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Life and Vision of Vedic Seer Dirghatamas

Life and Vision of Vedic Seer Dirghatamas
Item Code: NAC883
Author: Prof. Satya Prakash Singh
Publisher: Standard Publishers (India)
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 9788187471301
Pages: 218 (8 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.9 Inch X 5.8 Inch
weight of the book: 405 gms
From the Jacket

Dirghatamas is the second volume in the series Life and Vision of Vedic Seers intended to cover as many seers as possible. Started with visvamitra, it is likely to go up to vamadeva, atri, Bharadvaja and vasistha. The present volume concerns the seer of this name who has seen Rgveda 1. 140-164. Dirghatamas is that great seer who has seen that well-known mantra which states that Reality is one though spoken of variously by seers.

The hymn in which this mantra occurs is known as Asyavamiya. It is the most philosophical hymn in the whole of the Veda and has served as the foundation not only of Vedanta but also of Bharthari’s philosophy of language as expouned in his Vakyapadiya. In this long hymn Dirghatamas has envisioned intimate relationship not only between the world and the reality but also between the word and reality. The word as Om has been serving since the vedic age as the most efficient means to spiritual sadhana in several religions of the world. He is also the first in the human history to have given the idea of Kalacakra based on astronomical events. The idea of horse-sacrifice, agvamedha, as expounded by him in two hymns, has subsequently served as a great determinant in the political history of India. In view of these and many more facts of seminal significance, the publication is expected to be of immense interest not only to those who are involved in the understanding of the secret of the Vedic wisdom but also to those who are interested in the history of ideas, religions, philosophical, linguistic, cultural and even scientific. Overall, if one wants to have a taste of the Vedic ethos in its making as well as culmination, one cannot afford to ignore the present publication and much more so the series it is placed in.


About the Author

Born in the year 1934 near Varanasi, Prof. Satya Prakash Singh is a product of the Banaras Hindu University as also a D.Litt. of the Aligarh Muslim University. Having served the Aligarh Muslim University as a Lecturer, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, he retired as Chairman of the Department of Sanskrit in 1994. He has also served as Director of the Dharam Hinduja International Centre of Indic Research, Delhi for a period of four years. He is a Senior Fellow of the Maharashi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain as also Incharge of the Vedic Research Centre, New Delhi. By virture of his merits as a scholar of repute he has been honoured by several awards such as the Ganganath Jha award and the Banabhatta Puraskara of the Sanskrit Academy, Uttar Pradesh, Rajaji Literary Award of the Bharatiya Vidya Shavan, Bombay, Swami Pranavananda Best Book of the Year in Pscychology Award, Patna and the Vedic Scholar of Eminence Award of Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain. His works have been translated extensively in several languages of India and aboard namely Malayalam, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish and German. Besides scores of research papers having to his credit, Professor Singh has published a number of books of high merit including.

1. Sri Aurobindo and Whitehead

2. Philosophy of Dirghatamas

3. Upanisadic Symbolism

4. Vedic Symbolism

5. Sri Aurobindo, Jung and VedicYoga

6. Life and Vision of Vedic Seers Visvamitra



The present work makes a departure from the prevalent approach in which Vedic thought has been sought to be studied as a whole compressing together the ideas of a multitude of seers and sages. Works like Vedic Mythology, Vedische Mythologie, Religion of the Veda and Upanishads are illustrative of this approach. Such works, no doubt, have the utility of their own. They introduce the reader to the entire range of Vedic thought in a summary and convenient form. But, proceeding beyond this introductory state, when we go deeper into the matter, we cannot escape the conclusion that broad uniformity of language and style notwithstanding, each seer has his own individuality, characteristic way of expression and viewpoint of understanding. We can, therefore, understand him properly only if we pay due attention to his individuality in respect of ideation as well as expression. If the Veda, in a way, is an expression of the common psyche of the Vedic people, it is but natural to find uniformity of views in it. But at the same time each seer must have his characteristic way of looking at things. As such, if one wants to understand him in his sharpness, one would have to study him also individually. Generalization, indeed, is a secondary process brought in by blunting, to a considerable extent, the sharpness of individual thinkers. Now, when we have embarked upon the second phase of Vedic study after covering a long distance of editing, translating and indexing, it is necessary that we make intensive study of the thought- content of each notable seer. The present study is an attempt in this direction.

