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Narratives from Veda to Puranas (Revealing Deeper Meanings)

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Item Code: NAO648
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: Sindhu S. Dange
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788173055621
Pages: 444
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Narratives or mythical accounts from Veda to Puranas, at every place, support the issues occurring in the multi-faceted ancient Indian tradition. For every change, though slight, in the ancient Indian society, and for a new face-lift of the society, in the sphere of code of conduct, these narratives figure as arthavada, and have functional value. To know the real purport of these narratives is the right key to unfold the fine synthesis of 'Olds and 'New', that has made the Indian Man. The present book enables the readers to know the Indian way of looking at things through narratives.

About the Author

Dr. (Mrs.) Sindhu Sadashiv Dange had been R.G. Bhandarkar Professor and Head, Department of Sanskrit, University of Mumbai (1984-1997). She has to her credit numerous research articles and 16 books, including the present one - 10 authored by her, 1 co-authored with Dr. Sadashiv A. Dange and 5 edited by her.

Wellknown in India for her contribution to the field of Sanskrit t, she is particularly interested in Vedic myths and rituals and Puranic-Hindu beliefs and practices.

She is the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including the degree 'Mahamahopadhyaya' from the Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek (2012); Silver Medal from the Asiatic Society of Mumbai (2006); Presidential Award of the Certificate of Honor from the President of India (2005); Shri Guru Gangeshvarananda Veda-Vedanga Rashtriya Puraskar from the Bastiramji Sarada Pratishthan, Nasik (2004); Award from the HRD Ministry (2000); Award from the State Government of Maharashtra (1997); Springer Research Scholarship from the University of Mumbai (1977-1979) and felicitations from several institutes and academic bodies.


In my efforts to study the concept of arthavada, this is my third book, which I am glad to present to the scholarly world. Here, I have viewed the concept of arthavada in a wider perspective as applied to the narratives from Veda to Puranas. The arthavadas about Speech (Goddess Vac) were dealt with by me in my first book Aspects of Speech in Vedic Ritual (Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 1996). The University Grants Commission gave me aid for my project titled "Arthavada—A Study in Vedic Ritual Reasoning", under the scheme of 'Support for Major Research Project' (1991-1994). At the completion of my project, with the results got by me, related to the cultural history of the Indian society in Vedic times, I had my second book Vedic Beliefs and Practices through Arthavada, in two volumes (Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 2005). My study of arthavada up to that time was restricted only to the Vedic sphere. But when I was invited to deliver the Keynote Address at the National Seminar on "Katha in Sanskrit and Prakrit Literature", by the Department of Sanskrit and Prakrit Languages, University of Pune (Feb. 17-19, 2012), I again turned to the topic of arthavada, but from a wider sphere with a new approach. I could find out that it is from the point of view of arthavada that many narratives arc given in the Veda, Epics and Mahapuranas. These narratives try to explain the matter in hand, and are full of deeper meanings, which I have tried to reveal here, in my own way. I was rather happily surprised with the results arrived at.

I could know that for every 'change', though slight, in the ancient Indian society and for a new facelift of the society, in the sphere of the code of conduct (dharma), the best device has been arthavada in the form of narratives mostly mythical accounts. I could also note that the concept of arthavada, initially from the sphere of the Purvamimamsa system, where it is related only to vidhi (rite or ritual), has been a recourse of the Epics and the Puranas (mainly Mahapuranas), to make their standpoint appealing to others, by giving narratives supporting it and glorifying it. Thus giving arthavada in the form of narratives—I call it 'Arthavadaism'—has become a distinguishing mark of this literature. Even while presenting an individual case, the narratives have before them the society at large, its age-old norms as well as its phases. As seen this way, these narratives have functional value as per the needs of the very structure of the society of those times.

My thanks are to Dr. Madhavi Narsalay and Miss Mrunalini Newalkar for the information they gave me about the god Nrsimha (Narasimha). Similarly, my discussions with Shri Ravindra Lad and Shri Arun Bhandare about the living tradition of .the god Nrsimha proved helpful to me. I thank them for this.

Dr. Brajkishore Swain, Puri, pointed out to me the exact meaning implied of the word 'dalta' in the context of the cult of Lord Jagannatha. Shri P.P. Ramachandran provided me information about the temples of god Brahma, which, though very few, other than that at Pushkar (near Ajmer, Rajasthan), have to be taken into account. My thanks to these two for their help.

