“Vedic Songs: Technology Without Machine”

18

VEDIC SONGS: TECHNOLOGY MACHINE
DEBAPRASAD BANDYOPADHYAY

WITHOUT

ABSTRACT
This paper tries to show the preservation of samasongs by deploying different techniques without using any machine. On the other band, it also focuses on the Sanskritization, another regulatory technique, of such songs that yielded reduction of melodies in the Vedic hymns. This reduction abruptly outcasted some songs and they are classified as graamageya, songs sung in the village. Thus the Vedic songs contain only three svaras: ga, re, sa instead of six svaras of original samasongs. This paper will compare these two categories of songs and their notations with reference to the social technique and control within the scope or socio-phonolcgy,

18.1 Introduction The aim of the paper is to examine the technology, the word derived from techne and logos in Greek as they origin-ally mean in the context of language or speech. This techne is deploy ~d without any help of prototypical machine as it is found in industrialized society. I will here emphasize on two types of technc=: first, in the Foucauldian sense of the term, by which regulatory 'practice is possible by deploying dividing practices of distingui: lring high and low; furthermore technology of controlling and preserving ever-changing speech by using linguistic devices. My object of investigation is the Vedic songs composed almost 3000 or 3500 years ago in a socalled oral stage of the history. The techniques adopted by the Vedic people for preserving their language show us a crucial thing which according to Derrida, " ... [t]he peoples said to be "without writing" lack only a certain type of writing. To refuse the name of writing to this or that technique of consignment is the 257

Debaprasad

Bandyopadhyaj

'ethnocentrism (Deni.da,1976:83) similar archewriting, S·aussurian Grammatology.

that best defines the pre-scientific alphabetic writing

\ isim: 111 m.rn

and gruatna antithetically
Ihd

establish the dichotomous i.e., centre

relation hct \\CL:11

Derrida argued for other techniques and
St'lIP

or \\Iilllll'
'Vl'11

nagara,

'city'

and arablya, graama,

and pcriphcr
relation.

to Eurocentric sense

1111

II
III

relation or empire-colony

relation or dominator-dominated

which is also a mode of reprcscuuruun of the term within

Illd

The fixation and codification of a certain variety was partially due to the attempt to orally preserve ritualistic subsequent purpose by deploying of Vedic songs for Brahminical techniques of speech, viz. and its different

the

18.2

Vedic Corpus and its Investigutlnn
The problem with the investigation

siksaa, 'ancient
Vl III
I "11\1 I

Indian phonetics',

praatisaakhya tradition

technique

samhitapaaTha, method of recitation and

in III

the compositions composed almost

which we have

today ill written
throuuh n Jon 14'
(10
ell

I1IIII

II

I

and orally transmitted

l'

III I

I

500 years starting

from 120() 1\ ('

padapaalha, method of analyzing language at the atomic level. These attempts led to the hymns being chanted in only three svaras vis a vis at least six svaras of graamageya (G) and arablyageya (A) songs of the saamaveda. The remnants of the techniques used in A
and G are somehow philologically preserved in the naradisiksaa, an almost forgotten part of

siksaa or phonetics devoted to music

that is also ignored by the philologist. common

the ItI.'I 'III II IIll interlanguages, we face a further problen: \ h~'11 lit rkveda is represented in a different way iII til
metaname for
I

1B.2.1 Chronological
The immediate

Order of Saamaveda
question which of haunts us is: which one

is

chronologically
employed by

saamaveda or rkveda? Without linguistically deciding the answer I will scrutinize different techniques
earlier? Language in these two Vedas. One is chandas techniqc developed

'songs

sung

in the

forest'.

The

term

gl'{llllllO 4

III 11111 I

graamageya indicates the existence of a-graamu OJ' IIt11!r/l village or urban society and thus the term was pr 'SlIlIl,d I
after the second standardize a variety subsumption found in urbanization, when attempts
WL:I . III III I

rkpraatisaakhyas and another one is simple musicking,

I
1J

o

a variety (2) stylize a variety (3) codify

a

V:II

il'l . r I, I
III I

Saamaveda, an anthology or collection of songs supposed hI be taken from the other Vedas. There are 1810 psalms, out of which 1735 psalms are taken from the tkveda'« eighth and ninth /IIUnn.dd
and the rest 75 psalms are from the other two Vedas. However, language and arrangements other Vedas. Long ago Winternitz(1927) noticed the primitiveness Echoing of the of the songs are not the same as the

(5) appropriate

other varieties
speech

by way 01 It • technology
fixil1.'
il

and also by deploying

II

padapaaTha. To sum up: the process of
the

111 I II

also included the process of Sanskritization by subscribing a P,1I1111l1.11 variety, perhaps

udicya or madhyadesiiya variety. The
258

III 01 , I

saamasongs on the basis of the contents.
259

his comments

dl~ ''II

I

1,"1·1.