This, however, does not mean to say that any Vedic seer, much less Dirghatamas, has not been subjected to study individually at all so far. In fact, not to say of other seers, Dirghatamas himself has been made subject of several studies in the modern times. On account of its special fascination, the Asyavamiya hymn of him has drawn the attention of almost all those translators who have rendered Vedic mantras even selectively. Apart from Wilson and Griffith who have translated the hymn in course of rendering the whole of the Rgveda, Norman Brown, Panikkar and V.S. Agrawal are notable amongst them. All of them invariably have found this hymn as the most tedious in the whole of the Samhita. In view of the difficulty involved in the understanding of the hymn, as also on account of its fascination, Norman Brown devoted a whole session in his Vedic Seminar to the interpretation of it. Prima facie he admits that “the hymn does not seem so much a series of riddles as a highly figurative and allusive presentation of ideas.” But coming down to exposition of the ideas underlying the mantras, he treads upon the same old track of naturalism mixed with sacerdotalism as was left before him by his predecessors. His interpretation of even the celebrated dva suparna mantra is sacerdotal in effect. Consequently, the whole of the long hymn of fifty two choicest mantras yields to him precious little except naturalistic syzygy of the Dawn and the Sun and the sacrificial exercises of the priest along with fire and word. He displays this paucity of higher ideas in the interpretation of the mantras in spite of his cognizance as follows:

But how does a seeker win such a vision, gain such transcendental knowledge? It does not come to him easily; it comes only through intense mental application and concentration.

This contradiction between cognizance of “transcendental contradiction” in the hymn on the one hand and application of rank naturalism in interpreting it on the other, leaves Norman Brown’s work on the Asyavamiya in quandary.

By far the most notable work on this hymn so far is V.S. Agarwal’s Vision in Long Darkness. Through his English translation and detailed notes, he, for the first time, has shown that the so-called riddle hymn is replete with profound ideas, particularly of scientific and spiritual nature. While commenting on mantras of the hymn, he has elucidated this viewpoint with the help of copious material drawn from Brahmanas and Puranas. His view of the hymn can best be stated in his own words:

His (Dirghatamas’) single purpose is to bring together a number of Vedic doctrines about cosmogony which in one word, we may say, was srsti—vidya. He has by choice employed the whole gamut of Vadic ideas about the cosmos and its creation and has adopted a symbolical language constituted by the entire alphabet of the many vidyas or lores relating to the gods (deva-vidyas), metres (chando-vidyas), time (samvatsara-vidyas), Two Birds (suparna-vidyas), speech (vak-vidyas).

Accordingly, Dr. Agrawal has treated each mantra or group of mantras in the hymn as quite independent of the rest and has tried to search in the hymn a number of vidyas or disciplines of knowledge. Obviously, what he calls vidya in this case, is simply a symbol used by the seer in the communication of his ideas. Symbols are used where ordinary expressions fail. Thus, use of symbol is indicative of the complexity of the meaning intended to be conveyed. But this does not mean that each symbol would necessarily have a distinct discipline of knowledge behind it. In fact, any discipline of knowledge is a complex system requiring a multitude of symbols to make it functional. It was under this erroneous impression that Dr. Agrawal preferred to interpret each mantra of the hymn quite independently without feeling it necessary to correlate all the ideas in the hymn so as to work out the system underlying it.

Secondly, as pointed out above, in the elucidation of the ideas embedded in particular mantras, Dr. Agrawal has drawn much more from subsequent works such as the Brahmanas and the Puranas than from the Samhitas themselves. Indeed, there is considerable truth in the famous saying that the meaning of the Vedic texts should be expatiated with the help of the Itihasas and the Puranas (itihisa-puranabhyam vedartham samupabrnhayet) , for the latter are in many places just elaborations of Vedic themes and ideas. But the elaborations are inclusive of non-Vedic material, too, which, if accorded the same status, would only create confusion. This danger can be avoided only if the Veda is interpreted primarily in the light of Vedic texts themselves.

