Dates of written Rgveda

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Sat Mar 11 14:12:29 UTC 2000

Steve Farmer wrote (I quote only one sentence):

>>  If it is really true that premodern Vedic reciters, unlike those found in
>>  every other known premodern civilization, maintained "near-perfect
 >> ORAL transmission" over two millennia of a highly stratified compilation
>> like  the Rgvedas, Indologists should be prepared with a credible reason
>> to explain India's uniqueness.

The uniqueness (if it really exists) might be explained by the fact that at
an early date (maybe during the Indus Valley Culture, which then would have
influenced the later Vedic culture) techniques of concentration and mind
controll were developed in India that seem to lack parallels in other
cultures (see the yoga schools spreading over the whole world these days as
an export from India).

Another striking example of this uniqueness (beside the oral transmission
of the Vedic texts) is in my opinion Panini's grammar. Regardless whether
one assumes that writing existed in his time (ca. 400 BCE?) in India or
not, the whole, extremely complicated and sophisticated, work is conceived
in a way that makes it useful under the condition only that you instal it
in your mind and let it work there as a kind of computer software.
Otherwise - used as a written text in the same way we use our grammars
today - it is difficult to survey and rather unpractical. A piece of
evidence of the orality of this grammar is the fact that the scope of some
comprehensive rules is marked by an accent, which is to be heard and not
written (the Panini experts on the List may correct me if I am wrong!).
With good reason Paul Thieme imagined Panini as a kind of meditating,
truth-working yogi, cf. Thieme, Kleine Schriften II, p. 1186 f., quoting
and translating Patanjali I.39.10 ff.: "The teacher (Panini) functioning as
an authoritative means of cognition, used to produce the sUtra with great
effort (that is: with the effort of spiritual concentration required for
the recognition and formulation of a deep truth): holding a cleansing bunch
of darbha-grass in his hand, being seated on clean ground, his face turned
toward the east."
Whereas this picture does not resemble a scholar writing a grammar,
Patanjali (2nd century BCE) might very well have composed his large
commentary on Panini by writing it.

Best regards

Georg v. Simson

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