Competitiveness in Sacred Learning

Traces of Indo-Aryan Oral Competition in the Mahābhārata

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.26.2024.01.03

Keywords:

Vrātya, Mahābhārata, Aṣṭāvakra, brahmodya, competitiveness

Abstract

The current notion of the Vrātyas aggressivity seems to be mainly based on certain Vedic texts that record a biased account of their history. It is usually assumed that relevant passages refer to the aggression displayed by the Vrātyas during verbal confrontations with their opponents in order to determine the correct stance on ritual matters. However, even outside the Vrātya context, competitive hospitality and violent verbal exchanges may be found in the sapiential sphere, often in the form of riddles—the so-called brahmodya. Among the sections in the Mahābhārata that demonstrate epic traces of competitiveness in the field of sacred knowledge, this paper will primarily examine the Aṣṭāvakrīya-Upākhyāna (MBh 3.132–134), which features the sole Mahābhārata reference to the term brahmodya.

PlumX Metrics of this article

References

Primary sources

Sukthankar, V. S. et. al. (eds). 1933–1971. The Mahābhārata: For the First Time Critically Edited. Vols. 1–19. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Secondary sources

Aufrecht, T. 1877. Die Hymnen des Ṛigveda. I–II. Second Edition. Bonn: Marcus.

Bindi, S. et al. 2016. Cross-Cutting South Asian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach. New Delhi: DK Printworld.

Biswas, S. 1955. Die Vrātyas und die Vrātyastomas vorgelegt von Samarendranātha Viśvāsa. Berlin: Freie University Dissertation.

Black, B. 2011. Ambaṭṭha and Śvetaketu: Literary Connections Between the Upaniṣads and Early Buddhist Narratives. In: Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79(1): 136–161, https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfq058.

Black, B. 2017. The Upaniṣads and the Mahābhārata. In: S. Cohen (ed.). The Upaniṣads. London: Routledge: 186–199.

Brockington, J. L. 1998. The Sanskrit Epics (Handbuck der Orientalistik 2. Indien. Vol. 12). Leiden–Boston–Köln: Brill, https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004492677.

Bronkhorst, J. 2007. Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India (Handbook of Oriental Studies 2. India. Vol. 19). Leiden–Boston: Brill, https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004157194.i-416.

Buitenen, J. A. B. van. 1975. The Mahābhārata 2: The Book of the Assembly Hall & 3: The Book of the Forest. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Candotti, M. P. and T. Pontillo. 2015. Aims and Functions of Vrātyastoma Performances: A Historical Appraisal. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). The Volatile World of Sovereignty: The Vrātya Problem and Kingship in South Asia and Beyond. New Delhi: DK Printworld: 154–215.

Charpentier, J. 1911. Bemerkungen über die vrātya’s. In: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 25: 354–388.

Desnitskaya, E. 2020. Nonagonistic Discourse in the Early History of Indian Philosophical Debates: From Brahmodyas to the Mahābhāṣya. In: L. den Boer and E. Cecil (eds). Framing Intellectual and Lived Spaces in Early South Asia: Sources and Boundaries. Berlin–Boston: De Gruyter: 145–172, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110557176-006.

Dore, M. and T. Pontillo. 2013. What Do Vrātyas Have to Do with LongStalked Plants? Darbha, kuśa, śara and iṣīkā in Vedic and Classical Sources. In: J. Vacek (ed.). Pandanus 4: Special Issue to Commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of the Birth of Moriz Winternitz (December 23, 1863 – January 9, 1937): 35–61.

Edholm, K. af. 2017. Recent Studies on the Ancient Indian Vrātya. In: Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 24(1): 1–17.

Falk, H. 1986. Bruderschaft und Würfelspiel: Untersuchungen zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des vedischen Opfers. Freiburg: Hedwig Falk.

