Anthropology and संस्कृत

Introducing himself, Mr. Dane Anderson mentioned that he has done graduation in Anthropology and that was the reason for his interest in linguistics.
Internet is so wonderful. Google search led me to http://www.aaanet.org/about/whatisanthropology.cfm.

On “what is anthropology ?” here it says – “.. Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Anthropologists often integrate the perspectives of several of these areas into their research, teaching, and professional lives. ..”

That brought clarity to me about the connection and interest Mr. Dane Anderson has  in linguistics !

Otherwise, very frankly, I had a very queer idea that anthropology studies hypotheses such as “Humans were apes”. Isn’t that a milestone theory of Darwin in the field of anthropology ?

But the above mention of “What is anthropology” brings to my mind a new perception to Purana-s – an anthropological perception, shall I say !

In महाभारत itself, मुनि वेदव्यास has made mention of various kinds of human births –

  1. कर्ण and all पाण्डव-s were born by grace of Deities – no sexual intercourse ?
  2. द्रौपदी and धृष्टद्युम्न were born out of sacrificial fire
  3. द्रोणाचार्य’s father ऋषि भारद्वाज was not born of woman’s womb
  4. ऋष्यशृङ्ग was born from womb of a deer and had horn on his head – cloning and surrogate motherhood ? In रामायण also there is mention of मकरध्वज being son of हनुमान.
  5. दुर्योधन and his 99 कौरव brothers and their sister दुःशला were all born after incubation of embryos in jars – oldest record of test-tube babies, really ?
Now, that modern science does acknowledge cloning and test-tube births, it seems all the varieties of births mentioned in महाभारत are not just fiction.
We call this संस्कृत literature as पुराण-s (पुराणम् [पुरा नवम् Nir. निरुक्त] = It so happened). सर्गश्च प्रतिसर्गश्च वंशो मन्वन्तराणि च । वंशानुचरितं चैव पुराणं पञ्चलक्षणम् ॥ If anthropology has four areas, पुराण has five. By its etymology, the word पुराण means history, not mythology.
The British, possibly in their urge to demean anything Indian, which possibly was an essential part of their strategy of governance, gave to पुराण-s, the name “Mythology”, considering पुराण-s to be similar to Greek Mythology. The word mythology has the component “myth” (fiction, untrue) in it. But more the modern science is learning, rather rediscovering various aspects, it is becoming clearer that पुराण-s are not myths. They are not mythology, not entirely.
I guess, one can look at महाभारत as a great treatise on anthropology since it covers all four areas of anthropology.
In respect of sociocultural anthropology  can I say the following ?
  1. Sociocultural –
    1. Both polygamy and polyandry were accepted practices.
      1. शन्तनु father of भीष्म (देवव्रत) had married गंगा and later on सत्यवती
      2. पाण्डु, father of पाण्डव-s, had two wives – कुन्ती and माद्री.
      3. भीम  had 2/3 – द्रौपदी हिडिंबा, ..(?)
      4. अर्जुन  had 3/4 – द्रौपदी, सुभद्रा उलूपी and .. (?)
      5. द्रौपदी had five husbands ! – was her polyandry an accepted practice ? Or was it an exception for द्रौपदी, whose own birth was not biological ?
    2. Remarriage was also accepted. सत्यवती, mother of मुनि वेदव्यास had married ऋषि पराशर, father of मुनि वेदव्यास. Later she married King शन्तनु
    3. Kingship was by family-lineage. But it could also be bestowed upon in appreciation of merit. दुर्योधन made कर्ण, अङ्गराज.
In respect of biological/physical anthropology, apart from types of human birth, there is mention that दुर्योधन had the capability of staying under water for any length of time. पुराण-s mention 8 सिद्धि-s (special accomplishments) possible – becoming heavy, becoming light, becoming gigantic, becoming micro-size, hypnosis (influencing and controlling other’s mind and make him behave as per your instructions), etc. अणिमा लघिमा प्राप्तिः प्राकाम्यं महिमा तथा । ईशित्वं च वशित्वं च तथा कामावसायिता. So, सिद्धि-s are not just physical accomplishments, but there is mention of the power of the mind also !
I do not know whether there is any mention of archaeology. But in भागवत-पुराण, there is long delineation on genesis of the universe. By the way is not archaeology mainly a tool for the study of anthropology ? I think, in Indian tradition,  there has been great emphasis and reliance on human memory to memorize the scriptures and pass them on from one generation to another. And they have survived that way, haven’t they, for thousands of years !

Fourthly, संस्कृत literature, rather, Sanskrit language itself is all linguistics, linguistics in its ultimate !Once I happened to dwell on the word – जगत् Jagat (the universe, the living world). It came to mind that every letter in this word has an etymology of its own !

  1. ज Ja stands for जायते (is born) as in अण्डज (born in an egg, because अण्डज = अण्डे जायते = is born in an egg).
  2. ग Ga stands for गच्छति gachchati (goes) as in खग (means a bird, because खग = खे गच्छति = goes in the sky) and lastly
  3. त् ‘t’ means इत्येव “that’s all” In first सूत्र of पाणिनि,  वृद्धिरादैच्, आत् means “आ only”.
  4. Together, jagat means जगत् = जायते, गच्छति, इत्येव “that, where beings are born and go, that’s all !”
  5. Immensely philosophical, right ?
I guess having a word as जगत् to connote the universe, the living world is one proof to acknowledge that संस्कृत is certainly divine देववाणी !!
-o-O-o-

5 thoughts on “Anthropology and संस्कृत

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s