Update: 2019-04-26 08:04 PM -0400


Vedic and Sanskrit


Excerpts from A History of Sanskrit Literature, by by A. A. Macdonell, 1900,
- AAMacdonell-HistSktLit<Ô> / Bkp<Ô> (link chk 190423

Edited, with additions from Pali sources, by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

UKT's Preface: The reason why I started learning Sanskrit
Macdonell's Preface:

01. Introductory
02. The Vedic Period
03. The Rigveda
04. Poetry of the Rigveda
05. Philosophy of the Rigveda
06. The Rigvedic Age
07. The Later Vedas
08. The Brāhmaṇas
09. The Sūtras
10. The Epics
11. Kāvya or Court Epic
12. Lyric Poetry
13. The Drama
14. Fairy Tales and Fables
15. Philosophy
16. Sanskrit literature and the West
---- Appendix on Technical literature - Law - Grammar - Poetics - Mathematics and Astronomy - Medicine - Arts

Bibliographical notes


UKT notes


Contents of this page

UKT's Preface

Vedic language and religion

-- UKT 130716, 140702, 190424

UKT 190424: This has appeared as a short note in foregoing files since 130716. For reference.

Before I set out on Sanskrit as a language after watching a TV program in Canada on the epic Mahabharata War, and after going through this epic on Internet sources, I did not know anything about Panini - the Sanskrit linguist (erroneously dubbed grammarian).

Then I came to know of the difference in pre-Panini language which was known as Vedic-Sanskrit, and the post-Panini language which is called the Classical Sanskrit. I became fascinated with the story of Mahabharata War, a war between the Pandavas and Kaurivas -- legal cousins.

As Buddhists, we are familiar with a character by the name Widura {wi.Du-ra. pûN~ði.ta.} -- a minister who became a pawn in the game of dice between the Pandavas and Kaurivas. There were probably two Widura -- the one in the Buddhist Birth stories, and the other in Mahabharata.

UKT 130717: From the Gautama Buddha's Birth stories, we are told that there were other Buddhas before. These enlightened humans were those who had gained the ultimate wisdom -- they were not Devas nor Gods. And, they do not belong to the present-day Buddhism. These buddhas are not Buddhists. My childhood's fascination with the mark on the forehead of the image has now turned to pineal gland -- the supposed seat of mystic knowledge. See Wikipedia: -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineal_gland 130717

Whatever the case may be my interest has lead me to: 
Online Sanskrit Dictionary , February 12, 2003 . Download pdf - dictall.pdf (link chk 140702)
Glossary of Sanskrit terms - Gloss.htm (link chk 140702)
• SpkSkt - Hypertext Spoken Sanskrit English Dictionary (with Devanagari script) -
- http://www.spokensanskrit.de/ 101106, 130716 

I will begin my note with the Vedic or Vedic-Sanskrit as different from Classical Sanskrit of Panini. The following is based on the Substratum in the Vedic-Sanskrit , keeping in mind that I do not consider Vedic to be an IE (Indo-European) language, and therefore I will use the word Vedic instead of Vedic-Sanskrit.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substratum_in_Vedic_Sanskrit 130717

Vedic has a number of linguistic features which are alien to most other IE languages. [UKT ¶ : it is one of my basic reasons for claiming that Vedic is not IE.]

Prominent examples include: phonologically, the introduction of retroflexes, which alternate with dentals [UKT ¶] .

UKT 130716: To make my arguments more clear, I will use two scripts: Asoka script [don't call it Brahmi - it confuses the discussion] -- the oldest script found on the Indian sub-continent, and Myanmar -- probably the unique script in the world based on circularly rounded-circles. Here I must emphasize that the perfect circle is considered to represent Perfection - it must be free from any blemish, such as dents, dots, and openings.

If the Asoka script was the oldest script found on the Indian subcontinent, and is supposed to be the parent of all other languages or scripts, it might be well to study the shape of {ka.} क «ka».


