Sayanacharya (सायनाचार्यः)

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Sayanacharya (Samskrit : सायनाचार्यः) was a great Vedic and Samskrit scholar who lived during the reign of Vijayanagara Kings. His commentaries and works have been the foundation for many translations of vedas as of date. Early Indologists including Max Muller extensively referred to his Bhashya's or commentaries on the Four Vedas. As a bhashyakara he was viewed with different perspectives by many later day scholars, hence this article is compiled to throw light on his life and works.

परिचय || Introduction

Sāyaṇāchārya occupies a unique place in the history of the Samskrit literature. The learned commentaries written by him on the Vedic Samhitas and Brāhmaṇas are the most important works of their kind, which are of immense value to us for the proper exposition of the subtle truths with these works of hoary antiquity contain. There has been a host of commentators of the Vedas even before the advent of sāyaṇāchārya but unknown as many of their works are, most of them are mere names to us.  

Sāyaṇāchārya was, along with his elder brother Mādhavāchārya, were responsible for the great revival of Vedic Learning under the rule of the early Vijayanagara monarchs. 

Sāyaṇāchārya – His Life and Works

This article is an excerpt from Veda Bhāṣya Bhūmikā Saṁgraha (वेदभाष्यभूमिकासंग्रहः) by Padmabhūṣaṇa Sri Ācāraya Baladeva Upādhyāya (Ex-director, Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Varanasi). The book is a compilation of all available Sāyaṇāchārya’s introductions to his commentaries upon the Vedic Saṁhitas.Sāyaṇāchārya – his life and works

This article forms the gives, an excellent summary of the life and works of Sāyaṇāchārya, both historical and critical. Additionally, this introduction provides, in the author’s own words, some additional comments upon the premier position of Sāyaṇāchārya as one of the important authorities upon the traditional exegesis of Veda.

Family

Sāyaṇāchārya was born in a learned South Indian brāhmaṇa family. His father was Māyaṇa and his mother śrimatī. He was a brāhmaṇa of the Bhāradvāja—gotra, Bodhāyana Sutra and Krishṇa Yajurveda. He belonged to the Taittirīya śākha of the Krishna Yajurveda, as is also evident from the fact that the very first Vedic commentary he wrote was the Taittirīya Samhitā of the Krishṇa Yajurveda. He had two brothers Mādhavāchārya and Bhoganātha, of whom the first was the eldest and the second was the youngest of the three.

Mādhavāchārya

The elder brother Mādhavāchārya occupies a very important place in the history of Dharma śāstra and Mīmāmsa literatures. Besides being well versed in various branches of learning he was a great minister of the first Vijayanagara kings, Harihara and Bukka, who with his sagacious counsel and judicious guidance founded that ideal Hindu Rājya, that never-to-be-forgotten empire of Vijayanagara. He is also credited, on the authority of eminent historians, with the foundation of the city of Vijayanagara. His works, include —

(1) the voluminous commentary upon Parāśarasmr̥ti, parāśarasmr̥ti-vyākhyā (पराशरस्मृति – व्याख्या) popularly known as parāśara-mādhava (पराशर-माधव)

(2) kālanirṇaya (कालनिर्णय) or kālamādhava (कालमाधव)

(3) jaimini-nyāyamālā (जैमिनि-न्यायमाला), an authoritative work on Jaimini System of Pūrvamīmāmsa

(4) jīvanmuktiviveka (जीवन्मुक्तिविवेक) or the Vedantic topic of Jīvanmukti

(5) paṅcadaśī (पञ्चदशी) a very popular Vedantic work and

(6) vaiyāsikanyāyamālā (वैयासिकन्यायमाला) on the Vedanta Sutras; the last two were composed in collaboration with his spiritual Guru Bhrātītīrtha when Mādhava exchanged the robe of the minister for the kāṣāya (काषाय) of the Saṁnyāsin under the name Vidyāraṇya.

The most important problem connected with the personality and identification of Mādhava and विद्यारण्य ॥ Vidyāraṇya remains still unsolved. Some scholars entertain very serious doubts as regards the identification of these two authors, but in spite of their arguments to the contrary, not only the later but even contemporary writers bear testimony to the fact that Vidyāraṇya was, in fact, identical with the minister of early Vijayanagara Kings, Mādhavācārya.

