Re: [INDOLOGY] Brahmā in early Vedic materials?

Bill Mak bill.m.mak at
Sun Jun 23 22:02:13 UTC 2019

Dear Jan,

The discussion of 27 vs 28 described by Lanman as "a moot point” was indeed discussed by Whitney. My understanding is that 28 nakṣatras were found in much earlier saṃhitās such as the Taittirīya (4.4.10) and the Maitrayāṇi (2.13.20). This was my point about the interpolation.

Many have written about the Chinese 28 xiu-s (lunar lodges) and the nakṣatras. A good place to start would be Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 3. Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth. Yano has a concise and useful discussion is his book “Esoteric Buddhist Astrology” (p. 62-64 of English trans. just published this year).

Best regards,


Bill M. Mak

Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University
Yoshidahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501
〒606-8501 京都市左京区吉田本町


copies of my publications may be found at: <>

> On Jun 24, 2019, at 3:21 AM, Jan E.M. Houben <jemhouben at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Dear Bill, Dear All,
> At the moment of the acceptance of 19.7 and 8 in AV(Saunaka) there was (already) an awareness of twenty-eight naksatras. 
> See discussion by Lanman in Whitney's translation -- hymn 7, which contains the enumeration, is "wanting in Paipp."
> A question related to yours and perhaps relevant to attempts to answer it: 
> Ancient China was aware of 28 naksatras, neatly distributed in four groups of seven. 
> Has any study been done on a comparison of the ancient Chinese and the ancient Indian lists or on possible mutual influences and their comparative age?
> Best regards,
> Jan
> On Sat, 22 Jun 2019 at 00:36, Bill Mak via INDOLOGY <indology at <mailto:indology at>> wrote:
> Dear colleagues,
> I wonder if anyone could point me to any recent research on the history of Brahmā as a deity in early Vedic (pre-Buddhist) sources. I am aware of Bailey’s The mythology of Brahmā, where he described his origin as the apotheosization of the brahmā priest in the śrauta sacrifice. I am also aware of Thieme’s very thorough study on the Bráhman in his Kleine Schriften (Teil I), where the the original senses and etymology as in RV are discussed. I am however still somewhat puzzled about the presence of Brahmā as a deity in the early Vedic saṃhitās.
> This puzzle came about when I was going through the list of nakṣatras in all the Vedic sources, which give either 27 or 28. The difference between 27 and 28 lies in the nakṣatra Abhijit, which is always associated with Brahmā. If Brahmā has a late origin, it is likely then an interpolation, and the 28-nakṣatra system may also likely postdate the 27 one. But before I proceed on this line of analysis, I would appreciate it if anyone could enlighten me on Brahmā as an deity in the early Vedic sources, along with the most updated references on studies on the early Vedic deities.
> Best regards,
> Bill Mak
> -- 
> Bill M. Mak
> Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University
> Yoshidahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
> Japan
> [from Oct 2019]
> Needham Research Institute,
> 8 Sylvester Road,
> Cambridge, U.K.
> copies of my publications may be found at:
> <>
> <>
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> Jan E.M. Houben
> Directeur d'Études, Professor of South Asian History and Philology
> Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite
> École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL - Université Paris)
> Sciences historiques et philologiques 
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