Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Vedic Hymns, Part I (SBE32), by Max Müller, [1891], at

Far be it from me to say that the editio princeps of the text thus constituted was printed without mistakes. Aufrecht's Romanised Reprint of the Rig-veda.But most of these mistakes are mistakes which no attentive reader could fail to detect. Cases like II, 35, 1, where gógishat instead of góshishat was printed three times, so as to perplex even Professor Roth, or II, 12, 14, where sasamânám occurs three times instead of sasamânám, are, I believe, of rare occurrence. Nor do I think that, unless some quite unexpected discoveries are made, there ever will be a new critical edition, or, as we call it in Germany, a new recension of the hymns of the Rig-veda. If by collating new MSS., or by a careful study of the Prâtisâkhya, or by conjectural emendations, a more correct text could have been produced, we may be certain that a critical scholar like Professor Aufrecht would have given us such a text. But after carefully collating several MSS. of Professor Wilson's collection, and after enjoying the advantage of Professor Weber's assistance in collating the MSS. of the Royal Library at Berlin, and after a minute study of the Prâtisâkhya, he frankly states that in the text of the Rig-veda, transcribed in Roman letters, which he printed at Berlin, he followed my edition, and that he had to correct but a small number of misprints. For the two Mandalas which I had not yet published, I lent him the very MSS. on which my edition is founded; and there will be accordingly but few passages in these two concluding Mandalas, which I have still to publish, where the text will materially differ from that of his Romanised transcript.

No one, I should think, who is at all acquainted with the rules of diplomatic criticism, would easily bring himself to

p. xlvi

touch a text resting on such authorities as the text of the Rig-veda. What would a Greek scholar give, if he could say of Homer that his text was in every word, in every syllable, in every vowel, in every accent, the same as the text used by Peisistratos in the sixth century b.c.! A text thus preserved in its integrity for so many centuries, must remain for ever the authoritative text of the Veda.

To remove, for instance, the eleven hymns 49-59 in the eighth Mandala from their proper place, or count them by Vâlakhilya Hymns.themselves as Vâlakhilya a hymns, seems to me, though no doubt perfectly harmless, little short of a critical sacrilege. Why Sâyana does not explain these hymns, I confess I do not know b; but whatever the reason was, it was not because they did not exist at his time, or because he thought them spurious. They are regularly counted in Kâtyâyana's Sarvânukrama, though here the same accident has happened. One commentator, Shadgurusishya, the one most commonly used, does not explain them; but another commentator, Gagannâtha, does explain them, exactly as they occur in the Sarvânukrama, only leaving out hymn 58. That these hymns had something peculiar in the eyes of native scholars, is clear enough. They may for a time have formed a separate collection, they

p. xlvii

may have been considered of more modern origin a. I shall go even further than those who remove these hymns from the place which they have occupied for more than two thousand years. I admit they disturb the regularity both of the Mandala and the Ashtaka divisions, and I have pointed out myself that they are not counted in the ancient Anukramanîs ascribed to Saunaka; (History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 220.) But, on the other hand, verses taken from these hymns occur in all the other Vedas b; they are mentioned by name in the Brâhmanas (Ait. Br. V, 15; VI, 24), the Âranyakas (Ait. Âr. V, 10, p. 445), and the Sûtras (Âsv. Srauta Sûtras, VIII, 2, 3), while they are never included in the manuscripts of Parisishtas or Khilas or apocryphal hymns, nor mentioned by Kâtyâyana as mere Khilas in his Sarvânukrama. Eight c of them are mentioned in the Brihaddevatâ, without any allusion to their apocryphal character:

Parâny ashtau tu sûktâny rishînâm tigmategasâm,
Aindrâny atra tu shadvimsah pragâtho bahudaivatah.
Rig antyâgner akety agnih sûryam antyapado gagau.
Praskanvas ka prishadhras ka prâdâd yad vastu kimkana
Bhûrîd iti tu sûktâbhyâm akhilam parikîrtitam.
Aindrâny ubhayam ity atra shal âgneyât parâni tu.