It has been rightly pointed out, on inscriptional evidences, that Mādhavācārya, the elder brother of Sāyaṇa, is different from Mādhava, another minister of Bukka I (hence known as Mādhava Mantrin or Amātya Mādhava) who was not only a profound Upaniṣadic scholar (called in the inscriptions as upaniṣanmārgapravartakācārya (उपनिषन्मार्गप्रवर्तकाचार्य)) but was, as a warrior of no mean order, the expeller of Mohammedans from Konkaṇa and the governor of Goa and Banavase provinces. Kāne is amply justified in his appreciative remarks on our author when he says that

"‘as an erudite scholar, as a far-sighted statesman, as the bulwark of the Vijayanagara Kingdom in the first days of its foundation, as a Sanyāsin given to peaceful contemplation and renunciation in old age, he led such a varied and useful life that even to this day this is a name to conjure with’."

Bhoganātha

Bhoganātha, though not so well-known, is yet a worthy younger brother of Sāyaṇa and Mādhava. He was the narma-sachiva of Saṁgama II, the son of Kampaṇa, as is evident from the Biṭraguṇṭa grant of that ruler. Unlike his elder brothers who were profound scholars of Veda, Vedanta, Mīmāmsa and Dharma śastra, Bhoganatha was a poet of a very high order. The Biṭraguṇṭa grant, with his numerous other poetical compositions mentioned in the Alaṁkāra-sudhānidhi of Sāyaṇa bears eloquent testimony to the great poetical talents of Bhoganātha. Sāyaṇa names and quotes from six of his works. Their names are

(i) rāmollāsa (रामोल्लास), a kāvya based on the Rāmāyaṇa,

(ii) tripuravijaya (त्रिपुरविजय), on the victory gained by Siva over the Tripura demon

(iii) udāharaṇamālā (उदाहरणमाला), examples of Sanskrit figures of speech with verses in praise of Sāyaṇa

(iv) mahāgaṇapatistava (महागणपतिस्तव), a stotra of mahagaṇapati

(v) śr̥ngāramaṅjarī (शृङ्गारमञ्जरी), containing verses descriptive of śr̥ṁgārarasa (शृङ्गाररस), and

(vi) gaurīnāthāṣṭaka (गौरीनाथाष्टक), eight verses in praise of Gaurīnātha.

Sāyaṇa had a very high opinion about the poetic excellence of his brother’s kāvyas as he mentions in one place in his Alaṅkāra work that the examples of the rules have to be sought for in the works of Bhoganātha [teṣāmudāharaṇāni bhoganāthakāvyeṣu draṣṭavyāni (तेषामुदाहरणानि भोगनाथकाव्येषु द्रष्टव्यानि)]. That Bhoganātha wielded a facile poetic pen will be evident to the students of Sanskrit poetry from the following beautiful verses in praise of his patron Saṁgama II:—

"यस्य दृष्टिमुद्दयद्दयारसामर्थिनामभिमतानुबन्धिनीम् ।"

"हन्त नूनमनुयान्ति सस्पृहं कर्णकल्पतरुकामधेनवः ॥ (9)

"yasya dṛṣṭimuddayaddayārasāmarthināmabhimatānubandhinīm |"

"hanta nūnamanuyānti saspṛhaṁ karṇakalpatarukāmadhenavaḥ ||" (9)

"यद्‍यशःप्रसरणेन भूयसा ह्लादमेयुषि परं जगत्त्रये ।"

"अश्नुते विफलतां न चन्द्रमाः केवलं कुमुदिनीविकाशनात् ॥"

"yad‍yaśaḥprasaraṇena bhūyasā hlādameyuṣi paraṁ jagattraye |"

"aśnute viphalatāṁ na candramāḥ kevalaṁ kumudinīvikāśanāt || (10)

Sayana's Desha And Kaala

Sāyaṇa was, as is amply proved by literary and inscriptional evidences, connected with four rulers of the Vijayanagara kingdom namely Kampaṇa, Saṁgama II, Bukka I and Harihara II. Under each of them he occupied the important post of a responsible state minister.

Of these, Kampaṇa, the first patron of Sāyaṇa, was the second son of Saṁgama I and was thus the younger brother of Harihara, the founder of the Vijayanagara kingdom. He ruled over the country in the east of the Vijayanagara empire, possibly in the Nellore and Cuddapah districts.

