Wonder but not unimaginable.
One can be fairly certain that the many characteristic features of the Aṣṭādhyāyī , terse prose-- sentences without finite verb, not an essential feature of contemporary ritual sūtras, obsession with brevity (lāghava), enumerative ie non-explicative definition, almost total absence of argumentation, the abridgement of material worth some thousands of pages of discussion, into a few pages of 4004 sūtras, can be explained only by the postulation of an environment of entirely oral transmission of knowledge. So at a time not later than the 4th century BCE. The Ṛgvedic teaching and training could not be different.
The real wonder is that the practice continued even after writing material became available sufficiently.
Would it really be possible that vaidika pandits learn by heart such huge amounts of text, and are able to reproduce them correctly, syllable by syllable and tone by tone?
The following clips demonstrate the predominant orality and memory culture in current Vedic schools.
Among these clips, the second is a proof that at least the group of students studying the Saamaveda on that day (pre-dawn hour) in February 2001 did not use any hidden piece of paper to read the text of their lengthy chants: see what happened to their chant when there is a failure of electricity and the light goes off.
The chanting tradition followed here is that of the rare Ranayaniya school of the Saamaveda.The fourth clip shows the performance of the Pravadbhaargava saaman earlier studied by the students.
Intended public of these clips:
students in Indology, Indian Studies, Ritual Studies, History of Education, History of Music, Ethnomusicology.
Prof. Dr. Jan E.M. Houben,
Directeur d Etudes « Sources et Histoire de la Tradition Sanskrite »
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sciences historiques et philologiques,
Sorbonne – 54, rue Saint-JacquesCS 20525 – 75005 Paris – France.
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