Rig Veda, ta'ntra, nUl, and sUtra

Palaniappa at aol.com Palaniappa at aol.com
Fri Apr 4 13:53:39 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-04-03 18:36:37 EST, you write:

<< To my knowledge the most detailed discussion of the topic of weaving in
 Vedic is in German, by Wilhelm Rau, called "Weben und Flechten" ["Weaving
 and Braiding"].  Unfortunately, I do not have access to it any longer, so I
 cannot give you details of his point of view.
 However, I can tell you that metaphorical uses of terms for weaving, such
 as those that you have cited, can be found throughout Vedic literature,
 starting with the RV.  Such metaphorical uses are probably not Vedic
 inventions but rather are likely to be inheritances from Indo-European,
 since similar metaphors are found in Avestan, Greek [cf. Ariadne's
 "thread"], Latin [cf. our English word "text" which derives from Latin
 textus -- also think of "textile" and "texture", all derived from texere
 "to weave": related to Skt. taks-, which one finds in Vedic with ma'ntra;
 also in Avestan], and Old Germanic [unfortunately, again, the best
 references are in German].  Various forms of the verb vA-/vi-/u [including
 infinitive o'tum] occur in the RV, in a metaphorical sense "to weave a song
 or vision" [a rather vivid example is the hymn RV 6.9].
 The term sU'tra is attested at AVZ 10.8.37-38, a brahmodya-like pair
 [without interrogation] that in my view suggests a metaphorical sense [cf.
 the repeated phrase sU'traM sU'trasya with the verb vid- "to know the
 thread of the thread", very interesting in light of satya'sya satya'm,
 studied by Hanns Oertel, who mentions this passage].
 Also, as you suggest, forms of the root tan- [ta'ntu, ta'ntra] exhibit this
 sort of metaphorical sense as well.  Here, however, there is the additional
 factor of the collocation of the verb tan- with yajJa'm, "to stretch out
 the sacrifice"; see also the phrase Rta'sya ta'ntu [discussed by Lueders].
 I won't go into details, for fear of "losing the thread." >>

Thank you for your comments. Your reference of RV 6.9 made me consider the
process of weaving more closely.

In Tamil/Dravidian, the word for warp is 'pA' and the word for woof is 'UTu'.
The basic meaning of 'pA' is 'to stretch, to spread'. The word 'pAy' meaning
'to flow' (as the river) is derived from this. Significantly, the word for
'verse' is also 'pA'. The word 'pATu' meaning 'to sing' is derived from this.
Cognates of 'pATu' occur in all the groups of Dravidian. So this must go back
to proto-Dravidian. 

Now, the use of "ta'ntu" the Sanskrit term for warp in the meaning of 'to
sing' is identical. Again, we may be talking some universal concepts. But is
there any evidence of Indo-European usage of 'warp' specifically to denote
verses/songs which are stretched out utterances?

By the way, if you can give the reference on or explain more Ariadne's
"thread", it will be a help. Can you suggest somebody who can give me the
conclusions of "Weben und Flechten"? Thanks.


S. Palaniappan

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