Myanmar akshara is used for writing many indigenous languages in Myanmarpré, because of which we can say it is the strongest cultural bond between the ethnic groups. Though the basic shape of the glyphs remain the same, some changes are met when used for different speeches.

Myanmar akshara is also a "hidden esoteric" script, used for writing magico-religious runes, which are feared and revered by many people in Myanmarpré -- including the so-called Western-educated moderns.

An example of a rune is the {sa.Da.ba.wa. ing;} aka {sa.ma.lé:loän: ing:} inside a 2x2 square matrix. Instead of the square matrix it can be a right-handed Swastika. The aksharas have to be written one by one reciting a specific mantra {mûn~tûn} with the stylus in continuous touch the substrate or medium on which it is written. The whole process must be done by the rune-master with a fully concentrated mind, which he has acquired after a period of a day, a week, or 49 weeks of concentration-practice {þa.ma.hta.} while abstaining eating meat, drinking alcohol, or having sex. 

For dictionary meaning of see MLC MED2006-024. I interpret as one of the 40 methods of yogic practices. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_meditation 140702
   "In the Theravāda tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration ..."

The substrate may be paper, silver foil, or gold foil for benefic {ing:}, or potsherd (usually from a broken monk's alms-bowl - a consecrated item), or even a piece of human skull for writing malefic {ing:}. They are not graffiti in any sense nor play-things. Moreover they are not meant to be understood by the uninitiated.

The {sa.Da.ba.wa. ing;} rune tells the steps that have to be taken by a human-being to achieve Perfection. Starting from upper left-hand square with a circle dented on the left. It represents your emotions: greed, anger, sexual desires, and pride. You are imperfect in the beginning. With the right kind of practice -- not necessarily Buddhistic -- you advance to the next square on the right. You are still not perfect -- you are still rooted in your love for sex and sensual desires. The circle is dented in the bottom. Proceed and get to the next square. Still you are not perfect -- wrong ideas in your head: the circle is still dented on top. Practice and now you can move to the next square -- now you are perfect.

The pix on the right is not a graffiti nor artist's imagination. It is a rune called "Thigyamin Sa Ma", It is a powerful rune to impart the power of Hindu Indra or Buddhist Sakka to the rune master. See: ¤ Cult of Magus in Folk Elements in Buddhism -
- flk-ele-indx.htm > ch05-magus.htm (link chk 170406)

I maintain that such runes are ideographs -- they are not sentences in a language. It is probable that the Indus-valley seals are ideographs which you will not be able to understand.

Above, the Myanmar akshara is in the form used for writing Mon-Myan speech. For comparing, Asokan to Myanmar, we will concentrate on the tenuis-voiceless and ordinary-voiceless of the {wag}-consonants -- consonants which can be classified phonologically according to the POA (Place of Articulation - as rows) in the human mouth: (exterior) labial, dental, retroflex, palatal, velar (interior). The columns give the manner of articulation: tenuis-voiceless, voiceless, voiced, deep-H, nasal. The aksharas must be represented in a matrix -- a representation that precedes the International Phonetic Alphabet by thousands of years.

• velar:  r1c1, r1c2 
   compare Asoka + {ka.}, Swastika, Rune, and Myanmar {ka.}

• palatal:  r2c1, r2c2 
   a striking feature is the single-circle & double-circle

• retroflex: r3c1, r3c2 
   perfect circle (perfection) of Asoka, and open circles on pedestals (respect) of Myanmar

• dental: r4c1, r4c2 
   compare r3c2 (perfection} & r4c2 (blemish) 

• labial: r5c1, r5c2
   the loop on the right-hand side of the glyph is common

The approximants, rows #6 & #7, {la.} & {ha.} because of the angular motions as in the Swastika shows {la.} to be left-handed, and {ha.} to be right-handed. It gives a clue as to their POAs (positions of articulation) in making sounds. In fact {la.} is pronounced in the outermost part of the mouth, whilst {ha.} is pronounced far back in the mouth. Here contrastive rotation indicates highly contrastive sounds.

