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The Final Knowledge
This work will come to a close with the important Taittiriya Upanishad which is a part of the Taittiriya Āranyaka, appearing in three parts as the seventh, eighth and ninth Prapataka, which go by the name Sikshā valli, Anandavalli and Brighu valli. They were also called by other names like the second one called as “Brahma Ānandavalli”. Yet another names for them are Samhitā, Yajna, and Vāruni vidyas, but the most popular one for the first one is Sikshā-valli, several hymns in the firsr part associated with a number of seers like Maha camasya, Rathitara, Pauru Sisthi, Nāka the son of Mudgala and finally Trisanku each emphasizing one or other aspect of discipline as for example Mahā-camasya emphasized Brahmam (Mahah), Rathitara emphasized Satyam, Paurusishti emphasized Tapas, and Naka emphasiseed Learning and teaching (svādhyaya and Pravacana). The sage Trisanku experienced that the I in the individual is like the life in the tree, the fame of it is like the peak of a hill, is extreme purity in existence; It is resplendent as the brightness of sun and the abode of truth in soul.” All these experiences of the sages are one and the same and that is the truth about Brahmam. Having taught this the teacher advices the student with a remarkable counseling
Then Taittirya Upanishad belongs to Taittiriya school of the Yajurveda,. It is divided into three sections called Vallis. The first is th Sikshā valli. Sikshā is th first anga-subject of the six Vedāngas (limbs or auxiliaries of the Vedas).The second is the Brahmānanda valli and the third is the Bhrigu valli. These two deal with the knowledge of the Supreme self -Parmātma Jnāna.” According to Sanskrit traditions the six limbs of the Vedic studies are the 1) Sikshā, 2)Vyakarana, 3)Chandas,4) Niruktam, 5)Jyostisahm, and 6) Kalpam. Thus Sikshā is the first and important limb of Vedic studies and relates to Phonetics, and Pronunciation. It begins with the statement “we now begin with explaining Sikshā: Varnas (letters) Svara, its strength, Mātrās, and their continuity and combination are the rhythmic recitation”.
Sikshām vyākhyāsyāmah; varnas svarah; mātra balam; sāma snathānam.
Radhakrishnan translates this passage as “We will expound pronunciation of letters or sounds, pitch quality, force or stress, articulation, and combination; This is called the section on Sikshā” According to this, the first lesson on Vedānga begins with the study of letters.
The most ancient Tamil Grammar Tolkāppiyam incidentally begins with “Eluttu” the letters. A study of this chapter shows Tolkāppiyar wrote his work when Brāhmi script had already come into vogue in Tamailnadu for he wrote about both the written script and phonetic sound. How Tolkāppiyam deals with the phonetic sounds is brilliantly analyzed by P.S.Subrahmanya Sastry, in his work “An Enquiry into the relationship of Snaskirt and Tamil, published by the University of Travancore, 1946, Chapter II. His following remarks are worth recalling at this point.
Many technical terms relating to Phonology, Morphology, Poetics and Prosody had already existed before his time and Tolkāppiyar should have made use of them. His text tells us not only this, but he has also made use of his knowledge of the Vedas Sikshās,the Prātisākhyas, the Nirukta, Sanskrit grammar, Sanskrit science of poetics, Dharma Sāstras, the Kāmasutra, the Artha sāstra etc. In the chapter on the production of Sound he refers to the four phases of speech sound Parā, Pasyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikahari mentioned in the Rg Veda and tells us that in his work he deals with only the last Vaikhari and those who wish to learn them from Antanar Marai (Vedas of the Brāhmins). Prof Sastri refers to Sutra 102 of Eluttatikāram of Tolkāppiyam.
Ellā eluttm ----
ahattelu vali isai ariltapa nādi alavir kodal Antanar maraitte” It is necessary to note that PS Sastri wrote when much inscriptional material especially about the script was not discovered. A large number of Brāhmi inscription have come to light in recent times and need to be studied in relation to Tolkāppiyam. The earliest inscriptions are found in Brāhmi script that may be ascribed to first cent BCE. As Tolkāppiyar mentions script he may be assigned to first cent CE. The following sutras of Tolkāppiyam refer to written script.
meyyin iyarkai pilliyodu nilayal ie. The natureof consonant is to appear with a dot.
