Vaak Suktam & Language

Speech and Communication as discussed in Vedic times

Sujatha R
5 min readSep 9, 2021

I was wowed by the description of the Goddess of Knowledge..

Knowledge is like a river. Flowing from an intense inspiration or Guru into its seekers and outside of them too. Hence ‘saras’ wati the flowing one.. May she grace us.

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/musical-goddess-saraswati-healing-art-harsh-malik.html

Everyone weaves the magic of speech. Their personality is indeed defined by their speech and yet.. nobody knows the secrets and intricacies of speech.

I enjoyed soaking in this slow rendition of Vaak Sukti.. The tune and the words are so mesmerising. The Goddess of Speech with boldness describes her secrets.

“I walk with the rudras, vasus, adityas.. I walk with the mitra-varuna, indra-agni and the ashwin twins.”

Aham Rudrebhir vasubhir charami,
Aham aadhithyer uta vaisvadevaii,
Aham mithra varunobha bibharmi,
Aham indragni, aham ashvinobha.

To me, I imagined it like the work of an architect or a director.. Behind the scenes of the vocal tract.. orchestrating pathways for generating sounds.. Humidity, airflow, hydraulic lift.. friction, thermodynamics, tensility, resonance.. And mysteriously lending hands and lending a “voice” to the thoughts within us.

Or perhaps like the chain of satellites around the earth that aid in modern communication.. Or may be the Universe and its army of space, thunder, air, water and other invisible forces governing the outer communication and signalling seasons with the plants, animals and all its creations in ways that is beyond our understanding.

Vaak Sukthi Simple Meaning

I roam with the forces of Adityas, Maruts, Agni, Soma, Varuna..

I am the food in the offerings. I create civilizations, nations..

I enable the eating, seeing and life. Those who listen to this secret prosper. Others just while away.

I am telling this by myself. I give you what ever you want. I make you Brahma, rishi, the intelligent sumedha..

I prevail in Earth and Heavens. I provide justice in wars. I stretch Rudra’s bow to remove obstacles on your way.

I sprang from the ocean of the water. And kissed the heavens. My Yoni is this universe.

I blew like fierce winds. And created this world. And prevailed in it.

Changing gears, a look into the “language” and “communication” part of the vaak. I was joking with an classmate of mine. Imagine a discussion on communication topics in the Rig Veda times.

An Interesting riddle from the Veda time frame..

“4 are his horns, 3 are the feet that bear him; his heads are 2, his hands are 7 in number. Tethered in 3 points, the bull roars loudly; the mighty god hath entered in to mortals.”

Chatvari shringa trayo asya pada dve shirshe sapta hastaso asya.

tridha baddho vrishabho roravIti maho devo martyan a vivesha.

चत्वारि श्रृंगा त्रयो अस्य पादा द्वे शीर्षे सप्त हस्तासो अस्य ।
त्रिधा बद्धो वृषभो रोरवीति महोदेवा मर्त्याम् आविवेश ।।

Though it has multiple interpretations, the Grammarians say it is the description of Sanskrit Language. And I would say it loosely characterizes the elements and purpose of a language and how it provides a blueprint and a code to express through finite means.

The “2 heads” being the 2 kind of root words from which spring the vocabulary of noun and verb roots.

The “4 ornate horns” being the 4 derived products viz the Nouns, Verbs, Prefixes and Indeclinables which form the parts of speech in any language.

And if you are not sure about prefixes and indeclinables.. The Prefixes highlight and add effects to the words.. Like anti-body, pro-science, under-achiever.. The Indeclinables connect the phrases, provide additional contexts and do not change their avataars if-else, while-then, yada-tada.

The 7 hands of the bull represent the 7 Noun contexts of Space.. Imagine what stories the nouns have to tell.. stories of “who, whom, by what, from where, to where, of whom, where”.

The 3 feet represent the 3 feet of Time (past, present, future). Interestingly Our speech is generated between the 3 points of head, throat and heart chakra. Be it mechanics, resonance or excitation. The bull of language tethered at these 3 points.

Such a visual representation of the elements of Sanskrit Language, which Panini further codifies in his Algorithm, making it seem like an infinite vending machine churning out words without need of consulting a dictionary and it is no wonder that modern computing framework had its inception from this algorithm of Panini.

It is such frameworks and ability to breakdown and root cause topics makes Sanskrit so fascinating.

On the eve of 75 years of Independence and Freedom of Speech, Dr. Gauri gave a talk on ‘What is Speech or Vaak’ in the context of Vedas. A few inspirations from madam’s talk.

Why Language?

Imagine life without a language. Like the roaring bull, we would have just roared our emotions and expressions with a cacophony of sounds.

Like a computer which has Input and Output devices to interact with the world, our sense organs help us sense the world. Each of the sense organs has a frequency range and a limited ability to sense its surroundings.

When it comes to output, there are different ways we can express ourselves.. Blink of the eye, Gestures, Hand and Leg movements. And it is speech that is the most versatile of the expressions and provides High Speed and High Bandwidth interface.

And yet Speech is just a gross form of communication.. for there lies music, imagination, dreams, intuition and other realms of subtle communication. A poet is not limited by what he sees in the physical realms.

What cannot be illuminated in daylight by Ravi.. is visualized by a Kavi..

REFERENCES

  1. Melodious Bengali style Rendition
  2. Swami SarvaPriyananda talking on the meaning
  3. Dr Gauri Mahulikar talks of Grammar inspiration “Vaksuktam of Rigveda”
  4. Meaning from Hindupedia
  5. Youtube Chant: Vak Sukta by Vac Abhrini from Rigved 10th Mandal 125 sukta

--

--

Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns