THE METRES AND THE SOCIAL POLITY
The Valuable Gayatri Hymn
In section 2-7-1 the teacher correlated the pranas with the syllable, him and the mind (manas) with nidhanam. In 2-11-1, he correlates the mind (manas) with him and the living beings (pranas) with nidhanam. He retains the correlation between vak and prastava, between chakshu and udgitha and between srotra and pratihara.
When the thinker (manas) is agitated and has to plead for freedom from mental agitation, Agni, the official who represents the scholars voices his plea. And it is chanted aloud by the observer and in response the Vedic scholar cites the relevant Gayatri hymn that carries the solution.
Thereupon the pranas, the unorganized commoners who have no other ambition than but to live endorse the solution that ends the mental agitation experienced by that thinker.
The Gayatri hymn is woven in the lives of these commoners who have no mundane desires. One who realizes this facet of the above hymn merges in such an unorganized commonalty and lives the full span of his life in a good way.
He becomes great and famous as he obtains praja, subjects and pasu, cattle-wealth. One should be a great and noble thinker (mahamana). He should be committed (vrata) to this procedure that is contained in the Gayatri chant (2-11-2). The unorganized commonalty responds favourably to the appeal of the great and noble thinker.
The Importance of the Rathantara Hymn
The teacher then correlates the different stages in the performance of a sacrifice with the five steps, him, prastava, udgitha, pratihara and nidhanam mentioned in the Rathantara hymn recited by the chief priest and scholar, Agni. One who knows this facet of the Rathantara chant recited by Agni (the civil judge who also represents the commonalty) becomes endowed with the proficiency (varchas) that is required of the jurist who is empowered to interpret the socio-political constitution, Brahma.
[It may be noted here that the translation of the expression, Brahmavarchas, as sacred wisdoms is imprecise and off the mark. Similarly, the translation as the light of Brahman is off the mark.]
One who knows this aspect and functions as the official scholar is entitled to accept the food offered at the sacrifice. He will live the full span of his life and well. He becomes great as he obtains subjects (praja) and cattle (pasu) and fame.One should not sip water or spit in the presence of this judicial officer, Agni. (2-12-1,2).
Vamadevya Chant and Sex
The teacher applies the procedure of five steps to sexual intercourse. The invitation to the woman is indicated in the syllable, him. The formal request to her is termed as prastava and the consent that leads to orgasm as udgitha and the act of intercourse as response or pratihara. The end of the intercourse is termed as nidhanam. These five steps are mentioned in the Vamadevya hymn (2-13-1).
One who knows this theme chants this hymn, enters into intercourse and procreates an offspring (praja) from his partner (mithuna). He lives the full span of life and well and becomes great in offspring and in cattle and becomes famous. The teacher advises that one should not despise women. He should take the vow to follow this procedure of intercourse (with consent and for the purpose of procreation) (2-13-2).
The Brhat Chant
The Brhat chant is based on the movement of the sun. Sunrise, forenoon, midday, afternoon and sunset are correlated to him, prastava, udgitha, pratihara and nidhanam respectively (2-14-1)
One who knows the implication of this procedure that is connected with the appeal to Aditya, becomes refulgent (tejasvi). He accepts the food offered in the sacrifice and lives the full span of his life and well and becomes famous as having offspring and cattle-wealth.
The teacher points out the rule (vrata) that one should not denounce Aditya because he is strict and scorches (tapa) (2). The teacher implies that the wide powers wielded by this Vedic official on behalf of the nobility and exercised almost ruthlessly should not be condemned.
The Vairupya Hymn and Restoration of Social Order
He then points out that the rains too may at times disturb life. The vapours are correlated to the stage of him, the formation of clouds to prastava, rains to that of udgitha, lightning and thunder to that of pratihara and the cessation of rain to nidhanam. The Vairupya hymn is connected with this imagery (2-15-1).
Vairupa indicated a formless society. One who knows this feature of the Vairupya hymn woven into the imagery of formation of clouds prior to its raining will conduct himself appropriately and acquire cattle.