My thanks to Dr. Anjali Bhelande for her valuable suggestions for the book.

Dr. Ashwin Sawant and Dr. (Mrs.) Sucheta Sawant—Ayurvedic practitioners, and also studying for the Ph.D. Degree (in Sanskrit), in the Department of Sanskrit, University of Mumbai—ever ready to help, gave me information about the matters concerning Ayurveda. I have really no words to thank them.

(Mrs.) Ujwala Satam, Director, Accord Institute, Mumbai and Shri Rajiv Satam, Director, Accord Career Solutions and Training, have prepared an apt cover-design of the book, which can serve as a curtain-raiser to the contents inside. My hearty thanks to them, coupled with joy for the bond of friendship.

My sense of gratitude for the scholars whose works were of great help to me, though I have differed from them at many places.

I entrusted the work of publication of this book to Shri Vikas Arya (Aryan Books International, New Delhi), who has been publishing our books (mine and those of my husband (late) Dr. Sadashiv A. Dange) since 1994, with a sense of belonging. He has brought out this book also with the same feeling. I am thankful to him.

I shall feel rewarded if this endeavor of mine proves helpful in knowing the Indian way of looking at things—respecting the 'Old' and accepting the 'New', bridging the two—through narratives, coming as arthavada.


Narrative literature has a definite place in the history of any country. Coming from all strata of the society, which are wide apart from one another on several accounts, this literature presents a panoramic picture of its times and also the varied spheres, from which it has emerged.

On the Indian scene, we have the first prose narratives in the form of mythical accounts in the Vedic ritual-texts in their arthavada sections. Hariappa believes that the practice of preserving the narrations of various events was prevalent in the period of the RV, or even earlier'. The mythical accounts in the form of long or short narratives, in the Vedic ritual-texts, are joined to the respective vidhis, glorifying them or even condemning them, if these vidhis are performed wrongly. Thus praise or condemnation (of the wrong vidhi i.e. rite or ritual) are the distinguishing characteristics of arthavada. The narratives in the form of mythical accounts, figuring in the arthavada sections, which the later age knew by the term itihasa ('iti-ha-asa'--This was so' or 'this happened so') i.e. 'traditional account', were preserved by the Suta-tradition. Dandekar proposes that right from the beginning, there have been two traditions—that of the mantras and the other preserved by the & gas? The Suta-tradition played an important role in the composition and preservation of the secular type of literature, narratives forming a part of this. The Suta, turned into a Pauranika, modem day Puranika in India, requires special attention.

‘As sacrifice was regarded as the origin of Rta (fr.*r. 'to go on, move')—Order (concerning cosmic, sacrificial and moral contexts), the arthavada portions did not swerve from their aim to extol sacrifice—the very womb (yoni—birth-place) of eta. The same Rta developed into the concept of Dharma (frAdhr. 'to hold, sustain')—the code of conduct in the society, as per the stages (asramas) in human life as well as the classes (various) in the society. The narratives occurring in the two great Epics and the Mahapuranas have this aim in view. In the Epics and the %taus, there never are seen narratives which are purely for entertainment. Tales focussed on pure entertainment form part of the story-literature and Romantic Prose, the latter divided into two categories viz. katha and iikhydyiki—the earlier, denoting a romantic tale and the latter, a legendary tale based on some grain of historical truth. But chronologically these are of much later date.

We have said above that the mythical accounts in the ritual-texts, either of praise or condemnation of vidhis, are arthavadas, trying in their way to explain the efficacy of the vidhis. But the various accounts having at times a grain of historical basis or purely mythical accounts in the Epics and the Puranas (Mahapuranas) also come as arthavadas. Every time there is no occasion of any rite or ritual (vidhi). Many times these tales or (long) narratives are in continuation of the earlier tales or narratives, given in the emboxing style, just to support them and the earlier tales or narratives are the ones, which lay down a rule of conduct. This has become so common in the Epics and the Purarnas that the narratives here have formed their own style. A new term can be coined namely "Arthavadaism", which is for explaining to the people the matter in hand.

