by Hermann Oldenberg | 1886 | 27,910 words

The Grihya-sutra of Paraskara, which belongs to the White Yajurveda and forms an appendix to Katyayana's Shrauta-sutra, has been edited, with a German translation. Alternative titles: Pāraskara-gṛhya-sūtra (पारस्कर-गृह्य-सूत्र), Grhya, Pāraskaragṛhyasūtra (पारस्करगृह्यसूत्र), Paraskaragrihyasutra, Paraskaragrhyasutra....


THE Gṛhya-sūtra of Pāraskara, which belongs to the White Yajur-veda and forms an appendix to Kātyāyana's Śrauta-sūtra, has been edited, with a German translation, by the scholar who was the first to make a Gṛhya text accessible to Orientalists and to begin to grapple with the first and most serious difficulties that beset its interpretation, and who has continued since to do more than anyone else towards elucidating that important branch of Vedic literature. It would be very unbecoming in any one engaged in the study of Gṛhya texts, not to acknowledge most warmly the debt of gratitude which he owes to Professor Stenzler. At the same time the respect due to the veteran editor and interpreter of Āśvalāyana and Pāraskara not only allows, but requires that one who proposes to himself the same task at which Prof. Stenzler has worked with so much learning, should state as clearly as possible what that distinguished scholar has left for others to do, and why one who prepares an English translation of Pāraskara has a very different task from merely translating into English the German translation of Prof. Stenzler.

If I may venture to express in one word the difference between Prof. Stenzler's method, as I understand it, for getting at the meaning of a doubtful or obscure passage, and the method which I have endeavoured to follow, I should say that with Prof. Stenzler the first step and, I believe, in many cases also the last step is to ask how Jayarāma and Rāmakṛṣṇa understand the passage in question, while I hold that we ought rather to make ourselves independent from those commentators in the sense in which Prof. Max Müller once expressed himself[1], 'not that I ever despise the traditional interpretation which the commentators have preserved to us, but because I think that, after having examined it, we have a right to judge for ourselves.' There exists a commentary on the Pāraskara-Gṛhya which far surpasses in trustworthiness Jayarāma's Sajjanavallabha and Rāmakṛṣṇa's Saṃskāragaṇapati, and which is not composed by an author who, as says Goethe,

     —im Auslegen ist munter;
Legt er nicht aus, so legt er unter.

But the leaves of that commentary are scattered through a good many volumes. Here we find a few lines of it in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa or in Kātyāyana's Śrauta-sūtra; there Śāṅkhāyana or Āśvalāyana has preserved a word or a sentence that belongs to it; or the law-books of Manu or Yājñavalkya help us to understand a difficult or doubtful aphorism of our text. In one word: the only true commentary on a work like Pāraskara's Gṛhya is that which the ancient literature itself furnishes. No one will say that in Prof. Stenzler's translation and notes this commentary has not been consulted. But it has been consulted perhaps not quite as much as it ought to have been, and Rāmakṛṣṇa and Jayarāma have been consulted too much. They have been consulted and followed in many instances, where a continued consideration of what can be the meaning of a word and what can not, and of what the parallel texts say with regard to the subject in question, would have shown that those commentators, instead of interpreting Pāraskara's meaning, father on him vague opinions of their own.

Perhaps it will not be out of place here to point our criticism, lest it should be deemed unjust, by a few remarks on a single passage of Pāraskara in which the difference of Prof. Stenzler's way of translating and of our own becomes manifest. Of the numerous passages which could be selected for this purpose, I choose Sūtra I, 2, 5, belonging to the description of the setting up of the sacred domestic fire. The text of that Sūtra runs thus:

5. araṇipradūnam eke.

Prof. Stenzler translates as follows:

'Einige sagen, es müsse durch Reibhölzer erzeugtes Feuer sein.'

The two Sūtras which precede give a description of that ceremony from which evidently the opinion of the 'eke' mentioned in this Sūtra differs, or to which they find it necessary to add something. Those Sūtras run thus:

3. After he has fetched fire from the house of a Vaiśya who is rich in cattle—

4. All ceremonies are performed as at the cooking of the cātuṣprāśya food[2].

It seems evident that the Ācāryas to whom the opinion spoken of in Sūtra 5 belongs, add, or perhaps substitute, to the fetching of the fire which is to be worshipped as the sacrificer's domestic fire, from a rich Vaiśya's house, another rite in which an araṇi, i.e. a stick for kindling the fire by attrition, is made use of in some way or other.

Now if this may be accepted as a vague expression of the general purport of the Sūtra, what is the literal meaning of the words? 'Some (teachers),' it says, '(prescribe) the pradāna of the kindling stick (or, of the kindling sticks).'

What does pradāna mean? Jayarāma says,

'praśabda upaśabdārthe. araṇyupādānakam eka ācāryā icchanti.'

That is:

'The word pra stands in the sense of the word upa. Some teachers desire that it (i.e. the fire) should have the kindling sticks as its physical basis[3].'

