ABSTRACT. One striking difference between Vedic and post-Vedic Hindu literature lies in the fact that while the anus. ubh metre is sparsely represented in the Veda as a whole, it .t is the standard metre of post-Vedic religious literature of Hinduism available in Sanskrit. Thus the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, a major document of post-Vedic Hinduism, is preeminently in the a a anus.tubh metre. How is this striking metrical fact to be explained? This paper discusses . the various explanations that may be offered to account for it. In part I it discusses the explanations that could be offered on the basis of modern critical scholarship. In parts II– IX it develops the suggestion that the answer may lie in the association of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a with the sudras and of the sudras with the anus.tubh metre. ´¯ ´¯ .

One may commence the paper with an examination of the title of the paper itself, which raises two immediate questions: (1) why confine the discussion to the Mah¯ bh¯ rata when the other work with which it is regua a larly bracketed, namely, the R¯ m¯ yana, is also in the same metre and (2) a a . why employ the word anus. ubh when the metre used in both the epics is t . regularly referred to as sloka? ´ It is true that the two words, anus. ubh and sloka, are used virtually ´ .t synonymously in modern Sanskrit studies.1 It is also true, however, that they are not exactly synonymous. In settled convention, anus.tubh came . to be “accepted as a general term for any type of octosyllabic quatrain, irrespective of any particular sequence of longs and shorts in the lines”,2 while in the case of the sloka “a greater rigidity in respect to the quantities ´ of constituent syllables was insisted upon”.3 The sloka thus represents a ´ form of anus. ubh with a defined cadence. The relationship between the t . two then is that of a generic class and a member with specific features.4 The sloka has become almost a lexical substitute for the anus. ubh, since ´ .t this is the form in which the anus.tubh is usually found. But though the . distinction between the two is thereby obscured, it is not erased, and in fact, though it might appear negligible, is not insignificant. Indeed, the sloka is often looked upon as evolving out of the anus.tubh.5 ´ . The sloka is the chief metre in popular and epic Sanskrit poetry and has ´ been so for centuries.6 However, the sloka, with its defined cadence,7 is a ´ hallmark of classical Sanskrit literature and to already refer to its use in the
Indo-Iranian Journal 43: 225–278, 2000. © 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.



Mah¯ bh¯ rata as such is to beg the question this paper addresses; namely, a a why is the Mah¯ bh¯ rata in that metre? It invites the circular response: the a a Mah¯ bh¯ rata is in that metre because it is the prevailing metre of popular a a Sanskrit poetry! The Mah¯ bh¯ rata, however, is not an ornate epic in the a a same sense as the R¯ m¯ yana,8 which self-consciously refers to the sloka a a . ´ as its metre (rather than the anus. ubh).9 Part of the argument of this paper .t is that the explanation of the preponderance of the anus. ubh/´loka metre s .t in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is not literary but sociological, and the prospect of a a this sociological association emerges through the anus. ubh in the context .t of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, just as the metrical and literary nature of the assoa a ciation emerges through the sloka in the case of the R¯ m¯ yana. Thus one ´ a a . reason for using the word anus. ubh is to signal the possibility that metres t . with similar features may have dissimilar reasons underlying their adoption. This is one reason for preferring the word anus. ubh. Two additional .t considerations also seem to tilt the balance in its favour. The first is the fact that the anus. ubh is more ancient than the sloka, which “developed ´ .t out of Vedic anus. ubh”.10 The use of the word anus. ubh then might foret . .t shadow the fact that the Vedic connection of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, such as a a might be established, may play an important part in explaining its use in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. The second is that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata does not seem a a a a to conform rigidly to the prescribed cadence of the sloka11 and therefore ´ its metrical reality is described more accurately by the more general term anus. ubh, than by the more specific term sloka. ´ .t The critical edition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata12 contains over 75,000 a a verses.13 Out of these, over 70,000 are in the anus.tubh metre.14 Thus well . over ninety percent of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is in the anus. ubh metre.15 Why? a a .t Why is the Mah¯ bh¯ rata preeminently in the anus. ubh metre?16 a a .t It is helpful to begin with two preliminary observations. The first is the relative silence of the Hindu tradition on this point. It does not offer a direct explanation of the use of the anus. ubh in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, in contrast a a .t to the R¯ m¯ yana, the other national epic of India, in which, as is well a a . known, the sloka is represented as a spontaneous metrical composition on ´ the part of the poet-saint V¯ lm¯ki, when, under the stress of emotion, he a ı pronounced a curse on a wicked fowler who had wounded a krauñca17 bird sporting with its mate. He is then urged by Brahm¯ , the creator, a “to compose the great story of R¯ ma in the same metrical form and thus a immortalize the subject, the poem and the composer.”18 In view of the absence of any such direct statement on how the Mah¯ bh¯ rata came to be composed in the anus. ubh,19 an attempt may a a .t be made to piece together some indirect explanations. At this point it becomes necessary, as a second preliminary observation, to recognize that



the attempt to answer the question, albeit indirectly, can be made from two somewhat different standpoints. As M. Winternitz has pointed out, “What the Mah¯ bh¯ rata means to the Indians” is one thing and what it means a a “to critical historians of literature”20 is another. It is, therefore, helpful to clarify the level at which one is going to function – whether one is going to be “intratraditional” or “extratraditional” – at the very outset. And if one intends to employ both of these approaches, then the point of transition from one to the other should be either obvious or clearly indicated. In the course of this paper both of these approaches will be tried, with the extratraditional approach being tried first.

I The extratraditional approach is usually associated with Western scholarship.21 In most of the studies on the Mah¯ bh¯ rata carried out by a a Western scholars,22 although the fact of the predominance of the anus.tubh . in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is fully recognised,23 and although often an extremely a a detailed metrical analysis of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is carried out,24 the question a a as to why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata should so preeminently consist of that metre a a seems to have been seldom raised.25 Rather the issues on which attention has been focussed seem to be the following: 1. What are the historical and literary antecedents of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata? a a 2. In what literary form did the Mah¯ bh¯ rata originate: In prose? In a a verse? In prose-cum-verse? 3. Among whom did the Mah¯ bh¯ rata originate? a a 4. How does its metrical form compare with that of other oral epics? 5. Was the Mah¯ bh¯ rata originally in the anus.tubh? a a . All these issues, even when they do not directly address the question of anus. ubh in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, are capable of shedding some light on that a a .t issue. It is generally believed that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is one of “the last a a 26 remnants of a long past of epic poetry,” represented by such works as the Suparnakhy¯ na and g¯ th¯ s n¯ r¯ sam s¯s.27 If the Mah¯ bh¯ rata derives a a a a´ . ı a a .¯ a from these literary antecedents and the reigning metre of these forerunners of the epic, so to say, was the anus.tubh, then it could be argued that . the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is in the anus.tubh because of its literary lineage; that a a . the explanation of its being in the anus. ubh derives from the fact that its .t literary precursors were in that metre. It is, however, not easy to determine the metre of the g¯ th¯ s n¯ r¯ sams¯s28 from the scattered references to them a a a a´ . ı with any degree of exactness. In the case of the Suparnakhy¯ na we are .¯ a



better placed, and scholarship leans towards regarding tris.tubh as the chief . metre of that narrative, although the sloka is also represented.29 Thus the ´ emergence of the anus.tubh to a dominant position in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a . remains to be explained. An interesting clue, however, is forthcoming when the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a is contextualized with G¯ th¯ literature. This has been attempted by Paul a a Horsh, who emphasizes the close links between Hindu epic literature and G¯ th¯ literature on the one hand, and the links of G¯ th¯ literature with the a a a a non-hieratic circles in Vedic society, including the vr¯ tyas,30 on the other. a The relevance of such a sociology of knowledge approach, as it were, will become apparent in due course. The controversy surrounding the literary form in which the Mah¯ bh¯ rata originated is a complex one, and represents a wide speca a trum of scholarly opinion,31 but is not without significance for the issue on hand. Oldenberg thinks that the prose sections of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata were a a rendered into the sloka form when the entire epic was versified, because ´ the movement of this metre is quieter than that of the tris. ubh.32 Here .t we do have an explanation of why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is preeminently in a a the anus. ubh. But this implies that it was originally in prose-and-verse, .t which is disputed.33 Moreover, it would also imply that the bulk of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was in prose, which is difficult to square with the idea of the a a general neglect of prose in Sanskrit literature after the Br¯ hmana period.34 a . Besides, Oldenberg regards anus. ubh as closer to prose35 than tris.tubh, to .t . account for the fact that the prose sections were rendered into anus. ubh and .t not tris.tubh. But the issue really is not just why anus.tubh should have been . . preferred over tris. ubh but rather why should it have been used at all, from .t among the various available metres. In this respect one should also recall a tradition of metrical preference for tris. ubh over anus. ubh, in relation .t .t to which it seems to have had a rather low standing.36 Finally, one must guard against confusing the historical with the logical. It so happens that historically the anus. ubh came to prevail, to which Oldenberg somewhat .t poetically attests by stating that in the sloka one breathes the Indian air as ´ it were.37 But this historical development does not make the sloka logically ´ closer to prose. The point needs to be established on its own merits. Similar considerations are likely to arise as other individual theses on the original literary form of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata are taken up, rendering it a a very unlikely that any such theory will be able to explain by itself, with any degree of cogency, why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is so preeminently in the a a anus. ubh metre. .t The question of the class of people among whom the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a originated may be examined next. This class has been identified as that



of the s¯ tas, and these s¯ tas have been identified by Winternitz as those u u “who lived in the courts of kings and recited or sang their songs at great feasts in order to proclaim the glory of the princes. They also went forth in battle, in order to be able to sing of the heroic deeds of the warriors from their own observations.”38 These s¯ tas are described as forming a u “special caste,” and it is suggested that “epic poetry probably originated in the circle of such bards, who certainly were very closely related to the warrior class.”39 These s¯ tas are distinguished by Winternitz from the u ku´¯lavas, to whom “the circulation of the heroic songs among the people sı was due.”40 The argument then would run that the s¯ tas were associated u with the composition of oral poetry about their heroes whose charioteers they were as well, and since the anus. ubh is a convenient metre for the .t composition of oral poetry (on which more later), the Mah¯ bh¯ rata came a a to be composed in the anus.tubh. . That epic poetry was cultivated among a class or closely allied classes of people and that the s¯ tas were one of them is a widely accepted u position.41 This fact may indeed provide a clue to the use of the anus.tubh . metre in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. At this point it needs to be noted, however, that a a the s¯ tas are taken as closely related to the “warrior class”42 by Winternitz, u but this seems to be an error arising out of a conflation of the two senses of the word s¯ ta as (1) charioteer and (2) bard, for “nowhere do we find u that S¯ tas . . . ever played the part of a bard reciting the glories of kings u or were in any sense the depository of heroic poetry”,43 when the word is used in the sense of a charioteer.44 It seems, however, that because of this conflation of s¯ ta the bard with s¯ ta the charioteer and of s¯ ta the u u u charioteer with the warrior class, the low caste status of the people involved with the epic compilation was obscured, preventing the appearance of the approach developed later in this paper.45 On then to the next question: How does the anus. ubh as an epic metrical .t form compare with that of other oral epics in other parts of the world and what light can such a comparative study shed on the question of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata being composed in the anus.tubh metre? a a . Comparative studies in oral epic poetry have been associated with N.K. and H.M. Chadwicks, C.M. Bowra, Milman Parry, A.B. Lord and G.S. Kirk, among others. Their conclusions have been applied to the B¯ lak¯ nda a a. . of the R¯ m¯ yana by Nabaneeta Sen,46 but efforts to apply these conclua a . sions to the Mah¯ bh¯ rata are in their infancy. However, on the basis a a of Nabaneeta Sen’s application of the Parry-Lord-Kirk approach to the R¯ m¯ yana, some suggestions could be made. “Bards and singers of tales a a . do not repeat word by word a collection of verses, but tend to tell old and well-known stories in new and rapidly composed verses. This makes the



bard not only a reciter but also an oral poet.”47 An oral poet, it stands to reason, would tend to work with a metre which facilitates oral composition, at least with one in which oral composition is easy. The anus. ubh is one .t such metre. “It is amazing to notice how simple it is to build up a line in the sloka metre.”48 The suggestion, then, is that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is in the ´ a a anus. ubh metre because it is an oral epic and because the anus.tubh metre .t . lends itself readily to oral verse construction. This view, which seems to possess considerable force, raises some problems as well. There is the view, to be discussed soon, that the original Mah¯ bh¯ rata was in the tris. ubh metre.49 But this need not necessarily a a .t nullify the present discussion, for the transition of the text of the epic from the tris. ubh into an overwhelmingly anus. ubh text would still remain .t .t to be explained. However, it should be borne in mind that most of the metres in Sanskrit literature – Vedic and post-Vedic – are metres regulated by syllables rather than morae. In general, it seems easier to compose in the syllabic type of metre. A complication is introduced when the weights of the syllables are specified. And it is noteworthy that, in the sloka, this ´ specification is laid down only for the last four syllables of the p¯ da, so that a the essentially syllabic nature of the metre is not much affected. However, the anus.tubh is not the only syllabic metre in Sanskrit literature.50 All . the leading Vedic metres are largely syllabic, so the question arises: why was the anus. ubh selected by the putative oral poets of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata? a a .t One should also note that the techniques of oral composition cut across specific metrical types, as has been demonstrated by the comparative study of Homeric, Yugoslav and now Hindu material, so the technique could be applied to not just one but a whole battery of metres. One could, of course, debate that the metre and the technique go together better in the case of metre A than metre B, but one then enters the grey zone of scholarly speculation where definite conclusions can prove quite elusive. From this point of view it is interesting to note that stylistic repetitions appear even in the Vedas,51 though it represents a different genre of oral poetry – oral both in composition and transmission – and though the dominant metre therein is tris. ubh and not anus. ubh. .t .t But what of the view that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata itself was originally in the a a 52 tris.tubh and not in the anus. ubh? The question persists, though now in a . .t slightly altered form: if the Mah¯ bh¯ rata started out in the tris. ubh, then a a .t how did it end up by being so overwhelmingly in the anus. ubh? Thus even t . if we assume that the original Mah¯ bh¯ rata was in the tris. ubh, the prepona a .t derance of the anus. ubh in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, as we know it, remains to be a a .t explained.



II We turn now to a more traditional approach: What various possible explanations can be generated from within the Hindu tradition to explain why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is in the anus.tubh? a a . On the basis of the RgVeda tradition, which assigns certain family . mandalas of the RgVeda to certain rsis,53 it could be argued that perhaps . .. .. certain types of metres came to be associated with certain families. One such family could have been associated with the anus.tubh metre and if . the same family could be shown to have been closely connected with the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, a prima facie explanation of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata being in the a a a a anus. ubh would be on hand. The rsi with whom the composition of the t .. . Mah¯ bh¯ rata is most closely associated is Krsna Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa, who a a a a .. . was a descendant of sage Vasistha.54 But according to E. Vernon Arnold .. “the Vasistha family has no hymns in anustubh metre in the RgVeda.”55 . .. .. Another possible explanation of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata being in the a a anus. ubh metre could be sought on the analogy of the R¯ m¯ yana, which a a . .t is in the sloka metre, a variety of the anus.tubh. This suggestion possesses ´ . a certain plausibility within the traditional framework, as the R¯ m¯ yana a a . is said to precede the Mah¯ bh¯ rata as a composition56 and thus could a a have served as a model. Most historians, however, agree that the relative chronology of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata and the R¯ m¯ yana is too complex57 to a a a a . support the simple suggestion that one was modelled on the other, although neither epic may have “developed quite independently of the other.”58 Another possible way of explaining the preponderance of the anus.tubh . in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata would be to see that metre not so much as being drawn a a from the R¯ m¯ yana but as the natural extension of the g¯ yatr¯ metre of a a . a ı the Vedas. According to Y¯ ska, it is so called because it “follows with a its praise, i.e. anus.tobhati, the g¯ yatr¯, which has three P¯ das.”59 For the a ı a . g¯ yatr¯ is also octosyllabic – but with three p¯ das. Add a p¯ da and one a ı a a gets the anus. ubh, which also has the merit of balancing out the metrical t . pattern by completing a second line. On the face of it, this suggestion has a lot going for it. H. Oldenberg60 is aware of this possibility and A.A. Macdonell states it forcefully.61 The suggestion therefore needs to be examined carefully. The suggestion is attractive but presents some difficulties on closer scrutiny. On the basis of A.A. Macdonell’s own comments on Vedic metres, the following arguments against the position need to be met: (1) one of the reasons why the anus. ubh appears as a logical metrical evolute .t from the g¯ yatr¯ seems to be that its fourth p¯ da complements the last a ı a p¯ da of the g¯ yatr¯ and turns it into a hemistich. But it has been pointed a a ı out that “the first two P¯ das of the G¯ yatr¯ are treated as a hemistich in the a a ı



Samhit¯ text, probably in imitation of the hemistich of the Anustubh and . a .. the Tristubh; but there is no reason to believe that in the original text the .. second verse was more sharply divided from the third than from the first.”62 (2) As against the suggestion that the g¯ yatr¯ led to the development of the a ı anus. ubh, A.A. Macdonell has also suggested that as “the G¯ yatr¯ verse a ı .t is never normally found in combination with the Tristubh, but often with .. the Jagat¯ verse, it seems likely that the iambic influence of the G¯ yatr¯ ı a ı led to the creation of the Jagat¯, with which it could form a homogeneous ı combination”63 – rather than the anus. ubh. (3) The anus. ubh as a metre .t .t seems to go quite far back in time. Just as the Avesta has a parallel stanza of 3 × 8 syllables for the g¯ yatr¯,64 it also has a parallel stanza of 4 × 8 to a ı the anus. ubh.65 Thus it might be more reasonable to see the epic anus.tubh t . . as growing out of the Vedic anus.tubh than out of the Vedic g¯ yatr¯. a ı . Thus, while one might, on the basis of Y¯ ska, see the anus. ubh as a .t naturally following upon, almost flowing out of, the g¯ yatr¯, on the other a ı hand it could as well be argued that although “nearly one-fourth of the RgVeda Samhit¯ is in the g¯ yatr¯, yet it has entirely disappeared from a ı . . a 66 Classical Sanskrit” and has not reincarnated itself with an extra foot in the anus.tubh. . These arguments, while they do indicate the limitations of the view that the anus. ubh is an extended g¯ yatr¯, do not nullify the point, and keep it a ı .t open as a distinct possibility. What we still need is an explanation of why the anus.tubh should have outstripped the g¯ yatr¯ in the post-Vedic period, a ı . when in the Vedic, the two coexisted, with the balance resting heavily in favour of g¯ yatr¯, as the following table demonstrates: a ı
Metre Lines [Syllables] in each line 8 8 8– 8 8 12– 8 8 8 8– 8 8 12 8– 88888 11 11 11 11– 12 12 12 12– Total verses

1. G¯ yatr¯ a ı 2. Usnih .. 3. Anustubh .. 4. Brhat¯ . ı 5. Pa˙ kti n 6. Tristubh .. 7. Jagat¯ ı

Three Three Four Four Five Four Four

2447 341 855 181 312 4253 131867

Is the fact that the Vedas came to be restricted to the three higher varnas, . whose initiatory formula itself consisted of the g¯ yatr¯ with its three eighta ı syllable lines, while the post-Vedic literature is accessible to all the four varnas (and specially to the fourth varna) and is mostly composed in the . . anus. ubh with four eight syllable lines, when the fourth eight-syllable line .t



converts the g¯ yatr¯ into an anus.tubh – is all this a mere coincidence – or a ı . might there be more to it? The issue still remains to be faced, even if the thesis which regards the anus. ubh as a mutation of g¯ yatr¯ is accepted. It a ı .t is tackled subsequently in the paper. At the moment another fact needs to be reckoned with. The Mah¯ bh¯ rata is not the only epic in Hindu literature. Although sometimes a a an attempt is made to distinguish it from the R¯ m¯ yana, by treating the a a . former as an itih¯ sa (or epic proper) and the latter as a k¯ vya (or a work a a of ornate poetry),68 the two epics – the Mah¯ bh¯ rata and the R¯ m¯ yana – a a a a . are regularly spoken of in the same breath. Therefore, given the fact that the R¯ m¯ yana is also regularly in the anus.tubh, the bearing of this metrical a a . . fact on the question on hand must be examined further. From this point of view two facts stand out: (1) that V¯ lm¯ki, the putative author of the epic is a ı 69 a br¯ hmana and (2) that in the epic the sloka metre is itself described as a ´ . spontaneously coming into being, as the poetic outcome of an emotionally moving moment experienced by V¯ lm¯ki. a ı
The first book of his R¯ m¯ yana tells the story of the invention of poetry by V¯ lm¯ki: a a . a ı One day V¯ lm¯ki saw a hunter kill the male of a pair of birds making love. Filled with a ı compassion for the birds, the sage spontaneously uttered a curse at the hunter for his cruelty. V¯ lm¯ki’s words came forth as well-formed, beautiful verse. The sage himself was a ı surprised by his utterance, which was immediately memorized and recited on the spot by his disciple Bharadv¯ ja, who had accompanied him. Later, after V¯ lm¯ki returned home, a a ı Brahm¯ , the creator, visited him and asked him to compose the story of the virtuous hero a R¯ ma as outlined by the rsi N¯ rada, using the new meter that V¯ lm¯ki had created. Indian a a ı .. a literary tradition therefore considers V¯ lm¯ki as the first poet (¯ dikavi) and his R¯ m¯ yana a ı a a a . the first poem (¯ dik¯ vya).70 a a

Both these facts, on the face of it, seem to militate against the suggestion of any special association of the metre with the sudra, as will be ´¯ proposed later. The sudra is accorded his due place in the R¯ m¯ yana71 ´¯ a a . and many of its characters would fall in that category,72 nevertheless these facts by themselves are too tenuous for forging a link between the varna . and the metre, even if the fact of V¯ lm¯ki being a br¯ hmana is disregarded a ı a . on the ground that the putative author of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, Vy¯ sa, may a a a also be considered one. There is, however, another account of V¯ lm¯ki’s origins which needs to a ı be taken into account:
A folk legend records that the sage was born out of an “anthill” (Sanskrit, valm¯ka) and ı therefore was called V¯ lm¯ki. This legend also records that he was originally a bandit, but a ı some sages, pitying him, taught him the mantra “mar¯ , mar¯ , mar¯ .” As he repeated the a a a syllables, they produced the name R¯ ma, and while he was deeply immersed in meditating a on the name of R¯ ma, ants built anthills around him. This story appears with minor varia ¯ ations in the Skandapur¯ n a and also in the Adhy¯ tma R¯ m¯ yana and Ananda R¯ m¯ yana. a. a a a . a a .



