘associate.’ Now in this mantra, mitra is described as an associate of varuna.2 It will be shown how varuna indicates
1 The word mitra is formed. by adding the unadi suffix kra to the root mic according to the sutra agfvfNfimfc1,74:c:
The meaning is fliqtATIT4I cfit.treffii: 1 or one that measures or stands as a standard of reference.
Varuna is formed by adding unadi suffix unan to root vri to accept Tql-fkl-Z9 i r Hence it means that which is acceptable to all or seeks all.
Oxygen gas.’ Now it is well-known that hydrogen is not only the lightest element known, nor is it only monovalent, but that it has a strong affinity for oxygen; hence it is that it is described as an associate of varuna. Many other analogies in the properties of mitra and hydrogen go on to suggest that what is in Vedic terms styled as mitra is in fact identical with hydrogen. Antra for instance, occurs as synonymous with udana in many parts of the Vedas, and udana is well characterized by its lightness or by its power to lift up.
“ The second element with which we are concerned is varuna. J7aruna is the substance that is acceptable to all. It is the element that every living being needs to live. Its well-known property is rishadah, i.e., it eats away or rusts all the base metals, it burns all the bones, etc., and physiologically purifies the blood by oxidizing it, and thereby keeping the frame alive. It is by these properties that varuna is in general distinguished; but it is especially characterized here as rishadah. No one can fail to perceive that the substance thus distinctly characterized is oxygen gas.
“ Another word used in the mantra is puta daksham. Puta is pure, free from impurities. Daksha means energy. Puta daksham is a substance pure possessed of kinetic energy. Who that is acquainted with the kinetic theory of gases cannot see in puta daksha the properties of a gas highly heated ?
“ The meaning of the mantra taken as a whole is this. Let one who is desirous to form water by the combina-
‘Again, we have in Nighantu. the Vedic Dictionary, Chapter V, Section .4 fi;M rK
tion of two substances, take pure hydrogen gas highly heated and oxygen gas possessed of the properties rishadah, and let him combine them to form water.”
The Brahnzanas, too, are sometimes held by the ignorant to be part of the Vedas: but as Professor ,Weber says, “ strictly speaking, only the Sanghitas are Vedas.” The Brahmanas are either commentaries on the Vedas or philosophical disquisitions based on them.
Of the period when these Brahmanas were composted, Professor Weber says: “We have here a; copy of the period when Brahmans with lively emulation. -carry on their enquiries into the highest questions the human mind can propound; women with enthusiastic ardour plunge into mysteries of speculation, impressing and astonishing men by the depth and loftiness of their opinion, and who solve the questions proposed to them on sacred subjects.”‘
The Brahmanas, composed by some of the wisest sages of the ancient world, though not enjoying the authority of the Vedas are of the highest value to the student of the Vedic literature.
The Sutras are divided into—
(1) Sikhsha (phonetic directory).
(2) Chhandas (metre).
(3) Vyakarana (grammar).
(4) Nirukta (explanation of words).
(5) Jyotish ( astronomy).
(6) Kalpa (ceremonial).
This division will show that the study of language was cultivated by the Hindus from the earliest times on’ scientific principles.
1 Weber’s Indian Literature, P. 22.
Speaking of the Pratisakhya ( a sub-division of Sikhsha) of the white Yajush, Professor H. H. Wilson says: “Such laborious minuti/ and elaborate subtleties relating to the enunciation of human speech are not to be met with in the literature of any other nation.”‘
Professor Wilson again says: “It is well known how long it took before the Greeks arrived at a complete nomenclature for the parts of speech. Plato only knew of noun and verb as the two component parts of speech, and, for philosophical purposes, Aristotle, too, did not go beyond that number. It is only in discussing the rules of rhetoric that he is led to the admission of two more parts of speech—conjunctions and articles. The pronoun does not come in before Zenodotus, and the preposition occurs first in Aristarchos. In the Pratisakhya, on the contrary, we meet at once with the following exhaustive classification of the parts of speech.’
Ir. Alexander_ Thomson,_the late talented and able Principal of the Agra College, and one of the_best philologists in India, used to say that the consonantal division of the alphabet of the Sanskrit language was a more wonderful feat of human genius than any the world has yet seenEven now the Europeans are far behind the Hindus in this respect. Wrofessor Macdonell says: “We Europeans, 2,500 years later, and in a scientific age, still employ an alphabet which is not only inadequate to represent all the sounds of our language, but even preserves the random order in which vowels and consonants are
‘Wilson’s Essays on Sanskrit Literature, Vol. III, p. 317, 2Wilson’s Essays on Sanskrit Literature, Vol. III, p. 321, (3rd edition).
jumbled up as they were in the Greek adaptation of the primitive Semitic arrangement of 3,000 years ago.”‘
Rev. Mr. Ward says: “In philology the Hindus have, perhaps, excelled both the ancients (Greeks and Romans) and the moderns.’j
Professor Max Muller says: “ The idea of reducing a whole language to a small number of roots, which in Europe was not attempted before the sixteenth century by Henry Estienne, was perfectly familiar to the Brahmans fkt least 500 years before Christ.”3
“ The science of language, indeed,” says Sir W. W. Hunter, “ had been reduced in India to fundamental principles at a time when the grammarians of the West still treated it as accidental resemblances.”4
Another branch of the science or language, the grammatical treatment of it, was cultivated to a degree which not only defies comparison, but is unique in the annals of literature. The most eminent Indian grammarian, Panini Muni, sits on the hallowed throne of unrivalled literary reputation, having achieved the most perfect work of its kind of which the human mind is capable. Professor Weber speaks in rapturous terms of Panini’s achievement. He says: “We pass at once into the magnificent edifice which bears the name of Panini as its architect, and which justly commands the wonder and admiration of everyone who enters, and which, by the very fact of its sufficing for all the phenomena which language presents, bespeaks at once the marvellous
IHistory of Hindu Uhenaisaz, Vol. 1, p. 25.
