by Hermann Oldenberg | 1886 | 37,785 words

The Grihya-sutra ascribed to Shankhayana, which has been edited and translated into German in the XVth volume of the "Indische Studien", is based on the first of the four Vedas, the Rig-veda in the Bashkala recension, and among the Brahmana texts, on the Kaushitaka. Alternative titles: Śāṅkhāyana-gṛhya-sūtra (शाङ्खायन-गृह्य-सूत्र), Shank...


THE Gṛhya-sūtra ascribed to Śāṅkhāyana, which has been edited and translated into German by myself in the XVth volume of the Indische Studien, is based on the first of the four Vedas, the Rig-veda in the Bāṣkala recension[1], and among the Brāhmaṇa texts, on the Kauṣītaka. Its reputed author, whom we ordinarily find called by his family name, Śāṅkhāyana, had the proper name Suyajña. This we may infer from the lists of Vedic teachers given in different Gṛhya texts where they describe the Tarpaṇa ceremony. Though in these lists the order of names varies very much, yet the two names Suyajña and Śāṅkhāyana are constantly placed side by side, so that this fact alone would render it probable that they belonged to the same person. Thus we read in the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya IV, 10 = VI, 1:

Kaholaṃ Kauṣītakiṃ, Mahākauṣītakiṃ, Suyajñaṃ Śāṅkhāyanam, Āśvalāyanam, Aitareyam, Mahaitareyam.

Here we have grouped together the two Brāhmaṇa authors (with the fictitious doubles, the great Kauṣītaki, the great Aitareya) and the two corresponding Sūtra authors belonging to the two chief branches of the Rig-veda literature; first comes one Brāhmaṇa author (for Kahola Kauṣītaki is one person) with the Sūtra author connected with him, then the second Sūtra author and the corresponding Brāhmaṇa teacher.

In the Śāmbavya-Gṛhya (Indische Studien, XV, 154) the corresponding passage runs thus:

Gārgya- Gautama- Śākalya- Bābhravya- Māṇḍattavya [sic]- Māṇḍūkeyāḥ Suyajña- Sāṃkhyāyana- Jātukarṇyeyāḥ [sic] Paiṃga [sic]- Śāmbavy’-Aitareyāḥ.

The same Gṛhya still more explicitly bears witness to the name of Suyajña Śāṅkhāyana, by adding at the end of the list, from which these names are quoted the following words: Suyajña Śākhāyanas [sic] tṛ[pya]tu, i.e. 'May Suyajña Śāṅkhāyana satiate himself (with the water offering).'

In the Āśvalāyana-Gṛhya III, 4, we read:

Kaholaṃ Kauṣītakaṃ Mahākauṣītakaṃ Paiṅgyaṃ Mahāpaiṅgyaṃ Suyajñaṃ Śāṅkhāyanam Aitareyam Mahaitareyam.

We may also quote here a Kārikā given by Nārāyaṇa[2] in his great commentary on the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya (I, 1, 10):

Atrāraṇipradānaṃ yad adhvaryuḥ kurute kvacit[3]
mataṃ tan na Suyajñasya, mathitaṃ so ’tra necchati.

It would perhaps be hazardous to claim for the author of this Kārikā the authority of an independent witness, for very likely he may have derived his knowledge from the lists of teachers which we have quoted before. But at all events the concordance of the three Gṛhya texts furnishes a proof which, I think, cannot be set aside by another testimony which we must mention now. At the end of the Kauṣītaki-Āraṇyaka (Adhyāya 15) we find a Vaṃśa or list of the teachers by whom the knowledge contained in that Āraṇyaka is supposed to have been handed down. The opening words of this list run thus:

'Om! Now follows the Vaṃśa. Adoration to the Brahman! Adoration to the teachers! We have learnt (this text) from Guṇākhya Śāṅkhāyana, Guṇākhya Śāṅkhāyana from Kahola Kauṣītaki, Kahola Kauṣītaki from Uddālaka Āruṇi, &c:

It is a very natural supposition that the author of this list intended to begin with the name of the Doctor eponymus, if we may say so, of the Sūtras of his school, and then to proceed to name the Doctor eponymus of the Brāhmaṇas, and after him the more ancient teachers and sages. But whether the author of this passage really supposed this Guṇākhya Śāṅkhāyana to be the author of the Śāṅkhāyana-sūtras, or not, we shall be justified in following rather the unanimous statements of the texts previously quoted, and in accepting in accordance with them, as the full name of our Sūtrakāra, the name Suyajña Śāṅkhāyana.

