Friday, November 1, 2013
Chandas and Meluhha: mleccha yavana must be honored like ṛṣi-s
Chandas and Meluhha
At the outset, a disclaimer. I do not have adhikāra to delineate Chandas, the Vedic diction.
So, I started compiling resources to understand Chandas in the context of Indian linguistic area, sprachbund which included Meluhha/Mleccha.
Vedic speech or verse or chandas as Pāṇini calls it is an inflectional language like the ancient Avestan. Bhāṣā is a literary Prākṛt which included Deśī, Mleccha of Indian sprachbund. Pāṇini recognizes that Prākṛt was the parole, spoken tongue with agglutinative features.
The use of the gloss Bhāṣā is significant. In many vernaculars, cognate words use the term to refer to speech as in Thai bisi 'to say', Malay basa 'to read'.
Chandas is sacred speech. So was Meluhha as visible language evolved with intimations of sacredness associated with symbols of the type shown on kudurru or sculptural freizes.
Meluhha venerated the smithy as a temple and used the same gloss to denote both a temple and a smithy: kole.l
Clearly, chandas and mleccha were in vogue simultaneously. I do not have the linguistic competence to isolate the similarities, variations, exchanges between chandas and mleccha.
Kuiper has demonstrated the presence of Munda words in Sanskrit. The exercise can also be extended to demonstrate Munda (mleccha) words in chandas.
Manansala makes a claim that the compounding of words in Bhasa showed the highly-agglutinative nature of the language, a process which seemed only to be borrowed in Chandas. 'The use of the absolutive or past participle in the proposition becomes firmly established in the Bhasa and related languages…the prevalence of SOV word order and the frequent occurrence of the subject occurring after the verb, as in the Austronesian languages, also mark tendencies which can safely be classified as non-IE…The morphological similarities between Bhasa and the derived languages, with the Dravidian cannot be easily put aside. The evidence shows that morphology is not as easily borrowed as modern philologists assert.'
Here is what GP Singh has to say about mleccha: "Kirātas pre-eminently figure among the tribes described in ancient Indian and classical (Greek and Latin) literature. The ancient Indian writers as well as classical geographers and historians, while dealing with the primitive races of India, have accorded prominence to the Kirātas. They constitute one of the major segments of the tribal communities living in the Himalayan and sub-Himalayan regions, forest tracts, mountainous areas and the Gangetic plains, valleys and delta of India. The Kirātas were widely diffused tribe. Broadly speaking, the areas inhabited by them covered some parts of eastern, north-eastern, central, western, northern, southern and so-called Greater or Farther India. Their habitation even beyond the confines of India can also be proved…The lalita-Vistara proves the Kirātas' knowledge of writing…The Vasāti tribe of Pāṇini (IV.2.53) and Patanjali (IV.2.52) can be identified with the Basatai of Periplus which include the Kirātas too…He also refers to the Barbaras (IV.3.93) who are generally associated with the Kirātas…The Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata Muni (200 BCE-200 CE), one of the rare sources, specifically deals with the Prakrt language of the Kirāta…This text also used the Barbara-Kirāta together. This source provides some clues about the languages spoken by the Barbara-Kirātas inhabiting north-western region…In the Kumārasambhava, the Kirātas have been described as wild tribe living in the hills, mountains and forests. They have been classed as the mlecchas… In one of the old Cham inscriptions of Champa in Indo-China the Kirātas have been associated with Vrlah race of Champa (Vṛlah-Kirāta-Vita)… The speakers of the mleccha language were called Milakkhas. The term mlekha was used for the first time by the Brahmanas in the sense of a barbarous language spoken by all those (including degraded Aryans and non-Aryan tribes) who wre outside the pale of Aryan culture. From the Buddhist and Jaina texts it is evident that the Kirātas, Pulindas, Andhrakas, Yonakas, Barbaras, Śabaras and others were speakers of this language (Milakkhānāmbhāṣā) which was by and large unintelligible to the Aryans. This language had some thirteen to eighteen forms." (GP Singh, 2008, Researches into the history and civilization of the Kirātas, New Delhi, Gyan Publishing House, pp. 3, 26, 28, 36, 82).
Varahamihira says: "Mleccha yavana must be honored like ṛṣi-s since they have interest in sciences....." ["mleccha hi yavanah teṣu samyak śāstram idam sthitam/ ṛṣivat te 'pi pūjyante kim punar daivavid dvijah" (Brihat-Samhita 2.14)].
Kalyanaraman Oct. 31, 2013