Understanding The Tradition of Vedic Recitation [Part-I]

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-Dr. Soma Basu

1.1. The relevance of ancient Indian texts on Phonetics –

The purport or relevance of the ancient scriptures (Śāstras) on Phonetics is most modern considering their invaluable importance in the methodical phonetic procedure developed by them, which helped preserve the Vedas without the slightest variants in the most faithful way possible. The Vedas are the most ancient bulk of literature humanity has ever produced. They are not only scriptures, but also the fountainhead of Indian culture and human civilization. Actually, they are the treasure house of knowledge par excellence. They are the source of integral wisdom, science, tradition and culture of a remarkable civilization. They are oral compilations of distilled wisdom of cosmic knowledge survived from the time immemorial. We all know that the Veda has to be studied along with its six ancillary texts, i.e., the Vedāṅgas. They are the last treatises of Vedic literature. The Vedāṅga likely developed towards the end of the Vedic period, around of after the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, These auxiliary fields of Vedic studies emerged because the language of the Vedic texts composed centuries earlier grew too archaic to the people of that time.

ṣaḍaṅgo vedo’dhyeyo jñeyaś ca.

1.2. The function of the auxiliary disciplines of the Vedas (Vedāṅgas) –

The necessity of the Vedas and precisely the limbs or auxiliary disciplines of the Vedas (Vedāṅgas) will never die out, in as much as these are the most dependable source to look up to for answers to many a query that invoke intricate exploration. Understanding Vedāṅgas is a pre-requisite to understanding the Veda. The function of the Śikṣā (i.e., the foremost of the six limbs – [The other five being Kalpa or ritual, Vyākaraa or grammar, Nirukta or etymology, Chandas or meter and Jyotia or astronomy.]) is to fix the parameters of Vedic words. Phonetics is most important in the case of the Vedic language; because we see that a mere change in sound leads to change in results and effect. The ancient Indian science of phonetics, which is taught so meticulously in the Śikṣā texts, is the ultimate knowledge discussed in such an ancient time regarding construction of sound and language for synthesis of ideas, in contrast to grammarians who developed rules for language deconstruction and understanding of ideas. We are astonished to know the content of the major treatises of this particular branch which are most relevant in today’s perspective since they analyze sound, vowels and consonants, rules of combination and pronunciation to assist clear understanding, to avoid mistakes and for resonance pleasing to the listener. The methodology found in the Śikṣā texts has been not just highly technical, it has strong aesthetic “sensuous, emotive” dimension, which foster thinking and intellectual skills in a participatory fashion. The reciter’s mind and body are engaged, making language and sound as an emotional performance. In theNāradīya Śikṣā, it has been expressed beautifully, –

Just as a tigress takes her cubs tightly in her teeth without hurting them, whilst fearing that she might drop them and injure them, so one should approach the individual syllables (2.8.31). (transl. by Annette Wilke and Oliver Moebus, (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-018159-3. [Source :Internet]

1.3. Some information –

1.3.1 From the ancient texts –

In the Atharvaveda (12.1.45), there is the unique realization janaṃ bibhratī bahudhā vivācasaṃ nānādharmānaṃ pr̥thithaukasam |

which means, “Let the earth, bearing in many places people of different speech, of diverse customs (-dharman) according to their homes…” [Trans. W. D. Whitney.  Atharvaveda Saṃhitā. Cambridge , Mass.1905 (1st Edition), MLBD : Delhi 1962, 1971, 1984 ( rpt.) Vol.8, p. 668.]

In the ancient texts like the Taittirīya Saṃhitā (2.4.12.1) and the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (1.6.3.8) there is a well-known story narrated where it has been described how Tvaṣṭr̥ repeating the words ‘indraśatrur vardhasva’ in wrong accents caused the fire to be extinguished instead of inflaming it against Indra as he intended. The legend is all about how Tvaṣṭr̥ wanted to pronounce the word ‘indraśatruḥ’ (meaning ‘destroyer of Indra’) as a Tatpuruṣa compound (in which the last syllable of the compound has the udātta accent), while he actually pronounced the word as a Bahuvrīhi (meaning ‘whose killer would be Indra’), in which case the first word of the compound has the udātta accent (as in ‘indraśatrurḥ’) [P. V. Kane. History of Dharmaśāstra.  Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1941. vol. II, pt. I, p. 347.]. Pāṇini says, ‘samāsasya’ (6.1.223) – samāsa-niṣpaṇṇa-śabdasya anta-svaraḥ udātto bhavati and ‘bahuvrīhau prakr̥tyā pūrvvapadam’ (6.2.1) – bahuvrīhi-samāse, udātta-svarita-yuktaṃ pūrvvapadaṃ prakr̥tyā bhavati… etc.

