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Transition of Sindhui to Rig Vedic Sanskrit!

Updated on March 9, 2013

We have discussed in earlier parts about original language of Rig Veda being Sindhui, ancient Prakrit form of the presently spoken language of Sindh region. In this article let us examine how Sindhi Language of Rig Veda was transformed to the Vedic Sanskrit.

There is a shroud of mystery as to what was Vedic period? Here I don’t want to enter in the labyrinth of various opinions. From Rig Vedic texts we can find that in the later part of compositions of Rig Veda, clan of Sudasa in whose reign composition had began, was in declining state. Danstuti chapters (annexure of Rig Veda praising the donors.) clearly state that they had to accept alms from Pani’s as well to whom they abhorred.

Also it seems that entire body of Rig Veda was not completed at the banks of Sarasvati River. May be drying up of Sarasvati River they were forced to migrate from Sindh to basin of Ganges. This is evident from the fact that in Rig Veda (6.45. 31-32) a verse praises a Pani named Bubu for his extreme generosity. Same verse implores that Bubu was residing at the banks of Ganges.

We can thus safely assume that at least some part of Veda’s was composed at entirely different region, either Kurukshetra or Magadha, the region where entirely different Prakrit language was being spoken, i.e. Magadhi or Ardgha-Magadhi.

Witzel clearly notes that there is striking similarity in Pali and Vedic compositions. Also he states that there are various elements of other vernaculars present in Rig Veda. He traces carefully and intelligently such changes throughout from Rig Veda till compositions of older Upanishada’s and “Brahman” texts.

Also there is lot of borrowing has been done from Dravidian languages.

Even so we find a kind of uniformity throughout the text of Rig Veda. There seems no trace at all of language being changing in the course of time though composition of Rig Veda was continued for several centuries. This is not natural main body remaining unaffected of any work that is being composed over the generations for such a big span of time.

How this could have happened? Here are some most plausible answers to solve this riddle:

1. After drying up of the Sarasvati River, Vedic people had to migrate towards Eastern regions, in the basis of Ganges. Till then either Rig Veda was almost completed or the process continued even after migration for one or two generations. They naturally would have used Sindhui, their mother tongue for the composition, no matter what course of changes that language had survived.

2. In new region, where different vernacular was being spoken, original language of Vedic people could have been diluted with local vernacular, thus oldest parts becoming more and more unintelligible to the newer generations.

3. Here it seems Vedic people reached to a juncture where they needed to redefine and refine the language of their compositions. We know that the language of Rig Veda is called Chandas (Meter) or Bhasha (Language.) there is no other language, probably in the world, which is not named after region or the people it belonged to. This supports my hypothesis that this language that we find in present Rig Veda was re-invention of the language. Hence there is no regional name associated with it.

This does mean that it was an early attempt to modify their original language to make it more refined with borrowing various words from other vernaculars and thus also changing grammar with meticulous efforts to not to change original meaning as much as possible. I do not think original meter was continued while doing so.

4. It is well admitted fact that the first known Grammarian is Kacchyayano, disciple of Buddha, who composed grammar of Pali, another artificial language used by Buddhists to preach their religion in remote areas. The main purpose of modifying language was that there should be no change in meaning of any word in different regions where different dialects were being spoken.

5. Witzel rightly observes there is striking similarity between Pali and Rig Veda. One can think that Rig Veda too was restructured in new language with the same purpose as Budhist’s had.

This is the reason why Rig Vedic text does not show any traces of liturgical changes those would be obvious with the changes in the language over the long passage of the time. Most of the Rig Veda is uniform in construction and language, because the whole text must have been transliterated at later times when new language was ready to use. This is why linguistic transition is untraceable with Rig Veda.

6. Along with Brahman Texts we can find grammar being integral part of it long before Panini. This makes us clear that grammar for Rig Vedic Sanskrit was made, no matter in how rudimentary form. Panani wrote his grammar to give the language a final perfect touch!

7. Still by the time of Panini, second century AD, Rig Vedic language had become mostly unintelligible as most of the original words used in Rig Veda, Yaska and Sayanacharya had to write texts to redefine meaning of the words and thus meaning of the verses.

When transliteration of Rig Veda would have taken place? This is a question hard to answer in want of any physical proof. We know Kacchayano being first Grammarian of Pali language. Also there is quite a similarity between Rig Veda and Pali compositions. However there is no way to determine which language’s grammar influenced others. Also Kacchayano too implies presence of grammars from the past masters.

To state safely, looking at the voyage of Vedic Sanskrit to Paninian Sanskrit, we can safely place time of Rig Vedic sometime around Eighth century BC.

From this time onwards new edition of Rig Veda’s would have branched in other regions of Indian subcontinent and even in Iran. The linguistic similarities with Avesta can be explained this way only.


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    • profile image

      vaijayanti 2 years ago


      your thouhts regarding vrdic language & saraswati river in this blog are very different from your book origin of vedic people

    • sanjay-sonawani profile image

      Sanjay Sonawani 5 years ago from Pune, India.

      Thanks Torrilynn for commenting. Thanks Mahavir.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      Hi sanjay,

      really interesting article that you have written here

      very informational

      thanks for the read.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great analysis.....

      Voted up and shared.