This concept is connected with Virupa, that is, distorted form of social structure and the times when it pours heavily accompanied by lightning and thunder and normal life is severely disturbed. The cessation of rain and the springing of pleasant vegetation are described as pleasing orderly form (surupa) of social structure.
A ruler or even a commoner who knows this aspect will live the full span of life and well. He will be endowed with offspring and cattle-wealth and become famous. Hence one should not decry the (heavy) rains. They would cease and order would be restored. This is the rule mentioned in the Vairupya hymn (2).
Unless we unravel the allegories keeping in view concepts pertaining to sociology we would be confounded by the mysticism imported into the Upanishads by the commentators.
The Vairaja Chant and the Diffused State
The teacher correlates the seasons, spring, summer, rains, autumn and winter with the five stages, him, prastava, udgitha, pratihara and nidhana of the Vairaja chant.
Vairupa was a concept connected with social structure while Vairaja was connected with the state. The former indicated a diffused society and the latter a state with its powers diffused. [The two concepts were often related to the western regions.]
One, who knows this feature of a diffused state being compared to the seasons that follow one another inevitably, is fit to become its head, Viraj, the head of a circle of five states. The heads of these states occupied the position of Viraj in rotation. He becomes the ruler of all the subjects (prajas) of the circle of five states and its cattle-wealth (pasu).
He lives the full span of his life and well and becomes great and famous as the ruler of the people and the owner of cattle.
The teacher points out that everyone should take the vow not to denounce the Viraj (and his federal state) (2-16-1,2). Virupa, distorted form of society, is not a concept related with Viraj, federal state.
The Sakvari Chant and Unity of the Different Social Worlds
The Sakvari (metre and) chant was used to describe the relations among the different social worlds (lokas). The social world of commoners (prthvi) is correlated to the syllable, him. That is, the commoners express through that syllable their discomforts.
The sages of the frontier society of forests and mountains (antariksham) put forth the plea of the commoners in the prologue, prastava, of this chant. The patriciate (dyau) chant aloud (udgitha) their plea to the superior powers (like the Viraj).
The people in the different directions (disa), that is, the people of the four regions, which are subordinate to the centrally located Viraj, respond to this appeal in the pratihara section of the chant.
The concluding lines, which pacify the people in discomfort, are compared to the edict with the royal seal (sa-mudra) that removes their sorrows. [It is not sound to interpret the term, samudra, as ocean.] (2-17-1).
One who knows that the Sakvari chant is intimately connected with the concept of distinct but interacting social worlds will be able to influence and enjoy the support of all these social worlds. He will live the full span of his life and well and will be great and famous through his subjects and cattle-wealth. This chant directs that one should be particular that he does not denounce (any of) the social worlds (lokas). (2-17-2)
[The translation of this passage as: One who knows these verses of the Sakvari chant as woven on the worlds (lokas), reaches a full length of life, lives well, becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in fame. One should not decry the worlds. That is the rule fails to note that these chants were connected with the instructions that were given to the scholars engaged in administration of the social polity.]
The Revati Chant and Cattle-wealth
The Revati chant is connected with the animals (pasu). The goats, sheep, cows and horses are correlated to the steps, him, prastava, udgitha and pratihara. Their controller and herdsman, 'purusha', is correlated to the stage of nidhana, quietude (18-1).
[The translation of this passage as: The goats are the syllable, him, the sheep are the prastava, the cows are the udgitha, the horses are the pratihara and the human being is the nidhana. These are the verses of the Revati chant woven on the animals is too simplistic to be accepted.]
One who knows this implication of the Revati chant will come to possess these animals. He will live the full span of life and well and will become great and famous through his subjects and cattle. Hence one should be particular that he does not treat the animals as an unnecessary burden (2).
The Revati Chant and Cattle-wealth
The Revati chant is connected with the animals (pasu). The goats, sheep, cows and horses are correlated to the steps, him, prastava, udgitha and pratihara. Their controller and herdsman, 'purusha', is correlated to the stage of nidhana, quietude (18-1).
