Musical trees and rivers?

mohkam n.mohkamsing at WORLDONLINE.NL
Mon Dec 11 11:07:44 UTC 2000

Dear Christian,
The points made by Bharata Gupta and Stephen Hodge are certainly
intersting, but if Christian 'insists' that his passage represents a "list
of what ought to be various types of instrumental music (vaadya)", a
Skt-musicological approach is in order. From that point of view, the text
seems to be corrupt and some variant readings on the  passage would provide
more 'space' to make a good guess.
So if the passage indeed represents a list of instrumental music (vaadya),
then we may expect that four types have been mentioned here. In Skt.
musicology the traditional classification of musical instruments, as
promulgated by the NATyashAstra, is as follows: (1) lutes (tata); (2) flute
(su.shira); (3) ghana (cymbals); and (4) avanaddha (drums).
TAla and muraja are representative members of the last two types
respectively. That means that the first two types are assumably also
represented by instruments denoted as "vanaspati-nady-ucchaTaa-".
Thus far, the facts, now, a wild guess. Vanaspati seems to represent the
lutes. There are two main classes of lutes (vI.nA), viz. corporal (shArIrI)
and wooden (dAravI). The former refers to the human throat where the vocal
cords function as a stringed instrument. The wooden lute, on the other
hand, are the 'actual' lutes and are of course made of wood [but based on
the human voice]. So Vanaspati could be a synonym for DAravI. To check this
you should check the traditional dictionaries like Amara, etc.
Then we arrive at the crux of the problem: nady-ucchaTaa- Does this
compound refer to the flutes, and thereby represent the second type? Your
interpretation of ucchaTaa- as "snapping of fingers", makes no sense [at
least not to me]. Please throw more light [preferably with the needed
Keeping the meanings and connotations of su.shira in mind one should
perhaps think of a flow (nadi?) of air/breath (ucchvAsa?)

narender mohkamsing
Leiden, The Netherlands

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