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Vedic Hymns, Part I (SBE32), by Max Müller, [1891], at

p. ix


I finished the Preface to the first volume of my translation of the Hymns to the Maruts with the following words:

'The second volume, which I am now preparing for Press, will contain the remaining hymns addressed to the Maruts. The notes will necessarily have to be reduced to smaller dimensions, but they must always constitute the more important part in a translation or, more truly, in a deciphering of Vedic hymns.'

This was written more than twenty years ago, but though since that time Vedic scholarship has advanced with giant steps, I still hold exactly the same opinion which I held then with regard to the principles that ought to be followed by the first translators of the Veda. I hold that they ought to be decipherers, and that they are bound to justify every word of their translation in exactly the same manner in which the decipherers of hieroglyphic or cuneiform inscriptions justify every step they take. I therefore called my translation the first traduction raisonnée. I took as an example which I tried to follow, though well aware of my inability to reach its excellence, the Commentaire sur le Yasna by my friend and teacher, Eugène Burnouf. Burnouf considered a commentary of 940 pages quarto as by no means excessive for a thorough interpretation of the firs; chapter of the Zoroastrian Veda, and only those unacquainted with the real difficulties of the Rig-veda would venture to say that its ancient words and thoughts required a less painstaking elucidation than those of the Avesta. In spite of all that has been said and written to the contrary, and with every wish to learn from those who think that the difficulties of a translation of Vedic hymns have been unduly exaggerated by me, I cannot in the least

p. x

modify what I said twenty, or rather forty years ago, that a mere translation of the Veda, however accurate, intelligible, poetical, and even beautiful, is of absolutely no value for the advancement of Vedic scholarship, unless it is followed by pièces justificatives, that is, unless the translator gives his reasons why he has translated every word about which there can be any doubt, in his own way, and not in any other.

It is well known that Professor von Roth, one of our most eminent Vedic scholars, holds the very opposite opinion. He declares that a metrical translation is the best commentary, and that if he could ever think of a translation of the Rig-veda, he would throw the chief weight, not on the notes, but on the translation of the text. 'A translation,' he writes, 'must speak for itself. As a rule, it only requires a commentary where it is not directly convincing, and where the translator does not feel secure.'

Between opinions so diametrically opposed, no compromise seems possible, and yet I feel convinced that when we come to discuss any controverted passage, Professor von Roth will have to adopt exactly the same principles of translation which I have followed.

On one point, however, I am quite willing to agree with my adversaries, namely, that a metrical rendering would convey a truer idea of the hymns of the Vedic Rishis than a prose rendering. When I had to translate Vedic hymns into German, I have generally, if not always, endeavoured to clothe them in a metrical form. In English I feel unable to do so, but I have no doubt that future scholars will find it possible to add rhythm and even rhyme, after the true meaning of the ancient verses has once been determined. But even with regard to my German metrical translations, I feel in honesty bound to confess that a metrical translation is often an excuse only for an inaccurate translation. If we could make sure of a translator like Rückert, even the impossible might become possible. But as there are few, if any, who, like him, are great alike as scholars and poets, the mere scholar seems to me to be doing his duty better when he produces a correct translation, though in

p. xi

prose, than if he has to make any concessions, however small, on the side of faithfulness in favour of rhythm and rhyme.

If a metrical, an intelligible, and, generally speaking, a beautiful translation were all we wanted, why should so many scholars clamour for a new translation, when they have that by Grassmann? It rests on Böhtlingk and Roth's Dictionary, or represents, as we are told, even a more advanced stage of Vedic scholarship. Yet after the well-known contributors of certain critical Journals had repeated ever so many times all that could possibly be said in praise of Grassmann's, and in dispraise of Ludwig's translation, what is the result? Grassmann's metrical translation, the merits of which, considering the time when it was published, I have never been loth to acknowledge, is hardly ever appealed to, while Ludwig's prose rendering, with all its drawbacks, is universally considered as the only scholarlike translation of the Rig-veda now in existence. Time tries the troth in everything.

