Sunday, August 5, 2012

Can veda mantras be read off the book ?

Many people opine that vedas are all about knowledge and with printing technology available today, they can be read off the book by anyone.

Today, we see shares of veda mantras in social networks with comments like " If you are unable to get bhagyasukta archana done in temple, do it at  home, here is the mantra!!!". We all see enthusiasts starting their own classes after a few months of evening learning sessions of purusha suktam and rudram chamakam.While the spirit is greatly appreciated, it is not to be taken so lightly.

Veda mantras are bound by svara rules just as there are the saptasvaras in music. A musical piece without the svaras is simply called the lyrics. If you listen to someone reading out the lyrics do you get the same feel as listening to the composed music ?

Svaras of the veda are called udaatta, anudatta, svarita etc. Even the meaning of the mantra is dependent on how these svaras are applied while saying them.

There is an example from shatapata brahmana. Tvashta ( a vedic God) who had enemity with Indra wanted to have a son who would be capable of killing Indra. He chanted the mantra "svaha indrashatrurvardhasva". The compound word indrashatru has two parts indra and shatru. He wanted to say "May you, the killer of Indra, prosper". For this he should have applied emphatic svara on the second part. Instead, he applied the svara to the first part. The meaning changed to Indra getting stronger and Tvashta ended up losing his son to Indra. This much is the importance of svaras while chanting veda.

This needs abhyasa, not just reading skills and it comes after years of hard work.

The rules pertaining to these svara applications is governed by pratishakhyam ( different for each veda).

In this video, the renowned scholar Br.Sri.Chandrasekhara Ghanapatikal of Tirupati is saying the svaravarnakrama ( the rules pertaining to pronouncing )  just one word "ganapathim". That itself is about 6 minutes.Bear in mind that he is not chanting a mantra, just saying the nuances of pronunciation of one word.