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The Concept of Time in Vedic Ritual

The Concept of Time in Vedic Ritual
Item Code: IDJ486
Author: Maitreyee Rangnekar Deshpande
Publisher: New Bharatiya Book Corporation
Edition: 2001
ISBN: 818741829X
Pages: 322
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.0" X 5.6"

Despite the wonders of the information age there are still precious few actual collaborations between scholar living in the West and scholars living in India on points of Indology. Each world of scholarship bends to exist happily with rules, social worlds, and questions of its own, occasionally peering with timid engagement into the other world for reasons of necessity. Only rarely do scholars engage that other scholarly world for reasons of sheer joy and curiosity. We are no longer curious, but rather laden with the unfortunately false presumptions that "Western" and "Indian" forms of scholarship always have particular tendencies and characteristics which define them. Why would an Indian scholar look at Western Indology if she has learned that it must be colonial by virtue of the fact that it is Western? And Western scholar have been ignoring Indian scholarship for years, treating it at best as a handmaiden to their own work. The terms "Western Indology" and "Indian Indology" were originally provisional terms suggesting certain kinds of cultural orientations and critiques, and yet now they have become the determining factors which draw a hard dividing line between our questions and concerns.

This is a sorry state of conversation indeed. Yet Indological Questions and concerns are surprisingly common. And we ignore those common concerns at our intellectual peril. Some works, however, do still bravely cross the cultural dividing line. This is why it is a great delight indeed to write a foreword to the work of Maitreyee Deshpande, whose cross-cultural Indological energies are evident in her book, "The Concept of Time In Vedic Ritual". Among the many virtues of this work, the readers can see that her questions are shared by a larger community of Indologists, both "Western" and "Indian", and will be of interest to scholars working in different fields, disciplines and scholarly worlds. How might we use the tiniest ritual details to rethink the idea of time in early India? What kinds of time are possible in this early Indian ritual World, and what can it teach us about other ritual worlds?

Deshpande argues that in Indology, the emphasis has been on the metaphysical study of the Brahmanas, but very little on the empirical emphasis of the texts. Her critique spans both Western and Indological scholarship, ranging from A. B. Caland to Brian Smith. Her typology of time goes a long way toward remedying that lack, both in terms of its thoroughness of data collection, as well as its development of a new set of categories with which to think about Vedic ritual. The book's main contributions, as I see it, are both historical and conceptual.

Let me begin with the historical. On the one hand, she systematically shows the ways in which Brahmanic ritual expands itself to incorporate the exigencies of time. While time has been a scholarly focus in the study of the more philosophical Vedic texts, such as the Upanisads, and the later hymns of the Rg Veda, the "history of time" (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Hawking) as such in early India has not included the ritual texts. Deshpande demonstrates that there is a distinct set of conceptions about time in ritual performance that include narrative, grammar, and implicitly philosophical perspectives. Her book will help any historian of ideas place the ritual texts (usually ignored in the history of Indian ideas) alongside their predecessors and successors, and complete the picture of early Indian intellectual life that we currently possess.

The sheer thoroughness of the index of ideas about time that comprises the bulk of the book is remarkable. While the author herself does not claim thoroughness, the reader cannot help but remark on the years of work which the sheer gathering of data must have required. Any historian would be able to use this work as a kind of encyclopedia.

Turning now to the conceptual contribution: The typology that Deshpande develops is also creative and helpful. While some of her categories are intuitively obvious, some of them are not, and reflect a much more accurate idea of Sankritic ideas of time. "Duration", "Order", "Frequency", "Time Identified with Ritual Details" and "Time and Measurement of Ritual Details" all impress me as very important and fresh ways of looking at time in Indian perspective. They are productive categories not only because one wouldn't necessarily think of them in their own right, but because they can provide important links to the reconception of time in the Upanisads. One of the crucial ways in which Upanisadic time is re-configured is through the identification of the meditating body with the passage of time, and we can see the "middle stage" of this process by looking at the Brahmanas as Deshpande does.