There is another point also on which I am quite willing to admit that my adversaries are right. 'No one who knows anything about the Veda,' they say, 'would think of attempting a translation of it at present. A translation of the Rig-veda is a task for the next century.' No one feels this more strongly than I do; no one has been more unwilling to make even a beginning in this arduous undertaking. Yet a beginning has to be made. We have to advance step by step, nay, inch by inch, if we ever hope to make a breach in that apparently impregnable fortress. If by translation we mean a complete, satisfactory, and final translation of the whole of the Rig-veda, I should feel inclined to go even further than Professor von Roth. Not only shall we have to wait till the next century for such a work, but I doubt whether we shall ever obtain it. In some cases the text is so corrupt that no conjectural criticism will restore, no power of divination interpret it. In other cases, verses and phrases seem to have been jumbled together by later writers in the most thoughtless manner. My principle therefore has always been, Let us translate what we can, and thus reduce the untranslateable

p. xii

portion to narrower and narrower limits. But in doing this we ought not to be too proud to take our friends, and even our adversaries, into our confidence. A translation on the sic volo sic jubeo principle does far more harm than good. It may be true that a judge, if he is wise, will deliver his judgment, but never propound his reasons. But a scholar is a pleader rather than a judge, and he is in duty bound to propound his reasons.

In order to make the difference between Professor von Roth's translations and my own quite clear, I readily accept the text which he has himself chosen. He took one of the hymns which I had translated with notes (the 165th hymn of the first Mandala), and translated it himself metrically, in order to show us what, according to him, a really perfect translation ought to be a. Let us then compare the results.

On many points Professor von Roth adopts the same renderings which I had adopted, only that he gives no reasons, while I do so, at least for all debatable passages. First of all, I had tried to prove that the two verses in the beginning, which the Anukramanî ascribes to Indra, should be ascribed to the poet. Professor von Roth takes the same view, but for the rest of the hymn adopts, like myself, that distribution of the verses among the singer, the Maruts, and Indra which the Anukramanî suggests. I mention this because Ludwig has defended the view of the author of the Anukramanî with very strong arguments. He quotes from the Taitt. Br. II, 7, 11, and from the Tândya Br. XXI, 14, 5, the old legend that Agastya made offerings to the Maruts, that, with or without Agastya's consent, Indra seized them, and that the Maruts then tried to frighten Indra away with lightning. Agastya and Indra, however, pacified the Maruts with this very hymn.

Verse 1.

The first verse von Roth translates as follows:

'Auf welcher Fahrt sind insgemein begriffen
 Die altersgleichen mitgebornen Marut?
 Was wollen sie? woher des Wegs? Das Pfeifen
 Der Männer klingt: sie haben ein Begehren.'

p. xiii

[paragraph continues] Von Roth here translates subh by Fahrt, journey. But does subh ever possess that meaning? Von Roth himself in the Dictionary translates subh by Schönheit, Schmuck, Bereitschaft. Grassmann, otherwise a strict adherent of von Roth, does not venture even to give Bereitschaft, but only endorses Glanz and Pracht. Ludwig, a higher authority than Grassmann, translates subh by Glanz. I say then that to translate subh by Fahrt, journey, may be poetical, but it is not scholarlike. On the meanings of subh I have treated I, 87, 3, note 2. See also Gaedicke, Accusativ, p. 163.

But there comes another consideration. That mimikshire is used in the sense of being joined with splendour, &c. we see from such passages as I, 87, 6, bhânú-bhih sám mimikshire, i. e. 'they were joined with splendour,' and this is said, as in our passage, of the Maruts. Prof. von Roth brings forward no passage where mimikshire is used in the sense in which he uses it here, and therefore I say again, his rendering may be poetical, but it is not scholarlike.

To translate arkanti súshmam by 'das Pfeifen klingt,' is, to say the least, very free. Sushma comes, no doubt, from svas, to breathe, and the transition of meaning from breath to strength is intelligible enough. In the Psalms we read (xviii. 15), 'At the blast of the breath of thy nostrils the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the earth were discovered.' Again (Job iv. 9), 'By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed; 'Isaiah xi. 4, 'And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.' Wrestlers know why breath or wind means strength, and even in the expression 'une œuvre de longue haleine,' the original intention of breath is still perceived. In most passages therefore in the Rig-veda where sushma occurs, and where it means strength, prowess, vigour, we may, if we like, translate it by breath, though it is clear that the poet himself was not always aware of the etymological meaning of the word. Where the sound of sushma is mentioned (IX, 50, 1; X, 3, 6, &c.), it means clearly breath. But when, as in VI, 19, 8, sushma has the adjectives dhanaspt, sudáksha, we can hardly translate it by anything but strength. When, therefore,

