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The Aitareya-Âranyaka

IN giving a translation of the Aitareya-upanishad, I found it necessary to give at the same time a translation of that portion of the Aitareya-âranyaka which precedes the Upanishad. The Âranyakas seem to have been from the beginning the proper repositories of the ancient Upanishads, though it is difficult at first sight to find out in what relation the Upanishads stood to the Âranyakas. The Âranyakas are to be read and studied, not in the village (grâme), but in the forest, and so are the Upanishads. But the subjects treated in the Upanishads belong to a very different order from those treated in the other portions of the Âranyakas, the former being philosophical, the latter liturgical.

The liturgical chapters of the Âranyakas might quite as well have formed part of the Brâhmanas, and but for the restriction that they are to be read in the forest, it is difficult to distinguish between them and the Brâhmanas. The first chapter of the Aitareya-âranyaka is a mere continuation of the Aitareya-brâhmana, and gives the description of the Mahâvrata, the last day but one of the Gavâmayana, a sattra or sacrifice which is supposed to last a whole year. The duties which are to be performed by the Hotri priests are described in the Aitareya-âranyaka; not all, however, but those only which are peculiar to the Mahâvrata day. The general rules for the performance of the Mahâvrata are to be taken over from other sacrifices, such as the Visvagit, Katurvimsa, &c., which form the type (prakriti) of the Mahâvrata. Thus the two sastras or recitations, called âgya-praüga, are taken over from the Visvagit, the sastras of the Hotrakas from the Katurvimsa. The Mahâvrata is treated here as belonging to the Gavâmayana sattra, which is described in a different Sâkhâ, see Taittirîya Samhitâ VII, 5, 8, and partly in other Vedas. It is the day preceding the udayanîya, the last day of the sattra. It can be celebrated, however, by itself also, as an ekâha or ahîna sacrifice, and in the latter case it is the tenth day of the Ekadasarâtra (eleven nights sacrifice) called Pundarîka.

Sâyana does not hesitate to speak of the Aitareya-Âranyaka as a part of the Brâhmana[55]; and a still earlier authority, Sankara, by calling the Aitareya-upanishad by the name of Bahvrika-brâhmana-upanishad[56], seems to imply that both the Upanishad and the Âranyaka may be classed as Brâhmana.

The Aitareya-Âranyaka appears at first sight a miscellaneous work, consisting of liturgical treatises in the first, fourth, and fifth Âranyakas, and of three Upanishads, in the second and third Âranyakas. This, however, is not the case. The first Âranyaka is purely liturgical, giving a description of the Mahâvrata, so far as it concerns the Hotri priest. It is written in the ordinary Brâhmana style. Then follows the first Upanishad, Âranyaka II, 1-3, showing how certain portions of the Mahâvrata, as described in the first Âranyaka, can be made to suggest a deeper meaning, and ought to lead the mind of the sacrificer away from the purely outward ceremonial to meditation on higher subjects. Without a knowledge of the first Âranyaka therefore the first Upanishad would be almost unintelligible, and though its translation was extremely tedious, it could not well have been omitted.

The second and third Upanishads are not connected with the ceremonial of the Mahâvrata, but in the fourth and fifth Âranyakas the Mahâvrata forms again the principal subject, treated, however, not as before in the style of the Brâhmanas, but in the style of Sûtras. The fourth Âranyaka contains nothing but a list of the Mahânâmni hymns[57], but the fifth describes the Mahâvrata again, so that if the first Âranyaka may be looked upon as a portion of the Aitareya-brâhmanas, the fifth could best be classed with the Sûtras of Âsvalâyana.

To a certain extent this fact, the composite character of the Aitareya-Âranyaka, is recognised even by native scholars, who generally do not trouble themselves much on such questions. They look both on the Aitareya-brâhmana and on the greater portion of Aitareya-Âranyaka as the works of an inspired Rishi, Mahidâsa Aitareya[58], but they consider the fourth and fifth books of the Âranyaka as contributed by purely human authors, such as Asvalâyana and Saunaka, who, like other Sûtrakâras, took in verses belonging to other Sâkhâs, and did not confine their rules to their own Sâkhâ only.

