Sanskrit dance and drama

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat May 8 17:11:52 UTC 1999

Dr. Palaniappan is of course entirely right in drawing attention to
Kuiper's 1991 book and his discussion of  the non-Indo-Aryan Rgvedic words
for music and dance. Actually Kuiper had done so before, in 1955:

Rigvedic Loanwords,  in: Studia Indologica. Festschrift fur Willibald
Kirfel (ed. Otto Spies), Bonn : Selbstverlag des Orientalischen Seminars
der Universitaet Bonn 1955, p. 137-185
especially pp. 154-155.

There is no doubt that such words are Austro-Asiatic/Munda, Dravidian or
belong to a third unknown language (cf. Masica's language 'x') . (More in
forthcoming papers in Fachtagung der Indogerman. Sprachwiss., Erlangen 1998
ed. B. Forssman, and in Mother Tongue).

But it is one thing to note that such words are important enough to be
included in the arcahic and traditional, hieratic vocabulary of the Rgveda
(almost all are  in later parts), and another thing to conclude that Indian
theatre is derived from a Dravidian source, as discussed earlier in this
thread. There simply were too many, diverse ethnic groups around in Vedic
India. See discussion in HOS Opera Minora 3 (forthcoming this spring).

This in the context of  Kuiper who focuses (see his book Varuna and
Vidusaka)  on the Vedic  sources of the myth underlying the first sections
of a drama performance.

At 0:40 -0400 5/8/99, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:
> [Kuiper]   also says that the "list of
>Bharata's sons who acted in the mythical first dramatic performance
>(bhAratIya nATyazAstra 1.26-39) consists for the greater part of names of
>indigenous tribes. He also says there are non-Aryan names/words for actors
>and singers in the Vedas.


>Among the words listed by Kuiper, I am intrigued by the word nALI. In his
>book, Kuiper mentions it twice as being non-Aryan. For him, one of the main
>reasons to consider it non-Aryan is the inter-vocalic retroflex. But,
>Mayrhorfer  relates it to words in Nuristani, Parthian/Middle Persian,
>Hittite, and Armenian and reconstructs an IE *ne/od-o-/-i-. Can IE experts
>say who is right?  Kuiper or Mayrhorfer?

Difficult problem. It depends on Mayrhofer's (and others' ) theory of
"spontaneous retroflexion" in some Vedic words.
See M. Mayrhofer,  Ueber den spontanen Zerebralnasal im fruehen
Indo-Arischen. In: Melanges d'Indianisme. Fs. Renou, Paris 1968, 509-517
In that case IE nedo > Ved. naDa/naLa  is possible....

However, I find difficulties with this theory. Words with -D- usually are
There also is the opposite tendency in RV:
RV avata 'hole'  :: avaTa SV, YV  with "Aryanization" of the form in RV,
and the more popular/non-IA form one in other, later texts. Words in -Ta
usually are non-IA. Cf. Kuiper 1991 p. 45 f.

As for naDa/naLa:
DEDR 3610 compares, errouneously, Tam. nal 'good' with the Skt. name (king)
Nala, see also  Zvelebil 1990: 82;
But Nala is in Ved. (SB king naDa naiSidha) and in Mbh. (nala
naiSadha), the king of the  apparently Austro-As. tribe of the
niSidha/niSadha = ved. (with"aryanization")  niSAda (YV: MS, VS+);

Erroneously, because the normal development is  (Rg) Vedic intervocalic -D-
> -L- and later  on,  > l  (see H. Luders, Philologica Indica, Gottingen
1940). Thus Satapatha Br.   naDa  is the old form, not nala.

- cf. further  Kuiper 1991: 33 on D/d, and p. 19 nADa RV 10.135.7 'flute,
pipe' (cf. also his  1948 book : Proto-Munda words in Sanskrit, Amsterdam
1948 p.  82).

A decision of such questions can only be made if specialists of the various
languages involved explain  (1)  the root AND all suffixes  and (2) the
meaning(s)  of the word involved
in all languages concerned.

Therefore, for example, Nala = Drav. nal does not work.

Michael Witzel                          Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies
Harvard University        
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990
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