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Ancient Sanskrit Online

Lesson 9

Karen Thomson and Jonathan Slocum

Study of the language of the Rigveda, the earliest surviving Sanskrit text, shows that it is an anthology of poems that were composed over a period of many centuries. Some of its hymns are believed to date from the beginning of the second millennium BC, or even earlier according to some scholars.

The most detailed study of the internal chronology of these poems, based on an analysis of vocabulary, grammatical forms, and metre, was carried out by E. Vernon Arnold a century ago, building on the work of his nineteenth-century predecessors (see the reading list in section 9 of the Series Introduction). Arnold assigns the poems to five basic periods: Archaic (the earliest poems), Strophic, Cretic, Normal, and Popular, the last consisting of poems significantly later than the rest, most of which are found towards the end of Books I to IX, or in Book X. The periods of composition of the lesson texts are as follows:

  • Archaic (Lessons 5, 6 and 10)
  • Strophic (Lesson 4)
  • Cretic (Lessons 1, 7 and 8)
  • Normal (Lessons 2 and 3)

This lesson text consists of two poems, II, 42 (233), the penultimate poem in Book II, and X, 58 (884). Both belong to what Arnold termed the Popular Rigveda, which he describes as later additions to the original collection.

Reading and Textual Analyis

II, 42 is in the tristubh metre, like the last lesson text, while X, 58 is in anustubh, verses of four lines of 8 syllables each. Both clearly exhibit characteristics of the later language. The word prad 'direction' in both poems is late, for example, as are the verbal adjectives bhvya 'future', and bht 'past' in the last verse of X, 58. Some words shifted in meaning over time: pitras 'fathers' acquired the sense 'ancestors' (II, 42), and mnas 'understanding' the meaning 'spirit' (X, 58). The similiar change in meaning of srva 'whole' to mean 'all' was mentioned in section 32 of Lesson 7. In the first verse of X, 58 yam appears as a proper name, which is also characteristic of a late poem. In earlier poems yam means 'twin': samn vm janit bhrtar yuvm, yamv [yama] ihhamtar (VI, 59, 2) '(Indra and Agni,) your parents are the same, you are brothers, twins whose mother is everywhere'.

The first poem, II, 42, is addressed to a bird of good omen, and has only three verses. The second, X, 58, to the wandering spirit, is twelve verses long, but only the first line changes - lines 2-4 are a repeated refrain. After the first verse of X, 58 therefore only the new first line of each verse is glossed.

[II, 42] - knikradaj jansam prabruvn
yarti vcam aritva nvam
sumangla ca akune bhvsi
m tv k cid abhibh vvy vidat

  • knikradat -- participle; nominative singular masculine present active intensive participle of </krand, krndati> cry out -- calling out repeatedly
  • jansam -- noun; accusative singular masculine of <jans> descent, kind -- kind
  • prabruvns -- participle; nominative singular masculine present middle participle of </br, brvti> say + preverb <pr> forth -- proclaiming
  • yarti -- verb; 3rd person singular active present of </r, yarti> go, send -- he urges
  • vcam -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <vc> voice, speech -- his voice
  • arit -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <aritr> oarsman -- oarsman
  • iva -- particle; <iva> like -- like
  • nvam -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <na> boat -- a boat
  • sumanglas -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sumangla> auspicious, bringing luck -- bringing luck
  • ca -- conjunction; <ca> and -- if # A specialised use of ca, which accents the verb.
  • akune -- noun; vocative singular masculine of <akni> (a kind of bird) -- shakuni-bird
  • bhvsi -- verb; 2nd person singular active subjunctive of </bh, bhvati> be -- you will be
  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • tv -- personal pronoun; accusative singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- you
  • k cit -- interrogative pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <ks, k, kt, km> who, which, what? + particle <cit> even, all -- any
  • abhibh -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <abhibh> lit. shining-against -- prying light
  • vvy -- indeclinable; <vvy> anywhere -- anywhere # Like abhibh, this word occurs only in this passage, and its meaning and form are debated.
  • vidat -- verb; 3rd person singular active aorist injunctive of </vid, vindti> find -- find

m tv yen d vadhn m suparn
m tv vidad sumn vr st
ptrym nu pradam knikradat
sumanglo bhadravd vadeh