Just as we were made to write out the perfect circle, we as children were told to pronounce each akshara as clearly and as distinctly as possible. Emphasis is put on the POA and the manner of articulation. Each akshara, because it is representing a syllable is considered alive, and in order to make it mute, a killer -- a viram aka {a.þût} -- must be applied to it. As young children, we were told that each akshara is a god {Bu.ra:} in itself and we were made to kowtow a book written in aksharas if we happened to step on it.

The instrument of 'killing' the consonant is known as the virama in Sanskrit and {a.þût} in Burmese.

[Prominent examples also include: ] morphologically, the formation of gerunds; and syntactically, the use of a quotative marker ("iti"). [1] Such features, as well as the presence of non-Indo-European vocabulary, are attributed to a local substratum of languages encountered by Indo-Aryan peoples in Central Asia and within the Indian subcontinent.

UKT 130717: Bur-Myan - a Tibeto-Burman language -- is totally uninflected. See: Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis by A. W. Lonsdale, Education Department, Burma, British Burma Press, Rangoon, 1899. In Preface, Lonsdale writes -- ch00.htm (link chk 150714)

The Burmese language is constructed on scientific principles, and there is no reason why its grammar should not be dealt with also from a scientific standpoint. But it may be safely said that Burmese grammar as a science has not received that attention it deserves.

• With regard to the grammatical treatises by native writers, it is no exaggeration to say that there is not one which can be properly called a Burmese grammar. These writers, not content with merely borrowing the grammatical nomenclature of the Pali language, also attempted to assimilate the grammatical principles of the uninflected Burmese to those of the inflected Pali; so that they produced, not Burmese grammars, but modified Pali grammars in Burmese dress. The servile veneration in which they held Pali, the language they had adopted as the classic, is, no doubt, directly responsible for the composition of such works. In their endeavour to conform strictly to Pali methods, they often introduced unnecessary terms and misapplied them, ignoring those grammatical points in Burmese for which they could find no parallel in Pali. How futile their attempts were may be judged by the numerous difficulties and anomalies they created, from some of which even now teachers of the language have not quite extricated themselves - take, for instance, the case-inflexions.

A substantial body of loanwords has been identified in the earliest Indian texts. Non-Indo-Aryan elements (such as -s- following -u- in Rigvedic busa) are clearly in evidence. While some loanwords are from Dravidian, and other forms are traceable to Munda [2] or Proto- Burushaski, the bulk have no sensible basis in any of these families, suggesting source in one or more lost languages. [UKT ¶]

UKT 130717: What is Burushasski language? Sounds Russian - but is not. It is a language with three dialects named after the main valleys: Hunza, Nagar, and Yasin (also called Werchikwār). Yasin dialect is the most divergent and is the least affected by contact with neighboring languages. All three dialects are mutually intelligible.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burushaski 130717

Geographically, the area lies in the extreme north-west of the present-day Pakistan. The name of valley of Hunza which sounds very Bur-Myan is intriguing. We have a town in northern Myanmarpré with the same name. Of course, the name of another valley Nagar also sounds Bur-Myan. The names Yasin and the Bur-Myan town of {ra.mæÑ:þín:} are also intruding. Could they be the furthest-reaches of Tibeto-Burman languages?

