Rig Veda, ta'ntra, nUl, and sUtra

Palaniappa at aol.com Palaniappa at aol.com
Sun Apr 13 15:51:53 UTC 1997

A comparison of Rig Veda 10.71.9 and some Classical Tamil poems brings out
some interesting findings.
naRRiNai 353

"ALil peNTir tALiR ceyta
nuNagkunuN panuval pOlak kaNaGkoLa
ATumazai tavazum kOTuyar neTuvarai....."

"The tall mountain where the swaying rain clouds gather and pour like the
very very fine warp worked by the effort (or feet) of the women without men

What is being described here is the pattern of parallel lines one would see
when one is looking at falling rain from quite a distance outside the rain. 
In the poem, 'warp' is described using the words "nuNagkunuN panuval".

Consider another poem, akanAnURu 345.

kAnamar celvi aruLalin veNkAl
palpaTaip puravi eytiya tollicai
nuNaGkunuN panuval pulavan pATiya

This is translated as, " the very very fine song/poem sung by the poet who
obtained a horse with white legs due to the grace of the Goddess of the
forest". In the poem, 'song/poem' is denoted by the words "nuNaGkunuN
panuval", in exactly the same words as the warp of the weaving women in the
previous poem. 

Thus the word 'panuval' in the context of weavers should mean 'warp' and in
the context of poets/bards should mean 'verse/song/hymn'.  But bRhaspati
AGgiras is really mixing it up in Rig Veda 10.71.9.

The Sanskrit text of 10.71.9 is

ime' ye' nA'rvA'N na' para's' ca'rant' na' brAhmaNA'so na' sute'karAsaH I
ta' ete' vA'cam abhipa'dya pApa'yA sirI's ta'ntraM tanvate a'prajajJayaH II

Griffith's translation reads,

"Those men who step not back and move not forward, nor BrAhmans nor preparers
of libations,
Having attained to VAk in sinful fashion spin out their thread in ignorance
like spinsters."

The author criticizes the speech/songs of those who are not participating in
Vedic religious ceremonies and compares the sppech/songs to the 'stretched
warp' of weaving women.  There are several interesting things here. Why are
the weaving women chosen to exemplify 'improper' song/speech? Were they
non-Aryan and hence compared to those who do not participate in Vedic
ceremonies? Further, the improper utterance of people not particiupating in
Vedic rituals is directly compared to the warp of the (ignorant) weaving
women. My feeling is that the author was cleverly punning with the concept of
'panuval' since he knew the two-fold meanings of Dravidian 'panuval' and its
Indo-Aryan equivalent 'ta'ntra'. Considering the view that the AGgirasas were
originally indigenous people, the criticism leveled against the improper
speech of non-Vedic people, and women, doesn't bRhaspati AGgirasa look like a
precursor for PataJjali?


S. Palaniappan


puRanAnURu 125

"paruttip peNTin panuval anna
neruppuccinan taNinta niNantayaGku kozunkuRai...."

"The fat/thick piece of meat from which, after the anger of fire is lowered,
the fat is slowly moving/dripping, like the warp of the 'cotton' woman....". 

What is being described here is a meat piece being roasted over a fire
(probably held in a cross bar) from which fat/meat juice is dripping like
icicles after the fire is put out. These descriptions imply what both Vedic
and Classical Tamil texts were talking about were vertical looms. The poet
may indeed have intended a pun here. 'niNam' as a noun means 'fat, flesh,
serum'. The verb 'niNa'  means 'to tie, to braid'.

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