There are many legends about Mahidâsa, the reputed author of the Aitareya-brâhmana and Âranyaka. He is quoted several times as Mahidâsa Aitareya in the Âranyaka 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[59]. 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[60], 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. He, as Colebrooke was the first to point out, takes Mahidâsa “to be an incarnation of Nârâyana, proceeding from Visâla, son of Abga,” and he adds, that on the sudden appearance of this deity at a solemn celebration, the whole assembly of gods and priests (suraviprasangha) fainted, but at the intercession of Brahmâ, they were revived, and after making their obeisance, they were instructed in holy science. This avatâra was called Mahidâsa, because those venerable personages (mahin) declared themselves to be his slaves (dâsa)[61].

In order properly to understand this legend, we must remember that Ânandatîrtha, or rather Visvesvaratîrtha, whose commentary he explains, treated the whole of the Mahaitareya-upanishad from a Vaishnava point of view, and that his object was to identify Mahidâsa with Nârâyana. He therefore represents Nârâyana or Hari as the avatâra of Visâla, the son of Brahman (abgasuta), who appeared at a sacrifice, as described before, who received then and there the name of Mahidâsa (or Mahîdâsa), and who taught this Upanishad. Any other person besides Mahidâsa would have been identified with the same ease by Visvesvaratîrtha with Vishnu or Bhagavat.

A third legend has been made up out of these two by European scholars who represent Mahidâsa as the son of Visâla and Itarâ, two persons who probably never met before, for even the Vaishnava commentator does not attempt to take liberties with the name of Aitareya, but simply states that the Upanishad was called Aitareyî, from Aitareya.

Leaving these legends for what they are worth, we may at all events retain the fact that, whoever was the author of the Aitareya-brâhmana and the first three books of the Aitareya-Âranyaka, was not the author of the two concluding Âranyakas. And this is confirmed in different ways. Sâyana, when quoting in his commentary on the Rig-veda from the last books, constantly calls it a Sûtra of Saunaka, while the fourth Âranyaka is specially ascribed to Âsvalâyana, the pupil and successor of Saunaka[62]. These two names of Saunaka and Âsvalâyana are frequently intermixed. If, however, in certain MSS. the whole of the Aitareya-âranyaka is sometimes ascribed either to Âsvalâyana or Saunaka, this is more probably due to the colophon of the fourth and fifth Âranyakas having been mistaken for the title of the whole work than to the fact that such MSS. represent the text of the Âranyaka, as adopted by the school of Âsvalâyana.

The Aitareya-âranyaka consists of the following five Âranyakas:

The first Âranyaka has five Adhyâyas:

  1. First Adhyâya, Atha mahftvratam, has four Khandas, 1-4.
  2. Second Adhyâya, Â tvâ ratham, has four Khandas, 5-8.
  3. Third Adhyâya, Hinkârena, has eight[63] Khandas, 9-16.
  4. Fourth Adhyâya, Atha sûdadohâh, has three Khandas, 17-19.
  5. Fifth Adhyâya, Vasam samsati, has three Khandas, 20-22.

The second Âranyaka has seven Adhyâyas:

  1. First Adhyâya, Eshâ panthâh, has eight Khandas, 1-8.
  2. Second Adhyâya, Esha imam lokam, has four Khandas, 9-12.
  3. Third Adhyâya, Yo ha vâ âtmânam, has eight (not three) Khandas, 13-20.
  4. Fourth Adhyâya, Âtma vâ idam, has three Khandas, 21-23.
  5. Fifth Adhyâya, Purushe ha vâ, has one Khanda, 24
  6. Sixth Adhyâya, Ko 'yam âtmeti, has one Khanda, 25.
  7. Seventh Adhyâya, Vân me manasi, has one Khanda, 26.

The third Âranyaka has two Adhyâyas:

  1. First Adhyâya, Athâtah samhitâyâ upanishat, has six Khandas, 1-6.
  2. Second Adhyâya, Prâno vamsa iti sthavirah Sâkalyah, has six Khandas, 7-12.

The fourth Âranyaka, has one Adhyâya:

  1. First Adhyâya, Vidâ maghavan, has one Khanda (the Mahânâmnî's).

The fifth Âranyaka has three Adhyâyas:

  1. First Adhyâya, Mahâvratasya pañkavimsatim, has six Khandas, 1-6.
  2. Second Adhyâya, (Grîvâh)Yasyedam,has five Khandas, 7-11.
  3. Third Adhyâya, (Ûrû) Indrâgnî, has four Khandas, 11-14

With regard to the Upanishad, we must distinguish between the Aitareya-upanishad, properly so-called, which fills the fourth, fifth, and sixth adhyâyas of the second Âranyaka, and the Mahaitareya-upanishad[64], also called by a more general name Bahvrika-upanishad, which comprises the whole of the second and third Âranyakas.

