Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vedic Trivias

  • Units of measurements
Some units used In ancient India can be traced back to the Rig Veda. The later Sanskrit literature have many more units. It's not possible to confirm how many of these units were in use since the Vedic Age. Below is a list of some units widely used in ancient times.

Yojana, the unit of distance, is interesting. It's found in Rig Veda. Literally yojana means yoking or harnessing. It's possible that the distance that could be traversed in a single harnessing or without unyoking eventually came to be known as yojana.

Krosha, another unit of distance, also has an interesting etymology. Krosha means loud cry. It's surely means the range of the voice in calling.

The corresponding values of each of these units are not mentioned explicitly in the Vedas. Scholars have interpolated from various references in later literature.
  • Zeus or Jupiter is Vedic Dyu or sky; Daphne & Athena are Vedic Dahana and Ahana the dawn; Uranus is Varuna; Prometheus is Pramantha
  • Yava in RV probably meant wheat and barley or food grains in general, any grain or corn yielding flour and meal. Yava or barley corn was also used as a measure of length and weight. As a unit of length it was 1/8 or 1/6 of a finger and as weight it was same as 6-8 mustard seeds or 1/2 gunja.
  • Dhana means fried barley, one type of food. There's no mention of rice (vrihi) in Rig Veda. Vrihi is mentioned in Atharva Veda (AV) for the first time along with yava, matha & tila
  • Pakti (RV) means prepared cakes or any cooked food; purodasa, mentioned in RV/AV as leavings of an offering, can be interpreted as food, also referred to as Soma juice; apupa, mentioned in RV, kind of fine bread, cake of flour or any meal; karambha, mentioned in RV, groats or coarsely ground oats, a cake of flour or meal, it's likely to be a Munda word.
  • Plough is called sira (RV). Datra and khanitra are two tools for agriculture mentioned in RV. Settlers (vish) were peasants (krishti), unploughed lands were akrishivala.
  • The main source of wealth is cattle, horse and mahisha, buffalo, referred to as powerful beast. Fights were for cow/cattle (goshu), children (tanaya) and water (apsu). Indra is referred to as apsujit, who wins apsu.
  • During Yajur Vedic (post Rig Vedic) time crops were rice (vrihi), barley (yava), beans (makushta), sesame (tila), kidney beans (mudga), vetches, wheat (yava), lentils, millet & wild rice
  • Metals in Yajur Vedic times - gold, bronze, lead, tin, iron, copper. Rig veda has no reference to iron.\
  • Gold was given to priests in units of krishnalas or gunja (Abrus Precatorius) seeds - still used by Indian Goldsmiths for small weights
  • During Yajur Veda horse meat is no longer eaten. Horse sacrifice is still very important, something that started in RV.
  • Yajur Veda mentions extensive land clearing. Introduction of iron might have enabled more efficient agriculture and land use with better equipments. We see extensive usage of canals and ploughs with yokes of six or eight oxen. Makara samkranti coincides with the 2nd sesame crop in western India - example of new rituals suited to the crops.
  • Music: mute, flute, harp, and type of drums
  • Dress: undergarment (nivi), garment (vasa) and over garment (adhivasa)
  • Ornaments: karna sobhana, earrings, kurira kind if head ornament worn by females, khadi, kind of ring worn as an armlet or anklet,nishka gold ornament worn on neck or breast, mani, any ornament or amulet, globule
  • The Old Testament place name Goshan seems to be derived from go, cattle. It marks the invasion of Cannan by strange pastoral raiders of a new type, may be the Aryans, the descendants of the Mittani Aryans of Syria. The name Shashank, common to Pharaos of 22nd and 23rd dynasties of Egypt (around 1000BC) has a definite Aryan sound.
  • Name of Ikshaku, founder of Kosalan line of Kings, the lineage of Lord Rama, seems to have pre Aryan trace. Dasaratha sounds like Mittanian Tuzaratta.

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