One (a ruler who performs this sacrifice and gives up these profane parts of his physical self) who knows this aspect of the yajna-ayajniya chant is endowed with the organs (angas) (essential for the state). They would be without structural defects.
He would live the full span of life and well and would become great and famous as one having many subjects and large cattle-wealth. One should not eat the marrow of the bone, that is, should ensure that the marrow of his bone is not affected by consumption and that he is physically and hence mentally strong (2-19-1,2).
The Rajana Chant and the Chief of the Other Society
The ruler (rajan) who has the status of a devata (which is marginally lower than that of an aristocrat, deva) is asked to note that what the official designated as Agnipronounces is an expression of the discomforts experienced by the commonalty.
Him reflects this expression. Vayu, the official in charge of the open areas presents this in the prelude, prastava, of the appeal addressed to the nobles of the other society (devatas). Aditya, the head of the executive (kshatra) functioning under the nobles, chants it aloud (udgitha).
The wealthy persons, who do not belong to the executive, (na-kshatra), respond to this appeal (pratihara) on behalf of the intellectuals of the forests (represented by Chandra or Soma) and satisfy them (nidhana) (2-20-1).
[The translation of this passage as: Fire is the syllable, him. Air is the prastava. Sun is the udgitha. Stars are the pratihara and moon is the nidhana. This is the Rajana chant woven on the divinities, indicates gross ignorance about the purpose of these hymns and the features of the Vedic social polity.]
A ruler who knows and follows the procedure connected with the Rajana chant addressed to the devatas, rises to become a member of that cadre (loka), is disarmed (arshtita) and is treated as united with them in status. The powerful and rich ruler gives up cruel methods of governance. [The term, devatas, is not to be translated as divinities.] Such a ruler becomes popular and lives a long life and well and has many subjects and large cattle-wealth (2-20-2).
[The comment that he is lifted to the region of the deity whom he has loved and worshipped during life is unwarranted. Similarly, the remark that salvation consists not in absorption with the Absolute or assimilation to God but in getting near His presence and participating in His glory, is totally irrelevant here. This chant has nothing to do with Brahmans.]
Samaveda covering all disciplines of study, Sarva Vidya
The three disciplines of study, vidyas (Vedas, Varta and Dandaniti, humanities, economics and political policy) arouse the people to express their discomforts in the sound and syllable, him.
The three social worlds (lokas) (commonalty, frontier society and nobility) thereupon put forth their appeal (prastava) on behalf of the educated people in distress in the prelude of the Vedic hymn.
This appeal is chanted aloud by Agni, Vayu and Aditya, the officials in charge of these three social worlds (prthvi, antariksham or akasa and divam, commonalty, frontier society and patriciate).
The response (pratihara) to their appeal is what the nakshatras, rich persons (who are not connected with the executive), the sections of the population who are floating like the birds and those persons who exercise pleasant hypnotic influence (marica) over all voice. They speak (also) on behalf of the industrial proletariat (sarpas), the free intellectuals-cum-adventurers (gandharvas) and the retired elders (pitaras many of whom were former feudal lords, asuras).
The discomforts had been brought to the notice of these cadres who did not live as communities and give them solace (nidhanam). This aspect is implicit in all Samaveda hymns (2-21-1).
[The transliteration of this passage as: The threefold knowledge is the syllable, him. The three worlds here are the prastava. Fire, air and sun are the udgitha. Stars, birds and the light rays are the pratihara. Serpents, gandharvas and the fathers are the nidhana. This is the chant as woven in all carries no sense for the editor has failed to grasp the features of the Vedic social polity.]
One who recognizes this aspect of the Samaveda chant becomes pervaded by all sections of the population and represents all of them. The teacher draws attention to a verse that refers to the five steps (panchadha, as mentioned above) of the three triple sectors of the larger society.
He was referring to the concepts of three sectors of the scholars, social, economic and political (vidyas), three organized social worlds (lokas) and three unorganized fluid social universes (jagats). He asserts that there is nothing else that is greater than these aspects.