The Gṛhya-sūtra which has been here translated presupposes, as all Gṛhya-sūtras do, the existence of the Śrauta-sūtra, with which it is intimately connected and which is referred to in the Gṛhya in several instances[4].

Here the question arises whether the Gṛhya-sūtra was composed by the same author to whom the authorship of the Śrauta-sūtra belongs, so that the two texts form together, and would, in the conception of their author, be intended to form, one great body of Sūtras, or, on the other hand, whether the Gṛhya-sūtra is a later addition to the Śrauta-sūtra. On this question I have ventured, in the preface to my German edition of Śāṅkhāyana[5], to offer a few remarks which, however, I feel bound to say do not seem to myself quite decisive. I there pointed out that the Gṛhya-sūtra contains a few aphorisms which we should rather expect would have found their place in the Śrauta-sūtra, if the two texts were composed by the same author and on a common plan[6]. But, apart from the possibility that in a work of such considerable extent as that collection of Sūtras would be, such trifling incongruences or irregularities might very easily escape the attention even of a very careful author, there is still another objection that may be urged against the inference drawn by me from such passages. It can be shown[7] that the Gṛhya texts which we possess are based to some extent on one common original, from which they have taken verbatim, or nearly verbatim, a certain number of aphorisms. Thus if we were to suppose that Śāṅkhāyana, or whosoever the author of this Gṛhya-sūtra may have been, found the aphorisms on which I once based my argument, in that original text, this would explain the occurrence of those passages in a portion of the great body of Sūtras different from that in which we should expect to meet them. Now several of the passages in question recur identically in other Gṛhya texts, so that we may infer indeed that they are taken from that lost original, and we have no means to judge whether the other similar passages are not taken from it also. I believe, therefore, that the opinion which I once pronounced regarding the relation in which the two Sūtra texts stand to each other, cannot be vindicated, and that it is better to leave that question unanswered until perhaps further discoveries throw a new light on it.

For the reconstruction of the correct text of the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya, and occasionally also for its interpretation, it is of considerable importance that we possess, besides the Devanāgarī MSS. of the text and of the commentaries, a South Indian MS. written in the Grantha character (MS. Whish 78 in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society, London) which contains a Gṛhya based on that of Śāṅkhāyana and following it, during the greater part of the work, nearly word for word[8]. It is designated in the MS., at the end of the single Adhyāyas, as 'Kauṣītaka-Gṛhya.' It therefore professes to follow the teaching of the same Brāhmaṇa which is adhered to also by the Sūtra school of Śāṅkhāyana. A metrical commentary, which in the MS. follows after the text, names in its opening Śloka a teacher Śāmbavya as the author of this Sūtra. The Śloka runs thus:

Natvā Kauṣītakācāryaṃ Śāmbavyaṃ sūtrakṛttamam
gṛhyaṃ tadīyaṃ saṃkṣipya vyākhyāsye bahuvismṛtam.

('Having bowed to the most excellent author of Sūtras, to Śāmbavya, the Ācārya belonging to the Kauṣītaka school, I shall compose a short commentary on his Gṛhya, which has been forgotten by many.')

The name of this Śāmbavya does not occur among the teachers enumerated in the description of the Tarpaṇa ceremony, neither in Śāṅkhāyana IV, 10, nor in Āśvalāyana III, 4; but in the list of the Śāmbavya-Gṛhya itself it is found (see above, p. 4); and besides it seems to me also to be mentioned in Āśvalāyana-Gṛhya IV, 8, 24, in which passage it will scarcely be considered too bold to conjecture Śāmbavya instead of Śāṃvatya.

