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REPORT ON THE “VEDAS.”
PRoposed PUBLICAtion of the VEDAs.
In compliance with a Resolution passed at a general meeting of the Asiatic Society held on the 6th April, 1847, the Committee of Papers circulate for the information of the resident members, the annexed documents, chiefly communicated by the “Oriental Section” of the Society, relative to the proposed publication of the Vedas.
The expense of the undertaking is to be defrayed from the grant of 500 Rs. per mensem, allowed to the Society by the Hon'ble Court of Directors, for the promotion of Oriental literature.
The Committee of Papers propose that the views advanced in Dr. Roer's report, supported by the Oriental Section, be adopted by the Society on the responsibility of that section—that Pundits from Benares be engaged—that Dr. Roer be appointed Editor, under the supervision of the Oriental section, by whom all proof sheets should be examined and passed before finally sent to press—lastly, that the section be invited to report progress from time to time, and that after six months the question be entertained of the manner in which Dr. Roer's labours may be duly remunerated.
The above propositions will be discussed at the regular meeting of the first Wednesday in May.
W. B. O'SHAUGHN Essy, April 12th, 1847. Sen. Sec. Asiatic Society.
Asiatic Society of Bengal. G. A. BU's HBY, Esq. W. J Ackson, Esq. BAboo DEBENDERNATH TAGoRE. BAboo HURREE MoHUN SEN. GentleMEN,+I have the honor to inform you that you are solicited by the Asiatic Society of Bengal to afford them, through the
Committee of Papers, your valuable aid, as additional members of the section appointed for advice and reference to, on
“ORIENTAL LITERATURE AND PHILOLOGY.”*
Of this section Dr. E. Roer is the Secretary, and he will from time to time circulate for your examination all papers and documents upon which the Asiatic Society may desire the benefit of your suggestions.
The members of the several sections being appointed by the Society as ex-officio inspectors of the Museums and Library in their several departments, your co-operation in this respect is most earnestly invited, and any aid or advice you may be pleased to afford for the improvement or increased efficiency of these branches of the Society's establishment, will be received with the utmost thankfulness and respect.
In deference to the expressed wishes of the Honourable the Court of Directors, reiterated in Mr. Secretary Bushby's letter, dated the 21st November, 1846, the Asiatic Society are desirous of taking immediate measures for the publication of the Vedas, with a commentary, the expense to be defrayed from the grant from Government of 500 Rs. per mensem for “Oriental Publications.” Your Secretary, Dr. Roer, will be requested to obtain for the Society, at the earliest possible period, such suggestions as your section may be pleased to communicate on this important subject.
I have the honor to be,
Asiatic Society, 16th Feb. 1847. Sen. Sec. Asiatic Society.
Asiatic Society, the 30th March, 1847.
GENTLEMEN, -In compliance with the request expressed in the Senior Secretary's letter of the 16th ult, addressed to the Oriental Section of the Society, I have the honour to submit to you, for your consideration, a few suggestions respecting the publication of the Vedas, and request the favour of your able advice for the guidance of the Society in this important undertaking.
* Former members :-Major Marshall, since resigned.—The Rev. Dr. Haeberlin —The Rev. Mr. Long.
Before I can, however, enter upon the proposition of a plan, according to which, I believe, we may commence the printing of the Vedas, it is imperative upon me to advert to some of the difficulties, connected with this work, as its success depends upon a correct estimate of the nature of these difficulties. For this purpose I beg to lay before you the accompanying letters, in which these difficulties are represented in a very strong light, and seemingly, for the present at least, unsurmountable. I believe, however, that all the impediments may be overcome, and as readily now as at any future time. The difficulties are chiefly of two kinds, the collection of the Vedas and the understanding of the language of the same, as this last is essential to the correctness of the text. Permit me to solicit your attention first to the former difficulty. It has been insisted on in the letters before you, or I should not have ventured to detain you so long on this subject, that the language of the Vedas is antiquated and obsolete, and for this reason not intelligible without the assistance of Pundits who have studied the Vedas at Benares. I will not urge against this assertion, that some literary undertakings have been successfully completed of infinitely greater difficulty than the present, for instance to give a near and illustrious example, that the characters of the legends on the Bactrian coins, for which there was no living interpreter, have been deciphered, that the language of these legends, of which there are no other documents, and which has long ago died away, has been fully understood by study, perseverance and genius; but I would urge with regard to the Vedas themselves facts which cannot be controverted, that parts of these Vedas have been published, and with eminent success, without the assistance of any Pundit, by European scholars; I mean the Samhita of the Sámaveda, by the Rev. Mr. Stephenson, and part of the Sámhita of the Rigveda by the late Professor Rosen in London, the text in both cases accompanied by a translation. This success ought then to be a guarantee of our own success, if we have only perseverance enough, and use the means at our command. These means are first, the very works just mentioned, by which the study and understanding of the Vedas is considerably facilitated, especially by Rosen’s work, which is a mine of information with regard to the correct interpretation of the Vedas. In his notes all obsolete forms of the language, occurring in the text, are explained, and reference is made to the interpretation of the same by ancient works of the Hindus.
