The editor, Professor Vidya Niwas Misra (b. 1926), has already established himself as a distinguished scholar and teacher of Sanskrit literature besides being known as a writer in both Hindi and Sanskrit, He has received the Moortidevi Award for his book in Hindi, Mahabharat ka Kavyarth in 1990. At present he is Vice-Chanceller, Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi.
Vedakhyanakalpadrumah, compiled and edited by Professor Vidya Niwas Misra, is an anthology of akhyanas (legends) taken from Vedic literature, Samhitas Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanisads. The legends, projects a full-grown philosophy of life. Each akhyana is an enlargement of tension between opposite forces in the microcosm, forces which lie at the centre of all human activities. The ultimate objective of these akhyanas is to reveal the totality of man’s vision of the universe, reflecting both of his own self and the larger existence around him. These also reveal the range and depth of Indian thought and evince that no intellectual codification can match the creativity and exuberance of this literature.
The present volume is a selection of Vedic legends, an assortment from the entire Vedic literature with a view to projecting the seeds of Indian though as well as those of Indian creative literature. These legends have been incorporated, elaborated and reshaped in Puranas and epics time and again a traditional way as well as in the modern so called national way under the influence of the West. But as rightly pointed out by Altizer in his Religious Meaning of Myth and Symbol, the simple myth postulates a religious Zeal which can neither be read by the fractional form of myth and ritual, nor by rational or conceptual thought. In fact a myth is the total perception of language and is very rich and intricate. No intellectual formulation can even come any way near its richness and expressiveness. All attempts to reach some social, political or historical situation through these legends are more or less fruitless because they tend to take away the beauty of legends by their half-way deceptive methodology. These legends can be best understood as a conceptual framework of the fertile mind which is adept in both concretization of the abstract and in abstraction of the concrete. Take for example Vak. There are numerous legends pertaining to Vak in Vedic literature (some of them have been included in this volume). In some Vak is the manifest act of speech, but by and large Vak is the manifest form of the latent creative energy. When Vak is represented as daughter of the Creator (Prajapati) who is infatuated by her beauty, this incestuous relationship metaphorises the improper involvement of Creator with his creation. It indicates as intense creative tension which is phenomenally eternal and is experienced by every creative artist. In other legends Vak is the power of the Mantra (The sacred revealed word) and is therefore essence of all sacrificial activities. Vak enters into the material of sacrifice as offerings and the vessels sacrifice, as if to become a vibration even after the act has been done. Vak is the starter of the sacrifice and she is the final product of the sacrifice. Legends relating to marriage of Vak with ‘Soma’ (exhilarating juice) project at one level an internal relationship between poetry and ecstacy and at the higher level project more meaningful relationship between the two mutually dependent first principles of primordial powers male and female, Siva and Sakti, Consciousness and Bliss, Knowledge (Light) and Energy, In other words, Vak-Soma legends lay down a foundation for the dual-nondualistic Agamic thought in India.
Coming back to the present compilation, first about sources. I had a hard task picking out the most significant legends, as none of them appears to be less significant. Yet, I had to prepare a handy volume, so I had to leave out, unwillingly, a large number of reflective or descriptive than narrative or which were very obscure (needing an intensive probing). The legends have been taken from all the four components of Vedic literature, Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad. The list of all the sources is given at the end of the contents.
The focal point of the legends is the totality of man’s visuals of the cosmos as a complementary existence and as a mirror of his own self, this is also the ultimate objective of these legends.
The beauty of these legends lies in their simple and precise narrative style unmatched in the history of Indian literature. There are no details but in every legend there is a dramatic turn and there is a new fulfilment. At the same time there is always a new quest for a fuller fulfilment. These legends are timeless and ahistorical but they are not cyclic because a cycle assumes a fixed centre which is conspicuous by its absence in these legends. In all the legends there is not one centre. These legends project a spiralling universe of images, a universe which is multicentred and multi-directional in its character. This simplicity, this search for an intense and direct experience of life, and a very pure and open mind, totally uninhibited by sense of guilt or by the notion of original sin, all together make these legends one piece of creative literature.
One more striking point about these legends is their involvement with everyday common human activity activity involving simple hatred, anger, malice, lust and sorrow on one hand and love, compassion. Innocence, self-control and joy, on the other, they do not pretend to e metaphysical and yet they are at the same time metaphysical. What also could more metaphysical than an enlargement of the micro-cosmic tension of attraction and detraction.
The word ‘Akhyana’ which we have translated as legend here according to the tradition is derived from the root khya, which means ‘to make know’. But mere attempt to make something known is not enough, it runs the risk of turning out to be an erroneous view of the thing made known, the thing is not made known in its totality. So there is a prefix, a which signify totality, the act of making known shown should cover all the aspects of the thing being made known. As such akhyana means an act of making known a whole sequence of interrelated events/phases of a phenomenon.Some commentators have defined akhyana as drstarthakathanam(narrating of a perceived artha-phenomenon). What is this artha? Is this the artha, a half-perceived gross reality, or is it the intrinsic suchness of things, which cannot be perceived by senses alone? The Indian tradition takes it in the latter sense, so that akhyana signifies a tale of the intrinsic reality, a tale of the gods, a tale of the opening of the Lotus of creation. By extension, it means any utterance-structure resembling this ingenuous way of relating primordial experience of the universe enveloping the self and vice versa of the expanding self enveloping the perceived universe. We cannot overlook this meaning given to akhyana by the tradition, when we are discussing what goes by the name akhyana (legend) in these contexts.
Needless to say these legends have grown into bigger ones in ‘Puranas’ and classical Sanskrit literature. For example, the Bhrgu legends have to the extent of shadowing over the Bharata war legend in the Mahabharata. The legends relating to gods and demons have become the most fascinating part of Puranas. The legends relating to Pururavas and Urvasi, Dusyanta and Sakuntala, Manu and Deluge, Ghora Angiras and Devakiputra Krsna have been developed into the finest pieces of later days Sanskrit poetry. Each one of these legends can be interpreted from different angles and each one of them has the potential of growing in to a full-grown philosophy of life. Each one of them is a spring of human wisdom in its purest unsprouted from. But even without commentary or interpretation they per se make, in a striking way a beautiful and magnificent literature. The main objective of this volume is to project this aspect of Vedic literature. A separate volume is called for to give a wholesome interpretation of these legends giving an idea of the precess of evolution of ideas in the cultural history of India.
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