Though the MS. of the Śāmbavya-Gṛhya is very confused, and full of blunders of all sorts, yet it deserves to be attentively studied by all scholars who are accustomed to look, if not in theory yet in practice, on the agreement of a few Vedic text MSS., or of a few Indian commentaries, as if it had a claim to an unassailable authority to which European Orientalists would have no right to deny their faith. In the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya a number of passages are found in which corrupt readings or perverse explanations are supported by all the Śāṅkhāyana MSS. and by all the Śāṅkhāyana commentaries, and if, by a rare and fortunate chance, the Śāmbavya Grantha MS., which is unaffected by the blunders of the Devanāgarī MSS., had not been discovered in the south of the peninsula, these readings and explanations would seem to rest on the unanimous agreement of tradition. Perhaps it seems unnecessary to dwell on this point, for very few Orientalists, if any, would be prepared to assert that Indian tradition is infallible. But when looking over many of the editions and translations of the Vedic texts; even such as have been published in the last years, one finds plentiful occasion to observe that in hundreds of passages tradition has been practically treated, by scholars of very high merit, as if it had an authority not very far removed from infallibility. A case like that of which we have to speak here, in which a whole set of MSS., and occasionally also of commentaries, can be tested by a MS. of a nearly related text, written in a different character and in a distant part of India, will strengthen our belief that we are right in judging for ourselves, even if that judgment should oppose itself to such authorities as Nārāyaṇa or Rāmacandra or Jayarāma.

Perhaps it will not be out of place to add here, as an illustration of these remarks, a few observations on one of the passages in which the rejection of the traditional Śāṅkhāyana reading, together with the traditional Śāṅkhāyana explanation, is confirmed by the Śāmbavya MS., though no doubt, even without the aid of that MS., we ought to have formed the right conclusions for ourselves. At Śāṅkhāyana II, 4, 1. 2 the traditional reading is:

Mama vrate hṛdayaṃ te dadhāmi mama cittam anu cittaṃ to astu | mama vācam ekamanā juṣasva Bṛhaspatish ṭvā niyunaktu mahyam iti | kāmasya brahmacaryasyāsāv iti.

Śāṅkhāyana is treating here of the Upanayana, or the initiation of the student who is received by a teacher and intends to study the Veda with him. The teacher on that occasion is to pronounce the Mantra which we have just transcribed, and which translated into English would run thus:

'Under my will I take thy heart; after my mind shall thy mind follow; in my word thou shalt rejoice with all thy heart; may Bṛhaspati join thee to me.' 'Of the Brahmacarya of Kāma (or lust), N.N.!'

The MSS. give the end of the passage as we have printed it above, kāmasya brahmacaryasyāsāv iti. This Nārāyaṇa explains in the following way. Brahmacarya here means the observances which the student has to keep through certain periods of time before the different texts which he has to learn can be taught him. First comes the Sāvitrī verse, for which he prepares himself by observing the sāvitra vrata; this lasts either one year, or three days, or the Sāvitrī can also be taught him immediately (see chap. 5, 1-3). Then follows the śukriya vrata, of three days, or twelve days, or one year, or any other period of time according to the teacher's pleasure (chap. 11, 10); by this vrata the student is enabled to study the main portion of the Veda. Finally come the śākvara, vrātika, aupaniṣada observances, each of which has to last one year, and which refer to the different parts of the Āraṇyaka (see chap. 11, 11 seq., and the sixth book). Now the formula of which we treat here refers principally to the sāvitra vrata. The teacher announces to the student how long he has to keep that vrata. He says (Sūtra 1), 'May Bṛhaspati join thee to me (Sūtra 2) for a brahmacarya (i.e. a vrata) of such and such (kāmasya) a time (one year, three days, &c.); N.N.!' Kāma (the pleasure) would thus stand here as an expletive which was to be replaced in each single case by the indication of the real space of time that depended on the teacher's pleasure ('. . . niyunaktu mahyaṃ sāṃvatsarikasya trairātrikasya vānvakṣikasya vā sāvitrasya brahmacaryasyāmukāmukaśarmann iti vākyasaṃyogo jñeyaḥ'). The same should take place at the corresponding forms of Upanayana which had to precede the entrance of the student upon the śukriya, śākvara, &c. observances. This is the explanation of Nārāyaṇa, with which Rāmacandra and all the other commentaries agree. It will scarcely be necessary to observe that the singular use of k ā ma, on which this traditional explanation rests, is neither in accordance with the meaning of the word, nor supported by any parallel texts. So, even before I had the opportunity of collating the Śāmbavya MS., I had no doubt that the system of the Vratas has nothing at all to do with our Sūtra, and that its text should be made intelligible by a slight alteration touching only the quantity of the a in two syllables, by writing, Kāmasya brahmacāry asy asāv iti (thou art the Brahmacārin of Kāma, N.N.!), as we read in Āśvalāyana I, 20, 8, kasya brahmacāryasi, prāṇasya brahmacāry asi. Afterwards I found that the Grantha MS. of Śāmbavya gives the very reading which I had conjectured.

