About four decades ago we felt like writing ‘A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit Literature’ and the first edition of the book appeared in 1943. A second edition of the same came out in 1960 and a reprint again in 1974. It appears that students (degree and post-graduate) for whom the book was intended have been benefitted by it.
Shri Shyamapada Bbattachaya of Sanskrit Pustak Bandar, Calcutta, has been pressing inc for some time past to write a book on the history of Vedic Literature for students. He is one 0f the younger generation who has been doing so much for the cause of Sanskrit and Ideological studies by undertaking publication of’ books, new ones as well as those that are out of print.
The present book owes its origin to his ardent request. The Sampurnanand Sanskrit University Press has been kind enough to get it printed at Varanasi. Our choicest blessings are bestowed on Shri Lakshmi Narayan Tiwari, Librarian and Shri Saligrani Yadav, Personal Assistant for having seen the book through the press. The index has been carefully prepared by Dr Carolina Rosso Cicogna, Liceuciée en Langues Romanes, University of Louvair, to whom 1 offer my best thanks.
The Vedic age is the dawn of Indihar History and Vedic literature is the oldest Indo-European literary menu 160461 mint in which the culture and civilization of the ancient Indian peak are reflected. According to Indian traditions, Vedic literature, which is of enormous size, comprises two parts, Sat bit (also called Mantra) and Brahman. Indian scholars have found it difficult to define them It ‘s worthy of notice that the author of the Main’s-s tires gives the following definitions Mantra is what reminds us of objects enjoined to be performed, the rest ( of Vedic literature ) is called Bahamian. For obvious reasons the aforesaid definition of Mantra is inconclusive, and, that being so, the definition of Brahmana also has no legs to stand upon It is for this reason that attempts have been made to frame precise die. Creations of both so that they may be distinguished. But, unfortunately these descriptions too, are found to be in exhaustive finally, it is held that Mantras are those Vedic texts which are called so in Indian traditions In the same way, Brahmans are those Vedic texts which Vedic scholars Designate a.. such For all practical purposes, however, Samhitisor Mantras may be described as co1lctions of hymns, prayers, incantations, benedictions, sacrificial formulas and litanies And, Brahma is are dissertations ori Krishnan, that is, Mantra; they are voluminous prose texts containing theological matter, specially observations on sacrifices and mystical significance of different sacrificial rites and ceremonies. The Brahmans literature is divided into three parts, Pure Brahrnanas, Araayakas aid Upanishads. It may be noted that though A raiyakas and Upaniads form parts of Bahamian literature, yet some of them are independent texts. But, whether they are parts of Brahmas or independent texts, the fact remains that there is continuity of one thought current holding’ them together and justifying their common designation as Brahmin. It maybe observed in passing that in spite of the rich variety of topics contained therein, the entire Vedic literature, Mantra and Brahman, reflects a unity of thought that has undergone change and development from the days they were first composed till the times they were completed. Though Mantra Utcrature and Pure Brhrnailas are described as the Book of Work (Kurma.Mnda) and A ranyakas and Upaniads are designated the Book of Knowledge (Jñna.kUtz4a) and though Wares prone to’ think in terms of .antagonism between ceriman- and jñ.na ‘as means to the teammate goal of life which is very much in evidence in works of’ later years; we venture to state’ Without any hesitation that ma,1ras of the four Sachets and tee(its of Brahmans, Aranyakas and Upanishads breathe one sirg1e spirit of spiritual - realization on the part of Vedic-seers, a band of inspired people, endowed ‘with there’quisiteàwerof transmission of their intuitive knowledge .through a medium of expression of unqucstionab1c authority, sublime and eloquent. As we know, in Indian tradi’tioi1Veic ‘literatures is believed to be a-parity; ‘not composed by any agency, human or divine, and, Vedic poets are called seers and not composers of man fraps though on several occasions, the Vedic texts have described them a mantra krill, obviously enough the term has been paraphrased are wantra.dri by traditional coulmentators It may be remembered that the .Vedic conception of a-paurufeyatoa is like this: Language owes its origin to sonic vibration Within through which our thought seek their manifestation The language which is called deva bhasa, the language of light, as nz6ntya, it is not, therefore, what the child learns ‘from . is natural outburst, vibration of sound, congenial to our thoughts. Indian grammarians and ‘Tantrikas have ‘said that this vibration passes through ‘three’ stages before it seeks the aid of humansañketa. for its Expression”—but, even in the fourth stage the power of’the’primal’ vibration remains the same: and, as such, the manifested form of mantra should be accorded’ the respect of primal vibration. Like primal vibration the articulate infantry is also a-pauruseya. It will be to our advantage to state at this initial stage that Vedic sacrifices are not formal rituals intended to confer upon the performer a happy lease of life in heaven after death. Their aim is to raise mortal consciousness to. the plane of undying. eternal no piousness for which the home soma (heaven) is given—a state: of perennial ecstasy where all thirsts are quenched. Both dravya fajita and jnaiäna yajuIa can reach us to that height. And, as such, it is almost futile to argue a case for contradiction• between Karman and j.ana’ so far as Vedic literature and its . purport are con.