Saṁgama II, the son of Kampaṇa, was much indebted to Sāyaṇāchārya not only for the administration of his kingdom during his minority but also for the liberal education imparted to him in his childhood. It appears that Sāyaṇa handed over the kingdom to Saṁgama II on his attaining majority and transferred himself to the court of his uncle, Bukka I (1350-1379) under whom he held the important post of a minister and continued to be so even under his son Harihara II (1379—1399) when he became the ruler of the Vijayanagara empire on the death of his father.

Sāyaṇa, the commentator of the four Vedas, was not only a great mīmaṁsaka given to the abstruse speculations and interpretations of the difficult Vedic mantras, but was also a practical administrator of a vast kingdom, a responsible minister of an extensive empire and above all, a valourous soldier of a high order. In Sāyaṇa we find a rare fortunate combination of vast learning and practical wisdom, speculative faculty and physical valour, pāṇḍitya (पाण्डित्य) and vīratva (वीरत्व). 

As an administrator of a large kingdom, Sāyaṇa was no less an eminent success. When Kampaṇa died, his son Saṁgama was a mere child. Hence the administration of the state fell upon Sāyaṇa who as the regent carried out his heavy responsibilities in a really remarkable way. The following śloka from his alaṁkāra work speaks of the all-round prosperity prevailing during his time as the regent of the state —

"satyaṁ mahīṁ bhavati śāsati sāyaṇārye"

"samprāptabhogasukhinaḥ sakalāśca lokāḥ ."

"सत्यं महीं भवति शासति सायणार्ये"

"सम्प्राप्तभोगसुखिनः सकलाश्च लोकाः ।"

Sayana had three sons named Kampaṇa, Māyaṇa and Singaṇa. Among these, Kampaṇa was a fond lover of music—an accomplished musician. Māyaṇa was a good poet, clever in writing fine verses and beautiful prose in Sanskrit, and if his identification with Sāyaṇa-mādhava, the author of sarvadarśanasaṁgraha (सर्वदर्शनसंग्रह), as proposed by R. Narasiṁhachar turns out to be correct, he had full mastery over and a thorough grasp of the fundamental metaphysical problems of Indian Philosophies, both orthodox and heterodox.

The third son Singaṇa appears to be a keen student of Vedas, an expert in krama and jaṭa recitations. Besides, he was far celebrated for his magnificent gifts given to worthy Brāhmaṇas, as might be justly inferred from certain verses found at the end of his father’s Bhāṣya on śatapathabrāhmaṇam (शतपथब्राह्मणम्).

According to Dr. Aufrecht, Sāyaṇa died in A. D. 1387 during the reign of Harihara II. Thus he flourished in the second. half of the 14th Century at Vijayanagar in Southern India.

Sayana's Kritis

The monumental Bhāṣyas of the Vedic Samhitas and Brāhmaṇas are rightly considered to be the most important works of Sāyaṇāchārya as showing his deep learning and wide erudition. It appears that from the very beginning of his career as a minister Sāyaṇa had the laudable intention of writing useful works on Dharma, Vyākaraṇa and Alaṅkāra and thus under the kind patronage of the above mentioned Vijayanagara kings he wrote a number of interesting books in Sanskrit upon these diverse subjects. We mention below his writings in a chronological order as far as it is possible to make out.

Sāyaṇa’s works are:—

Subhāṣitasudhānidhi (सुभाषितसुधानिधि) — It is a collection of moral sayings culled from a vast literature on the subject. It appears to be the earliest work of our author and was composed, as is clear from the colophon at the end of the work, during the reign of Prince Kampa or Kampaṇa whose minister Sāyaṇa was.