p. xiv

von Roth translates sushma by whistling, and arkanti by sounding, I must demur. Whistling is different from breathing, nor do I know of any passage where ark with sushma or with any similar word for sound means simply to sound a whistle. Why not translate, they sing their strength, i. e. the Maruts, by their breathing or howling. proclaim themselves their strength? We find a similar idea in I, 87, 3, 'the Maruts have themselves glorified their greatness.' Neither Grassmann nor Ludwig venture to take sushma in the sense of whistle, or arkanti in the sense of sounding. Bergaigne seems to take vrishanah as a genitive, referring to Indra, 'ils chantent la force à Indra,' which may have been the original meaning, but seems hardly appropriate when the verse is placed in the mouth of Indra himself (Journ. Asiat. 1884, p. 199). Sushma never occurs as an adjective. The passages in which von Roth admits sushma as an adjective are not adequate. Does mitgeboren in German convey the meaning of sánîlâh, 'of the same nest?'

Verse 2.

The second verse contains few difficulties, and is well rendered by von Roth:

'An wessen Sprüchen freuen sich die Jungen?
  Wer lenkt die Marut her zu seinem Opfer?
Gleich Falken streichend durch den Raum der Lüfte—
  Wie bringt man sie mit Wunscheskraft zum Stehen?'

Verse 3.

The third verse is rendered by von Roth:

'Wie kommt es, Indra, dass du sonst so munter,
  Heut’ ganz alleine fährst, sag an Gebieter!
Du pflegtest auf der Fahrt mit uns zu plaudern
  Was hast du wider uns, sprich, Rosselenker!'

Von Roth takes kútah in a causal sense, why? I believe that kútah never occurs in that sense in the Rig-veda. If it does, passages should be produced to prove it.

Mâ´hinah can never be translated by 'sonst so munter.' This imparts a modern idea which is not in the original.

p. xv

Subhânaíh does not mean auf der Fahrt, and plaudern, adopted from Grassmann, instead of sám prikkhase, introduces again quite a modern idea. Ludwig calls such an idea 'abgeschmackt,' insipid, which is rather strong, but not far wrong.

Verse 4.

Von Roth:

'Ich liebe Sprüche, Wünsche und die Tränke,
  Der Duft steigt auf, die Presse ist gerüstet;
Sie flehen, locken mich mit ihrem Anruf,
  Und meine Füchse führen mich zum Mahle.'

It is curious how quickly all difficulties which beset the first line seem to vanish in a metrical translation, but the scholar should face the difficulties, though the poet may evade them.

To translate súshmah iyarti by 'der Duft steigt auf,' the flavour of the sacrifices rises up, is more than even Grassmann ventures on. It is simply impossible. Benfey (Entstehung der mit r anlautenden Personalendungen, p. 34) translates: 'My thunderbolt, when hurled by me, moves mightily.'

Again, prábhritah me ádrih does not mean die Presse ist gerüstet. Where does Indra ever speak of the stones used for pressing the Soma as my stone, and where does prábhritah ever mean gerüstet?

Verse 5.

Von Roth:

'So werden wir und mit uns unsre Freunde (Nachbarn),
  Die freien Männer, unsre Rüstung nehmen,
Und lustig unsre Schecken alsbald schirren.
  Du kommst uns eben ganz nach Wunsch, o Indra.'

The first lines are unnecessarily free, and the last decidedly wrong. How can svadhâ´m ánu hí nah babhû´tha mean 'Du kommst uns eben ganz nach Wunsch?' Svadhâ does not mean wish, but nature, custom, wont (see I, 6, 4, note 2; and Bergaigne, Journ. Asiat. 1884, p. 207). Babhûtha means 'thou hast become,' not 'thou comest.'

p. xvi

Verse 6.

Von Roth:

'Da war’s auch nicht so ganz nach Wunsch, o Maruts,
  Als ihr allein mich gegen Ahi schicktet!
Ich aber kräftig, tapfer, unerschrocken,
  Ich traf die Gegner alle mit Geschossen.'

The only doubtful line is the last. Von Roth's former translation of nam, to bend away from, to escape from (cf. φεύγω and bhug), seems to me still the right one. He now translates 'I directed my arrow on every enemy,' when the genitive, as ruled by ánamam, requires confirmation. As to sam ádhatta I certainly think von Roth's last interpretation better than his first. In the Dictionary he explained samdhâ in our passage by to implicate. Grassmann translated it by to leave or to desert, Ludwig by to employ. I took it formerly in the usual sense of joining, so that yát mâm ékam samádhatta should be the explanation of svadhâ, the old custom that you should join me when I am alone. But the construction is against this, and I have therefore altered my translation, so that the sense is, Where was that old custom you speak of, when you made me to be alone, i. e. when you left me alone, in the fight with Ahi? The udâtta of ánamam is not irregular, because it is preceded by hi.