Pulli illā ellā meyyum uru urvāki akaramaodu uyirttalum, enai uyirodu urupu tirindu uyirtalum āyir iyala uyirtal āre. All consonants without dot, appear with modifications to their forms except the syllable of the first varga like “ka” which has only its basic form without any change.
The graphic form of script is “Eluttu” in Tamil which is also used to denote its phonetic sound. So Naccinārkkiniyar, the commentator says that Eluttu stands for both written and phonetic form. “Elutap-paduvatālum eluppap-patuvatālum eluttu”. i.e Eluttu is so called because it is written and is also pronounced. The root “Elu means both raise (sound) and write/draw.
The Vedic Brāhmanas were obliged to serve as judges in village courts and that calls for a knowledge of Dharma Sāstras for him. 18 major Dharma Sāstras like that of Manu, Yajnya valkhya, Vasishta, Nārada, Brhaspati and others were available for study then. The Dharma sāstra insists on the written document for ownership rights and other transactions for deciding disputes. Similarly knowledge of Numerals and Arithmetic is required for all transactions like laying yaga kundas, construction of residences, trade, Royal treasury and administration, etc. The Vedic brāmhanas were to study both written script and numerals. They were also considered as effective ambassadors. When they learnt the Vedas, the knowledge of phonetics and pronunciation was necessary. There is a tradition of calling the Vedas “unwritten text” Elutākkilavi which some scholars mistook and wrote that (Vedic ) Brāhmanas were against written script. This Elutākkilavi applies only to the learning of Vedic texts and not against other subjects -vidyas like dharma sāstra, mathematics, astronomy, royal administration etc. There are three words in the Vedas namely Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Suvah which are used extensively in Vedic recitations and rituals. A certain Maharishi Cāmasya realized and introduced another Vyāhriti called “Mahah” as the fourth Vyāhritih. These terms had multiple layers of meaning given in the Upanishad itself. The meanings of each layer are:- a) Bhuh means earth Prithvi; bhuvah means space ākāsah; Suvah means the whole universe and Mahah means Aditya - sun. It is from Sun all beings grow b) Bhuh means Fire Agni; Bhuvah means Wind Vāyuh; Suvah means Sun and Mahah means Moon Chandramāh. It is from Moon all luminaries shine brightly. c) Bhuh means Rig veda; Bhuvah means Sāma veda; Suvah means Yajurveda and Mahah means Brahmam It is from Brahmam everything attain pre-eminence. d) Bhuh means vital breadth - Prānah, bhuvah means apāna out-breadth air vyāna diffused breadth and mahah means Annam food
These four Vyāhritis are explained as above by the Upanishad and in which Mahah stands for Aditya, Chandrama, Brahmam, and Anna the four vital requirement of men. Veda stand for lerning process. So the ultimate in Veda is called Brahmam. All these are called as the mystic utterance of the Veda “OM”. This Upanishad praises everything as Brahmam identical with Om. This shows that the first prsna of this Upanishad is devoted to emphasizing Brahmam and is therefore rightly called Brahma valli
Omiti brāhmanah pravakshyan branhmopāpnavan brahmaiva bhavati
It is because of this unity, the Vedic scholar is called a “Brahmana”. The student who studies this concludes the first part of this Upanishad as “I salute Brahmam Om namo brahmane”.
In this connection there is interesting information provided by Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary on the study of Vedas and Vedāngas by Brāhmins of Tamilnadu. According to Naccinārkkiniyar the six limbs studied by the Tamil Brāhmins were Nirutta (Niruktam)study of vedic terms, Vyākarana that deals with the grammar of Vedic terms and also worldly usages like Aintiram, Kalpas like that of Bodhāyaniyam, Bhāradvajam, Apastampam, Atreyam,and others; Ganitham Mathematics like that of Nārāyaniyam and Varāham; Chandam classical poetics, and Brahmam standing for Eluttu āraycci”. In this list Ganitham stands for what is called in sanskrit sources as Jyotisham that satnds for astronomical calculations. But the most important point for our study here is the name is “Brahmam” (piramam) mentioned standing for Eluttārāycci which means both written and phonetic sound. This is a clear example of Tamil Brāhmins learning both written script and phonetic letters. The question arises what is the connection between Eluttārāicci and Brāhmam?
