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The Concept of Vac in the Vedic Literature

The Concept of Vac in the Vedic Literature
Item Code: IHL534
Author: Pratibha M. Pingle
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788170308416
Pages: 350
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8 inch X 5.7 inch
weight of the book: 510 gms

From the Jacket

The word Vac is derived from Vac, to speak. But Vac for Vedic Indians was not merely speech. The word carries with it a deeper significance. The material for the book is collected from the principal Samhitas- the Rgveda, the Atharvaveda, the five Samhitas of Yajurveda (the Taittiriya, the Maitryani, the Vajsaneyi, the Kathaka and the Kapisthalakatha). The Brahmanas (the Aitreya, the Sankhyana, the Satapatha, the Taittiriya, the Pancavimsa, the Sadvimsa and the Gopatha), and the eighteen principal Upanisads.

Dr. Pratibha M. Pingle is editor Sanskrit Dictionary, Deccan College, Pune.


Present work is my thesis submitted to the University of Poona for which I got my Doctorate Degree in 1978. it is a pleasure to express here my deep sense of gratitude to Prof. M.A. Mehendale for his constant help and interest not only during the preparation of this thesis but for all these years in whatever little I did in this field.

I thank all those who directly or indirectly have helped me earlier in the preparation and now in printing of this thesis.

My sincere thanks are due to the Librarian and other staff-members of the Deccan College Library for their co-operation and help.

I also should mention the name of my father Shri. G. B. Deshmukh, Retd. Govt. Pleader, Sangli, who is a great lover of Sanskrit studies and always encourages any work in this field. I am sure he will be very happy to see this book printed.


Although the word Vac occurs in various contexts in the Vedic literature, no attempt has been made so far to study all the relevant passages and present a comprehensive concept of Vac. This is, therefore, what is attempted in the present work.

The work Vac is derived from Vac, to speak. But Vac for Vedic Indians was not merely speech. The word carries with it a deeper significance. It all the references where the word Vac is referred to are examined carefully, it will be clear that the word is used in various senses. Grassmann in his ‘Worterbuch’ enlists various meanings or the shades of Vac as follows -

1. speech, saying, song, call,

2. in connexion with the sense to raise or to express or to utter a call (Var, Vir, Vis),

3. to bring forth a song or some part of it,

4. ‘iyam vac’ is ‘this hymn’,

5. roaring of the animals, note of the birds, sound of the frogs,

6. sound (rustling) of blazing fire,

7. sound of flowing Soma or a song that Soma utters,

8. thundering of clouds, (the sound of Indra is thunder,) sound of the Soma-pressing stone,

9. the goddess, personification of the holy speech.

Though Grassmann considers only the Rgvedic evidence, we will find, more or less the same situations in the rest of the Vedic literature. After going through all the passages referring to Vac, it is possible to reduce the main shades of meaning to six:

1. Vac as the goddess,

2. Vac as a prayer,

3. Vac as human, everyday speech,

4. sound of the nonhuman beings as of cattles, frogs, birds,

5. sound of inanimate objects like ‘dundubhi’ ‘aksa’ etc.,

6. natural sound of water, thunder etc.

Keeping in mind this sixfold character of Vac mentioned above, I have tried to present the concept of Vac in all details as conceived by the Vedic seers.

The general plan of the book is as follows- The data for the present study is collected from the principal Samhitas - the Rgveda, the Atharvaveda, the five Samhitas of Yajurveda (the Taittiriya, the Maitrayani, The Vajasaneyi, the Kathaka and the Kapisthalakatha), the Brahmanas (the Aitareya, the Sankhayana, the Satapatha, the Taittiriya, the Pancavimsa, the Sadvimsa and the Gopatha), and the eighteen principal Upanisads. In order to get a fair idea about the concept of Vac all the references throwing light on the various aspects of Vac have been collected from these original texts.

The material thus collected is divided into ten chapters as follows —

I. From the early age of the RV. Vac has attained the status of a Vedic divinity. As she is celebrated as a deity, it is desirable to see her special attributes as a deity and her relation with the other Vedic deities. In view of the frequent identification of Vac with Sarasvati in the Brahmanas and the prominent position occupied by Sarasvati as the goddess of learning in later literature, it is of importance to study the relation of Vac with Sarasvati in the Samhitas. Hence the references about the relationship of Vac and Sarasvati are dealt with first. Although we do not come across any direct mention about the relation of Vac and Agni at least in the RV., the close connection between these two deities is implied where the process of creation is described. The Samhitas of the YV and the Brahmanas stress this relationship which is discussed here. Soma may stand as the third in the list of the divinities related to Vac. If the word Vac is taken in the sense of a prayer - which is a common practice - then Soma is aptly celebrated as Vacaspati. Almost all the references about Vac and Soma belong to the Soma- Mandala of the RV. (RV. IX) In later Vedic literature Soma figures with Vac only where various Soma-legends are narrated. Vac is always described as involved in the process of creation from the age of the RV. In the Samhitas of the YV and in the Brahmanas Prajapati joins her in this activity of creating the world.' Then come the references about the relation of Vacaspati, Brhaspati, and Usas. Thus the first chapter is devoted to the goddess Vac and her relation with Sarasvati, Agni, Soma, Prajapati, Brhaspati and Usas.

Relation of Vac with Indra and Asvins- is- also mentioned sometimes. But such passages are dealt with Under the different topics according to their subject matter. For instance, the passage where Indra is said to have divided speech is discussed in the chapter on the divisions of speech.

II. The references suggesting that the word Vac is used in the sense of 'Holy Speech' or a prayer are discussed in the second chapter. A prayer of the RV. changes into a spell or a charm in the AV. This chapter deals with the qualifications of the experts ‘in the composition of these Mantras, ‘the friend of speech', and the favours he obtains from the goddess Vac.

