epics and oral traditions

Srinivasan Pichumani srini at engin.umich.edu
Tue Jun 17 21:45:20 UTC 1997

Jacob >> Re the influence of writing on the transmission of 
Jacob >> the Samaveda, I have read of cases of interference
Jacob >> of writing, in that the musical value of certain
Jacob >> signs in the manuscripts was misinterpreted, which in
Jacob >> turn seems to show that the recitation was learned at
Jacob >> least in some cases from the written down version.
Jacob >> Does anyone know what I am talking about? 

I think you are referring to the "old" and "new" schools of 
Samavedic chant in Tamil Nadu.

The "old" school, also called the composite style of North Arcot 
or the MuLLaNtiram school, had cadjan leaf manuscripts which used
ka-ca-Ta syllable notation for the gAnAs.  Since these notational 
syllables were printed inline with the gAnas themselves, a student 
following the written gAnas without the guidance of a teacher was 
likely to include these syllables too in the course of his chant.

So, a Krishnaswami S'rautigal of TiruvaiyyAru went to Poona and 
copied the Saman texts available there with the numeral notation 
of the Northern Kauthumas, and printed it in Grantha characters.  
He then took it to Kumbakonam to the Sankaracharya of KAmakoti 
pITham for approval... but, it was decided that the Poona method 
cut up and dissected the musical phrases beyond all recognition
and was therefore useless.  However, the printed book prevailed
in the Southern (i.e. Tanjore/Tiruchi) districts, while the North 
Arcot, Kanchipuram pATas'AlAs stuck to the prAcIna school.

Wayne Howard's book "Samavedic Chant" (Yale Univ Press, 1977)
has this info, taken from a lecture given in 1957 by a T.K.
Rajagopala Iyer... but does not mention the timeframe when this
happened... I believe it is from the end of the 19th century. 

In a more recent article in the Journal of the Indian Musicological
Society (~ 1989),  Wayne Howard and L.S.Rajagopalan have reported
on the prAcIna Kauthuma Samavedic chant among Tamil Brahmins of 
Palghat District... which is on the verge of extinction.  These
Tamil Brahmins migrated a long while ago, mainly from the Tanjore 
region (apparently, Vaideesvaran Koil in Tanjore Dt is the place from
where most of the initial migrants hailed).  

When one of the followers of this style chanted before the late 
ParamAcArya of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham in the 80s, the AcArya is 
supposed to have been very pleased and honored him personally, 
while remarking that the chanter's style was the prAcIna one
reportedly prevalent in Tanjore a while ago, and that the present 
style in Tanjore was a modified one... he jokingly referred to the 
navIna style of chanting as Ramanna sAman, after one Ramanna who 
was responsible for it.

Jacob >> On the other hand there do seem to be traditions which
Jacob >> do not use (have never used?) writing at all, for example
Jacob >> Nambudiri Samavedins.

Klaus >> Thet learn their Vedas by heart, but in fact they do have 
Klaus >> manuscripts, too, and have had quite a some time (centuries, 
Klaus >> at least). Nambudiris have been literally very active and 
Klaus >> composed, in addition to works belonging to other genres 
Klaus >> of literature, commentaries to their own Vedic texts.

Wayne Howard reports that the Jaiminiya Samavedic tradition has
been strictly oral, and that they are not acquainted with any
system of notation... in direct contrast to Kauthumas of the
North with their numeral notation, Kauthuma-Ranayaniyas of the 
South with their syllable notation, and Tamil Jaiminiyas with
their syllable notation (and manuscripts in both Malayalam and
Grantha scripts).

This suggests that they at least don't have manuscripts of the
Jaiminiya grAmageyagAna and other songbooks. 


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