Dates of written Rgveda

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Mar 15 03:51:39 UTC 2000

Raam, Raam,
another failure in reading what has  been stated clearly enough.

The tradition that Sunahsepa composed 100 verses does *not* come from the
RV, only the 97 hymns that are *attributed* to him, and attributed only  by
*later* Vedic  tradition.

I explained already in my last message that this is not = oral transmision
of the RV *text*. (points *1 and * 2).
In other words, DIFFERENT from (a) the arrangement of RV hymns and stanzas
and (b) from any changes in pronunciation etc. that these stanzas may or
may not have undergone (my original statement).

"Sunassepa is credited with the composition of 100 rks. in the I Mandala.
  But we have only 97 rks. of his there and the rest are found distributed
  between iv (two rks.: tvaM no agne varuNasya (iv.1.4) and v.2.7
  (shunashchichchhepaM ***).  Madhva contends that these were originally
  in I Mandala.  In mA nastenebhyo (ii.23.16) there is a gap
  UnatA dR^ishyate.arthataH | which is supplied by Madhva in his
  B.S.B. iii.4.49."

Now Shrisha Rao orders me to tell what *my position* is with reference to
this still later, in part only medieval tradition that he has quoted. Do I?
Do I have to have an opinion whether Sankara is the author of this or that
hymn? Or about a bad hymn ATTRIBUTED by some manuscript colophon to
Kalidasa? Not my problem. But since he has ordered me:

The statements quoted by S. Rao are as much worth as one by Sayana or any
more recent scholar. It is one man's opinion.  And clearly motivated by the
wish to make RV agree with what only a much later Vedic text, Aitareya
Brahmana 7.16 (and the equally late Anukramani) say about the clearly
legendary Sunahsepa.  Fine, if Madhva (and his followers!) was/are happy
with it. That is their problem. Anybody is free to believe in whatever
tradition. But this is not
a religious list.

One can, of course, see why this attribution has been made,  if one reads
these the 'original 97' and the "additional" stanzas. To fit the AB legend
with its 100 stanzas. 100 is of course the most natural number of stanzas
you would compose when you are bound to a stake.
All well known, again!!! Raam, why do I always have to be the bearer of OLD
Read  Geldner's intro to the "Sunahsepa collection" which clarifies some
points and Oldenberg's detailed discussion that clarifies the order of the
hymns in the set RV 1.24-30. Then come back. I am not a translation bureau.

Of course, on closer reading, one can even see that "Sunahsepa" *cannot*
have been the author of RV 1.24-30. Find out yourself. Then come back.

Shrisha Rao still does not see that the collection of RV 1.24-30 is
*attributed* to Sunahsepa by LATER TEXTS, but that the RV text *itself*
does not say so (though RV authors often refer to  themselves, directly or
with hidden references) , and that therefore his whole argument, taken from
some old authors, is VOID. Their problem, and his, not mine.

When he says:

>If these errors, which are clearly not phonetic or orthographic, were not
>due to scribes, then we must say that the oral transmission was at times
>only 97% accurate.

he simply does not seem to know what has happened in *general* Vedic oral
tradition of Brahmins about ANY ITEM  of their culture, between the RV and
the late Brahmanas.  (Not that of the *RV text*).

Or does he now want to have Brahmanical scribes, writing in a
non-prexisting pre-Brahmi, copying the RV and getting it wrong already by
the time of AB 7 ???  A section coming from eastern India (Bihar etc.),
pre-Magadha and pre-Buddhist...
Or did these Brahmins just continue to write in the Indus script, now
discovered nearby among the Santals???
Oral transmission of the RV remains untouched by this interesting bit of
'gobbledygook '. Sorry, I mean jarbhari turphari.

*Attribution* of hymns, to say it ONCE MORE, is  different from the oral
transmission of the RV *text.* About which I wrote. I hope three times is

Ity alam.


>That gobbledygook does not clarify whether it is your position that
>(i)  the claim that Sunassepa authored 100 rks. is erroneous; or that
>(ii) three of his rks. have migrated from Mandala I is erroneous.
>Shrisha Rao

Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138

ph. 617-496 2990 (also messages)
home page:

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