Re: [INDOLOGY] Vālmīki’s first śloka

Harry Spier hspier.muktabodha at
Sun Nov 20 00:32:45 UTC 2016

Note also what Oberlies, "A Grammar of Epic Sanskrit" says about
"irregularities" in epic sanskrit in his introduction..
"The language of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana may certainly be called
Sanskrit when compared with contemporary Middle Indo-Aryan but it is a
Sanskrit which continually deviates from the norms codified by Panini.
This is not because such 'aberrant' forms were pre-Paninian.  For the Epics
(and in fact only the Mahabharata) know only a handful - moreover rather
doubtful - Vedisms. ......Almost always it is metrical exigencies which
forced the poets to use a form not sanctioned by traditional grammar....the
"irregularities' are very often found at a metrically relevena position of
the stanza: "Metre surpasses grammar".

Harry Spier

On Sat, Nov 19, 2016 at 7:13 PM, Jan E.M. Houben <jemhouben at>

> 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
> selected.
> 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
> and
> 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
> *Jan E.M. 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>
> wrote:
>> 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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