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

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1. In the beginning there arose the Golden Child (Hiranya-garbha 1); as soon as born, he alone was the lord of all that is. He stablished the earth and this heaven:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

2. He who gives breath, he who gives strength, whose 1 command all the bright gods revere, whose shadow 2 is immortality, whose shadow is death:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

3. He who through his might became the sole king of the breathing and twinkling 1 world, who governs all this, man and beast:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

4. He through whose might 1 these snowy mountains are, and the sea, they say, with the distant river (the Rasâ 2), he of whom these regions are indeed the two arms:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

5. He through whom the awful heaven and the earth were made fast 1, he through whom the ether was stablished, and the firmament; he who measured the air in the sky 2:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

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6. He to whom heaven and earth 1, standing firm by his will, look up, trembling in their mind; he over whom the risen sun shines forth:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

7. When the great waters 1 went everywhere, holding the germ (Hiranya-garbha), and generating light, then there arose from them the (sole 2) breath of the gods:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

8. He who by his might looked even over the waters which held power (the germ) and generated the sacrifice (light 1), he who alone is God above all gods 2:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

9. May he not hurt us, he who is the begetter of the earth, or he, the righteous, who begat the heaven; he who also begat the bright and mighty waters:—Who is the God to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

[10 1. Pragâpati, no other than thou embraces all these created things. May that be ours which we desire when sacrificing to thee: may we be lords of wealth!]

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This hymn is ascribed to Hiranyagarbha Prâgâpatya, and is supposed to be addressed to Ka, Who, i. e. the Unknown God.

First translated in my History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 1859, p. 569; see also Hibbert Lectures; 1882, p. 301; Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, IV, p. 15.

Verse 1 = VS. XIII, 4; XXIII, 1; XXV, 10; TS. IV, 1, 8, 3; 2, 8, 2; AV. IV, 2, 7.

Verse 2 = VS. XXV, 13; TS. IV, 1, 8, 4; VII, 5, 17, 1; AV. IV, 2, I; XIII, 3, 24.

Verse 3 = VS. XXIII, 3; XXV, 11; TS. IV, 1, 8, 4; VII, 5, 16, 1; AV. IV, 2, 2.

Verse 4 = VS. XXV, 12; TS. IV, 1, 8, 4; AV. IV, 2, 5.

Verse 5 = VS. XXXII, 6; TS. IV, 1, 8, 5; AV. IV, 2, 4.

Verse 6 = VS. XXXII, 7; TS. IV, 1, 8, 5; AV. IV, 2, 3.

Verse 7 = VS. XXVII, 25; XXXII, 7; TS. II, 2, 12, 1; IV, 1, 8, 5; TA. I, 23, 8; AV. IV, 2, 6.

Verse 8 = VS. XXVII, 26; XXXII. 7; TS. IV, 1, 8, 6.

Verse 9 = VS. XII, 102; TS. IV, 2, 7, 1.

Verse 10 = VS. X, 20; XXIII, 65; TS. I, 8, 14, 2; III, 2, 5, 6; TB. II, 8, 1, 2; III, 5, 7, 1; AV. VII, 79, 4; 80, 3.

This is one of the hymns which has always been suspected as modern by European interpreters. The reason is clear. To us the conception of one God, which pervades the whole of this hymn, seems later than the conception of many individual gods, as recognised in various aspects of nature, such as the gods of the sky, the sun, the storms, or the fire. And in a certain sense we may be right, and language also confirms our sentiment. In our hymn there are several words which do not occur again in the Rig-veda, or which occur in places only which have likewise been suspected to be of more modern date. Hiranyagarbha

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itself is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. Sám avartata is found only in the last Mandala, X, 90, 14; 129, 4. Bhûtá also, in the sense of what is, occurs in the tenth Mandala only. It is used three times (X, 55, 2; 58, 12; 90, 2) as opposed to bhávya, i. e. what is and what will be; and once more in the sense of all that is (X, 85, 17). Âtmadâ´h, in the sense of giving life, is another ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. Prasísh is restricted to Mandalas I (I, 145, 1), IX (IX, 66, 6; 86, 32), and our passage. Himávat, ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. The repetition of the relative pronoun in verses 2 and 4 is unusual. In the tenth verse the compound yat-kâmah is modern, and the insertion of etâ´ni between tvat and anyáh is at all events exceptional. The passage V, 31, 2 is not parallel, because in tvát indra vásyah anyát, the ablative tvát is governed by vásyah. In VI, 21, 10, ná tvâ´vân anyáh amrita tvat asti, anyáh is separated from tvát by a vocative only, as in VIII, 24, 11.