Falk, H. 2002. Vom Vorteil des Schreckens: Gesellschaft und Männerbund in Indien. In: R. P. Das und G. Meiser (eds). Geregeltes Ungestūm Bruderschaften und Jugenbūnde bei Indogermanischen Völkern. Bremen: Hempen: 27–42.

Feller, D. 2012. Epic Heroes Have No Childhood: A Survey of Childhood Descriptions in the Sanskrit Epics, The Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa. In: Indologica Taurinensia 38: 65–85.

Hauer, J. W. 1927. Der Vrātya: Untersuchungen über die nichtbrahmanische Religion Altindiens. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Heesterman, J. C. 1962. Vrātya and Sacrifice. In: Indo-Iranian Journal 6(1): 1–37, https://doi.org/10.1163/000000062791616002.

Heesterman, J. C. 1964. Brahmin, Ritual and Renouncer. In: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens 8: 1–31.

Heesterman, J. C. 1982. Householder and Wanderer. In: Way of Life: Essays in Honour of Louis Dumont. Delhi–Paris: 251–271.

Heesterman, J. C. 1993. The Broken World of Sacrifice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226922553.001.0001.

Heesterman, J. C. 2012. The dakṣiṇā and the Development of Sacrifice. In: S. D’Intino and C. Guenzi (eds). Aux abords de la clairière: Études indiennes et comparées en l’honneur de Charles Malamoud (Histoire et prosopographie de la section des sciences religieuses 7, Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études 154). Turnhout: 3–9, https://doi.org/10.1484/M.BEHE-EB.4.00313.

Hegarty, J. M. 2007. Religion, Epic and Cultural Memory. The Construction of the Significant Past in Sanskrit and Hindi Mahābhāratas. In: Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 15(2): 179–199, https://doi.org/10.1515/zfr.2007.15.2.179.

Held, G. J. 1935. The Mahābhārata: An Ethnological Study. Amsterdam: Uitgeversmaatschappij Holland.

Hiltebeitel, A. 2001. Rethinking the Mahabharata. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Hiltebeitel, A. 2005. Not Without Subtales: Telling Laws and Truths in the Sanskrit Epics. In: Journal of Indian Philosophy 33: 455–511, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10781-005-7050-9.

Hock, H. H. 2016. Vrātya Prakrit, Ritual Concerns, or Anti-Vrātya Propaganda? aduruktavākyam in Its Broader Context. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). Vrātya Culture in Vedic Sources. Bangkok: DK Publishers: 103–116.

Hopkins, E. W. 1889. The Social and Military Position of the Ruling Caste in Ancient India as Represented by the Sanskrit Epic (with an Appendix on the Status of Women). In: Journal of the American Oriental Society 13: 57–376, https://doi.org/10.2307/592444.

Insler, S. 1989–1990. The Shattered Head Split and the Epic Tale of Śakuntalā. In: Bulletin d´Etudes Indiennes 7/8: 97–139.

Jamison, S. and M. Witzel. 2003 [1992]. Vedic Hinduism. In: A. Sharma (ed.). The Study of Hinduism. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Kuiper, F. B. J. 1960. The Ancient Aryan Verbal Contest. In: Indo-Iranian Journal 4: 217–281, https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00180765.

Lüders, H. 1951. Varuṇa und die Wasser. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Kuiper, F. B. J. 1959. Varuṇa und das Rta. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Mucciarelli, E. 2015. Lost Speech: The Poetry of Sattrins. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). The Volatile World of Sovereignty: The Vrātya Problem and Kingship in South Asia and Beyond. New Delhi: DK Printworld: 65–98.

Olivelle, P. 1999. Young Śvetaketu: A Literary Study of an Upaniṣadic Story. In: The Journal of the American Oriental Society 119(1): 47–70, https:// doi.org/10.2307/605540.

