From the Jacket:
The Upanishads have long fascinated Indian and foreign thinkers alike. The rich abundance of thought, the profound knowledge of Truth and life, the mystical pronouncements about the Individual and World Soul have inspired many writers and philosophers. But it was almost invariably the philosophical aspect of th Upanishads which attracted attention. The cultural aspect was lumped together with that of the preceding and succeeding eras. That the Upanishads were composed apart from the early Vedic literature and showed both continuation of and departure from its customs and practices was ignored altogether.
The present work is invaluable as a socio-cultural study of the Upanishads providing a deep insight into the land, the political and social institutions, th economy, religious ideas and philosophical urges of the people. It is based entirely on the older Upanishads: Aitareya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isa, Katha, Kaushitaki, Kena, Maitrayani, Mandukya, Mundaka, Prasna, Svetasvatara and Taittiriya. In this work the Upanishadic spriit is represented by thinkers like Satyakama Jabala who did not covet material wealth, Janaka, Ajatasatru and Asvapati devoted to the cause of learning, Gargi Vacaknavi daring to question the mighty sage Yajnavalkya and Uddalaka Aruni ever on the move in quest of Truth.
About the Author:
Dr (Mrs) Shubhra Sharma (Malaviya), born to literary parents and brought up on the books of scholars like Rahul Sankrityayan, R.D. Bannerji and J.L. Nehru, had a natural leaning towards literature and history. She topped in the Intermediate (Arts) examination of the U.P. Board and did it again in B.A. examination of the Banaras Hindu University, winning 3 gold medals. She took her M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology from the B.H.U. securing highest marks. Sahitya Shastri Pt. I form the Varanaseya Sanskrit Viswavidyalaya gave her added incentive to study the Upanishads in their original Sanskrit form. She was awarded Ph.D. for the present work in 1980 by the B.H.U.
She has served her alma mater as an Honorary Assistant to the Director, Bharat Kala Bhawan and as Research Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor on the project 'Contribution of B.H.U. towards National Movement'. She was also a lecturer of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology at Patna University. Married to a journalist, she resides at Jaipur and is at present working on the Non-Aryans in Vedic Literature. A collection of her short stories for children has been published by the Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The word Upanishad, to the layman, stands for deep
mystical teachings. To the philosopher. it stands for the
fountainhead from which all later systems spring forth. To the
historian, it stands for the last phase of Vedic literature and
culture when the lesser known protohistoric period was advanc-
ing forward to meet the era of recorded history. The Upani-
shads have always drawn attention of the scholars from far
and near as sources of philosophy but their true worth as
sources of history was not, realized. Other phases of Vedic
literature like the Rgveda, Atharvaveda, the Brahmanas,
the Grhya and Kalpa Sutras had merited separate studies, but
this was not true of the Upanishads. This fact was pointed
out to me by Dr. B.S. Upadhyaya and Dr. V.N. Mishra. My
supervisor Dr. (Mrs.) M. Jauhari also agreed that the topic
had interesting possibilities. The present study strives to
present a picture of the Upanishadic life: the people, their
environment, their beliefs and practices, based on the Upani-
shads themselves, and not on the preceding and succeeding
genres of literature.
Being a student of Sanskrit, I have relied mostly on the
original sources and have sparingly dwelt on the secondary
sources. This was done in order to present the most unbiased
and clear picture of the Upanishadic people.
The thesis is divided into ten chapters. Chapter I, Introduc-
tion, deals with the term Upanishad and its meaning, the
number of texts going under the name, the work done so far
on the Upanishads, as also the justification of the present
work. Chapter II. Vedic Antecedents, provides the backdrop.
Chapter III, Geography, describes the terrain, people, flora
and fauna reflected in the Upanishads. Chapter IV, State and
Administration, gives details of the Upanishadic kings in rela-
tion to their officials and subjects. The Upanishads hardly
mention any non-monarchical state. Chapter V, Society, dis-
cusses the stratification of people into varnas and asramas.
Some of the samskaras, which bind man from before his birth
to after his death, have infiltrated the Upanishads and find
mention here. The position of women in the Upanishadic
society and the educational system are also described. Chapter
VI, Material Life, presents the more tangible side. The food
and drink, dress and ornaments, furniture and utensils and the
modes of house-building and transport have found mention
here. Chapter VII discusses Upanishadic economy which was
neither entirely agrarian nor pastoral but a blend of the two,
with some aid from trade and commerce as well. Chapter VIII,
Religion, relates the Upanishadic idea of the godheads and
their ways of worship. Chapter IX describes the philosophy
of the Upanishads in a new perspective. It gives an account
of the philosophical competitions prevalent at the time, the
arena and the participants and then goes on to briefly sketch
the emerging philosophy. Cbapter X, Epilogue, embodies
the conclusions drawn from the study.
It is my pleasant duty, at last, to record my most sincere
and profound gratitude to my teachers in the Department
of A.I.H.C. and Archeology. I belong to the old school and
do not deem it proper to thank my elders. Thanks are given
ever so lightly, a hundred times a day. People free them-
selves from obligation and gratitude by a formal word of
thanks. Therefore I do not propose to thank my teachers.
However, I would like to express the deep sense of obligation
that I have for my Supervisor, Dr. (Mrs.) M. Jauhari, who
gave me very valuable guidance with motherly affection. I
am also beholden to Dr. M.P. Chaubey, without whom this
thesis would not have been so comprehensive. Prof. K.K.
Sinha and Dr. J.N. Tiwari greatly encouraged me and made
valuable suggestions. I am also gratful to Prof. L. Gopal
and Dr. P.K. Agrawal, who offered me useful tips during my
Mr. Ghildiyal and his staff in the lndology Library always
managed to bring out old, forgotten volumes from the shelves
when I needed them and thus earned my gratitude. I would
like to thank Shri L.N. Tiwari, Librarian, Sarasvati Bhavan
Library of the Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, for
his co-operation. I also greatly appreciate the quick and
efficient work of my typist, Shri P.K. Chatterjee.
Before I close, I must make a special mention of the
eminent scholar, Dr. Bhagavat Sharan Upadhyaya, who saw my
work several times and gave me the indulgence of discussing
the subject freely with him. I respectfully acknowledge the
everyday help which I received from my loving grandfather,
Shri S.S. Sharma.
I will feel happy if this humble effort of mine will succeed
in giving a clear picture of 'Life in the Upanishads' and I shall
deem myself amply rewarded if these threads of thoughts are
woven into some useful pattern by the learned scholars of the
subject. This, I am sure, will prove a useful contribution
towards better understanding of the Upanishadic people.
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