Many popular bhakti R¯ m¯ yanas, including the Krittiv¯ sa R¯ m¯ yana of Bengal, adopt this a a . a a a . story.73

There are thus “two kinds of biographies for V¯ lm¯ki”,74 one in which a ı he is “a sage-poet born of a high-caste brahman family”75 and another, according to which he is “a sinner transformed into a saint”.76 It is clear that the “first kind of biography is in conformity with the status of the R¯ m¯ yana as a great epic that it is in the Brahmanic tradition”,77 and the a a . second kind “relates to the status of the R¯ m¯ yana as a bhakti poem that a a . transforms its readers from sinners into devotees of God R¯ ma”.78 a A third possibility has also been suggested: that “V¯ lm¯ki was one of a ı the ku´¯lavas (singers, bards) who sang the epic”.79 Treated on its own, sı this remains an interesting suggestion but it acquires greater relevance when considered alongside the fact that Lava and Ku´a or Ku´a and Lava s s (Ku´¯lava?),80 the two sons of R¯ ma, were born in his asrama. This adds sı a ¯´ intrigue to this suggestion but perhaps another fact is even more significant: that the ku´¯lava is assigned a low caste. “According to Baudh¯ yana sı a as quoted in the Krtyakalpataru he is the offspring of an ambastha from . .. a vaidehaka female”,81 while according to Kautilya’s Artha´astra (III.7) s¯ . “he is the offspring of a vaidehaka male from an ambastha female”,82 .. or “exactly the reverse of Baudh¯ yana’s view”,83 as P.V. Kane notes. a Either way, however, he is a sudra (see Manu X.41).84 This association of ´¯ V¯ lm¯ki, both with the sudras and the sloka, is most intriguing, given the a ı ´¯ ´ connections between the sudras and the anus.tubh in the Hindu imagination ´¯ . which is documented later in this paper. Many backward classes in India call themselves V¯ lm¯ki,85 and the former “untouchable” or Scheduled a ı Castes have also been known to do so. A relatively recent incident is instructive in this respect. During the screening of the R¯ m¯ yana story on a a . Indian T.V. the sweeper community of Delhi struck work when it learnt that the series would conclude with the return and coronation of R¯ ma.86 They a complained of caste discrimination at the exclusion of the episode dealing with S¯t¯ ’s stay in the asrama of V¯ lm¯ki, who, they claimed, belonged to ıa a ı ¯´ their community! The series was subsequently extended to accommodate their protest.87 III The various extratraditional and intratraditional approaches adopted to explain why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is preeminently in the anus. ubh only go a a .t so far – and not far enough. A new approach may now be proposed. The starting point used to develop this approach is the presumption that the reason why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is mainly in the anus. ubh may have a a .t



something to do with the reason why the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed a a in the first place. It is well known that the Indian tradition attributes the composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata to Krsna Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa.88 So the a a a a .. . question naturally takes the following form: Why did Krsna Dvaip¯ yana a .. . Vy¯ sa compose the Mah¯ bh¯ rata? a a a The clearest statement on this point, which can be identified, is contained in two verses in the fourth chapter of the first canto of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na. The first of these two verses is spoken by the son of a a. Lomaharsana and runs as follows: . .
str¯sudradvijabandh¯ n¯ m tray¯ na srutigocar¯ ı´ ¯ u a˙ ı ´ a karma´reyasi m¯ dh¯ n¯ m sreya evam bhavediha s u. a a ˙ ´ ˙ iti bh¯ ratam¯ khy¯ nam krpay¯ munin¯ krtam89 a a a ˙ . a a .

´¯ Or briefly, that “as the three Vedas cannot be learnt by women, sudras 90 and br¯ hmanas (who are so only by birth), the sage (Vy¯ sa) composed a a . the story of the Bh¯ rata out of compassion for them.”91 Subsequently, the a following verse occurs as depicting a moment of self-reflection on the part of sage Vy¯ sa: a
bh¯ ratavyapade´ ena hy¯ mn¯ y¯ rtha´ca dar´ itah a s a a a s s . drsyate yatra dharm¯ di str¯sudr¯ dibhirapyuta92 a ı´ ¯ a .´ Through the device of the Bh¯ rata the meaning of the Vedic text has been revealed. Therein a Dharma, etc., is seen even by women and sudras, etc. ´¯

In a nutshell, then, the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed by Krsna a a .. . Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa to convey the message of the Vedas to those who were a a formally debarred from studying it. According to the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na, a a. this intention of the author of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was a key element in a a the krtsnam matam, “the thought entire,” of the sage Vy¯ sa, which the a ˙ . 93 Mah¯ bh¯ rata sets out to proclaim. a a These two verses mention three categories of people as debarred from Vedic studies for whose sake the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed: (1) a a sudras, (2) women, and (3) dvijabandhus (pseudo-Br¯ hman as). It can ´¯ a . now be argued that out of these three, the sudras seem to constitute the ´¯ key category because women and dvijabandhus are debarred from Vedic studies on the analogy of the sudras. The debarring of women is clearly ´¯ stated in a certain Pur¯ nic text94 as based on sudrasam¯ nat¯ or the analogy a. ´¯ a a of the sudras, and the dvijabandhus or pseudo-Brahmins forfeit their right ´¯ to the study of the Vedas because, as Manu puts it, “A twice-born man who, not having studied the Veda, applies himself to other (and worldly) study, ´u soon falls, even while living, to the condition of a S¯ dra and his descend95 ants (after him).” In a sentence then, the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed, a a



according the the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na, for the sake of the sudras, in order a a. ´¯ to render the Vedic lore, as it were, an “open secret” for them.

IV How is this relevant for the fact that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is predominantly in a a the anus. ubh metre? The rest of the paper constitutes in a sense an answer t . to this question. It would be useful, however, to anticipate the answer here in outline, to render the enterprise less opaque. The answer proposed is that there is a systematic association of the sudras with the anus. ubh metre ´¯ .t in Vedic lore. On the basis of this association it could be proposed that if the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was meant to open up Vedic lore to the sudras extraa a ´¯ Vedically, it was composed in a metre associated with the sudras in Vedic ´¯ literature, consistently with this impulse. In order to render this thesis first attractive and subsequently perhaps even cogent, however, the discussion at this point needs to be bifurcated. First of all, the relationship of the sudras to the Vedic lore in general needs ´¯ to be examined; then any particular association of the sudras with any ´¯ particular vein of Vedic literature needs to be mined in detail for evidentiary ore. The first assignment will be addressed in this section, to be followed up by a discussion of the second issue in the next. The relationship of the sudras to Vedic lore needs to be addressed in ´¯ some detail and at some length, for it has ramifications for several segments of this paper. This relationship, for our purposes, is best examined in terms of a series of questions which may be set forth as follows: (1) Did the sudras have access to the Vedas, like the other varnas, at any time? (2) ´¯ . Did the sudras lose this eligibility to perform the Vedic sacrifices in due ´¯ course? (3) If and when the transition from (1) to (2) did occur, then was it rapid or gradual? (4) Were the sudras denied access both to Vedic ritual and ´¯ Vedic knowledge or only to one and not the other? (5) On what grounds was such access denied? (6) If Vedas were denied to the sudras and women ´¯ in common, then does the bracketing of the two help shed any light on the matter? 1. ´ There are passages in the Satapatha Br¯ hmana which can only be a . adequately explained by assuming the participation of the sudra in at least ´¯ some parts of Vedic ritual. Three such passages are cited below:
(1) I.1.4.11–12: He then calls the Havishkrt (preparer of sacrificial food), ‘Havishkrt, come . . hither! Havishkrt, come hither!’ Havishkrt no doubt is speech, so that he thereby frees . .



speech from restraint. And speech, moreover, represents sacrifice, so that he thereby again calls the sacrifice to him. Now there are four different forms of this call, viz, ‘come hither (ehi)!’ in the case of a Br¯ hman; ‘approach (¯ gahi)!’ and ‘hasten hither (¯ drava)!’ in the a a a case of a Vai´ya and a member of the military caste (r¯ janyabandhu); and ‘run hither s a ´u (¯ dh¯ va)!’ in that of a S¯ dra. On this occasion he uses the call that belongs to a Br¯ hman, a a a because that one is best adapted for a sacrifice, and is besides the most gentle: let him therefore say, ‘come hither (ehi)!’96 (2) V.5.4.9: For there are four castes, the Br¯ hmana, a . ´u the R¯ janya, the Vai´ya, and the S¯ dra; but there is not one of them that vomits Soma; but a s were there any one of them, then indeed there would be atonement.97 (3) XIII.8.3.11: Let him not make it (the sepulchral mound) too large, lest he make the (deceased’s) sin large. For a Ksatriya he may make it as high as a man with upstretched arms, for a Br¯ hmana a . . reaching up to the mouth, for a woman up to the hips, for a Vai´ya up to the thighs, for a s ´u S¯ dra up to the knee; for suchlike is their vigour.98

It is often stated in this context that the sudra was excluded from ´¯ drinking milk as part of the ritual.99 It is often not pointed out that “in Somay¯ ga in place of payovrata (vow to drink milk only) mastu (whey) a ´¯ ´¯ is prescribed for sudra (indicating thereby that the sudra could perform 100 Somay¯ ga) . . . ” a There are also several other pieces of evidence to indicate that the sudras had access to the Vedas at some time or times. The evidence ´¯ is both textual and historical in nature. (1) According to M¯m¯ ms¯ s¯ tra ı a˙ a u VI.1.27, it was the opinion of B¯ dari (contested by Jaimini) that the sudras a ´¯ could perform Vedic sacrifices.101 The issue is discussed in considerable detail, from which it is clear that it was a contested point. In any case, B¯ dari’s position is unequivocal. (2) According to the Bh¯ radv¯ ja Srauta a a a ´ ´¯ ´¯ S¯ tra (V.2.8) it is ‘the opinion of some that the sudra [or a sudra?] can u consecrate the three Vedic fires’. The text is explicit about the controversy: vidyate caturthasya varnasy¯ gny¯ dheyamityeke na vidyata ityaparam.102 a a . (3) According to Vrddha Gautamasmrti (Ch. 16) sudras of good conduct ´¯ . . are eligible for initiation: sudro v¯ caritravratah .103 (4) According to ´¯ a . the second chapter of a text referred to by K. Satchidananda Murty104 as Yog¯ Y¯ jñavalkya,105 it is the opinion of some sages that the sudras ı a ´¯ may enter the stage of life called brahmacarya: sudr¯ nam brahmacary´ ¯ a. ¯ ˙ atvam munibhih kai´cid isyate.106 (5) Interesting evidence of the eligibility s ˙ . . ¯ for maintaining sacrificial fire by the sudras is provided by Apastamba ´¯ Dharmas¯ tra (V.14.1) which lays down that fire may be accepted from a u br¯ hmana, ksatriya, vai´ya or sudra who is “well off” (bahupus. a). J.C. a s ´¯ . . .t Heesterman points out how this four-fold varna scheme is imposed by . the s¯ tra on K¯ . haka Samhit¯ (8.12:96.7).107 What is intriguing is that u at . a the missing varna is the ksatriya and not sudra. R.S. Sharma notes that ´¯ . . although the adjective bahupus. a is applied, it is applied to all and “seems t . to be of special significance in the case of the sudra, who is [otherwise] ´¯ 108 described as being removed from the fire.”

238 2.


That the sudras lack the right to perform Vedic sacrifices is a fairly well ´¯ documented fact.109 The distinction between the dvij¯ ti110 and ekaj¯ ti; a a the twice-born111 and the one who is not, is a basic distinction in classical Hinduism. The intriguing fact, which our survey in the first section has revealed, is that the denial of the right seems to have been always accompanied by voices of dissent. The denial carried the day but not the twilight. 3. The nature of the transition, however, bears close examination. First of all, there is the tradition that the varnas did not appear simultaneously . but successively. It is not often realized that the second view is almost as ancient as the first. The account of the simultaneous origin of the four varnas is usually traced to the Purusa-s¯ kta, but this s¯ kta appears in the u . . u tenth mandala of the RgVeda, which is widely regarded as later than the . .. family-books and is usually assigned to circa eighth century B.C.E. That ´ is also the date of the Br¯ hmanas, and the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (IV.2.23) a a . . already contains the account of each varna arising after the earlier one. In . fact, they are said to be modelled after the prototypes in heaven; so that here we have an archetypal doctrine of the varnas challenging what was to . become the stereotypical one. The Brhad¯ ranyaka Upanisad follows the a . . . ´ Satapatha account. The significance of the fact that both may be connected with the V¯ jasaneya tradition of the YajurVeda will unfold in due course. a There is a third version, contained in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, according to which a a not only do the varnas appear successively, they all appear not only after . but also from an original one, the br¯ hmana.112 Later literature retains a a . clear recollection of this view, alongside the two more traditional views, and according to all the etiological views, arguably, all the varnas had the . right to Vedic ritual and study. If there was only one varna then this was . obviously so as it is identified as br¯ hmana; but even when the doctrine of a . the four distinct varnas is accepted there are intimations that once all had . access to the Vedas. Apart from the fact that all the four varnas are organ. ically part of the purusa in the famous hymn, later literature alludes to the . loss of access to Vedic rites on the part of the sudras, e.g. Mah¯ bh¯ rata ´¯ a a ´a (S¯ ntiparva 181.15; vulgate):
varnascatv¯ ra ete hi yesam br¯ hm¯ sarvasvat¯ a a ı ı . ¯´ .¯ . vihit¯ brahmana p¯ rv¯ lobh¯ ttvajñ¯ nat¯ m gat¯ h113 a ¯ u a a a a˙ a. .

Contrary to popular opinion then, the debarment of the sudras from Vedic ´¯ studies, though effective in the long run, was gradual and contested. There



is considerable evidence to demonstrate the fact that at some point in time the sudras were associated with Vedic ritual. For instance, the expression ´¯ pañcajan¯ h occurs in the RgVeda (I.53.4), which refers to the participation a. . of these five ‘peoples’ in the sacrifice. Who are these five people? Y¯ ska, a in the Nirukta (III.8) takes them alternatively to mean the four varnas, with . the nisadas constituting the fifth element. It is true that the Brhaddevat¯ a . .¯ “informs us that it is possible to understand it in other ways also, e.g.: (1) the five fires, (2) the four chief priests and the yajam¯ na (sacrificer), and a (3) the eye, ear, mind, speech and breath. It says the spiritualists accept the third meaning.”114 The fact remains, however, that “Y¯ ska’s interprea tation of the term pañcajan¯ h would show that in his opinion the whole a. ´¯ sudra varna enjoyed this right”115 to sacrifice. That this right was gradu. ally circumvented can be demonstrated through a comparative study of the texts. R.S. Sharma points out how according to the Taittir¯ya Br¯ hmana ı a . (III.2.3.9–10) the sudra is forbidden from milking a cow for the agnihotra ´¯ at the Soma sacrifice. However, “such a prohibition does not occur in the V¯ jasaneyí and the Taittir¯ya collections of the Yajus; it occurs only in the a ı supplementary portions of the Maitr¯ yan¯ and Kapis. hala collections. The a .ı .t corresponding passage in the K¯ . haka Samhit¯ is without accent, which at . a ¯ ´ suggests its later insertion.116 Furthermore, the Apastamba Srautas¯ tra, u which is considered as the oldest of its kind, gives the alternative provision ´¯ that the sudra can milk the cow. The commentator tries to circumvent this meaning by pointing out that he can do it when allowed. All this would ´¯ show that the ban on the sudra’s milking of the cow at the agnihotra may not belong to the genuine portions of the Samhit¯ s. It may be ascribed to . a 117 the time of the Taittir¯ya Br¯ hmana.” ı a . It seems, therefore, that the erosion of the participation of the sudra ´¯ in Vedic ritual was gradual but steady. One element which may account for the persistence of their participation could well be the fact that during the rituals of the Br¯ hmana period “there is an interesting substratum a . of popular religion, underlying this intricate and elaborate ritual of the sacrifice. The R¯ jas¯ ya or the ceremony of royal consecration must have a u had once an appeal to the festive instincts of the people. The V¯ japeya is a characterized by a chariot race which must have been originally the main element and which must have always made a great hit with the people. The ritual of the Mah¯ vrata, which is probably a reminiscence of a very a popular primitive celebration of the winter solstice, plays a notable part in the Gav¯ mayana, the year-long Sattra.”118 The Mah¯ vrata is especially a a interesting in this context since it involves the exchange of ritual insults, somewhat in the manner of a Roman carnival, between a br¯ hmana and a a . sudra.119 Another element, somewhat opposite in character but producing ´¯