Verse 7.

Von Roth:

'Gewaltiges hast du gethan im Bunde
  Mit uns, o Held, wir mit vereinter Stärke,
Gewaltiges vermögen wir, du mächtiger
  Indra, wenn es uns Ernst ist, ihr Gesellen.'

By this translation, the contrast between 'thou hast done great things with us,' and 'Now let us do great things once more,' is lost. Krinávâma expresses an exhortation, not a simple fact, and on this point Grassmann's metrical translation is decidedly preferable.

Verse 8.

Von Roth:

'Vritra schlug ich mit eigner Kraft, ihr Marut,
  Und meine Wuth war’s, die so kühn mich machte, p. xvii
Ich war's, der—in der Faust den Blitz—dem Menschen
  Den Zugang bahnte zu den blinkenden Gewässern.'

This is a very good translation, except that there are some syllables too much in the last line. What I miss is the accent on the I. Perhaps this might become stronger by translating:

'Ich schlug mit eigner Kraft den Vritra nieder,
 Ich, Maruts. stark durch meinen Zorn geworden;
 Ich war’s, der blitzbewaffnet für den Menschen
 Dem lichten Wasser freie Bahn geschaffen.'

Verse 9.

Von Roth:

'Gewiss, nichts ist was je dir widerstünde,
 Und so wie du gibts keinen zweiten Gott mehr,
 Nicht jetzt, noch künftig, der was du vermöchte:
 Thu’ denn begeistert was zu thun dich lüstet.'

Here I doubt about begeistert being a true rendering of pravriddha, grown strong. As to karishyâ´h instead of karishyâ´, the reading of the MSS., Roth is inclined to adopt my conjecture, as supported by the analogous passage in IV, 30, 23. The form which Ludwig quotes as analogous to karishyam, namely, pravatsyam, I cannot find, unless it is meant for Âpast. Srauta S. VI, 27, 2, namo vostu prâvâtsyam iti Bahvrikâh, where however prâvâtsyam is probably meant for prâvâtsam.

Grassmann has understood devátâ rightly, while Roth's translation leaves it doubtful.

Verse 10.

Von Roth:

'So soll der Stärke Vorrang mir allein sein:
  Was ich gewagt, vollführ’ ich mit Verständniss.
Man kennt mich als den Starken wohl, ihr Marut,
  An was ich rühre, Indra der bemeistert’s.'

Von Roth has adopted the translation of the second line, which I suggested in a note; Ludwig prefers the more abrupt construction which I preferred in the translation. It is difficult to decide.

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Verse 11.

Von Roth:

'Entzückt hat euer Rühmen, mich, ihr Marut,
  Das lobenswerthe Wort, das ihr gesprochen,
Für mich—den Indra—für den freud’gen Helden,
  Als Freunde für den Freund, für mich—von selbst ihr.'

The last words für mich—von selbst ihr are not very clear, but the same may be said of the original tanvẽ tanû´bhih. I still adhere to my remark that tanu, self, must refer to the same person, though I see that all other translators take an opposite view. Non liquet.

Verse 12.

Von Roth:

'Gefallen find ich, wie sie sind, an ihnen,
  In Raschheit und in Frische unvergleichlich.
So oft ich euch, Marut, im Schmuck erblickte,
  Erfreut’ ich mich und freue jetzt an euch mich.'

This is again one of those verses which it is far easier to translate than to construe. Ákkhânta me may mean, they pleased me, but then what is the meaning of khadáyâtha ka nûnám, 'may you please me now,' instead of what we should expect, 'you do please me now.' In order to avoid this, I took the more frequent meaning of khad, to appear, and translated, 'you have appeared formerly, appear to me now.'