Passages like this are not very rare in the Gṛhya-sūtras. In the other Sūtras we are not in the same favourable position of possessing a MS. which enables us, as the Grantha MS. of Śāmbavya does, to test their text.

We cannot conclude these introductory remarks without speaking of the later additions tacked on at the end of the original body of the Śāṅkhāyana-Gṛhya-sūtras[9]. There are unmistakable indications that the fifth and sixth books are later additions. The fifth book is designated as a pariśiṣṭa in a Kārikā quoted by Nārāyaṇa:

pariśiṣṭād āvasathye pārvaṇātikrame caruḥ
Vaiśvānarāyāgnaye cāgnaye[10] tantumate tathā.

('According to the Pariśiṣṭa, if one of the half-monthly sacrifices has been omitted, a mess of rice should be offered on the sacred domestic fire to Agni Vaiśvānara and to Agni Tantumat.')

The passages of the Pariśiṣṭa here referred to are the two first aphorisms of V, 4:

'Now if a half-monthly sacrifice has not been performed, one or the other of them, then a mess of rice (is to be offered)—

'With (the words), "To Agni Vaiśvānara svāhā! To Agni Tantumat svāhā!'"

There are, besides, several passages in which Nārāyaṇa himself mentions the fifth book under the designation of Pariśeṣādhyāya[11]. And even if we had not the authority of the Kārikā and of Nārāyaṇa, the contents alone of the fifth book would raise our suspicion against its genuineness. The matter ordinarily treated of in the Gṛhya texts is brought to an end in Adhyāyas I-IV; in the fifth book we find diverse supplementary additions on points discussed before; rules, which no doubt would have been given at their proper place, had the fifth book been composed at the same time, and by the same author, as the preceding books[12]. Besides, we find different prāyaścitta oblations treated of, and a description of two ceremonies which are mentioned, as far as I know, in no other Gṛhya-sūtra, but belong to the rites frequently described in such works as Purāṇas, Pariśiṣṭas, and later Dharma texts: the consecration of ponds or wells (chap. 2), and the consecration of gardens (chap. 3).

There can thus be little doubt as to the secondary character of the fifth book. And this alone suffices to furnish an important argument in favour of the same view with regard to the sixth book also. This view is furthermore supported by the opening invocation in that book, addressed to Brahman and to a number of mythological beings and Vedic sages and teachers. It is evident that by such an invocation this book is characterised as a separate treatise, presupposing of course the main body of the Śāṅkhāyana-sūtras, but not forming part of it in the same sense in which, for instance, the second or the third Adhyāya does. The object of that treatise is the exposition of the ritual connected with the study of the Rahasya texts. The sixth book, composed no doubt by a later adherent of the Śāṅkhāyana school, returns, in fact, to, and enlarges on, matters that have already found their proper place in the original Gṛhya-sūtra at II, 12, and partly also at IV, 7.

Footnotes and references:


See IV, 5, 9.


Manuscr. Chambers 712 (Berlin Royal Library), fol. 12 b.


Comp. Pāraskara-Gṛhya I, 2, 5: araṇipradānam eke.


See, for instance, Gṛhya I, 16, 1 (Śrauta IV, 16, 2).


Indische Studien, vol. xv, pp. 11, 12.


The Sūtras with reference to which I made that observation are I, 8, 14; 14, 13-15; II, 15, 10. Comp. Śrauta-sūtra II, 7, 12; IV, 21.


I intend to give some proofs of this in the General Introduction to the Gṛhya-sūtras which will be given in the second volume of these translations.


Comp. the statements given with regard to that text in my German edition of Śāṅkhāyana, Indische Studien, XV, 4 seq.


Comp. the remarks in my German edition of Śāṅkhāyana, Ind. Studien. XV, 7.


vāgnaye the MS.


Nārāyaṇa on I, 9, 3; 10, 2.


The Paddhati inserts the paraphrase of several of these rules into the explanation of the first Adhyāya.

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