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Daily वे॑द Quote #15 द॑स्यवेवृ॑क 10/25/2022 (Tue) 03:18:09 ID:71293d No. 2149
पितु॑र्मातु॑र् • अ॑धि आ॑ ये॑ सम॑स्वरन्। ऋचा॑ शो॑चन्तः • संद॑हन्तो अव्रता॑न्। इ॑न्द्रद्विष्टाम् • अ॑प धमन्ति माय॑या। त्व॑चम॑सिक्नीं • भू॑मनो दिव॑स्प॑रि॥ —ऋग्वेद॑ 9.73.5 . (This is the metrically restored version. The सं॑हिता has a deficient syllable with अ॑ध्या॑. Note that the last syllable of संद॑हन्तो is to be scanned लघु॑/short, as if संद॑हन्तव्.) . Translation: "Over Father and Mother they resounded together, shining with verse of praise, burning up the lawless. They blow away with magic the इ॑न्द्र-hated dark cover from Earth and Heaven." . Word-by-word: पितु॑र् < पितृ॑ "father", मातु॑र् < मातृ॑ "mother", अ॑धि आ॑ "over", ये॑ "who", सम् < स॑म् "together", अ॑स्वरन् < स्वृ "resound", ऋचा॑ < ऋ॑च् "verse of praise", शो॑चन्तस् < शो॑चन् < शुच् "shine", संद॑हन्तस् < संद॑हन् < स॑म् दह् "burn up", अव्रता॑न् < अव्रत॑ "lawless", इ॑न्द्र, द्विष्टाम् < द्विष्ट॑ < द्विष् "hate", अ॑प "away", धमन्ति < धम् "blow", माय॑या < माया॑ "magic", त्व॑चम् < त्व॑च् "cover", अ॑सिक्नीम् > अ॑सित "dark", भू॑मनस् < भू॑मन् "Earth", दिव॑स् < दि॑व् "Heaven", प॑रि "from". . Meter: ज॑गती . Interpretation: Like all hymns from म॑ण्डल/Book 9 of the ऋग्वेद॑, this one is dedicated to purified sóma (सो॑म प॑वमान), a non-hallucinogenic stimulant drink made from the plant Ephedra. . The Father and Mother here are clearly the same as throughout the ऋग्वेद॑: Heaven (दि॑व्) and Earth (पृथिवी॑), Who are mentioned explicitly in the last line. . Who are "they", the subject of the two verbs in this verse? This is actually a matter of some debate. Graßmann believes that "they" are the spies of व॑रुण mentioned a verse before this one, but this doesn't seem relevant. Jamison believes that "they" are the droplets of sóma mentioned in the first verse: this seems compelling because they're also described as "blowing" (ध॑मन्), but it seems illogical for droplets to resound (सं॑ स्वृ). The most logical interpretation is that "they" are the sages (धी॑रs) mentioned two verses previously, who are conducting a sóma-sacrifice in this hymn. . The अव्रत॑s here are the enemies of the आ॑र्यs, who are devoid (अ-) of the divine law (व्रत॑) and do not sacrifice at day. . The phrase त्व॑चम॑सिक्नीम् makes this one of the most controversial verses in the ऋग्वेद॑ because western scholars have typically translated it as "dark skin", a translation eagerly seized upon by white supremacists. This isn't necessarily a bad-faith attempt: the most common meaning of त्व॑च् is indeed skin. And it's also true that some of the अव्रत॑ enemies of the आ॑र्यs had black skin. But scholars as early as Monier-Williams differed from the western consensus, as nothing about this interpretation makes sense here given the context. . First, it would mean that the sages are blowing away the dark skin—not the dark-skinned people. This may appear a trivial distinction, but such a use would be bizarre in the language of the वे॑द, which would use the बहुव्रीहि/exocentric compound अ॑सितत्वच् (here अ॑सितत्वचस्) if dark-skinned people were being discussed. (Surprisingly, सायण also falls into the error of interpreting this like an exocentric, though his interpretation is a