Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 19.

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W. Norman Brown


This article is reprinted from Pratidanam: Indian^ Iranian and Indo-European Studies Presented to Franciscus Bemardus Jocobus Kuiper on His Sixtieth Birthday (The Hague: Mouton, 1968, pp. 393-97). An annotated translation of Rgveda lol64 is in Dr. Brown's article "Agni, Sun, Sacrifice, and Vac: A Sacerdotal Ode of Dirghatamas (Rgveda 1.164),'* JAOS 88.199-219. The translation of Rgveda 10ol25 is from Dr, Brown^ article "Theories of Creation in the Rgveda^

Among the gods and goddesses of the Rgveda the goddess Vac, deified Holy Speech or Utterance, is so devoid of anthropomorphic qualities as to lack even a minimum of mythology« It might be questioned that she deserves to be called a goddess at all. Macdonell gives her only eleven lines in his Vedio Mythology (p, 124, with an additional remark or two on pp. 87, 137), scanty treatment, which is justified by the fact that her personification is hardly more than one of grammatical gender and remains so until the post-Rgvedic period when she has blended with Sarasvati. In the Rg and Atharva Vedas, broadly speaking, she attains only a fair degree of importance as a bit of hieratic metaphysics, representing the ultimate elevation of the magic power which holy sound is considered to possess. She seems to have received no popular exaltation nor to have had a popular followingo Yet within a limited priestly circle, one of those concerned with religious or philosophical speculation, she came to occupy a commanding position, rivalling the lofty status of such conceptions as the masculines Prajapati, Visvakarman, Purusa, Brhaspati, Brahmanaspati, and the neuters Brahman and Tad Ekam.^- The present note aims to bring out this point more positively, as far as I am aware, than has been done beforeo

The Rgvedic sources for this view of Vac are the three hymns 10,71, 10 125, and 1.164, the last ascribed to Dirghatamas» Of these the most informative is 1,164, though the information it contains about Vie has not had the attention from scholars which they have given to the others and which it deserves, perhaps because the puzzlesome character of that hymn as a whole may have veiled from them the light it casts upon her role* This fact has been impressed upon me in the course of an intensive study which I have been making of that hymn, Deussen, for example, in his translation and interpretation of RV 1.164 seems not to have recognized that it is Vac who is the One Real (Skam sdt) of stanza 46.^

As the Holy Utterance of the Vedic ritual. Vac, in the eyes of her cult, was the final apotheosis of the power of spells, charms, incantations. Macdonell points out (toe. oit») that in the Naighantuka (5.5) she "is enumerated among the deities of the atmosphere; and thunder, or madhyamika vac, Tthe voice of the middle region', in the terminology of the commentators (Nip. 11 27), may have been the starting point of the personification."

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