[INDOLOGY] Frits Staal on the sameness of Vedic recitation

David and Nancy Reigle dnreigle at gmail.com
Sun Feb 18 18:00:00 UTC 2024

Thank you to Michael Allen, Madhav Deshpande, Shrikant Bahulkar, and
Michael Witzel for your very helpful replies. So it seems that Frits Staal
did not make a statement about the sameness of Vedic recitation in all
parts of India in terms of pronunciation. I wondered about this, because I
have old 33 RPM LP records that have different recordings of the first hymn
of the *Ṛgveda*, and the pronunciation is not the same in them. Indeed, in
the 20-page booklet by Frits Staal that came with one of these he refers to
differences of pronunciation in Vedic recitation. In the liner notes to the
other one, Alain Daniélou wrote:

"In all regions of India, whatever may be the differences of race, culture
or language, the Vedic chant remains identical and unchanged, even though
the profane music may be very different. The Vedic chant is, however,
complex and relatively varied."

Whatever he may mean by this, as Michael Witzel made clear in his reply,
the TEXT of the *Ṛgveda* has remained the same in all parts of India but
the pronunciation differs. I thank him for also clarifying about the Vedic
variants, that these occurred as *Ṛgveda* mantras were used in OTHER Vedas.

Regarding the recordings referred to above, I hope that they have now been
digitized. These records have some of the earliest recordings of Vedic
recitation. The recordings by Alain Daniélou were made 1950-1952, and those
by Frits Staal and John Levy were made 1957-1966. The records are:

A Musical Anthology of the Orient, Edited by the International Music
Council under the direction of Alain Daniélou: India I. Unesco Collection.
The Music of India, Record I (undated, but referred to by Frits Staal in
the booklet accompanying the record set listed below, so prior to 1969).

The Four Vedas: The Oral Tradition of Hymns, Chants, Sacrificial and
Magical Formulas, Introduction and Notes by Professor J. F. Staal;
Recordings by John Levy and J. F. Staal. Asch Mankind Series, AHM 4126,
dated 1969, a 2-record set.

If these have not already been digitized, I am happy to make these records
available to anyone who can do this. They should go to some permanent
archive, anyway.

Best regards,

David Reigle
Colorado, U.S.A.
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