Secondly, the language of the Vedas in its grammar is explained by Pánini and other Hindu authors on Sanscrit grammars, especially by Bhattogi Dixita in the Siddhánta Káumudi, the works of whom are partly printed and commented upon. The edition of Pánini by Boethlinck will give all the assistance that is required, completely to understand the grammatical forms peculiar to the Vedas. Further, the language of the Vedas with regard to its style is simple, and in this respect easy; there are no unusual combinations of words; the language of the Samhitas (to which I here only refer, as it is the most difficult part) is that of prayer, connected with the daily routine of life. The only difficulty consists in the occasional want of the connexion of the ideas. This difficulty, however, is not of frequent occurrence, and will be removed by an attentive perusal of the whole prayer in which such passages occur.
Thirdly, we have those commentaries of the Vedas which, from the most ancient times until now, have been acknowledged as guides in the interpretation of the Vedas. These commentaries give a full explanation of the peculiar grammatical forms and obsolete words as well as of the sense, when it is obscure, or when allusions are made to usages and customs which disappeared at a later period, or they supply omissions in the text. They are at the same time not written in the dialect of the Vedas, but in a language which every one, acquainted with the Sanscrit, can understand.
On these grounds I consider any objection, raised upon the ancient form of the language against the publication of the Vedas, as of no weight whatever. By study, application and perseverance, which are required for the execution of every important literary undertaking, they will assuredly be overcome.
The second difficulty is to procure a complete copy of the Vedas.
There is no complete copy of the same in Calcutta, and also not at Bemares, as appears from a statement of Mr. Muir which I have added to this Report. There are, however, considerable portions of them here, and still more at Benares, and judging from what we already possess we have every reason to expect, that we shall be able to complete our collections in India, especially, if we follow Raja Radhakant's advice to apply for them in the Dekhan (Tailinga, Dravirha, &c.). Should we, however, fail in this, there is, as Colebrooke states in his Essay on the Vedas; and as is alluded to in Raja Radhakant's letter, a complete copy of the Vedas in London, brought there by Col. Polier. It is greatly to be lamented, that we have no catalogue of the Vedaic MSS. in the Library of the East India House. These collections must, however, be extensive, and we may confidently hope, that the Directors will open to us the resources of their Library for a publication of the Vedas. If we have then grounds to believe that we may obtain a complete collection of the Vedas (and also of a commentary of the same), are we to delay the publication of them, until this collection is completed I think not. To wait for this, is to postpone the publication to an indefinite period, nay, to decline it altogether. The commencement once made, we shall obtain assistance from many quarters in Europe as well as in India. If we do not commence, the public will withhold their aid in the belief, that our present intention of publishing contains as little meaning, as it has displayed for the last five years, during which time we have received the handsome grant of 500 Rs. per mensem, on the part of the Directors, to be expended for this particular purpose. I therefore suggest, that the publication of the Vedas should be commenced without further delay, provided that the MSS. at our command suffice (as I think they do) to print a considerable portion of these works together with a commentary, and secondly, that, while the printing is going on, we increase and complete our collections here, and if necessary, in Europe. To make myself understood with regard to the mode of the publication of the Vedas that I propose, I must premise a remark on the division of the Vedas. There are, as is well known, Four Vedas, each consisting of two parts; the first is called Sanhita, and contains a collection of Mantras, or prayers directed to different gods, invocations and incantations. The second part of each Veda is called Bráhmana, and contains precepts, moral maxims, explanation of religious ceremonies, &c. I have now obtained in Calcutta four complete MSS. of the Sanhita of the Rig Veda (the first Veda) and a commentary on the first