View Full Version : Confusion about Rig Veda intonation marks.

20 July 2010, 01:03 AM
Mostly, again, about the first Mantra of the Rig Veda:

agnimile purohitam yajnasya devamrtvijam
hotaram ratna dhaatamam

Now, according to an audio recording of the hymn, and to a priest at a local temple, the "mi" in "agnimile", "jam" in "devamritvijam", and the "ta" in "hotaram" should be written with a deerga swarita ("). However, in all the texts online that have the Rig Veda in Sanskrit, the deerga swarita isn't present at all; instead, each place where it would be is marked with a regular swarita (').

Can someone explain what's going on?

20 July 2010, 06:12 PM
hariḥ oṁ


First let me say I am not the final authority on this subject and remain the śiṣya (student) also on this matter. My studies are more about nirukta (explanation or etymological interpretation of a word ); yet how words are sounded-out cross my path in my studies.

For others reading this post let me offer the following to frame the question Riverwolf has posed and to mention I do not have the answer on why some books offer two marks vs. one but will take a guess at the end of this post.

The question posed deals with śikṣā the science or method teaching proper articulation and pronunciation of vedic texts. This śikṣā is considered one of the 6 vedāṅgas or limbs of the ved.

The taittirīya upaniṣad calls out its 6 aspects of śikṣā . You are concerned with mātrā or measure, dwelling and emphysis + balam (bala is another word for strength , might , vigour , force); I will list the other 4 if there is interest

dīrgha & sarita

dīrgha is defined as 'long , for a long time ' ; like a vowel in sāman and the measure of time (mātrā) held. The time of 1 mātrā as I have been taught is ~ 1/2 second . I have read 0.4 seconds but it fails me on how to measure this.
I like the definition of mātrā as 'the full or simple measure of anything'. For those that know music 4-4th's timing would be a 'simple measure' example made of 4 beats per measure.

dīrgha = dvi-mātrā or 2 mātrā-s in duration
hrasva - is short , small , dwarfish , little; considered 1 mātrā or metrically short
pluta ( not pluto :) ) - is protracted or lengthened; 3 mātrā-ssarita is having to do with accent or accentuated. This svarita that I encounter is of four kinds:

kṣaipra as in vy-ā́pta for ví-āpta
jātya as in kvá for kúa
praśliṣṭa as in divī́va for diví iva
abhinihita as in té 'bruvan for té abruvanSo we can tie this information together:

dīrgha sarita - two marks ( ' ' ) as mentioned by Riverwolf
hrasva sarita - one mark ( ' ) as mentioned by Riverwolf
pluta sarita - 3 marks
Guru sarita which is a 'heavy' mark or accent which I did not offer.You have asked why one mark (') or two ( ' ' ) - I cannot say with any authority. Yet I do know this. When the ṛg ved is sung it is the sāma ved and all markings must be there for proper intonation. My point - perhaps the books you are reading have been lax with the proper markings due to the 'reading' of the ṛg ved vs. the chanting where proper marks are manditory.

One may wish to do a google search on ' śikṣā and pronunciation' to go deeper and wider and that will expand this whole conversation.

Now all that said, Let me ask a question. Of all the mantra's of the ṛg ved ( there's 10,552 grouped in 1028 sūkta-s) Why did veda vyāsa-ji choose the hymn to agni as the opening mantra?
agnim īḷe purohitam
yajñasys devam rtvijam |
hotāram ratna dhātamam ||


words and references

More on agni here if interested: http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=4743&highlight=agnim (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=4743&highlight=agnim)
Pāṇini-s Aṣṭādhyāyī ( book on grammar)
Secrets of the ṛg ved - by R.L.Kasyap
Practical Sanscrit - by Charles Wikner
Monier-Williams Sanscrit-English disctionary