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Language – the Vedanga

Written by on in Language, My views

(Second in my Language Series)

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Here’s my ‘quick look’ at the Six Vedanga: they formed an ancient language science (from which modern Indo-European languages and rules evolved).

Vedanga (n., pl.|Sanskrit: वेदाङ्ग vedāṅga, “limbs of the Veda”).

The Six Vedanga are rooted in very-deep antiquity. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mentions them as integral parts of the Brahmanas layer of the Veda.[19] We can trace each of these study fields to the 2nd millennium B.C.

Fifth-century B.C. scholar Yaska quotes the Vedanga. However, it is unclear when and where the full six-Vedanga list was first conceived and compiled.[20]

The Vedanga likely stem from a time in or after the middle of the 1st millennium B.C. These “auxiliary Vedic fields” arose when the Vedic-text language composed centuries prior had become too archaic to people in a later era.[21]

The Vedanga were sciences focused on understanding and interpreting Vedas composed many centuries prior.


The Six Vedanga developed as Vedic “ancillary studies” or insights into poetic meters, sounds and language structures, grammar, linguistics and other post-Vedic studies, arts, culture and various schools of Hindu philosophy.[22][23][24]

As such they were the core curriculum of early Indian drama & literature schools.

Kalpa Vedanga gave rise to Dharma-sutras that later morphed into Dharma-shastras.[21][25]

We list them in presumed order:

1. Shiksha (śikṣā): phonetics, phonology, pronunciation.[1]

This “auxiliary discipline” focuses on the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, plurality, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words in Vedic reciting.[3][4] | English exact elocution (in multiple contexts).

2. Chhandas (chandas): prosody.[5] Prosody pertains to poetic metre, e.g., based on a fixed number of syllables or morae per verse.[6][7]

3. Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): grammar and linguistics.[8][9][10]

Vyakarana deals with grammar rules and linguistics to set the exact forms of words and sentences for clarity, accuracy.[11][12]

4. Nirukta (nirukta): etymology (word origins), especially if archaic with ancient usage(s) and/or varied meanings.[13]

Nirukta pertains to linguistics for setting precise meanings of words (given their contexts).[13]

5. Kalpa (kalpa): ritual instructions.[13]

Kalpa is about official and/or the standard procedures in Vedic and rites of passage rituals (assoc. w/major life events like births, weddings and deaths, as well as moral conduct and societal expectations on individuals in different life stages).[14]

6. Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): auspicious time for rituals, astrology[1] and astronomy.[15][16]

This “auxiliary Vedic discipline” targets timekeeping.[17][18]

The character of Vedangas has roots in ancient times, and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mentions it to be integral parts of the Brahmanas layer of the Vedic texts.[19]

Individually, these auxiliary disciplines of study are traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE, and the 5th-century BCE scholar Yaska quotes the Vedangas. However, it is unclear when and where a list of six Vedangas were first conceptualized.[20]

The Vedangas were sciences that focused on helping understand and interpret the Vedas that had been composed many centuries earlier.[21]

Vedangas developed as ancillary studies for the Vedas, but its insights into meters, structure of sound and language, grammar, linguistic analysis and other subjects influenced post-Vedic studies, arts, culture and various schools of Hindu philosophy.[22][23][24]

The Kalpa Vedanga studies, for example, gave rise to the Dharma-sutras, which later expanded into Dharma-shastras.[21][25]

Footnotes:

[1] James Lochtefeld (2002), “Vedanga” in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 744-745.

[2] “Vedanga”. Princeton University. Retrieved 14 August 2015.

[3] Sures Chandra Banerji (1989). A Companion to Sanskrit Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 323–324. ISBN 978-81-208-0063-2.

[4] Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 477-495.

[5] James Lochtefeld (2002), “Chandas” in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, page 140.

[6] Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 391-394 with footnotes.

[7] Peter Scharf (2013). Keith Allan, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics. Oxford University Press. pp. 228–234. ISBN 978-0-19-164344-6.

[8] W. J. Johnson (2009), A Dictionary of Hinduism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198610250, Article on Vyakarana.

[9] Harold G. Coward 1990, p. 105.

[10] James Lochtefeld (2002), “Vyakarana” in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 2: N-Z, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, page 769.

[11] Harold G. Coward 1990, pp. 105-110.

[12] Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 416-419.

[13] James Lochtefeld (2002), “Nirukta” in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 2: N-Z, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, page 476.

[14] Wendy Doniger (1999). Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 629. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0.

[15] Yukio Ohashi (Editor: H Selin) (1997). Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Springer. pp. 83–86. ISBN 978-0792340669.

[16] Kireet Joshi (1991). The Veda and Indian Culture: An Introductory Essay. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 978-81-208-0889-8.

[17] James Lochtefeld (2002), “Jyotisha” in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 326-327.

[18] Yukio Ohashi (1999). Johannes Andersen, ed. Highlights of Astronomy, Volume 11B. Springer Science. p. 719-721. ISBN 978-0-7923-5556-4.

[19] Friedrich Max Müller (1860). A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature So Far as it Illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans. Williams and Norgate. p. 110.

[20] Friedrich Max Müller (1860). A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature So Far as it Illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans. Williams and Norgate. pp. 108–113.

[21] Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. xxiii.

[22] The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1911. p. 161.

[23] Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 472-532.

[24] Harold G. Coward 1990, p. 18.

[25] Rajendra Prasad (2009). A Historical-developmental Study of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals. Concept. p. 147. ISBN 978-81-8069-595-7.

(Primary Source: Wikipedia.org)

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