Atharva-Veda Samhita/Paragraphs in lieu of a preface by Whitney

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PARAGRAPHS IN LIEU OF A PREFACE BY WHITNEY

Announcement of this work.—The following paragraphs from the pen of Professor Whitney, under the title, "Announcement as to a second volume of the Roth-Whitney edition of the Atharva-Veda," appeared about two years before Mr. Whitney's death, in the Proceedings for April, 1892, appended to the Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume xv., pages clxxi–clxxiii. They show the way in which the labor done by Roth and Whitney upon the Atharva-Veda was divided between those two scholars. Moreover, they state briefly and clearly the main purpose of Whitney's commentary, which is, to give for the text of this Veda the various readings of both Hindu and European authorities (living or manuscript), and the variants of the Kashmirian or Pāippaladā recension and of the corresponding passages of other Vedic texts, together with references to, or excerpts from, the ancillary works on meter, ritual, exegesis, etc. They are significant as showing that in Mr. Whitney's mind the translation was entirely subordinate to the critical notes. Most significant of all—the last sentence makes a clear disclaimer of finality for this work by speaking of it as "material that is to help toward the study and final comprehension of this Veda."—C.R.L.⌋

When, in 1855–6, the text of the Atharva-Veda was published by Professor Roth and myself, it was styled a "first volume," and a second volume, of notes, indexes, etc., was promised. The promise was made in good faith, and with every intention of prompt fulfilment; but circumstances have deferred the latter, even till now. The bulk of the work was to have fallen to Pro­fessor Roth, not only because the bulk of the work on the first volume had fallen to me, but also because his superior learning and ability pointed him out as the one to undertake it. It was his absorption in the great labor of the Petersburg Lexicon that for a long series of years kept his hands from the Atharva-Veda ­except so far as his working up of its material, and definition of its vocabulary, was a help of the first order toward the understand­ing of it, a kind of fragmentary translation. He has also made important contributions of other kinds to its elucidation: most of all, by his incitement to inquiry after an Atharva-Veda in Cash­mere, and the resulting discovery of the so-called Pāippalāda text, now well known to all Vedic scholars as one of the most important finds in Sanskrit literature of the last half-century, and of which the credit belongs in a peculiar manner to him. I have also done something in the same direction, by publishing in the Society's Journal in 1862 (Journal, vol. vii.) the Atharva-Veda Prātiçākhya, text, translation, notes, etc.; and in 1881 ⌊Journal, vol. xii.⌋ the Index Verborum—which latter afforded me the opportunity to give the pada-readings complete, and to report in a general way the corrections made by us in the text at the time of its first issue. There may be mentioned also the index of pratīkas, which was published by Weber in his Indische Studien, vol. iv., in 1857, from the slips written by me, although another (Professor Ludwig) had the tedious labor of preparing them for the press.

I have never lost from view the completion of the plan of pub­lication as originally formed. In 1875 I spent the summer in Germany, chiefly engaged in further collating, at Munich and at Tübingen, the additional manuscript material which had come to Europe since our text was printed; and I should probably have soon taken up the work seriously save for having been engaged while in Germany to prepare a Sanskrit grammar, which fully occupied the leisure of several following years. At last, in 1885–6, I had fairly started upon the execution of the plan, when failure of health reduced my working capacity to a minimum, and rendered ultimate success very questionable. The task, however, has never been laid wholly aside, and it is now so far advanced that, barring further loss of power, I may hope to finish it in a couple of years or so; and it is therefore proper and desirable that a public announcement be made of my intention.