But when we say that a certain hymn is modern, we must carefully consider what we mean. Our hymn, for instance, must have existed not only previous to the Brâhmana period, for many Brâhmanas presuppose it, but previous to the Mantra period also. It is true that no verse of it occurs in the Sâma-veda, but in the Sâma-veda-brâhmana IX, 9, 12, verse 1 at least is mentioned a. Most of its verses, however, occur in the Vâgasaneyi-samhitâ, in the Taittirîya-samhitâ, and in the Atharva-veda-samhitâ, nay, the last verse, to my mind the most suspicious of all, occurs most frequently in the other Samhitâs and Brâhmanas.

But though most of the verses of our hymn occur in other Samhitâs, they do not always occur in the same order.

In the Vâg. Samh. we have the first verse in XIII, 4, but no other verse of our hymn follows. We have the first verse again in XXIII, 1, but not followed by verse 2, but by verse 3 (XXIII, 3) b. Then we have verse 1 once more

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in XXV, 10, followed by verse 3 (XXV, 11), by verse 4 (XXV, 12), and then by verse 2 (XXV, 13).

We have verses 5, 6, 7, 8 in VS. XXXII, 6 and 7, and verses 7 and 8 in VS. XXVII, 25 and 26, while verse 9 is found in XII, 102 only a, and the last verse in X, 20 b, and XXIII, 65.

In the Taitt. Samhitâ the verses follow more regularly, still never quite in the same order as in the Rig-veda. In TS. IV, 1, 8, 3 c we have verses 1 to 8, but verse 3 before verse 2, and verse 6 before verse 5, while verse 9 follows in IV, 2, 7, 1.

In TS. v. 3 stands before v. 2, in VII, 5, 16, 1, and VII, 5, 17, 1.

In TS. II, 2, 12, the pratîkas of verses 1, 7, 10 are quoted in succession.

Verse 7 occurs with important various readings in TA. I, 23, 8, â´po ha yád brihatî´r gárbham â´yan dáksham dádhânâ ganáyantîh svayambhúm, táta imédhyásrigyanta sárgâh.

Lastly in the AV. we find verses 1 to 7 from IV, 2, 1, to IV, 2, 7, but arranged in a different order, viz. as 2, 3, 6, 5, 4, 7, 1, and with important various readings.

Verse 2, yô´ 3 syése dvipádo yás kátushpadah, as third pâda; also in XIII, 3, 24.

Verse 3, ekó râ´gâ; yásya khâyâ´mtam yásya mrityúh, as third pâda.

Verse 4, yásya vísve; samudré yásya rasâ´m íd âhúh; imâ´ska.

Verse 5, yásya dyaúr urvî´ prithivî´ ka mahî´ yásyâdá urvámtáriksham, yásyâsaú sû´ro vítato mahitvâ´.

Verse 6, ávatas kaskabhâné bhiyásâne ródasî áhvayethâm (sic), yásyâsaú panthâ´ rágaso vimânah.

Verse 7, â´po ágre vísvam âván gárbham dádhânâ amritagñâ´h, yâ´su devî´shv ádhi devá âsît.

Verse 10, vî´svâ rûpâ´ni paribhur gagâna, see VII, 79, 4, and 80, 3.

We are justified, therefore, in looking upon the verses, composing this hymn, as existing before the

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final arrangement of the four Samhitâs, and if we persist in calling a hymn, dating from that period, a modern hymn, we must make it quite clear that, according to the present state of our knowledge, such a hymn cannot well be more modern than 1000 b.c. Besides the variations in the arrangement of the verses of our hymn, the very considerable various readings which we find in the VS., TS., and AV. are highly instructive, as showing the frequent employment of our hymn for sacrificial purposes. In several cases these various readings are of great importance, as we shall see.

Verse 1.