To translate ánedyah srávah â´ íshah dádhânâh, by 'in Raschheit und in Frische unvergleichlich,' is poetical, but how does it benefit the scholar? I take â dhâ in the sense of bringing or giving, as it is often used cf. II, 38, 5. This is more compatible with íshah, food, vigour. I am not certain that ănēdy̆āh can mean blameless. Roth s. v. derives ánedya from a-nedya, and nedya from nid. But how we get from nid to nedya, he does not say. He suggests anedyâh or anedyasravah as emendations. I suggested anedyam. But I suspect there is something else behind all this. Anedîyah may have been intended for 'having nothing coming nearer,' and like an-uttama, might express excellence. Or anedyah may have been an adverb, not nearly.

p. xix

These are mere guesses, and they are rather contradicted by anedyâh, used in the plural, with anavadyâh. Still it is better to point out difficulties than to slur them over by translating 'in Raschheit und in Frische unvergleichlich.' It is possible that both Roth and Sâyana thought that anedyah was connected with nedîyah; but what scholars want to know is the exact construction of a sentence.

Verse 13.

Von Roth:

'Ist irgendwo ein Fest für euch bereitet,
  So fahrt doch her zu unsrer Schaar, ihr Schaaren!
Der Andacht Regungen in uns belebend,
  Und werdet Zeugen unserer frommen Werke.'

In this verse there is no difficulty, except the exact meaning of apivâtáyantah, on which I have spoken in note 1.

Verse 14.

Von Roth:

'Wo dankbar huldigend der Dichter lobsingt,
  Hier wo uns Mânya's Kunst zusammenführte,
Da kehret ein, ihr Marut, bei den Frommen,
  Euch gelten ja des Beters heil’ge Sprüche.'

Prof. von Roth admits that this is a difficult verse. He translates it, but again he does not help us to construe it. Grassmann also gives us a metrical translation, but it differs widely from von Roth's:

'Wenn wie zur Spende euch der Dichter herlockt,
  Und der Gesang des Weisen uns herbeizog,' &c.;

and so does Geldner's version, unless we are to consider this as an improved rendering from von Roth's own pen:

'Wenn uns des Mânya Kunst zur Feier herzieht,
  Wie Dichter ja zu Festen gerne rufen,' &c.

Here Geldner conjectures duvasyâ´ for duvasyâ´t, and takes duváse as an infinitive.

Verse 15.

Von Roth:

'Geweiht ist euch der Preis, Marut, die Lieder,
  Des Mânya, des Mandârasohns, des Dichters,
Mit Labung kommt herbei, mir selbst zur Stärkung
  [Gebt Labung uns und wasserreiche Fluren].'

p. xx

How tanvẽ vayâ´m is to mean 'mir selbst zur Stärkung' has not been explained by von Roth. No doubt tanvẽ may mean mir selbst, and vayâm zur Stärkung; but though this may satisfy a poet, scholars want to know how to construe. It seems to me that Roth and Lanman (Noun-inflection, p. 552) have made the same mistake which I made in taking ishám for an accusative of ish, which ought to be ísham, and in admitting the masculine gender for vrigána in the sense of Flur.

I still take yâsîshta for the 3 p. sing. of the precative Âtmanepada, like ganishîshta and vanishîshta. With the preposition áva, yâsisîshthâh in IV, 1, 4, means to turn away. With the preposition â´ therefore yâsîshta may well mean to turn towards, to bring. If we took yâsîshta as a 2 p. plur. in the sense of come, we could not account for the long î, nor for the accusative vayâm. We thus get the meaning, 'May this your hymn of praise bring vayâ´m,' i. e. a branch, an offshoot or offspring, tanvẽ, for ourselves, ishâ´, together with food. We then begin a new sentence: 'May we find an invigorating autumn with quickening rain.' It is true that ishá, as a name of an autumn month, does not occur again in the Rig-veda, but it is found in the Satapatha-brâhmana. Vrigána, possibly in the sense of people or enemies, we have in VII, 32, 27, ágñâtâh vrigánâh, where Roth reads wrongly ágñâtâ vrigánâ; V, 44, 1 (?); VI, 35, 5. Gîrádânu also would be an appropriate epithet to ishá.

Professor Oldenberg has sent me the following notes on this difficult hymn. He thinks it is what he calls an Âkhyâna-hymn, consisting of verses which originally formed part of a story in prose. He has treated of this class of hymns in the Zeitschrift der D. M. G. XXXIX, 60 seq. He would prefer to ascribe verses 1 and 2 to Indra, who addresses the Maruts when he meets them as they return from a sacrifice. In this case, however, we should have to accept rîramâma as a pluralis majestaticus; and I doubt whether Indra ever speaks of himself in the plural, except it may be in using the pronoun nah.

