[INDOLOGY] Metrical inconsistencies and tradition

Witzel, Michael witzel at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Mar 30 12:13:37 EDT 2020

See now:

Mieko Kajihara  (Tokyo Univ.)

The Sacred Verse Sāvitrī
 in the Vedic Religion and Beyond.
Journal of Indological Studies, Numbers 30 & 31 (2018-2019) pp. 1-36.


On Mar 30, 2020, at 11:50 AM, Dominik Haas via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Dear Harry,

thanks a lot for the reference, didn't know this one! Even the wrong accent is noted there already.

Well yes, mantras like these were called Gāyatrīs. The matter is a bit complicated though. As far as I have come to understand it, they were called thus because they imitate the famous Gāyatrī verse (Ṛgveda III 62.10) or are modified versions of it. But this verse acquired the name “Gāyatrī” rather late (considering its own age), for the first time perhaps in the Taittirīya-Āraṇyaka and then also in later additions the Dharmasūtras (in the Mahābharata, too, the verse is called Gāyatrī several times, especially in the later strata).

So the point is that the modified Gāyatrīs were perhaps never actually thought to be in the gāyatrī metre (not even by its creators, whenever they lived), but were only called Gāyatrī because they resemble the verse. I normally use gāyatrī for the metre and Gāyatrī for the verse (I did not do so in my previous email though). So the modified Gāyatrīs are probably not examples for metrical license, i.e., they are not gāyatrī verses, even though they are called Gāyatrīs.

But it could very well be that some commentator explained them to be in the gāyatrī metre, but a gāyatrī metre with extra syllables etc.

Best regards,


Dominik A. Haas, BA MA
PhD Candidate, University of Vienna
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On Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 8:45 AM Dominik Haas via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Perhaps a short note on the modified “Gāyatrīs” in the Maitrāyaṇī-Saṃhitā: the creators of these verses simply inserted a certain deity without too much regard for metre. The non-adjusted accentuation perhaps also shows that the “Gāyatrīs” in this text are more pieced together than composed anew (pracodáyāt is still accented, even though it's now the verb of a main clause – or is there another explanation?).

Thank you for this Dominik.

The author in the following link, for the reasons you've mentioned and because the gayatris are  mostly to later deities, argues that this section of the  Maitrāyaṇī-Saṃhitā:   is interpolated:  https://books.google.ca/books?id=X0JUwf2BXVAC&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57&dq=maitrayani+samhita+x.9.1&source=bl&ots=zfBpMv9w-q&sig=ACfU3U2LME_WHFLc9K4mr4lvOD8UVoCkEg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiIuojYs8LoAhUImuAKHYHQDPEQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=maitrayani%20samhita%20x.9.1&f=false<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__books.google.ca_books-3Fid-3DX0JUwf2BXVAC-26pg-3DPA57-26lpg-3DPA57-26dq-3Dmaitrayani-2Bsamhita-2Bx.9.1-26source-3Dbl-26ots-3DzfBpMv9w-2Dq-26sig-3DACfU3U2LME-5FWHFLc9K4mr4lvOD8UVoCkEg-26hl-3Den-26sa-3DX-26ved-3D2ahUKEwiIuojYs8LoAhUImuAKHYHQDPEQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ-23v-3Donepage-26q-3Dmaitrayani-2520samhita-2520x.9.1-26f-3Dfalse&d=DwMDaQ&c=WO-RGvefibhHBZq3fL85hQ&r=tFXzIbyKS2C0TpVqKsMrj46qwsAermBN5wzaDe51So0&m=D4CPG7AdYt2M9wvLgDyU9v4FiVY8uLgVd_HKq5xVfGM&s=wp_nAROr8ZmmHizUXyUIS26tKLO2dbPIOY-F3LTGoLA&e=>

You also asked:
 I wonder whether and where they are actually called Gāyatrīs?

If you do a search of the Muktabodha searchable e-text  digital library   for <gAyatrI> you'll see that throughout the tantric literature these types of mantras are called   gāyatrī or gāyatrīmatra or  the deity name compounded with  gāyatrī  such as: nṛsiṃhagāyatrī  etc. If I recall correctly they are called  gāyatrī much more often than  gāyatrīmantra.

Harry Spier

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Michael Witzel
Wales Prof. of Sanskrit, Dept. of South Asian Studies, 1 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
ph. 1 - 617 496 2990
witzel at fas.harvard.edu<mailto:witzel at fas.harvard.edu>

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