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Marriage-Mudrá Rakshasa, or the Signet of the Minister-Retnávali, or
SACRED HYMNS OF THE BRAHMANS
AS PRESERVED TO US IN THE
OLDEST COLLECTION OF RELIGIOUS POETRY,
TRANSLATED AND EXPLAINED,
MAX MÜLLER, M.A.,
TAYLORIAN PROFESSOR OF MODERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES IN THE UNIVERSITY
OF OXFORD; FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE.
AFTER twenty years spent in collecting and publishing the text of the Rig-Veda with the voluminous Commentary of Sâyaņa, I intend to lay before the public my translation of some of the hymns contained in that collection of primeval poetry. I cannot promise a translation of all the hymns, for the simple reason that, notwithstanding Sâyaņa's traditional explanations of every word, and in spite of every effort to decipher the original text, either by an intercomparison of 'all passages in which the same word occurs, or by etymological analysis, or by consulting the vocabulary and grammar of cognate languages, there remain large portions of the Rig Veda which, as yet, yield no intelligible sense. It is very easy, no doubt, to translate these obscurer portions according to Sâyaņa's traditional interpretation, but the Prospectus of Rig Veda Sanhita.
impossibility of adopting this alternative may be judged by the fact that even the late Professor Wilson, who undertook to give a literal rendering of Sâyaņa's interpretation of the Rig-Veda, found himself obliged, by the rules of common sense and by the exigencies of the English language, to desert, not unfrequently, that venerable guide. I need hardly repeat what I have so often said," that it would be reckless to translate a single line of the Rig-Veda without having carefully examined Sâyaņa's invaluable commentary and other native authorities, such as the Brâhmaņas, the Araṇyakas, the Prâtisâkhyas, Yâska’s Nirukta, Śaunaka's Bțihaddevatâ, the Sûtras, the Anukramaņis, and many other works on grammar, metre, nay, even on law and philosophy, from which we may gather how the most learned among the Brahmans understood their own sacred writings. But it would be equally reckless not to look beyond.
A long controversy has been carried on, during the last twenty years, whether we, the scholars of Europe, have a right to criticise the traditional interpretation of the sacred writings of the Brahmans. I think we have not only the right to do so, but that it is the duty of every scholar never to allow himself to be guided by tradition, unless that tradition has first been submitted to the same critical tests which are applied to the suggestions of his own private judgment. A translator must, before all things, be a “sceptic,” a man who looks about, and who chooses that for which he is able to make himself honestly responsible, whether it be suggested to him, in the first instance, by the most authoritative tradition or by the merest random guess.
I offer my translation of such hymns as I can, to a certain extent, understand and explain, as a humble contribution to
· This subject and the principles by which I shall be guided in my translation of the Rig-Veda have been discussed in an article lately published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, vol. ii., part 2, “ The Hymns of the Gaupâyanas and the Legend of King Asamâti." The same volume contains two valuable articles on the same subject by Mr. J. Muir, D.C.L.