a similar result, would be the skill of the sudra workmen, who had to ´¯ be respected because their work involved the equivalent of our modern high technology in that society. The rathak¯ ra or chariot-maker would a thus be allowed to participate despite disputed status.120 It also seems that occasionally the sudras would stake the right to be ksatriyas, to assert ´¯ . their eligibility. The political dimension of this point cannot be ignored. It has been used to explain the positive sentiments associated with the sudra’s varna when they are expressed;121 to explain the positive roles ´¯ . of the rathak¯ ra and the nisada-sthapati in Vedic ritual;122 the inclusion of a .¯ the sudras in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata as warriors,123 as present at the coronation ´¯ a a of Yudhisthira,124 and the claim that a sudra King, Paijavana, performed ´¯ .. numerous sacrifices.125 The situation is even more complicated. There were two classes of sudras, as suggested by a s¯ tra of P¯ nini (II.4.10).126 In this context ´¯ u a. K. Satchidananda Murty has argued that while a Vedic basis may exist for debarring the sudra from Vedic ritual, there is no Vedic (as distin´¯ guished from post-Vedic) text as such barring a sudra from Vedic study. ´¯ ´¯ He writes: “While there is no Vedic text which prohibits sudras from studying the Veda, there is a Taittir¯ya text which says they are not ı eligible to perform sacrifices. ‘Tasm¯ t sudro yajñe anavaklaptah (sic).’ a ´¯ . ´u Commenting on P¯ nini’s s¯ tra [II.4.10] which mentions Anirvasita S¯ dras, a. u ´ udras are prohibited from performing Patañjali explains that not all S¯ ´u sacrifices. Some are (Niravasita S¯ dras) and some are not (Aniravasita). ´u Commenting on this, Kaiyata says that S¯ dras are eligible to perform the . five Mah¯ yajñas (great sacrifices). These include the Brahmayajña, which a means Vedic study (Sv¯ dhy¯ ya), Sandhy¯ vandana, Japa, etc. So, as N¯ ge´a a a a a s ´u clarified (Uddyota), this Taittir¯ya text prohibits S¯ dras from performing ı only sacrifices like Agnihotra and not the five great sacrifices. This makes them eligible for Vedic study.”127 A third issue pertains not to the ability to perform Vedic ritual; nor to eligibility for Vedic study but the right to practice austerities. Significantly, ´ ˙ u R¯ ma slays Samb¯ ka in the R¯ m¯ yana for the last reason and not because, a a a . as a sudra, he was performing Vedic ritual or carrying on Vedic studies.128 ´¯ More on this later.129 4. Just as the M¯m¯ ms¯ s¯ tra denied access to Vedic ritual to the sudras, the ı a˙ a u ´¯ Ved¯ ntas¯ tra denied access to the sudras to Vedic knowledge. Just as the a u ´¯ sudras could not directly avail of Vedic ritual practices, they could not ´¯ directly access Vedantic knowledge. However, just as they could perform rituals without the use of Vedic mantras, they could also acquire saving



knowledge from the smrti, though not from the sruti. It must be emphati´ . cally stated that the fact they were denied access to Ved¯ nta does not mean a ´ n that they were denied access to liberation. Sa˙ kara’s gloss on Brahmas¯ tra u I.3.38 is particularly instructive in this respect.130 It is intriguing that the same pattern holds for both Vedic and Vedantic knowledge. It is also intriguing that tradition identifies the author of the Ved¯ ntas¯ tra as B¯ dar¯ yana, “whom tradition identifies with Vy¯ sa,”131 a u a a . a the author of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, of which the Bhagavadg¯t¯ is a part. The a a ıa Bhagavadg¯t¯ , although a smrti text, contains some virtual (but signifiıa . cantly not actual) quotes from the Upanisads!132 If tradition is to be . believed then, just as Vy¯ sa was kicking one door shut with one leg a for the sudras through the Brahmas¯ tras, via the Apa´udr¯ dhikaran a ´¯ u s¯ a . section therein, he was kicking open another door by composing the Bhagavadg¯t¯ ! ıa A distinction was made earlier between three debarments so far as the sudras are concerned: (1)debarment from Vedic ritual; (2) debarment ´¯ from Vedantic knowledge and (3) debarment from tapas.133 Only the first two concern us here, but the third must not be overlooked. It provides another interesting instance of how the sudra was deprived even of this ´¯ ´ ˙ u in due course, as illustrated by the example of Samb¯ ka in the R¯ m¯ yana a a . (VII.67.2–4), who is decapitated by R¯ ma for practising tapas, when the a ´ sudra is explicitly associated with tapas in the Satapatha Br¯ hmana. ´¯ a .
For the brahman, he seizes a Brahmin, for the Brahmin is the brahman: he thus makes the brahman flourish with the brahman. For the ksatra, he seizes a Kshatriya (r¯ janya), a . for the Kshatriya is the ksatra; he thus makes the ksatra flourish with the ksatra. For the . . . Maruts [a group of deities, he seizes] a Vaishya, for the Maruts are the power of the vi´. He s thus makes the vi´ flourish with the vi´. For austerity (tapas), a Sh¯ dra, for the Sh¯ dra is s s u u austerity. He thus makes austerity flourish with austerity. According to their particular form he thus makes these divinities flourish with sacrificial victims. Thus supplied, they make ´ him [the sacrificer] flourish with all his objects of desire (SB; cf. TB 3.4.1).134

The point was made that while there may be Vedic bases for denying access to Vedic ritual to the sudras, the denial in terms of Vedic study has ´¯ no Vedic basis. Some support for this position also comes from the Maitr¯ ı Upanisad (7.8) which speaks of sudras learned in scriptures, though in ´¯ . uncomplimentary terms. It is clear, however, that a parallel exclusion in this respect was also instituted in the matter of study, which was connected with the ritual act of initiation into Vedic studies. Although this does smack of the chicken-egg problem the point apparently has some force in relation to later Hinduism.135



5. Vedic material provides three bases for the exclusion of the sudras from ´¯ Vedic ritual. One of these is based on the claim that the sudras were ´¯ created without a deity. This connection is emphasized by G.S. Ghurye. After citing the Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ (VII.1.1.6) account of creation, Ghurye ı . a ´¯ concludes: “We are told that no deities were created with the sudras and hence he is disqualified for sacrifice.”136 A second basis for denial is provided by the claim that the sudra was ´¯ created without a metre, and this point is taken up by P.V. Kane. He writes: ´ “A sruti text reads ‘(the Creator) created the Br¯ hmana with the G¯ yatr¯ a a ı . (metre), the R¯ janya with Tristubh, the Vai´ya with Jagat¯, but he did not a s ı .. ´¯ ´¯ create the sudra with any metre; therefore the sudra is known to be unfit 137 ˙ a for the Samsk¯ ra (of Upanayana).’ ” A third basis is provided by the absence of a corresponding season. The argument runs as follows: “The study of the Veda follows from Upanayana and the Veda speak of the Upanayana of only three classes ‘one should perform upanayana for a br¯ hmana in spring, for a r¯ janya in summer and a a . ´ in sarad (autumn) for a vai´ya.’ ”138 s This point is emphasized by the orthodox tradition, which regards the exclusion of the sudra from the upanayana as a defining feature of his ´¯ status. The upanayana represents the second birth and according to Manu (X.4) the sudra has only one birth. ´¯ The fact of the exclusion of the sudra from upanayana occupies ´¯ such a central place in the self-perception and self-representation of later Hinduism that it deserves to be treated as a point in its own right. It soon becomes apparent that a significant metrical element is involved in the situation: the mantra through which initiation takes place is the famous g¯ yatr¯ mantra, which is in the g¯ yatr¯ metre. Thus a metrical element is a ı a ı also involved in the situation, which excludes the association of g¯ yatr¯ a ı with the sudra. ´¯ If one examines several cosmogonic myths contained in the Vedic literature139 collectively, each of the three factors which are said to render the sudra unfit for sacrifice can be called into question explicitly or impli´¯ citly. Thus in some myths a metre is assigned to him (Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana ı a . I.68–69); in others he can be brought in relation with a season, notably autumn, through the system of correspondences or bandhut¯ (Satapatha a ´ Br¯ hmana–7; etc.) and in some a god is assigned to him directly, a . ´ such as P¯ san in the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (XIV.4.2.25). As for upanayana u. a . proper, its first explicit mention is found only in the AtharvaVeda (XI.5.3).



It nevertheless remains true that the point most frequently used to justify the exclusion of the sudra is the statement that he was created ´¯ without a deity; as for instance, in the Pañcavim´a Br¯ hmana (6.1.6– a ˙s . 11).140 However, in the Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana (I.68–69) one encounters a ı a . more curious and ambiguous statement which runs as follows:
He desired, “May I propagate myself further.” He emitted from his feet, from his firm foundation, the twenty-one-versed hymn of praise, the anus. ubh meter, the yajñ¯ yajñ¯ya a ı .t chant, not a single one among the gods, the Sh¯ dra among men, the sheep among animals. u Therefore the Sh¯ dra meter is the anus. ubh and the divinity is related to the Lord of the u .t House (ve´mapati). Therefore he [the Sh¯ dra] seeks to make a living washing feet, for s u from the feet, from the firm foundation, he [Praj¯ pati] emitted him. With these emitted a ones Praj¯ pati emitted the creatures.141 a

First it is said that no god was created with the sudra but then it is added: ´¯ “Therefore the Sh¯ dra meter is the anus.tubh and the divinity is related to u . the Lord of the House (ve´mapati).” s The picture which seems to emerge is one of gradual contraction of the rights of participation of the sudras in ritual from the solemn rites to ´¯ the non-solemn rites, from the srauta to the grhya, from the public to the ´ . domestic sphere. 6. This enables us to connect the previous points not merely numerically but also logically with the one about to be discussed. When the question is asked: why are women declared unfit for Vedic study and ritual, one of the reasons given is sudra-sam¯ nat¯ or the fact that they are bracketed ´¯ a a with the sudras. It is well-known that at one time they participated both in ´¯ Vedic ritual and study.142 What seems to have happened is that gradually their dharma became “male-oriented. ‘For women the marriage injunction is reckoned (equal to) a Vedic rite, as is service of the husband to living with the guru (which follows the initiation into Vedic study for boys), and housework to tending the sacred fire’ [Manu. (2.67)]. Marriage (viv¯ ha), a service of the husband (patisev¯ ) and housework (grh¯ rtha) made up the a a . broad parameters of str¯-dharma, woman’s ethical path. These were her ı surrogates for involvement with the Veda which was the traditional means to ultimate fulfilment and immortality and now the domain of men. Manu does not stand alone. Manu summed up a longstanding tradition which it then reinforced and helped to perpetuate. It was not long before women ´¯ and sudras were normatively lumped together as subject to a host of social and religious disabilities. This association continued down the centuries and persists in many conservative minds, not excluding those of women, to the present day.”143



Just as the women are said to receive the merit of the ritual performed by their husbands (masters), the sudras similarly receive the merit from ´¯ their masters. The point may be made with the help of an anecdote. Once Vy¯ sa was bathing in the Ganges and scandalized the assembled sages a by making thrice, in between his baptismal immersions in the river, the following oracular utterances: “Kali Yuga is blessed; women are blessed and sudras are blessed.” When called upon to account for these paradox´¯ ical utterances he explained: (1) in Kali Yuga even a little tapas goes a long way, compared to the other yugas; (2) the sudra secures his worlds ´¯ vicariously by merely serving the three varnas, without having to undergo . the effort they undertake and (3) similarly, merely by serving her husband the wife gains the merit earned by him. Briefly then, the sudras attain by ´¯ dvija´u´r¯ s a and the women by pati´u´r¯ s a, whatever has been attained s s u. ¯ s s u. ¯ by the objects of their devoted service!144 There are many lines of convergence between sudras and women: both ´¯ do not participate in Vedic studies and ritual, both are meant to serve their masters, etc. The theological shift underlying this whole move is the reorientation of the ‘deity’ – for the women it is the husband (now substituted for Vedic gods in effect) and for the sudra, the dvija. The apotheosis ´¯ of the pati and the br¯ hmanas, which sounds so baffling if not megalomaa . niacal to the modern mind, seems to possess this underlying logic of its own. But not everyone was satisfied with such domestication of the divine, among them Vy¯ sa, who wanted all to share the Vedic insights. It is worth a noting that this sentiment should be expressed in the S¯ ta Samhit¯ ,145 u . a given what is going to be said about the s¯ ta in the paper. This is the u same S¯ ta Samhit¯ which debars women on the ground of their similitude u . a to sudras. This fact is in itself once again significant as occurring in this ´¯ text,146 for it is this text also which “states: ‘effort for acquiring true knowl´¯ edge (of the self) is meant for all (for persons even lower than sudras), that effort made by explaining in a different language (than [Vedic?] Sanskrit) and by the lapse of enough time will lead to the good (of the lowest).’ ”147 Moreover, one of the arguments used to deny eligibility to the sudra rests on the claim that he was created without a deity. Apart ´¯ from the fact that this is not entirely true even for Vedic Hinduism as demonstrated earlier, the evidence from classical Hinduism not only serves to contradict this but indirectly serves to advance our thesis. ´ n According to a text called Sa˙ karavijaya (fourteenth century):148 vipr¯ nam a. ¯ ˙ daivatam sambhuh ksatriy¯ nam tu m¯ dhavah: vai´y¯ n¯ m tu bhaved a. ¯ ˙ a s a a˙ ˙ ´ ˙ . . . brahm¯ sudr¯ nam ganan¯ yakah .149 If Gane´a is the deity of the sudras, a ´ ¯ a. ¯ ˙ ´¯ . s . a . then the traditional story about Gane´a writing down the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, as s a a .



the amanuensis of Vy¯ sa, takes on special significance150 in the light of a the general thesis of this paper. This account, however, is not included in the critical edition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. a a The question arises at this point: is there any evidence which connects women with the anus. ubh metre the way it may be connected with the .t sudras? How far, in other words, can the parallelism between sudras and ´¯ ´¯ women be stretched. There is little evidence connecting women with the ´a ˙ a anus. ubh metre, for the statement in the S¯ nkh¯ yana Br¯ hmana (XXVII.1) a .t . which compares the anus. ubh metre “to a sudra harlot fit for being t ´¯ . approached”151 is suggestive but can hardly be considered conclusive. This point therefore represents a weak link in the argument. There are, however, a few other considerations pertaining to the Pur¯ nas which might support a. the orientation. A.S. Altekar observes: “We have seen above that women ´¯ were declared to be of the same status as that of the sudras, and so came to be gradually excluded from the study of and acquaintance with higher theology and philosophy. Women, however, are by nature more religious than men, and so a new type of religious literature was evolved to meet their needs and aspirations. This was the remodelled Pauranic literature. It enunciated the principles of Hinduism in a homely, easy and attractive manner, illustrating them with a number of edifying stories. Pious people made provision all over the country for the exposition of Pur¯ nas to public a. audiences. Women became very well grounded in the culture of the race by habitually listening to this literature. Faith, almost blind faith, was however held up for high admiration in Pur¯ nas. It was therefore well developed in a. women, to the detriment however of rationalism. It must be however noted that reason was at a discount at this period among males also both in India and Europe.”152 In view of the role assigned to the Pur¯ nas in the above passage it a. is worth noting that, according to tradition, Vy¯ sa is not only the editor a (“arranger”)153 of the Vedas and author of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata but the author a a 154 of the Pur¯ nas as well. Moreover, stories expressing his simultaneous a. concern for the spiritual well-being of sudras and women are clearly ´¯ attested to in Brahmapur¯ na (226.62–80) and Visnupur¯ na (VI.2.15–30; a. a. .. 34–36).155 V In the course of examining the answers to the six questions framed to probe the relationship of the sudras to the Vedic lore in general it became obvious ´¯ that, despite the popular image that a sharp rupture characterises the relationship of the sudras to the Vedas, the picture of a general recession or ´¯



dissolution of the relationship is more faithful to the facts available to us. In view of this serrated rather than a clean-cut separation, one which occurred gradually over time, given the overlapping nature of the relationship as suggested by the six questions, one is led to wonder whether the sudras ´¯ enjoyed any kind of a special relationship with any body of Vedic literature as well. For if they did, and it can be identified, then it might lead to a more nuanced understanding of the issue on hand. Once again it might be helpful to anticipate the finding before presenting it: namely, that the sudras seem to have a special connection with the YajurVeda and the body ´¯ of Vedic literature attached to it, such as the Taittir¯ya and the V¯ jasaney¯ ı a ı ´ Samhit¯ s, the Taittir¯ya and Satapatha Br¯ hmanas and the Brhad¯ ranyaka a ı a a . . . . Upanisad. Some of these connections became apparent in the previous . section, and may now be investigated further. The sudras seem to possess a generous affiliation with the ´¯ ´ SuklaYajurVeda. The following pieces of evidence point in that direc´ tion. (1) The SuklaYajurVeda contains a verse (26.2) which has been interpreted as throwing open Vedic knowledge to all varnas, including . the sudras.156 The exact significance of the verse is unclear157 but its ´¯ inclusiveness has not been questioned.158 (2) The P¯ raskara Grhyas¯ tra a u . ´ is attached to the SuklaYajurVeda and contains an explicit provision (2.6) for the initiation into Vedic studies of sudras of good character. This ´¯ ¯ qualification is not unusual as Apastamba forbids initiation of br¯ hmanas a . of bad character.159 (3) In some smrti texts the following statement is . found: sudr¯ h v¯ jasaneyinah .160 “This is explained as meaning that the ´ ¯ a. a . ´¯ sudra should follow the procedure prescribed in the grhyas¯ tra of the u . ´ akh¯ and a br¯ hmana should repeat the mantra for him.”161 V¯ jasaneya S¯ a a a . In the light of the evidence adduced above it seems as if the sudra’s ´¯ right has been exegeted away, for the Samsk¯ ra May¯ kha162 seems to u ˙ a establish their eligibility on the basis of that very statement: atra ca sudr¯ h v¯ jasaneyinah iti vasis.thav¯ ky¯ t. The mention of Vasistha is also ´ ¯ a. a a a . . .. significant because he is connected with the sudras even by Manu (III.197– ´¯ 198). (4) P.V. Kane points out that in the Harivam´a (Bhavisyat-Parva, ˙s . Chap. III, 13) we find verses he translates as follows: “All will expound ´¯ brahma; all will be V¯ jasaneyins; when the yuga comes to a close sudras a will make use of the word ‘bhoh’ in address’ (sarve brahma vadisyanti . . sarve v¯ jasaneyinah ).”163 (5) This finds indirect support from a verse a . found in some texts of Manusmrti part of which states: sudrah kaliyugah ´¯ . . . smrtah.164 It can be interpreted variously but also as: the Kaliyuga belongs . . to the sudra!165 ´¯ An enigmatic etiological account of the sudras may be relevant here. ´¯ According to this account the sudras were created along with the day. ´¯



The statement is puzzling because the sudras are usually associated with ´¯ darkness or the dark colour166 rather than light. However, according to the mythical account of the origin of the V¯ jasaneyi Samhit¯ , it was revealed to a . a Y¯ jñavalkya by the sun. Is it possible that this fact, coupled with its very a ´ description as SuklaYajurVeda and the association of this Veda with the sudras might account for their surprising chromatic association with light, ´¯ especially as the association itself is found both in the Black YajurVeda as well as the White.167 Another passage found in all the recensions of the YajurVeda168 has attracted interest because it seeks radiance for all the four varnas, including the sudra: rucam vi´vesu sudresu mayi dhehi ´¯ . . s . ´¯ . ruc¯ rucam (Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ [V.7.6.3–4]), P.V. Kane seems to give it a a ı a . minimalist interpretation with the following comment: “In Tai.S.V.7.6.3–4 we have ‘put light (glory) in our br¯ hmanas, put it in our chiefs (or kings) a . ´¯ (put) light in vai´yas and sudras, put light in me by your light.’ This is a s ´¯ sure indication that the sudra who took the place of the d¯ sa is here placed a on the same level with the other three classes in the matter of the receipt of light from God and that for [sic] from being looked upon as an enemy, he had come to be looked upon as a member of the society (though the lowest in the scale).”169 V¯ jasaneyi Samhit¯ also contains the same verse (XVIII.48) which asks a . a Agni to confer brilliance on all the four varnas, including the sudras. ´¯ . Ram Sharan Sharma provides, by contrast with Kane, a maximalist interpretation: “A remarkable passage occurring in all the collections of the Yajus contains a prayer to Agni to confer brilliance on ‘our’ priests, ´¯ warriors, vai´yas and sudras. The context, in which this passage occurs s in the V¯ jasaneyi Samhit¯ , deals with formulas for the performance of the a . a vasordh¯ r¯ , a sort of consecration service of Agni as king. On this occaaa sion the officiating priest (adhvaryu) recites formulas meant to bestow all temporal and spiritual blessings on the sacrificer. It is not clear, but may not be improbable, that the ritual is prescribed for the king, who prays to Agni ´¯ to place lustre in all the varnas of his subjects including the sudras.”170 . These verses imply a ritual connection on the part of the sudra, howso´¯ ever limited or marginal, which may have also gone hand in hand with a metrical connection, howsoever tenuous, for the argument which questions the eligibility of the sudra re the Vedas is, in part at least, based on the argu´¯ ment that the sudra lacks a corresponding metre. That which exists only ´¯ empirically (=ritually) exists vulnerably, it has been said, unless grounded in ideology (=metrically). It is therefore significant that by contrast the KrsnaYajurVeda does supply a metrical connection. The Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ ı .. . . a (VII.1.1.4–5) ascribes the anus.tubh to the sudra, just as it ascribes the ´¯ . g¯ yatr¯ to the br¯ hmana.171 a ı a .



