The Experiences and knowledge from our past are recorded in manuscripts which have been handed down to us over several thousand years. The Government of India, through the importance of this vast tangiblke heritage and , in order to preserve and conserve as well as to make access to this wealth easy., established the national Mission for Manuscripts (NMM). In order todisseminate the knowedge content of manuscripts, the mission has taken up several programmes such as lectures, seminars and workshop. The mission has published the proceedings of the above – said programmes under the following series: “ Samrakshika” (on conservation), “tattvabodha” 9comprising lectures based on manuscripts delivered by eminent scholars), “ Samiksika” (researches – oriented papers presented in the seminar) , and “Kritibodha” (transcribed and edited texts prepared at advanced level manuscriptology workshops conducted by NMMM.
NMM has taken up a project for publishing rare and unpublished manuscripts in three formats - - (a) facsimile , (b) Critical edition with annotation. And (c) Critical edition with translation. This series has been named as “Prakashika”. Suparnadhyaya Critically edited by Prof. G.C. Tripathi comes under this Prakashika series.
Suparnadhyaya, Suuparnadhyanam or simply Sauparnam is a Later Vedic text of India dramatic tradition, lesser Known to scholar primarily due to the fact that it was never translated in to English language. This Play, normally enacted during the festival of Indradhvaja, has a plot which is woven around the story of the incredible dexterity and strength of Garuda and his wondrous deed of bringing soma (amrta ) from Indra’s heaven for the sake of snakes, after defeating Indra’s gurads and ridiculing his divine weapon. This story finds a mentioned even Mahabharata. This story finds a mention even in Mahabharata. This short play is in material from, interspersed with occasional prose – pieces.
This Text has come down t us in an incorrect from due to faulty manuscripts tradition. In this volume , the author has tried to restore the text with the help of higher textual criticism and has given due justification for his amendments. It presents the text with English and Hindi translations for the benefit of those readers who are not conversant with Sanskrit.
About the Author
Tripathi, Gaya Charan(1939-) , born at agra educated at the colleges of agra University, MA Sanskrit (Gold Medallist, 1959), Acharya (Sahitya, 1961), PhD on Vedic deities (1962), higher study and researches in Indology, Comparative Philosophy and History of Religions in Germany, Dr Phil ( Freiburg, 1966), Dlitt in Ancient History on Orissian Temple Ritual (Allahabad 1984) , Taught at the universities of Aligarh, Udaipur, Freiburg (1967-77), Principal, G.N. Jha Researches Institute (1977-2001), Head of the Kalakosh Division of the IGNCA (2002-10), National Fellow, IIAS, Shimla (2010-12), Director, B.L. Institute of Indology, Delhi since when. Visiting Professor to the Universities of Tubingen (twice), British Columbia (twice), Berlin, Leipzig and Marburg. Specialization: Vedic and Puranic Studies Manuscriptology, Temple Cult, Monasticism.
We have great pleasure in presenting to the scholars of Indology, especially of the scholars interested in the history of performing arts, a rare vedic text which is not yet so widely known to the researches working on the historical tradition of Indian dramatic literature and its paramount importance. This is the first dramatic text of India that has yet come to light.
The Text of Suparnadhyaya or Suparnakhyana presents the script of a short play in a verified format. Interspersed with occasional prose pieces. The Play was used to be enacted most likely during the celebration of Indradhvaja festival in early autumnal months (September-october). The text is composed in later Vedic Sanskrits which forms a sort of intermediate stage between vedic languages and classical Sanskrit. accent which follows the system of Rgveda Samhita. At some places the marks of accents differ from the traditional Vedic usages which may either be due the further development in Vedic chanting, Regional variation or even due to faulty transmission of the textual tradition. The Adhyayas of the text are usually arranged according t senses. As the action develops and the scene changes , new section in introduced.
The Above text of Suparnadhyaya in Roman Transcript was presented to the scholars as early as 1875 by Elmar Grube with a precise introduction in latin as partial fulfilments of his doctorate under Albrecht Weber of Berin. But no Commentary or English translation of the work is available to the scholars till date which mainly accounts for its relatives unfamiliarity to the Indian scholars. Prof. Ulrich Schneider of the University of Griburg, the guru of prof. G.C. tripathi instructed him to prepare a good critical edition of suparnadhyaya with some Sanskrit commentary if available . Prof. Tripathi Frantically searched for manuscripts of the text and its commentary. Luckily one single although damaged , manuscripts of its commentary by one jayasvami was found. Prof. Tripathi Painstakingly supplemented the lacunae wherever it was incomplete and in the process he managed to present the traditional interpretation of the text as it was available a few centuries ago.
Since the text has not come down to us in a correct from due to faulty manuscript tradition , Prof. tripathi has also tried to restore the text with the help of higher textual criticism and has given due justification for his amendment. The scholar has presented the text with translation in English and Hindi especially for the readers who are not conversant with Sanskrit.
Prof. Tripathi is a erudite scholar of Indology trained both in india and in Germany by best hands . his researches encompass various discipline of snskrit language which includes vedic Studies , Literature, Agamas and manuscriptology. He has been associated with the IGNCA as the professor and head of its Kalakosh Division for many Years.