‘The next eight hymns belong to Rishis of keen intellect d; they are addressed to Indra, but the 26th Pragâtha

p. xlviii

[paragraph continues] (VIII, 54, 3-4, which verses form the 26th couplet, if counting from VIII, 49, 1) is addressed to many gods. The last verse (of these eight hymns), VIII, 56, 5, beginning with the words akety agnih, is addressed to Agni, and the last foot celebrates Sûrya. Whatsoever Praskanva and Prishadhra gave (or, if we read prishadhrâya, whatever Praskanva gave to Prishadhra), all that is celebrated in the two hymns beginning with bhûrît. After the hymn addressed to Agni (VIII, 60), there follow six hymns addressed to Indra, beginning with ubhayam.’

But the most important point of all is this, that these hymns, which exist both in the Pada and Samhitâ texts, are quoted by the Prâtisâkhya, not only for general purposes, but for special passages occurring in them, and nowhere else. Thus in Sûtra 154, hetáyah is quoted as one of the few words which do not require the elision of a following short a. In order to appreciate what is implied by this special quotation, it is necessary to have a clear insight into the mechanism of the Prâtisâkhya. Its chief object is to bring under general categories the changes which the separate words of the Pada text undergo when joined together in the Ârshî Samhitâ, and to do this with the utmost brevity possible. Now the Sandhi rules, as observed in the Samhitâ of the Rig-veda, are by no means so uniform and regular as they are in later Sanskrit, and hence it is sometimes extremely difficult to bring all the exceptional cases under more or less general rules. In our passage the author of the Prâtisâkhya endeavours to comprehend all the passages where an initial a in the Veda is not elided after a final e or o. In ordinary Sanskrit it would be always elided, in the Samhitâ it is sometimes elided, and sometimes not. Thus the Prâtisâkhya begins in Sûtra 138 by stating that if the short a stands at the beginning of a pâda or foot, it is always elided. Why it should be always elided in the very place where the metre most strongly requires that it should be pronounced, does not concern the author of the Prâtisâkhya. He is a statistician, not a grammarian, and he therefore simply adds in Sûtra 153 the only three exceptional passages where the a, under these very circumstances,

p. xlix

happens to be not elided. He then proceeds in Sûtra 139 to state that a is elided even in the middle of a pâda, provided it be light, followed by y or v, and these y or v, again followed by a light vowel. Hence the Samhitâ writes to vădan, soyăm, but not sîkshantovratam, for here the a of avratam is heavy; nor mitramahovadyât, for here the a following the v is heavy.

Then follows again an extension of this rule, viz. in the case of words ending in âvo. After these, a short a, even if followed by other consonants besides y or v, may be elided, but the other conditions must be fulfilled, i. e. the short a must be light, and the vowel of the next syllable must again be light. Thus the Samhitâ writes indeed gâvobhĭtah, but not gâvogman, because here the a is heavy, being followed by two consonants.

After this, a more general rule is given, or, more correctly, a more comprehensive observation is made, viz. that under all circumstances initial a is elided, if the preceding word ends in aye, ayah, ave, or avah. As might be expected, however, so large a class must have numerous exceptions, and these can only be collected by quoting every word ending in these syllables, or every passage in which the exceptions occur. Before these exceptions are enumerated, some other more or less general observations are made, providing for the elision of initial a. Initial a, according to Sûtra 142, is to be elided if the preceding word is vah, and if this vah is preceded by â, na, pra, kva, kitrah, savitâ, eva, or kah. There is, of course, no intelligible reason why, if these words precede vah, the next a should be elided. It is a mere statement of facts, and, generally speaking, these statements are minutely accurate. There is probably no verse in the whole of the Rig-veda where an initial a after vah is elided, unless these very words precede, or unless some other observation has been made to provide for the elision of the a. For instance, in V, 25, 1, we find vah preceded by akkha, which is not among the words just mentioned, and here the Samhitâ does not elide the a of agnim, which follows after vah. After all these more or less general observations as to the elision of

