Life in the Upanishads (An Old and Rare Book)

Item Code: IDE304
Author: Dr. Subhra Sharma
Publisher: Abhinav Publication
Language: English
Edition: 1985
ISBN: 8170172020
Pages: 254
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5" X 5.6"
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

The Upanishads have long fascinated Indian and foreign thinkers alike. The rich abundance of thought, the profound knowledge of Truth and life, the mystical pronouncements about the Individual and World Soul have inspired many writers and philosophers. But it was almost invariably the philosophical aspect of th Upanishads which attracted attention. The cultural aspect was lumped together with that of the preceding and succeeding eras. That the Upanishads were composed apart from the early Vedic literature and showed both continuation of and departure from its customs and practices was ignored altogether.

The present work is invaluable as a socio-cultural study of the Upanishads providing a deep insight into the land, the political and social institutions, th economy, religious ideas and philosophical urges of the people. It is based entirely on the older Upanishads: Aitareya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isa, Katha, Kaushitaki, Kena, Maitrayani, Mandukya, Mundaka, Prasna, Svetasvatara and Taittiriya. In this work the Upanishadic spriit is represented by thinkers like Satyakama Jabala who did not covet material wealth, Janaka, Ajatasatru and Asvapati devoted to the cause of learning, Gargi Vacaknavi daring to question the mighty sage Yajnavalkya and Uddalaka Aruni ever on the move in quest of Truth.

About the Author:

Dr (Mrs) Shubhra Sharma (Malaviya), born to literary parents and brought up on the books of scholars like Rahul Sankrityayan, R.D. Bannerji and J.L. Nehru, had a natural leaning towards literature and history. She topped in the Intermediate (Arts) examination of the U.P. Board and did it again in B.A. examination of the Banaras Hindu University, winning 3 gold medals. She took her M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology from the B.H.U. securing highest marks. Sahitya Shastri Pt. I form the Varanaseya Sanskrit Viswavidyalaya gave her added incentive to study the Upanishads in their original Sanskrit form. She was awarded Ph.D. for the present work in 1980 by the B.H.U.

She has served her alma mater as an Honorary Assistant to the Director, Bharat Kala Bhawan and as Research Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor on the project 'Contribution of B.H.U. towards National Movement'. She was also a lecturer of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology at Patna University. Married to a journalist, she resides at Jaipur and is at present working on the Non-Aryans in Vedic Literature. A collection of her short stories for children has been published by the Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.


The word Upanishad, to the layman, stands for deep mystical teachings. To the philosopher. it stands for the fountainhead from which all later systems spring forth. To the historian, it stands for the last phase of Vedic literature and culture when the lesser known protohistoric period was advanc- ing forward to meet the era of recorded history. The Upani- shads have always drawn attention of the scholars from far and near as sources of philosophy but their true worth as sources of history was not, realized. Other phases of Vedic literature like the Rgveda, Atharvaveda, the Brahmanas, the Grhya and Kalpa Sutras had merited separate studies, but this was not true of the Upanishads. This fact was pointed out to me by Dr. B.S. Upadhyaya and Dr. V.N. Mishra. My supervisor Dr. (Mrs.) M. Jauhari also agreed that the topic had interesting possibilities. The present study strives to present a picture of the Upanishadic life: the people, their environment, their beliefs and practices, based on the Upani- shads themselves, and not on the preceding and succeeding genres of literature.

Being a student of Sanskrit, I have relied mostly on the original sources and have sparingly dwelt on the secondary sources. This was done in order to present the most unbiased and clear picture of the Upanishadic people.

The thesis is divided into ten chapters. Chapter I, Introduc- tion, deals with the term Upanishad and its meaning, the number of texts going under the name, the work done so far on the Upanishads, as also the justification of the present work. Chapter II. Vedic Antecedents, provides the backdrop. Chapter III, Geography, describes the terrain, people, flora and fauna reflected in the Upanishads. Chapter IV, State and Administration, gives details of the Upanishadic kings in rela- tion to their officials and subjects. The Upanishads hardly mention any non-monarchical state. Chapter V, Society, dis- cusses the stratification of people into varnas and asramas. Some of the samskaras, which bind man from before his birth to after his death, have infiltrated the Upanishads and find mention here. The position of women in the Upanishadic society and the educational system are also described. Chapter VI, Material Life, presents the more tangible side. The food and drink, dress and ornaments, furniture and utensils and the modes of house-building and transport have found mention here. Chapter VII discusses Upanishadic economy which was neither entirely agrarian nor pastoral but a blend of the two, with some aid from trade and commerce as well. Chapter VIII, Religion, relates the Upanishadic idea of the godheads and their ways of worship. Chapter IX describes the philosophy of the Upanishads in a new perspective. It gives an account of the philosophical competitions prevalent at the time, the arena and the participants and then goes on to briefly sketch the emerging philosophy. Cbapter X, Epilogue, embodies the conclusions drawn from the study.

It is my pleasant duty, at last, to record my most sincere and profound gratitude to my teachers in the Department of A.I.H.C. and Archeology. I belong to the old school and do not deem it proper to thank my elders. Thanks are given ever so lightly, a hundred times a day. People free them- selves from obligation and gratitude by a formal word of thanks. Therefore I do not propose to thank my teachers. However, I would like to express the deep sense of obligation that I have for my Supervisor, Dr. (Mrs.) M. Jauhari, who gave me very valuable guidance with motherly affection. I am also beholden to Dr. M.P. Chaubey, without whom this thesis would not have been so comprehensive. Prof. K.K. Sinha and Dr. J.N. Tiwari greatly encouraged me and made valuable suggestions. I am also gratful to Prof. L. Gopal and Dr. P.K. Agrawal, who offered me useful tips during my pre-submission Seminar.

Mr. Ghildiyal and his staff in the lndology Library always managed to bring out old, forgotten volumes from the shelves when I needed them and thus earned my gratitude. I would like to thank Shri L.N. Tiwari, Librarian, Sarasvati Bhavan Library of the Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, for his co-operation. I also greatly appreciate the quick and efficient work of my typist, Shri P.K. Chatterjee.

Before I close, I must make a special mention of the eminent scholar, Dr. Bhagavat Sharan Upadhyaya, who saw my work several times and gave me the indulgence of discussing the subject freely with him. I respectfully acknowledge the everyday help which I received from my loving grandfather, Shri S.S. Sharma.

I will feel happy if this humble effort of mine will succeed in giving a clear picture of 'Life in the Upanishads' and I shall deem myself amply rewarded if these threads of thoughts are woven into some useful pattern by the learned scholars of the subject. This, I am sure, will prove a useful contribution towards better understanding of the Upanishadic people.



  Preface vii
  List of Abbreviations xi
  Scheme of Transliteration xiii
I. Introduction 1
II. Vedic Antecedents 29
III. Geography 38
IV. State and Administration 60
V. Society 80
VI. Material Life 117
VII. Economy 139
VIII. Religion 154
IX. Philosophical Bouts 187
X. Epilogue 227
  Bibliography 235
  Index 241

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