`Vedic' vs Sanskrit

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Mon Feb 16 07:08:25 EST 1998

The following is a post in an Usenet group I made.
I am curious about this claim that the term `Vedic
Sanskrit' is incorrect. What do `real' Indologists think?


From: Vidhyanath Rao <nathrao+ at osu.edu>
Subject: Re: IE homeland: Synthesis
Date: Monday, February 16, 1998 6:50 AM

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote in message <34f1308f.488327551 at news.wxs.nl>...

>I have been adviced by specialists *never* to utter the word "Vedic
>Sanskrit".  It's Vedic, or Sanskrit.  The language codified by Panini
>is Sanskrit, and there is no reason to assume it wasn't something
>close to his native tongue.

I am curious: Just who are these ``experts'', and how much do they
know about Panini? I have seen blunders committed by those who
one are respected indologists. For example, once Jan Gonda
asserted that in a vartika, `lokavijnaate' is used as an explanation
of `anadyatane' [the former is qualifies `parok.se', occuring in
the vaartika and in a different suutra of Panini].

And do these same experts not use `Greek' for the language of
Homer? Do they not use `Tamil' for the language of Sangam
literature? [Mcdonell describes the difference between
Vedic and Classical Sanskrit as similar to the difference
between Homeric and Hellenistic Greek. Sangam and
Modern Tamil differ as much as Vedic and early Prakrits.]

While few would go as far as Bronkhorst (in a paper in IIJ in the
early 1970's) and claim that `Vedic' texts, in an archaising
dialect, were still being composed in Panini's day, I fail to see
how anyone with firsthand knowledge of both Panini and the
Vedic texts can deny that the langauge described  Panini is
closer to the latter Vedic texts than to that of the epics of other
medieval texts. In particular, in the matter of the verb system,
Panini's rules describe something very close to that of Aitreya
and Satapatha Brahmanas. To give one example: The so-called
conditional is used only in conditional sentences in medieval texts.
Panini simply says that it is used whereever the optative would be,
if the event did/will not take place. The Veic use conforms to
Panini's rule, and in fact, the standard example, `naavindat yad
aho.syat' is described in precisely the same terms by Mcdonell
and others.

<Getting on the soapbox>

In the last century, there was a tendency to imply that the Vedas,
especially the Rgveda were non-Indian. It seems to me that the
statement Vidal made is a residue of that. The unfortunate
failure of Indologists to replace Whitney' grammar prevents the
removal of the 19th century prejudices. In particular,  the modern
choronology is incompatible with the idea that Panini was or
should be describing the language of epics etc,  which in their
present form are latter than Panini by 600 years or more.
Yet people go on assuming that Panini's grammar is a grammar
of medieval Sanskrit, and thinking that gap between middle and
late Vedic texts and Panini is as great as the gap between
Rgveda and Mahabharata/Ramayana. This is reinforced by the
usual selection of reading material for Sanskrit classes. Any
attempt to question conclusions arising from such faulty
approach is just shrugged off, especially if they come persons
of Indian origin. The exclusive use of material by those with
axes to grind will never be tolerated if those affected were any
group except Hindus. And people wonder why Hindus get angry
at Indologists.

Thank you for listening and I will now get off the soapbox.

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