One who knows these aspects as incorporated in the Samaveda is considered to have mastery over all sections of the population. People come from all directions with gifts to honour him. The teacher advises this leader to realize that he is the representative of all sections of the population and has to be committed to the welfare of all of them (21-2 to 4).
The teacher expected the new ruler to bear in mind that he has to look after all social groups and be versed in all fields of study. This ruler is different from the ruler of the Atharvan polity who was known for his aggressiveness, rajas, and was elected by rajanyas.
How to Chant the Samaveda Hymns
The teacher then tells his students how to chant the Samaveda hymns.
He chose the high-sounding (vinardi) Saman while he cautioned against the cattle wandering off. He chose the loud upward chant (udgitha) while addressing Agni, the civil judge and head of the council of scholars of the core society.He preferred to be correct in etymology while addressing Soma, the sober representative of the intellectuals of the forests. He was vague, while addressing the chief of the people (Prajapati).
He would be soft and smooth, while addressing Vayu, the chief of the open areas. He would be smooth and strong (balavad) while addressing Indra, the chief of the patriciate. He would be plaintive like the (injured) heron (krauncha) while addressing Brhaspati, the chief of the commonalty. [Note the variations in note.]
Any address to Varuna, the official who could take into custody those who had failed to discharge their debts would sound ominous. The teacher advises his students to avoid Varuna hymns. (2-22-1)
[The transliteration, Let one practise all these but one should avoid that belonging to Varuna is imprecise.]
The teacher advises the trainee to pray while singing the Sama hymns that the nobles (devas) should be endowed with high culture (amrtatva, immortality in common parlance). In his prayers to the elders and the souls of the departed ancestors (pitrs) he should offer oblations (svaddha).
While praying for the welfare of the commoners (manushyas), he should highlight their aspirations and in the case of animals (pasu) he should attend to their need for grass and water.
He should pray that the sacrificer, for whom he officiates as a priest, should find a place in the social world of the nobles (svarga loka). For himself he should ask only for food (anna). Keeping these in mind the priest should sing the praises carefully (2-22-2).
The trainees were expected to guide the administrators and should know their duties to the different sections of the agro-pastoral core society. The teacher says that strong vowels may be used while invoking Indra and sibilants while invoking the Prajapati.
All consonants may be used while the trainee addresses the commoners who belong to the insentient sections (mrtyu, mortals in common parlance) of the society. If any one found fault with the trainee for wrong use of these the trainee may point out that he had taken refuge under Indra, Prajapati and Mrtyu (Vedic officials) and that the former had no right to pull him up (2-22-3,4).
All the vowels should be pronounced resonant and strong implying that he desired to strengthen the hands of Indra. All the sibilants should be expressed clearly without elision as he was submitting himself to the authority of the Prajapati. He should pronounce all the consonants clearly without merging them together. Then only he would be able to keep away from being subordinate to Mrtyu (5).
The teacher was dealing with the situation where the dominant governing elite of nobles had Indra at its head and the Prajapati was the head of the council of elders who were gentle and considerate.
Mrtyu rather than Agni controlled the commonalty and the latter were not bold enough to speak out to this official who unlike Agni was not a civil judge and was only a magistrate who handed out punishment to silence the masses. The term, Mrtyu, is not to be interpreted as signifying the God of Death.
Three Aspects of Dharma
Then the teacher draws attention of the trainee to the three sections or branches of his duty (dharma), sacrifice (yajna), study (adhyayanam) and offering gifts (danam). He points out that performance of tapas is correlated to performance of sacrifice, the first of the three duties.
In other words, the trainee might officiate as a priest and perform sacrifices, yajna, or be engaged alone in tapas.The Upanishad does not consider it necessary to introduce performance of tapas (severe exertion to discover or create something new) as a duty distinct from yajna. Both have the same social, academic and personal goals. This stand has come to stay and the stress placed on tapas by the school of Karmayoga has later been ignored.
The second duty requires that he should stay in the residence of his teacher as a brahmachari. Married persons were not allowed to stay in the residence of their teachers. The third duty required that when he stayed in the residence of his teacher he should exercise rigorous personal control.