Muir: Hiranyagarbha arose in the beginning; born, he was the one lord of things existing. He established the earth and this sky: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Hiranyagarbha hat zuerst sich gebildet, er ward geboren als einziger herr alles gewordenen, dise erde and disen himel hält er; Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. Hiranyagarbha a has been translated in different ways, and it would perhaps be best to keep it as a proper name, which it is in later times. It means literally the golden embryo, the golden germ or child, or born of a golden womb, and was no doubt an attempt at naming the sun. Soon, however, that name became mythological. The golden child was supposed to have been so called because it was Pragâpati, the lord of creation, when dwelling as yet in the golden egg, and Hiranyagarbha became in the end a recognised name of Pragâpati, see Say. on X, 121, 1. All this is fully explained by Sâyana, TS. IV, 1, 8, 3; IV, 2, 8, 2; by Mahîdhara, VS. XIII, 4.

Verse 2.

Muir: He who gives breath, who gives strength, whose command all, [even] the gods, reverence, whose shadow is immortality, whose shadow is death: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

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Ludwig: Geber des lebendigen hauches, geber der kraft, zu des unterweisung alle Otter sich einfinden, des glanz die unsterblichkeit, dessen der tod ist, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. In order to account for the repetition of yasya, Sâyana and Mahidhara take visve for men, and devâh for gods.

Note 2. It is difficult to say what is meant by khâyâ, shadow. I take it in the sense of what belongs to the god, as the shadow belongs to a man, what follows him, or is determined by him. In that sense Sâyana also takes it, TS. IV, 1, 8, 4, yasya pragâpates khâyâvat svâdhînam amritam, moksharûpam, mrityuh, prâninâm maranam api, yasya khâyeva svâdhinah; and, though not quite so clearly, in RV. X, 121, 2. Mahîdhara on the contrary takes khâyâ in the sense of refuge, and says, whose shadow, i. e. whose worship, preceded by knowledge, is amrita, immortality, a means of deliverance a, while ignorance of him is death, or leads to samsâra.

Verse 3.

Muir: Who by his might became the sole king of the breathing and winking world, who is the lord of this two-footed and four-footed [creation]: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Der des atmenden, augenbewegenden lebendigen durch seine grösze der einzige könig geworden; der verfügt über disz zwei- und vier-füszige, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. It is difficult to say whether nimishatah means twinkling or sleeping. It has both meanings as to wink has in English. Sâyana (X, 121, 3; TS. IV, 1, 8, 4) and Mahidhara (VS. XXIII, 3 b) explain it by winking. This may be right as expressing sensuous perception, in addition to mere breathing. In X, 190, 2, vísvasya misható vasî´ means, lord of all that winks, i. e.

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lives. The later idea, that the gods do not wink, has nothing to do with our passage.

Verse 4.

Muir: Whose greatness these snowy mountains, and the sea with the Rasâ (river), declare,—of whom these regions, of whom they are the arms: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Dessen die schneebedeckten (berge, die Himavân) vermöge seiner grösze, als des eigentum man ocean und Rasâ nennt, des dise himelsgegenden, des arme sie, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. Muir's translation, which suggests itself very naturally to a European mind, is impossible, because mahitvâ´ cannot be either mahitvám (as Sâyana also and Mahîdhara suggest), or mahitvâ´ni; and because âhúh does not mean declare. Otherwise nothing could be better than his rendering: 'Whose greatness these snowy mountains, and the sea with the Rasâ (river), declare.'

Mahitvâ´, as Sâyana also rightly perceives, TS. IV, 1, 8, 4, is a very common instrumental (see Lanman, Noun-inflection, pp. 335-6), and the same mahitvâ´ must be supplied for samudrám. We might make the whole sentence dependent on âhuh without much change of meaning. The Atharva-veda text supplies a lectio facilior, but not therefore melior.

Note 2. The Rasâ is a distant river, in some respects like the Greek Okeanos. Dr. Aufrecht takes it as a name of the milky way, Z. D. M. G. XIII, 498: see Muir, S. T. II, p. 373, n. 19.

Verse 5.

Muir: By whom the sky is fiery, and the earth fixed, by whom the firmament and the heaven were established, who in the atmosphere is the measurer of the aerial space: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Durch den gewaltig der himel and fest die erde, durch den gestützt Svar, and das gewölbe, der die räume im mittelgebiete ausgemeszen, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

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Note 1. In this verse I decidedly prefer the reading of the Atharva-veda, yena dyaur ugrâ prithivî ka drilhe. It seems not a lectio facilior, and we avoid the statement that the heaven has been made ugrâ. Ugrâ, as applied to dyaus, means awful and grand, as an inherent quality rather, and not simply strong. See Ludwig, Notes, p. 441.