Further support for the idea comes from the association of the sudras ´¯ with particular gods. Ram Sharan Sharma notes: “Of the gods associ´¯ ated with the sudras, P¯ san seems to have been a shepherd god and, as u. such, probably represents the cattle-rearing and nourishing activities of the ¯ Aryan vi´. The A´vins, who are described in the later portion of the RgVeda s s . as sowing the grain with the plough and milking food for man, may be associated with the agricultural activities of the vi´. The Vi´vedevas are s s assinged to the vi´ because of their being great in number. The fact that s ¯ precisely the same three gods who are associated with the Aryan vi´ later s ´¯ came to be directly or indirectly ascribed to the sudra would suggest that ´¯ even when sections of the vi´ were reduced to the position of sudras, they s continued to retain their old Vedic gods.”172 It is possible, in principle, to bring all the three gods mentioned here into relationship with the sudras and the anus.tubh metre. To begin with ´¯ . ´ ´¯ P¯ san. We read in the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (4.2.25): “He created the sudra u. a . class, P¯ san. This earth is P¯ san: for she nourishes all that exists.”173 In u. u. the RgVeda (X.90.12.14) both the sudra and the earth are stated to have ´¯ . emerged from the feet of the purusa. The Nirukta assigns the anus.tubh . . metre to the sphere of the earth. It is clear, therefore, that the three can be connected. Similarly, the A´vins are associated with the sudras in the s ´¯ Mah¯ bh¯ rata. They are a dual divinity and as such, may be paired with a a another dual divinity – Mitra and Varuna – who are associated with the . anus. ubh (Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ 7.5.14). Similarly, the Vi´vedevas can be ı s .t . a associated with the sudras through the anus.tubh metre, through references ´¯ . in the Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana (II.101;III.101) on the basis of which R.S. ı a . Sharma concludes that according to these passages “Praj¯ pati and Indra a were honoured among the Vi´vedevas, and the Pañc¯ la Prince Darbha s a ´a a ı ´¯ S¯ t¯ n¯ki among the sudras,” through the same metre, the anus. ubh, which .t goes to show that “the Vi´vedevas of divine society correspond to the s ¯ . ´a ˙ a sudras of human society.”174 In fact, S¯ nkh¯ yana Aranyaka (I.7) connects ´¯ the Vi´vedevas with the anus.tubh even more directly. Another connection s . among the three is possible through the divinity Day, which is associated with the sudras (V¯ jasaneyi Samhit¯ XIV.28) as well as the anus.tubh ´¯ a . a . metre. The reader must be wondering by now where the argument is headed, with all these correspondences reminiscent of Br¯ hmana passages. a . The key point to note is that the denial of the sudras to Vedic ritual and ´¯ study was sought to be based on a theological argument that the sudra is ´¯ disqualified from access to Vedic ritual and study because he was created without a god.175 (Sometimes the fact of being created without a metre or season is also added). Thus if the sudras are to be disenfranchised (or to ´¯



be kept disenfranchised) in matters sacrificial, their relationship with any deity must not be entertained, although their relationship with the anus.tubh . could be retained. It is here that the further investigation of the Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ proves ı . a 176 particularly helpful. It contains, for instance, the following incantation (V.5.8):
With the eastern quarter I place thee, with the G¯ yatr¯ metre, with Agni as the deity; with a ı the head of Agni I put down the head of Agni. With the southern quarter I place thee, with the Tristubh metre, with Indra as the deity; .. with the wing of Agni I put down the wing of Agni. With the western quarter I place thee, with the Jagat¯ metre, with Savitr as the deity; with ı . the tail of Agni I put down the tail of Agni. With the northern quarter I place thee, with the Anustubh metre, with Mitra and Varuna as . .. the deity; with the wing of Agni I put down the wing of Agni.177

The association of the dual deities Mitra and Varuna is significant, . as it is in keeping with the association of the A´vins with the sudras as s ´¯ well as the anus.tubh with them. The two gods are associated elsewhere . (VIII.5.14) with anus.tubh as well.178 The association of sudras with cattle ´¯ . is brought to mind when two-footed cattle are associated with anus.tubh . (VI.6.11.5), and it is noteworthy that even when the gods are not associated with anus. ubh, it is associated with the sudras. Thus it is said (VII.1.1.4– ´¯ .t 5): “from his feet . . . After it the Anustubh metre was created . . . of men the .. ´u ´u S¯ dra, of cattle the horse. Therefore the two, the horse and the S¯ dra, are ´ udra is not fit for sacrifice, for he was dependent on others. Therefore the S¯ not created after any gods.” The Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ contains the following ı . a eulogy of Praj¯ pati, who is connected with the anus. ubh metre (VII.4.4): a .t
Praj¯ pati went to the world of heaven. But with whatever metre the gods yoked him they a achieved not him. They saw (the rite of) these thirty-two nights. The Anustubh has thirty.. two syllables, Praj¯ pati is connected with the Anustubh; verily having gained Praj¯ pati by a a .. his own metre they mounted on him and went to the world of heaven. Those who knowing thus perform (the rite of) these thirty-two (nights) – the Anustubh thirty-two syllables, .. Praj¯ pati is connected with the Anustubh – gaining Praj¯ pati by his own metre, go to a a .. prosperity, for the world of heaven for man is prosperity. These (nights) are thirty-two, Anustubh has thirty-two syllables, the Anustubh is speech; verily they gain all speech; all .. .. become speakers of speech, for all attain prosperity.179

Normally, of course, Praj¯ pati means lord of creatures but it is signifia cant that he is connected with sacrificial animals (see Bhagavadg¯t¯ III.10); ıa the sudra is described as bahupa´u (Pañcavim´a Br¯ hmana VI.1.II) while ´¯ s a ˙s . accoding to a passage of the V¯ jasaneyi Samhit¯ (XXX.22) neither a a . a br¯ hmana nor a sudra can be offered as sacrifice to Praj¯ pati, which “proba ´¯ a . ably indicates that, while the br¯ hmana was too high for the purpose, the a . ´¯ sudra was too low.”180



The association of the anus. ubh with the horse (elsewhere associated .t with the sudra and with Praj¯ pati [Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ III.4.9.6]) is also ´¯ a ı . a found in the following passage (V.4.12).
‘Be pure for the winning of strength’, this is the Anustubh strophe; three Anustubhs, make .. .. four G¯ yatr¯s; in that there are three Anustubhs, therefore the horse when standing stands a ı .. on three feet; in that there are four G¯ yatr¯s therefore he goes putting down all four feet. a ı The Anustubh is the highest of metres, the fourfold Stoma is the highest of Stomas, the .. three-night sacrifice the highest of sacrifices, the horse the highest of animals; verily by the highest he makes him go to the highest state.181

Part of the evidence also comes from divine power-politics. According to the Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ (VI.2.2): “The gods and the Asuras were in ı . a conflict. The gods fell out among themselves. Being unwilling to accept one another’s pre-eminence, they separated in five bodies, Agni with the Vasus, Soma with the Rudras, Indra with the Maruts, Varuna with the . ¯ Adityas, Brhaspati with the All-gods.”182 This leads to the following equa. ´u tion: Brhaspati = Vi´vedev¯ h = S¯ dras. A similar equation is suggested s a. . by (VII.1.18): “With the All-gods as deity, with the Anustubh metre, I .. yoke thee; with the autumn season as oblation I consecrate thee.”183 The association of Brhaspati with the All-gods is noteworthy for two reasons. . The All-gods are associated with the anus.tubh. The All-gods are associated . with the sudras. This is the first reason. The second is that Brhaspati is ´¯ . also associated with the anus. ubh (III.1.7). The association of the anus.tubh .t . with the ‘fourth’ is also apparent in the following invocation (IV.2.1):
Thou art the step of Visnu, overcoming hostility, mount the G¯ yatr¯ metre, step along the a ı .. earth, excluded is he whom we hate. Thou art the step of Visnu, overcoming imprecations, .. mount the Tristubh metre, step along the atmosphere, excluded is he whom we hate. Thou .. art the step of Visnu, overcomer of the enemy, mount the Jagat¯ metre, step along the sky, ı .. excluded is he whom we hate. Thou art the step of Visnu, overcomer of the foe, mount of .. the Anustubh metre, step along the quarters, excluded is he whom we hate.184 ..

Similarly, the quarters, being four, are also connected with the anus.tubh . (V.2.1.1). The crucial point here is how the fourth element in a series is to be treated, for this is what is at stake in the case of the sudra, the anus. ubh, the ´¯ .t horse, the gods (and subsequently) the AtharvaVeda. There are basically two modes in which the relationship could operate and it is well-illustrated with the help of the analogy of a quarter and a dollar. A quarter by itself is only a part of a dollar, a mere fraction of it, and the last is the least. Yet the last can also be the most if it completes the whole. Thus three quarters can never aspire to be a dollar, but the fourth quarter, much less in itself than three quarters, makes all of them worth a dollar. This is how the role reversals we have just encountered may be understood, depending on the view one takes. From one point of view: “The



anus. ubh meter in the texts cited above thus completes the structure by .t adding a fourth to the previous three – in these cases, at the bottom. And other texts confirm the identification, for example, of the anus. ubh and .t the ‘lowest’: it is connected to the ‘foundation’ (JB 1.229; or the ‘feet’ ´ [SadB 2.3] or ‘this earth’ [PB 8.7.2; SB], or, again as previously in . . Cosmologies VI and VII, to the Sh¯ dras or servant class [JB 1.263, 1.265– u ´ 66]).”185 Yet from another point of view: “SB; cf. PB 21.4.6: ‘The horse is the last [i.e., the culmination, the highest, most perfect] of the animals. The anus.tubh [is the last] of the meters, Visnu of the gods, the . .. four-versed of the hymns of praise, the three-day rite of the sacrifices.’ ”186 The point to keep in mind then is that structurally both the sudra and the ´¯ anus. ubh represent the addition of a fourth element to a triadic structure.187 t . This is generally recognised in the case of the sudra.188 If that realiza´¯ tion is supplemented with the following observation about the anus.tubh, . the point this section has endeavoured to make is thrown in clear relief. Brian K. Smith observes: “We witness here, once again, the ambiguity the authors of Vedic texts displayed when it comes to the fourth element added to a triadic structure. Rather than the lowest meter, the anus. ubh is .t sometimes extolled as the highest, the ‘transcendent fourth’ of the meters. One manifestation of this is the connection of the meter and deities that emblemize totality – the Vi´va Devas (“All the Gods,” e.g., JB 1.239) or s Praj¯ pati – or the claim that the anus.tubh ‘is all meters’ (e.g., JB 1.285). a . Another way in which the superiority of the meter is expressed is with the connections to royal signifiers. In texts dealing with the A´vamedha s or horse sacrifice, we read that ‘the anustubh is the highest meter, and the .. horse is the highest of animals.’ ‘Highest’ here and elsewhere seems to mean ‘kingly’ or ‘royal’; the horse is both the ksatra and ‘belongs to the . anus. ubh.’ With the anus.tubh meter, it is said, one attains ‘preeminence’ t . . (AitB 3.13).”189 VI There is thus substantial evidence that the anus.tubh metre is systematically . associated with the sudras. The Vedas associated the various varnas with ´¯ . the various metres on the following pattern: the g¯ yatr¯ metre with the a ı br¯ hmana, tris. ubh with the ksatriya, jagat¯ with the vai´ya, and anus.tubh a ı s . .t . . with the sudra. For instance, the Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana informs us that “the ´¯ ı a . ´a a ı P¯ ñc¯ la prince Darbha S¯ t¯ n¯ki was honoured among the br¯ hmanas, the a a a . ´¯ ksatriya, the vai´ya, and the sudras successively through the use of the s . g¯ yatr¯, the tristubh, the jagat¯ and the anustubh metres.”190 Similarly, in a ı ı .. .. ´ankh¯ yana Br¯ hmana “the anustubh metre is compared to a sudra ´¯ the S¯ ˙ a a . ..



´a ˙ a ´ harlot fit for being approached”.191 The S¯ nkh¯ yana Srauta S¯ tra mentions u the same association of the g¯ yatr¯ with the br¯ hmana, the tris. ubh with a ı a . .t the ksatriya, the jagat¯ with the vai´ya, and anus.tubh with the sudra.192 ı s ´¯ . . Ram Sharan Sharma finds this association of the sudras with the anus.tubh ´¯ . sufficiently strong to suggest that because that metre is also associated with ´¯ the vi´vedevas, “the Vi´vedevas of divine society correspond to the sudras s s of human society,”193 as indicated earlier. It is not only in the Br¯ hmana and S¯ tra literature that this associa u . ation of the anus.tubh with the sudras is met with. It can also be traced ´¯ . in the YajurVeda. The Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ ascribes the anus.tubh metre to ı . a . the sudra,194 just as it ascribes the g¯ yatr¯ to the br¯ hmana and so on.195 ´¯ a ı a . VII It therefore seems possible to suggest that at least according to one segment of the Hindu tradition it is quite likely that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed a a in the anus.tubh metre because it was composed for the sake of the sudras. ´¯ . At this point, however, several questions arise, especially if we change our perspective from the traditional to one which is critical-historical. (1) It was assumed above, in line with tradition, that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is a a the work of a single author.196 Is it so? (2) The Mah¯ bh¯ rata is generally believed to have grown over a period a a extending from the 4th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.197 But the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na, in the light of which the motive for its composition a a. was uncovered, is believed to have been composed around 859 A.D. in South India.198 How justified are we in accepting its statements about the Mah¯ bh¯ rata? a a These questions must be answered satisfactorily before the position being developed here can achieve any measure of cogency. First, the question of the authorship of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. Even if it a a be accepted that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is not the work of a single author,199 a a the issues raised by the examination of the traditional material remain to be addressed. For although the Mah¯ bh¯ rata may not be the work of a a a single author, it is recognised to be a conscious composition. Professor van Buitenen has remarked: “that the main story of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was a a a conscious composition is, to me, undeniable and one poet or small group of them must have been responsible for it.”200 So the basic question persists – why this “one poet or a small group of them” chose to use the anus. ubh? .t And if the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was composed sometime between 400 B.C. and a a 400 A.D., then the question can be more sharply formulated: why did a



poet or small group of poets, sometime between 400 B.C. and 400 A.D., choose to compose the Mah¯ bh¯ rata in the anus. ubh? Now if it be further a a .t maintained that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, as we have it, is the work not only of a a a poet or group of poets but generations of poets, as the work passed through several recensions, then the question can be made even more pointed: why between 400 B.C. and 400 A.D., as the Mah¯ bh¯ rata went through several a a redactions, did it emerge as preeminently in the anus.tubh?201 And finally, . if the traditional material is further filtered through the historical sieve then the shape the question now seems to assume is: Why did the anonymous composers of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na, in the middle of the ninth century a a. A.D., identify the intention of the anonymous author or authors of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata either individually or collectively or generationally as it took a a shape between the 4th century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., as being that of making it a device for presenting the essence of the Vedas to the sudras, thereby circumventing the smrti debarment of the sudras from ´¯ ´¯ . Vedic knowledge? And were they correct to a certain degree in making this assumption? The first question is answered more easily than the second. That the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na takes an extremely positive view of the sudras under a a. ´¯ the influence of the Bhakti movement, of which it seems to have been a product, has already been documented by Thomas J. Hopkins.202 So the fact that the author or authors of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na should see in the a a. composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata the same concern for the sudra which a a ´¯ characterized their own composition need not come as a surprise to us. Nor would it probably have come as a surprise to the author or authors of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na that the author or authors of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata should a a. a a have used the anus. ubh metre if they wanted to cater to the sudras.203 ´¯ .t But it is the second question, however, which constitutes the crux of the matter. What evidence do we have to support the view that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is to be closely associated with the sudras? a a ´¯ Before we face these questions the situation may be summarized briefly. We know now that the Vedic tradition associates the sudras with the ´¯ anus. ubh. We also know now that the Pur¯ nic tradition associates the t a. . composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata with the sudras. We also know that the a a ´¯ Mah¯ bh¯ rata is predominantly in the anus. ubh. These are the tantalizing a a .t pieces of the puzzle. Do they fit? At this point it is a recognition of considerable integrative value – that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is associated both by tradition and modern scholarship a a with the s¯ tas. According to tradition, although the Mah¯ bh¯ rata was u a a composed be sage Vy¯ sa, it was transmitted through the s¯ ta Lomaharsana a u . . and in its final recension is narrated by his son, Sauti.204 According



to modern scholarship, Hindu epic poetry emerged among the s¯ tas.205 u Thus modern scholarship associates the s¯ tas with the composition of the u Mah¯ bh¯ rata and traditional lore associates them with its transmission – a a but close association is accepted by both.206 Who then were these s¯ tas who seem to hold the key to the answer? u (1) One may begin by noting that these s¯ tas belonged to a group u of “epic professionals” who included “natas, p¯ nisvanikas, m¯ gadhas, a. a . n¯ nd¯v¯ dyas, bandins, g¯ yanas, saukhya´ayikas, v¯ italikas, kathakas, a ı a a s¯ a granthikas, g¯ thins, ku´¯lavas and paur¯ nikas (S¯ tas).”207 Though there a sı a. u 208 are differences in the roles they play, which are closely associated and which may have overlapped,209 from our point of view it is important to note that they are all said to be of “low caste” or “mixed castes,” close to being or actually being sudras.210 ´¯ (2) Among these, the s¯ tas stand out as “re-writers and re-citers of the u epic.”211 It was pointed out earlier that they may have to be distinguished from the s¯ tas who were charioteers. But even assuming for the moment u that they are the same – that the word s¯ ta stands for both charioteers and u bards, the s¯ tas even as charioteers are a “low caste,” a “mixed caste,”212 u or close to being sudras.213 ´¯ (3) If it be maintained that the s¯ tas as bards are a class apart,214 they u fall even lower as a mixed class and come closer to being sudras. ´¯ (4) Since we are dealing with a situation in which bards are involved, the Hindu political tradition also seems worth looking into. In this respect it is remarkable that one of the duties of a sudra which does not seem to ´¯ have been taken note of in the smrtis, but is mentioned in the Artha´astra, s¯ . 215 is that of k¯ ruku´¯lavakarma, which is rendered by Shamasastry as “the a sı profession of artisans and court-bards.”216 The K¯ mandak¯yan¯tis¯ ra also a ı ı a describes k¯ ruc¯ ranakarma as the duty of a sudra.217 The Manusmrti a a . ´¯ . (X.99) permits the sudra artisanship (k¯ rukakarma) alone in extremis. ´¯ a (5) Next, the Mah¯ bh¯ rata itself. The evidence from the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a a a itself, however, has to be analyzed very carefully because if its purpose is to overcome the bias against the sudras in a certain sense, then its evidence ´¯ will tend to reflect both the fact it is trying to overcome and its effort to do so. It is therefore interesting that while in some cases the use of the word s¯ ta is merely descriptive, in other cases it is definitely pejorative. u A remarkable instance of this is the fact that when Draupad¯ denounces ı K¯caka for trying to seduce her, she addresses him as a s¯ taputra, and upon ı u being kicked by him, does so in four verses successively.218 It is clear, then, that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata retains the connotation of an inferior caste for the a a word s¯ ta.219 On the other hand, the general tenor of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is u a a ´a favourable to the sudra,220 especially in the S¯ ntiparva wherein it is even ´¯



´¯ asserted that “br¯ hmanas learned in the Vedas regard a virtuous sudra as a . the effulgent Visnu of the universe, the foremost one in all the worlds.”221 .. (6) The low status of the s¯ ta is attested to within the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na u a a. itself. “S¯ ta, the narrator of the Bh¯ gavata, is himself born of a lowly mixed u a class.”222 It is also worth noting that even when he is being complimented for his profound erudition by the sages, it is clearly mentioned that his sphere of learning excludes the Veda (anyatra ch¯ ndas¯ t),223 an exclusion a a characteristic of a sudra in orthodox Hinduism. ´¯ That these social facts have a metrical implication becomes clear from certain considerations. It is stated in the Taittir¯ya Br¯ hmana224 that the ı a . “vai´ya was born of the Rg Veda, the ksatriya of the Yajur Veda, and s . . the br¯ hmana of the S¯ ma Veda. This obviously implies that the Atharva a a . ´¯ Veda was meant for the sudra – a provision which is later on vaguely ¯ repeated in the Apastamba Dharmas¯ tra.”225 We know in any case that the u AtharvaVeda is more closely connected with the sudra element of Vedic ´¯ society than any of the other Vedas.226 And “the two striking features of the Atharva Veda as regards its metrical form are the extreme irregularity and predominance of anus. ubh stanzas. The stanzas in g¯ yatr¯ and tris.tubh a ı .t . are correspondingly rare, the AV in this point presenting a sharp contrast to the Rig Veda.”227 It is also therefore of interest that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, a a which is predominantly in the anus. ubh metre, “puts Atharva Veda first in t . the list of Vedas”228 and “places the Atharvan priest before the others.”229 That said, one must recognize the strong potential inherent in the tradition for associating the sudras with the AtharvaVeda.230 J. Muir had ´¯ already noted in the last century, that given the derivation of the first three ´ varnas from the three vy¯ hrtis (Satapatha Br¯ hmana II.1.4.11) or from the a . a . . various Vedas (Taittir¯ya Br¯ hmana III.12.9.3), “to complete his account of ı a . the derivation of the castes from the Vedas, the author had only to add that ´¯ the sudras had sprung from the Atharv¯ ngirases (the Atharva-veda); but he a˙ perhaps considered that to assign such an origin to the servile order would ´ have been to do it too great an honour.”231 According to the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (XIII.4.3.7–13), although the word is not used, people who are a . normally classed as sudras are considered fit to be taught subjects which ´¯ fall in the domain of the AtharvaVeda. ´ Significantly, it seems to us, the Srauta S¯ tras tend to substitute u secular significances for the sacred; reading bhesajam, for instance, for . ‘atharvan am ekam parva’,232 a substitution which becomes all the more ˙ .¯ significant in the light of the statement in the Su´ruta that, according to s some, medical knowledge may be imparted even to a well-bred sudra, who ´¯ has not been invested with the sacred thread, so long as it does not involve Vedic texts.233



In the present context some statements of the AtharvaVeda acquire special semantic depth, in light of the widely held view that the d¯ sas of a the RgVeda were transformed into the sudra varna.234 Some of the verses ´¯ . . of the AtharvaVeda, though not all, refer to the d¯ sa in a positive light. a ¯ AtharvaVeda 5.11.3 declares that ‘I cannot be partial to either D¯ sa or Arya a 235 (na me d¯ so n¯ ryo . . . )’. R.S. Sharma provides a fuller statement: ‘In a a a dialogue between the primeval priest Atharvan and Varuna, the priest . ¯ boasts: “No d¯ sa by his greatness, nor an Aryan, may violate the law that a I will establish.” ’236 The association of the sudras with the Vedic corpus, therefore, either ´¯ became or remained liminal, although the potential resonates even in classical Hinduism in such verses as the following in K¯ lid¯ sa’s Raghuvam´a a a ˙s (X.22):
caturvargaphalam jñ¯ nam k¯ l¯ vasth¯ caturyug¯ ˙ a ˙ aa a a caturvarnamayo lokas tvattah sarvam caturmukh¯ t237 ˙ a . .