As we know on the ancient Indian scene are found people of diverse races and tribes and they got acculturated fully or partially with the Vedic-brahmanical Hindu Society. The narratives occurring as arthavada throw much light on this and serve to bridge the seemingly inexplicable matters.

Next important topic is of sacrifice. As arthavada is a term primarily dealing with the rites and rituals (vidhis) in sacrifice, the ritual-texts, especially the Brahmana-texts, are replete with arthavada-accounts. An important detail to be noted from this context is of sacrifice or Agni running away from the gods, being bored and tired of the work of carrying oblations to gods. Though such arthavada-accounts sometimes are for introducing and then extolling a new idea or item in sacrificial performance, these mythical accounts certainly indicate the 'survival' of the fear of losing Fire (Agni), which was in the mind of the early man. Discovery of fire was a great step in the history of human civilization. Hence, the fear of losing fire might have been reflected in such accounts. As Lang states '.... the savage and the senseless element in mythology is for the most part, a legacy from the ancestors of the civilized races'.4 He has dealt with the 'survival' of savage mind in the Vedic myths of creation.' Though, he has not spoken about the myths of Agni or Sacrifice running away and the gods being desperate searching for it, we can say that here is seen the fear lurking in the ancient mind of losing Agni, which though dormant, is seen here in these myths in one form or the other. References to sacrifices, lasting for many years, even thousand years, occurring especially in the Park. Br. is not to be taken as speaking of imaginary sacrifices. They have to be taken as sacrifices lasting for the period of infinity. In the Vedic-brahmanical tradition, sacrifice though phenomenal in form, is conceptually eternal and ever-lasting and is the very womb (yoni)—the birth-place of 13ta (Order).

The details of sacrifice of various types were lost or became obsolete in later times or were not thought to be very necessary to be given in a particular account, where that tale or account in Epics and Puranas had kept before it some definite purpose. When the Puranas state that a certain vow (vrata) or a visit to a certain holy place (finite) bestows on a person the 'fruit' (i.e. the 'merit' gained) of the Asvamedha or the Vijapeya sacrifice, the Puranas are not bound to give the details of these sacrifices, for their aim is to eulogies that particular vow or pilgrimage to a certain place.

Far behind is left the age of route rituals, and in the Epic and especially the Puranic Age, the code of conduct ("dharma") is seen as prone to get itself simplified and thus appealing and reaching the common masses, including women and EAdres, who were denied to study the sacred texts. In this critical period, the Var. P. seems to be a lone but bold fighter, prescribing the rite of initiation to the Slams (chaps. 127-28) and somewhat laxity in restrictions for women.' Hence, the references to Vedic sacrifices (commonly mentioned being Asvamedha and Vajapeya) and the 'fruits' of these promised by the Puranas for following the dharma of dams, vratas and visits to tirthas are to be taken into account with a proper understanding of those times.

The concept of dana, vrata (vow), upavasa and importance given to waters as the purifying agent has to be traced to the Veda, especially the Brahman-texts. The ritual-texts speak of the dakskiis to be given to the priests, acting as a precursor to the Puranic dines, which are given not exclusively to the priests. The sacrifice consecrated for sacrifice is required to follow a vow with many rules and has to subsist on 'fast-milk' (vrata-dughii cow giving this milk). The waters form the indispensable purifying agent in the Vedic sacrifice and are also connected with the sacrificial fire as the Vasativari, Pranita, NigrAbhya and Ekadhana waters.

When we come to the Epics and the Puranas, we find utmost importance given to these, supported and extolled by various mythical accounts, coming as arthavada.

To note some examples of dana, vrata (upavasa included in it) and visit to holy places (tirthas), most of which are on the banks of rivers.

A unique dana is that of symbolic cows, of jaggery, ghee, sesame, sugar, milk, juice etc. The Agni P. (210.13 ab) says that for making the cows containing liquids, jars should be used, while for forming the cows containing solid matter like sesame, jaggery etc., heaps are to be formed. By the time of the Epic-Puranic Age, so much importance is seen attached to the cow that the very Mother Earth is said to have taken the form of a cow, when she is overburdened with the sinful persons. That the Mother Earth is regarded as a 'milch cow' can be seen in the mythical account of king Prthu, when he becomes a calf, milking the Mother Earth, making her yield all her treasures for the human race (Bhkg. P. IV, chap. 18). Another important Ana (giving away gift) is of the symbolic mountains, which are of eatables, precious metals and precious stones as also of elephants, cows, horses etc. The idea under-lying the china of symbolic mountains is that of awe mixed with wonder felt for a mountain and can go back to the mountain-worshipping cult, indicated through the episode of the Govardhana Mountain. Krsna gave uplift to the folk-tradition of worshipping a mountain for getting rains, as against the age-old Vedic tradition of worshipping the Rain-god Indra, by offering him sacrifice.

