[INDOLOGY] Aditya-varna

dermot at grevatt.force9.co.uk dermot at grevatt.force9.co.uk
Wed Jan 22 19:03:06 UTC 2014

Dear James,

I was interested in your query about the Buddha and the responses to it, though I 
don't think I've any answers.

On Aditya-varNa in BhG 8.9: it's a bahuvrIhi compound phrase, and as such it's 
adjectival, meaning most obviously "sun-coloured, having the colour of the sun". 
Howard Resnick's question as to whether Aditya is an adjective is irrelevant: it's quite 
usual to have a noun as first member of a bahuvrIhi.

The pAda Aditya-varNaM tamasaH parastAt is a Vedic quotation. The whole verse 
(vedAham etaM puruSaM mahAntam AdityavarNaM tamasaH parastAt | tam eva 
viditvAti mRtyum eti nAnyaH panthA vidyate 'yanAya "I know that great Man, sun-
coloured, beyond darkness | by knowing him alone one passes beyond death; there 
is no other path to go") occurs as vAjasaneyi saMhitA 31.18, taittirIya AraNyaka 
3.12.7a, and zvetAzvatara upaniSad 3.8.

It's evidently a well-known Vedic verse; the second half occurs again in zvetAzvatara 
upaniSad 6.15. Both this text and BhG are fond of such quotations and partial 
quotations. It even occurs in the video of Peter Brook's dramatization of the Mbh, 
chanted as a lament for the slain after the battle.

With best wishes,


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