"iti pūrvapaścimasamudrādhīśvarārirāyavibhāla – śrīkamparājamahāpradhāna – bharadvājavaṁśamauktika – māyaṇaratnakarasudhākara – mādhavakalpatarusahodara – śrīsāyaṇāryaviracite subhāṣitasudhānidhau |"

"इति पूर्वपश्चिमसमुद्राधीश्वरारिरायविभाल – श्रीकम्पराजमहाप्रधान – भरद्वाजवंशमौक्तिक – मायणरत्नकरसुधाकर – माधवकल्पतरुसहोदर – श्रीसायणार्यविरचिते सुभाषितसुधानिधौ ।"

Prāyaścittasudhānidhi (प्रायश्चित्तसुधानिधि) — also known as Karmavipāka — deals with penances, one of the most important topics of the Hindu Dharma-śāstras. Dhātuvr̥tti (धातुवृत्ति) — popularly known as mādhavīyā dhātuvr̥tti (माधवीया धातुवृत्ति)—is an authoritative treatise on Sanskrit verbs. It deals in an exhaustive manner with the verbs given in the Dhātupāṭha of pāṇini. Sāyaṇa has, as a token of gratitude, named this grammatical work after his elder brother Mādhava under whose inspiration he composed most of his valuable works.

"tena māyaṇaputreṇa sāyaṇena manīṣiṇā |"

"ākhyayā mādhavīyeyaṁ dhātuvṛtttirviracyate  ||"

"तेन मायणपुत्रेण सायणेन मनीषिणा ।"

"आख्यया माधवीयेयं धातुवृत्त्तिर्विरच्यते  ॥"

Alaṅkārasudhānidhi (अलङ्कारसुधानिधि) — it is a treatise on Sanskrit rhetoric and is unique in many ways. One remarkable peculiarity of the work consists in the fact that the majority of the illustrative verses is in the praise of the author himself. When the same author is responsible for the kārikās and udaharaṇa in an alaṅkāra work, generally the examples are in the praise of some deity or of some king or chief who happens to be the patron of the author. But, unlike most works of Sanskrit Poetics, this alaṅkārasudhānidhi gives illustrative verses in praise of its author himself and this distinguishes it from the other books of the same class. It also supplies us with interesting details about the life and personality of Sāyaṇa and his brothers, which are of considerable importance.

These last three works were composed during the reign of Saṁgama II, the son of Prince Kaṁpa, as is clear from verses given in the beginning and at the end of these works.

""तस्य (संगमस्य) मन्त्रिशिरोरत्नमस्ति मायणसायणः ॥"

"तेन मायणपुत्रेण सायणेन मनीषिणा ।"

"ग्रन्थः कर्मविपाकाख्यः क्रियते करुणावता ॥"

"tasya (saṁgamasya) mantriśiroratnamasti māyaṇasāyaṇaḥ ||"

"tena māyaṇaputreṇa sāyaṇena manīṣiṇā |"

"granthaḥ karmavipākākhyaḥ kriyate karuṇāvatā ||"

"अस्ति श्रीसङ्गमत्दमापः पृथ्वीतल पुरन्दरः ।"

"तस्य मन्त्रिशिरोरत्नमस्ति मायणसायणः ॥"

"asti śrīsaṅgamatdamāpaḥ pṛthvītala purandaraḥ ."

"tasya mantriśiroratnamasti māyaṇasāyaṇaḥ .."

Puruṣārthasudhānidhi (पुरुषार्थसुधानिधि) contains a collection of Pauraṇika verses on the topic of puruṣārtha and was written at the instance of his new patron king Bukka. It appears to be the first work of Sāyaṇa when he became attached to the court of Bukka and thus is earlier in date than the Vedic commentaries.

Vedabhāṣyāṇi (वेदभाष्याणि)— Vedic commentaries.

āyurvedasudhānidhi (आयुर्वेदसुधानिधि) — It is a medical work and has been referred to by Sāyaṇa in his alaṅkāra work.

yajñatantrasudhānidhi (यज्ञतन्त्रसुधानिधि) is a treatise on Vedic rituals. The last two works were composed by Sāyaṇa during the reign of Harihara II, the son and successor of Bukka I, whose generosity and high regard for the Vedic rites are eloquently praised by Sāyaṇa in the beginning of these works.

Vaidika Bhaashya's

The Vedic commentaries are monuments of vast and varied learning and as such rightly occupy the foremost place in the writings of Sāyaṇāchārya. The introductory verses to the Bhāṣya on the taittirīyasaṁhitā  make it amply clear that Sāyaṇa was entrusted with the composition of Vedic commentaries by the King Bukka on the recommendation of his elder brother Mādhava who, as the spiritual guru, was actually requested by the king for this responsible task but who, presumably owing to his multifarious engagements in other spheres, declined this offer in favour of his younger brother. Thus it was under the inspiring guidance of Mādhava that Sāyaṇa wrote his learned commentaries on the Vedas which he rightly calls ‘Mādhavīya’ after his elder brother as a token of gratitude towards him.