  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • tv -- personal pronoun; accusative singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- you
  • yens -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <yen> eagle -- the eagle
  • t vadht -- verb; 3rd person singular active aorist injunctive of </vadh> slay + preverb <t> up -- slay
  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • suparns -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <suparn> finely-plumed -- the fine-feathered one
  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • tv -- personal pronoun; accusative singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- you
  • vidat -- verb; 3rd person singular active aorist injunctive of </vid, vindti> find -- find
  • sumn -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sumant> bearing arrows -- bearing arrows
  • vrs -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <vr> hero, man, strong son -- the man
  • st -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <str> shooter, hunter -- hunter
  • ptrym -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <ptrya> of the fathers -- of the fathers
  • nu -- preposition; <nu> after -- towards
  • pradam -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <prad> direction, region -- in the direction
  • knikradat -- participle; nominative singular masculine present active intensive participle of </krand, krndati> cry out -- calling out repeatedly
  • sumanglas -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sumangla> auspicious, bringing luck -- bringing luck
  • bhadravd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <bhadravdn> of fortunate pronouncement -- speaking good fortune
  • vada -- verb; 2nd person singular active imperative of </vad, vdati> speak -- speak
  • ih -- adverb; <ih> here, here on earth -- down to us

va kranda daksinat grhnm
sumanglo bhadravd akunte
m na sten ata mghamso
brhd vadema vidthe suvrh

  • va kranda -- verb; 2nd person singular active imperative of </krand, krndati> cry out + preverb <va> down -- call down
  • daksinats -- adverb; <daksinats> from the right side -- from the right side # From dksina 'right', compare Greek dexios.
  • grhnm -- noun; genitive plural masculine of <grh> house -- of the houses
  • sumanglas -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <sumangla> auspicious, bringing luck -- bringing luck
  • bhadravd -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <bhadravdn> of fortunate pronouncement -- speaking good fortune
  • akunte -- noun; vocative singular masculine of <aknti> (a kind of bird) -- dear shakuni-bird # A variant of akni in verse 1.
  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • nas -- personal pronoun; accusative/dative/genitive enclitic form of <vaym> we -- us
  • stens -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <sten> thief -- the thief
  • ata -- verb; 3rd person singular middle aorist injunctive of </, e> have mastery over -- triumph over
  • m -- particle; <m> not, that not -- let not
  • aghamsas -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <aghamsa> of wicked praise -- the impious man
  • brht -- adverb; <brht> on high -- aloud
  • vadema -- verb; 1st person plural active optative of </vad, vdati> speak -- may we speak
  • vidthe -- noun; locative singular neuter of <vidtha> confident knowledge, wise judgement -- in wisdom
  • suvrs -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <suvra> of good manhood -- good men # The last line is formulaic, ending 22 poems in Book II, together with IX, 86, 48.

[X, 58] - yt te yamm vaivasvatm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • yamm -- noun; accusative singular masculine of <yam> twin, Yama -- to Yama # The accusative of goal with a verb of motion. Yama is the samgmanam jnnm (X, 14, 1) 'the gatherer of men' who presides over the ancestral fathers in the kingdom of the dead.
  • vaivasvatm -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <vaivasvat> son of Vivasvat -- son of Vivasvat # Literally 'of the radiant one'; see the feminine form in example 223 in Lesson 7.
  • mnas -- noun; nominative singular neuter of <mnas> understanding, spirit -- spirit
  • jagma -- verb; 3rd person singular active perfect of </gam, gchati> go -- goes
  • drakm -- adverb; <drakm> far away -- far away
  • tt -- adverb; <tt> then -- then
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- to you
  • vartaymasi -- verb; 1st person plural active causative of </vrt, vrtate> turn + preverb <> (intensifies or reverses meaning) -- we turn it back
  • ih -- adverb; <ih> here, here on earth -- here
  • ksyya -- noun; dative singular masculine of <ksya> home -- to dwell
  • jvse -- infinitive; dative infinitive from </jv, jvati> be alive -- to live # See section 44.

yt te dvam yt prthivm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • dvam -- noun; accusative singular masculine of <dy, dv> sky, heaven, day -- to the sky
  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • prthivm -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <prthiv> earth -- to the earth...

yt te bhmim cturbhrstim
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • bhmim -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <bhmi> earth, land -- to the land
  • cturbhrstim -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <cturbhrsti> four-cornered -- four-cornered...

yt te ctasrah prado
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • ctasras -- numeral; accusative plural feminine of <catr> four -- in the four
  • pradas -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <prad> direction, region -- directions...

