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Ontological Issues in Samhita

Shivdasani Seminar
OCHS Library
Dr Piyali Palit
Thursday, 13 November 2008 - 5:00pm

In Indian tradition, oral transmission of the Veda unfolds the mystery of perfect linguistic behaviour, i.e., maintaining formal contiguity of syllabic structures or ‘ekavakyata’ and thereby avoiding possibilities of ‘arthabheda’ or misunderstanding. Reasons for such linguistic structure have been well expressed in Taittiriya Aranyaka followed by the vedangas, namely, siksa, pratisakhya, vyakarana and nirukta. Illustrations in these texts reveal the fact that well-formed syllabic structures, learnt and pronounced in a fixed order, traditionally known as ‘krama’ or ‘anupurvi’ delivers the intended meaning as well as maintain the sanctity or authenticity of the Veda. Varna-s or aksara-s happen to be the micro units. On pronunciation in contiguity they form a string known as vakya, which also encases pada-s or short strings of varna-s. Formation of such syllabic strings has been noted as samhita, sandhi or santana in Taittiriiya Aaranyaka followed by Rk-pratisakhya and nirukta. In this context we may also quote the Panini-sutra– ‘parah sannikarsah samhita’. Paninian grammar expresses an algorithm of these syllabic forms in about 4000 sutra-s or operative rules composed as short strings. Narration of Mahesvara-sutra-s and discussions in Paspasha-kanda of the Mahabhasya distinctly expresses the motive and analytic mode of scanning sabda available in the Bhasa. While the Mahesvara-sutras display formal conjugation of varna-s, the vartika – ‘siddhe sabdarthasambandhe’ – brings forth nature of sabda, artha and their sambandha in contguity, which was presumably taken up by Bhartrhari on exposition of Paniniiya-darsana at a later stage (ref. Sad-darshanasamuccaya by Haribhadra Suri).

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