One of the things that distinguishes Hinduism and the Vedic religion from other traditions is the importance ascribed to the shabda

Reciting texts in the original with correct pronunciation (ucchAraNa) and the right tonal modulations (svara-pATha)

The meaning takes a backseat
But does this have traditional sanction?

Is it OK to equate vedic study with mere chanting "pArAyaNa") as opposed to understanding the import of the works?

What's fascinating is that the tradition itself appears divided on this.
First of all learning through the oral tradition is clearly one of the obligatory duties of a brAhmaNa. There are no two ways about it.

Even Manu himself is explicit about this in his smRti -

Verse 1.88

अध्यापनमध्ययनं यजनं याजनं तथा
दानं प्रतिग्रहं चैव ब्राह्मणानामकल्पयत्
Translation :

For the Brāhmaṇas he ordained teaching, studying, sacrificing and officiating at sacrifices, as also the giving and accepting of gifts

Here the terms used for teaching and studying are adhyApanam and adhyayanam respectively
This isn't any generic study

The term "adhyayanam" here specificially refers to Vedic study through the oral tradition from a teacher.

But the question arises - what does this study entail?
Is it just chanting, with the right ucchArana?

Or is it textual analysis?
Now in the great mahAbhASya of the grammarian Patanjali there is a statement that suggests the study of Vedas is independent of realizing its true meaning

brAhmaNEna nishkAraNo dharmah:
shadango vEdOdhyEyo gnEyascha
Translation -

"the Brahmin dedicates himself to sincere and
relentless study of the Vedas, together with its 6
great branches and to the realization of its meaning and true purpose"
Now my Sanskrit is v patchy. But I think a distinction is drawn here between "Veda adhyayana" (VedOdhyeyo) and investigating its true meaning (gnEya)

@RangaTheDude - can chip in with your thoughts!
So a case is made here that veda adhyayana need not entail investigating the meaning of the words

pArAyaNa (chanting) itself is the outcome of adhyayana. It need not extend to mastering the import of the Vedas
But in a different text (say yAska's nirUkta), a different line is taken -

"Studying the Vedic texts without understanding the meaning is like a wooden post on which burdens are kept. It will serve no purpose beyond that"
(from SK Ramachandra Rao)
The study of a text without understanding its meaning is clearly questioned in nirUkta

But elsewhere adhyayana appears to entail just chanting in the oral tradition
So the tradition is divided on this.

Perhaps this is the reason the oral tradition survives in Hinduism, and mere chanting without investigation of meaning does not invite derision.
And more philosophically this can be interpreted as a certain disdain Indians have towards the interpretative abilities of human beings.

There are limits to reason. Humans can be dangerous in the way they ascribe meaning (particularly ancient texts written in archaic language)
So the emphasis on chanting and the shabda and the scepticism towards translation / interpretation can be seen as a deep conservative impulse

A certain fear of analytical conceit

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More from @shrikanth_krish

22 Oct
When one discusses the pre-history of South India, the origins of Dravidian speakers invariably comes up

When did the Dravidian languages make their entry in India?

Were they pan-Indian at any point?

On this - the views of Nilakantha Sastri / Fuerer Haimendorf are interesting
This is somewhat dated as these individuals operated some 70 years ago in academia

But their theory is -

1. Dravidian languages were never quite pan-Indian or dominant in North India

2. They have always been spoken mostly in the region where they are spoken now (lower Deccan)
3. It is likely the Dravidian speakers have affinity to the Armenoid race-type, who colonized South India through sea travel from the west, leaving their original homeland in Central Asia (Anatolia, Armenia, Iran)
Read 13 tweets
20 Oct
Interesting piece, but it stereotypes the interaction of "brahminical thought" with the traditions of the hoi polloi

The paternalist attitude of the brAhmaNas is less evident in Southern India, where the give-and-take was more even…
This is most evident when one studies the history of the Alvar and Nayanar saints of Tamil country

Where the cultural interaction of the brAhmaNas with local vellAlars was definitely not characterized by a supercilious attitude of the brahmin towards local traditions
Two good examples are -

1. The relationship between Appar and Sambandhar in Nayanar lore

2. The very high status accorded to Nammalvar in Sri-Vaishnava lore
Read 8 tweets
20 Oct
Often encountered the question in discussions -

"Why are you not a libertarian/classical liberal"?

I was one, back in my 20s

Outgrew that for a few reasons

1. Classical liberalism is predicated on "reason". Tends to dismiss prejudice altogether

2. It ignores history/culture
Classical liberalism is fundamentally anti-politics

Because it is based on the universalizing notions of individual liberty, economic freedom

It does not acknowledge "groups", "special interests"
E.g libertarians insist on low tariffs

But then zero tariffs are always in general interest. They may reduce prices for everybody just a wee bit

But not in the special interest of any group.

So if the idea is to support domestic industry, zero tariffs may not be beneficial
Read 13 tweets
16 Oct
It is often said Indian states diverge a lot in terms of incomes

I view it differently

E.g. TN PCI : $11K in PPP Terms
UP PCI : $3K

That's a ratio of 3.7. But absolute difference is $8K

In China, Jiangsu is at $33K, Yunnan at $11K
Ratio of 3. But absolute difference is $22K
To my mind, it is the absolute difference in PPP-adjusted PCI across regions you should focus on

Not the ratio

When you move from a province with $11K income to $33K, you feel the difference a LOT more than when you move from a province with $3K income to $11K
Ratios don't make sense when the base is low.

E.g. UP is perhaps 2 times richer than Haiti

But it may not feel that much richer.

As opposed to say moving from Argentina to US
Read 5 tweets
14 Oct
I can sense a certain Trad anxiety here

To my mind, ICM is merely a manifestation of a deeper deracination in habits / lifestyle

When lifestyles and values converge, ICM is inevitable

If the cultures are indeed v distinct, ICM will also be marginal
So my gratuitous advice to Trads is -

Don't campaign against ICM. That's just a symptom

Instead reflect on the distinctiveness of castes, and whether the diversity is worth preserving

If people are rooted enough, they are less likely to marry out
Trads tend to think -

Endoogamy will conserve traditions

I reverse it -

If the traditions have value and hold attraction, there will be a natural resistance to ICM

As is the case in much of India even today
Read 4 tweets
13 Oct
The reaction to the Tanishq ad is way over the top

The issue with H-Right is - the reactionary instinct predominates. There is no creative instinct

E.g. You can make a "conservative" movie where a H-M marriage fails because of cultural schisms

That never happens
There are many ideas for "conservative" films

1. H-M marriage fails because of differing cultures
2. Failure of love marriage. Parental wisdom held up favorably against young love
3. Show films where endogamy can drive better social outcomes / prevent cultural discontinuity
This creative spirit was v much present among "conservatives" 50 yrs ago

The last major manifestation of this spirit in Bollywood was the actor/director Manoj Kumar

Whose films may be cringe worthy in parts, but exude a certain creativity that is missing on the indic side today
Read 4 tweets

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