yt te samudrm arnavm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • samudrm -- noun; accusative singular masculine of <samudr> gathering place of waters, sea -- sea
  • arnavm -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <arnav> billowing, foaming -- to the foaming...

yt te mrch pravto
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • mrcs -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <mrci> particle of light, gleaming light -- to the gleaming lights
  • pravtas -- noun; genitive singular feminine of <pravt> mountain slope, height -- of the distant slope...

yt te ap yd sadhr
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • aps -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <p> water -- to the waters
  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • sadhs -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <sadhi> plant -- to the plants...

yt te sryam yd ussam
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • sryam -- noun; accusative singular masculine of <srya> sun -- to the sun
  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • ussam -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <uss> dawn -- to the dawn...

yt te prvatn brhat
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • prvatn -- noun; accusative plural masculine of <prvata> mountain -- to the mountains
  • brhats -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <brhnt> high, lofty -- lofty...

yt te vvam idm jgan
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • vvam -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <vva> all -- to all
  • idm -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <aym, iym, idm> this -- this
  • jgat -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <jgat> moving world -- world...

yt te prh parvto
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • prs -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <pra> former, farther -- still farther
  • parvtas -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <parvt> distance -- to distances...

yt te bhtm ca bhvyam ca
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

  • yt -- conjunction; <yt> that, when -- when
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvm> you -- your
  • bhtm -- verbal adjective; accusative singular neuter of past participle of </bh, bhvati> be -- to what has been
  • ca -- conjunction; <ca> and -- and
  • bhvyam -- verbal adjective; accusative singular neuter of future passive participle of </bh, bhvati> be -- what is to be
  • ca -- conjunction; <ca> and -- and...

Lesson Text



[II, 42] - knikradaj jansam prabruvn
yarti vcam aritva nvam
sumangla ca akune bhvsi
m tv k cid abhibh vvy vidat

m tv yen d vadhn m suparn
m tv vidad sumn vr st
ptrym nu pradam knikradat
sumanglo bhadravd vadeh

va kranda daksinat grhnm
sumanglo bhadravd akunte
m na sten ata mghamso
brhd vadema vidthe suvrh



[X, 58] - yt te yamm vaivasvatm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te dvam yt prthivm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te bhmim cturbhrstim
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te ctasrah prado
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te samudrm arnavm
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te mrch pravto
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te ap yd sadhr
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te sryam yd ussam
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te prvatn brhat
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te vvam idm jgan
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te prh parvto
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

yt te bhtm ca bhvyam ca
mno jagma drakm
tt ta vartaymasi
ih ksyya jvse

Translation

[II, 42]
Calling out repeatedly, proclaiming his kind,
He urges his voice like an oarsman a boat.
O shakuni-bird, if you will bring us luck
Let not any prying light anywhere find you.
Let the eagle not slay you, not the fine-feathered one,
Nor the man bearing arrows, the hunter, find you.
Calling out repeatedly in the direction of the fathers
Bringing luck, speaking good fortune, speak down to us.
Call down from the right side of the houses
Bringing luck, speaking good fortune, dear shakuni-bird;
Let the thief not triumph over us, nor the impious man,
May we, good men, in wisdom speak out loud.
[X, 58]
When your spirit goes
Far away, to Yama son of Vivasvant;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far way, to the sky, to the earth;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the four-cornered land;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, in the four directions;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the foaming sea;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the gleaming lights of the distant slope;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the waters, the plants;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the sun, to the dawn;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to the lofty mountains;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to all this world;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to still farther distances;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.
When your spirit goes
Far away, to what has been and what is to be;
Then we turn it back to you,
Here to dwell, to live.

Grammar

41. Similes introduced by iva and n.
41.1. iva, va.

The poetry of the Rigveda is regularly metaphorical, and similes are not uncommon. The example in the first verse of the lesson text is typical of the use of iva -- the bird yarti vcam aritva [arit iva] nvam (II, 42, 1) 'urges his voice like an oarsman a boat'. A similar example was given at the end of Lesson 7, svast pnthm nu carema, srycandramsv iva (V, 51, 15) 'with wellbeing may we follow the path, like the sun and shining moon'. Usually iva follows a noun in the simile, but it can also follow other parts of speech, as in the first and penultimate examples below. These are not long similes of the Homeric kind, but short pithy comparisons, as is stressed by the treatment of iva in the ancient 'word by word', or Pada text, which attaches it to the preceding word as if it were a suffix.