In verse 4 Professor Oldenberg prefers to take prábhrito

p. xxi

me ádrih in the sense of 'the stone for pressing the Soma has been brought forth,' and he adds that me need not mean 'my stone,' but 'brought forward for me.' He would prefer to read súshmam iyarti, as in IV, 17, 12; X, 75, 3, though he does not consider this alteration of the text necessary.

Professor Oldenberg would ascribe vv. 13 and 14 to Indra. The 14th verse would then mean, 'After Mânya has brought us (the gods) hither, turn, O Maruts, towards the sage.' Of this interpretation I should like to adopt at all events the last sentence, taking varta for vart-ta, the 2 p. plur. imperat. of vrit, after the Ad class.

The text of the Maitrâyanî Samhitâ, lately published by Dr. L. von Schrœder, yields a few interesting various readings: v. 5, ekam instead of etân̐; v. 12, sravâ instead of srava; and v. 15, vayâmsi as a variant for vayâm, which looks like a conjectural emendation.

A comparison like the one we have here instituted between two translations of the same hymn, will serve to show how useless any rendering, whether in prose or poetry, would be without notes to justify the meanings of every doubtful word and sentence. It will, no doubt, disclose at the same time the unsettled state of Vedic scholarship, but the more fully this fact is acknowledged, the better, I believe, it will be for the progress of our studies. They have suffered more than from anything else from that baneful positivism which has done so much harm in hieroglyphic and cuneiform researches. That the same words and names should be interpreted differently from year to year, is perfectly intelligible to every one who is familiar with the nature of these decipherments. What has seriously injured the credit of these studies is that the latest decipherments have always been represented as final and unchangeable. Vedic hymns may seem more easy to decipher than Babylonian and Egyptian inscriptions, and in one sense they are. But when we come to really difficult passages, the Vedic hymns often require a far greater effort of divination than the hymns addressed to Egyptian or Babylonian deities. And there is this additional difficulty that when we deal with

p. xxii

inscriptions, we have at all events the text as it was engraved from the first, and we are safe against later modifications and interpolations, while in the case of the Veda, even though the text as presupposed by the Prâtisâkhyas may be considered as authoritative for the fifth century b.c., how do we know what changes it may have undergone before that time? Nor can I help giving expression once more to misgivings I have so often expressed, whether the date of the Prâtisâkhyas is really beyond the reach of doubt, and whether, if it is, there is no other way of escaping from the conclusion that the whole collection of the hymns of the Rig-veda, including even the Vâlakhilya hymns, existed at that early time a. The more I study the hymns, the more I feel staggered at the conclusion at which all Sanskrit scholars seem to have arrived, touching their age. That many of them are old, older than anything else in Sanskrit, their grammar, if nothing else, proclaims in the clearest way. But that some of them are modern imitations is a conviction that forces itself even on the least sceptical minds. Here too we must guard against positivism, and suspend our judgment, and accept correction with a teachable spirit. No one would be more grateful for a way out of the maze of Vedic chronology than I should be, if a more modern date could be assigned to some of the Vedic hymns than the period of the rise of Buddhism. But how can we account for Buddhism without Vedic hymns? In the oldest Buddhist Suttas the hymns of three Vedas are constantly referred to, and warnings are uttered even against the fourth Veda, the Âthabbana b. The Upanishads also, the latest productions of the Brâhmana period, must have been known to the founders of Buddhism. From all this there seems to be no escape, and yet I must confess that my conscience quivers in assigning such compositions as the Vâlakhilya hymns to a period preceding the rise of Buddhism in India.

p. xxiii

I have often been asked why I began my translation of the Rig-veda with the hymns addressed to the Maruts or the Storm-gods, which are certainly not the most attractive of Vedic hymns. I had several reasons, though, as often happens, I could hardly say which of them determined my choice.

First of all, they are the most difficult hymns, and therefore they had a peculiar attraction in my eyes.

Secondly; as even when translated they required a considerable effort before they could be fully understood, I hoped they would prove attractive to serious students only, and frighten away the casual reader who has done so much harm by meddling with Vedic antiquities. Our grapes, I am glad to say, are still sour, and ought to remain so for some time longer.

