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A History of Sanskrit Literature by MacDonell

Thus Daksha is said to have sprung from Aditi


Allied

to the didactic poems are the riddles, of which there are at least two collections in the Rigveda. In their simplest form they are found in a poem (29) of the eighth book. In each of its ten stanzas a different deity is described by his characteristic marks, but without being mentioned, the hearer being left to guess his name. Vishnu, for instance, is thus alluded to:--

Another with his mighty stride has made three steps To where the gods rejoice in bliss.

A far more difficult collection, consisting of fifty-two stanzas, occurs in the first book (164). Nothing here is directly described, the language being always symbolical and mystical. The allusions in several cases are so obscurely expressed that it is now impossible to divine the meaning. Sometimes the riddle is put in the form of a question, and in one case the answer itself is also given. Occasionally the poet propounds a riddle of which he himself evidently does not know the solution. In general these problems are stated as enigmas. The subject of about one-fourth of them is the sun. Six or seven deal with clouds, lightning, and the production of rain; three or four with Agni and his various forms; about the same number with the year and its divisions; two with the origin of the world and the One Being. The dawn, heaven and earth, the metres, speech, and some other subjects which can hardly even be conjectured, are dealt with in one or two stanzas

respectively. One of the more clearly expressed of these enigmas is the following, which treats of the wheel of the year with its twelve months and three hundred and sixty days:--

Provided with twelve spokes and undecaying, The wheel of order rolls around the heavens; Within it stand, O Agni, joined in couples, Together seven hundred sons and twenty.

The thirteenth or intercalary month, contrasted with the twelve others conceived as pairs, is thus darkly alluded to: "Of the co-born they call the seventh single-born; sages call the six twin pairs god-born." The latter expression probably alludes to the intercalary month being an artificial creation of man. In the later Vedic age it became a practice to propound such enigmas, called "theological problems" (brahmodya), in contests for intellectual pre-eminence when kings instituted great sacrifices or Brahmans were otherwise assembled together.

Closely allied to these poetical riddles is the philosophical poetry contained in the six or seven cosmogonic hymns of the Rigveda. The question of the origin of the world here treated is of course largely mixed with mythological and theological notions. Though betraying much confusion of ideas, these early speculations are of great interest as the sources from which flow various streams of later thought. Most of these hymns handle the subject of the origin of the world in a theological, and only one in a purely philosophical spirit. In the view of the older Rishis, the gods in general, or various individual deities, "generated" the world. This view conflicts with the frequently expressed notion that heaven and earth are the parents of the gods. The poets thus involve themselves in the paradox that the children produce their own parents. Indra, for instance, is described in so many words as having begotten his father and mother from his own body (x. 54, 3). This conceit evidently pleased the fancy of a priesthood becoming more and more addicted to far-fetched speculations; for in the cosmogonic hymns we find reciprocal generation more than once introduced in the stages of creation. Thus Daksha is said to have sprung from Aditi, and Aditi from Daksha (x. 72, 4).


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