Vāc

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Vāk or Vāc (Sanskrit: वाक्, stem vāc-, nominative vāk) is the Sanskrit word for "speech", from a verbal root vac- "speak, tell, utter".

Personified, Vāk is a goddess; in the Veda she is also represented as created by Prajapati and married to him; in other places she is called the "mother of the Vedas" and wife of Indra.[1][2] In Hinduism, she is identified with Bharati or Sarasvati.

Rigveda[edit]

In the early Rigveda (books 2 to 7), vāc- refers to the voice, in particularly the voice of the priest raised in sacrifice. She is personified only RV 8 and RV 10, in RV 10.125.5 speaking in the first person (trans. Griffith),

ahám evá svayám idáṃ vadāmi / júṣṭaṃ devébhir utá mânuṣebhiḥ
yáṃ kāmáye táṃ-tam ugráṃ kṛṇomi / tám brahmâṇaṃ tám ŕṣiṃ táṃ sumedhâm
"I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that Gods and men alike shall welcome.
I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him a sage, a Rsi, and a Brahman."

The intimate connection of speech, sacrifice and creation in (late) Rigvedic thought is expressed in RV 10.71.1-4:

1. bŕhaspate prathamáṃ vācó ágraṃ / yát praírata nāmadhéyaṃ dádhānāḥ
yád eṣāṃ śréṣṭhaṃ yád ariprám âsīt / preṇâ tád eṣāṃ níhitaṃ gúhāvíḥ
2. sáktum iva títa'unā punánto / yátra dhîrā mánasā vâcam ákrata
yátrā sákhāyaḥ sakhyâni jānate / bhadraíṣāṃ lakṣmîr níhitâdhi vācí
3. yajñéna vācáḥ padavîyam āyan / tâm ánv avindann ŕṣiṣu práviṣṭām
tâm ābhŕtyā vy àdadhuḥ purutrâ / tâṃ saptá rebhâ abhí sáṃ navante
4. utá tvaḥ páśyan ná dadarśa vâcam / utá tvaḥ śṛṇván ná śṛṇoty enām
utó tvasmai tanvàṃ ví sasre / jāyéva pátya uśatî suvâsāḥ
"When men, Brhaspati!, giving names to objects, sent out Vak's first and earliest utterances
All that was excellent and spotless, treasured within them, was disclosed through their affection."
"Where, like men cleansing corn-flour in a cribble, the wise in spirit have created language,
Friends see and recognize the marks of friendship: their speech retains the blessed sign imprinted."
"With sacrifice the trace of Vak they followed, and found her harbouring within the Rsis.
They brought her, dealt her forth in many places: seven singers make her tones resound in concert."
"One man hath ne'er seen Vak, and yet he seeth: one man hath hearing but hath never heard her.
But to another hath she shown her beauty as a fond well-dressed woman to her husband."

Vak also speaks, and is described as a goddess, in RV 8.100:

10. yád vâg vádanty avicetanâni / râṣṭrī devânāṃ niṣasâda mandrâ
cátasra ûrjaṃ duduhe páyāṃsi / kvà svid asyāḥ paramáṃ jagāma
11. devîṃ vâcam ajanayanta devâs / tâṃ viśvárūpāḥ paśávo vadanti
sâ no mandréṣam ûrjaṃ dúhānā / dhenúr vâg asmân úpa súṣṭutaítu
"When, uttering words which no one comprehended, Vak, Queen of Gods, the Gladdener, was seated,
The heaven's four regions drew forth drink and vigour: now whither hath her noblest portion vanished?"
"The Deities generated Vak the Goddess, and animals of every figure speak her.
May she, the Gladdener, yielding food and vigour, the Milch-cow Vak, approach us meetly lauded."

RV 1.164.45 has:

catvâri vâk párimitā padâni / tâni vidur brāhmaṇâ yé manīṣíṇaḥ
gúhā trîṇi níhitā néṅgayanti / turîyaṃ vācó manuṣyā̀ vadanti
"Speech hath been measured out in four divisions, the Brahmans who have understanding know them.
Three kept in close concealment cause no motion; of speech, men speak only the fourth division."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0500510881) by Anna Dhallapiccola
  • Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions (ISBN 8120803795) by David Kinsley