By performing these duties (sacrifice, study and generosity) the trainee could join the cadre of the virtuous (punya), especially those who were described as punya-loka (vidyadharas, tapasas, vipras, siddhas etc.).
One who attains the status of a highly educated and impartial jurist (brahma-samstha) is entitled to become a member of the cultural aristocracy (amrtatvam) (2-23-1).
The Three Social Worlds, the Three Studies and Aum
The teacher told his students that the chief of the people (Prajapati) was engaged in the highly strenuous task of organizing the social worlds (lokas). While thinking about and organizing them he recommended the adoption of the rules suggested in the three disciplines of study (three vidyas, the three Vedas, Varta and Dandaniti, humanities, science of economic occupations and political science).
While reflecting on the contents of the three sciences, socio-cultural, economic and political, he put forth the concept of three social worlds (lokas) as meant by the three syllables, bhu, bhuva and sva. These referred to prthvi, antariksham and divam, commonalty, frontier society and patriciate respectively. These are not to be referred to as earth, atmosphere and sky.
[The translation of this passage as: Prajapati brooded on the worlds. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth the threefold knowledge. He brooded on this. From it, thus brooded upon, issued forth these syllables, bhu, bhuva, sva is inane.] (2-23-2)
While reflecting on and organizing the three social worlds and drafting the codes on the basis of the three disciplines of study, he put forth the concept of aum (aumkara).
The teacher emphasizes that the syllable, aum, stands for all these, all the three social worlds and all the three sciences (2-23-3).
Benefits of honouring different Officials and Cadres
Then he tells his students who were being trained in priesthood what specific rewards they and those who offered sacrifice would get by offering oblations to different officials and cadres.
The ideologues-cum-activists (Brahmavadis) who adhered to the socio-political constitution outlined in Brahma (Atharvaveda) held that the offerings made in the morning belonged to the Vasus, one of the four traditional cadres of nobles. These Vasus owned all property including cattle. What was offered at noon belonged to the Rudras and what was offered in the evening went to Adityas and Visvedevas.
[It may be noted that the sages who drafted the Upanishads had ceased to hold the Maruts in honour. Visvedevas were the new cadres of social leaders who had risen from the upper stratum of the commonalty.] (2-24-1).
[The translation of the term, Brahmavadis, as the expounders of sacred wisdom is imprecise. They were distinct from Brahmarshis who expounded the Truth.]
Those who are in possession of wealth, that is Vasus and Visvedevas, and those who exercise social and political power, that is, Rudras and Adityas, are to be the recipients of these offerings made thrice a day.
If so, who are considered to have been rich enough and hence required to perform the prescribed sacrifices? To which social cadre (loka) do they belong?
If the person who sacrifices does not know the answer to this enigmatic query how can he perform sacrifice? Has he to offer the oblations or receive the oblations offered?(2-24-2).
[The comment that this statement raises the issue whether one who is ignorant of the purpose of the sacrifice is eligible to perform that sacrifice is unsound.]
Before commencing the morning litany, the host at the sacrifice sits behind the (permanent) domestic fire (garhapatya), facing north and sings the Samaveda chants addressing the Vasus (2-24-3).
This rich host at the sacrifice asks for the opening of the door of the social world of nobility (loka-dvaram) so that he and his companions might see them and get permission to enjoy, exercise on their behalf their (sovereign) powers (rajyaya) as rich nobles (2-24-4).
He drops his offering in Agni (the garhapatya fire) who dwells in the social world (loka) of agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi).
It needs to be recognized that this Upanishad deals with a social system, which prevailed when Agni, the representative of the commonalty, did not belong to the cadre of Brahmans or to the nobility, Devas, and Agni rather than Brhaspati represented the commonalty, especially the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry, Prthvi.
The priest, the Atharvan ideologue, prays that he, the host at the sacrifice, might gain (vinda) control over that social world (loka) and join the cadre of those who have offered their possessions in sacrifice (24-5).
