Understanding The Tradition of Vedic Recitation [Part-I]

SB Photo

-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 ( and the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ( 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


Homa Organic Farming for Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation (Part-II)

-Mr. Anand Gaikwad

(continued from previous article)

For environmental balance and rain induction/cloud formation, the techniques mentioned in ancient Vedic sciences i.e. performance of yajñas are of great importance.

Components of Technology / Methodology

Fully integrated organic farming practices, i.e., components of livestock, biogas slurry, composting of biomass and animal manure, practicing biodiversity, intercropping, rotation of crops etc.

Creation of Resonance Point – Installation of Agnihotra/Trambakam Hut for receiving and broadcasting subtle energies from sun and moon cycles.

Bovine is Divine –  Full and complete integration of cow family with the farm.

Performance of AgnihotraIn Agnihotra the substances used are cow dung cakes, cow ghee, rice, dry–wooden sticks of certain trees, medicinal herbs etc that helps in cleansing of Biosphere. The agronomic practices of performing Agnihotra/Medicinal Homas as fumigation techniques are essential components of Vedic Agriculture or “Homa Farming”.

Biogas Slurry – Enrichment and enhancement of Biogas slurry with effective micro–nutrients/Homa ash/Panchgavya for soil health and Rhizosphere Management.

Panchgavya/Kunapajala – An elixir prepared by using five products of cow i.e. cowdung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee plus some other ingredients. This works as a nourishing elixir for soil and useful in Rhizosphere and Biosphere Management of the farm.

Cosmic influence of Planets on Plant life –  Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy is that plants grow not only through the fertility of the soil but also with support from cosmos – the rhythms of the sun, moon, planets and wider constellations of the Zodiac. According to Biodynamic principles, the four parts of the plants i.e. root, stem, leaves, flower and fruits correspond to the four classic elements of nature. The Sap inside the plants flow upward or downward according to ascending or descending moon cycle. According to Vedic Sciences, all objects, substances and life patterns in the universe are made from Panchmahabhutas. In “Vrikshyaayurveda of Parashara (By N. N. Sarkar and Roma Sarkar) it is stated that Plants have consciousness and feelings. As a part of plant physiology the text records a concept relating to the transport system inside the plant. The vascular circulating system consists of Syandani and Sira. Of these, Syandani performs the function of transporting elementary fluid (Panchbhautik Rasa) from earth (soil) with the help of roots. Through Sira the fluid circulates both in the inward and outward directions. The rasa is to be conceived (according to Sankhya Darshana of ancient philosophy) right from the basic invisible matter. This rasa nourishes the plant organs with all the derivations of five “Panchmahabhautik elements” viz. “Khsiti (earth)”, “Aap (water)”, “Tej (Solar/Agni)”, “Vayu (air)” and “Aakash (space)”.

Just as Biodynamic farming, Homa organic farming is based on yajñas and Life Bio-energy forces, whose main source is the energy from the sun. This Cosmic energy we call it as “Prana-tatva” or “Pranic energy”. In following the principle य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां प्रा॒णो य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पताम्-अपा॒नो य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां॒ व्या॒नो य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां॒ चक्षु॑र्-य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पता॒ग्॒ श्रोत्रं॑ य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां॒ मनो॑ य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां॒ वाग्-य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पताम्-आ॒त्मा य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पतां य॒ज्ञो य॒ज्ञेन॑ कल्पताम् ॥ as mentioned in Rudram Chamakam (10).

The most important thing about this agricultural methodology which is based on Vedic Sciences is that it recognizes the forces of “Aakash (space)” the fifth element i.e. the subtle energies of both light and sound (Nad-brahma) to enhance the Cosmic influence of planets on plants. Aakash is the mother of all other elements and “Nad” or “Sound” is its most omnipotent and subtlest force, which has capacity to reach Cosmos of Twenty-seven Constellations. Shri Vasant Paranjape in his book “Homa Therapy – our Last Chance” says “when these specific mantras are uttered at the specific times of sunrise/sunset “RESONANCE” takes place in the pyramid.  The most powerful effect is with the word “SWAHA”. It is the Resonance which heals.” This is how plant plagues and epidemics go away. Resonance plays vital part in natural phenomena.  He further says “when Mantras are done in conjunction with Homa fires the vibrations from mantras become locked up in the ash and therefore ash becomes more powerful under this method to heal atmosphere and create conducive Biosphere for healthy growth of plants and animal life.”