Parpola, A. 2012. The Dāsas of the Ṛgveda as Proto-Sakas of the Yaz I -Related Cultures: With a Revised Model for the Protohistory of Indo-Iranian Speakers. In: M. E. Huld, K. Jones-Bley and D. Miller (eds). Archaeology and Language: Indo-European Studies Presented to James P. Mallory. Washington: Institute for the Study of Man: 221–264, .

Parpola, A. 2015. The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190226909.001.0001.

Pontillo, T. 2007. Ascesi e sistema rituale come istituzioni anticamente solidali: il caso dei Vratya nell’India vedica ed epica. In: Theologica & Historica: 423–459.

Pontillo, T. 2016. Droṇa and Bhīṣma as Borderline Cases of Pupils and Masters in the Brāhmaṇical Systematization: Some Other Traces of the Vrātya Tradition in the Mahābhārata. In: I. Andrijanić and S. Sellmer (eds). Proceedings of the Fifth Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts: 205–246.

Pontillo, T. and L. Sudyka. 2016. Prominent Chieftains Depicted as Ferocious Wild Beasts. In: S. Bindi et al. (eds). Cross-Cutting South Asian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach. New Delhi: DK Printworld: 263–302.

Pontillo, T. and M. Dore. 2016. Inquiries into Vrātya-Phenomenon: An Introduction. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). Vrātya Culture in Vedic Sources. Bangkok: DK Publishers: 1–33.

Pontillo, T. (ed.). 2014 [2015]. Proceedings of the International Conference “Patterns of Bravery.” Cagliari 14–16.5.2015. In: Indologica Taurinensia 40(1).

Pontillo, T. et al. (eds). 2015. The Volatile World of Sovereignty: The Vrātya Problem and Kingship in South Asia and Beyond. New Delhi: DK Printworld.

Pontillo, T. et al. (eds). 2016. Vrātya Culture in Vedic Sources. Bangkok: DK Publishers.

Renou, L. 1949. Sur la notion de Brahman. In: Journal Asiatique 237: 7–46.

Rossi, P. 2015. On the Track of the Vrātya Culture: Vedic Poets and Poetry Between the “Visionary” Mode and “Auditive” Mode. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). The Volatile World of Sovereignty: The Vrātya Problem and

Kingship in South Asia and Beyond. New Delhi: DK Printworld: 99–137.

Shulman, D. D. 1996. The Yakṣa’s Question. In: G. Hasan-Rokem and D. D. Shulman (eds). Untying the Knot: On Riddles and Other Enigmatic Modes. New York: Oxford University Press: 151–167, https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780195101867.003.0008.

Stroud, S. R. 2004. Narrative as Argument in Indian Philosophy: The Aṣṭāvakra Gītā as Multivalent Narrative. In: Philosophy and Rhetoric 37(1): 42–71, https://doi.org/10.1353/par.2004.0011.

Thompson, G. 1997. The Brahmodya and Vedic Discourse. In: Journal of the American Oriental Society 117(1): 13–37, https://doi.org/10.2307/605620.

Vassilkov, Y. 2015. Animal Symbolism of Warrior Brotherhoods in Indian Epic, History and Culture. In: T. Pontillo et al. (eds). The Volatile World of Sovereignty: The Vrātya Problem and Kingship in South Asia. New Delhi: DK Printworld: 231–253.

Vassilkov, Y. 2016. The Mahabharata and the Non-Vedic Aryan Traditions. In: I. Andrijanić and S. Sellmer (eds). Proceedings of the Fifth Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts: 181–203.

Winternitz, M. 1925. Die Vrātyas. München–Neubiberg: Oskar Schloss Verlag.

Witzel, M. 1987. The Case of the Shattered Head. In: Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 13/14: 363–415.

Downloads

Published

2024-06-07

How to Cite

Falqui, Diletta. 2024. “Competitiveness in Sacred Learning: Traces of Indo-Aryan Oral Competition in the Mahābhārata”. Cracow Indological Studies 26 (1):61-80. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.26.2024.01.03.