p. l

an initial a are thus exhausted, the author of the Prâtisâkhya descends into particulars, and gives lists, first, of words the initial a of which is always elided; secondly, of words which, if preceding, require under all circumstances the elision of the initial a of the next word, whatever may have been said to the contrary in the preceding Sûtras. Afterwards, he gives a number of passages which defy all rules, and must be given on their own merits, and as they stand in the Samhitâ. Lastly, follow special exceptions to the more or less general rules given before. And here, among these special exceptions, we see that the author of the Prâtisâkhya finds it necessary to quote a passage from a Vâlakhilya hymn in which hetáyah occurs, i. e. a word ending in ayah, and where, in defiance of Sûtra 141, which required the elision of a following initial a under all circumstances (sarvathâ), the initial a of asya is not elided; VIII, 50, 2, Samhitâ, satâ´nîkâ hetáyo asya. It might be objected that the Prâtisâkhya only quotes hetáyah as an exceptional word, and does not refer directly to the verse in the Vâlakhilya hymn. But fortunately hetáyah occurs but twice in the whole of the Rig-veda; and in the other passage where it occurs, I, 190, 4, neither the rule nor the exception as to the elision of an initial a, could apply. The author of the Prâtisâkhya therefore makes no distinction between the Vâlakhilya and any other hymns of the Rig-veda, and he would have considered his phonetic statistics equally at fault, if it had been possible to quote one single passage from the hymns VIII, 49 to 59, as contravening his observations, as if such passages had been alleged from the hymns of Vasishtha or Visvâmitra.

It would lead me too far, were I to enter here into similar cases in support of the fact that the Prâtisâkhya makes no distinction between the Vâlakhilya and any other hymns of the Rig-veda-samhitâ a. But I doubt whether the bearing of this fact has ever been fully realised. Here we see that the absence of the elision of a short a which follows after a word ending in ayah, was considered of sufficient importance

p. li

to be recorded in a special rule, because in most cases the Samhitâ elides an initial a, if preceded by a word ending in ayah. What does this prove? It proves, unless all our views on the chronology of Vedic literature are wrong, that in the fifth century b.c. at least, or previously rather to the time when the Prâtisâkhya was composed, both the Pada and the Samhitâ texts were so firmly settled that it was impossible, for the sake of uniformity or regularity, to omit one single short a; and it proves à fortiori, that the hymn in which that irregular short a occurs, formed at that time part of the Vedic canon. I confess I feel sometimes frightened by the stringency of this argument, and I should like to see a possibility by which we could explain the addition, not of the Vâlakhilya hymns only, but of other much more modern sounding hymns, at a later time than the period of the Prâtisâkhyas. But until that possibility is shown, we must abide by our own conclusions; and then I ask, who is the critic who would dare to tamper with a canon of scripture of which every iota was settled before the time of Cyrus, and which we possess in exactly that form in which it is described to us by the authors of the Prâtisâkhyas? I say again, that I am not free from misgivings on the subject, and my critical conscience would be far better satisfied if we could ascribe the Prâtisâkhya and all it presupposes to a much later date. But until that is done, the fact remains that the two divergent texts, the Pada and Samhitâ, which we now possess, existed, as we now possess them, previous to the time of the Prâtisâkhya. They have not diverged nor varied since, and the vertex to which they point, starting from the distance of the two texts as measured by the Prâtisâkhya, carries us back far beyond the time of Saunaka, if we wish to determine the date of the first authorised collection of the hymns, both in their Pada and in their Samhitâ form.

Instances abound, if we compare the Pada and Samhitâ texts, where, if uniformity between the two texts had been the object of the scholars of the ancient Parishads, the lengthening or shortening of a vowel would at once have removed the apparent discordance between the two traditional

p. lii

texts. Nor should it be supposed that such minute discordances between the two, as the length or shortness of a vowel, were always rendered necessary by the requirements of the metre, and that for that reason the ancient students or the later copyists of the Veda abstained from altering the peculiar spelling of words, which seemed required by the exigencies of the metre in the Samhitâ text, but not in the Pada text. Though this may be true in some cases it is not so in all. There are short vowels in the Samhitâ where, according to grammar, we expect long vowels, and where, according to metre, there was no necessity for shortening them. Yet in these very places all the MSS. of the Samhitâ text give the irregular short, and all the MSS. of the Pada text the regular long vowel, and the authors of the Prâtisâkhyas bear witness that the same minute difference existed at their own time, nay, previous to their own time. In VII, 60, 12, the Samhitâ text gives:

iyám deva puróhitir yuvábhyâm yagñéshu mitrâvarunâv akâri.