The teacher explains that the host who sacrifices would join the cadre of Vasus after his present life. He prays that the bolt of the door be removed as he has performed the sacrifice and is ready to enter that cadre. Then he rises up from his seat in front of the domestic (garhapatya) fire.
His offerings are accepted and his request is conceded by the Vasus, the cadre of nobles who are to be prayed to in the morning (2-24-6). The Vasus were in charge of the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi).
[The translation, The sacrificer will go there after life. Hail, take away the bolt. Having said this, he rises. For him the Vasus fulfill the morning offering misses the above note.]
Before commencing the mid-day offerings, the host at the sacrifice sits behind the agnidhriya fire, facing north and chants the Saman hymns that praise and invoke the Rudras. The host addresses Vayu, the official in charge of the social world of the distant open areas (antariksham). (2-24-7)
The sacrificer seeks the support of Vayu in gaining control over that social world or frontier society which is operated on the basis of vairajyam or diffusion of powers to the lowest units. He prays that he might join the cadre (loka) of those who have offered their possessions in sacrifice (2-24-8).
The teacher explains that the 'sacrificer' would be counted as one eligible to join the ranks of that cadre after his present membership of the commonalty is over (2-24-9).
The translation of this passage as: Then he makes the offering reciting Adoration to Air, who dwells in the sky and dwells in the world. Obtain the world for me, the sacrificer. To this world of the sacrificer I will go, fails to convey the objective of this ritual.
Then the sacrificer calls for removing the bolt of the entrance to the social world of the nobility and rises from his seat in front of the agnidhriya fire. The Rudras accept his offerings and concede his prayer for admission to the ranks of the nobles (2-24-10). [The agnidhriya fire was known also as dakshina fire.]
The Rudras looked after the interests of the frontier industrial society of the forests and mountains (antariksham).
[The social system, which this Upanishad deals with, had Vayu rather than Soma representing the frontier society. It was not different from the society of the open moors, which were under the control of the Maruts and Vayu.]
Before commencing the third offering of the day (the offering to be made in the evening), the sacrificer sits behind the ahavaniya fire, facing the north. He sings the Sama chants addressing the Adityas and the Visvedevas (24-11).
The sacrificer requests the Adityas and Visvedevas to open the door so that he might see them and seek their approval for the exercise of influence (rajyam) characteristic of the social world of nobles (sva). The patriciate to which the Adityas belong enjoyed total autonomy (svarajyam) and no individual amongst them could control another (12).
In the case of hymns addressed to the Visvedevas, the new nobles who had risen from the upper stratum of the larger commonalty, the prayer is for obtaining the power characteristic of an overlord (samrajya) (2-24-13)
[The samrat was the highest arbitrator in the disputes among groups and local governments. Modern commentators and even those of the medieval times had failed to distinguish among the terms, rajyam, vairajyam, svarajyam and samrajyam, which were important socio-political concepts of the Vedic times.]
Then the sacrificer pays his respect to the Adityas and Visvedevas who dwell in exclusive urban enclaves, 'devaloka (that is, are members of the social world of nobles, divam) and prays to them to enable him to gain the status of nobles.
They concede his prayer.He becomes eligible to be included in the ranks of those who have performed sacrifice.
He would however join that cadre only after his present career as a householder performing his duties comes to an end. He calls for lifting of the bolt of the gate by which he might enter the world of the nobles.Then he rises from his seat in front of the ahavaniya fire. The Adityas and Visvedevas fulfill the purpose that he had when he performed his third offering (in the evening).
One who knows the entire procedure and purposes of these sacrifices including who and when they are to be addressed is said to have known how to officiate at these sacrifices (2-24-14,15,16).
These three sacrifices were popular among the Gandharvas who were known as blessed people (punya-jana). They had no personal property earlier.
Only after they performed these three sacrifices, that is, consented to honour the rules applicable to the three social worlds (prthvi, antariksham and divam,) that were guided by the Vasus, Rudras and Adityas and Visvedevas, they were declared to be eligible to set up homes and have households.
This practice was later permitted for and adopted by the free men, naras, who too did not have till then personal property or live as families and were hence unable to perform sacrifices.