Re: [INDOLOGY] Vālmīki’s first śloka

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at
Sun Nov 20 09:27:43 UTC 2016

Dear David et al.,
Commentaries may have discussed it as ārṣaprayoga but if we try to take the
meta-narrative seriously, could it rather have been ... (still) "bandit's"
prayoga  (bandit with b)? At this early stage, the transformation of dacoit
Ratnākara to Vālmīki (see at YouTube under "Ratnakar to Valmiki" for some
modern representations of this episode) would not yet have been complete.
At least his language would still have beginners' and learner's mistakes,
and a "hypersanskritization" such as an aorist injunctive with an augment
superfluously added (which can hardly be interpreted as archaic or
primitive or colloquial).
Best, Jan

On Sunday, 20 November 2016, David and Nancy Reigle <dnreigle at>
> Dear Dipak,
> What about the standard Indian tradition that Rāma lived in the Tretā
age? In that case, no ārṣaprayoga would be required to explain the archaic
> Best regards,
> David Reigle
> Colorado, U.S.A.
> On Sat, Nov 19, 2016 at 9:22 PM, Dipak Bhattacharya <dipak.d2004 at>
>> Why not a pure solecism as Indian authorities think? These are known in
Indian tradition as ¡rÀaprayoga, irregular use by the seers?
>> Best
>> DB
>> On Sun, Nov 20, 2016 at 6:02 AM, Harry Spier <hspier.muktabodha at>
>>> 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".
>>> Thanks,
>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>>      <
>>>> 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>
>>>>>> 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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