_23/41hologzof the Hindus.
3 Max Muller s Lectures on the Science of Language, p. 80. For H. Estienne, see Sir John .Stod.dart, Glossology.
4Inip(rial Gazetteer, “ India, “ p. 214.
ingenuity of its inventor and his profound penetration of the errtirematezial of the language.”‘
Hunter Iha,vs: “The grammar of Panini stands-supreme amongthe grammars of the world, alike for its precision of statement and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By applying an algebraical terminology, it attains a sharp succinctness unrivalled in brevity, but at times enigmatical. It arranges in logical harmony the whole phenomena which the Sanskrit language presents, and stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry. So elaborate is the structure that doubts have arisen whether its innumerable rules of formation and phonetic change, its polysyllabic derivatives, its ten conjugations with its multiform aorists and long array of tenses could ever have Liken the spoken language of a people.”2
7 Manning says: “The celebrated Panini bequeathed toi944t,epitrarm-arthe oldest and most renowned books ever written in any language.”d “ The scientific completeness of Sanskrit grammar appeared to Sir W. Jones so unaccountable that he wrote about it with amazement and admiration.”4
‘Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 216. “Those rules (of grammar) are formed with the utmost conciseness, the consequence of very ingenious methods.”—Colebrooks on Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, Asiatic Researches, Vol_ VII.
2Imperial Gazetteer of India, Art, “India,” p. 214,
3Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. 1, p. 384.
Ancient and Meclimval India, Vol. I, p. 379. “ The grammatical works of the Hindus are so remarkable that in their own department they are said to exceed in merit nearly all, if not all, grammatical productions of other nations.”–p. 583.
In Europe, generally speaking grammatical science does not yet treat of those high principles which underlie the life and growth of language. It is not fair to Panini to compare with his Vyakarana, the grammars of modern Europe, where the grammatical science has not yet grasped those principles of the formation and development of a language, which it is the unique honour of Sanskrit grammars to classify and explain.
Mrs. Manning says: “Sanskrit grammar is evidently far superior to the kind of grammar which for the most part has contented grammarians in Europe.”‘
Vyakarana,” says the same authoress, “ was not merely grammar in the lower acceptation of being an explanation of declension, conjugation and other grammatical forms, but was from its commencement a scientific grammar or grammatical science in the highest sens--Which can be attributed to this term.”2
Mr. Elphinstone says: “His works (Panini’s) and those of his successors have established a system of grammar, the most complete that ever was employed in arranging elements of human speech.”3
Professor Max Muller says: “Their ( Hindus ) achievements in grammatical analysis are still unsurpassed in the grammatical literature of any nation.”
“ Panini, Katyayana, and Patanjali, are the canonical triad of grammarians of India,” and, to quote Mrs. Manning once more, “ such (grammatical) works are originated as are unrivalled in the literary history of other nations.”4
Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. I, p. 381.
2See Goldstiicker’s Panini, p. 196. Vyakarana=undoing or analysis. :-FElphinstone’s History of India, p. 146.
4-Ancient and Mediaeval History of India, Vol. I, p. 381. “Hindu grammarians have been engaged in the solution of interesting problems from times immemorial.”—-. 381.
Mr. Ward says “ Their grammars are very numerous, and reflect the highest credit on the ingenuity of their authors.”‘
Professor Sir Monier Williams remarks: “The grammar of Panini is one of the most remarkable literary works that the world has ever seen, and no other country can produce any grammatical system at all comparable to it, either for originality of plan or analytical subtlety.” The Professor again says: “His Sastras are a perfect miracle of condensation.”
A commentary on Panini’s gram mar was written by Katyayana, author of Varttikas. He was criticised by Patanjali, who wrote the Mahabhashya, which is, according to Professor Sir Monier Williams, “ one of the most wonderful grammatical works that the genius of any country has ever produced.”3
The following grammarians are said to have preceded Panini :—Apisali, Kasypa, Gargya, Galava, Sakravarmana, Bharadwaja, Sakatyana, Sakalya, Senaka, and Sphotayana.
As regards lexicons, the Reverend Mr. Ward says: “Their dictionaries also do the highest eredit to the Hindu learned men, and prove how highly the Sanskrit was cultivated in former periods.”
.l Ward’s Mythology of the Hindus. 2lndian Wisdom, p. 172.
3Monier Williams’ Indian Wisdom, pp. 176 and 177. Patanjali is said to have been born at Gonarda in the east of India and lived for some time in Kashmir. His mother’s name (according to some was Ganika. Panini was, however, a native of Slatura, to the northwest of Attock on the Indus. His mother, Dakshi, was descended from Daksha. Professor Goldstiicker thinks lie has grounds to decide that Panini lived before Buddha.