This primacy, O (two) gods, was made for you two, O Mitra and Varuna, at the sacrifices!

Here it is quite clear that deva is meant for a dual, and ought to have been devâ or devau. The metre does not require a short syllable, and yet all the Samhitâ MSS. read devâ, and all the Pada MSS. read devâ; and what is more important, the authors of the Prâtisâkhya had to register this small divergence of the two texts, which existed in their time as it exists in our own a.

Nor let it be supposed, that the writers of our MSS. were so careful and so conscientious that they would, when copying MSS., regulate every consonant or vowel according to the rules of the Prâtisâkhya. This is by no means the case. The writers of Vedic MSS. are on the whole more accurate than the writers of other MSS., but their learning does not seem to extend to a knowledge of the minute rules of the Prâtisâkhya, and they will commit

p. liii

occasionally the very mistakes against which they are warned by the Prâtisâkhya. Thus the Prâtisâkhya (Sûtra 799) warns the students against a common mistake of changing vaiyasva into vayyasva, i. e. by changing ai to a, and doubling the semivowel y. But this very mistake occurs in S 2, and another MS. gives vaiyyasva. See p. lvi.


xlvi:a The earliest interpretation of the name Vâlakhilya is found in the Taittirîya-âranyaka, I, 23. We are told that Pragâpati created the world, and in the process of creation the following interlude occurs:

sa tapotapyata. sa tapas taptvâ sarîram adhûnuta. tasya yan mâmsam âsît tatorunâh ketavo vâtarasanâ rishaya udatishthan. ye nakhâh, te vaikhânasâh. ye bâlâh, te bâlakhilyâh.

He burned with emotion. Having burnt with emotion, he shook his body. From what was his flesh, the Rishis, called Arunas, Ketus, and Vâtarasanas, sprang forth. His nails became the Vaikhânasas, his hairs the Bâlakhilyas.

The author of this allegory therefore took bâla or vâla in vâlakhilya, not in the sense of Child, but identified it with bâla, hair.

The commentator remarks with regard to tapas: nâtra tapa upavâsâdirûpam, kimtu srashtavyam vastu kîdrisam iti paryâlokanarûpam.

xlvi:b A similar omission was pointed out by Professor Roth. Verses 21-24 of the 53rd hymn of the third Mandala, which contain imprecations against Vasishtha, are left out by the writer of a Pada MS., and by a copyist of Sâyana's commentary, probably because they both belonged to the family of Vasishtha. See my first edition of the Rig-veda, vol. ii, p. lvi, Notes.

xlvii:a Sâyana (RV. X, 88, 18) quotes these hymns as Vâlakhilya-samhitâ. In the Mahâbhârata XII, 59; 110 seq. the Vâlakhilyas are called the ministers of King Vainya, whose astrologer was Garga, and his domestic priest Sukra; see Kern, Brihat-samhitâ, transl. p. 11.

xlvii:b This is a criterion of some importance, and it might have been mentioned, for instance, by Professor Bollensen in his interesting article on the Dvipadâ Virâg hymns ascribed to Parâsara (I, 65-70) that not a single verse of them occurs in any of the other Vedas.

xlvii:c Sâyana in his commentary (RV. X, 27, 15) speaks of eight, while in the Ait. Âr. V, 10, the first six are quoted (containing fifty-six verses, comm.), as being used together for certain sacrificial purposes.

xlvii:d Lest Saunaka be suspected of having applied this epithet, tigmategas, to the Vâlakhilyas in order to fill the verse (pâdapûranârtham), I may point out that the same epithet is applied to the Vâlakhilyas in the Maitry-upanishad 2, 3. The nom. plur. which occurs there is tigmategasâh, and the commentator remarks: tigmategasas tîvrategasotyûrgitaprabhâvâh; tegasâ ityevamvidha etakkhâkhâsaṅketapâthas khândasah sarvatra. See also Maitr. Up. VI, 29.

l:a The Prâtisâkhya takes into account both the Sâkala and Bâshkala sâkhâs, as may be seen from Sûtra 1057.

lii:a See Prâtisâkhya, Sûtra 309 seqq., where several more instances of the same kind are given. I should prefer to take devapurohiti as one word, but that was not the intention of the authors of the Samhitâ and Pada texts.

Next: Part 4