1.3.2  From the Bible –

The story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis (11:1-9) offers an explanation for the many different languages spoken on earth, though on the surface, otherwise it carries deeper meaning too. According to the story, all the descendants of Noah spoke a single language. They began to spread eastward as they increased in number. After finding a fertile area called Shinar they settled there and instead of setting up a society that fits God’s will, they decided to challenge His authority and build a city with a tower that could reach Heaven. They wanted the tower to be a proud monument to themselves and a symbol that would keep them united as a powerful people. However, God thought it otherwise. Unhappy he came down and looked at the city and watching the tower said, if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:6-7) God, recognizing their arrogance, regained control over them through a linguistic stratagem. Therefore, God made the people speak many different languages so as not to understand each other and work together on building the city and tower. He scattered the people around the world and the city was abandoned. After that incident, the number of languages increased through diversification, and people started to look for ways to communicate.

(to be continued…..)

Dr. Soma Basu, Associate Professor, School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata

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Sanskrit : A Language Sculpted to Perfection

– Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture, Pondicherry, India

 Sampadananda Mishra

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra is passionate about Sanskrit. He has spoken at various conferences both nationally and internationally, conducts workshops, teacher training programmes and authored many books. Dr. Mishra has launched the first ever 24 hours Sanskrit Radio called Divyavani. The Govt. of India has conferred the President’s award (Maharshi Badarayna Vyasa Samman 2011) on Dr. Mishra for his outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.

Sanskrit, as many conscious learners have experienced, generates joy, clarity, purity and peace. It is indeed a perfect harmonizer (saamarasyaparaayanaa) that balances the body, mind and soul. It leads to true happiness and fills the heart and mind with a perfect sense of immortality. Its purity draws us, inspires us, constantly reminds us of the true aim of our life, and makes us conscious of the Truth that exists within us. The rhythmic beauty and melody of this language, vibrational purity of its sounds, richness of its phonetic quality, transparency of its root sounds and their senses, richness of its vocabulary and thought content, all these have made Sanskrit truly great.

Sanskrit always starts from a deeper base. It believes that the Sound and the Word are at the origin of creation. It believes that they have light, consciousness and power – the sound has potency. Therefore the meaning of the fundamental Sanskrit roots is not arbitrary but based on a deeper truth. Through a process of deep contemplation and intuition, it is possible for one to enter into the heart of a sound vibration and discover its meaning. This was the way of the Rishis when they gave meaning to the roots. Thus each seed-sound and each root-sound in Sanskrit has a fundamental meaning associated with this. Further the fundamental meaning can give rise to many other meanings related to the root-experience. By a deeper analysis of the Sanskrit sounds and words derived from root-sounds one can arrive at the fundamental experiences associated with those sounds and words. In this manner each word in Sanskrit has its own connotation, its definite shade of meaning, its special nuance.

Let us look at a few examples.

