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Friday, May 29, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 17

Mantra 45:  “Speech has been determined to be made of four parts. Intelligent/ wise/ learned Brahmanas know them. Three of them do not move and are hidden. Man speaks only the fourth part.”

In the Vedas, Vac is next in importance to Brahman. It is not surprising since it is speech that made it possible for the rishis to express their thoughts and imaginations. If Brahman is the male (or Purusha of later philosophies), Vac is the female part (or Prakriti of later concepts).

But, what does Dirghatamas mean by “four parts” of speech? In later philosophies, speech is said to be an outcome of paraa, pashyanti,madhyama and Vaikari. In fact, any sound is made of these parts. Vaikari, which means articulated utterance, is the only the final outside part.  Paraa is the first stage when it is just a thought. Pashyanti is the stage when the thought gets activated to produce sound (naadam). Madhyama is when the effort to produce sound comes against the throat, mouth, tongue and teeth to make the actual sound/ or speech. Finally comes vaikari.

The problem is that I do not know whether these ideas were known at the time of Dirghatamas. If not, what did he mean by “four parts”? He still could have thought of several stages  between the time one wants to make a sound and actually makes it.

In addition, he refers to Brahmana, which is the name for one of the four priests of sacrifices in those days. Three of them (Hotr, advaryu and saman) were performing the sacrifice, when the Brahmana was always practicing silence, just observing and making sure the rituals were performed correctly and no mistakes were made in recitation or practice. Did Dirghatamas refer to these four?

Mantra 46:  This is one of the most famous passages from all the Vedas. The well-known statement "Ekam satyam, vipra bahudha vadanti" is from this mantra. It reads as follows:

“They call that Divine Golden Wing Garutman (Dictionary meaning of garutman includes bird and fire), Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Agni. The sages speak of the One by many names such as Agni, Yama and Matarishvan (Vayu).”

(“He is one; the sages call Him by many names” is the famous quote from Rg Veda)

Garutman, if interpreted as Fire can be correct since Agni is considered the primary deva, the leader of sacrifice in the Vedas. If interpreted as bird, I do not know what it might have meant to the poet. Did he imagine Brahman as a golden-winged bird?

Mantra 47: “The cow-pen (niyaanam) is dark. The rays are golden. (or the birds are golden-winged). Robed in waters they fly to heaven. From the region enveloped by Vrtra (aavavrtran)  they come again and again following cosmic order( rta). The earth is moistened with sprinkles (ghrta).”

Is the poet referring to the clouds  when he says “cow-pen” since it  is symbolically referred to as the place where  cows were hidden by Ila and Indra released them? The golden colored bird may be the sun. The second line seems to suggest the seasonal return of rainclouds and rain. One meaning of ghrita is sprinkling and Rg Veda itself refers to pouring ghee into Agni as similar to rain.

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