In a number of places the metre indicates that although the earliest texts give the reading as iva, it should in fact be va. Example 279 is an instance of this. The metre of these poems shows numerous ways in which the ancient texts need to be corrected, some examples of which will be discussed in the section on metre at the end of this lesson.

  • pr bodhay pramdhim, jr sasatm iva (I, 134, 3) 'wake up abundance, like a lover a sleeping girl' [275] (= first 2 lines of 217)
  • mnus tkmeva [tkma iva] rohatu (X, 62, 8) 'let mankind spring up like young corn' (quoted at the end of Lesson 1; 'corn' here is of course used in its collective sense) [276]
  • v y jaghna amitva [amit iva] crma, upastre prthivm sryya (V, 85, 1) '(Varuna,) who struck out the earth like a worker a skin to spread it before the sun' [277]
  • td indra prva [pr iva] vrym cakartha, yt sasntam vjrenbodhay 'him [vjrena bodhayas him] (I, 103, 7) 'then, Indra, you initiated your heroic deed, so to speak, when you roused the sleeping dragon with your weapon' (the participle is from /sas 'sleep'; compare the feminine sasat in 275 above) [278]
  • myo vpo [myas va pas] n trsyate babhtha (I, 175, 6; I, 176, 6) 'you were like happiness, like water (waters) to a thirsty man' [279]
41.2. n 'like'.

The particle n has two distinct meanings in Ancient Sanskrit, n, 'not' and n 'like', the second of which is found in the last example above. The use of n 'like' is common in the Rigveda, with well over a thousand occurrences, but this meaning is already rare by the time of the Atharvaveda where it is found only 18 times, and it has disappeared entirely from Classical Sanskrit. The two meanings are often differentiated in pronunciation: n 'not' combines with a following vowel, but n 'like', being closely connected with the preceding word, does not, as the metre makes clear. In addition, n 'like' cannot stand first in the line, although n 'not' regularly does. Compare the use of the two together in examples 281 and 284.

Like iva, n 'like' usually follows a noun in the simile, as in the Lesson 4 text: syma mtr n snvah 'we would be like of-the-mother sons'. The sense may however extend over the whole clause, as in example 56 in Lesson 3, ysya brhmni sukrat vtha, yt krtv n ardah prnathe (VII, 61, 2) 'whose prayers, O very able pair, you will favour, so that you will fill his autumns with capability, as it were'. The ancient Pada text does not treat n as suffixal, unlike iva, possibly because of uncertainty about the distinction from n 'not' in some passages. The two words, n 'like' and n 'not', are listed together in Alexander Lubotsky's concordance to the Rigveda for the same reason.

The last example in this section, the first verse of a poem addressed to vve devh, illustrates how a sustained metaphor can grow out of a simile. The poet uses figurative language throughout the verse to describe his willingness to engage in his task of praising the gods in turn.

  • sahasryso apm n rmyah (I, 168, 2) 'like the countless waves of the waters' [280]
  • ysymitni vry`, n rdhah prietave, jytir n vvam abh sti dksin (VIII, 24, 21) 'who heroic deeds are measureless, his favour not to be surpassed, his liberality, like light, is over all' [281]
  • tvm dhyam manoyjam, srj vrstm n tanyath (IX, 100, 3) 'may you send forth the thought harnessed by understanding, as thunder (tanyat (m)) the rain' [282]
  • prti me stmam ditir jagrbhyt, snm n mt hrdyam suvam (V, 42, 2) 'may Aditi welcome my praise, like a mother a beloved son dear to her heart (hrdya, from hrd)' [283] (first line = 163)
  • hyo n vidvm ayuji svaym dhur, tm vahmi pratranm avasyvam, nsy [n asys] vami vimcam nvrtam [n vrtam] pnar, vidvn pathh puraet rj [puraet rj] nesati (V, 46, 1) 'like a draught-animal that knows I have harnessed myself to the pole. I draw that which promotes (feminine of pratrana, from /tr with preverb pr, elsewhere always figurative) and brings help. I do not wish for freeing (vimc (f), from /muc with preverb v, again always metaphorical), nor turning back again; may he who knows the way, the one going in front (pura-etr), guide me straight! (rj, used both literally and metaphorically, here in both senses)' [284]
42. yth and yath.