Thirdly, there are few hymns which place the original character of the so-called deities to whom they are addressed in so clear a light as the hymns addressed to the Maruts or Storm-gods. There can be no doubt about the meaning of the name, whatever difference of opinion there may be about its etymology. Marut and maruta in ordinary Sanskrit mean wind, and more particularly a strong wind, differing by its violent character from vâyu or vâta a. Nor do the hymns themselves leave us in any doubt as to the natural phenomena with which the Maruts are identified. Storms which root up the trees of the forest, lightning, thunder, and showers of rain, are the background from which the Maruts in their personal and dramatic character rise before our eyes. In one verse the Maruts are the very phenomena of nature as convulsed by a thunderstorm; in the next, with the slightest change of expression, they are young men, driving on chariots, hurling the thunderbolt, and crushing the clouds in order to win the rain. Now they are the sons of Rudra and Prisni, the friends and brothers of Indra, now they quarrel with Indra and claim their own rightful share of praise and sacrifice. Nay, after a time the storm-gods in India, like the storm-gods in other countries,

p. xxiv

obtain a kind of supremacy, and are invoked by themselves, as if there were no other gods beside them. In most of the later native dictionaries, in the Medinî, Visva, Hemakandra, Amara, and Anekârthadhvanimañgari, Marut is given as a synonym of deva, or god in general a, and so is Maru in Pâli.

But while the hymns addressed to the Maruts enable us to watch the successive stages in the development of so-called deities more clearly than any other hymns, there is no doubt one drawback, namely, the uncertainty of the etymology of Marut. The etymology of the name is and always must be the best key to the original intention of a deity. Whatever Zeus became afterwards, he was originally conceived as Dyaus, the bright sky. Whatever changes came over Ceres in later times, her first name and her first conception was Sarad, harvest. With regard to Marut I have myself no doubt whatever that Mar-ut comes from the root M, in the sense of grinding, crushing, pounding (Sk. mrinâti, himsâyâm, part. mûrna, crushed, like mridita; âmúr and âmúri, destroyer). There is no objection to this etymology, either on the ground of phonetic rules, or on account of the meaning of Marut b. Professor Kuhn's idea that the name of the Maruts was derived from the root M, to die, and that the Maruts were originally conceived as the souls of the departed, and afterwards as ghosts, spirits, winds, and lastly as storms, derives no support from the Veda. Another etymology, proposed in Böhtlingk's Dictionary, which derives Marut from a root M, to shine, labours under two disadvantages; first, that there is no such root in Sanskrit c; secondly, that the lurid splendour of the lightning is but a subordinate feature in the character of the Maruts. No better etymology having been proposed, I still maintain that the derivation of Marut from M, to pound, to smash, is free from any objection, and that the original conception of the Maruts was that of the crushing, smashing, striking, tearing, destroying storms.

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It is true that we have only two words in Sanskrit formed by the suffix ut, marút and garút in garút-mat, but there are other suffixes which are equally restricted to one or two nouns only. This ut represents an old suffix vat, just as us presupposes vas, in vidus (vidushî, vidushtara) for vid-vas, nom. vid-vân, acc. vidvâmsam. In a similar way we find side by side párus, knot, párvan, knot, and párvata, stone, cloud, presupposing such forms as *parvat and parut. If then by the side of *parut, we find Latin pars, partis, why should we object to Mars, Martis as a parallel form of Marut? I do not say the two words are identical, I only maintain that the root is the same, and the two suffixes are mere variants. No doubt Marut might have appeared in Latin as Marut, like the neuter cap-ut, capitis (cf. prae-ceps, prae-cipis, and prae-cipitis); but Mars, Martis is as good a derivation from M as Fors, Fortis is from GH a. Dr. von Bradke (Zeitschrift der D. M. G., vol. xl, p. 349), though identifying Marut with Mars, proposes a new derivation of Marut, as being originally *Mavrit, which would correspond well with Mavors. But *Mavrit has no meaning in Sanskrit, and seems grammatically an impossible formation.

If there could be any doubt as to the original identity of Marut and Mars, it is dispelled by the Umbrian name cerfo Martio, which, as Grassmann b has shown, corresponds exactly to the expression sárdha-s mâ´ruta-s, the host of the Maruts. Such minute coincidences can hardly be accidental, though, as I have myself often remarked, the chapter of accidents in language is certainly larger than we suppose. Thus, in our case, I pointed out that we can observe the transition of the gods of storms into the gods of destruction and war, not only in the Veda, but likewise in the mythology of the Polynesians; and yet the similarity in the Polynesian name of Maru can only be accidental c

p. xxvi

[paragraph continues] And I may add that in Estonian also we find storm-gods called Marutu uled or maro, plural marud a.