Note 2. Rágaso vimâ´nah has been fully discussed by Muir, S. T. IV, p. 71, but it is difficult to find a right translation for it, because the cosmography of the Veda is so different from our own (see I, 6, 9, note 1, and I, 19, 3, note 1). I think we may translate it here by the air, or even by space, particularly the bright air in the sky, the sky (antariksha or nabhas) being between heaven (dyu) and earth (prithivî), while svah and nâka are still higher than the heaven (dyu), svah being sometimes explained as the abode of the sun, the ether, or empyrean, nâka, the firmament, as svarga (Mahîdhara); or svah as svarga, and nâka as âditya (Sâyana). Vimâna is here simply the measurer, though vimâ, from meaning to measure, is apt to take the meaning of to make, which is an excuse for Sâyana's rendering, 'who makes the rain in the sky.'

The Atharva-veda rendering is very free, and certainly no improvement.

Verse 8.

Muir: To whom two contending armies, sustained by his succour, looked up, trembling in mind; over whom the risen sun shines: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Auf den die beiden schlachtreihen durch (ihre) begirde aufgestellt in ordnung ihren blick richten, zitternd, im geiste, wo darû´ber hin aufgegangen Sûra ausstralt, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. It would be well to read ródasî for krándasî (which B. R. explain by 'two armies'), and the various reading in AV. IV, 2, 3 decidedly points in that direction. But even if krándasî stands, it must be taken in the same sense as ródasî. Uditau vyeti in TS. IV, 1, 8, 5 is explained by udayavishaye vividham gakkhati.

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Verse 7.

Muir: When the great waters pervaded the universe containing an embryo, and generating fire, thence arose the one spirit (asu) of the gods: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Als die groszen waszer kamen, die allen keim in sich faszten, zeugend den Agni, da kam zu Stande der götter einziger lebensgeist; Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. The waters here referred to have to be understood as the waters in the beginning of the creation, where, as we read (RV. X, 129, 3), 'everything was like a sea without a light,' or, as the Satapatha-brâhmana (XI, 1, 6, 1) says, 'everything was water and sea.' These waters held the germ a, and produced the golden light, the sun b, whence arose the life of all the gods, viz. Pragâpati. The Atharva-veda adds a verse which repeats the same idea more clearly: â´po vatsám ganáyantîr gárbham ágre sámairayan, tásyotá gâ´yamânasyólba âsîd dhiranyáyah, 'In the beginning the waters, producing a young, brought forth an embryo, and when it was being born, it had a golden covering.' The sunrise serves here as elsewhere as an image of the creation.

Note 2. Grassmann proposes to omit eka, because it is absent in the Maitrâyanî Sâkhâ. The metre shows the same.

Verse 8.

Muir: He who through his greatness beheld the waters which contained power, and generated sacrifice, who was the one god above the gods: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Der in seiner grösze sogar die waszer überschaute, wie sie die fähigkeit besitzend erzeugten das opfer, der der einzige gott war über den göttern, Ka, dem gotte, möchten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Note 1. In dáksham dádhânâ ganáyantîr yagñám, we have a repetition of what was said in the preceding verse,

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dáksham standing for gárbham, yagñam for agním, which is actually the reading of TS. The Atharva-veda does not contain this verse, which is used as an anyâ vikalpitâ yâgyâ in TS.

Note 2. It is curious that one of the most important sentences in the Rig-veda, yo deveshv adhi deva eka âsît, should have been changed in the Atharva-veda IV, 2, 6 into yâsu devîshv adhi deva âsît, 'over which divine waters there was the god.' See Ludwig, Notes, p. 441.

Verse 9.

Muir: May he not injure us, he who is the generator of the earth, who, ruling by fixed ordinances, produced the heavens, who produced the great and brilliant waters: to what god shall we offer our oblation?

Ludwig: Nicht schädige uns, der der erde erzeuger, oder der den himel bereitet mit warhafter satzung, der auch die wasser, die hellen, die mächtigen erzeugt hat, Ka, dem gotte, mochten wir mit havis aufwarten.

Verse 10.

Muir: Pragâpati, no other than thou is lord over all these created things: may we obtain that, through desire of which we have invoked thee: may we become masters of riches.

Ludwig: Pragâpati, kein anderer als du hat umfasst die wesen alle, der wunsch, um deswillen wir dir opfern, der werde uns zu teil, besitzer von reichtümern mögen wir sein.