The word yth, like n, has two distinct senses. It is used as a conjunction meaning 'so that', as at the end of the Lesson 7 text: yth m dhva chm sad duron 'that there may be blessing on the way, or at home'. It can also, like n and iva, mark a comparison. An example was given in the introduction to Lesson 5 -- paks vyo ythopri [yth upri], v asm rma yachata (VIII, 47, 2) 'as birds their wings overhead, stretch out shelter for us' [285]. The compound yathvam 'according to will (va (m) 'will')' derives from this second meaning, as in example 259 in the last lesson: tm devnm bhvanasya grbha, yathvam carati dev esh (X, 168, 4) 'the breath of the gods, the germ of being, this god goes as he wills'.

In both senses yth introduces a subordinate clause, accenting the verb if there is one, and can stand first in the sentence or line unlike iva and n 'like'. It is also sometimes used as a simple comparative at the end of a line, when it loses its accent, as in the last verse of II, 43 (which forms a pair with the lesson text poem II, 42), the last example in this section.

The three words of comparison, yth, n and iva, can be used together for poetic effect, as in the first example.

  • yth prvebhyo jaritrbhya indra, myo vpo n trsyate babhtha, tm nu tv nivdam johavmi (I, 175, 6; I, 176, 6) 'as you were to the singers of old like happiness, Indra, like water to the thirsting man, I entreat you for that knowledge' (second line = 279) [286]
  • ytheym [yth iym] prthiv mah, ddhremn [ddhra imn] vnasptn, ev ddhra te mno, jvtave n mrtyve (X, 60, 9) 'just as this mighty earth holds firm these trees, so does it hold firm your spirit, for life not death' [287]
  • tt-tad agnr vyo dadhe, yth-yath krpanyti (VIII, 39, 4) 'every life-force fire grants, to each exactly as he yearns (a denominative verb, from krpan)' [288]
  • grhn gacha grhpatn ythso [yth sas], van tvm vidtham vadsi (X, 85, 26) 'go home so that you will be lady of the house, having sway may you pronounce wise judgement' [289]
  • vdams [vdan] tvm akune bhadrm vada, tsnm snah sumatm cikiddhi nah, yd utptan vdasi karkarr yath (II, 43, 3) 'may you, shakuni-bird, speaking out pronounce good fortune, sitting silently observe favour for us, when flying off you speak like a karkari' ('a charivari'? The word karkar occurs only here. It has been related to the Homeric verb karkair in Iliad 20, 157: 'the plain was filled with the men and their horses... the earth reverberated, karkaire de gaia, under their feet') [290]
43. Injunctives.

The verbal forms known as injunctives are ancient. They are identical with forms of the imperfect and the aorist, the augmented past tenses, but without the augment, being residues of the period before the augment was added to indicate past tense. These unaugmented verbal forms developed in two distinct directions, with different meanings. They remain in use in the Rigveda as alternatives to the augmented past forms. In addition, many are used modally, with an exhortatory, or injunctive, sense, from which the name derives. They survive in Classical Sanskrit only with the particle m 'not', Greek m, as negative injunctions or prohibitions. The context usually makes clear the function of the verb.

43.1. Unaugmented past forms.

These three examples are taken from earlier lessons.

  • yj jyath [jyaths, = jyaths] aprvya [...] tt prthivm aprathayah (VIII, 89, 5) 'when you were born, O incomparable one ... then you spread out the earth' (=67, 113) [291]
  • rcanta ke mhi sma manvata [= amanvata], tna sryam arocayan (VIII, 29, 10) 'some, praising, conceived the great harmony, with which they caused the sun to shine' (=143) [292]
  • pravcyam avadh vrym td, ndrasya krma yd him vivrct [= v vrcat] (Lesson 3 text) 'that heroic deed is evermore to be celebrated, Indra's act that he cut the snake in pieces' [293]
43.2. Modal forms.

In the first three passages below the context shows that vocam, svs and ppes have an injunctive, not a past sense. The fourth is less clear; but the imperative in the first line of the verse that follows, sa bhhi bhnn 'O dawn, shine out with brightness', suggests an injunctive sense for uchat.