\

IIhllll

,I I I

Chattopadhyay

(1981) also suggested that the songs

V.~IC

composed

in remote past. The magico-ritual elements the bowl i ng sounds or shouts of joy or stobhas, etc., in the saamasongs prove that these are earlier compositions and these are pre-brahminical in their nature,
However, corrupted consider Brahmans introducing heterogeneity via koinization of social form the common of earlier belief is that the language of the of A and

01 til' rhecla with their urious 1111 odl ·s ... l as they arc found in the saatnavcda. So the priestly commune (Brahmins) economized or reduced the melodies from six svaraas Lo
I11Cl1l()fI/,e l'W!1I1S

,Ill' larue

only three troublesome

svaraas with an aim to memorize by means of recitation
permutations and combinations of the six svarss. These that had a Pre-

and in this way they got rid of the labour of having to sing with the three svaraas had the nearest affinity with the protolanguage only two accents. obstruction Furthermore, the new norm X, actually Sanskrit form, that was superimposed

G, two aarcika parts of the saamasongs
language the possibility who developed a standardized of an intervention techniques medium that

are the deviated

and

rk. Very few people
from the part of the the songs handle by the could

to preserve

on these primitive songs caused

in singing

in the same melody of age-old This also helped

saamasongs.
to codify the

of large corpus and serve the purpose of the relay nann according to the logic of the then formal elaboration Dasgupta, ] 993) and hierarchy(FESH,

(One thing interesting to note here is that in the Sanskrit drama, songs are in Maharastri, language not in Sanskrit).

process of Sanskritization, Let this selected variety by which the other forms arc translated and peripherialized be called X. This X was considered us
natural and authentic and depended on the supposed archaic language that was reconstructed the eve of second was composed and superimposed on the actual speech with

in such a way that the common people or outcasts could not comprehend the content of the song. The Brahmins, then the only priestly commune, had technically metamorphosed thoge songs as
poem. Thus secrecy also played a role for these ritualistic songs. The term labour is important here as these primitive songs were the production of, as Chattopadhyay (1981 :98) pointed out, the primitive labour processes of the early Vedic people. Labour needs technique and the technique is also a p811 of singing. The priestly commune, on the otherhand, was totally devoid of any labour. Labour was only in

a view to standardize and fix the oral text. This endeavour began at
urbanization by Saunaka and started synthesis through (600 B.C.) when by involving the translation

tkpraaiisaakhya

the rules of analysis

(padapaaTha)
codification reconstructed analytical

(samhitaapaaTha).

Thus, the
in L code

sudras

of Vedic text into a

domain and the secret knowledge of ritual is for the Brahmins who could enjoy their livelihood depending on the surplus taken from the labour of

H code and the songs which are composed procedures of

instantly branded as A and G. What is interesting to note here these

archewriting and their subsequent development in the VjaakaraNas were discarded in the T" C. A.D., when Bhartthari criticized these analytical procedures by calling them apoddhaara. Thus the non-formal poststructuralist tradition began in
India

The codification of rksamhita with the technology of praatisaakhyasuutras, devices constructed for preservation of orally
the other. transmitted superiority. subsumptions, protested primitive songs, proves the hegemonic culture that subsumed history, In the Indian coercive selving of of

Brahministic

other to prove their relative on can find such instances

e.g., dhrupad, once sung by the subalterns of Gowalior its entry as dhrupad was not

18.2.2 Origin of Vedic Songs
By using these two techniques, 260 it was very difficult
to

now it is considered as classic after it was sponsored by Akbar and was by Abul Fazal regarding 261

Oebaprasad

8andyopadhyay

Vedrc Snn!l~

Icdllll,I""

,,,lh,,ul

1\1.,.11111"

considered as Saastriiya. Tappa was also an invention of the camel riders and Thumri was sung by the female homemakers of Lucknow. However, in the Brahminical culture the rich melody of saamasong was banned. In the case of ritualistic recitation of Vedic songs, the melodies of saaman were prohibited. Priestly community did not indulge to hear ~elodies of saamasongs, as Winternitz(1927: 168) noted from the evidence of legal.literature. Now, we may be curious to know, how, then, some six hundred A and G songs could manage to preserve their existence escaping and avoiding the process of subsumption, appropriation as well as Sanskritization, even they were marginalized or peripherialized? The second question is: why is it not other way round? Was it not a case of appropriation on the part of saamasingers who had modified the rk-hymns [or the sake of
.. smgmg.?

preserved by some marginalized groups only and S(l(//IIlI.\(I/I}.~' not have a homogenous pronunciation throughout India.

tI\)

-

It is also noticed, especially in the works of 1.hornson Lind Small concerning Ancient Greek Society and Afro-American society respectively, the quality of singing is a very primitive characteristic generally found in almost every so-called savage society. This is also true for the saamasongs, which was institutionally replaced by the introduction of recitations. The content, language and rnusicking of saamasong trigger their earliest existence.