Sāyaṇa wrote his Bhāṣya upon the following five well-known Vedic Samhitas —

(i) tattirīyasaṁhitā

(ii) r̥gvedasaṁhitā

(iii) sāmavedasaṁhitā

(iv) kāṇvasaṁhitā of śuklayajurveda

(v) atharvavedasaṁhitā

 Sāyaṇa wrote his commentaries upon the different Brāhmaṇas and āraṇyakas of the Vedas naturally enough after he had commented upon their Samhitās with the single exception of the Bhāṣya on the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa of the white Yajurveda which appears to have been composed ( as is clear from the introductory verses ) last of all, during the time of Harihara II. He commented upon the following Brāhmaṇas and āraṇyakas :—

Brāhmaṇa of the Kr̥ṣṇa Yajurveda

taittirīya brāhmaṇa

taittirīya āraṇyaka

Brāhmaṇa of the r̥gveda

aitareya brāhmaṇa

aitareya āraṇyaka

Brāhmaṇas of the Sāma Veda

tāṇḍya (pañcaviṁśa) brāhmaṇa

ṣaḍviṁśa brāhmaṇa

sāmavidhāna brāhmaṇa

ārṣeya brāhmaṇa

devatādhyāya brāhmaṇa

upaniṣad brāhmaṇa

saṁhitopaniṣad brāhmaṇa

vaṁśa brāhmaṇa

Brāhmaṇa of the Shukla Yajurveda

śatapatha brāhmaṇa

A Critical Survey of Saayana Bhaashyas

Veda is defined as the sum of mantras and Brāhmaṇas – a definition adopted here from the  yajñaparibhāṣā (यज्ञपरिभाषा) of āpastaṁba. 

After critically reviewing the various views about the authoritativeness of Veda held by the philosophers of different schools, Sāyaṇa shows on the authority of Mīmāṁsā texts that the Veda is self-luminous ( svataḥ pramāṇa (स्वतः प्रमाण) ) and can illustrate itself as well as other things. Sāyaṇa following the classical Mīmāṁsā writers has furnished conclusive proofs for the apauruṣeyatva (अपौरुषेयत्व) of Veda.

These Vedic mantras are of three different kinds — R̥k, Sāma and Yajuḥ. Mantras in a metrical form are known as R̥ks, those in the form of songs are Sāmans and those that are neither metrical nor adopted for singing, but are in plain prose are Yajuḥ texts. It is upon this difference between the three kinds of mantras that the distinction between the Vedas – R̥g, Sāma and Yajur—rests.

The Subject matter of Veda is the next important topic repeatedly dealt with in most of these introductions. Veda is divided into two sections (kāṇḍa (काण्ड) ), the first of which has for its subject matter the treatment of actions, while the other, the treatment of Brahma and the means of His realisation. Thus Dharma and Brahma are the subject matter respectively of the two sections into which the whole of Veda is divided. Veda is the only depository of Dharma and Brahma because these two cannot be obtained from any other source and hence their knowledge is the immediate use (prayojana (प्रयोजन)) of the Veda. 

The study of this sacred work is enjoined by such text as ‘svādhyāyo’dhyetavyaḥ (स्वाध्यायोऽध्येतव्यः)’ which, explain the proper understanding of the meaning of these mantras. The mastery of the text and ceremonial perfection (prāpti (प्राप्ति) and saṁskāra (संस्कार) are claimed to be the real import of such sacred injunctions and the visible rewards always attending the study of Veda.

We must, therefore, conclude that the injunction to study text of the Veda aims at the mastery of the text. The persons who are entitled by the above Śruti text to the study of this sacred work are those who belong to the three higher castes because they are permitted to have their own initiation ceremony. The women and śūdras though need that knowledge, yet should not meddle with Veda, because they have not been invested with the sacred thread and hence are prohibited.

Besides the treatment of these common topics Sāyaṇa has dealt with some special subjects in his different introductions. A detailed account of  darśa and pourṇamāsa with their appropriateness as the initial rites marking the beginning of the first section of Veda finds a suitable description in the introduction to the Taittirīya Saṁhitā.