  • ndrasya n vry`ni pr vocam, yni cakra prathamni vajr (I, 32, 1) 'now let me praise Indra's heroic deeds, the first ones that he did, the armed one' (the opening line of a poem to Indra) [294]
  • ady no deva savitah, prajvat svh [svs] sabhagam, pr dusvpnyam suva (V, 82, 4) 'today prompt fortune with progeny for us, O divine Savitar, banish the bad dream' [295]
  • n stut [stuts] indra n grnn, sam jaritr nady n ppeh [ppes] (IV, 16, 21) 'now praised, now lauded, Indra, yield refreshment abundantly for the singer, like streams' (final verse) [296]
  • vvam asy nnma cksase jgaj, jytis krnoti snr, pa dvso maghn duhit div, us uchad [uchat] pa srdhah (I, 48, 8) 'all the moving world pays reverence to the sight of her; the fair lady makes the light. Let dawn, the gracious daughter of heaven, shine away hatred, shine misfortunes away' (quoted in the introduction to Lesson 4) [297]
43.3. Negative modal forms with m.
  • m ne bhma sryasya samdri (Lesson 7 text) 'let us not be in want in the sight of the sun' [298]
  • m no mt prthiv durmata dht (Lesson 8 text) 'let Mother Earth not place us in disfavour' [299]
  • srasvati abh no nesi vsyo, mpa [m pa] spharh [sphars] pyas m na dhak [...] m tvt kstrni ranni ganma (VI, 61, 14) 'O Sarasvati, lead (a -si imperative) us to better, do not spurn us (from /sphr), do not deprive us (from /dagh with preverb ) of your plenty... let us not go away from you to foreign fields' [300]
44. Infinitives.

All forms of what is called the infinitive in the Rigveda are in origin case forms of old abstract nouns, datives being by far the most common. They frequently appear in parallel with datives of more familiar nouns, as jvse does with the dative of ksya in the refrain in the lesson text: ih ksyya jvse, literally 'here for home, for living'. The majority are formed from ancient abstract nouns in -tu, like vrtave 'to be hindered' in the Lesson 3 text, from vrtu, ytave 'to keep away' in Lesson 5 from ytu, and prietave 'to be surpassed' in example 281, from pri-etu.

One line of the Lesson 4 text contains two dative infinitive forms from different stems: prakhya devi svr dr 'O goddess, (you make) the sunlight to be gazed on (from pra-khy), seen (from dr; compare the locative of samdr in example 298 in the last section)'. Because infinitives in fact derive from abstract nouns, when translated as infinitives they often have to be rendered as passive, as in these examples: vrtave 'to be hindered' is literally 'for hindrance', prakhya 'for gazing on', and dre 'for sight'.

Two peculiarities of the infinitive are worthy of note. Some, ending in -tava, are doubly accented, as in example 254 in the last lesson, kar dhnvni tietav [tietava] u (V, 83, 10) 'you have now made the deserts passable (from ti-etu)', and hntava in example 304 below. The second is that the regular accusative infinitive form of Classical Sanskrit, ending in -tum or -itum, despite its coincidence of form with the Latin infinitive, appears not to owe its origin to the ancient Rigvedic dialect: only four forms in -tum are found, of which only dtum, from dtu 'giving', occurs more than once (twice; the dative dtave, as in example 303, five times).

  • no nv matnm, ytm prya gntave (I, 46, 7) 'approach, (Ashvins), with the ship of our thoughts, to go to the far shore' (from gntu 'going') [301]
  • v y jaghna amitva [amit iva] crma, upastre prthivm sryya (V, 85, 1) '(Varuna,) who struck out the earth like a worker a skin to spread it before the sun' (from upa-str 'spreading before') (= 277) [302]
  • y te md hanso vhyasas, tbhir ndram codaya dtave maghm (IX, 75, 5) 'what delights, richly productive, mighty, are yours, with them encourage Indra to give the reciprocal gift' [303]
  • brahmna ndram mahyanto arkar, vardhayann haye hntav [hntava] u (V, 31, 4) 'devout men magnifying Indra with eulogies, strengthened him for destroying the dragon' (haye, from hi, is dative by attraction; first line =130) [304]
  • krdh [krdh] na rdhv carthya jvse (I, 36, 14) 'raise us up to move ('for moving'; cartham, carthm, and carth also occur), to live ('for living', jvs, only found in the dative)' [305]
  • ut vta pitsi na, ut bhrtot nah skh, s no jvtave krdhi (X, 186, 2) 'Wind, you are to us a father, and a brother, and our friend, so make us to live' (dative of jvtu 'life'; also occurs in the nominative and accusative, and see example 287 above where the dative was juxtaposed with the dative of mrty 'death'. In later texts jvtave becomes established as an independent infinitive) [306]
45. Metre.