– when read alongside the view that the four Vedas were also revealed through the four faces of Brahm¯ . a In fact the association of the AtharvaVeda with the sudras is so signifi´¯ cant that it virtually reverses one particular doctrine of the origin of varnas. . The idea that all the varnas evolved successively out of the br¯ hmana238 a . . (identified earlier as a variant account of the genesis of varnas) appears in . reverse in the AtharvaVeda, although the word used there is not sudra but ´¯ 239 vr¯ tya. To parenthesize the two is not entirely free of problems but the a two categories are close enough for us to consider the fact that an account traces the emergence of at least two varnas from them, reversing the usual . order. ‘In the following text of the Atharva-veda, xv.8.1, a new account is given of the origin of the R¯ janyas: So ’rajyata tato r¯ janyo ’j¯ yata. a a a “He (the Vr¯ tya) became filled with passion: thence sprang the a R¯ janya.” a And in the following paragraph (A.V.xv.9,1ff) we have the same origin ascribed to the Br¯ hman also: a ˙ ´ a˙ Tad yasya evam vidv¯ n vr¯ tyo r¯ jno ’tithir grih¯ n agachhet srey¯ msam a a a . a ¯ ¯ enam atmano m¯ nayet | tath¯ kshattr¯ ya n¯ vri´chate tath¯ r¯ shtr¯ ya a a a a .s a a .a ˙ n¯ vri´chate | ato vai brahma cha kshattram cha udatishthat¯ m | te abr¯ t¯ m a .s ua . a “kam pravi´ava” iti | (Muir) s¯ “Let the king to whose house the Vr¯ tya who knows this, comes as a a guest, cause him to be respected as superior to himself. So doing he does no injury to his royal rank, or to his realm. From him arose the Brahman (Br¯ hman) and the Kshattra (Kshattriya). They said, ‘Into whom shall we a enter’, etc.”240



The original meaning of the word vr¯ tya is difficult to determine. That a origin “is lost in the mists of antiquity”.241 It is “possible to derive the word from vrata”242 but it is more probably “derived from vr¯ ta (group) a and means ‘he who belongs to or moves in a group’ ”.243 Thus P.V. Kane concludes that “originally vr¯ tyas appear to have been groups of people a ¯ who spoke the same language as the orthodox aryas,244 but did not follow their discipline or habits”.245 The impression that the vr¯ tyas were a people on the margins of orthoa doxy, supported by W.B. Bollée,246 comes through very strongly in their description and is used by S¯ yana to meet the difficulty caused by their a . glorification in AtharvaVeda 15.1.1, “since he says that description does not apply to all vr¯ tyas, but only to some very powerful, universally a respected and holy vr¯ tya who was, however, not in the good books of the a br¯ hmanas that were solely devoted to their own rites and sacrifices.”247 a . Such glorification may have led Bloomfield into thinking, as another way of overcoming cognitive dissonance, that “the converted vr¯ tyas” were a “exalted as a type of a perfect Brahmac¯ rin”.248 a The exact meaning of the word vr¯ tya thus remains difficult to a determine, in the light of different interpretations it has been subject to in both ancient and modern literature. According to some S¯ tra works – u ¯ such as the Apastamba Dharma S¯ tra (I.I.I.22–I.I.2.10) and the P¯ raskara u a Grhya S¯ tra (II.5) “a vr¯ tya is one on whom and on whose ancestors the u a . ˙ a samsk¯ ra of upanayana has not been performed”,249 whereas according to other S¯ tra works such as Baudh¯ yana Dharma S¯ tra (I.9.16) the “word u a u vr¯ tya is applied to all those who are born of the mixture of varnas”.250 a . The common factor underlying the two explanations is the absence of the sacred thread either through neglect (as in the first case) or ineligibility (as in the second case) hence the significance of the expression patitas¯ vitr¯ka a ı in this context. P.V. Kane explains:
Patitas¯ vitr¯ka (those for whom there has been no upanayana and therefore no instruction a ı in G¯ yatr¯ and who are therefore sinful and outside the pale of Aryan society). The grhya a ı . and dharma s¯ tras are agreed that the time for upanayana has not passed till the 16th, 22nd u and 24th year in the case of br¯ hmanas, ksatriyas and vai´yas respectively, but that after a s . . these years are past without upanayana taking place they become incompetent thereafter for ¯s learning the S¯ vitr¯ (the sacred g¯ yatr¯ verse). Vide A´v. Gr. I.19.5–7, Baud. Gr, III.13.5–6, a ı a ı ¯ Ap. Dh. S. I.1.1.22, Vas. XI. 71–75, Manu II.38–39, Y¯ j. I. 37–38. Such persons are then a called patitas¯ vitr¯ka or s¯ vitr¯patita and also vr¯ tya (Manu II.39 and Y¯ j. I. 38 call them a ı a ı a a so). These works also declare that the consequences of this are that no upanayana is to be thereafter performed for them, they are not to be taught the Veda, nor is any one to officiate at their sacrifices and there is to be no social intercourse with them (i.e. no marriage takes place with them).251



Modern scholars, who have tried to tie together the various loose threads, have pointed out that, despite divergent views, no one any longer identifies vr¯ tyas with the aboriginal population.252 They were, however, a given to roaming the countryside and difficult to keep under a tight leash.253 In this sense their rowdy behaviour would, on the one hand, connect them with the sudras254 on account of it being contrary to norms, ´¯ yet on the other could also connect them, as through rajas, with r¯ janya.255 a Thus many explanations, not necessarily mutually exclusive, are possible on the basis of ancient Indian and comparative materials.256 From the point of view of this paper this discussion of the vr¯ tyas is a helpful in both a general and a very specific way. The “glorification of the vr¯ tya” confirms the impression that those on the margins of orthodoxy a were not always despised, and in fact even considered praiseworthy at times. This strengthens the possibility that a similar attitude might have prevailed towards the sudras. It is worth noting that the vr¯ tya appears ´¯ a ´ n in Pra´na Upanisad (II.10)257 as “a kind of cosmic being but Sa˙ kara s . interprets the name as ‘uninitiated’, i.e., the first-born, and hence without anyone to initiate him”.258 Thus in a curious meeting of opposites both God and vr¯ tyas/´udras share the common status of being uninitiated! In a s¯ any case the positive resonance of vr¯ tya is also echoed in the Upanisads a . besides the Br¯ hmanas.259 a . The specific significance of the vr¯ tyas in our context arises from the a fact that they are connected with the anus. ubh! .t
T¯ ndya 17.1.1 begins with the story that when the gods went to the heavenly world a. . some dependents of theirs who lived the vr¯ tya life were left behind on the earth. Then a through the favour of the gods the dependents got at the hands of Maruts the Soda´astoma . . s (containing 16 stotras) and the metre (viz. anus.tubh) and then the dependents secured . heaven. The Soda´astoma is employed in each of the four vr¯ tyastomas, the first of which a . . s (17.1) is meant for all vr¯ tyas, the second is meant for those who are abhi´asta (who are a s wicked or guilty of heavy sins and so censured) and lead a vr¯ tya life, the third for those a who are youngest and lead a vr¯ tya life, and the fourth who are very old and yet lead a a vr¯ tya life.260 a

VIII At this point on needs to revert to the person of Vy¯ sa again. According to a the unanimous Hindu tradition he classified the Vedas into the fourfold division with which we are now familiar. The accounts which credit him with that editorial feat also assign to him the authorship of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. This seems to suggest to us that by his time the progress a a of the debarment of the sudras had become a fait accompli, so that simul´¯ taneously with the arranging of the text of the Veda he also decided to



cater to those to whom they had now become inaccessible. We turn to the account in Visnu Pur¯ na (III.4.1ff): a. ..
The original Veda, consisting of four quarters, contained a hundred thousand verses. From it arose the entire system of sacrifice, tenfold (compared with the present) and yielding all the objects of desire. Subsequently, in the twenty-eighth manvantara my son, [Par¯ sara is a´ the speaker] the mighty Vy¯ sa, divided into four parts the Veda which was one, with four a quarters. In the same way as the Vedas were divided by the wise Vy¯ sa, so had they been a ´¯ a divided by all the [preceding] Vy¯ sas, including myself. And know that the sakh¯ divisions a [formed] by him [were the same as those] formed in all the periods of four yugas. Learn, too, the Krishna Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa was the lord N¯ r¯ yana; for who else on earth could a a aa . have composed the Mah¯ bh¯ rata? Hear now correctly how the Vedas were divided by him, a a my great son, in this Dv¯ para age. When, commanded by Brahm¯ Vy¯ sa undertook to a a a divide the Vedas, he took four disciples who had read through those books. The great muni took Paila as teacher of the Rich, Vai´amp¯ yana of the Yajush, and Jaimini of the S¯ man, s a a while Sumantu, skilled in the Atharva-veda, was also his disciple. He too, took, as his pupil for the Itih¯ sas and Pur¯ nas the great and intelligent muni, S¯ ta, called Romaharshana.261 a a. u .

This passage offers a comprehensive statement of the traditional perspective of Vy¯ sa’s activities in general. It suggests a religious a community consisting of two components: one with direct access to the Vedas and another to which such access is denied. Vy¯ sa’s benevolent a intentionality assumes different forms in relation to each. Vy¯ sa serves a the best interests of the first by reorganizing and systematizing the Vedic corpus and those of the second by disseminating the Vedic insights among them through the Mah¯ bh¯ rata and the Pur¯ nas, while also trying to raise a a a. their status at the same time. There are some aspects of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a which lend plausibility to the view that it was meant for those who had been denied access to the Vedas and also meant to elevate their status. It contains a verse, in the vulgate, which betrays a consciousness of the fact ´a that the sudras lost the right to the Vedas (S¯ nti Parva [vulgate] 181.15)262 ´¯ which was cited earlier, as also the verse glorifying the sudra even above ´¯ 263 br¯ hmanas, also in the same parva (297.98), and identifying him with a . Visnu. One wonders, apart from the Vedic precedent,264 whether this iden.. tification is connected with Visnu’s feat as a dwarf in Hindu mythology,265 .. who in three footsteps traversed the whole universe, given the traditional association of the feet with the sudra. ´¯ This rehabilitation of the sudra is also detectable elsewhere in the ´¯ Mah¯ bh¯ rata wherein the fact of the sudra’s birth from the feet – a puta a ´¯ down in Vedic literature, is alluded to in a manner reminiscent of the strides of Visnu (III.12.962). Visnu declares: .. ..
´u The Br¯ hman is my mouth; the Kshattra is my arms; the Vi´as are my thighs; these S¯ dras a s 266 with their vigor and rapidity are my feet.



The process of rehabilitation is carried further in the Bh¯ gavata a Pur¯ na. In the account of the emergence of the four varnas from the a. . distinct body-parts of the purusa, the sudra is described as emerging from ´¯ . the feet (III.6.33) but unlike the deductions made from this fact in the Br¯ hmanas, the resonances have a definitely positive ring. In describing a . his emergence from the feet, the being is not called purusa as in the case of . br¯ hmana and ksatriya (and by implication that of vai´ya) but bhagav¯ n. a s a . . So he is described as emerging from the feet of God; service or su´r¯ sa is ´ s u. ¯ mentioned but is described as “for the sake of dharma” (dharma-siddhaye). Finally, it is stated that by this vocation Hari is pleased (yadvr tty¯ tusyate . a . harih). Thomas J. Hopkins places this statement in the broader context . ´u of bhakti as follows: “Among the characteristics of a S¯ dra are said to be humility, purity, truth, and service to his master without guile, all of which make him ideally suited for devotion, as well as for his traditional servile role. The Bh¯ gavata says, in fact, that when the four classes were a created there was brought forth from the feet of Bhagav¯ n ‘service for the a ´u fulfillment of dharma, for which in former times was born the S¯ dra by ´ udras and other lowly person, by virtue of whose conduct Hari is pleased.’ S¯ their servile status, are thus closer to meeting the standards of bhakti than are many of the more fortunate members of society.”267 As if to highlight this, N¯ rada “although in his previous life he was a Gandharva (a class of a ´u demi-gods), in the Bh¯ gavata he appears as a S¯ dra, the son of a servant a 268 girl.”

IX As a result of the foregoing analysis, then, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that: (1) the Vedic tradition associates the anus.tubh with the sudras, when a ´¯ . metrical association is not denied;269 (2) the Pur¯ nic tradition associates the composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a. a a with the sudras; ´¯ (3) the modern critical historical tradition associates the composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata with the s¯ tas or bards; a a u (4) the Indian political tradition associates this bardic role with the sudras; ´¯ (5) with whom the anus. ubh metre is associated. t . It is then not unlikely that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is preeminently in the a a anus. ubh metre because either by intention (according to the Hindu tradit . tion) or by actual composition (according to Western tradition) it is closely



associated with the sudras, who are closely associated with the anus.tubh ´¯ . metre.270 The Mah¯ bh¯ rata represents a complex phenomenon and complex a a phenomena may require plural explanations. The fact that the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is preeminently in the anus. ubh may ultimately be accounta a .t able only in terms of more than one explanation. Nevertheless, it is clear that the conception of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata as a text for the sudras will have to a a ´¯ form part of that overall explanation if the general argument of this paper is valid. That is the reason given for its composition and could well have been an or the original reason.271

1 Margaret and James Stutley, A Dictionary of Hinduism (London and Henley: Routledge

& Kegan Paul, 1977), p. 282; Julius Lipner, Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 126. 2 Amulyadhan Mukherji, Sanskrit Prosody: Its Evolution (Calcutta: Saraswat Library, 1976), p. 88. 3 Ibid. 4 Also see ibid., p. 40. 5 Ibid., p. 22. 6 A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1967; third revised edition) p. 509. 7 Amulyadhan Mukherji, op. cit., pp. 88–92. 8 M.A. Mehendale, “Language and Literature”, in R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Age of Imperial Unity (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1951) p. 252. 9 Robert P. Goldman, tr., The R¯ m¯ yana of V¯ lm¯ki (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton a a . a ı University Press, 1984) Vol. I, p. 128. 10 Margaret and James Stutley, op. cit., p. 82. 11 See Daniel H.H. Ingalls and Daniel H.H. Ingalls, Jr., “The Mah¯ bh¯ rata: Stylistic a a Study, Computer Analysis and Concordance”, in Arvind Sharma, ed., Essays on the Mah¯ bh¯ rata (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991), pp. 18–56. a a 12 Vishnu Sitaram Sukthankar, ed., The Mah¯ bh¯ rata (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental a a Research Institute, 1970); also see J.A.B. van Buitenen, The Mah¯ bh¯ rata I, The Book a a of the Beginning (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1973), pp. xxx– xxxi. 13 Mary Carroll Smith, “The Mah¯ bh¯ rata’s Core,” Journal of the American Oriental a a Society, Vol. 95, No. 3 (July–Sept., 1975) p. 480. 14 Ibid. 15 The high proportion of the anustubh metres in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata vis-à-vis the rest had a a .. been noticed by scholars prior to the publication of the Poona text. For Winternitz, “The ´ Sloka which originated in the old Anustubh is certainly the metre par excellence” (of the .. Mah¯ bh¯ rata) whose “earlier and later forms . . . are all represented” (M. Winternitz, A a a History of Indian Literature [University of Calcutta, 1927], Vol. I, pp. 461–462). He also ´ notes that “the Tristubh metre . . . is often used in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, though the Sloka is a a .. about twenty times as frequent as the Tristubh” (ibid., p. 462). E. Washburn Hopkins noted ..



that “the mass of the great epic (about ninety-five percent) is written in one of the two forms of the free syllabic rhythm,” these two being the sloka and the tris. ubh (E.W. Hopkins, The ´ .t Great Epic of India [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901], p. 92). 16 The terms anus tubh and sloka are often used synonymously (see Monier Monier´ .. Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964], p. 1104; Vaman Shivram Apte, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1965], p. 1036). The anus.tubh is sometimes regarded as “a whole class of metres consisting . of four times eight syllables” (Monier Monier-Williams, op. cit., p. 40) of which the sloka ´ is a particular example, distinguished by the terminal regulation of the p¯ das (see ibid., a p. 1104; also see Vaman Shivram Apte, op. cit., p. 77). The distinction is not merely technical but also partly historical, the sloka being “a development of the Vedic anustubh stanza ´ .. of four octosyllabic lines, but while all four lines ended iambically in the prototype, the first ´ and the third lines have in the Sloka acquired a trochaic rhythm” (Arthur A. Macdonell, A History of Sanskrit Literature [New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1968], pp. 234–235.) 17 See Peter Peterson, ed., The First Book of Ramayana (Bombay: Government Central Book Depot, 1883), pp. 10–13; so much so that R¯ m¯ yana I.2.33 “gives a fanciful derivaa a . tion from soka ‘sorrow’, of the first sloka having been composed by V¯ lm¯ki grieved at ´ ´ a ı seeing a bird killed” (see Monier Monier-Williams, op. cit., p. 1104). T. Burrow suggests the historical derivation of sloka from the root sru, as representing a case when “some ´ ´ derivates which have become isolated from their roots preserve IE 1” (The Sanskrit Language [London: Faber and Faber, 1955], pp. 84, 197). 18 Shantikumar Nanooram Vyas, India in the R¯ m¯ yana Age (Delhi: Atma Ram and Sons, a a . ¯ 1967), p. 13. Also see Eric A. Huberman, “Who is V¯ lm¯ki? The Adikavi and the Origins a ı of Lyric Poetry,” Journal of Vaisnava Studies 2:4 (Fall 1994), pp. 17–30; and Robert P. .. Goldman, tr., op. cit., Vol. I, p. 128. 19 This question should be distinguished from an allied but distinct question: why was the Mah¯ bh¯ rata composed at all? “The Mah¯ bh¯ rata, as the poem itself tells us, arises a a a a out of the following question of Janamejaya addressed to the great Rsi Krsna Dvaip¯ yana a . . .. . Vy¯ sa on the occasion of the snake sacrifice (I.54.19): katham samabhavad bhedas tesam a .¯ aklis.tak¯ rinam // tac ca yuddham katham vrttam bh¯ t¯ ntakaran am mahat // How arose ua . . a .¯ . the quarrel among those men of unblemished deeds? How occurred that great war which was the cause of the destruction of so many beings?” (V.S. Sukthankar, On the Meaning of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata [Bombay: The Asiatic Society of Bombay, 1957], p. 33). “Having heard a a his question, Krsna Dvaip¯ yana turned to his student Vai´amp¯ yana sitting at his side and a s a .. . instructed him: ‘Tell him in full, as you have heard it from me, how of old the Breach occurred between the Kurus and the P¯ ndavas’. Thereupon that bull among Brahmins a. . acknowledged the guru’s command and narrated the entire epic to the king, the sadasyas, and all the barons around, the Breach of the Kurus and the Pandavas, which spelled the .. destruction of the kingdom” (J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., pp. 126–127). 20 M. Winternitz, op. cit., pp. 325, 326. 21 See J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., pp. xxxi–xxxv. 22 Ibid.; also see Arthur A. Macdonell, op. cit., p. 445, etc. 23 Hermann Oldenberg, Das Mah¯ bh¯ rata (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1922), a a pp. 137–145, passim; etc. 24 E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 191–356, etc. 25 See Alf Hiltebeitel, “Religious Studies and Indian Epic Texts”, Religious Studies Review 21:1 (Jan. 1995), pp. 26–32; etc. 26 M. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 314; etc. 27 Ibid., pp. 310–314; E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 365, etc.



