Re: [INDOLOGY] Vālmīki’s first śloka

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at
Sun Nov 20 00:13:34 UTC 2016

Dear David,
"*agamas* has here retained its augment": you apparently postulate a
development in the language here, but one which does not match the
available evidence.
See mainly Karl Hoffmann Der Injunktiv im Veda 1967, but also, offering
alternative analyses of partly the same phrases, Jan Gonda Aspectual
function of the Rgvedic present and aorist.
Another point is that in order to translate the Ramayana a choice has to be
made which edition to take as starting point: even for mere practical
reasons the Baroda critical edition is the obvious candidate to be
It was the editorial choice of the editors G.H. Bhatt et al. of this
critical edition to give preference systematically to the recension where
most grammatical and metrical "irregularities" are found, i.e., the
Southern recension.
The idea is that the manuscripts of the Northern recension underwent
"polishing" in a much higher degree.
Under this "polishing-theory" one should then expect that specific
"irregularities" in the text are identical and found in a large number of
manuscripts that supposedly represent the older, pre-polishing stage, but
this is precisely what is not the case:
see Leendert van Daalen's 1980 study *Valmiki's Sanskrit*: at present his
study, not without problems of its own, could be redone with more advanced
statistical means and a fresh study of the evidence. On the basis of a
study of books II-IV van Daalen concludes that the Poet Valmiki wrote
mostly "correct" classical Sanskrit -- this does not necessarily always
correspond to "Paninian" sanskrit, and the poor definition of van Daalen's
"irregularities" is one of the weaknesses in his study, which could however
be "repaired" to some extent by referring to other forms of acceptable yet
not strictly Paninian sanskrit (cf. Narayana Bhatta's Apaniniyapramanata
E.W. Hopkins 1901 was even more sceptical, or, for those accepting his line
of argument (cf. Madeleine Biardeau's arguments *against* critical editions
for the epics), more realistic, than van Daalen: "There can be no plausible
original reconstructed and practically there was from the time of, let us
say, the first repetition of the text no original Ramayana" (quoted in van
Daalen's study, p. 6).
Jan Houben


Directeur d’Études

Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite

*École Pratique des Hautes Études*

*Sciences historiques et philologiques *

54, rue Saint-Jacques

CS 20525 – 75005 Paris

johannes.houben at

On 19 November 2016 at 19:55, David and Nancy Reigle <dnreigle at>

> Dear Bob and all,
> Ever since I was introduced to what tradition regards as the first śloka
> ever written, Vālmīki’s first śloka now preserved at *Rāmāyaṇa* 1.2.14, I
> have had a question about it. Probably you or others have long ago answered
> it. Sorry for my ignorance of the relevant material on this verse.
> mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṃ tvam agamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ |
> yat krauñca-mithunād ekam avadhīḥ kāma-mohitam || 1.2.14 ||
> “Since, Niṣāda, you killed one of this pair of *krauñcas*, distracted at
> the height of passion, you shall not live for very long.” (trans. Robert P.
> Goldman, 1984)
> What first struck me is that both of the verbs in this verse, *agamas*
> and *avadhīs*, are aorists. Moreover, *agamas* has here retained its
> augment, although used with *mā*. My understanding is that, since aorists
> largely fell out of use after the Vedic period, they are not at all common
> in the *Rāmāyaṇa*. So here is my question. Assuming that this is in fact
> Vālmīki’s first śloka, would this point to an original *Rāmāyaṇa* that is
> considerably older than the *Rāmāyaṇa* we now have? Could the *Rāmāyaṇa*
> as now extant have been reworked, updated in language so to speak, from an
> earlier original? For example, F. E. Pargiter in his detailed study, *The
> Purāna Text of the Dynasties of the Kali Age* (1913), found considerable
> evidence that in the oldest purāṇas (*Vāyu*, *Brahmāṇḍa*, *Matsya*) the
> verses had been Sanskritized from an earlier literary Prakrit, and that
> these Sanskrit verses had in turn been condensed and rewritten directly in
> Sanskrit in some other purāṇas (*Viṣṇu*, *Bhāgavata*).
> Best regards,
> David Reigle
> Colorado, U.S.A.
> On Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 1:50 PM, Robert Goldman <rpg at> wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> On behalf of all the scholars who have been involved with the
>>  decades-long project to translate and annotate the critical edition of the *Vālmīki
>> Rāmāyaṇa*, Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman and I are happy to announce the
>> publication of the seventh and final volume  of the work.
>> *The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India,* *Volume
>> VII: Uttarakāṇḍa*
>> Introduction, Translation, and Annotation by Robert P. Goldman & Sally J.
>> Sutherland Goldman
>> Hardcover | December 2016 | *$175.00* | *£129.95* | ISBN: 9780691168845
>> 1544 pp. | 6 x 9 | 1 color illus. 1 line illus. 5 tables.
>> Dr. R. P.  Goldman
>> Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South
>> and Southeast Asian Studies
>> Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies MC # 2540
>> The University of California at Berkeley
>> Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
>> Tel: 510-642-4089
>> Fax: 510-642-2409
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