A letter in Sanskrit is called akshara (a + kshara) which literally means imperishable. This is not merely attributive. The term akshara reveals the whole secret of the speech process or the sound system. It says that the sound is eternal. It does not perish. Shabdonityah. Nityaavaivaak. Na vaakkshiiyate. It shows that the moment one makes a sound, it remains forever and can be retrieved by special yogic power. This is how the Veda Mantras are revealed to the Rishis in their meditation. The word vyakarana (vi + aa + kri + ana) is not limited simply to grammar. It shows the development and growth of speech from its undistinguished stage to the distinguished stage, and while doing so it leads to the Sound-force, the eternal shabdabrahman. The word darshana (from root drish to see) is not philosophy, but a seeing revelation; svaadhyaaya is not mere reading but the process of going deep into self contemplation. The word chatra is not an umbrella but anything that covers. The Sanskrit word for beauty is sushama. In its true sense it means superbly (su) equal (sama). This shows that true beauty is full of harmony. To remain svastha is not just to be healthy but to remain stable in one’s own state of being. When someone falls sick he becomes asvastha which means he has fallen from his own state of being. These are few examples showing not only the high connotative power of the Sanskrit words but also how Sanskrit has derived meanings of its words from their very depth. It shows that the meaning of the word is inherent within the word itself. And it is always discoverable by going back to the root of the word. And further the word and the meaning are inseparable. They fuse into one another and give life to one another. An in-depth study of many Sanskrit words shows that in this language a word is not just a conventional expression for an idea, but itself the parent and the creator of ideas. This transparent system of formation of words from the root sounds follows a natural process and is one of the important factors that makes Sanskrit an ever-creative language.

The resonating power and vibrational purity of Sanskrit make it a perfect instrument for an integral spiritual growth. Its very name Samskritam means ‘polished’, ‘refined’, ‘sculpted to perfection’. The physical structure of the language is flawless. Its construction follows an organic and logical development. In Sanskrit, all the sounds are articulated through five distinct places of articulation located in the mouth: throat, palate, cerebrum, root of the upper teeth and lips. Therefore, the sounds are guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental or labial. Though the letters of one group are pronounced from one location, yet each sound of that group differs from the other because of its internal efforts. For example: ka, kha, ga, gha and nga belong to the guttural group. Here ka is a hard unvoiced consonant with minimum breath; kha is also hard and unvoiced but it is pronounced with maximum breath; ga is soft and voiced with minimum breath while gha is soft and voiced with maximum breath; nga is the last sound in the group which is soft and voiced but nasal. For this sound, the breath gets released through nostrils and the mouth. The arrangement of the rest of the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet follows the same order. The importance of this scientific organization lies in the degree of resonance created by each sound. Thus, the sounds of Sanskrit are amazingly capable of bringing clarity of articulation. And because of this refinement, perfection and structure, Sanskrit is capable of infusing into its conscious users a sense of completeness, scientific spirit and, at the same time, a sense of beauty and harmony.

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The mere speaking of or listening to the sounds of Sanskrit generates joy, clarity and inspiration. It has a refining influence on one’s consciousness. By a conscious use of this language one gets the result of doing Pranayama. Thus, Sanskrit, with its power of great resonance is highly powerful and potent for creating a happy and peaceful atmosphere in and around the one who uses it consciously. Furthermore, each language has its own dharma, its uniqueness, and when its growth and development are in harmony with that, then the language becomes capable not only of sustaining itself but also of enriching its users in many ways. An intimacy with Sanskrit also reveals that in its journey it has always been in harmony with its svabhava and svadharma.

The seers and sages (rishis) of ancient time were minutely discerning in their observations, and were highly conscious in the matter of using the language. They did not use the language just for the purpose of communication, they used it as a tool for discovering the true nature of their selves and all that they saw in and around themselves. Herein lies the sacredness of Sanskrit—it helps to discover the nature of everything; it helps to discover the sacredness of life. It is a force that functions at many levels of consciousness, ever purifying, ever formative and creative. It has tremendous potentiality to make the Divine Life possible on the earth.

However, the most practical value of learning Sanskrit lies in the fact that it trains the mind to think logically, brings clarity of expression, develops intellectual strength, and provides keen insight into the meanings of the words. The vibrational quality of Sanskrit has a direct impact on the functioning of the brain, and can help in enhancing memory and the ability to concentrate. Moreover, it helps in the growth of consciousness, has immense power in bringing a greater transformation.

हिन्दी की संपर्क भाषा शक्यता

– प्रोफेसर बलराम सिंह, सदस्य, बोर्ड ऑफ़ डायरेक्टर, वेव्स

Dr Bal Ram Singh

Bal Ram Singh, Ph.D., Professor and President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, has been Professor (1990-2014) of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Biology, and the Founding Director (2000-2014) of Center for Indic Studies at UMass Dartmouth. At the Institute, he is also the Executive Mentor of the School of Indic Studies where his research includes Ayurvedic science and technology, Yoga and Consciousness, Vedic education pedagogy, and Vedic social and political traditions.

