The Present volume is a collection of papers originally presented in the first National Seminar held at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi from 11-13 February, 2005 on "Veda as Word." The seminar was cosponsored by Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi.
It must be acknowledged at the outset that the topic of the seminar was prompted by another seminar on the theme " Veda As Knowledge" organized by Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain in collaboration with ICPR in January, 2004. It was while participating in the above programme that this idea struck my mind to organize a seminar on Veda As Word and I kept nurturing it till such time that an apt occasion for a full-fledged seminar was available. During this period, I not only applied to ICPR and JNU for financial assistance but also interacted with prospective participants and the idea blossomed into many aspects. Once the ICPR sanction came and the faculty as well as administration at JNU endorsed the proposal for holding the seminar, I swung into action and started executing the proposal.
It is worth mentioning here that the seminar on Veda was intended to focus mainly on the expressed form and features involved in the recitation of mantras of the Veda. Right from the time of Yaska, the author of Nirukta, there has been a group of scholars, which opines that Vedic verses are meant for recitation only, these do not have any meaning. We may agree with him or not, but this view of Kautsa highlights a point worth pondering that words of Veda are unique in the sense that mere utterance of these in the given form does have some special effect.
In the Indian philosophical tradition, the Mimamsakas have been upholding this view with a firm conviction that Veda is eternal, infallible and unchangeable. On the other hand, there are the Naiyayikas who propound that all words, including the Vedic ones, are created, and hence non-eternal.
In view of the above, some significant issues which emerged during the course of discussion in the seminar on Veda as Word, may be mentioned as follows:
· Is Veda Merely a word, utterance or recitation or is there some real, hidden meaning of the Vedic word?
· If there is a meaning of the Vedic word, then what is the relation between word and meaning and how to decipher is exactly, since so many varied interpretations of the same Vedic verse are available?
· How is Vedic word different from an ordinary utterance? Is Mantra really an extraordinary, contemplated word of the rsis?
· Is Vedic word eternal or non-eternal?
· Is Vedic Word impersonal or Personal?
· What is so significant about proper accentuation of Vedic verses? Does is really have any effect?
· Do Vedic words connote history or are they simply etymological as claimed by some of the interpreters?
· Is Veda a self -validated, ultimate evidence in the process of knowledge as has been propounded by different schools of Indian Philosophy?
These and many more aspects related to the theme were discussed in three days of the seminar wherein nineteen* papers were presented under nine academic sessions besides the inaugural and the valedictory session.
From The Jacket
"Precious or durable materials- gold, silver, bronze, marble, onyx or granite- have been used by most ancient peoples in an attempt to immortalize their achievements. Not so, however, with the ancient Aryans. They turned to what may seem the most volatile and insubstantial material of all- the spoken word- and out of this bubble of air fashioned a monument which more than thirty, perhaps forty, centuries later stands untouched by time or the elements. For the pyramids have been eroded by the desert wind, the marble broken by earthquakes, and the gold stolen by robbers, while the Veda remains recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations, traveling like a great wave through the living substance of mind."
" The Veda itself is the secret of the Veda. The foundation stone that India contributed to civilization, the Veda, is said to embody the regulations, the laws of the universe as 'seen' by the gifted poets, prophets or seers, the rsis." "Set by them in a special language to be joyfully proclaimed for future ages, it has come down to us through an elaborate oral tradition, consciously designed to prevent any distortion. Even today had we no written record available, it would still be possible to have access to the Veda as it existed when the text was fixed three or four thousand years ago! This supreme monument of an early religion, which has left us with no archaeological remains, no church, no drama, no founder, and virtually no history, forms the canon of the Hindu scriptures, the core of which is a collection of over a thousand hymns, more than ten thousand stanzas in all, known as the Rgveda."
About the Book
The Present volume is a collection of papers originally presented at the first National Seminar held at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi, during 11-13 February, 2005 on Veda as Word.
The book covers in its gamut Vedic Philosophy, phonetics, ritual, accentology, mantravijnana, exegisis, narratives, lexicography, etymology, grammar, ethics, epistemology and also some select hymns of the Veda which deal specifically with word or sound.