Nakshatra-wise rain-forecast and performance of Homas according to astronomical positions of constellations for attracting influence of cosmic forces on plants / animals and for rain-induction is the area of research that leads to preparation of location based specific agro-climatic calendar. This will be another dimension of Homa farming. Additionally, it is also proposed to study the effect of ashes from Samidhas of Yajñyiya Vrikshas used during Havans. The relationship of Agnihotra/Yajñas, environment and Agriculture are explained in the following diagram:diagram

Thus, these practices based on Vedic Sciences and recommended in texts like “Vruksha Ayurveda of Parashar, Kashyapiya Krishi Sukti, Brihit Samhita by Varah Mihir” are helpful in Biosphere Management for healthy plant / animal life and human life.

-Mr. Anand Gaikwad, Krishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary


Imparting Indian Culture : A Global Perspective – II

Continued from Part-I

The Inwardness of Indian Mind

How to convey this idea of Indian spirituality to the student of Indian Culture or to an audience? Perhaps through the second characteristics “inward looking” or inwardness. Inwardness means to live from within outwards both individually and collectively. Individually it means not to live in the surface physical, vital or intellectual being but in inner subliminal or spiritual mind or soul, which can intuitively see or feel or perceive the inner invisible realities behind the outer visible forms. Collectively it means to create a society based on psychologic and spiritual principles, which felicitates the inner psychological and spiritual development of the individual towards his spiritual destiny.

Every outer activity, even something mundane like economics, is the outer expression of some inner psychological needs or forces, and these psychological forces are in turn the expression of some cosmic and spiritual truth or forces. The Vedic social ideal is to make the whole collective life of man a conscious expression of these deeper and higher psychological, cosmic and spiritual forces. We may convey the idea of the spirit as the source and goal of this inwardness and spirituality as the quest for this deepest and innermost truth of the spirit in every activity of human life.


In ancient India, philosophy for the sage and seer is the intellectual expression of his spiritual experience.  For others or for the collectivity, philosophy is a means for the intellectual being of the individual and the collectivity to receive, hold or assimilate the truth of the spirit as much as they can, with whatever limitations or imperfections. Religion in ancient India is the attempt to communicate the truth of the Spirit to the instinctive and emotional being of the masses through concrete symbols, images and legends.  Through philosophy and religion, the spiritual truths discovered by sages through spiritual experience were made accessible to the intellectual and emotional being of the community or in other words, we may say light of the spirit descends into the intellect and emotions. This may lead to much dilution of the spiritual truth, but at the same there is a greater diffusion of the truth of the spirit into the masses.

Towards a Balanced Approach

However the student of Indian Culture should not be given the impression that ancient Indian Culture is a total success or something perfect or complete. It was a great attempt to create a civilization based on a spiritual vision.  But the attempt was only a partial success with some glaring failures. It was a great success in religion, philosophy and culture. But in society and politics, the attempt broke-down and went astray somewhere in the middle. In society, Indian attempt achieved only what Sri Aurobindo describes as “half-aristocratic, half-theocratic feudalism” (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, SABCL, Vol.14, Foundations of Indian Culture Pg.335) with the caste system as its last result. In politics and government the attempt to govern politics by dharma couldn’t be sustained after the epical age. As Sri Aurobindo describes this attempt to govern outer life by Dharma –

“But the difficulty of making the social life an expression of man’s true self and some highest realization of the spirit within him is immensely greater than that which attends a spiritual self-expression through the things of the mind, religion, thought, art, literature, and while in these India reached extraordinary heights and largenesses, she could not in the outward life go beyond certain very partial realisations and very imperfect tentatives,—a general spiritualising symbolism, an infiltration of the greater aspiration, a certain cast given to the communal life, the creation of institutions favourable to the spiritual idea. Politics, society, economics are the natural field of the two first and grosser parts of human aim and conduct recognised in the Indian system, interest and hedonistic desire: Dharma, the higher law, has nowhere been brought more than partially into this outer side of life, and in politics to a very minimum extent; for the effort at governing political action by ethics is usually little more than a pretence” (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, SABCL, Vol.2 Karmayogin, Pg.210).

 The main aim of the political thought of Ramayana and Mahabharatha is to uplift politics to a higher level by harnessing it to the yoke of Dharma or in other words, dharmic elevation of the political life of the community. But in later ages Dharmic aims were subordinated to the practical and economic interests, Artha. This Indian term Dharma is a pregnant concept with a multidimensional significance. But in general we may define Dharma as the values, ideals or ways of living derived from the higher laws of life or Nature, which leads to the higher evolution of humanity in the mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual domains of consciousness.

So while it is necessary to highlight our past achievements, the student should also be given a very unbiased and objective assessment of our past failures. In fact our emphasis should be neither on our past achievements nor our failures but on the future work to be done by India. The factors or causes behind our achievements and failures have to be brought out in such a way that it gives a clear direction to the future work to be done.

So our aim in the education of Indian culture should be not to create a narrow-minded and sentimental patriot, but someone who is imbued with the essential spirit and genius of India but at the same time with a broad global outlook which can understand and appreciate the greatness in other cultures.

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.