Some thoughts on Sanskritization or Tantrification?

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sun Jun 15 15:56:55 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-06-13 22:16:26 EDT, you write:

<< This question imposes an extremely
 artificial distinction between "Vedic" and "tAntric". Whatever one's own
 thoughts on these two terms may be, there is no doubt that the sacredness
 of a mantra is very much a Vedic concept. I suspect that many scholarly
 conceptions of what it means to be "vedic" stop with the Rgveda. There is
 the yajurveda also, you know, which unlike the sAmaveda, does not share a
 whole lot of material with the Rg. Both pancAkshara and ashTAkshara
 mantras occur in the taittirIya SAkhA of the yajurveda. 
 Indeed, a scholar of Indian religion will do well to steer clear of such 
 vedic vs. tantric divisions, and call it a "mAntric" concept. Entire
 portions of the prAtiSAkhya and brAhmaNa literature concentrate on the
 meaning/enunciation of vedic mantras, and in the later schools of Vedic
 exegesis, the mantra becomes central to the entire Vedic religion, so
 much so that there is no vedic god independent of a mantra.  >>

As for your discussion on the Yajur Vedic material, I have come across Dr.
Parpola's work related to this issue. This is what Asko Parpola says in his
book Deciphering the Indus Script (p.168-169) in talking about the Dravidian
phonological and syntactic influences on Rgvedic language. "One further
reason why some scholars have been unwilling to accept these structural
features as Dravidisms, in addition to the small number of Dravidian loan
words (which are also called into question), is their early and sudden
appearance. This, however, is exactly what can be expected if the Dravidisms
were adopted indirectly, through another Aryan language that had been subject
to direct substratum influence of Dravidian for a longer time.We must bear in
mind that the Rgveda was largely composed in the plains of the Punjab
relatively late, and redacted even later. The language, as well as the
contents, of the Yajurveda reflects an entirely different tradition, which
probably evolved in the Punjab and was incorporated in the Veda only during
the acculturation that may be assumed to have taken place after the descent
of the Rgvedic tradition from the Swat Valley. Epic Sanskrit, which contains
a larger number of Dravidian loanwords than the Vedic texts, is likely to go
back to the same 'Proto-Yajurvedic' dialect of Old Indo-Aryan".

What this seems to tell me is that the Yajur Vedic materials are a result of
a combination of pre-Rg Vedic and Rg Vedic materials and as you indicated, I
should be talking about differences between 'Rgvedic' and 'tantric' materials
instead of 'vedic' and tantric'. (What I was trying to do was using two
'onvenient' words to distinguish the cultural elements of the later Aryans
and the people who came earlier.) And, if the emphasis on pancAkshara and
ashtAkshara begins only with Yajur Veda, then won't there be a significant
probability  that these views were contributions from the pre-Rgvedic Aryan
culture? In that case, 'maRai' must pre-date Vedas. For instance, normally,
no Indian would refer to Rg Veda as Hindu Bible. But the Bible is referred to
as Christian Veda or Christian maRai by Indian Christians. Similarly, while
'maRai' would have been used to refer to vedas and tantras, the term 'Veda'
would not be used to refer to tantras. That is why I feel that a study of the
usage of the words 'maRai' and Veda will be useful. A clue that we have
something other than Vedas is indicated by the term 'maRai' may be given by
the text that Durga is "maRai above maRai". Is she described in Sanskrit
texts as 'Veda above Veda'? If so, then we may have to discount the
usefulness of this clue.

As for CT attestation about chanting of the Vedas in Tamilnadu, they seemed
to have done it very publicly. ParipATal 11 describes brahmins making 'havir'
offerings in the fire on the banks of Vaiyai river and the brahmin girls
warming themselves by the fire after bathing in the river in the month of
'tai'. (Of course, Manu classifies all Tamils, along with Chinese etc, as
fallen Kshatriyas. So they might not have had as much reservation about the
Tamils hearing the Vedas.) According to R. Ghose, to this day, verses from
the Vedas (including rudram and camakam) are chanted in the TiruvArUr temple
in a hall outside the sanctum sanctorum, which seems to me  to be a public
place as well. So I do not know if the concept of secrecy was attached to
vedas. But it will be good if other Indian groups characterized the vedas as
secret texts.


S. Palaniappan  

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