18.2.3 Problem of Chronological Order
However, this reshuflling in the chronological order may create some problems. The major problem will be philological one. The genealogical derivation from one stage to another by considering the language of the rkveda as original and authentic is not an easy task. One should also make a provision for contamination occurred in the later stage at 600 B. C. From the perspective of Discourse Reception Theory, the donor-receptor relationship between these two varieties and other varieties is also to be considered. X , as a receptor, borrowed many linguistic elements from the earlier phase and from the oth~r varieties as well to establish a relay norm, the instance of which is preserved in the tenth manliala of the tkveda. On the other hand, as a medium of singing, Saamaveda in its different local saakhas or branches preserved the spoken form with modifications for the sake of singing. It was not a donor language, even not a receptor of the nann, but it bore the marks of contamination from the Pre-Sanskritic norm, It was rather a discourse of singing performances. However, rkpraatisaakhya considered it as a vikaara, corrupted form of the authentic X code. The belief is that Saamaveda, as a receptor, employed following mechanisms to adopt rk hymns to music: (a) vikaara (changing pronunciation of sigh .words) (b) visleSaNa

These two questions can be answered simultaneously. l'he obligatory traditional position of the saamasingers in the Vedic ritual barred the possibility of such direct exclusion despite the legal prohibitions as noticed by Wintemitz (ibid) and Prajnananda (1987) by the rulers. Furthermore, it is noticed from several works on music, that every human being has an innate capacity for singing like the capacity of speaking. From Herbert Spencer, Rabindranath Tagore to Christopher Small emphasized this primitive and basic capacity 0 Homo Sapiens. Small, in his epoch making book Music of the Common Tongue, added that this very capacity of singing or musicking is obstructed, controlled and appropriated by' the institutionalized education. The institutionalization of Vedic rituals at the hand of priests in the eve of second urbanization and the proliferation of different mechanical techniques to control Vedic speech for preserving theirs supposed authenticity engendered the extinction of songs and glorification of recitation. Even then, the saamasongs were

262

263

Debaprasad

Bandyopadhyay

Vedic Songs: Technology wuhout Machine

in the padapaaTha) (c) vikarSaNa (inserting lengthened or plutasvaras between split up syllables of a word) (d) abhyaasa (repetitions), (e) viraama (splitting
(splitting the words apart, which was also found the succeeding word and joining its first syllable to the first syllable of . the preceding word before introducing a pause between the words) and deployed here are almost

gandharv as with some modifications in svaraas. Their songs were referred to as laukikagaana or folksongs vis a vis saastriiya and A-G songs.
notations of songs. The songs were also sung by the

18.4
ancient

Concluding
corpus.

Remarks
of the possibility of tackling our

(f) stobha (insertion of syllable not presented in the rksamhitay. What
is to be noted here is that the techniques same as those in padapaa'Iha and the other things were due to the special style of songs not of the ordinary speech.

This is my brief exploration However, remarks on tins problematic

I do not want to put any conclusive
area, rather

I want to explore problems that, 1 think, win elicit rethinking in this area.
References
Chattopadhyay, Chattcpadhyay, Debiprasad. Debiprasad. 1981. 1991.

I do not want to go into details of this reordering of the stages of language for the time being. I think it is better to consider it soc ilingui stically, Rather now, according to the theme of this paper I briefly represent the differences of melodies in recitation and singing
of the Vedic songs by using Indian technical terminologies.

!okaYOta.

Delhi:

People's

Publishing House.

History of science and technology in ancient India. Vol. I & II. Calcutta: Firma KLM The otherness of English. Delhi: Sage. 1. 1976 I 1994. Of grammatology (Tr. G.C. Spivak) Delhi prakritorup
(in BangIa) [The Prakrt

18.3

Vedic Songs and Indian Technical Terms
The

Pvt. Ltd. Dasgupta, P. 1993.

praatisaakhya tradition mainly developed their metrical phonology on the notes: gaa, re, saa which are respectively called as udaaua anudaatta, and svarita. Recitation of the rk was totally
dependent improvisation. higher. on this arc hewritten employed score with no question of Whereas, in the case of saamasongs, it is one note

Derrida

: Motilal Banarasidas. Mitra, R. 1984. bedOganer Mitra,

form of the Vedic songs]. Calcutta: Manisha,

R. 1993. prothom SamorOb (in Bangia)

[The first Sarna-

Saamasingers

maa, gaa, re, saa, dha I, new',

song]. Calcutta : Sangit Siksayatayan.

paa '. The last three svaraas are in the lower notes in relation to their consecutive higher notes. Singers sang saamasongs in avarohi or in a descending order. According to naaradiSiksa, the notes were
represented by numerals, which were referred to as samamka,

Mukhopadhyay,
[Collected Publication. Prajnanananda. Raychoudhuri, Sitar. Wintemitz,

D. P. 1987. dhurjotiprasad rOconbOii. (in Bangla)
Works of 1987.

D.P. Mukherji]

Vol.

III. Calcutta

: Dey's

bharOtio SONgiter

itiHaS. (in Bangia)
Vedantamath.

'santa-number', a method of archewriting. They are as follows: maa(l), gaa(2J, re(3), saa(4J, dha '(5), naa '(6), paa '(7). The seventh note or mandra pancama was not usually used in the songs.
These numbers were the convention 264 of ancient technique

[History of Indian Music] Calcutta: Ramakrishna

B. 1987. bharOtio SONgitkoS (in BangIa) [Encyclopaedia of Indian Music] Calcutta: Imdadkhani School of M. 1927. History of Indian li!erature. Calcutta.
265

of making

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