[INDOLOGY] dhīmahi

Harry Spier vasishtha.spier at gmail.com
Mon Jul 19 18:00:49 UTC 2021

Hi Madhav,
1) The search function for the list appears to only work for the most
recent few months.

2) I asked this question to the list in 1999 and it also came up in some
other discussions about Gayatri mantras later on (2019 )
The replies I got onlist and offlist were:
a) As for Whitney, I am not sure when such a shift in the understanding of
dhīmahi begins.  I have a suspicion that even in the old famous Gāyatrī:
bhargo devasya dhīmahi, dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt, the poet is playing with
the relationship between the verb dhīmahi and the subsequent foot: dhiyo yo
naḥ pracodayāt, and hence the understanding of dhīmahi as alternatively
being derived from dhī may be quite old.  I was struck more by the almost
sustained shift to the use of dative with dhīmahi and vidmahe, and have
been thinking about what might have prompted this shift, in spite of the
fact that much of the later formulaic use is in imitation of the old famous
Gāyatrī mantra that uses the accusative.

b) Hoffman treats this particular form in his AufsAtze sur Indoiranistic,
bd 2,
1976, pp.483-485

c) As for dhImahi. It is indeed *optative,* not of dhI but of dhA, see
again K.Hoffmann’s Aufsätze somewhere (via index). Again both Witzel-Gotō
and Jamison-Brereton recent translations have it right: “we wish to place”
(no ‘meditation' here, that is a later interpretation).

d) dhīmahi was an aorist optative (or, less probable, injunctive) in the
RV: 'may we obtain / make our own'. On the one hand, these forms become
rarer and rarer already in Vedic texts, but may still have been understood
by some (as we still understand forms such as 'maketh', but do not use
them). On the other hand, dhīmahi cannot actually be a present form: it
would have to be dhīmahe. As of now I do not know when and how the
reinterpretation occurred first; the texts I've surveyed so far
are generally silent on the individual words of the mantra. However, the
parallelism with vidmahe in the modified Gāyatrīs may point to a more
"cognitive" interpretation.

e)  I've just checked Werba's Verba Indoarica for dhImahi (under dhA)  page
298 and he has this as an aorist optative.

Harry Spier

On Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 1:12 PM Madhav Deshpande via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Some time ago, we had a discussion on the syntax of dhīmahi. But when I
> search the archives, nothing shows up. Can someone help me?
> Madhav M. Deshpande
> Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
> University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
> Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies
> Adjunct Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India
> [Residence: Campbell, California, USA]
> _______________________________________________
> INDOLOGY mailing list
> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
> https://list.indology.info/mailman/listinfo/indology
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