Note 1. This verse is certainly extremely weak after all that preceded, still, to judge from its frequent occurrence, we cannot well discard it. All we can say is that nowhere, except in the Rig-veda, does it form the final verse of our hymn, and thus spoil its whole character.

That character consists chiefly in the burden of the nine verses, Kasmai devâya havishâ vidhema, 'To what god shall we offer sacrifice?' This is clearly meant to express a desire of finding out the true, but unknown god, and to do so, even after all has been said that can be said of a supreme god. To finish such a hymn with a statement

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that Pragâpati is the god who deserves our sacrifice, may be very natural theologically, but it is entirely uncalled for poetically. The very phrase Kasmai devâya havishâ vidhema must have been a familiar phrase, for we find in a hymn-addressed to the wind, X, 168, 4, after all has been said that can be said of him, the concluding line: ghóshâh it asya srinvire ná rûpám tásmai vâ´tâya havíshâ vidhema, 'his sound indeed is heard, but he is not seen—to that Vâta let us offer sacrifice.'

But more than this, on the strength of hymns like our own in which the interrogative pronoun ka, 'who,' occurs, the Brâhmans actually invented a god of the name of Ka. I pointed this out many years ago in my History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (1860, p. 433), where I said: In accordance with the same system, we find that the authors of the Brâhmanas had so completely broken with the past that, forgetful of the poetical character of the hymns, and the yearning of the poets after the unknown god, they exalted the interrogative pronoun into a deity,' and acknowledged a god 'Ka, or Who.' In the Taittirîya-samhitâ (I, 7, 6, 6), in the Kaushîtaki-brâhmana (XXIV, 4), in the Tândya-brâhmana (XV, 10), and in the Satapatha-brâhmana, whenever interrogative verses occur, the author states, that Ka is Pragâpati, or 'the Lord of Creatures' (Pragâpatir vai Kah). Nor did they stop there. Some of the hymns in which the interrogative pronoun occurred were called Kadvat, i. e. having kad or quid. But soon a new adjective was formed, and not only the hymns, but the sacrifices also, offered to the god, were called Kâya, or who-ish b. This word, which is not to be identified with the Latin cujus, cuja, cujum, but is merely the artificial product of an effete mind, is found in the Taittirîya-samhitâ (I, 8, 3, 1), and in the Vâgasaneyi-samhitâ (XXIV, 15). At the time of Pânini

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this word had acquired such legitimacy as to call for a separate rule explaining its formation (Pân. IV, 2, 25). The commentator there explains Ka by Brahman. After this we can hardly wonder that in the later Sanskrit literature of the Purânas, Ka appears as a recognised god, as the supreme god, with a genealogy of his own, perhaps even with a wife; and that in the Laws of Manu, one of the recognised forms of marriage, generally known by the name of Pragâpati-marriage, occurs under the monstrous title of 'Kâya.' Stranger still, grammarians who know that ka forms the dative kasmai only if it is an interrogative pronoun, consider kasmai in our hymn as irregular, because, as a proper name, Ka ought to form the dative Kâya.


4:a The last line is here, tasmai ta indo havishâ vidhema, let us sacrifice to him with thy oblation, O Soma!

4:b Var. lect. nimeshatáh.

5:a Var. lect. mâ´ mâ, satyádharmâ vyâ´nat, prathamó for brihatî´h.

5:b Var. lect., rûpâ´ni for bhûtâ´ni.

5:c Var. lect., ver. 5, dridhé, dual for drilhâ´; ver. 6, úditau vyéti for údito vibhâ´ti; ver. 8, agním for yagñám.

6:a M. M., India, What can it teach us? pp. 144, 162.

7:a muktihetu, not yuktihetu, as Weber prints.

7:b Is nimesháto in XXIII, 3, a varia lectio, or an asuddha? In XXV, 13, we read nimishato.

10:a See RV. X, 82, 5-6.

10:b See RV. X, 72, 7.

12:a Satap. Brâhm. I, 1, 1, 13; II, 5, 2, 13; IV, 5, 6, 4; also Aitar. Brâhm. III, 21.

12:b Âsv. Sr. Sûtra II, 17, 14; Kâty. Sr. Sûtra V, 4, 23; Vait. Sûtra VIII, 22, ed. Garbe.

Next: I, 6. To Indra and the Maruts (the Storm-gods)