I feel Confident that the publication of this text shall definitely open up new vistas of our dramatic tradition.
I am happy to present hereby to the readers an ancient text with its commentary, annotations and a bi-lingual translation which is not yet so widely known or utilized by the Indian Vedic scholars. The “text” is raher, What are now call, a “script” of a post of vedic , but pre – classical, folk play which was probably enacted in ancient times during the occasion of Indradhavja festival ( celebrated mostly after the rainy season honour of Indra , but also of Garuda . The Plot of the play is woven around the story of the incredible dexteriety and strength of Garuda and his wonderous deed of bringing soma viz. amrta from Indra’s heaven for the sake of Sankes , after subduing Indra’s unique guards and ridiculing his divine Weapon , an anecdote which is later elaborated and expanded in the Adiparvan of Mahabharata, most probably on the basis of this very text.
It is certainly the most ancient versified play of India that has come down to us and is much more archaic than any from of Sanskrit rupakas , which we know of , from our texts on dramaturgy. It takes us back to a time when the classical from was still absent, the Indian drama was in its infancy, was still forming itself and taking shape on the basic of various types of folk presentation in honour of gods or for celebrating the season. It is this rich communal and regional variety of performances which leads to the development of multiple kinds of f rupakas in the classical age.
Anybody who has been witness to a dramatic event, which is being performed by the common folk , knows the here the ongoing dramatic action of the characters is intercepted and complemented by the musical narrations given by a chore group between scenes from time to time . both are integral parts of a dramatic performance. No Ramalila performance would be delectable without the recitation of the caupais from Ramcaritamansa. These metrical recitations take the story further, bridges over the events which cannot be show on the stage and stop at the point when the next important scene is going to be enacted. Same is the case with our text which contains both narrative and performative elements in its body and makes up for a perfect dramatic script.
This small, but excessively important vedic text, Which goes under three different names Suparnadhyaya, Suparna – Khayanam and simply Sauparnam, is relatively less known to Indian scholars and is hardly available in the libraries of Indian Universities. There are at least two apparent reason to account for this situation, besides, of course the main reason of the rarity of its manuscripts: the first is that no full – fledged work on the Text was ever attempted in the English languages; whatever work has been done , is available only in Latin , German or Swedish and that too stopped around 1920; the second reason is perhaps its Quasi “ apocryphal” nature because of which it was denied “ inclusion even in the collections of the Vedic Khilas (cf. Die Vedischen Apokryphen of Sheftelowitz). Add to that is the fact that the work has been composed in a younger Vedic languages with certain doubtful accents and with obvious additions (or , should we term them as “ interpolations’? ) in the original . the text has also not come down to us in its pristine from an d the long chain of copyists has left the imprint of ignorance and carelessness at several places.
But in spite of these shortcomings the text has been treated with honour y such eminent scholars as Johannes Hertel, Sergei Oldenburg and Alfred Weber was incidentally the first to realize its importance and who inspired his student Elmar Grube to work on the text along with a short introductions for his doctoral dissertation.
I have been working on Suparnadhyaya, along with my other academic and administrative commitments , leisurely and by fits and starts , for the last many years or so , although in a more concentred manner for the last three years. It was been a along Journey since the mid – 1980s when I was foraging for manuscripts of the text , especially its commentaries and finally chanced upon a partially mutilated and defective one at jammu along with the other two, containing the text and the padapatha. I humbly bow to the Almighty for granting me physician strength and also long enough a life to complete the work and to see it in print.
I first offer my respectful obeisance on this occasion to my venerable guru (late) prof. Ulrich Schneider of the University of Freiburg ( later Musenster) who gave me a new vision to understand the Vedas, taught me the suktas of Rgveda on the robbing of soma and kindled my interest in the legend of Garuda through his book Der somaraub des Manu.
Sincere thanks are than due to the authorities of the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) , especially to mr. veena Joshi, IRS, the member secretary of the Indira Gandhi National centre for the Arts , New Delhi, who is presently also looking after the NMM, and its learned and very cooperative publication officer Dr Sanghamitra basu, Due to whom the is seeing the light of the day in their Prakashika series.
Grateful thanks are next due to Dr.Raghav Prasad Chadhary , ex-Principal of the Jammu vidyapeeth of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, who procured copies of the Bhasya, Padapatha and the text of Suparnadhyaya from the Raghunatha Sanskrit Manuscripts Library for me.
I further give my sincere blessings and thanks to my learned disciple Dr prakash Pandey, presently Principal of the jaipur Campus of the Rrashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan , Who copied the text of SuparnadhayA AS PRESENTED BY Grube and also the entire Bhaya of Jayasvamin. This has been of immense help to me in preparing the finally edited version of the text.
I am further Beholden to my dear wife Suman for bearing the boredom off loneliness patiently to which I subjected her while remaining engaged in finishing this work and for her constant insistence to finish the work as early as possible.
The Challenging task of typesetting the vedic text has been carried out with a masterly precision by Mr. Raju Verma of D.V. Printers for Which he deserves my thanks. I am also thankful to shri Lakmi Kant, the Computer Operator of the B.L. Institute of Indology , who has greatly helped me in correcting and laying out pages of the English Material.