जहाँ पर भाषा किसी समाज की सभ्यता एवं संस्कृति की धरोहर तथा संयोजक होती है वहीं पर इसमे विविधता की क्षमता देश और काल की अनुकूलता को सम्बल देती है। भाषा की विविधता जिस तरह से भारत में दृष्टिगोचर होती है ऐसा किसी और देश में नही है। ऐसी अवस्था में संपर्क भाषा की नितांत आवश्यकता है। भारत के आज की राजनीतिक एवं सामाजिक सन्दर्भ में किसी एक भारतीय भाषा का संपर्क भाषा के रूप में उभरना सरल नही है। हिन्दी, ही इस प्रयोजन के लिए उपयुक्त है जो कि एक राष्ट्रीय एवं कार्यकारणी भाषा के रूप में संवैधानिक तौर पर प्रतिष्ठित है।

परन्तु इसे सर्वमान्य बनाने के लिए सरकार तथा समाज को कई गंभीर कदम उठाने होंगे। सर्वप्रथम इस विषय पर सार्वजानिक रूप से बौद्धिक चर्चाएं होनी चाहिऐ जिसमें हर वर्ग के लोगों को सम्मिलित करना होगा। चूँकि हिन्दी भाषा का विकास पहले से संघर्षमय परिस्थितियों में हुआ है, इसलिए इसमें परिस्थितियों के अनुकूलन की क्षमता अन्तर्निहित है। इस तरह हिन्दी में हिदुस्तानी भाषाओं से सम्बंधित भाषाओं के शब्दों एवं विचारों को समाहित करने की व्यवस्था पहले से ही विकसित है।  दूसरी बात जोकि ज्यादा जोर देने की है, वह यह कि हिन्दी भाषा को ज्ञान, विज्ञान, तथा व्यवसाय की औपचारिक भाषा बनाना होगा। यह क्षमता भी हिन्दी में इसके संस्कृत निष्ठ होने के कारण निहित है, परन्तु शासकीय, सामाजिक एवं प्रज्ञात्मक बल की आवश्यकता है। अंततः हिन्दी को संपर्क भाषा बनाने के लिए इसका वैष्वीकरण करना होगा जिससे यह प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक चरण से उठकर सार्वभौमिक रूप में स्वीकारणीय हो सके। इसके लिए भारतीय परम्परागत जीवन के सारभूतों को विश्व के समक्ष हिन्दी के माध्यम से रखना होगा।

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इस कार्य की सम्पन्नता के लिए एक विस्तृत रणनीति की आवश्यकता है। इसमे सर्वप्रथम है कि हिन्दी को केवल एक संपर्क भाषा के रूप मे ही देखा जाय, एक सांस्कृतिक भाषा के रूप मे नहीं।सांस्कृतिक उदगार के लिये भारत की क्षेत्रीय भाषाएँ पर्याप्त हैं। इस प्रक्रिया को अविलम्ब संबल हेतु यह आवश्यक है कि भारत की अन्य कई सांस्कृतिक भाषाओँ को हिंदी भाषा मे जोड़ने की प्रक्रिया तुरंत स्थगित कर दी जाय। इनमे मगधी, मैथिली, भोजपुरी, अवधी, ब्रजभाषा, बुन्देलखण्डी, हरियाणवी, इत्यादि भाषाएँ सम्मलित हैं, जिनका गौरव पूर्ण इतिहास, साहित्य, एवं सामाजिक उपयोगिता सदियों से चली आ रही है। जब से इन भाषाओ को हिन्दी में सम्मिलित कर लिया गया है, न केवल इन भाषाओं का विकास रुक गया है वल्कि उसके साथ ही इन भाषाओं मे सन्निहित संस्कृति भी दुबक कर रह गई है। हिन्दी सम्बंधित क्षेत्रीय भाषाओँ को अलग सम्मानित करने से अन्य क्षेत्रीय भाषीय लोगो का हिन्दी के प्रति विरोध भी कम हो जायेगा क्योकि ऐसी स्थिति में किसी एक क्षेत्र को भाषाई लाभ का तर्क प्रभावहीन साबित होगा।