रक्ष॑स् with black skin rather than humans; after all, it's in the एकवचन/singular.) . How exactly can skin itself be "blown away"? Blown off of the body itself? But here it is blown off Heaven and Earth—it is a skin that covers the Heaven and Earth, not covering a man. . But second, the mystery of त्व॑चम॑सिक्नीम् is solved quite clearly by looking at other instances of अ॑सित/अ॑सिक्नी in the ऋग्वेद॑. . In 10.3.3d, अग्नि॑ is described as driving out the अ॑सिक्नी ("dark" in the स्त्रीलिङ्ग/feminine) and going to the रु॑शती ("shining" in the feminine). In the next verse it is revealed that the रु॑शती is the daughter of Heaven (पितु॑र्जा॑), meaning उष॑स् (the Dawn). Here, then, अ॑सिक्नी unambiguously refers to रा॑त्री (the Night). In 4.17.15 अ॑सिक्नी is used in a simile referring to a black (कृष्ण॑) cover (त्व॑च्) in the atmosphere (र॑जस्) from the previous verse. Only in 7.5.3 does अ॑सिक्नी appear describing people, but a skin-color interpretation is incongruous given the juxtaposition with the description of अग्नी॑ as "shining" (शो॑शुचान). . (The only other cases of अ॑सिक्नी in the feminine are 8.20.25 and 10.75.5, where they uncontroversially refer to the name of a river.) . अ॑सित is also used thrice in the नपुंसकलिङ्ग/neuter. In 1.46.10 सू॑र्य (the Sun) illuminates a sóma-plant by shining through the अ॑सित, which must be the Night. Similarly, in 4.13.4 the rays (रश्म॑यस्) of the Sun sink the darkness (त॑मस्) of Night, a dark coat (अ॑सित व॑स्मन्), into the waters. In 4.51.9 the monstrous darkness (अ॑भ्व अ॑सित) is contrasted with the colors of the arriving Dawn. . Thus, अ॑सित/अ॑सिक्नी is scarcely used outside its underlying meaning of Night. Examining uses of त्व॑च् itself provides yet more evidence for a day-night contrast being the theme at play here. The phrase त्व॑चं कृष्णा॑म् ("black cover"), paralleling our त्व॑चम॑सिक्नीम्, is used in 1.130.8, where it is also mentioned alongside the अ॑व्रतs and juxtaposed with सु॑वर् (the Sun's light). In 1.145.5, अग्नि॑ is described as being laid upon the highest cover (त्व॑चि उपम॑स्याम्) of Earth or Heaven. In 10.68.4, बृ॑हस्प॑ति is narrated as cleaving the cover of the Earth (भू॑म्यास् त्व॑च्) and releasing the red cattle of the Dawn, the famous वल॑ myth. . Far from referring to night-colored human skin, then, today's verse refers to imagery omnipresent throughout the वे॑द: the black Night hated by इ॑न्द्र, shrouding Heaven and Earth from the Sun's light, being blown away by the arrival of the Dawn at the propitiation of the sages. . All this isn't to claim that the ancient आ॑र्यs were some sort of anti-racists or didn't look down upon black skin; only that this specific verse cannot be taken as evidence for this racism. . Interesting Vedic grammar for today: Going by the संधि/assimilation rules of Classical Sanskrit, one would expect to see दिवः॑ प॑रि instead of दिव॑स्प॑रि. In Vedic Sanskrit, however, स्/ष् is used for a षष्ठी/genitive noun before its noun (e.g. दिव॑स्पुत्र॑), for a पञ्चमी/ablative noun before its गति/preposition (as in this verse), and in a few other cases like द्यौ॑ष्पिता॑ instead of द्यौः॑ पिता॑. . This is one of many pieces of evidence for स् being the original or "true" form of the विसर्ग, rather than vice versa as often believed by Indians.