[Advaita-l] Chronology and Traceability

jaldhar at braincells.com jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Jun 19 02:49:44 EDT 2021

On Thu, 17 Jun 2021, Anand N via Advaita-l wrote:

> So, that would imply that some Rishi had the vision of Ayyapa, through
> which the tradition of
> Ayyapa came along. This was then accepted into the vedic fold.

The Mimmsakas thought about this topic.  The canonical example is not 
Ayyapa or saptamatrkas but Holi.  As you probably know Holi is a very 
popular festival in Northern India.  However it does not seem to be 
mentioned in Shruti or Smrti.  The question is, is it Dharmik?  Kumarila 
Bhatta answers that we see that learned Veda-knowing Brahmanas also 
observe Holi.  As they live their lives strictly in conformance with 
dharma, they woul not do this if Holi was not part of that dharma.  They 
must be recollecting some portion of the Veda that is no longer extant. 
(It was known even then that there many more shakhas than were currently 
practiced which had gone extinct.)

> There is however one thing nagging me here. There are several Non Vedic 
> Gods in the Indian and outside the Indian context. There is also a 
> tendency to take the "Gramadevata" and sanskritize and vedicize him. So 
> it's not very clear to me how this can be accounted for.

What does it mean to be "Vedic" or "non-Vedic".  Obviously there must be 
some limit but the mistake is often made to assume a homogeneity which is 
unwarranted.  Look at how diverse Hinduism is today.  What logical reason 
is there to believe it was less diverse at any other point in time?

Have you ever wondered why the vedanga kalpa consists of Shrauta and Grhya 
sutras which are often by the same authors and overlap in content?  The 
simplest answer in my opinion is they were addressed to different classes 
of people.  The shrauta yagnas which require from 4 - 16 priests and 
elaborate materials would only have been observed by the richer segments 
of society, kings and the like.  Even the most basic shrauta ritual, the 
daily agnihotra, takes a substantial commitment.  The grhya rites on the 
other hand only need one priest or in many cases can be done by the 
grhastha himself if he knows how.  Although it is the shrauta agnihotra, 
ishti, somayajna etc. which are most often mentioned, that is because they 
are archetypes for other karmas.  Although they had more practioners than 
they do now, there is no evidence to assume that shrautis were anything 
like a majority of Brahmanas (let alone other castes) at any point in 
Indian history.

There is a third type of kalpa sutra too; the vidhanas though even most 
vaidikas are unfamiliar with them.  The vidhanas use mantras from the 
shakha they belong too not for yajnas, pujas etc. but "magic spells."  It 
is more well-known that the Atharveda also has this sort of material and 
it is scattered elsewhere in the Vedic corpus too.  For instance even the 
brhadarnyakopanishad has a mantra and procedure for compelling a woman to 
love you.  Doesn't this sound like tantra?  In fact the editor and 
translator of te Rgvidhana titled his book "Vedic Tantrism."  Isn't is 
reasonable to assume that tantra has its root in Vedic religion of the 
Atharvanic sort?  If you restrict your conception of Vedic religion to 
only the yajnas you might not realize that.

Another example.  Previously on this list we have discussed the shrauta 
yajna called tryambakeshti.  In this ceremony, the fires are taken out of 
the yajnabhumi to a crossroads. There the yajamana and his sons and 
grandsons after performing the ishti do pradakshina around the fires while 
the priests recite the first kandika of mrtunjaya mantra.  Then the kanyas 
dance around the fires while the second kandika is recited in order to 
find good husbands.  The name of Rudra used here Tryambaka is commonly 
said to mean "the one with three eyes" but is said here to mean "the one 
with three Ambas." Amba is said to be the sister of Rudra along with 
Ambika, and Ambalika who are mentioned elsewhere.  When I first learned 
about this I was reminded of the traditional Gujarati garba dance which is 
performed at Navaratri chiefly for Goddess Amba and chiefly by women.  Is 
there a connection?  It's hard to say definitively because Garbaa is 
"folk" religion passed down since time immemorial from mothers to 
daughters and not written down until recently but It does not seem too 
implausible to me that women of today "recollect" a tradition may have had 
its origins in Vedic rites such as tryambakeshti.  Customs about 
crossroads also survive to this day.  In tantra they are said to be 
powerful places for practicing rituals to gain siddhis and the same was 
believed in Greek and Norse religions too amongst others.  India kept the 
Vedic religion in its purity but in Europe after Christianity came along 
the old religions were surpressed and said to be devilish.  But the idea 
that you could make a bargain with the devil at a crossroads continued in 
the folklore of the people even if the church did not approve.  [2] is a 
modern song about this by the rock group Cream originally written by the 
African-American bluesman Robert Johnson.  There was a legend about 
Johnson that he had achieved his guitar-playing talent by such a pact with 
the devil.

In summary, the concept "Vedic" is older and more widespread than the 
boundaries we give it at present the only problem being with a paucity of 
evidence we can only guess at exactly how much older and widespread.

n Thu, 17 Jun 2021, Raghav Kumar Dwivedula via Advaita-l wrote:

> Most of the graama devatas are placeable in the vedic devatas scheme. Sri
> Krishna mentioned the grama devatas like the (sapta) mAtR gaNa devatas,
> chatur-bhaginIs etc. in gItA 9.24.

Strictly speaking Krishna Bhagavan does not mention them but 
Shankaracharya gives them as examples of the kind of tamasik worship 
Krishna Bhagavan is talking about in that shloka.  And they are not 
mentioned at random.  Vinayaka saptamatrkas and chaturbhaginis are part of 
the Pashchima amnaya of the Kaula tantras.  There are five amnayas 
corresponding to the five heads of Bhagavan Sadashiva who originally spoke 
all the tantras.  Shrividya which is the Dakshina amnaya is fully 
compatible with Vedic dharma but this Paschima amnaya was vamachari and 
nastika.  Nowadays it is thankfully extinct (manuscripts of a few of its 
tantras have discovered in Nepal recently and published) but it was once 
popular all over India.  Which is more "authentic" Pashchima kaulism or 
Dakshina Kaulism?  Looked at in this light, when  Shankaracharya or his 
successors "vedicise" e.g. the worship of saptamatrkas, is it really 
"conversion" or can we think of it as a lateral move to a mode of worship 
which is compatible and indeed may have been an even earlier form?

[1] see https://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2017-March/044786.html
and https://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2020-October/055715.html

[2] https://youtu.be/PE9HvSdcaL4

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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