It is these omissions and commissions of the earlier works which have been sought to be made up for in the present one. In the first place, in contradistinction to earlier works, which have sought to explain each mantra of the hymn separately, here attempt has been made to re-construct the ideological system of the seer by putting together and organizing whatever the text has to offer as a whole. In this attempt of re-construction and re-organisation of the system, gaps have been tried to be filled up possibly with the Vedic stuff itself. In fact, earlier translators and writers on the Veda as a whole also have had some or the other system of ideas before them while working on the texts. But, in the majority of cases, the systems happened to be drawn from other areas of research, such as anthropology, philology, comparative religion and culture. The reason behind superimposition af the alien systems was the fact that these scholars approached Vedic texts not so much with a view to unraveling the ideas which they had to communicate but with a view to drawing out from them the material relevant to their newly emerging disciplines of knowledge. Vedic texts, when strung at random on the wire of alien systems of knowledge, began to be looked upon as a source of historical, cultural, anthropological and linguistic data at the cost of its earlier status as the source-book of knowledge providing for the most profound and oldest living culture of the world. As against it, in the present work, the inner voice of the seer himself has been sought to be made audible by stimulating him to speak for himself. He has been made to rise out of the ashes of myths and fables and re-capture the rhythm of life by means of his axiomatic observations as embedded in the mantras. In this ideological re-construction one has tried to be as objective as the archaeologist glueing together sherds so as to restore them to their original wholeness. Just as the archaeologist supplies from his own, besides his imagination and skill, only the glue, even so I have supplied barely the glue of ideas from my own wherever needed. These ideas, however, are fully updated and not as prevalent in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, which proved smothering to the thought of the Vedic seer.

While reconstructing the system of thought of the seer, all the hymns attributed to him, besides the asyavamiya, have been taken into consideration. Indeed, it was a notable attempt on the part of both Agrawal and Norman Brown to have tried their hands at the asyavrn1ya, as it, to be sure, is the most important and difficult hymn in the whole of the Samhita and to some extent holds the key to the understanding of the rest of it. But, while doing so, they, strangely enough, could not visualize that the twenty-four hymns by the same seer forming the preamble to the Asyavamiya could be of some help in facilitating their task. Any thinker or visionary, whosoever, does not come as a bolt from the bule. He has a preparatory stage, a developmental process, a workshop of ideas behind his established position. Dirghatamas cannot be an exception to it. In his case, the twenty-four hymns preceding the Asyavamiya are of the same nature. Study of them vis-à-vis the Asyavamiya is essential for understanding the latter as well as Dirghatamas as a whole. Besides yielding a mass of material immensely useful for re-constructing the seer’s life history, these hymns also bear out various ideas of him in the making. These have proved explanatory of pithy statements hurded together in the Asyavamiya. The latter, indeed, is a densely hurded cow-pen of ideas which could be viewed in their proper perspective only when set go back to the pasture-land of these hymns.

To propose to present the philosophy of a seer of the antiquity of the Rgveda may sound somewhat preposterous particularly in view of the outlook formed regarding the Veda by writings on it in the modern age. Excepting a few, most of the writers on the Veda have presented it mainly from the antiquarian viewpoint leading to the supposition that the Veda is simply a book of prayers of the primitive Aryans who invoked forces of nature as gods and goddesses just out of fear or curiosity. Instead of contradicting the viewpoint at this juncture, I would like just to mention that some saner opinions, too, in this regard have come out from time to time. Besides Sri Aurobindo’s On Veda and Hymns to the Mystic Fire prosecuted in the beginning of the century and V.S. Agrawal’s Lectures on the Veda, Sparks from the Vedic Fire and Vision in Long Darkness coming out in early sixties in a sporadic defiance of the above viewpoint, a set of valuable new works has appeared in recent years particularly from the pen of certain Western scholars reflecting quite perceptively the other side of the colossus. Notable among them are Antonio T. de Nivolas’ Meditations through the Rgveda, Jeanine Miller’s The Vision of Cosmic Order in the Vedas and David Frawley’s Hymns from the Golden Age. In his foreword to Nicolas book Patrick A. Heelan, Professor of Philosophy in New York, while referring to Whitehead’s celebrated remark: “All philosophy is but a footnote to Plato”, observes that “Behind Plato and constituting Plato’s background, is the Rgveda to which Plato and the West are themselves extended footnotes.”

Indeed, philosophical ideas of a very high order, perhaps the highest man can conceive of, are there in the Samhita embedded in an array of myths, symbols and images which in any case have to be scanned before one can expect to have proper glimpse of them. As such, while in search of philosophical ideas, one has been required from time to time to make excursions into grammatical, rhetorical and ritualistic deliberations and address oneself to the task of de-symbolisation and linguistic analysis. In fact, the real spirit at the Veda can be understood not by sheer antiquarian guesswork but by de-symbolising and re-enlivening the underlying ideas. To make use of Dirghatamas’ expression, one has in this respect to play the role of the Rbhus who took up their parents lying as a mutilated sacrificial post and brought life to them. This has been sought to be accomplished here within the limited range of Dirghatamas’ hymns.