The introduction to R̥ig-Veda has, besides the high praise lavished upon one who properly understands the subtle meanings of Veda, a comprehensive survey of all the six Aṅgas of Veda and the aid they furnish in the interpretation of the Vedic mantras.

The introduction to Sāma Veda is replete with the treatment of matters of a technical kind which deal with the complex problem of Sāma chanting.

The contents of all the forty sections of the White Yajurveda along with the darśa and paurṇamāsa rituals have been dealt with in the introduction to the Kāṇva Samhitā, while the use, praise and school of the Atharva Veda with an enumeration of various actions treated therein are the proper topic which our author has carefully described in his last introduction to the Atharva Samhita. Thus a critical analysis of the content supplies us with almost all the important information which we must possess, before we commence a really critical study of this ancient and difficult text.

Saayana as a Bhaashyakara

The great Sāyaṇāchārya has made the most direct and most important contributions to the Vedic exegesis. In interpreting the Veda he rightly exploits the aid afforded by the six Vedic Aṅgas, the Purāṇās, and the Mīmāṁsā. He is a thorough going Mīmāṁsaka and therefore in his commentary upon the Vedas he justly reinforces the substantial aid given by the other departments of knowledge by the profound and traditional views of the Vedic interpretation which Mīmāṁsā contains.

In these very informing and learned introductions to his Bhāṣya upon the Vedas he has furnished all the important preliminary matters which a student, before be sets sail upon the vast ocean of the deeply significant Vedas, must be in possession of. It is natural to find Mīmāṁsā playing a very significant role in these critical Introductions. Indeed, they are replete with the most fundamental views and the traditional doctrines which Mīmāṁsā has to propound about the nature, infallibility and authoritativeness of our sacred Vedas.

  • The doctrine that the Vedic mantras are expressive of intelligent meanings is based upon the mantraliṅgādhikaraṇa (मन्त्रलिङ्गाधिकरण) of Mīmāṁsā Sūtras, first Adhyāya, 2nd Pāda, Sutras 31—53.
  • The arthavāda (अर्थवाद) portion of the Brāhmaṇas has been mentioned to have an equal authoritativeness with that portion which deals with the injunctions (vidhis विधिs) and it is based upon the 1st Adhikaraṇa of the second Pāda of the first Adhyāya, Sutras 1—18, known as  arthavādādhikaraṇa (अर्थवादाधिकरण).
  • The proposition which proves that the Vedas do not owe their existence to the agency of any personal author but are eternal is likewise founded upon the vedāpauruṣeyatvādhikaraṇa (वेदापौरुषेयत्वाधिकरण) (1, 1, 27—32) of pūrvamīmāṁsā.
  • The definition of mantra and Brāhmaṇa and the threefold divisions of mantras into R̥k, Yajuḥ and Sāma along with their proper definitions have their basis in the different Adhikaraṇas of the first Pada of the second Adhyāya, Sūtras 32—37.
  • The elaborate Introduction to the sāmasaṁhita contains a detailed exposition of 62 technical topics of pūrvamīmāṁsā which have got their bearings upon the various complex problems of the singing of Sāmans and their utility and application for the purpose of sacrifice. Indeed, the whole of this Introduction consists of lengthy extracts from the different Adhyāyas of jaiminīya-nyāya-mālā-vistara a very important work on pūrvamīmāṁsā composed by his elder brother, the great Mādhavāchārya.
  • The lengthy and learned discussion about svādhyāyādhyayana (स्वाध्यायाध्ययन) in the introduction to kāṇvasaṁhitābhāṣya and prāmāṇyavāda of Veda with a critical survey of the different doctrines held by the followers of different philosophical schools which our author has made in the introduction to atharvasaṁhitā bhāṣya truly prove the great service into which the Mīmāṁsā doctrines have been pressed for expounding the important views held by the traditionalists about the supreme authoritativeness of the Vedas and the complete usefulness of their intelligent study.

A Modern Student's Aid To Vaidika Vidya

We have repeatedly asserted that the Vedic commentaries written by Sāyaṇāchārya are, in spite of their occasional apparent contradictions in the interpretation of certain Vedic passages, the only sure and consistent guide in the understanding and the exegesis of the Mantras of the Vedas. They are valuable not only for an orthodox Vaidika but also for a modern student of this ancient literature of the Hindus.