III. Vac is said to have been created for the performance of the sacrifice. The first and foremost thing necessary for the Vedic ritual is the recitation of the Vedic Mantras. Strict discipline was observed in this recitation. The relation of Vac with the sacrifice is manifold. Thus the identification and relation of Vac with the Vedas, controlling and releasing of speech for various purposes in the procedure of the sacrifice (Vacamyama and Vaco visarjana), use of different tones in the recitation, and relation of Vac with some formulae and utterances in the sacrifice, mystic identifications of Vac with various cups, bricks, Diksa, Vedi, Uttaranabhi etc. - all this forms the subject matter of the third chapter.

IV. The obvious close relation of Vac with the metres, frequent identification- of Vac with the Anustubh and occasionally mentioned relation of Vac with the Viraj and Gayatri are discussed in the fourth chapter.

V. Vac is always looked upon as a cow capable of yielding all desired things. Such passages where Vac is conceived as a cow - Gauri, Somakrayani, Dhenu or Sabali - and which probably are the origins of the later glorification of speech as a cow in the epics and later literature, are explained in the fifth` chapter.

VI. All these considerations as the relations of Vac with other deities, frequent use of the word Vac in the sense of a prayer, her relation with the sacrifice etc. should not, however, prevent us from paying attention to the obvious aspect of Vac that it is one of the human faculties. The importance of speech in human life was never out of sight. The speech was as it were a string and the names were the knots. Through the medium of Vac our thoughts assume audible forms and thus we can communicate with others. Our Vedic forefathers were aware of the part played by the organs of speech in the manifestation of speech. The capacity to produce articulate speech with the exercise of the organs of speech is the only faculty which distinguishes man from other living beings. Vac being one of the human faculties is mentioned in connection with the other faculties. In that also ‘manas’ and ‘prana’ and also ‘caksus’ are considered to be superior to Vac. It is often said that whatever is seen is more reliable than whatever is said by others. Thus the relative position of Vac among the human faculties and the organs of speech are dealt with in this sixth chapter. The chapter also mentions the passages where the word Vac is used in the sense of ‘tongue’ or ‘mouth’.

VII. It has been already stated that sometimes the word Vac is used in the broad sense of the ‘sound’. References about the speech of non-human beings like birds, frogs and the sounds of inanimate things as ‘dundubhi’, ‘aksa’ etc. are made clear in the seventh chapter.

VIII. Though since the very early age Indians were thinking about the problem of the origin of speech, the solution offered is theological in nature and not scientific. Again Vac is also said to have created many things. Therefore ‘the Origin of Vac’ and ‘Vac as the Origin’ is the topic of the eighth chapter.

IX. Speech was originally looked upon as one and then, for various purposes, it was divided. Besides the fourfold division of speech — which is very famous and popular even in the later literature - it is also divided 'tredha’ and ‘saptadha'. Again there are mentions of so called types of speech as ‘daivi‘, 'asurya', 'manusi`, ‘nirukta‘ etc. Along with all these divisions and types of speech the ninth chapter also discusses the various epithets of speech as ‘parihvala', ‘upadasuka’ etc.

X. The concluding chapter deals with the relation of Vac with Brahman as referred to in the Upanisads, which comprises the inability of Vac in the comprehension of Brahman, an assertion of Vac as a quarter of Brahman and how Brahman is the only force behind Vac.

Thus the investigation of the concept of Vac covering all the aspects mentioned above is attempted here?

The Appendix contains the various legends about Vac which are referred to- in the book.

The bibliography including the texts and translation as well as the other books and articles which are used in the preparation of this study is given at the end.




  CHAPTER I 1-79
1 Vac as a Deity in the Rgveda 1
2 Vac and Sarasvati 8
3 Vac and Agni 22
4 Vac and Soma 38
5 Vac and Prajapati 57
6 Vacaspati, Vakpati and Brhaspati 62
7 Vac and Usas 70
  CHAPTER II: 80-105
1 Vac as a prayer 80
2 Vac as a spell 95
3 ‘Friend of Speech’ 99
  CHAPTER III: 106-174
1 Vac and Sacrifice 106
2 Vac and the Vedas 109
3 Vacamyama and Vaco Visarjana 112
4 Use of different tones in the Sacrifice 128
5 Vac with some utterances in the sacrifice the Vac atkara, the Svahakara and the Hinkara 131
6 Speech identified with various formulae 136
7 Vac and the Hotr 142
8 Relation of Vac with some Vedic Seers 147
9 Vac identified with various cups 148
10 Some Identifications in connection with the sacrifice 154
11 Some other Identifications 164
  CHAPTER IV: 175-191
1 Vac and Metres (in general) 175
2 relation of Vac with various Metres 177
  (A) Vac and the Anustubh 177
  (B) Vac and the Gayatri 185
  (C) Vac and Viraj 188
  CHAPTER V: 192-200
  Vac (looked upon) as a cow 192
  CHAPTER VI: 201-247
1 Vac with other Sense Organs 201
2 Vac and Manas 211
3 Vac and Prana 229
4 Vac, Manas and Prana 240
5 Vac and Caksu 243
  CHAPTER VII: 248-256
  Vac of various deities, animals, birds 248
  CHAPTER VIII: 257-263
  Origin of Vac 257
  CHAPTER IX: 264-294
1 Types of Vac 264
  (A) Raksasi Vac and Asurya Vac 264
  (B) Manusi Vac 266
  (C) Nitya, Uttama, Mayobhu and Asuraghni Vac 270
  (D) Aslila, Aputa and Upadasuka Vac 272
2 Divisions of Speech 278
  (A) Thru speeches 281
  (B) Caturdha Vac 284
  CHAPTER X: 295-300
  Vac and Brahman 295
  Vac Legends 301

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