Linguistic Knowledge of Vedic Hindus (Post No.4498)

Written by London Swaminathan 

 

Date: 15 DECEMBER 2017 

 

Time uploaded in London-  15-55

 

 

Post No. 4498

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.

 

Vedic Hindus were highly educated. We come across many linguistic observations in all the four Vedas. Rig Veda, the oldest book, has many hymns dealing with linguistic points. Satyakam Varma has summarised them in his book Vedic Studies.

 

Rig Vedic hymns 1-164, 4-58, 8-59, 8-10, 10-114, 10-125, 10-177 and many hymns in the Atharva Veda talk about language and linguistics.

 

A brief summary of the points raised by the Vedic seers in those hymns are as follows:

Hymn 1-164

Dirgatamas’ hymn 1-164 is one of the longest hymns the Rig Veda. He talks about various subjects in a coded language with lot of symbolism.

In the hymn, mantra 24 refers to the seven speeches

Mantra 24 points out that this faculty of speech is found only in the human beiges.

Mantra 45 gives information about the divisions of speech. Grammarian Patanjali and others also discussed this in detail.

Hymn 4-58

Patanjali referred to part of this hymn. The four parts of speech are explained here. Patanjali discusses seven cases and the three originating centres of pronunciation.

 

In the opening mantra of this hymn, the originating source of speech has been referred to as GUHA while BRAHMA has been referred to as a title for the one who knows the intricacies of the four -fold speech and its behaviour.

Hymn 8-59

Some of the most prominent observations of this hymn are as follows:

The ultimate truth is brought forth through the medium of seven-fold speech

These seven folds or divisions of speech are seven sisters of the ultimate truth

Speech protects us through its seven physical and three temporal divisions. And

three chief aspects of speech-behaviour are mental, and intellectual faculties, coupled with the acquired knowledge.

 

Hymn 8-100

The tenth and eleventh verses of this hymn declare that speech is the expressive medium for human as well as animal beings, the only difference being in the degree of distinctness

Hymn 10-71

This hymn is most important and is soley devoted to the linguistic observations alone, some of which are as follows:

An initial expression of name is indicative of a wholesome integrated expression of the accumulated ideas in the speaker’s mind. Thus, it originates as a representative of complete statement.

The emotions are desires of the Self are filtered in the mind, from where it takes the shape of words or speech, which is expressed externally with the help of the articulatory forces.

Thus, a word takes its usable form first in one’s mind which is then pronounced from seven places and in different tones.

Speech and language are not only the objects ears and eyes alone; no one can understand it without the help of mind, the sharpness of otherwise of which makes the difference in one’s power of understanding.

With only training and knowledge, we can learn the correct usage of the language and avoid its misuse, generated mostly from our ignorance.

 

Hymn 10-114

In at least six verses of this hymn, different aspects of linguistic phenomenon have been discussed. In the fourth and fifth verses, the principle of multiple exprepressibility of one and the same truth has been stressed explicitly. The seventh verse declares that the seven fold speech is capable to express all expressible forms.

Hymn 10-125

The hymn discloses the inner strength of speech, more particularly its unifying and harmonising powers.

Hymn 10-177

If interpreted in its proper prspective this hymn discloses the four steps involved in the speech production. It consists only three verses. Its topic is Patanga which often has been interpreted as Sun or Supreme Self. But its proximity with the speech equates it with the Speech Self or Vagatma.

 

Sabda Brahman

The original concept of the eternity of speech has been propunded in the Rig Veda, making speech one in extent and content with Brahman, which stands for Supreme Self, Knowledge and Veda alike

 

My Comments

 

These verses spread over different Mandalas (chapters) of Rig Veda show that they are not isolated ones. Moreover, these cover different periods of time. The Vedic people were neither nomads nor primitive. Great grammarians like Patanjali who lived at least 2000 years ago interpret them correctly. So we don’t need any help from the ‘Western Sayanas’.

 

The absence of such linguistic and grammatical observations in other ancient cultures show that we are well advanced than those cultures. And it also shows we were sons of the soil. If we have come from Central Asia or Europe, at least some remnants must be there.

Oldest Tamil Book

Oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam is a grammatical treatise. Scholars date it between first and third century BCE. Even that book refers to the Vedas where it dealt with pronunciation and origin of speech (Sutra 102). If it has reached the southern most part of India 2300 years ago, we must understand how much we have progressed in the science of languages.

The four divisions of speech are a very interesting one. It needs further research. The Vedic seers say that the audible speech is only one of the four.

Number Seven is associated with lot of things in the Vedas. Seven Sisters or Seven Mothers (Sapta Mata) is seen in Indus seals as well.

 

–Subham—

 

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