Two particularly fruitful reconceptions of time which Deshpande suggests and which are, I think, very new to Vedic studies. The first is the creation of fictitious time, or the creation of time within ritual itself. This idea lends weight to the theory that the world of the Vedic sacrifice had to have the force of the cosmos contained within it in order to be effectives. Many Vedic theorists have speculated that this is the case, but here Deshpande lends empirical weight and specificity to the speculation. Second, the Idea of "desire" as a motivating category for the measurement of time itself holds important resonances with certain kind of postmodern Philosophy, such as that of Julia Kristeva and Renee Girard. Deshpande's concept of desire as itself a kind a Vedic time is helpful indeed, for it allows us to reread the Vedic world with new philosophical idea in mind.

For the sake of a fresh lens on Vedic ritual, let the rereading begin. All of our communities with benefit by the joyful, curious, and thorough book.

About the Book

Time is an important factor in the performance of Vedic ritual. It is very much essential that every detail in the ritual be performed at its proper time. Vedic texts abound in numerous speculations about the mystic connection of time and ritual. A detailed study of such speculations was a long felt desideratum. The present thesis is an attempt in this direction. Aspects such as duration, order, frequency, auspicious and inauspicious time, symbolic time, time in respect to microcosm and macrocosm, etc. have been dealt with in this book.

About the Author

Maitreyee Rangnekar Deshpande did her graduation from University of Mumbai and the post-graduation and doctorate from the University of Pune. She did her Ph.D under the guidance of Dr. G. U. Thite. She has studied German from Max Mueller Bhawan. Pune and French from Alliance Francaise de Poona, Pune. She has written a few articles in English and Marathi, which have been published in various journals.