Statement of its plan and scope and design.⌋ — My plan includes, in the first place, critical notes upon the text, giving the various readings of the manuscripts, and not alone of those collated by myself in Europe, but also of the apparatus used by Mr. Shankar Pandurang Pandit in the great edition with commentary (except certain parts, of which the commentary has not been found) which he has been for years engaged in printing in India. Of this extremely well-edited and valuable work I have, by the kind­ness of the editor, long had in my hands the larger half; and doubt­less the whole will be issued in season for me to avail myself of it throughout. Not only his many manuscripts and çrotriyas (the living equivalents, and in some respects the superiors, of manuscripts) give valuable aid, but the commentary (which, of course, claims to be "Sāyaṇa's") also has very numerous various readings, all worthy to be reported, though seldom offering anything better than the text of the manuscripts. Second, the readings of the Pāippalāda version, in those parts of the Veda (much the larger half) for which there is a corresponding Pāippalāda text; these were furnished me, some years ago, by Professor Roth, in whose exclusive possession the Pāippalāda manuscript is held. Further, notice of the corresponding passages in all the other Vedic texts, whether Saṁhitā, Brāhmaṇa, or Sūtra, with report of their various readings. Further, the data of the Anukramaṇī respecting author­ship, divinity, and meter of each verse. Also, references to the ancillary literature, especially to the Kāuçika and Vāitāna Sūtras (both of which have been competently edited, the latter with a translation added), with account of the use made in them of the hymns and parts of hymns, so far as this appears to cast any light upon their meaning. Also, extracts from the printed commentary, wherever this seems worth while, as either really aiding the under­standing of the text, or showing the absence of any helpful tradi­tion. Finally, a simple literal translation; this was not originally promised for the second volume, but is added especially in order to help "float" the rest of the material. An introduction and indexes will give such further auxiliary matter as appears to be called for.

The design of the volume will be to put together as much as possible of the material that is to help toward the study and final comprehension of this Veda.


The purpose and limitations and method of the translation.—In a critique pub­lished some six years earlier, in 1886, in the American Journal of Philology, vii. 2–4, Whitney discusses several ways of translating the Upanishads. His remarks on the second "way" leave no doubt that, in making his Veda-translation as he has done, he fully recognized its provisional character and felt that to attempt a definitive one would be premature. His description of the "third way," mutatis mutandis, is so good a statement of the principles which have governed him in this work, that, in default of a better one, it is here reprinted.—C.R.L.⌋


One way is, to put one's self frankly and fully under the guid­ance of a native interpreter.... Another way would be, to give a conspectus, made as full as possible, of all accessible native inter­pretations—in connection with which treatment, one could hardly avoid taking a position of critical superiority, approving and con­demning, selecting and rejecting, and comparing all with what appeared to be the simple meaning of the text itself. This would be a very welcome labor, but also an extremely difficult one; and the preparations for it are not yet sufficiently made; it may be looked forward to as one of the results of future study.

A third way, leading in quite another direction, would be this: to approach the text only as a philologist, bent upon making a version of it exactly as it stands, representing just what the words and phrases appear to say, without intrusion of anything that is not there in recognizable form: thus reproducing the scripture itself in Western guise, as nearly as the nature of the case admits, as a basis whereon could afterward be built such fabric of philo­sophic interpretation as should be called for; and also as a touch­stone to which could be brought for due testing anything that claimed to be an interpretation. The maker of such a version would not need to be versed in the subtleties of the later Hindu philosophical systems; he should even carefully avoid working in the spirit of any of them. Nor need he pretend to penetrate to the hidden sense of the dark sayings that pass under his pen, to comprehend it and set it forth; for then there would inevitably mingle itself with his version much that was subjective and doubt­ful, and that every successor would have to do over again. Work­ing conscientiously as Sanskrit scholar only, he might hope to bring out something of permanent and authoritative character, which should serve both as help and as check to those that came after him. He would carefully observe all identities and parallelisms of phraseology, since in texts like these the word is to no small extent more than the thing, the expression dominating the thought: the more the quantities are unknown, the less will it answer to change their symbols in working out an equation. Of all leading and much-used terms, in case the rendering could not be made uniform, lie would maintain the identity by a liberal quotation of the word itself in parenthesis after its translation, so that the sphere of use of each could be made out in the version somewhat as in the original, by the comparison of parallel pas­sages; and so that the student should not run the risk of having a difference of statement which might turn out important covered from his eyes by an apparent identity of phrase—or the contrary. Nothing, as a matter of course, would be omitted, save particles whose effect on the shading of a sentence is too faint to show in the coarseness of translation into a strange tongue; nor would anything be put in without exact indication of the intrusion. The notes would be prevailingly linguistic, references to parallel passages, with exposition of correspondences and differences. Sentences grammatically difficult or apparently corrupt would be pointed out, and their knotty points discussed, perhaps with suggestions of text-amendment. But it is needless to go into further detail; every one knows the methods by which a careful scholar, liberal of his time and labor toward the due accomplishment of a task deemed by him important, will conduct such a work.