A recent comment by Supreme Court Justice Rohinton Nariman imputing anti-women content to the Rig Veda has upset all sections of Hindu society, especially Dharmic scholars. While such misinterpretations by Western indologists and Marxist academics are not uncommon, to hear such false-hoods from a person holding a high Constitutional post in Bharat, the homeland of Hindus, is especially upsetting.
In an open letter, Swami Vigyananand, renowned Sanskrit scholar and founder of the World Hindu Foundation, has penned an open letter, which we share below:
I am wounded and outraged at Justice Rohinton Nariman’s disparaging and incorrect comments on Rigveda during his address at the 26th Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture organised on the 16th April 2021 and livestreamed. As a Panini grammar, Vedang, Eastern Philosophy, Brahamana and Vedic Samhita scholar, I wish to bring to Justice Nariman’s notice that Vedas are not the scriptures to be translated literally.
First of all, to understand Vedas, one must know Vedic Sanskrit, which is way different from modern Sanskrit. Further, Vedas are only Mantra Samhita and how they need to be interpreted is defined through Panini grammar, etymology and other reference books. One must have thorough knowledge of the following minimum five disciplines/texts, out of many more to be able to interpret Vedas:
a.) Panini Sanskrit Grammar
b.) Nighantu, which is a compiled and explained list of words which have lost their original meanings with passage of time. It has been prepared to prevent distortions in meanings of these words further in future. It is remarkable to note that originally Sanskrit had 2800 root words, out of which 2750 have been lost. Only around 50 root words are in practice in modern Sanskrit. Therefore, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of Nighantu to understand any Vedic Sutra.
c.) Nirukta, which deals with the etymology of words, delineates in detail why a particular word is used in a context. Thus, the meaning of a word cannot be understood without understanding Nirukta.
d.) Praatisakhya, is a manual of grammar for each Veda school and its Shakha. There are separate Praatisakhya granths for each Veda which explain usage of vowels, poetic meter, Samhita, Sanyukta Varna etc. in each Veda.
e.) Brahmanas, which are separate reference manuals for each Veda. It is noteworthy that each Veda has multiple Brahmanas. They explain in detail the meaning and context of each word in the Vedic times.
Respected Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman!
I believe that you are not qualified to interpret Vedas and ancient Hindu scriptures. Therefore, you must resist from making any commentary on Hindu scriptures and Vedas based on your reading of secondary sources.
Moreover, you hold a responsible position in judiciary. You must behave responsibly in speaking about issues concerning the great Dharma and Bharat’s civilisational heritage.
Finally, I request you to take back your incorrect interpretation of Rigveda through your lecture. If you have any doubts about interpretation of Vedas, I invite you for an open debate at any platform.
I hope you shall amend at the earliest the hurt and outrage caused to 1.2 billion followers of the faith by your mischievous comments on Rigveda.
Founder, World Hindu Foundation
Email – [email protected]
(Note: Above open letter in PDF format can be seen here)
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