Page:Sanskrit Grammar by Whitney p1.djvu/17

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in it all; but only a history of style, and this for the most part showing a gradual depravation, and increase of artificiality and an intensification of certain more undesirable features of the language — such as the use of passive constructions and of participles instead of verbs, and the substitution of compounds for sentences.

This being the condition of the later literature, it is of so much the higher consequence that there is an earlier literature, to which the suspicion of artificiality does not attach, or attaches at least only in a minimal degree, which has a truly vernacular character, and abounds in prose as well as verse.

The results of the very earliest literary productiveness of the Indian people are the hymns with which, when they had only crossed the threshold of the country, and when their geographic horizon was still limited to the river-basin of the Indus with its tributaries, they praised their gods, the deified powers of nature, and accompanied the rites of their comparatively simple worship. At what period these were made and sung cannot be determined with any approach to accuracy: it may have been as early as 2000 B.C. They were long handed down by oral tradition, preserved by the care, and increased by the additions and imitations, of succeeding generations; the mass was ever growing, and, with the change of habits and beliefs and religious practices, was being variously applied — sung in chosen extracts, mixed with other material into liturgies, adapted with more or less of distortion to help the needs of a ceremonial which was coming to be of immense elaboration and intricacy. And, at some time in the course of this history, there was made for preservation a great collection of the hymn-material, mainly its oldest and most genuine part, to the extent of over a thousand hymns and ten thousand verses, arranged according to traditional authorship and to subject and length and metre of hymn: this collection is the Rig-Veda Veda of verses (ṛc) or of hymns. Other collections were made also out of the same general mass of traditional material: doubtless later, although the inter-