Western linguists, and their followers in Myanmarpré, should stop their study using the bias of inflexions. Burmese, a language free from inflexions has been studied by from the point of view of inflexions with disastrous results. The above Wikipedia article has an interesting footnote on phoneme /j/ :
" This phoneme has various pronunciations, all of which are rare sounds cross-linguistically. Descriptions include: "a voiced retroflex sibilant with simultaneous dorso-palatal narrowing" (apparently [ʐʲ] ) (Berger 1998); "a fricative r, pronounced with the tongue in the retroflex ('cerebral') position" (apparently [ɻ̝]/[ʐ̞], a sound which also occurs in Standard Chinese, written r in Pinyin) (Morgenstierne 1945); and "a curious sound whose phonetic realizations vary from a retroflex, spirantized glide to a retroflex velarized spirant" (Anderson forthcoming). In any case, it does not occur in the Yasin dialect, and in Hunza and Nager it does not occur at the beginning of words. "

The discovery that some loan words from one of these lost sources had also been preserved in the earliest Iranian texts, and also in Tocharian convinced Michael Witzel and Alexander Lubotsky that the source lay in Central Asia and could be associated with the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC). [3] [UKT ¶]

UKT 130717: The area designated above as BMAC, -- the area of bronze-age civilization ca. 2300–1700 BCE located in present-day Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikstan centered on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) -- should be compared to our Pyu bronze-age civilization. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bactria–Margiana_Archaeological_Complex 130717.

The area of ancient Pyus in northern Myanmarpré was the source of copper and zinc ores used for making brass an alloy of copper and zinc. Remember, the ancient art of handing of molten metals to be cast into huge objects such as the world's biggest functioning bell, the Mingun Bell is indigenous. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingun_Bell 130717

Another lost language is that of the Indus Valley Civilization, which Witzel initially labelled Para-Munda, but later the Kubhā-Vipāś substrate. [4]

UKT: More in the Wikipedia article.

UKT 030717: If you look for Vedic religion on the Internet, you will be given only what the Hindu Brahmana-poannas {brah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:}, having been claiming as theirs. If you go by my assertion that Vedic language was not IE and was quite different from Classical Sanskrit of Panini, you will have to look into the pre-Buddhistic and pre-Hinduistic religions of the Tib-Bur (Tibeto-Burman) speakers who had lived along the southern foothills of Himalayas extending from the present-day Afghanistan in the west, to Myanmarpré in the east, a possible candidate is the ancient Bon {baung:} religion of Tibet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon 130717). Compare it to the cult of {waiz~za} practiced under the umbrella of Theravada Buddhism in present-day Myanmarpré. A branch of the {waiz~za} cult is the cult of Runes. Also look into the cult of Nat {nût} which may be comparable to the worship of Me'nes in pre-Christian Rome. See Folk Elements of Buddhism, by Dr. Htin Aung, and my work on it. -- flk-ele-indx.htm .

Go back Vedic-note-b1 

Contents of this page

Macdonell's Preface

It is undoubted a surprising fact that down to the present time no history of Sanskrit literature as a whole has been written in English. For not only does that literature possess much intrinsic merit, but the light it sheds on the life and thought of the population of our Indian Empire [which had included British Burma] ought to have a peculiar interest for the British nation. Owing chiefly to the lack of an adequate account of the subject, few, even of the young men who leave these shores every year to be its future rulers, possess any connected information about the literature in which the civilization of Modern India can be traced to its sources, and without which that civilization can be fully understood. ...

In writing this history of Sanskrit literature, I have dwelt more on the life and thought of Ancient India which that literature embodies, than would perhaps have appeared necessary in the case of a European literature. [UKT¶]

UKT 190424: Remember Ancient India, particularly the areas just south of the Himalayas and Burma had extensive cultural exchange due to the lengthy land boundaries. This exchange can be traced back even to the geological ages, as the Himalayas was growing, and as modern Man was evolving. See Section 08:
Geography {pa.hta.wi-wín} - geog-indx - update 2018Feb
Geology - {Bu-mi.bé-Da.} - geol-indx - update 2018May

This I have done partly because Sanskrit literature, as representing an independent civilisation entirely different from that of the West, requires more explanations than most others; and partly because, owing to the remarkable continuity of Indian culture, the religious and social institutions of Modern India are constantly illustrated by those of the past.




Contents of this page

UKT notes



Contents of this page

End of TIL file