28 See V.N. Apte, ed., A´ val¯ yanagr hyas¯ tra (Poona: Anand¯ srama Series 105, 1937), ¯s a ¯ u a´ .

p. 86.
29 Jarl Charpentier, Die Suparnasage (Uppsala: Akademiska Bokhandeln, 1920), p. 396. . 30 See Paul Horsch, Die vedische G¯ th¯ - und Sloka-Literatur (Bern: Francke Verlag, ´ a a

1966); Harry Falk, Bruderschaft und Würfelspiel (Freiburg: Hedwig Falk, 1986).
31 For a tabular summary of the various positions see Gisela Kraatz, Vers und Prosa,

Entstehungstheorien zum deutschen und indischen Heldenepos (München: Steinbauer u. Rau, 1961), p. 148. 32 Hermann Oldenberg, op. cit., p. 143. 33 Gisela Kraatz, op. cit., passim. 34 Arthur A. Macdonell, op. cit., p. 279. 35 Hermann Oldenberg, op. cit., p. 143. 36 See Jaimin¯yopanis ad 3.4.4. ı . 37 Hermann Oldenberg, op. cit., p. 144. 38 M. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 315. 39 Ibid. 40 Ibid. 41 See E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., Chapter Five, etc. 42 Thus “Winternitz in Vol. II of his History of Indian Literature, German edition, speaks of ‘the S¯ tas as the representatives of the old heroic poetry who lived in the court of the u princes and sang to extol them. They also went forth to battle so as to be able to sing of the heroic deeds of the warriors from their own observation. These court bards stood closer to the warriors than the learned Brahmins. They also acted as charioteers to the warriors in their campaigns and took part in their martial life’ ” (quoted by S.N. Dasgupta, ed., A History of Sanskrit Literature [University of Calcutta, 1974], Vol. I, p. xiii). 43 Ibid., p. xiv. The general impression of the s¯ ta as a charioteer-bard is so widespread u that the refutation of Winternitz by S.N. Dasgupta deserves a fuller statement. After citing Winternitz he says: “But Winternitz does not give any reference from which he draws his views about the S¯ ta as the traditional keeper of heroic poetry. The S¯ ta occurs along u u with the rathak¯ ra and karm¯ ra in the Atharva Veda III, 5,6,7. We find references to a a this S¯ ta in Gautama (IV.15), Baudh¯ yana (10.I.9.9), Vasis.tha (XVIII.6), Manu (X.11), u a . Visnu Dh. S. (XVI.6), Y¯ j (I.3), and the S¯ ta-samhit¯ , where he appears as a pratiloma a u .. . a caste born of a Ksattriya male and a brahmin female. Kautilya says in his Artha´astra s¯ . . (III.7) that Romaharsana, also called S¯ ta in the Pur¯ nas, was not born out of a pratiloma u a. . . marriage. The S¯ ta has been referred to as sacred in the Visnupur¯ na and the Agnipur¯ na. u a. a. .. The duty of the S¯ ta according to Manu (X.47) was to drive chariots and according to the u Vaikh¯ nasa-sm¯ rta-s¯ tra (X.13) it was a part of his livelihood to remind the king of his a a u duties and cook food for him. According to Karnaparva (XXXII.46.47), S¯ tas were the u . servants (paric¯ rakas) of the Ksattriyas. According to V¯ yupur¯ na (Ch. 3), the S¯ tas used a a a. u . to preserve the pedigrees of kings and great men and also the traditions of learning and books. But nowhere do we find that S¯ tas had any other work than those said above or u that they ever played the part of bard reciting the glories of kings or were in any sense the depository of heroic poetry” (S.N. Dasgupta, ed., op. cit., pp. xiii–xiv). 44 This seems to be the only sense recognised in John Dowson, A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), p. 312. 45 The point is important. To see this clearly it is important to demonstrate the pervasive nature of the identification of the two senses and to examine its significance. Winternitz regarded the s¯ tas as closely allied to the warrior class (op. cit., p. 315). Monier Monieru Williams makes no distinction between charioteer and bard (op. cit., p. 1241), while A.L.



Basham declares that the s¯ ta “combined the functions of royal charioteer, herald and u bard” (The Wonder That Was India [New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1967. third revised edition], p. 91). More recently, J.A.B. van Buitenen remarks: ‘The Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a as a whole is recited by “the Son of the Bard,” Ugra´ravas, son of Lomaharsana, both s . . satisfyingly baronial names, “he of the awesome voice” and “he of the hair-raising tales” ’ (op. cit., p. xxi, emphasis added). The identification thus is pervasive. How did it arise? The homonymous nature of the words surely contributed to it, but there seems to be more to it. It was noticed above how the s¯ ta Ugra´ravas recited the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. Winternitz u s a a goes on to point out how within the epic too “in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata itself, it is the S¯ ta a a u Sañjaya who describes to king Dhrtar¯ stra the events of the battlefield” (op. cit., p. 315). a. . . As Sañjaya is also the king’s charioteer, the two senses blend in this case, perhaps adding to the confusion. But then whose charioteer is Ugra´ ravas? To clear up the picture one s must look at the pattern of narration in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. There are three narrators in the a a epic: Sauti, who relates to the sages in the forest “legends contained in chapters 1–58. In chapters 59 and 60 he is requested to tell the story of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata; . . . from this point a a on (I.61) Vai´amp¯ yana becomes the narrator . . . But when it comes to the description of s a the great battle, Vai´amp¯ yana in his turn gives place to Sañjaya, charioteer to the blind s a ´ King Dhritar¯ shtra . . . Thus we have Sauti addressing King Saunaka in Upa-parvas 1– . a . 6. Vai´amp¯ yana addressing King Janamejaya, 7–66, 84–100. Sañjaya addressing King s a Dhritar¯ shtra, 67–83” (Edward Rice, The Mah¯ bh¯ rata [Oxford University Press, 1934], a a . a . p. 5). However, the fact that Sañjaya, with the clairvoyant vision conferred on him by Vy¯ sa, narrates the battle to the blind King does not make him a bard. It seems Winternitz a has confused the description of Sauti as s¯ ta (bard) with the description of Sañjaya as s¯ ta u u (charioteer) who happens to play the role of a bard on that occasion. This is confirmed by the use of the word s¯ ta in the epic. It is the “epithet of Sañjaya, Ugra´ravas, Lomaharsana u s . . and Karna” (ibid., p. 104); with Ugra´ravas and Lomaharsana it means a bard; with Karna s . . . . a charioteer and with Sañjaya a charioteer (confusion arising from his playing a bardic role at a point). 46 Nabaneeta Sen, “Comparative Studies in Oral Epic Poetry and the V¯ lm¯ki R¯ m¯ yana: a ı a a . A Report on the B¯ lak¯ nda,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 86, No. 4 a a. . (Oct.–Dec., 1966), pp. 397–409. 47 Ibid., p. 398. 48 Ibid., p. 403. 49 Mary Carroll Smith, The Warrior Code of India’s Sacred Song (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1992). 50 Even here some caution is required. Inasmuch as any quantitative regulation of a syllabic metre renders the task of ready composition somewhat more difficult, to that extent, why the anus.tubh (in the more general sense) gave way to the sloka, which is ´ . more sharply defined is also a question worth investigating. Is it that partial quantitative regulation of metre is more helpful for oral composition than no regulation at all? 51 Maurice Bloomfield, Rig-Veda Repetitions (Harvard University Press, 1916), passim. For the most recent work on these lines on the Mah¯ bh¯ rata see Daniel H.H. Ingalls and a a Daniel H.H. Ingalls Jr., op. cit., pp. 19–56. 52 See Mary Carroll Smith, “The Mah¯ bh¯ rata’s Core”, pp. 478–482; J.A.B. van a a Buitenen, op. cit., p. xxxix, fn. 44. 53 R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Vedic Age (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1965) pp. 232– 233; etc. 54 See J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., folio between pp. 12 and 13. In several stutis he is referred to as V¯ sistha; see Pur¯ nam, Vol. IX, No. 2 (July 1967), p. 217, etc. a .. a.



. earlier than the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. Indians believe that of the two incarnations of the Lord, a a R¯ ma and Krsna, the former was born earlier” (Gaurinath Sastri, A Concise History of a .. . Classical Sanskrit Literature [Oxford University Press, 1960], p. 37). It may be pointed out that if R¯ ma preceded Krsna, it does not necessarily follow that the R¯ m¯ yana preceded a a a . .. . the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. It is rather because according to tradition V¯ lm¯ki preceded Vy¯ sa that, a a a ı a strictly speaking, such a statement can be made form within the tradition. 57 See R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Age of Imperial Unity (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1968), p. 254. 58 See E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 59ff. 59 Vaman Shivram Apte, op. cit., p. 77. “According to the Daivata Br¯ hmana, as quoted a . in the Nirukta (vii, 12), an anus.tubh is so called because it is anushtobhati, i.e., follows . . . with its praise the G¯ yatr¯, which consists of three P¯ das” (Monier Monier-Williams, op. a ı a cit., p. 40). A.L. Basham also seems to echo the suggestion when he says: “In later hymns of the RgVeda a stanza of four eight-syllable quarters, called Anus.tubh, became popular. . . This was much the same as G¯ yatr¯, with a fourth line added,” though he adds that “there a ı was considerable variation in the final cadence” (op. cit., p. 511). Also see RgVeda, V.82.1 . for a case of an “only anus.tup verse in an otherwise g¯ yatr¯ s¯ kta” (see V.P. Limaye and a ı u . ˙s R.D. Vadekar, eds., Eighteen Principal Upanishads [Vol. 1, Poona: Vaidika Sam´odhana Mandala, 1958], p. 264). .. 60 H. Oldenberg, Kleine Schriften (Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, 1967). 61 Arthur A. Macdonell, op. cit., pp. 45–47: “It is to be noted that the Vedic metres have a certain elasticity to which we are unaccustomed in Greek prosody, and which recalls the irregularities of the Latin Saturnian verse. Only the rhythm of the last four or five syllables is determined, the first part of the line not being subject to rule. Regarded in their historical connetion, the Vedic metres, which are the foundation of the entire prosody of the later literature, occupy a position midway between the system of the Indo-Iranian period and that of classical Sanskrit. For the evidence of the Avesta, with its eight and eleven syllable lines, which ignore quantity, but are combined into stanzas otherwise the same as those of the Rg-veda, indicates that the metrical practice of the period when Persians and Indians . were still one people, depended on no other principle than the counting of syllables. In the Sanskrit period, on the other hand, the quantity of every syllable in the line was determined in all metres, with the sole exception of the loose measure (called sloka) employed in epic ´ poetry. The metrical regulation of the line, starting from its end, thus finally extended to the whole. The fixed rhythm at the end of the Vedic line is called vrtta, literally ‘turn’ (from . vrt; Lat. vert-ere), which corresponds etymologically to the Latin versus. . The eight-syllable line usually ends in two iambics, the first four syllables, though not exactly determined, having a tendency to be iambic also. This verse is therefore the almost exact equivalent of the Greek iambic dimeter. Three of these lines combine to form the g¯ yatr¯ metre, in which nearly one-fourth a ı (2450) of the total number of stanzas in the Rg-veda is composed. An example of it is the . first stanza of the Rg-veda, which runs as follows: . Agnim ¯.le purohitam ı Yajñasya devam rtvijam . Hot¯ ram ratnadh¯ tamam. a a It may be closely rendered thus in lines imitating the rhythm of the original:

55 E. Vernon Arnold, Vedic Metre (Cambridge University Press, 1905), p. 169. 56 “To the strictly orthodox Indian mind, the R¯ m¯ yana appears to have been composed a a

I praise Agni, domestic priest, God, minister of sacrifice, Herald, most prodigal of wealth.


Four of these eight-syllable lines combine to form the anus.tubh stanza, in which the . first two and the last two are more closely connected. In the Rg-veda the number of stanzas . in this measure amounts to only about one-third of those in the g¯ yatr¯. This relation a ı is gradually reversed, till we reach the post-Vedic period, when the g¯ yatr¯ is found to a ı have disappeared, and the anus. ubh (now generally called sloka) to have become the ´ .t predominant measure of Sanskrit poetry. A development in the character of this metre may be observed within the Rg-veda itself. All its verses in the oldest hymns are the same, . being iambic in rhythm. In later hymns, however, a tendency to differentiate the first and third from the second and fourth lines, by making the former non-iambic, begins to show itself. Finally, in the latest hymns of the tenth book the prevalence of the iambic rhythm disappears in the odd lines. Here every possible combination of quantity in the last four syllables is found, but the commonest variation, nearly equalling the iambic in frequency, is v–v. The latter is the regular ending of the first and third lines in the post-Vedic sloka.” ´ 62 Arthur A. Macdonell, A Vedic Grammar for Students (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 438, fn. 2. 63 Ibid., p. 442, fn. 2. 64 Ibid., p. 438, fn. 1. 65 Ibid., p. 439, fn. 3. 66 Ibid., p. 438, fn. 1. 67 S.D. Kulkarni, ed., Study of Indian History and Culture (Bombay: Bhisma, 1988) Vol. I, p. 493. 68 Gary A. Tubb, “S¯ ntarasa in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata”, in Arvind Sharma, ed., op. cit., ´a a a pp. 174–175. 69 Robert P. Goldman, tr., op. cit., Vol. I, p. 29. “V¯ lm¯ki describes himself as son of a ı Pracetas, which makes him a member of the family of the Bhrgus, an influential lineage of . Brahmans in ancient India” (Velcheru Narayana Rao, “V¯ lm¯ki”, in Mircea Eliade, editor a ı in chief, The Encyclopedia of Religion [New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987] Vol. 15, p. 184). 70 Ibid. Also see Robert P. Goldman, tr., op. cit., p. 128. 71 Ibid., pp. 126, 137. However, also see the account of Samb¯ ka. ´ ˙ u 72 Julius Lipner, op. cit., p. 130. 73 Velcheru Narayana Rao, op. cit., Vol. 15, p. 184. 74 Ibid. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. 77 Ibid. 78 Ibid. 79 Ibid. 80 They are referred to as ku´¯lavau (P.K. Gode and C.G. Karve, editors-in-chief, V.S. sı Apte’s The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary [Poona: Prasad Prakashan, 1957] Vol. I, p. 590). The word ku´¯lava by itself is an epithet of V¯ lm¯ki (ibid). E. Washurn Hopkins sı a ı notes: “The S¯ tas or bards were also charioteers. They made a special sub-caste and lived at u court, while the Kuç¯lavas learned the songs of the bards and wandered among the people ı at large singing them. This name was resolved into Kuça and Lava who are represented as two singers, sons of R¯ ma. They learned the poem of V¯ lm¯ki and recited it among a a ı the people, as the later story goes (R¯ m¯ yana, I, 4)” (“The Princes and Peoples of the a a .



Epic Poems”, in E.J. Rapson, ed., Ancient India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922] p. 17 note 1). 81 P.V. Kane, History of Dharma´ astra (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, s¯ 1974) Vol. II, part I, p. 78. 82 Ibid. 83 Ibid. 84 Ibid., p. 168. 85 See Mandal Commission Report of the Backward Classes Commission, 1980 (Delhi: Akalank Publications, n.d.) pp. 304, 319, 337, 354; O.P. Sharma, Scheduled Castes: Population and Literates (New Delhi: Boowell Publications, 1990) p. 410; etc. 86 For more on the link of sweepers with V¯ lm¯ki see Pauline Kolenda, Caste in Contema ı porary India: Beyond Organic Solidarity (Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 1978) p. 95. 87 Personal Communication, Dr. S. Bhargava, Ottawa, Canada. 88 J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., p. xxiii; etc. Also see M. Bruce Sullivan, Krsna .. . Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa and the Mah¯ bh¯ rata: A New Interpretation (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990). a a a a 89 Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na I.4.25. Note the irregular nature of the sloka here as consisting of a a. ´ three hemistiches. It is cited as a regular sloka (without the middle hemistich) by P.V. Kane, ´ op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 155, fn. 363. Thomas J. Hopkins takes note of this verse too, but quotes it to demonstrate that “the bhakti religion itself is an act of compassion on the part of ´¯ the Lord by which women, sudras, and those who have fallen from their twice-born status might be brought to a better condition” (Thomas J. Hopkins, “The Social Teaching of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na,” in Milton Singer, ed., Krishna: Myths, Rites and Attitudes [Honolulu: a a. East-West Center Press, 1966] p. 19). In paraphrasing the verse thus, however, he seems to overlook the pivotal role of Krsna Dvaip¯ yana in the composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. a a a .. . 90 The expression dvijabandhu calls for some remarks. It is rendered by A.C. Bhakti´ ı vedanta Swami literally as “friends of the twice-born” (Sr¯mad Bh¯ gavatam, First Canto, a Part One [New York: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1972], p. 214). But it seems to, more accurately, stand for “a mere twice-born,” “a Brahman only by name” (see Monier MonierWilliams, op. cit., p. 506), and may be compared with the expression brahmabandhu, “(1) a contemptuous term for a Br¯ hmana, an unworthy Br¯ hmana (cf. Mar¯ th¯ bhaturg¯ ); (2) a a a. ı . . . a one who is a Br¯ hmana only by caste, a nominal Br¯ hmana” (Vaman Shivram Apte, The a a . . Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary [Poona: Shiralkar & Co., 1890], p. 802). 91 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 155. 92 Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na I.4.29. R.S. Sharma takes note of both these verses (I.4.29 and a a. 29) and says: “The Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na states that instead of the Veda the Mah¯ bh¯ rata is a a. a a ´u ´¯ provided for women and sudras” (Ram Sharan Sharma, S¯ dras in Ancient India [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1958], p. 265). He, however, also omits to mention, like Thomas J. Hopkins, the role of Krsna Dvaip¯ yana Vy¯ sa. a a .. . 93 Mah¯ bh¯ rata, 1.55.2 (critical edition). This point, to the best of our knowledge, has a a nowhere been contested within the tradition and, if anything, endorsed, although after the lapse of some centuries. The Ved¯ rtha Prak¯ sa of M¯ dhav¯ c¯ rya (fourteenth century) on a a´ a a a the Taittir¯ya YajurVeda cites the verses of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na verbatim by way of ı a a. answering the question he himself poses: “The scripture (´astra) which declares that those s¯ persons only who have been invested with the sacrificial cord are competent to read the Veda, intimates thereby that the same study would be a cause of unhappiness to women ´¯ and sudras [who are not invested]. How, then, are these two classes of persons to discover the means of future happiness? We answer, from the Pur¯ nas and other such works. Hence a. it has been said . . . ” (J. Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts [New Delhi: Oriental Publishers and