Acknowledgement (v)
Foreword (vii)
Chapter – I
Chapter – II
1.Introduction 6
2.Sun as an Asterism 21
3.Naksatras deified 22
4.Naksatras and deities 22
5.Naksatras identified with Ritual Details 23
6.Gaining Asterisms 23
Conclusion 24
Chapter – III
1.Introduction 25
2.Origin of Day and Night 27
3.Macrocosm based on Microcosm 28
4.Microcosm based on Macrocosm 29
5. Mystic/Artificial time 29
6.Number of days and nights in year 30
7.Day 31
8.Night 32
9.Day and Night Identified with Ritual Details 33
10.Day and Night and Prajapati 36
11.Day and Night and Deity 36
12.Day and Night Deified 36
13.Night and Evil 37
14.Results obtained from Day and night 37
15.Gaining Day and Night 38
Conclusion 40
Chapter – IV
1.Introduction 42
2.Day – Break or Dawn 42
3.Before Sunrise 43
4.Sunrise 45
5.After Sunrise 46
6.Morning 47
7.Forenoon 50
8.Midday 50
9.Afternoon 51
10.Evening 52
11.Twilight 54
12.Before Sunset 55
13.Sunset 55
14.After Sunset 56
15.Midnight 57
16.Maharatra 58
17.Gaining Results 58
Conclusion 59
Chapter – V
1.Astaka Days 60
2.Ekastaka Day 61
3.New and Full moon days 61
4.New Moon day 64
5.Specific New Moon Days 66
6.Full Moon day 67
7.Specific Full Moon Days 68
8.First day of a fortnight (Pratipad) 71
9.Eighth day of a fortnight 71
10.Fifth day of the bright fortnight 72
11.Sixth day of the bright fortnight 72
12.Seventh day of dark fortnight 72
13.Nine day of the dark fortnight 72
14.Tenth day of the dark fortnight 72
15.Twelfth day of the dark fortnight 72
16.Thirteenth day of the dark fortnight 72
17.Fourteenth day of the dark fortnight 72
18.Fifth day of Sravana 73
19.The day in Sravana Which is in conjunction with Abhijit 73
20.Eighth day of the bright fortnight of Prosthapada 73
21.The day in Bhadrapada which is in conjunction with Abhijit 73
22.The day in Asvina which is in conjunction with Revati 73
23.First day of the bright fortnight of Magha 73
24.Visuvat day 73
25.Upavasatha day 74
26.Prayanlya day 74
27.Arambhanlya Day 74
28.Prajapatya day 74
29.Chandoma days 74
30.Caturvimsa day 75
31.Mahavrata day 75
32.Significance of certain periods and certain days in certain periods 76
33.Particular day/ date deified 76
Conclusion 76
Chapter – VI
1.Sun 77
2.Uttarayana and Daksinayana 77
3.Microcosm, Macrocosm and Sun 82
4.Moon 83
5.Sun and Moon 84
Conclusion 84
Chapter – VII
1.Introduction 86
2.Origin of half-months 87
3.Number of half-months 87
4.Number of days in a half – months 89
5.Two types of half – months 89
6.Half-month and sacrifice 90
7.Half-month identified with ritual details 92
8.Half-month and deity 92
9.Half-month deified 92
10.Gaining half – months 93
Conclusion 94
Chapter – VIII
MONTHS 95-107
1.Introduction 95
2.Origin of months 95
3.Months and year 95
4.Number of months 96
5.Names of months and their corresponding seasons 100
6.Number of days and nights in month 101
7.Gaining months 102
8.Gaining the thirteenth month 102
9.Frequency 103
10.Particular month 104
11.Month identified with ritual details 104
12.Month deified 105
13.Month and Sun 105
14.Month and procreation 106
15.Month and abhicara 106
Conclusion 106
Chapter – IX
SEASONS 108-141
1.Introduction 108
2.Origin of seasons 109
3.Number of seasons 111
4.Days in a season 114
5.Months in a season 115
6.Order in seasons 115
7.Joint of seasons 117
8.Chief of seasons 118
9.Lady of seasons 118
10.Rain in all seasons 118
11.Wind blows differently in every season 118
12.Vasanta (spring) 118
13.Grisma (summer) 119
14.Varsa (rainy season) 119
15.Sarad (autumn) 120
16.Hemanta (winter) 121
17.Sisira (cool season) 122
18.Season and varna 122
19.Seasons and sacrifice 124
20.Seasons identified with ritual details 124
21.Seasons and year 126
22.Seasons and day and night 127
23.Seasons deified 127
24.Seasons and deity 128
25.Seasons and offering 128
26.Seasons and quarters 129
27.Seasons and metres 129
28.Seasons and sun 130
29.Seasons and moon 130
30.Seasons and Agni 130
31.Seasons and Prajapati 131
32.Seasons and fathers 131
33.Seasons and all desires 132
34.Seasons and life 133
35.Seasons and food 133
36.Seasons and procreation 134
37.Seasons and cattle 135
38.Seasons and prosperity 135
39.Seasons and abhicara 138
40.Gaining seasons 138
Conclusion 140
Chapter – X
YEAR 142-170
1.Introduction 142
2.Year and season 149
3. Year and month 149
4. Year and sacrifice 149