The metre of the Rigveda has an underlying iambic rhythm, that is, a rhythm characterised by a repeated pattern of a short followed by a long syllable, v- v- v- v-. This is also the natural rhythm of English, and Milton's line describing the progress of Satan,

And swims/ or sinks/ or wades/ or creeps/ or flies

is an example of an entirely regular iambic line. Milton wrote chiefly in iambic pentameters, lines of 5 iambs (v-) or ten syllables, as in this example. Lines of 10 syllables are however rare in the Rigveda where lines of 8, 11 or 12 syllables predominate.

The second of the two poems of the lesson 9 text, X, 58, is in a metre traditionally called anustubh, which consists of four-line iambic verses of 8 syllables. (If m, or any two consonants, which do not have to be in the same word, follow, they render a syllable long, and ah is always long.) As in all good poetry, there are many variations to the underlying rhythm. The cadence, or closing phrase, however tends to be regular, as in the line concluding every verse of this poem:

    yt te yamm vaivasvatm   -- v- -- vv
    mno jagma drakm   v- v- v- vv
    tt ta vartaymasi   -v -- v- vv
    ih ksyya jvse   v- v- v- v-

This is the prevailing metre of later Sanskrit verse. A more usual Rigvedic metre is one line shorter, with verses of three lines of 8 syllables, as in example 251 in the last lesson, repeated below. This is called gyatr:

    n grmso aviksata   -- -- v- vv
    n padvnto ni paksnah   v- -- v- v-
    n yensa cid arthnah   -- -- v- v-

The first text poem in this lesson, II, 42, is in tristubh, which is the most common metre of the Rigveda. It is also the metre of the texts of lessons 1, 3, 6 and 8. It consists of four-line verses of 11 syllables, with a varied rhythmic pattern as a result. The cadence is regularly trochaic, that is, characterised by an inversion of the iambic rhythm, (-v), but the opening is usually iambic, as in the first two lines.

    knikradaj jansam prabruvn   v- v- vv- -v -v
    yarti vcam aritva nvam   v- v- vvv -v -v

Another metre in frequent use by the ancient poets adds a syllable to the 11 tristubh syllables, restoring the iambic cadence. This is called jagat, and is the metre of the Lesson 2 text, and most of the Lesson 7 text.

The metres of the Lesson 4, 5, and 10 texts combine lines of different lengths, and are known as lyric metres. The Lesson 5 text consists of verses of 8, 8 and 12 syllables, a metre called usnih. Both the Lesson 4 and 10 texts alternate verses of 8, 8, 12, 8 syllables (brhat) and 12, 8, 12, 8 syllables (satobrhat). These song-like verse patterns are characteristic of early poems. In addition, many poems interpose verses in different metres for poetic effect, as in the texts of Lessons 7 and 8.

The above is a highly condensed outline of the metre used by the poets of the Rigveda. A comprehensive study in the context of the chronology of the poems was published by E. Vernon Arnold in 1905 (see the reading list at the end of the Series Introduction).

45.1. The importance of the metrical evidence.

The Rigveda has come down to us in two textual forms. The primary text is the samhit 'placed together', or continuous text. Its date is unknown. The accompanying Pada 'word' text derives from the continuous text, analysing all its sandhi combinations (Sanskrit samdhi, related to samhit) to provide a word by word gloss. The later Vedic texts, also handed down from remote antiquity, largely derive from the Rigveda. The earliest of these quote extensively from the Rigveda, sometimes introducing variations to the samhit text, replacing words that have become archaic, and occasionally giving readings that are incorrect. Example 151 in Lesson 6, lines 3 and 4 of the first verse of a tristubh poem in praise of Indra -- the opening two lines are example 294 above -- provides a simple illustration:

    hann him nu aps tatarda
    pr vaksn abhinat prvatnm
     
    He destroyed the dragon, released the waters,
    Split open the fertile places of the mountains.

The Atharvaveda (AVP 13.6.1) repeats the verse, but replaces the plural noun vaksns with a participle, vaksmns. This not only destoys the metre of the line but makes no grammatical sense, and is clearly simply an error. The samhit text is the most authoritative text that we have.

However, study of the metre of the poems of the Rigveda demonstrates that the ancient editors of this continuous text systematically applied rules of pronunciation that were regularly wrong. They were dealing with material composed in a period when the language was less rigidly regulated than it was in theirs, and it is apparent that this freer form was unfamiliar to them.