We have seen that the first lessons on phonetic letters is called Sikshā-valli in Taittirya Upanishad. We have also seen that this section teaching Varna letters emphasizes “brahmam” So Naccinārkkiniyar gives the name Brahmam to Sikshā valli which by this time included written script as well – Eluttu. Naccinārkkiniyar is an extraordinary commentator who cites hundreds of examples for the sutras but almost all of them are from Sangam literature and none from later period there by showing his primary concern as a stickler to tradition. The tradition of calling Sikshā valli as Brahmam two thousand years ago, is preserved for us by Naccinārkkiniyar, because of the importance given to Brahmam in that first section. It is certain that the study of script and Phonetic letters were very closely and largely used in the learning of Vedic Brāhmanas and so the script itself is came to be called Brāhmi i.e of the Brāhmanas. It naturally was also called Bammi in Prakrit.
Scholars who have studied the Brāhmi script has shown that it was designed for Sanskrit phonetics like the varga sounds and invented by those well versed in Sanskrit. There is also a 7th Cent Chinese annals that mentions the Brāhmi and Kharoshti scripts were invented in India which shows that Brāhmins who used to study the phonetics of Sanskrit invented this script. We may add that Panini’s Vyākarana came into vogue in the North West Frontiers of India and this school was very active in that region.
Asoka Maurya (3rd cent BCE) in whose time the script emerges was the Governor of this province when he started his career as a young prince before he went to Avanti and then became the Ruler of Māgada. He was an enterprising king who had already the knowledge of writings in Greek (Balkan states) and Persia that had Aramaic script. It is not unlikely that he was responsible in encouraging the Sanskrit scholars to invent a script for his administrative and judicial functions. Asoka’s edicts have been found in Greek and Aramaic characters are known. Also he used Kharoshti script which also emerges in that region from that times onwards. So he preferred the use of Brāhmi in his kingdom upto Māgadha and Kharoshti in NWFP. Asoka’s instruction to enter all the gift made by his queen should be entered in her name, in one of his edict, shows that he was using it in his administrative and judicial systems. I have shown in the chapter on “Brāhmins and Brāhmi under Asoka”, that the Dharma he preached was the same as the Sikshā valli of the Taittirya Upanishad, which teaches the study of letters.
It is necessary to point out that the Tolkāppiyam has a prologue Payiram written by Tolkāppiyar’s co student Panam pāranar who categorically states that Tolkāppiyam fully followed a grammar named Aintiram “Aintiram nirainta Tolkāppiyam”. We have seen that Naccinārkkiniyar says the Vyākarana studied by the Tamil Brāhmins in their study of Vedas was Aintiram which deals with Vedic tradition.
Aru angamāva (Shadanga) ulakiyal collai olittu Vaidika collai ārayum Nirukta; avvirandaiyum (ulakiyal and Vaidikam) udan arayum aintiram todakkattu vyakaranamum; bharadvajam, bodhayanaiym, Apasthambam, Atreyam mudaliya karpangalumNarayaniyam, Varhammudaliya ganitangalum elttārāycyākiya biramamum,, Ceyyul ilakkanamākiya Chandamum ām (Naccinārkkiniyar ‘s commenaray on Tolkāppiyam sutram 75, in Purattinai).
Also Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary on Ahattinai of Tolkāppiyam mentions that the nomenclature used by Tolkāppiyar was the ones used by Agastya in his Tamil grammar Agattiyam. He further state “These technical words were coined by Agastya”. So the terms Ahattinai, Purattinai, etc used in Tolkāppiyam were wholly Vedic terminology. It should be remembered that the Early Pandyas repeatedly claim that their ancestors learnt both Sanskrit and Tamil from Agastya. All evidences in Tamil and Sanskrit point to the fact that the Tamil and Tamil society followed Vedic Tradtions.
Articles by Dr. R. Nagaswamy
Dr. Nagaswamy is an eminent Archaeologist and the First Vice Chancellor of Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya. His full bio-data is available here.