quoted several times as Mahidâsa Aitareya in the Aranyaka itself, though not in the Brâhmana. We also meet his name in the Khândogya-upanishad (III, 16, 7), where we are told that he lived to an age of 116 years. All this, however, would only prove that, at the time of the composition or collection of these Âranyakas and Upanishads, a sage was known of the name of Mahidâsa Aitareya, descended possibly from Itara or Itarâ, and that one text of the Brâhmanas and the Âranyakas of the Bahvrikas was handed down in the family of the Aitareyins.
Not content with this apparently very obvious explanation, later theologians tried to discover their own reasons for the name of Aitareya. Thus Sâyana, in his introduction to the Aitareya-brâhmana, tells us that there was once a Rishi who had many wives. One of them was called Itarâ, and she had a son called Mahidâsa. His father preferred the sons of his other wives to Mahidâsa, and once he insulted him in the sacrificial hall, by placing his other sons on his lap, but not Mahidâsa. Mahidâsa's mother, seeing her son with tears in his eyes, prayed to her tutelary goddess, the Earth (svîyakuladevatâ Bhûmih), and the goddess in her heavenly form appeared in the midst of the assembly, placed Mahidâsa on a throne, and on account of his learning, gave him the gift of knowing the Brâhmana, consisting of forty adhyâyas, and, as Sâyana calls it, another Brâhmana, "treating of the Âranyaka duties" (âranyakavratarûpam brâhmanam).
Without attaching much value to the legend of Itarâ, we see at all events that Sâyana considered what we call the Aitareyâranyaka as a kind of Brâhmana, not however the whole of it, but only the first, second, and third Âranyakas (atha mahâvratam îtyâdikam âkâryâ âkâryâ ityantam). How easy it was for Hindu theologians to invent such legends we see from another account of Mahidâsa, given by Ânandatîrtha in his notes on the Aitareya-upanishad.
- Not 1600 years, as I printed by mistake; for 24 + 44 + 48 make 116 years. Rajendralal Mitra should not have corrected his right rendering 116 into 1600. Ait. Âr. Introduction, p. 3.
- M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 336.