corned. This may be proved on the strength of. the fact that ‘Sorbet, Brhamaila and Spaniard tests are mixed up with one another leaving the impression, that there is hardly any antagonism among them in respect of their purport. Thus, we find that Tantra-Upaniad is the last chapter of the White Ayurveda which is pre-eminently a karma-veda3a Veda of work or sacrifice. It is quite significant that the concluding chapter of the Ayurveda should be called a Upani:ad. It maybe recalled in this context that the Bhagavad-Gita states: All Works end in knowledge (‘servant karma ’khilath paintka jitney parisariapyate).
To return to. The point. There are three parts of Brahma literature. Of these, Pure Brahmans confine themselves to matters relating to sacrifice while Upaniads contain a goon deal of philosophy. As for Arayakas, they lie midway between Pure Brthmaias and Upani.ads discussing occult science.
Mantra literature forms the oldest part of the Veda and contains its kernel. From the very beginning mantras were collected in the form of Sanities and they assumed a stable form which could earn the esteem and respect of the Indian people as the vehicle of thoughts and performances of accredited value and importance. it is for this reason that mantras rare still available in their pristine form even after a lapse of thousands of years from the days of their composition and collection. It is almost unimaginable how the entire Vedic lore, articulacy mantras, has been recited with meticulous care to guarantee its unbroken transmission. It may not be out of place to mention here that the sanctity of Mantra literature is somewhat unique and outstanding and that Brahmadas which aim at explaining the purpose of infantries do not reach their height. But, it goes without saying that the utility af Br thimakas was never underestimated as aids to the understanding of ,mantras. Brthmatha, as it has been already stated, means dissertation on Brahman or Mantra. The Sanskrit equivalent for dissertation is, nmJiizsã, a very common and popular expression in later Indian literature. Incidentally,’ it may be pointed out that both the expressions, m3ntra and In Sea, are derived from the same i/man. Now, while Pure Brahman’s contain dissertation out Karman (karmathaThksli), Upani.ads which form a part of Brahma’s literature discuss the nature of the Ultimate Ubiquitous Identity called Brahman ( brakmainimtbksä). This being so, Man tantra literature should contain the two elements of karman and janana on which dissertation was felt necessary; and, the Brahmadasa literature came into being, parts of it explaining matters relating to karman and parts again, dealing with issues concerning jfltna It may be observed that though on linguistic groundS Mantra literature is dated earlier than Brthmana literature, yet it cannot be, argued that all Brihmaça texts were composed after the finalization of Mantra-textS and that no Brahmaia was composed during the Mantra. period If the Mantras were th’ere, it would be felt necessary to explain their purposes. And, or this reason some Brthmauas or at least sotto portions thereof should, in the fitness of things, have been composed in the time of Mantras. But, if it be held that at one time only Mantras were composed and Brahmans came to be written at a subsequent period, it would be difficult to explain how the Mantras were understood and employed in the days of their composition, particularly again when it is admitted that Mantras were generally used in Vedic rituals. The Tantra. Upaniad is a part of White Ayurveda and it is hardly justified to say that this part of the Ayurveda is a later composition on the ground that it is a piece of Brahman and could not, on that account, have been composed at the time of the Ayurveda Safihitt. Arguing on this line one may presume that though the language calved is the oldest it is quite possible that mantras of Ayurveda and A tharvaveda were also composed even in the Elgvedic period.
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