Fourthly, the hymns addressed to the Maruts seemed to me to possess an interest of their own, because, as it is difficult to doubt the identity of the two names, Marut and Mars, they offered an excellent opportunity for watching the peculiar changes which the same deity would undergo when transferred to India on one side and to Europe on the other. Whether the Greek Ares also was an offshoot of the same root must seem more doubtful, and I contented myself with giving the principal reasons for and against this theory b.

Though these inducements which led me to select the hymns to the Maruts as the first instalment of a translation of the Rig-veda could hardly prevail with me now, yet I was obliged to place them once more in the foreground, because the volume containing the translation of these hymns with very full notes has been used for many years as a text book by those who were beginning the study of the Rig-veda, and was out of print. In order to meet the demand for a book which could serve as an easy introduction to Vedic studies, I decided to reprint the translation of the hymns to the Maruts, and most of the notes, though here and there somewhat abbreviated, and then to continue the same hymns, followed by others addressed to Rudra, Vâyu, and Vâta. My task would, of course, have been much easier, if I had been satisfied with making a selection, and translating those hymns, or those verses only, which afford no very great difficulties. As it is, I have grappled with every hymn and every verse addressed to the Maruts, so that my readers will find in this volume all that the Vedic poets had to say about the Storm-gods.

In order to show, however, that Vedic hymns, though they begin with a description of the most striking phenomena of nature, are by no means confined to that

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narrow sphere, but rise in the end to the most sublime conception of a supreme Deity, I have placed one hymn, that addressed to the Unknown God, at the head of my collection. This will clear me, I hope, of the very unfair suspicion that, by beginning my translation of the Rig-veda with hymns celebrating the wild forces of nature only, I had wished to represent the Vedic religion as nature-worship and nothing else. It will give the thoughtful reader a foretaste of what he may expect in the end, and show how vast a sphere of religious thought is filled by what we call by a very promiscuous name, the Veda.

The MS. of this volume was ready, and the printing of it was actually begun in 1885. A succession of new calls on my time, which admitted of no refusal, have delayed the actual publication till now. This delay, however, has been compensated by one very great advantage. Beginning with hymn 167 of the first Mandala, Professor Oldenberg has, in the most generous spirit, lent me his help in the final revision of my translation and notes. It is chiefly due to him that the results of the latest attempts at the interpretation of the Veda, which are scattered about in learned articles and monographs, have been utilised for this volume. His suggestions, I need hardly say, have proved most valuable; and though he should not be held responsible for any mistakes that may be discovered, whether in the translation or in the notes, my readers may at all events take it for granted that, where my translation seems unsatisfactory, Professor Oldenberg also had nothing better to suggest.

Considering my advancing years, I thought I should act in the true interest of Vedic scholarship, if for the future also I divided my work with him. While for this volume the chief responsibility rests with me, the second volume will contain the hymns to Agni, as translated and annotated by him, and revised by me. In places where we really differ, we shall say so. For the rest, we are willing to share both blame and praise. Our chief object is to help forward a critical study of the Veda, and we are well

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aware that much of what has been done and can be done in the present state of Vedic scholarship, is only a kind of reconnaissance, if not a forlorn hope, to be followed hereafter by a patient siege of the hitherto impregnable fortress of ancient Vedic literature.


6th Dec. 1891.


xii:a Z. D. M. G., 1870, XXIV, p. 301.

xxii:a See Preface to the first edition, p. xxxii.

xxii:b Tuvatakasutta, ver. 927; Sacred Books of the East, vol. x, p. 176; Introduction, p. xiii.

xxiii:a The Vâyus are mentioned by the side of the Maruts, Rv. II, 11, 14.

xxiv:a Anundoram Borooah, Sanskrit Grammar, vol. iii, p. 323.

xxiv:b See Lectures on the Science of Language, vol. ii, p. 357 seq.

xxiv:c Marîki is a word of very doubtful origin.

xxv:a Biographies of Words, p. 12.

xxv:b Kuhn's Zeitschrift, vol. xvi, p. 190; and note to Rv. I, 37, 1, p. 70.

xxv:c M. M., Science of Religion, p. 255.

xxvi:a Bertram, Ilmatar, Dorpat, 1871, p. 98.

xxvi:b Lectures on the Science of Language, vol. ii, p. 357.

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