Some of these misapplied rules have already been mentioned in the lessons. For example, the first person plural optative of the verb 'to be' is regularly trisyllabic in the Rigvedic poems, siyma, as in the first line of the first lesson text. The ancient editors always render it syma, with loss of a syllable. Syllabic value has to be restored to the semivowels y and v in this way in a large number of words. (Many of the illustrations that follow are drawn from the examples given in the first grammar section of this lesson.) The word hrdya, which occurs in example 283, must always be read hrdiya, and tvm must regularly be read tuvm, particularly in poems from the Archaic period, as in example 282. In ten of its twelve occurrences in the lesson texts srya has to be read sriya. The syllabic loss is most apparent where the dropped vowel carried the accent, and the ancient text supplies a grave accent to the following syllable to indicate that it is missing. The accented vowel must be restored in nearly every case: svr should always read svar, ukthy, ukthya, vry, vrya (see examples 278 and 281). (However, as words from which these syllables were systematically dropped by the samhit text have entered dictionaries and grammars only in this later form, this is the form given both in the examples and in the glosses, to enable cross-referencing.) Other rules are similarly imposed on the Rigvedic vocabulary by its earliest editors. Later rules of syncopation are consistently applied to oblique cases of neuter nouns in -man: dhman and sman appear fifteen times in the text with the second vowel syncopated, but in every instance the vowel is restored by the metre. In the same way, the genitive/locative pitars is always written pitrs.

Some examples of rules misapplied between words follow, to illustrate the many ways in which the ancient editors obscured the poetry of the Rigveda.

Rules of combination, designed to avoid hiatus, were systematically applied to adjoining vowels in different words, often destroying the rhythm of the line. These combinations occur even over line ends, obscuring the metrical form. Every lesson text contains at least one example of this combining of words over line ends; the Lesson 10 text has five. The refrain in each of the twelve verses of X, 58 in this lesson provides a typical example:

    tt ta vartaymasi
    ih ksyya jvse

The samhit text combines the i at the end of one line with the i at the beginning of the next, and reads

tt ta vartaymash ksyya jvse,

and the anustubh verse pattern of 8-syllable lines, with a reiterated regular iambic cadence in the last line, is lost.

Example 277 reads

    v y jaghna amitva crma
    upastre prthivm sryya

The poem is in tristubh throughout, and sriyya must be read for sryya, as often. The samhit text, in addition to regularising the last word to sryya, combines the a at the end of one line with the u at the beginning of the next. The couplet then reads

v y jaghna amitva crmopastre prthivm sryya,

and again the metrical form, together with in this instance two syllables, disappears. In the third verse of the Lesson 8 text,

    kmo ry havate m suast
    pa stuhi prsadavm aysah

su-ast 'well-being' -- which the continuous text gives as svast -- at the end of one line is combined with pa at the beginning of the next to read svastypa. The replacement by the samhit text of final i or u with the semivowels y or v before a vowel, which happens twice in this line, has to be corrected more than 5,000 times in the text.

The last illustration is example 280, from an Archaic poem in the jagat metre.

sahasryso apm n rmyah

The line is a syllable short. The syllable can be restored here, and in over 500 similar places, by reading the genitive plural ending as bisyllabic, -aam. It seems probable that this was the earlier pronunciation. However, in the samhit text another syllable is lost. It applies sandhi between the two words n and rmyas, reading nrmays,

sahasryso apm nrmyah

But n here means 'like', 'like the countless waves of the waters', and unlike n 'not', n 'like' does not combine with a following word in pronunciation. In this example, and in three other places in the same poem, the systematic rule applied by the ancient editors obscures not only the metre, but also the meaning of the line.

The editors of the samhit 'continuous' text regularly turned the poetry of the Rigveda into prose, masking both its form and its meaning. The Pada 'word' text is often, quite by chance, closer to the original. Only careful study of the metre has enabled scholars to reconstruct the form in which these poems were composed, and it was not until 1994 that an attempt at a complete reconstruction was published (see the reading list at the end of the Series Introduction). Gary Holland and Barend van Nooten's metrically reconstructed text provides a long-needed resource for renewed study of the Ancient Sanskrit of the Rigveda. Throughout these lessons misleading sandhi combinations between words in the samhit text have been removed according to the 1994 metrical text.