[INDOLOGY] Frits Staal on the sameness of Vedic recitation

Patrick Olivelle jpo at austin.utexas.edu
Sun Feb 18 18:13:57 UTC 2024

This is a precious archive. I wonder whether the music archive at the AIIS in Delhi (Gurgaon) with their Archive of Ethnomusicology (purnima.mehta at aiis.org.in<mailto:purnima.mehta at aiis.org.in>) would be interested in digitizing and preserving this. Perhaps a message to Purnima Mehta?

Patrick Olivelle

On Feb 18, 2024, at 12:00 PM, David and Nancy Reigle via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

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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