5. Year identified with ritual details 150
6. Year and measurement of ritual details 152
7. Year and duration 153
8. Year deified 154
9. Year and Prajapati 154
10. Year and Agni 156
11. Year and Varuna 156
12. Gaining year 156
13. Year and desire 162
14.Year and procreation 163
15. Year and cattle 165
16. Year and food 165
17. Year and heaven 167
18. Year, life and immortality 168
19. Year and prosperity 168
20. Year and splendor 168
21. Year, prominence and bestness 168
22. Year and abhicara 169
23. Year and gaining of sacrifice 169
24. Miscellaneous gains 169
Conclusion 170
Chapter – XI
DURATION 171-183
1.Introduction 171
2. Upto sunset 171
3. Two days 171
4. Three days 171
5. Six days 172
6. Seven days 172
7. Ten days 172
8. Twelve days 172
9. Twenty-five days 172
10. Half-year 173
11. Year 173
12. Fifteen years 177
13. One year or more 178
14. Incomplete duration 179
Conclusion 182
Chapter – XII
ORDER 184-195
1. Introduction 184
2. Simultaneous 184
3. First 186
4. Last 187
5. Before 187
6. After 188
7. Insertion 188
8. Alternate 189
9. In between 189
10. Normal and reverse order 189
11. Mutual inversion 190
12. Omission 190
13. Unification 190
14. Continuous 190
15. Same day 191
16. Sequence 191
17. Order and microcosm-macrocosm 194
18. Order and gains 194
Conclusion 195
Chapter – XIII
1. Introduction 196
2. Some general observations 196
3. Once 196
4. Twice 197
5. Thrice 197
6. Four times 198
7. Five times 199
8. Six times 199
9. Eight times 200
10. Thirteen times 200
11. Everyday 200
12. Every month 201
13. Every season 201
14. Every six months 201
15. Every year 201
Conclusion 202
Chapter – XIV
1. Introduction 203
2. Year identified with ritual details 203
3. Seasons identified with ritual details 205
4. Months identified with ritual details 207
5. Half-months identified with ritual details 208
6. Days and nights identified with ritual details 208
7. Particular day identified with ritual details 210
8. Sun identified with ritual details 210
9. Moon identified with ritual details 211
10. Asterisms identified with ritual details 211
11. Miscellaneous time factors identified with ritual details 211
12. Life-span identified with ritual details 211
Conclusion 212
Chapter – XV
1.Introduction 213
2. Some general observations 213
3. Two 214
4. Three 215
5. Five 215
6. Six 216
7. Seven 220
8. Nine 220
9. Twelve 220
10. Thirteen 224
11. Fourteen 225
12. Fifteen 225
13. Seventeen 226
14. Eighteen 226
15. Twenty-one 227
16. Twenty-four 227
17. Twenty-five 229
18. Twenty-eight229
19. Thirty-two 229
20. Sixty 229
21. Hundred 230
22. One hundred and one 230
23. One hundred and twenty 231
24. Three hundred and sixty 231
25. Seven hundred and twenty 231
26. Seven hundred and twenty-one 232
Conclusion 232
Chapter – XVI
1. Introduction 233
2. Microcosm = macrocosm 233
3. Microcosm based on macrocosm 234
4. Macrocosm based on microcosm 235
Conclusion 241
Chapter – XVII
1. Introduction 242
2. Gaining life 242
3. Age 245
4. Life-span of man and measurement of ritual details 246
5. Immortality and time 247
6. Death and immortality 248
7. Time and death 248
Conclusion 249
Chapter – XVIII
1. Introduction 250
2. Naksatra 250
3. Day and night 250
4. Before Sunrise 251
5. Morning and evening 251
6. Sunset 251
7. Date 251
8. Dark fornight 252
9. Season 252
10. Duration 252
11. Order 252
Conclusion 253
Chapter – XIX
1. Introduction 254
2. Mystic identifications of time factors 254
3. All-encompassing time factors 254
4. Ceaseless time factors 255
5. Circular time factors 255
6. Multiform time factors 256
7. Uniform time factors 256
8. Equilibrial time factors 256
9. Concrete time factors 256
10. Right time 257
11. Potent time 257
12. Time: Harmful 262
13. Time and illness 263
14. Time and illness 263
15. Ritually creating time 263
16. Ritually regulating time 264
17. Shorter time represents larger time 265
18.Time and cosmos 265
19.Completeness and time 267
Conclusion 268
Chapter – XX
1. Symbolic time 269
2. Mistake in time 270
3. Time and fathers 271
4.Specific time 273
5.Today and tomorrow 279
6.Past and future 279
7.Planets 280
8.Days of thw week 280
9.Time and its knowledge 280
Chapter – XXI
Abbreviation and texts 286-287
Titles of books and articles 288-289
Index 290-302
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