From among the vows (wales), two important ones can be named here. One is the Vatasavitrivrata, it being well known and practiced in almost all provinces in India (even to this day) by the married women. Another one is the Kokilavrata, in which a cuckoo is worshipped as a goddess. Observing a fast is generally accompanying a vrata (vow).

And to come to the point of pilgrimage (tirthayatra). The MM: and especially the Puranas are short of eulogizing words for the places of pilgrimage, which mostly are on the banks of rivers. Here we have a mention of the Nagatirthas, which shows how the Nagas were not only completely acculturated with the Vedic-brahmanical Hindu society, but also received homage by having places of pilgrimage.

The merit promised for giving the danas or by having pilgrimage is said to be the same which a person can get after performing the Vajapeya and A4vamedha sacrifices. Thus the efforts are to make the common masses, including women and sildras, an important section of the social structure, which undoubtedly they were, but many times for namesake. Without actually spending any wealth or man-power on big sacrifices (small ones included), the common masses could aspire to get the 'fruit' (i.e. merit-"putiyal of these sacrifices, for Ana or pilgrimage was to be taken on individual level, involving less trouble and difficulties. In kind words, the Purarans say that even by listening to the importance of the Ana of the symbolic mountain or by simply observing that ritual, a poor person can go to heaven. Even reading the verses about the gift of mountains will nullify the effect of evil dreams and fear of mundane existence (Maisya P. 92.17-34; Bhavisya P. Uttara-parva 204.17cd-38).

Being confronted by the popularity of the Buddhist and Jain faiths, the old Vedic-brahmanical religion had to go in for new facelift. These two faiths were averse to priestly domination and class (mania) and caste UAW discrimination, giving stress more on purity of thought, speech and action rather than ritualdom. In such circumstances, the old Vedic-brahminical Hindu religion had to frame a new pattern for its code of conduct (dhanna), which had its one foot in the old tradition and the other in the newly envisaged province, thus assuring one and all, the merit of sacrifices by going in for Ana, vrata (also upavasa) and firthayntra. These were the four pillars with the support of which, the old Vedic-brahmanical Hindu (from the Puranic period onwards, we can give the name 'Hindu') religion once again thrived well and became more prone to people. In this great task, the narratives or the mythical accounts in the MM: And the Puranas, coming as arthavada (many times irrespective of any Wend) proved to be of great help, by explaining to the listeners or readers the new face of the old dhanna. While dealing with Ana, vrata (also upavasa) and tirthayatra, only selected examples are taken note of and discussed in details, lest it would be too unwieldy an effort.

To come to the Curses, Boons and Oaths or Swearings. These figure in the mythical accounts as arthavada but with definite purpose, not connected with any vidhi (ritual) and by no speck of imagination there could be any.

Actually these three — Curses, Boons and Oaths deal with 'spoken words'. The efficacy of the spoken word was no doubt preceded by the efficacy of emotion, of inarticulate wish or will? While 'curse' springs from bad intention of doing harm to the other, 'boon' is given for other person's penance or service or devotion. And about 'oath', Westermarck notes—"An oath is essentially a conditional self-imprecation, a curse by which a person calls down upon himself some evil in the event of what he says not being true." To put it in short, oath is a self-inflicted curse.


  Preface vii
  Abbreviation xiii
  Introduction xvii
1 Arthavada as a Device 1
2 Acculturation of Ancient Tribes and Clans 27
3 Sacrifice-Concept and Phases 90
4 Code of Conduct-Epic-Puranic Approach 160
5 Curse and Boon-Mythological Strategies 232
6 Epic-Puranic Gods and Godesses-Some Facets 300
  Appendices 365
  Bibliography 379
  Index 395

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