India as an area of concepts (was Re: Retroflexion and Re: Indo-Aryan invasion)

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Tue Mar 3 23:27:12 EST 1998

In a message dated 98-03-02 18:51:39 EST, thompson at JLC.NET writes:

<< aitareya-AraNyaka 3.2.6:

 "Now kRSNahArIta proclaims this secret doctrine, as it were, regarding
 speech to him. prajApati, the year, after creating creatures, burst. He put
 himself together by means of the meters, therefore it is the saMhitA. Of
 that saMhitA the letter N is the strength, the letter S the breath, the
 self. He who knows the saMhitA and the letters N and S, he knows the
 saMhitA with its breath and its strength.... If he is in doubt whether to
 say it with an N or without an N, let him say it with an N. If he is doubt
 whether to say it with an S or without an S, let im say it with an S....
 hrasva mANDUkeya says: 'If we repeat the verses according to the saMhitA,
 and if we recite [according to] the teaching of mANDUkeya, then the letters
 N and S are obtained for us'.... sthavira zAkalya says: 'If we repeat the
 verses according to the saMhitA, and if we recite [according to] the
 teaching of mANDUkeya, then the letters N and S are obtained for us."

 This passage is cited by Madhav Deshpande in his article "Genesis of
 Rgvedic Retroflexion" [I take it from the version reprinted in _Sanskrit
 and Prakrit: Sociolinguistic Issues_ (1993), p. 142.]

 As Deshpande goes on to note. for the author of this text a certain option
 existed between the use of retroflex N and S, as opposed to dental n and s.
 And clearly the author's preference is for the retroflexes. >>

F. B. J. Kuiper in his book, "Aryans in the Rig Veda" (1991) says, "To prove
that at a certain time there was much uncertainty as to whether to pronounce
Na or na, Sa or sa, Deshpande heavily leans upon Ait. Ar. III.2.6. His theory
is, indeed, that this uncertainty arose at the time when the new phonemes were
introduced into Sanskrit. As far as I can see, the text proves just the
reverse. It stresses the superiority of the saMhitA-text and illustrates and
confirms it by a myth that relates how PrajApati once upon a time fell usunder
and put himself together again (AtmAnAm samadadhAt) by means of the
metres.......The text of the Ait.Ar., as it stands, expresses a similar idea
as follows: "He who knows [the mystic character of] these syllables Na and Sa
(and) the verses according to the saMhitA-text, he (or: and?) knows the
saMhitA-text that is full of strength and breath. He should know that gives a
long life.".....In other words:"The modern way of ignoring the original sandhi
makes the text powerless. Only if we stick to the old traditional sandhi, the
text has vigour and gives a long life." What the text refers to is the well-
known importance of "die korrekte und damit allein magisch wirksame Rezitation
vedischer Texte" (von HinUber 1989:18)" (p.12-13)

The difference between Deshpande and Kuiper is not really about the origin of
retroflexion but about its timing. Kuiper assigns it to a far earlier period.

While I am not a Sanskrit and hence leave the discussions of the differing
interpretations of Vedic texts to specialists, I would like to note one point.

In another posting, George Thompson said, "The point of Hock's recent resume
of his views is to counterpose two models
of the early relationship between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian: one model he
characterizes as 'the subversion [or substratum] hypothesis'; the other as
'the convergence hypothesis'. In spite of Edwin's surprise, I am actually
sympathetic with this second view, and I am interested in discussions of
bilingualism as a factor *in either scenario*."

My own research on concepts such as sUtra/nUl, tantra/panuval, and tanu/pAvai
suggest a close and longer relationship between Aryan and Dravidian speakers
for this type of loan translations to occur in such important textual and
religious fields in the earliest texts. The latest discovery regarding the
Dravidian origin of VS term "kuyava" meaning harvest also suggests a much
closer interaction between the groups. As a result, although earlier I used to
accept Dr. Deshpande's arguments regarding the chronology of retroflexion in
IA, now my position is closer to Kuiper's. (I am also finding amazing
similarity between the roles of potters and brahmins as attested by Classical
Tamil and later inscriptions lending more support to my theory of IA AGgirases
and bhArgavas being the  Aryanized Dravidian kuyavas and vELArs. This along
with some Vedic data provided by John Gardner will form a separate posting
after I sort out some Dravidian linguistic issues.)

By the way "India as an area of concepts" was discussed by Thompson and myself
in a private communication. I hope he does not mind my using it as the Subject
of the posting.


S. Palaniappan

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