That the Work is appearing in this beautiful, Correct and perfect, From is entirely due to the untiring efforts of shri Susheel K. Mittal of the D.K. Printworld who is a perfectionist. Not only did he make his editors read the work twice, but also himself went through the Entire script discovering a few misprints and, in addition, we gave valuable suggestion for its improvement.
Finally, I hope that the work should inspire the younger generation of scholars to produce further critical studies on the subject.
I dedicate this wok affectionately and with hearty blessings, to my younger siblings : ‘Rama ‘ [Prof.R.C. Tripathi, MA, Phd (Michigan)], former professor and HoD of the Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad and later Director, G.B. Pant Institute of social Sciences, Allahabad as well as ‘Munni’ [Dr Aparna Shukla , MA,PhD (BHU], Former Associate Professor f Psychology, Basant (Annie Besant ) college, Varanasi, both of whom have continuously been pillars of strength for me , and from whom I have constantly received a lot of love , respect and support . How true really are the sentiments of Sri Rama for his Younger brother Laksmana expressed in Yuddhakanda (101.14) of the Vlamiki Ramayana, taking cue from where, I may add:
देशे देशे तु मित्राणि देशे देशे तु बान्धवा: !
तं तु देशं न पश्यामि यत्र सन्ति सहोदरा !!
What is Suparnadhyaya ?
The Text that you have in your hand, dear reader, is a metrical dramatic work composed in the late Vedic – period, the oldest in India of this genre, possibly even in the entire world. The plot of the works is woven round the Vedic Myth of Fetching the drink of immortality, the Soma , by Garuda from Indra’s heaven for the sake of snakes in order to liberate his enslaved mother Vinata/Suparni, from the bondage into which she has inadvertently fallen due to losing a bet to her co- wife Kadru. Both of these, along with eleven others, are wives of Prajapati /Kasyapa who is also a rsi. Kadru is the mother of snakes and Vinata of the birds . vinta lays three eggs, ou of first emerges vidyut (lighting), from the second Aruna , the legless charioteer of the sun god and from the third finally the mighty Garuda with the inherent energy of the tapas (austerities) of the Balakhilyas. When he observes his mother serving Kadru as a slave –girl performing the function of an ancilla, he asks his mother the reason and upon being told it , wants t know the means of redemption. Snakes put the condition of fetching Soma for release of Vinita. Thereupon, after strengthening himself with proper food, Garuda flies to heaven, receives the blessing of Bhraspati underway and reaches the spot where Indra has hidden his soma under unusual heavy surveillance and protection. He kills the Guards, conquers the gods, defies Indra’s thunderbolt and successfully robs the soma.
However at the end Indra and garuda reconcile with each other. After showing the vessel of soma to the snakes and thus fulfilling the condition of “bringing” the soma from heaven, Garuda returns it to Indra . Both Become friends. Garuda lauds Indra and recognizes his authority as the overload of the world.
The story is an fact , an elaborately worked out and extended version, and extended version , enriched with new motifs, of certain vague references found in the Rgveda, the samhitas of the Black Yajus school and in the Satapatha Brahmana. In these text , the myth still has a symbolic characters. Various Vedic metres are “sent” to bring soma from heaven, but they fail and lose their syllables. Gaytri is then finally dispatched who assumes the from of a falcon and brings down the soma (cf. Maitrayani sam. IV.1.1) which is again symbolic of the fact that the majority of the mantras during the time when soma is pressed out and made ready for being offered are in the gaytri metre (cf .suktas 1-65 of the Mandala IX of the regveda ). In the Vajasaneyi Samhita XII . 4 , however, the sacrificial fire itself is addressed as Suparna and is identified with the metres and the samans . our Garuda is later also described in the text as a physical embodiment of the totality of the metres (chandamsi), the sacrificial formulae ( yajumsi) and melodies (samani). We shall come back to this point again in the following pages (cf. p. 21).
The Earth (Kadru ) revolts against Heaven for the callous treatment of its beings. The humans, represented by priests, treatment of its beings. The human, represented by priests, are capable of depriving gods of their soma, gods relent and concede to the wishes of humans, but ask humans in return to restore their Soma. With this act both earthly and divine Beings come to peace. Garuda is a link between heaven and earth; he is born of a divine mother ( viniata, the sky ) but an earthly father (Tarksa, Kasyapa).
The Indradhavaja Festival
The occasion for enacting this play was most probably the festival of Indradhavja which was celebrated in India with great enthusiasm and fanfare towards the concluding days of the rainy season, in the lunar month of Bhadrapada (from the twelth day of the bright fortnight, now the Vamana Dvadasi/Onam , onwards) for about a week and during which several events of cultural importance used to take place in honour of Indra, the King of heaven and the lord of rains, who is also responsible for bestowing bounties on earth, not solely in the from of rains. Our text also ends with Garuda – who has actually proved himself to be superior in might than all the god s taken together and has even defied the thunderbolt of Indra - becoming a close friend and ally of Indra and uttering a laudatio in Indra’s Praise, thus recognizing his ultimate supremacy.
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