Thus, if Jayarāma is right, Prof. Stenzler's translation would be justified. But can we acquiesce indeed in simply accepting the commentator's opinion? Pradāna is pradāna and not upādāna, as pradadāti is not upādatte. Pradadāti means 'he hands over,' and pradāna 'the handing over.' This is an established fact, and an interpreter of a Vedic text should not allow himself to be induced by a statement like that of Jayarāma about the preposition pra standing in the sense of upa, to abate one iota of it. Thus we are obliged, until passages have been discovered which modify our knowledge of what pradāna means—but such passages most certainly will never be discovered—to translate:

5. Some (teachers say that) the handing over of the kindling sticks (takes place).

We should give that translation even if we were not able to find an explanation for it. It appears that Prof. Stenzler, as far as we can judge from his note, has not even thought of the possibility of disregarding the authority of Jayarāma and Rāmakṛṣṇa, or of looking through the parallel texts to see whether they do not throw light on what that 'handing over of the kindling sticks' signifies. The text to be consulted first is of course Kātyāyana's Śrauta-sūtra. As the Śrauta ritual contains a description of an ādhāna which is in some way the prototype of the corresponding Gṛhya ceremony, we may possibly expect to discover, in the course of that description, the statements regarding the araṇi-pradāna for which we are searching. Now Kātyāyana[4], having described the setting up of the fire in the gārhapatyāgāra, states that at sunset the sacrificer and his wife sit down to the west of the fire which has just been established, and then the Adhvaryu hands over to them the two kindling sticks[5]. The Paddhati, in describing that act, goes into further details. The Adhvaryu hands over to the sacrificer the two Araṇis, which, as required by custom, are wrapped up in new clothes. The wife takes the adharāraṇi from his hand and puts it on her lap; the sacrificer puts the uttarāraṇi on his lap, and they do homage to them with flowers, saffron, sandal wood, &c.; then, after the performance of some other ceremonies, they put the two Araṇis away on a chair or bench. The two Araṇis have to be kept by the sacrificer; if they are lost or burnt or destroyed in any other way, other Araṇis must be procured, and by their attrition a new fire must be kindled[6].

Āpastamba likewise mentions, in his description of the Agnyādhāna[7], the handing over of the two Araṇis, and indicates a Mantra which the Adhvaryu recites in giving them to the sacrificer, and two other Mantras with the one of which the sacrificer receives them, while he recites the other over the Araṇis, after having taken them into his hands.

Finally we may quote here, as bearing witness to the custom of the Araṇipradāna, a passage taken from Nārāyaṇa's commentary on the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya. Though the decisive words in that passage rest only on the authority of the commentator and not of the Sūtrakāra himself, they deserve to be taken notice of, as they are not subject to the suspicion that they could be influenced by a misunderstanding of that very Sūtra of Pāraskara of which we are treating. Nārāyaṇa says, in his explanation of Śāṅkhāyana I, 1, 10[8]:

'To the west of the fire the sacrificer, and southwards (of him) the wife sits down. The handing over of the kindling sticks does not take place. For it is a fire fetched (from a Vaiśya's house, &c.) which is inaugurated here[9].'

Then the commentator goes on to quote a Śloka:

'The handing over of the Araṇis which the Adhvaryu sometimes performs,

'Is not in accordance with the opinion of Suyajña[10]; he does not approve of kindling the fire by attrition[11]:

Thus, I think, no doubt can remain as to the real meaning of Pāraskara's Sūtra: it means what its words signify and what is in accordance with Kātyāyana and Āpastamba, and it does not mean what the commentators most gratuitously would make it mean.

Perhaps I have dwelt here too long on the interpretation of a few words which are of no peculiar interest in themselves. But I venture to hope that the discussion on these words will serve as a specimen, by which the fundamental difference of two methods of handling our texts may be discerned. Let us never forget how much we owe to the scholars who have followed the first of these methods, but for ourselves let us choose the second.

Footnotes and references:


Sacred Books of the East, vol. xv, p. 2, note 2.


The food which is eaten by the four chief officiating priests of the Śrauta ritual. For these priests a mess of food is prepared at the ceremony of the ādhāna of the Śrauta fires.


Rāmakṛṣṇa also, according to Prof. Stenzler's note, explains pradāna by upādāna, kāraṇa, utpattisthāna.


IV, 7, 55 seqq. The corresponding passage of the Paddhati is found at p. 358 of Prof. Weber's edition.


IV, 7, 22: aśvatthaśamīgarbhāraṇī prayacchati.


See the commentary on IV, 7, 22, and the passages of the Karmapradīpa quoted there.


Śrauta-sūtra V, 8, 7; vol. i, p. 255, of Prof. Garbe's edition.


Sāyamāhutisaṃskārodhvaryupratyaya ity ācāryāḥ.


Agneh paścād yajamāno dakṣiṇataḥ patnī ca upaviśati. araṇipradānaṃ na kartavyaṃ. āhṛtasyāgner eva saṃskārah.


On this name of Śāṅkhāyana, see my Introduction to the translation of the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya, above, p. 3.


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