The Persian translator seems to have confined himself to the second Âranyaka[65], to which he gives various titles, Sarbsar, Asarbeb, Antrteheh. That Antrteheh [] is a misreading of [] was pointed out long ago by Burnouf, and the same explanation applies probably to [], asarbeh, and if to that, then to Sarbsar also. No explanation has ever been given why the Aitareya-upanishad should have been called Sarvasâra, which Professor Weber thinks was corrupted into Sarbsar. At all events the Aitareya-upanishad is not the Sarvasâra-upanishad, the Oupnek'hat Sarb, more correctly called Sarvopanishatsâra, and ascribed either to the Taittirîyaka or to the Atharva-veda[66].

The Aitareya-upanishad, properly so called, has been edited and translated in the Bibliotheca Indica by Dr. Röer. The whole of the Aitareya-âranyaka with Sâyana's commentary was published in the same series by Rajendralal Mitra.

Though I have had several MSS. of the text and commentary at my disposal, I have derived little aid from them, but have throughout endeavoured to restore that text which Sankara (the pupil of Govinda) and Sâyana had before them. Sâyana, for the Upanishad portion, follows Sankara's commentary, of which we have a gloss by Ânandagñâna.

Colebrooke in his Essays (vol. ii, p. 42) says that he possessed one gloss by Nârâyanendra on Sankara's commentary, and another by Ânandatîrtha on a different gloss for the entire Upanishad. The gloss by Nârâyanendra[67], however, is, so Dr. Rost informs me, the same as that of Ânandagñâna, while, so far as I can see, the gloss contained in MS. E. I. H. 2386 (also MS. Wilson 401), to which Colebrooke refers, is not a gloss by Ânandatîrtha at all, but a gloss by Visvesvaratîrtha on a commentary by Ânandatîrthabhagavatpâdâkârya, also called Pûrnapragñâkârya, who explained the whole of the Mahaitareya-upanishad from a Vaishnava point of view.



[55] Aitareyabrâhmane 'sti kândam âranyakâbhidham (introduction), a remark which he repeats in the fifth Âranyaka. He also speaks of the Âranyaka-vratarûpam brahmanam; see p. cxiv, 1. 24.

[56] In the same manner the Kaushîtaki-upanishad is properly called Kaushîtaki-brahmana-upanishad, though occurring in the Âranyaka; see Kaushîtaki-brâhmana-upanishad, ed. Cowell, p. 30.

[57] See Boehtlingk and Roth, s.v. Neun Vedische Verse die in ihrem vollständigenWortlaut aber noch nachtnachgewiesen sind. Weber Indische Studien VIII, 68. How these hymns are to be employed we learn from the Âsvalâyana-sûtras VII, 12, 10, where we are told that if the Udgâtris sing the Sâkvara Sâman as the Prishthastotra, the nine verses beginning with Vidâ maghavan, and known by the name of Mahânâmnî, are to be joined in a peculiar manner. The only excuse given, why these Mahânâmnîs are mentioned here, and not in the Brâhmana, is that they are to be studied in the forest.

[58] M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 177, 335.

[59] 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.

[60] M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 336.

[61] Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays, 1873, II, p. 42.

[62] M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 235.

[63] Not six, as in Rajendralal Mitra's edition.

[64] This may have been the origin of a Rishi Mahaitareya, by the side of the Rishi Aitareya, mentioned in the Âsvalâyana Grihya-sûtras III, 4 (ed. Stenzier). Professor Weber takes Aitareya and Mabaitareya here as names of works, but he admits that in the Sânkhâyana Grihya-sûatras they are clearly names of Rishis (Ind. Stud. I, p. 389).

[65] He translates II, I-II, 3, 4, leaving out the rest of the third adhyâya afterwards II, 4-II, 7.

[66] Bibliotheca Indica, the Atharvana-upanishads, p.394

[67] A MS. in the Notices of Sanskrit MSS., vol. ii, p. 133, ascribed to Abhinavanârâyanendra, called Âtmashatkabhâshyatîkâ, begins like the gloss edited by Dr. Röer, and ends like Sâyana's commentary on the seventh adhyâya, as edited by Rajendralal Mitra. The same name is given in MS. Wilson 94, Srîmatkaivalyendrasarasvatîpûgyapâdasishya-srîmadabhinavanârâyanendrasarasvatî.

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