saras 2

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Mon Jun 15 10:30:05 UTC 1998

To add to Jan Houben's note:
>Note that sarasvatI is also a (meaningful) proper name of a cow, already in the
>Rgveda: Cf. in the so-called "riddle hymn" RV 1.164 verse 49:
>ya's te sta'naH . . . sa'rasvati ta'm iha dhA'tave kaH.
>"This everflowing teat/udder of thine . . . Sarasvati, make it here ready to be
>The verse is pronounced when the calf is brought near the cow to stimulate the
>flow of milk (of which the calf gets only a part: the rest is for the Pravargya
>offering). The employment of the verse by the father when he gives his new born
>baby to the mother for breast-feeding (e.g. pAraskaragRhyasUtra 1.16.21) is
>clearly secondary. The cow is in the Rgveda and in later text a frequent
>metaphor of speech, e.g. in the same "riddle hymn" 1.164 verses 41-42 (here a
>buffalo-cow however: gaurI'). Cf. further J. Gonda, pUSan and sarasvatI,
>Amsterdam 1985 (e.g. p. 35ff, 44ff).
Dominique and I have discussed this a bit off-list already, but perhaps the
list will be able to add further insight. JH is quite right to assert that
the metaphor 'flow of cow's milk = flow of speech' is well attested already
in the RV, and that the image of goddess SarasvatI, as cow, has been
influenced by this metaphor. Of course, the identification of SarasvatI
with goddess VAc is made explicit later in the BrAhmanas, etc.

So one is not surprised to see the word *sarasvatI* included in the list of
words for "speech" at Naig. 1.11. But the presence of the word *saras* on
this list is less expected, since nowhere to my knowledge is this word used
directly as a metaphor for 'flow of speech'.

Dominique and I have discussed RV 7.103.7 in this context. I think that
this stanza may be the basis of the inclusion of *saras* on the Vac list.
Here it is:

brAhmaNA'so atirAtre' na' so'me
sa'ro na' pUrNa'm abhi'to va'dantaH
saMvatsara'sya ta'd a'haH pa'ri STha
ya'n maNDUkAH prAvRSI'NaM babhU'va

"Like Brahmins at the over-night soma rite,
talking as if around a full pond,
that day of the year do you attend,
o frogs, when the rainy season has begun."

If I am right, then it would appear that the inclusion of *saras* on the
list at Naig. 1.11 is a more or less *mechanical* association of the word
*saras* with the goddess VAc, purely on the basis of the familiar
association of SarasvatI and VAc. Note that the presence of the comparative
particle na' [twice] seems to be completely ignored, *if* this passage is
the basis for Naig 1.11, as I think it is.

My questions to the list's Nirukta-ziSTas:

1. How to explain the presence of *saras* at Naig. 1.11?

2. Are there other RV [or other] passages that might better justify this
inclusion that RV 7.103.7?

3. Is this not typical of Nirukta, also well-known for its inconsistent,
seemingly ad hoc etymologies?

4. Can the Nirukta be legitimately used as a source for lexical glosses
such as Dominique is seeking in this thread?

[P.S. I understand the book _Indian Semantic Analysis_, by E Kahrs, may be
available soon. Can anyone confirm this? Is this a translation of the book
of Kahrs discussed a year or two ago on the list, or is it something new?].

Thanks in advance,

George Thompson

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