Etymology of the words 'vedi' in ritual context

H.B.Dave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Thu Jun 29 08:16:52 UTC 2000

George Thompson wrote:

> In a message dated 6/27/00 3:35:16 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN writes:
> >
> >  You are right. The word vedi has relationship to the verb "to know".
> >  Kindly look up RV I-164-39, read with I-164-35 and contemplate what do
> >  those mantras say.
> >  I do not think the etymology given by Dr. Witzel  (from veda  = grass)
> >  applies to the word vedi as used in rituals. "barhi" has entirely
> >  different meaning from "sacred grass".
> >  -- Himanshu
> >
> dIrghatamas, the author of this famous sUkta, was certainly interested in
> esoteric veda and may well be associating the words ve'di and ve'da
> [knowledge -- note the accent, vs. veda', 'grass'] in these passages.

Is not almost whole of RigVeda "esoteric" ?

> But how shall we interpret all of the other RV passages where one sets fires
> on vedis, or pours oblations on vedis, or strews grasses on vedis?

WHat is the meaning of "fire"? and "oblations"? What does "grass" mean?
Do'nt you think INDOLOGISTs are making the same mistake as those who tried to
define the Botanical name for Somavalli and tried to search it out on face of
the Earth somewhere?

> A ritual context is the only context in which one will find a vedi, because
> it is ritual locus.

I think by ritual you mean a Yajna. But what is a  "Yanja"? Is it simply a fire
sacrifice? (i.e. offering some au.sadhi in a physical fire? Are you sure that
was the intended meaning/action?

> Just to show that the association of ve'di and veda', 'grass', is not a
> construction of Western etymologists, and to respond to S. Palaniappan's
> question, I quote P.V. Kane, *History of DharmazAstra*, vol. 2, part 2,  pp.
> 1034-37 [I quote only the relevant passages]:
> "To the west of the AhavanIya he constructs a vedi, which is in length as
> <snip>    <snip>
> ,
> and all dust that remains he removes to the utkara...."

I am aware of these. I remeber here a story which I raed a few years back (and
auther assured it is based on a true event) Please do take two minutes to read
it :
It seems an expedition group travelled in dense jungles of South America in
search of Gold. There they had taken modern weapons like rifles,
machine-guns,etc. Eventually, these people got killed (due to reasons not of our
interest). The aborigins living in the jungle, tried to use the weapons, but
they did not know how to, but they were well impressed by their efficassy, so
they constructed fake guns from bamboo sticks and black colour. At their social
gatherings (like marriages) they "fired" these "guns" by pointing them to sky
and striking heavily on their drums. They some how thought that they will
achieve the same effect as the original guns of the expeditionary group. This
belief was strengthened occassionally by an animal that they could catch due to
its confusion.
Let me be clear that I do not say that the ritual (the Yajna with physical fire)
are wrong or totally useless. They are limited and not the original  major
intent of RigVeda.

Incidently I am a pukka Brahmin, doing Sandhya two times a day.

> Hope that helps.
> GT

(I read in a later posting by GT that he uses the name diirghatamasin, I really
liked that. But what is the etymology  and meaning of the word  *diirghatamas*)
Best wishes,
-- Himanshu

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