When did the gods become literate? Was: Are the gods literate?

George Thompson GthomGt at CS.COM
Mon Nov 8 14:03:44 UTC 1999

Hello Srini,

Thieme reconstructs the 'thrice-seven' as follows:

a  i  u  R  e  o  ai  au
y  r  l  v
k  c  T  t  p
z  S  s  h

The problem that Thieme tackles in this article is not so much to justify the
assumption that this number refers to a series of sounds [not an ''alphabet"
in the sense of a script], since the context [hymn addressed to vAcaspati,
etc.] strongly suggests that the verse is concerned with the powers of speech
.  No, the problem is to come up with a rational explanation for the number
21 as the number of sounds in the sacred language.  This number, of course,
does not match the number found in Panini, nor in the prAtizAkhyas, nor in
the Devanagari script.  But by using AkRtis one can eliminate the ayogavAhas
[anusvAra, etc., which are considered by Panini as secondary], all of the
long vowels, as well as the savarNa forms of the stops: thus k represents kh,
g, gh and nasal G, etc. By this process one arrives at the number 22.  The
number 21 is achieved by eliminating L, as is done in the kAtyAyanIya
prAtizAkhya.[cited by Thieme].

> From this brief summary of Thieme's article it may appear that Thieme is
forcing the data into the framework of the magical number 21. But I think
that he had good reasons to do so, as a detailed examination of his article
would, I think, show. The number is certainly a magical one in the RV [cf.
ref. to 21 secret names of the cow, etc.]

Hope this helps,


In a message dated 11/6/99 7:04:48 PM Eastern Standard Time,
srini_pichumani at MENTORG.COM writes:

>  George,  I remember Prof.Deshpande referring to this article in a lecture
> the U
>  of Michigan...  what are the 21 items of this old alphabet,  as
> reconstructed by
>  Thieme ?
>  Thanks,
>  -Srini.

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