This is a thoroughly revised edition of Philosophy of Dirghatamas published earlier on a limited scale. It is brought out now as the second volume of the series Life and Vision of Vedic Seers. Indeed, it is on account of the admiration this work brought to me in its earlier redaction that the series itself could come to be launched upon.

In bringing out this volume under this series, I feel deeply indebted to Shri Mukesh for his inspiration and designing the whole of it including the cover page and the graphics. No less indebted am I to Shri Mohindra Vasistha, of Standard Publishers (India) for his promotion of the series in this form.



Dirghatamas is an eminent Rgvedic seer. In all, twenty-five hymns of the Samhita are ascribed to him. Besides this, some four mantras in the Vajasaneyi Samhita and seven in the Samaveda are associated with him. In all these cases, he has uniformly been referred to as Dirghatamas Aucathya. The only exception is Vajasaneyi V.18-29 where the name occurs as Dirghatamas Aucathya. But it is important to note that out of these twelve mantras, two are exact reproduction of Rgveda I.154. 1-2. The remaining ones, however, do not occur in at least the Sakala redaction of the Samhita. Moreover, excepting the 28th, none of them has any possibility of being Rgvedic either, as they do not come within the purview of the metres used in the latter. As such, we cannot negate the possibility of Dirghatamas Autathya having also been a Vedic seer but different from Dirghatamas Aucathya. Since Autathya has obviously borrowed from Aucathya at least some of his mantras, he must be somewhat later than his Rgvedic counterpart and also somehow related to him. It seems likely that due to fascination of the name Dirghatamas, as also owing to eminence of the seer of that name, the word came to be assumed as a pseudonym by Autathya who also understandably belonged to the same family of seers.

As regards Dirghatamas Aucathya, Sayana has to narrate a horribly obscene story as explanatory of it. According to his account, there were two seers, Brhaspati and Aucathya. Mamata was Aucathya’s wife. While she was already carrying, she happened to be approached by Brhaspati amorously. At this, he was entreated by the foetus from inside not to trouble it any more. The lusty Brhaspati got so enraged as to curse it with blindness. Consequently, the child, when born, was found to be blind. Later on through the worship of Agni, however, he had his eye-sight restored to him.

This story has considerable support in the mantra referred to by Sayana. Obviously, it refers to a son of Mamata who was blind and was taken out of this misfortune by the rays of Agni. That the son of Mamata was named Dirghatamas, is evident from a mantra occurring later in the same context in which one Dirghatamas, the son of Mamata, is said to have grown old in the tenth yuga.

As regards the sordid role played by Brhaspati in the life of Dirghatamas, as narrated in the story, nothing is to be found anywhere in the Rgveda to support it. Of course, the sole hymn ascribed to him in the Samhita is X.71 which does not contain anything at all in this regard. A close relationship between Ucathya and Brhaspati, however, is evident in the genealogy of seers as given in the Sarvanukramani. According to it, both Brhaspati and Ucathya, along with Hiranyastupa, are sons of Angiras while Dirghatamas is the son of Ucathya. The Anukramani also tells us how Brhaspati was elder to Ucathya. This genealogical account, if true, lends some feasibility to the story no doubt, but even then the liklihood gets very much lessened when we think of the historical validity of the account on one hand and its psychological possibility on the other. To take up the question of the historical validity first, when the Samhitas are completely silent about it, what possibly might have been the source of the Sarvanukramani? Was it some lost Brahmana? If so, even then the question of validity remains almost unanswered. For, without any corroborative support from the Samhitas, the Brahmanas have no authority in themselves regarding the historical content of the Samhitas. But still improbable is the content of the story in itself. Talk by a foetus is obviously a concocted tale. That Dirghatamas was the son of Mamata ad Ucathya, is perfectly true. That he was short of the eyesight at the time of birth, this too is quite understandable. But the cause of the blindness is not verifiable.

Shri Harishankar Joshi accounts for the name of the seer in a different way. He is of view that the word dirghatamas has nothing to do with darkness, for that would belie his seerhood. In his view, the word is formed out of dirgha + tamap rather than dirgha + tamas. As regards the difficulty involved in the suffix tamap assuming the form of tamas, which obviously is impossible otherwise, he thinks that this change is explicable on same lines as formation of angiras out of anga + rasa, atri out of atra or manusya out of madusat. But, as is evident, none of these examples does anyway help in understanding the addition of s to the suffix tama in dirgha-tama, for while angiras comes to end in s by dropping the last a of rasa, atri does not end in s at all.