Distributors, 1976. Indian reprint; first published 1873] Vol. III, p. 68). This statement also sheds light on a point tenaciously maintained within the tradition: that Vy¯ sa is also the a composer of the Pur¯ nas in addition to the Mah¯ bh¯ rata, despite the prodigious prodigy a. a a that makes him. The authorial attribution is apparently based more on motivational identity than Herculean prolificity. The tradition, recorded earlier in the Visnu Pur¯ na, is also a. .. significant. Klaus K. Klostermaier summarizes the existing consensus regarding Pur¯ nic a. chronology as follows: “In a general way, one can state that the texts of the Mah¯ pur¯ n as, a a. as they have been printed, have been fixed between the time of 400 C.E. and 1000 C.E., the Visnu Pur¯ na being closest to the earlier date and the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na nearest to a. a a. .. the latter.” (A Survey of Hinduism [second edition]; Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994], pp. 96–97). It is significant chronologically because the Visnu .. Pur¯ na is earlier than the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na. The evidence from the latter has already a. a a. been cited. The Visnu Pur¯ na (III.4.1–10) also associates Vy¯ sa with the (division of the) a. a .. Vedas, the (authorship of the) Mah¯ bh¯ rata and (the dissemination of) the Pur¯ nas, so a a a. also the relatively early V¯ yu Pur¯ na (60.16–25), but no distinct motive is assigned for the a a. composition of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. However, Vy¯ sa’s positive attitude towards both sudras a a a ´¯ and women is apparent in Visnu Pur¯ na VI.2. a. .. 94 See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, 1992. Also see A.S. Altekar, The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization From Prehistoric Times to the Present Day (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973), p. 204 for another source. Also see pp. 205, 327, 354. 95 Manusmr ti, II.168; see G. Bühler, tr., The Laws of Manu (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, . 1967), p. 61; Wendy Doniger (with Brian K. Smith), The Laws of Manu (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), p. 34. 96 Julius Eggeling, tr., The Satapatha-Br¯ hman a According to the Text of the ´ a . M¯ dhyandina School (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1882), Part I, pp. 27–28. a 97 Ibid., Part III, p. 131. 98 Ibid., Part V, p. 435, with diacritics adjusted. 99 Jogiraj Basu, India of the Age of the Br¯ hmanas (Calcutta: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, a . 1969), pp. 12–13; Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 77. 100 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 157. 101 See B.D. Basu, ed., The M¯m¯ ms¯ S¯ tras of Jaimini (New York: AMS Press, 1974; ı a˙ a u first published 1923–1925, Allahabad), p. 306. R.S. Sharma cites the set of s¯ tras involved u above (op. cit., p. 121) but the relevant s¯ tra is cited as I.3.27 by P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. u II, Part I, pp. 156–157. Also see K. Satchidananda Murty (Vedic Hermeneutics [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993], p. 13): “even the medieval commentators admit that B¯ dari, a a great sage, who is cited by Jaimini, maintained that all, including sudras, were eligible to ´¯ perform Vedic sacrifices.” The text runs: nimitt¯ rthena b¯ daristasm¯ t sarv¯ dhik¯ ram sy¯ t. a a a a a ˙ a 102 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vo. II, Part I, p. 157. This is not included in the prooftexts in favour of the right of the sudras cited by K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., pp. 19–20. It is, ´¯ however, recognized by Ram Gopal, India of Vedic Kalpas¯ tras (Delhi: Motilal Banarsiu dass, 1983: second edition), pp. 119, 129. 103 Cited by K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 19, note 30. As for its date, all that P.V. Kane says it that it is later than Gautama Smrti (op. cit., Vol. I, Part I, p. 305). . 104 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 19. 105 P.V. Kane does not identify any such text. According to him “besides the Y¯ jñavalkyasmrti we have to reckon with three other works connected with the name of a . Y¯ jñavalkya, viz. Vrddha Y¯ j., Yoga-Y¯ j, and Brhad-Y¯ j,” (op. cit., Vol. I, Part I, p. 448). a a a a . . He also remarks: “All these three works are comparatively ancient” (ibid.) It is not clear to



this writer whether Murty is referring to an independent work or referring to Yoga-Y¯ j as a Yogi-Y¯ j. a 106 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 19. 107 J.C. Heesterman, The Broken World of Sacrifice: An Essay in Ancient Indian Ritual (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 136–137 and notes 117 and 118. 108 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 80, note 2. 109 B.R. Ambedkar, Who Were the Shudras? (Bombay: Thackers, 1946), pp. 29–48; etc. 110 See Patrick Olivelle, The A´ rama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Reli¯s gious Institution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 193; “Hindu Rites” in Mircea Eliade, editor in chief, The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: The Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987) Vol. 12, p. 391; etc. 111 See Rita M. Gross, “Birth,” in Mircea Eliade, editor in chief, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 227. 112 The text without specific reference is cited by S. Radhakrishnan in P.V. Kane, op. cit., ´a Vol. V, Part II, p. v and another text is cited without specifics but from S¯ nti Parva in The Hindu View of Life (New Delhi: Indus, 1993), p. 85. Also see P.H. Prabhu, Hindu Social Organization (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1963), pp. 292–295. 113 Cited in Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 25. Also see Louis Renou, ed., Hinduism (New York: George Braziller, 1962), p. 142. 114 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 13. Also see Muneo Tokunaga, The Brhaddevat¯ a . (Kyoto: Rinsen Book Co., 1997) p. 126. 115 R.S. Sharma, op. cit., p. 73. Y¯ ska offers this as an optional interpretation, a point a overlooked by both Sharma and Murty. Moreover, “Some modern linguists have suggested that pañca originally may also have had the sense of ‘all’ ” (G.C. Pande, Dimensions of Ancient Indian Social History [New Delhi: Books & Books, 1984], p. 264, note 1). 116 The point must be understood with caution. The K¯ thaka Samhit¯ is unaccented a. . a because it lost its accent in the Middle Ages, and those which have, have been taken from medieval ritual handbooks. Personal communication, Professor Michael Witzel. 117 R.S. Sharma, op. cit., pp. 77–78. It should be noted, however, that while according ¯ ´ to R.S. Sharma the Apastamba Srautas¯ tra “is considered the oldest of its kind,” recent u scholarly opinion considers it a ‘middle level’ text (see C.G. Kashikar, A Survey of the ´ ´u Srauta S¯ tras [Bombay: University of Bombay, 1968] p. 161; also see C.G. Kashikar, ed., ´ ˙s The Srauta, Paitrmedhika and Pari´esa S¯ tras of Bharadv¯ ja [Poona: Vaidika Sam´odhana s . u a . Mandala, 1964] p. xcii). .. 118 V.M. Apte, “Religion and Philosophy”, in R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Vedic Age (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1953) pp. 442–443. 119 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 73. For more evidence on this point see Michael Witzel, “Saram¯ and the Panis: Origins of Prosimetric Exchange in Archaic India”, in a . Joseph Harris and Karl Reichl, eds., Prosimetrum: Crosscultural Perspectives on Narrative in Prose and Verse (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1997) pp. 387–409, especially 403– 404. 120 Christopher Minkowski, “The Rathak¯ ra’s Eligibility to Sacrifice”, Indo-Iranian a Journal, Vol. 32 (1989), pp. 177–194. 121 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 56. 122 Ibid., p. 70ff. 123 Ibid., p. 54. Also see Artha´ astra (IX.2). The Anu´ asana Parva, by contrast with S¯ nti ´a s¯ s¯ Parva occasionally seems to be more orthodox, see 59.33; 165.10 (vulgate), but also see 143.48.



124 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 53. 125 Ibid., p. 37. From a historical point of view this conclusion is overdrawn and perhaps

based on a conflation of Sud¯ s with Sud¯ sa. What is of interest is that such a move should a a have surfaced at all within the tradition; and perhaps of even greater interest that it would find expression in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. From a historical point of view, however, “it is difficult a a ´a ´¯ to vouch for the authenticity of the tradition in the S¯ nti Parvan that Paijavana was a sudra. He has been identified with S¯ d¯ s, the head of the Bh¯ rata tribe, and it is argued that this u a a ´¯ famous hero of the Battle of Ten Kings was a sudra. There is nothing in the Vedic literature ´a to support this view, and the S¯ nti Parvan tradition is not corroborated by any other source, ´u epic or Pur¯ nic. The tradition says that S¯ dra Paijavana performed sacrifices, and occurs in a ´¯ a context where it is stated that the sudras can perform five great sacrifices and make gifts. It is difficult to judge whether the tradition was true or false, but clearly it was meant to ´¯ serve as a precedent for sudras making gifts and sacrifices, which, as will be shown later, ´a was in keeping with the liberal attitude of the S¯ nti Parvan.” (ibid.). 126 V.S. Agrawala, India as Known to P¯ nini (Varanasi: Prithvi Prakashan, 1963), p. 80. a. 127 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 16. 128 R¯ m¯ yana, VII.67.1–3; also see VII.65.8–24. a a . 129 It is admitted on all hands that the sudra was entitled to p¯ kayajñas and that sv¯ h¯ , etc. ´¯ a a a were to be replaced by namah. The sudra “was allowed to perform the five daily sacrifices ´¯ . ´a called Mah¯ yajñas, in the ordinary fire, he could perform sr¯ ddha, he was to think of the a devat¯ s and utter loudly the word ‘namah’ which was to be the only mantra in his case a . (i.e. he was not to say ‘Agnaye sv¯ h¯ ’ but to think of Agni and say ‘namah’). Manu X.127 a a . ´¯ prescribes that all religious rites for the sudra are without (Vedic) mantras. According to ´¯ some the sudra could also have what is called Vaiv¯ hika fire (i.e. fire kindled at the time of a marriage) in Manu III.67 and Y¯ j. I.97, but Medh¯ tithi (on the same verse), the Mit. (on a a Y¯ j. I.121), the Madanap¯ rij¯ ta (p. 231) and other works say that he should offer oblations a a a ´¯ in the ordinary fire and that there is no Vaiv¯ hika fire for the sudra. All persons including a ´ ı ´¯ the sudras and even c¯ ndalas were authorized to repeat the R¯ mamantra of 13 letters (Sr¯ a. . ¯ a ´ R¯ ma jaya R¯ ma jaya jaya R¯ ma), and the Siva mantra of five letters (namah Siv¯ ya), a a a . ´ a ´u ´ while dvij¯ tis could repeat the Siva mantra of six letters (Om namah Siv¯ ya). Vide S¯ draa . ´ a kamal¯ kara, pp. 30–31, where passages of Var¯ ha, V¯ mana and Bhavisya Pur¯ nas are cited a a a a. . ´¯ to show that sudras are entitled to learn and repeat mantras of Visnu from the P¯ ñcar¯ tra a a .. ´ ´ texts and of Siva, the Sun, Sakti and Vin¯ yaka. The Var¯ hapur¯ na, 12.22–31, describes a a a. ´¯ the initiation (d¯ksa) of a sudra as a devotee of Visnu (as a bh¯ gavata).” So P.V. Kane, op. ı .¯ a .. cit., Vol.II, Part I, pp. 157–158. The situation regarding the samsk¯ ras was similar (ibid., ˙ a ´¯ ˙ a p. 159): “Laghuvisnu (I.15) contains the dictum that the sudra is devoid of any samsk¯ ra. .. The Mit. on Y¯ j. III.262 explains the words of Manu IV.80 about vratas in the case of a ´¯ ´¯ sudras as applicable only to those sudras who are not in attendance upon members of ´¯ the three higher castes and establishes that sudras can perform vratas (but without homa and muttering of mantras). Apar¯ rka on the same verse (Manu IV.80) explains that the a ´¯ sudra cannot perform vratas in person but only through the medium of a br¯ hmana. The a . ´u ´¯ S¯ drakamal¯ kara (p. 38) holds that sudras are entitled to perform vratas, fasts, mah¯ d¯ nas a a a ´¯ and pr¯ ya´cittas, but without homa and japa. Manu X.127 allows religious sudras to a s perform all religious acts which dvij¯ tis perform, provided they do not use Vedic mantras. a ´ n ˙ a On the other hand Sa˙ kha (as quoted by Vi´var¯ pa on Y¯ j. I.13) opines that samsk¯ ras may s u a ´¯ be performed for sudras but without Vedic mantras. Yama quoted in Sm. C. (I., p. 14) says ˙ a ˙ the same. Veda-Vy¯ sa (I.17) prescribes that the samsk¯ ras (viz. garbh¯ dh¯ na, pumsavana, a a a s¯mantonnayana, j¯ takarma, n¯ makarana, niskramana, annapr¯ sana, caula, karnavedha and ı a a a´ . . . . ´¯ viv¯ ha) can be performed in the case of sudras, but without Vedic mantras. Haradatta (on a



´¯ Gautama X.51) quotes a grhyak¯ ra to the effect that even in the case of the sudra the rites a . ˙ of niseka, pumsavana, s¯mantonnayana, j¯ takarma, n¯ makarana, annapr¯ sana and caula are ı a a a´ . . ´¯ allowed but without Vedic mantras. When Manu prescribes (II.32) that the sudra should ´¯ be given a name connected with service, he indicates that the sudra could perform the ˙ a ceremony of n¯ makarana. So when Manu (IV.80) states that he deserves no samsk¯ ra, a . ˙ a what he means is that no samsk¯ ra with Vedic mantras was to be performed in his case. Medh¯ tithi on Manu IV.80 says that the prohibition to give advice and impart instruction a ´¯ in dharma applies only when these are done for making one’s livelihood, but if a sudra is a friend of the family of a br¯ hmana friendly advice or instruction can be given. Vide a . ´u ˙ a ´¯ S¯ drakamal¯ kara, p. 47, for several views about the samsk¯ ras allowed to sudras.” a 130 See Review of Anantanand Rambachan, Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas ´ n as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Sa˙ kara (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991) by Arvind Sharma in Philosophy East and West, 43:4:737–747 and “A Reply to Anatananand Rambachan,” Philosophy East and West, 45:1:105–113. 131 T.M.P. Mahadevan, Outlines of Hinduism (Bombay: Chetana, 1971), p. 140. 132 Cf. Bhagavadg¯t¯ , II.19–20; 29 with Katha Upanisad, II:18–19; 7, etc. ıa . . 133 The Samb¯ ka episode is often misrepresented. For a recent example see Vijay Prasad, ´ ˙ u “May Days of Mayavati,” Economic and Political Weekly, June 10, 1995, p. 1357. For a useful discussion see Rosalind Lefeber, tr., The R¯ m¯ yana of V¯ lm¯ki (Princeton, New a a . a ı Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), Vol. IV, p. 244, note 31. 134 Brian K. Smith, Classifying the Universe: The Ancient Indian Varna System and the . Origins of Caste (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 30, emphasis added. 135 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 37. 136 G.S. Ghurye, Caste, Class and Occupation (Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1961), p. 44. 137 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 154. Kane provides the citation from Vasistha .. (IV.3) in note 356 and adds: “. . . quoted by Apar¯ rka . . . who quotes Yama . . . ” a 138 P.V.Kane (ibid.) adds in note 357 that “This is the basis of Jaimini, VI.1.33 and is ´ relied on by Sabara.” 139 For a synoptic presentation of thirteen such myths see Brian K. Smith, op. cit., pp. 329–348; for others as well see J. Muir, op. cit., Vol. I, Chapter I. 140 See Brian K. Smith, op. cit., p. 335; Christopher Minkowski, op. cit., passim. 141 Ibid., p. 337. 142 A.S. Altekar, op. cit., p. 10ff. Also see Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana II.219: striyo mantrakrta ı a ´ . . ¯ asuh, in relation to Atreya women. ¯ . 143 Julius Lipner, op. cit., p. 100. In modern Hindu writings the rehabilitation of sudras ´¯ and women was similarly also attempted simultaneously. As K. Satchidananda Murty notes (op. cit., p. 17): “The M¯m¯ ms¯ S¯ tras, VI.1.24 to 38, have been interpreted by their ı a˙ a u ¯ ´¯ medieval commentators as prohibiting sudras from Vedic study and sacrifices. The Arya Sam¯ jists, however, do not accept such an interpretation and maintain that according to a Jaimini, all are eligible to study the Veda and perform Vedic rituals, because their reward is desired by all and whoever has the capacity to undertake and complete them can do so. Even the medieval commentators admit that B¯ dari, a great sage, who is cited by Jaimini, a ´u maintained that all, including S¯ dras, are eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices. Similarly, sages like Aiti´ayana denied the eligibility of women to Vedic study and perform sacrifices, s¯ while B¯ dar¯ yana and Jaimini asserted to the contrary. Some smrtis make scriptural study a a . . mandatory to women.” The practice of women eating after men is of ancient vintage and may go as far back as 1000 B.C., see Maitr¯ yan¯ Samhit¯ I.6.12; Katha Samhit¯ 11.6; a .ı . a . . a ´ a Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ VI.5.6 and Satapatha Br¯ hmana III.1.3, 3.4. ı . . a

144 145 146 147 148


See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. V, Part II, pp. 928–929. Ibid., Vol. II, Part I, p. 594, note 1392. Ibid., Vol. V, Part II, p. 930. Ibid. ´ n For the date of Sa˙ karavijaya see Paul Hacker, Kleine Schriften (Wiesbaden: Steiner, ´ n 1978) p. 206, on the assumption that it is identical with Sa˙ karadigvijaya. 149 J.L. Shastri, ed., Manusmr tih (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983), p. 17. . . 150 Mah¯ bh¯ rata (Citra´ al¯ edition), Adiparva, Chapter I. ¯ a a s¯ a 151 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 64. 152 A.S. Altekar, op. cit., pp. 357–358. 153 J. Muir, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 38, note 41. 154 According to Matsya Pur¯ na (53:70) Vy¯ sa first composed the Pur¯ nas and then a. a a. the Mah¯ bh¯ rata but according to the Bh¯ gavata (Ch. 2) this eighteenth Pur¯ na was a a a a. composed after the Mah¯ bh¯ rata. a a 155 See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. V, Part II, p. 929. 156 K. Satchindananda Murty, op. cit., p. 19. 157 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., pp. 65–66. 158 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 14, note 30. 159 Ibid., p. 19, note 30. 160 P.V. Kane cites the following prooftexts: S¯ drakrtyatattva, Varsakriy¯ kaumud¯ (which ´u a ı . . ´u cites it as from K¯ rmapur¯ na) and S¯ drakamal¯ kara (see P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part u a. a I, op. cit., p. 156 note 365). 161 Ibid., p. 156. 162 This text probably belongs to the seventeenth century (see P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. I, Part II, pp. 938, 940–941). 163 Ibid., p. 156. 164 J.L. Shastri, ed., op. cit., p. 24. 165 This could be understood figuratively (see S. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu View of Life, p. 87) or literally (Patrick Olivelle, op. cit., p. 236, note 53). 166 As in Apastamba Dharma S¯ tra, I.9.29.11 etc. cited by P. V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, ¯ u Part I, pp. 33–34; but also see K.M. Sen, Hinduism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), p. 28; Klaus K. Klostermaier op. cit., p. 334. 167 J. Muir, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 18. 168 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 56. 169 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 34. 170 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 56. 171 See Hari Narayana Apte, ed., Krsnayajurved¯yataittir¯ya Samhit¯ (Poona: ı ı .. . . a ¯ Anand¯ srama Press, 1905), p. 4236. a´ 172 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 75. 173 J. Muir, op. cit., Part I, p. 20. 174 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 74. 175 G.S. Ghurye, op. cit., p. 44. He is relying on Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ : vii.1.1.4–5. ı . a 176 All English translations are from Arthur Berriedale Keith, The Vedas of the Black Yajus School Entitled Taittiriya Sanhita (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1967. Indian reprint. First published 1914), unless indicated otherwise. 177 Ibid, pp. 447–448. 178 Do the dual divinities indicate the tendency towards the equation of the vai´ yas and s the sudras, the two varnas, in the social sphere? See Brian K. Smith, op. cit., p. 27; Ram ´¯ . Sharan Sharma, op. cit., pp. 58, 140–141; etc.