Prof. (Dr) Shashiprabha Kumar, Chairperson, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU taught as a Reader in Classical Indian Philosophy at the University of Delhi before joining JNU in 2001. She has a total teaching experience of thirty-four years. She has authored Vaisesika Darsana mein Padartha Nirupana (Delhi University, 1992) which is widely acclaimed and highly appreciated. Her other works are-Self, Society and Value: Reflections on Indian Philosophical Thought, (Vidyanidhi, 2005); Facets of Indian Philosophical Thought (1999); Bharatiyam Darsanam (1999); Vaisesika Parisilana (1999); Vedic Anusilana (1998); and Vedic Vimarsa (1996). She has edited Garima (2001); Kala- Tattva-Chintana (1997); Bharatiya Sanskrit- Vividh Ayama (1996); Relevance of Indian Philosophy in Modern Context (1993); and co-edited Quest for Excellence (2000). Dr. Kumar has also translated Nyayamanjari 1st chapter in Hindi (2001) and Sanskrit Maxims from Nyaya-Vaisesika texts in Hindi and English (Delhi Sanskrit Academy, Delhi, 2001). She has published more than seventy papers in journals and has edited several books. She has published more than seventy research papers in journals and has edited several books. She has contributed chapters to the volumes of Centre for Studies in Civilization, Indian Council for Philosophical Research, New Delhi and Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Her Current research interests include Vedic Philosophy, Upanishads, Vedanta and Vaisesika.
The Vedas have been acclaimed and accepted as a reservoir of profound knowledge both in India and abroad. This sacred literature, because of its vastness in the form of Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanisads and Vedangas, has been studied with deep faith. The oral tradition of Veda was preserved in this great country of ours for centuries together and even now this tradition is alive throughout the length and breadth of our country. It is a happy augury that scholars from India and abroad have studied, researched and debated the contents of this literature, as a result of which we cannot underrate its importance or marginalize it even today.
I, indeed, feel honoured to have been asked by Prof.
Shashiprabha Kumar, Chairperson of the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, to write a Foreword to the book 'Veda as Word' which essentially is the print form of the proceedings of the national seminar held earlier. Efforts of such magnitude are always welcomed by scholars who intend to delve deep into the ocean of Vedic learning. Such publications become more meaningful when they are viewed in the context of the 1986 Education Policy of the Government of India which stated:
"Efforts will be made to delve into ancient fund of knowledge and to reel it to contemporary realities. This effort will employ the development of facilities for the intensive study of Sanskrit."
In the opinion of Shri Aurobindo: "Since our earliest ages the Veda has been, in the invincible tradition of our race, the bedrock of all our creeds; in this our goddess of veiled and ancient speech we have always persisted in seeing the fruitful mother of all our Indian spirituality. After the ingenious toils of Roth and Max Muller, as after the erudite diligence of Yaska and Saya1!a, the Vedic mantras remain for us what they have been for some thousands of years, a darkness of lost light and a sealed mystery."
It is an undisputed thought that seers of the Vedas were not infantile thinkers making uncoordinated hazes; they were rather grateful inquirers, in possession of a great system of thought, intuitional, no doubt, rather than logical, but still reposing for its variety on a method of strenuous experiment and searching observation.
Shri Aurobindo in continuation of his opinion expressed above states further that "All human knowledge consists of three necessary elements - the thing itself which is known, the word or form in which it is expressed and the sense of the word or form which is the link between the thing and its expression. The thing itself, existing always, is always and at any given time capable of being known; the word or form can also be constantly preserved and may, then, always and at any given time. "
The contributors in this volume have laid due emphasis on the guruparampara in maintenance of the oral tradition. This tradition forms the succession of spiritual torchbearers in preserving the knowledge system which was passed on from generation to generation in order to maintain the purity of the knowledge. It was an effort at transmitting the vast reservoir of knowledge to the dawn of another golden age of spirituality. The bond between human beings and God is brought into effect through sacrifices. The mantras in themselves are a collection of words strung together to create a positive effect. As such, the mantra is related to mind and the seer does speak to free the mind. In support of this we find that "Out of six Vedangas four of them deal exclusively with the various components of words, viz. Siksa (phonetics), Vyakarana (phonology, morphology and syntax), Nirukta (etymology) and Chand as (metrics). Vyakarana is, again, considered to be the mukham (mouth) or spokesperson of the Vedas."
To help us in appreciating the concept of "Sabda Brahman, eternal, imperishable and the source of all worldly appearances, here the visible or invisible pratyayas are perhaps more powerful than the original prakrti-roots."
The long tradition of commentaries of Vedas has enriched our knowledge insofar as the understanding of the mantras as a whole is concerned. However, one has to add a word of caution while determining the importance of commentaries because our tradition implores us "to determine the meaning of the text according to the accepted paddhati and in the shared meta- language."
The contributions of states like Kerala to Vedic study also draw our attention to the tradition which seems to be marginalized from the research area of other parts of our country. The great Yaskacaryas who paved the way for understanding the Vedas on the principle of etymology cannot be ignored. It is in this context that the enquiry of Nirukta Vedanga deserves special mention.
While browsing through all that has been incorporated in this study one feels tempted to quote the opening of Gospel where St. John says, "In the beginning was a word, and word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God and things were made through him. " In the Vedas this has been called "Sabda Brahman."
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