These linguistic aberrations apart, however, Joshi’s view finds some basis in certain Rgvedic accounts themselves. Though he has not referred to these texts, it is these probably which led him to think of this explanation. These are the unmistakable references to the unusually long life of the seer. In one of his own mantras, for instance, it is observed that Dirghatamas, the son of Mamata, grew old in the 10th yuga. According to the Puranic calculations, if kaliyuga extends to one unit of time, then dvapara to two, treta to three and satayuga to four units. Thus, the four yugas together extend to ten units of time. As it comes last of all the four, and comprises one out of the total ten units, kaliyuga, according to this calculation, would be the tenth yuga. As the period of kaliyuga is 4,32,000 years, all the ten units taken together would come to 43,20,000 years which is taken as equivalent to one day of Brahma. Dirghatamas’ getting old in the tenth yuga would thus imply that he was born in the beginning of satayuga and grew old in kaliyuga. As this is a very rare case of longevity, he might have been named as such on this very account.

This interpretation of dasame yuge is obviously too fantastic to be given credence to. But we cannot dismiss, likewise, the statement of the Sankhayana Aranyaka according to which Dirghatamas lived for a period equivalent to the lifetime of a man multiplied by ten. An indirect and tentative support to this way of surmise about his lifetime may be had in Rgveda I.140.13 in which long duration of time has been indicated by Dirghatamas himself by the expression dirgha aha. Here dirgha is adjective of aha which obviously is indicative of a certain duration in time. With the use of the suffix tamap, the same dirgha conveys the sense of longest duration of time possibly available for human existence. That, again, brings us to the duration of the four yugas comprising the ten units, as discussed above. If, on the other hand, this connotation of the word is taken up with reference to the relative lifetimes of various seers of the Rgveda, it gets annulled by the fact that as Dirghatamas does not come either at the beginning of the Rgveda or at the end, one cannot be sure of his having lived for the longest duration amongst the Rgvedic seers. So far as the beginning of his äfetime is concerned, he no doubt comes after the Bhrgus whom he refers to in one of his mantras. Moreover, Dirghatamas himself is the son of Ucathya and grandson of Angiras who both are well known Rgvedic seers. As regards his surving all other Vedic seers, that evidently is not the case, for, as a seer, he appears only in the first mapçkzla of the Rgveda and in a few mantras of the Vajasaneyi Samhita and the Samaveda which are mostly Rgvedic repetitions. On the other hand, if the theory of yugas were to be applied to the life-span of Dirghatamas on the Puranic scale, he ought to have lived right from krtayuga to kaliyuga. Then some of his mantras ought to have been seen in the krtayuga, some in treta, some in dvapara and lastly Rgveda I. 151.6 at least in kaliyuga. All this is non-sensical from every point of view, be it linguistic, historical, traditional or biological.

The term dasame yuge would, therefore, have to be taken in a sense other than the Puranic. While exploring this possibility, it is to be noted that the word yuga has been used in the Rgveda in a variety of senses. In Rgveda I. 139.8, 1L26.2, VI.8.5, 15.8, 36.5, IX.94.12, it is used in the form of yuge yuge which most probably denotes different epochs of time rather than any specific duration of time. In Rgveda III.33.8 and X.10.10, the word occurs in the phrase uttara yugani which also denotes only the later epochs of time rather than any specific duration whatever. It is as late as in the Atharvaveda that the word yuga has been used in the sense of a duration of time more than 10,000 years. In that very mantra, the idea of four yugas also comes for the first time. This is indicative of the prevalence of this idea of yuga at that time and possibly even earlier. But, in view of its improbability in regard to the life-span of a man, no matter however long he might have lived, it would be ridiculous to stick to it in the context of Dirghatamas.




  Preface 9
  Introduction 17
CHAPTER I Human Consciousness and its Quest for the Reality 43
CHAPTER II Word and the Reality 67
CHAPTER III Space - Time and Idea of the Supreme Being 91
CHAPTER IV The One and the Many 119
CHAPTER V Dynamics of Single Divinities - Agni, Visnu and Sarasvati 141
CHAPTER VI Polarity of Dual Divinities - Dyava-Prthivi, Asvina and Mitra - Varuna 163
CHAPTER VII Philosophy of Sacrifice 177
CHAPTER VIII Philosophy of Life 193
  Index 209

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