Those who press the sciences of Comparative Philology and Comparative Mythology into the service of Vedic exegesis will find in these illuminating Bhāṣyas matters which are of especial interest to them, Sāyaṇa has, in the course of his commentaries taken into account the valuable helps rendered by the sciences of Etymology (Nirukta) and Grammar (Vyākaraṇa). Our author has not only utilised the contributions made by Yāska in his Nirukta but has himself proposed suitable meanings of difficult Vedic words in accordance with the rules of Etymology, where Yāska is wholly silent. The science of grammar has been, especially in the commentary upon the first Aṣṭaka of R̥gveda, fully taken into account in the interpretation of the Vedic Mantras where accents play important parts.

Sāyaṇāchārya has collected every item of mythological interest associated with the meaning of Vedic hymns which will yield even a modern student of Veda a rich harvest of very useful results. Besides these, Sāyaṇa’s commentaries are the only extant Bhāṣyas complete in every respect in a vast commentarial literature which has gradually grown round the Vedas. In these, Sāyaṇa has utilised even those valuable comments which are perhaps lost forever or are only partially known to us in these times. Under these circumstances, Sāyaṇa is the only commentator who can supply us with the direct traditional meanings of the Mantras as handed down from generation to generation of the native Vedic interpreters. We firmly believe that a really sympathetic and critical study of Sāyaṇa’s Commentaries will be valuable even from the stand-point of a modern student of Vedas engaged in unraveling the hidden mysteries of the Vedic language and religion.

Discussion

The introductions to these Vedic commentaries we have collected here amply furnish a student of Veda with all the supremely important doctrines which he must possess before he directly begins the practical study of the Vedic texts. Besides, these will impart the necessary insight into properly appreciating and clearly understanding the genuine spirit in which Sāyaṇa has written his learned and monumental Bhāṣyas.

We have firm belief that a precise study of these valuable Introductions will show us not only the traditional mode of the proper interpretation of the Vedas but also the right way in which these most ancient sacred texts should be handled. It is the sheer misunderstanding of the view—point of this eminent Vedic commentator which has unnecessarily called forth the undeserved obloquy heaped upon the sacred head of the great Sāyaṇa not only by the so-called foreign Vedic scholars who, placed as they are, are wholly ignorant of the important traditions and associations which have grown round this most ancient and sacred work in course for many centuries but also by the various Indian disciples of these European Gurus, who, though fortunate enough to be in a position to understand properly the different Vedic traditions, do blindly follow their lead and feed the unfortunate young students placed under their care upon the ill-digested and half-baked theories of these Western Vaidikas’.

Indeed, the only safe guide which we possess in these times when even the masters of the ‘historical method’ differ from one another as regards the obvious meanings and plain interpretations of easy Vedic Mantras is the traditionally uniform and deeply suggestive Bhāṣya of Sāyaṇa. With his scholastic interpretations the great Sāyaṇāchārya has been, and indeed will be, the supremely reliable guide to effect our first entrance into the manifold mysteries of this impregnable fortress of Vedic language and Vedic religion. In fact, everyone who enters on the study of Veda owes in an abundant measure a deep debt of gratitude to this great authority on the Vedic exegesis. We cannot properly imagine what the condition of Vedic scholarship would have been to day without the vedārthaprakāśa (वेदार्थप्रकाश) of our eminent author in which the great Vedic exegesist has not left a single word unexplained, however obscure it may be. It is not that this eminent service done by Sāyaṇa has not been recognised even by the modern Western scholars who have devoted their time and labour towards a really critical and in a way intensive study of this most ancient Aryan literature.

Thus Prof. Wilson is amply justified (and we believe thoroughly impartial) when he makes these critical remarks in the introduction to his translation of the first Aṣṭaka of R̥g—Veda—

"‘He (Sāyaṇa) undoubtedly had a knowledge of his text far beyond the pretensions of any European scholar, and must have been in possession, either through his own learning or that of his assistants, of all the interpretation which had been perpetuated by traditional teaching from the early times’."

References

  1. https://vedaravindamu.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/saya%E1%B9%87acharya-his-life-and-works/#more-604