179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187


A.B. Keith, op. cit., pp. 603–604. Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 73. A.B. Keith, op. cit., p. 439. Ibid., p. 502. Ibid., p. 569. Ibid., p. 307. Brian K. Smith, op. cit., p. 301. Ibid., p. 312, note 64. For the interpretation of more than three functions also see Nicholas J. Allen, “Hinduism as Indo-European: Cultural Comparativism and Political Sensitivities”, in Johannes Bronkhorst and Madhav M. Deshpande, eds., Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation, Ideology, Volume III of Opera Minora, Harvard Oriental Series, Cambridge 1999, pp. 19–33. 188 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., pp. 29–35; Brian K. Smith, op. cit., pp. 15, 27, etc. 189 Ibid., p. 302. The following comment based on an analysis of thirteen cosmogonic myths in Vedic lore is also helpful (ibid., p. 76): “The texts here, it should be readily admitted, are not always absolutely consistent in their categorizations. Nevertheless, it can be said that the first three categories are here, no less than in tripartite and quadripartite structures, clearly identified with the three highest varnas. And, generally speaking, the . fourth chain must also be read, as in the case of the quadripartite schemes examined in Cosmogonies VIII–XI, as generally ‘Sh¯ dra’ in orientation. Some of the taxons listed in u the fourth category – the anus.tubh meter, the vair¯ ja chant, and the twenty-one-versed a . hymn of praise – are the same in the pentadic structures as they are in quadripartite ones in which the Sh¯ dra social class is also listed. Elemental qualities such as ‘prosperity’ and u ‘fruit’ for the fourth chain, complementing those of brahman, ksatra, and vi´ for the first s . three, can be understood in terms of the displacement of previously Vaishya qualities onto the Sh¯ dras as they are added to the system. This could also be offered as the explanation u for some of the interchangeability of the deities of the third and fourth chains in these structures: Varuna and the Maruts, for example, can function as either Vaishya or Sh¯ dra u . gods.” 190 Jaimin¯ya Br¯ hmana II.102. Also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 55. ı a . 191 S¯ nkh¯ yana Br¯ hmana XXVII.1. Also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 64. ´a ˙ a a . 192 S¯ nkh¯ yana Srauta S¯ tra XIV.33.18–19. Also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 55, ´a ˙ a u fn. 6, and p. 74, fn. 10. 193 Ibid., p. 74. 194 Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ VII.1.1.4–5. Also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 74. ı . a 195 See Hari Narayana Apte, ed., op. cit., p. 4236. 196 M. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 323. 197 Ibid., p. 465; R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Age of Imperial Unity, p. 25; J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., p. xxv. 198 See Thomas J. Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 3–6. 199 M. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 326. 200 J.A.B. van Buitenen, op. cit., p. xxiv. 201 One may note that even if it has happened unconsciously it calls for a conscious explanation. 202 Thomas J. Hopkins, op. cit., passim, but especially see pp. 17, 19, 20. The most dramatic about-face in the treatment of the sudra is represented by the way the fact of ´¯ the sudra being formed from the feet of the purusa in RgVeda X.90.12 is treated in the ´¯ . . Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na. In the Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ it has the effect of lowering his status (vii, 1, a a. ı . a



1, 4), but the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na (III.6.33) “says, in fact, that when the four classes were a a. created there was brought forth from the feet of Bhagav¯ n ‘service for the fulfillment of a ´u dharma, for which in former times was born the S¯ dra by whose conduct Hari is pleased’ ” (Thomas J. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 17). 203 Were the authors (or author) of the Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na familiar with the traditional a a. association of the sudra with the anus.tubh, we might even ask, tongue in cheek, or did the ´¯ . preponderance of the anus.tubh in the Mah¯ bh¯ rata father this thought! a a . 204 “The introduction of the great epic informs us that Vy¯ sa imparted his poem first to a his pupil Vai´amp¯ yana, who in his turn recited the whole of it at the time of the great s a snake-sacrifice of king Janamejaya. It was then heard by the S¯ ta Ugra´ravas who, being u s ´ entreated by the Rishis assembled at the sacrifice of Saunaka in the Nimisha forest, narrated to them the whole poem as he learnt it on that occasion” (R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Age of Imperial Unity, p. 246). Thus “throughout the epic the narrator is supposed to be Sauti the paur¯ nika, or reciter of ancient legends – the same person as the reputed speaker in all the a. eighteen Pur¯ nas” (Edward P. Rice, op. cit., p. 5.). Somewhat surprisingly this basic fact of a. the entire narration being by Sauti is overlooked by A.L. Basham: “Traditionally the author of the poem was the sage Vy¯ sa, who is said to have taught it to his pupil Vai´amp¯ yana. a s a The latter, according to tradition, recited it in public for the first time at a great sacrifice held by King Janamejaya, the great grandson of Arjuna, one of the heroes of the story” (op. cit., pp. 409–412). 205 M. Winternitz, op. cit., pp. 315; etc. 206 For a discussion of the Rsi vis-à-vis S¯ ta tradition see T.G. Mainkar, The Upabrmhana u .. .˙ . and the RgVeda Tradition (Ahmedabad: L.D. Institute of Indology, 1975), passim. . 207 E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 366, fn. 2. 208 Ibid., Chapter Five, passim. 209 Ibid., p. 369, also fn. 1. 210 See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, pp. 84, 78, 90–91, 94, etc. 211 E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 369. 212 See Manusmr ti X.17. They, being of mixed caste, are certainly not members of the . dvij¯ ti or the upper three varnas. But whether they were sudras is not entirely clear. Somea ´¯ . times a distinction between a s¯ ta and a sudra is retained (see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. u ´¯ cit., p. 242), and sometimes not (ibid., p. 49, etc.). In the Amarako´a the mixed castes s and thereby the s¯ ta is clearly placed in the sudra varga (ibid., p. 263). By the test of u ´¯ accessibility or otherwise to Vedic learning, the s¯ tas would be sudras, as access to it was u ´¯ denied to them (see P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 99). 213 The tradition of the s¯ ta goes back to Vedic times (vide Arthur Anthony Macdonnell u and Arthur Berriedale Keith [Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, London: John Murray, 1912] p. 462). Even then the s¯ ta has a sudra-like status (vide Ram Sharan Sharma, op. u ´¯ cit., Chapter III, passim). 214 That the s¯ tas were in any capacity a low caste is clear. But were there s¯ tas u u and s¯ tas? Two pieces of evidence are very significant in this connection and need to u be closely examined; a passage from the Artha´astra and a few references from the s¯ Manusmrti. The Artha´astra, after describing the various mixed castes on the pattern of the s¯ . smrtis, however, adds, after mentioning the s¯ ta – paur¯ nikastvanyah s¯ to m¯ gadha´ca u a. a s . . u brahmaksatr¯ dvi´esah (Artha´astra III.7.29; as per R.P. Kangle, ed., The Kautil¯ya s¯ . a s . . . ı Artha´astra (University of Bombay, 1963), Part I, p. 107; P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. I, Part s¯ 1, p. 246, note 221, reads vi´esatah for vi´esah). It is clear, therefore, that Kautilya is s . . s . . . distinguishing between two kinds of s¯ tas. Unfortunately the nature of the distinction is u ´a ı not clear: (a) T. Ganapati S¯ str¯ takes it to mean that the paur¯ nika s¯ ta is superior (vi´esa) a. u s . .



to the Br¯ hmana and the Ksatriya, perhaps on the basis of the story of the divine birth of a . . Lomaharsana (vide R.P. Kangle, op. cit., Part II, p. 248). But as is well known, divine birth . . is often used as a literary device to conceal low birth, so the real picture is not at all clear; (b) it could be taken to mean that the paur¯ nika s¯ ta is in general a class apart from all these a. u mixed castes. This needs more evidence to support it; (c) it could mean that the s¯ ta of the u pur¯ nas is different (vi´esah) from the other s¯ ta because although he himself is a mixed a s . . u caste like them he comes from a different mix than the s¯ ta, who is born from a ksatriya u . male and a br¯ hmana female. The other s¯ ta is born of a ksatriya female and a vai´ya a u s . . male. As we shall see later, this sense could be reconciled in a certain manner with the evidence from the Manusmrti. Before that is done, however, it may be noted (1) that S.N. . Dasgupta (op. cit., p. xiii) refers to this Artha´astra passage in the light of T.N. Ganapati s¯ . ´a ı S¯ str¯’s comment without distinguishing it from the text; (2) that the passage is obviously regarded as significant by P.V. Kane, who refers to it twice (op. cit., Vol. 1, Part 1, p. 246, note 221, Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 98; (3) R.P. Kangle (op. cit., Part II, p. 248, fn. 26) is inclined to look upon the whole passage with suspicion; to him the s¯ tra “appears to be a late u marginal comment that has got into the text.” Could it be that, with the rise in the status of the s¯ ta in the paur¯ nika Age of Hinduism, which superseded that of the smrtis, it became u a. . hard to reconcile the text with the contemporary context? (4) It is capable of yet another interpretation, as one commentary takes it to mean that a s¯ ta springs from a br¯ hmana u a . and a m¯ gadha from a ksatriya (vide R.P. Kangle, ibid.). Now the Manusmrti. Manu refers a . . to two kinds of s¯ tas, both pratiloma, one born through a ksatriya male and a br¯ hmana u a . . female (X.11), the other through a vai´ya male and a ksatriya female (X.17). The problem s . is that when it comes to defining the occupation of a s¯ ta he has a single entry (X.47). u Thus Manu mentions only one occupation for a s¯ ta at a professional level – namely, u that of rathak¯ ra, though he distinguishes between two types. If it now be kept in mind a that the smrti works do not seem to mention the sudra as engaged in k¯ ruku´¯lavakarma ´¯ a sı . (work as artisan and bard) as Artha´astra texts seem to, and tend to mention only k¯ ru (cf. s¯ a rathak¯ ra in the present case), then it may be argued that the role of the s¯ ta in the second a u sense has been omitted on that pattern. This would justify the following entry by Vaman Shivram Apte under s¯ ta: “(1) the son of a Kshatriya by a woman of the Br¯ hmana caste u a . (his business being that of a charioteer); (2) the son of a Vai´ ya by a Kshatriya wife (his s business being that of a bard)” (op. cit., p. 995). Thus if this distinction be accepted, then it turns out that s¯ ta, the bard belongs to an even lower cast than s¯ ta the charioteer, because u u he is the product of the intermixture of two lower castes! 215 Artha´ astra, I.3.8. s¯ 216 R. Shamasastry, Kautilya’s Artha´ astra (Mysore: Mysore Printing and Publishing s¯ . House, 1961), p. 7, emphasis added. 217 The tradition seems to reach back as far as the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (XIII.4.3.7–13), ´ a . which seems to imply that a priest could instruct members of the sudra varna and that the ´¯ . subjects included itih¯ sa and AtharvaVeda. a 218 See P.P.S. Sastri, ed., The Mah¯ bh¯ rata (Southern Recension) (Madras: V. a a Ramaswamy Sastrulu and Sons, 1932) Vol. IV, pp. 107, 108, 117, 121–122, 129–130. 219 K¯caka is called s¯ ta by Vai´ amp¯ yana three times (IV.14.4:21; IV.16.1) and s¯ tap¯ tra ı u s a u u once (IV.15.6). Draupad¯ calls him only s¯ tap¯ tra obviously in contempt and does so eight ı u u times (IV.13.13:17; IV.15.15–19:21). All these parenthetical references are from the critical edition. 220 See Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., pp. 25, 32–33, 36–37, 38, 54, 63–64, 71, 74, 79, 265, 268, 274–275; but also see A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith, op. cit., p. 389. 221 S¯ ntiparva 296.28 (Calcutta edition). For a more complete translation see P.H. ´a



´u Prabhu, op. cit., p. 311: “Br¯ hmanas learned in the Vedas regard a virtuous S¯ dra as a a . ´u model of Br¯ hmana itself. I, however, regard such a S¯ dra as the effulgent Vishnu of the a . . universe, the foremost in all the worlds.” The Sanskrit text: vaidehikam sudramud¯ haranti ˙ ´¯ a dvij¯ mahar¯ ja srutopapann¯ h aham hi pa´y¯ mi narendra devam vi´vasya visnum jagatah a a ´ a. ˙ s a ˙ s .. ˙ . pradh¯ nam. a 222 E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 20. 223 Bh¯ gavata Pur¯ na I.4.13. a a. 224 Taittir¯ya Br¯ hmana III.12.9.2. ı a . 225 Ram Sharan Sharma op. cit., p. 68. Also see p. 120. Sharma does not provide the reference. He perhaps had II.2.29.11–12 in mind, in which the vidy¯ of women and sudras a ´¯ is said to reside in the AtharvaVeda. 226 Sukumari Bhattacharji, Literature in the Vedic Age (Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi Co., 1984), Vol. I, pp. 264, 271, 179, 307, etc. 227 William Dwight Whitney, Atharva-Veda Samhit¯ , First Half (Harvard University . a Press, 1905). 228 E.W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 380. 229 Ibid. It is also of some interest that “In the early works the Ac¯ rya, who taught gratis ¯ a all the Vedas, is declared to be worth ten Up¯ dhy¯ yas, Vas. xiii.48; iii.21–22; Manu ii.140– a a 145. This Up¯ dhy¯ ya is the direct etymological ancestor of the modern Ojha, wizard. a a In ancient times he was a sub-teacher, who taught for a livelihood one part of the Veda and Ved¯ nga, and he is identified in the epic with the Purohita, who, as Professor Weber a˙ has shown, is essentially an AtharvaVeda priest, or magic-monger, whom seers regard as contemptible. The pseudo-epic inverts the ancient relation and makes the Up¯ dhy¯ ya worth a a ¯ a ten Ac¯ ryas, xii.105.14–15” (ibid.). 230 Brian K. Smith (op. cit., p. 307, note 6) notices the quaternary coincidence but seems to miss its significance. 231 J. Muir, op. cit., Part I, pp. 17–18. 232 Julius Eggling, tr., op. cit., Part V, p. 365, note 3. 233 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 20, note 31. 234 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., pp. 32, 35; P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, pp. 33–34; etc. 235 K. Satchidananda Murty, op. cit., p. 14. Also see p. 19, note 28. 236 Also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 16. 237 Gopal Raghunath Nandargikar, ed., The Raghuvam´ a of K¯ lid¯ sa (Delhi: Motilal ˙s a a Banarsidass, 1971), p. 303: “From thee, having four mouths, have sprung the knowledge resulting in the group of four ends (purposes) of life, the arrangement (division) of time into the four cycles, and the people consisting of the four castes.” I am indebted to Dr. Paliath Narendran for this reference. 238 For other and later versions of this account see J. Muir, op. cit., Part I, p. 19. 239 See Margaret and James Stutley, op. cit., p. 339. 240 J. Muir, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 22. 241 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 386. Also see Harry Falk, op. cit., pp. 17– 18. 242 Ibid. 243 Ibid. See Willem B. Bollée, “The Indo-European Sodalities in Ancient India”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 131(1) (1981) pp. 172–191. Falk portrays them as students on home leave (‘out of vrata’), ganging together to gather cattle, in the early chapters of his book (op. cit.). 244 This on account of a passage (T¯ ndya Br¯ hmana 17.1.9), which describes vr¯ tyas a. . a a .



as those who “swallow poison and who eat food of the common people as food fit for br¯ hmanas, who call good words bad, who strike with a stick him who does not deserve to a . be beaten (or punished), who, though not initiated, speak the speech of the initiated. The Soda´ astoma has the power to remove the guilt of these. That (in this rite) there are four . . s Soda´astomas, thereby they are freed from guilt”. See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, . . s p. 386. 245 Ibid. 246 Willem B. Bollée, op. cit., p. 191. 247 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 386. 248 R.S. Sharma, op. cit., p. 67, note 3. 249 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 96. 250 Ibid. Also see pp. 59–60. 251 Ibid, pp. 376–377. 252 R.S. Sharma, op. cit., p. 76, who cites Weber as distinguishing aboriginals from vr¯ tyas, who are described as “underhumanized Aryans”; see Willem B. Bollée, op. cit., a p. 174, who points out that Winternitz held a similar view; also see Harry Falk, op. cit., for another view. 253 Ibid., passim. 254 See P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, pp. 385–386: “Some of the passages convey a tolerably clear idea of what the vr¯ tyas were like. Those who lead the vr¯ tya life are base a a and are reduced to a baser state, since they do not observe student-hood (brahmacarya) nor do they till the soil nor engage in trade. It is by the Soda´ astoma that they can attain this . . s (superior status). This shows that the vr¯ tyas did not perform upanayana and did not study a the Veda, nor did they do even what vai´yas do”. In later literature, however, the notional s equation of vr¯ tya and sudra does not always hold good. N¯ rada (I.332) brackets vr¯ tyas a ´¯ a a with atheists and slaves and according to the Anu´asana Parva of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata the s¯ a a “vr¯ tya is defined not as one who has fallen from the duties of a twice-born, but as one a ´¯ who is begotten upon a ksatriya woman by a sudra, and is placed in the category of a . candala” (R.S. Sharma, op. cit., pp. 261, 267). . .¯ 255 Willem B. Bollée, op. cit., pp. 183–184. 256 Ibid. 257 See S. Radhakrishnan, ed. The Principal Upanisads (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human. ities Press, 1996: first published 1953) p. 657. 258 Margaret and James Stutley, op. cit., p. 339. 259 Another general way in which the discussion may be helpful is by implying “that some form of initiation into the life of the community was a universal practice among the Vedic Indians or their ancestors – a fact which is supported by the prevalence of similar practices among primitive peoples. This practice of initiation was also extended to the Vr¯ tyas, who a ¯ were admitted into Aryan society through the acquisition of brahmacarya.” (R.S. Sharma, op. cit., p. 67). 260 P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 385. 261 Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 38–39. 262 Ram Sharan Sharma, op. cit., p. 25. The tradition similarly preserves memory of the initiation of women to Vedic study (pur¯ kalpe kum¯ r¯nam mauñj¯bandhanamis yate, a a ı. ¯ ˙ ı . adhy¯ panam ca ved¯ n¯ m s¯ vitr¯vacanam tath¯ , verses even ascribed to Manu; see P.V. a ˙ a a˙ a ı ˙ a Kane, op. cit., Vol. II, Part I, p. 295). These are positive sudra-women associations; one is ´¯ generally more familiar with the negative affiliation, one of the earliest examples of which ´ is found in the Satapatha Br¯ hmana (XIV.1.1.31); but also see Ram Sharan Sharma, op. a . cit., p. 78.



263 Ibid., p. 214. 264 Through the correlation of the fourth elements as found in Satapatha Br¯ hmana ´ a .

XIII.3.3.1 and Taittir¯ya Samhit¯ (VII.1.1.6) (as cited by Brian K. Smith, op. cit., p. 312, ı . a note 64 and p. 339). 265 See Deborah A. Soifer, The Myths of Narasimha and V¯ mana: Two Avatars in Cosmo˙ a logical Perspective (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), pp. 128–129, etc. 266 J. Muir, op. cit., Part I, p. 10, note 23. The last line runs: p¯ dau sudr¯ h bhavant¯me a ´ ¯ a. ı vikramena kramena ca. . . 267 Thomas J. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 17. Also see p. 19: “It is said that by studying the Bh¯ gavata and reciting its stories the twice-born may obtain the goal of their respective a ´u classes, but a S¯ dra ‘may be purified from that which causes him to fall [i.e., the impurities of his caste]’ or ‘may obtain the highest status.’ The emphasis on the gains to be made by ´u S¯ dras is hardly accidental.” 268 Ibid., p. 20. 269 Avyaktopanisad 5. . 270 Brian K. Smith has drawn pointed attention to the fact of how homological and analogical structuring permeates the Vedas, the foundational scriptures of Hinduism (“The Veda and the Authority of Class: Reduplicating Structures of Veda and Varna in Ancient . Indian Texts” in Laurie L. Patton, ed., Authority, Anxiety, and Canon: Essays in Vedic Interpretation [Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994] pp. 67–93, especially see pp. 82–83.) From this perspective the linking of the anus. ubh metre with the .t sudra varna would constitute a natural extension of this scheme. It is worth noting that ´¯ . “direct equations between the Vedas and the varnas are usually not drawn” (ibid., p. 69, . emphasis added) which may account for the fact that, once the claim of the Mah¯ bh¯ rata a a to the status of the Veda was entertained, the association mentioned under item (1) the Vedas, would be more explicit within the tradition than the one mentioned in item (2), the varnas. . 271 I would like to thank Professor Michael Witzel for his critical comments on this paper. I am responsible for any remaining errors.

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