[INDOLOGY] Harry Spier's questions

Witzel, Michael witzel at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Oct 20 07:23:25 UTC 2023

Dear ALL, re: Harry Spier’s questions

Question of ch/cch

It is clear from our discussions so far that RV  ch, as in gachati, pṛchati, chandas, etc.  was a double consonant (as per meter), of whatever exact pronunciation.

Why medieval MSS write simple -ch- is another problem. As this spelling occurs both in RV as well as in old Śaunaka AV and Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā MSS from Gujarat it seems to reflect a regional “western” tradition.

Checking some other oldest RV MSS (such as the old Chambers MSS at  Berlin that M. Müller has used;  see discussion in the attached PDF) would provide a better idea, not to speak of southern MSS that Marco Franceschini*)  has investigated recently. The Kerala usage of -cs- provides a hint.

*)On Some Markers Used in a Grantha Manuscript of the Ṛgveda Padapāṭha Belonging to the Cambridge University Library (Or.2366)<https://www.academia.edu/74531008/On_Some_Markers_Used_in_a_Grantha_Manuscript_of_the_%E1%B9%9Agveda_Padap%C4%81%E1%B9%ADha_Belonging_to_the_Cambridge_University_Library_Or_2366_>

The oldest available Veda MSS (see PDF) of c. 1150 CE, of the Vājasaneyi school, have -cch-, and they go back to a still earlier MS (see Q.2) : VS Saṃhitā 1.16 acchidreṇa, or VS Pada: 13.49d  śúg r̥cchatu.

(In the margin, note  that old Nepalese MSS often write –cch- where it is not necessary, as in  Newari ccheṃ for cheṃ).

Which brings us to Q 2 :

The age of written Vedas.

It is generally accepted that our written and recited  (Śākala) Rgveda has preserved the old pronunciation –almost- perfectly, with some early post-RV changes such as -ḍ- > -ḷ- (īḷe vs. īḍya) or súvar > svàr  and some “learned” changes (by the so-called ortho-epic disceuasis).

This tradition, fixed by Śakala’s Padapāṭha in the late Brāhmaṇa period, has been maintained until today  in recitation and writing. All of which is well known and undisputed.

However, we do not have RV MSS of the first millennium CE.

The so far oldest Veda MS,  the Kathmandu VS of c.1150 CE has been copied from a still earlier MS (see discussion in the PDF).

Which brings us close to Albiruni’s (“India transl.SACHAU) statement that shortly before his time (1030 CE), the Kashmiri Brahmin Vasukra had “for the first time” written down “the Veda” (RV, Kaṭha Samh.?)

Which falls in line with attested early para-Vedic MSS from Nepal (1040 CE etc.)

However, there are hints of a much older history of writing down the Veda.

The Kānva Saṃhitā of the Vājasaneyi school has some curious spellings that cannot go back to the original Vājasaneyi pronunciation as still evidenced for example in the Kathmandu MS.

 See  PDF §5:
….the Kāṇva version of the Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā ...has obvious influence of spelling on the recitation:   can be observed in forms such as tanakmi VSK, tanacmi VSM; yunagmi VSK yunajmi VSM.
We must understand these spellings as being similar to Paiśācī spelling conventions (von Hinüber: tenuis written for a pronounced intervocalic media).Thus, yunajmi was pronounced [yunaymi] (which is attested in some Vedic texts), but written in “historical” fashion as | yunagmi |. …  Such confusion was possible by the 1st cent. BCE, when -g- had become [γ] but was written with| y/k/g | and could therefore be confused with older [c] > [j], which was written | j/y |.

THOSE  spellings (of c.50 BCE) have entered the oral AND  medieval written Kāṇva tradition.

However writing down the Veda  was quickly rescinded in ancient/medieval tradition  (such as in the Mahabharata) where writing down the Veda is strictly forbidden.

In short, the ”immutable” Veda tradition is not always as fixed as we usually assume.

Iti vārtam.

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