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Sayana (IAST: Sāyaṇa, also called Sāyaṇācārya; died 1387) was a Sanskrit Mimamsa scholar from the Vijayanagara Empire of South India, near modern day Bellary. An influential commentator on the Vedas, he flourished under King Bukka Raya I and his successor Harihara II. More than a hundred works are attributed to him, among which are commentaries on nearly all parts of the Vedas.
Sāyaṇācārya was born to Mayana (IAST: Māyaṇa) and Shrimati in a Brahmin family that lived in Hampi. He had an elder brother named Madhava (sometimes identified as Vidyaranya) and a younger brother named Bhoganatha (or Somanatha). The family belonged to Bharadvaja gotra, and followed the Taittiriya Shakha (school) of the Krishna Yajurveda.
He was the pupil of Vishnu Sarvajna and of Samkarananda. Both Madhavacārya and Sāyaṇācārya said to have studied under Vidyatirtha of Sringeri, and held offices in the Vijayanagara Empire. Sāyaṇācārya was a minister, and subsequently prime minister in Bukka Raya's court, and wrote much of his commentary, with his brother and other Brahmins during his ministership.
Sāyaṇa was a Sanskrit-language writer and commentator, and more than a hundred works are attributed to him, among which are commentaries on nearly all parts of the Vedas.[note 1] Some of these works were actually written by his pupils, and some were written in conjunction with his brother, Vidyāraṇya or Mādhavacārya.
His major work is his commentary on the Vedas, Vedartha Prakasha, literally "the meaning of the Vedas made manifest,"[note 2] written at the request of King Bukka of the Vijayanagar empire "to invest the young kingdom with the prestige it needed." He was probably aided by other scholars,[note 3] using the interpretations of several authors.[note 4] The core portion of the commentary was likely written by Sāyaṇācārya himself, but it also includes contributions of his brother Mādhavācārya, and additions by his students and later authors who wrote under Sāyaṇācārya's name. "Sāyaṇa" (or also Sāyaṇamādhava) by convention refers to the collective authorship of the commentary as a whole without separating such layers.
Galewicz states that Sayana, a Mimamsa scholar, "thinks of the Veda as something to be trained and mastered to be put into practical ritual use," noticing that "it is not the meaning of the mantras that is most essential [...] but rather the perfect mastering of their sound form." According to Galewicz, Sayana saw the purpose (artha) of the Veda as the "artha of carrying out sacrifice," giving precedence to the Yajurveda. For Sayana, whether the mantras had meaning depended on the context of their practical usage. This conception of the Veda, as a repertoire to be mastered and performed, takes precedence over the internal meaning or "autonomous message of the hymns."
His commentary on the Rigveda was translated from Sanskrit to English by Max Müller, 1823-1900. A new edition, prepared by the Vaidik Samshodhan Mandala (Vedic Research Institute) Pune, under the general editor V. K. Rajwade, was published in 1933 in 4 volumes.
He has also written many lesser manuals called Sudhanidhis treating Prayaschitta (expiation), Yajnatantra (ritual), Purushartha (aims of human endeavour), Subhashita (Collection of moral sayings), Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), Sangita Sara (The essence of music), Prayaschitra, Alankara, and Dhatuvrddhi (grammar)
According to Dalal, "his work influenced all later scholars, including many European commentators and translators." Sayana's commentary preserved traditional Indian understandings and explanations of the Rigveda, though it also contains mistakes and contradictions.[note 5] While some 19th century Indologists were quite dismissive of Sayana's commentary, others were more appreciative. His commentary was used as a reference-guide by Ralph T. H. Griffith (1826-1906), John Muir (1810-1882), Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) and other 19th century European Indologists. According to Wilson, Sayana's interpretation was sometimes questionable, but had "a knowledge of his text far beyond the pretension of any European scholar," reflecting the possession "of all the interpretations which had been perpetuated by traditional teaching from the earliest times."[note 3] Macdonnell (1854-1930) was critical of Sayana's commentary, noting that many difficult words weren't properly understood by Yasana. While Rudolf Roth (1821-1895) aimed at reading the Vedas as "lyrics" without the "theological" background of the interpretations of Yaska and Sayana, Max Müller (1823-1900) published a translation of the Rigvedic Samhitas together with Sayana's commentary. His contemporaries Pischel and Geldner were outspoken about the value of Sayana's commentary:
German scholars Pischel and Geldner have expressed in unequivocal terms their opinion that in the matter of Vedic exegesis greater reliance ought to be placed on the orthodox Indian tradition represented by Yaska and Sayana than on modern philological methods. Linguistics may help one to understand the bare meaning of a Vedic word, but the spirit behind that word will not be adequately realised without due appreciation of the indigenous tradition.
Modern scholarship is ambivalent. According to Jan Gonda, the translations of the Rigveda published by Griffith and Wilson were "defective," suffering from their reliance on Sayana.[note 6] Ram Gopal notes that Sayana's commentary contains irreconcilable contradictions and "half-baked" tentative interpretations which are not further investigated, but also states that Sayana's commentary is the "most exhaustive and comprehensive" of all available commentaries, embodying "the gist of a substantial portion of the Vedic interpretations of his predecessors." Swami Dayananda, the founder of Arya Samaj, did not give much significance to his vedic commentaries but considered them to be just and acceptable.
- Complete list of works by written by Sayana:
- Sardesai: "Of all the commentaries on the Vedas, the most comprehensive and arguably the highest regarded is the one by Sayana from Karnataka in South India in the fourteenth century C.E."
- Modak 1995, pp. 34, 40, quoting H.H. Wilson who translated the whole of Rigveda following the commentary of Sayana: "Although the interpretation of Sayana may be occasionally questioned, he undoubtedly had a knowledge of his text far beyond the pretension of any European scholar and must have been in possession, either through his own learning or that of his assistants, of all the interpretations which had been perpetuated by traditional teaching from the earliest times."
- Gopal 1983, p. 170: "There is no doubt that Sayana's Rgveda-Bhasya which represents a synthesis of different exegetical traditions of ancient India is not the work of a single author. This is why it is marred by several contradictions which cannot be easily reconciled."
- Jackson 2017, p. 51: "The meanings of the Rigveda barely survived the loss of Hindu autonomy. If Sayana, Vidyaranya's brother, had not written a voluminous commentary explaining or paraphrasing every word of the Rig Veda, many traditional meaning would be unknown today. This alone was a remarkable revival of Hindu knowledge, even if only on the textual level. As Sayana's commentary constantly referred to ancient authorities, it was thought to have preserved the true meanings of Rig Veda in a traditional interpretation going back to the most ancient times [...] Sayana has been of the greatest service in facilitating and accelerating the comprehension of the Vedas even though, with much labour and time-consuming searching, much could have been retrieved from various other sources in India and pieced together by others if Sayana had not done it. His work was an accumulated data bank on the Rig Veda referred to by all modern Vedic scholars."
Jackson refers to McDonell 1968, p. 62 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFMcDonell1968 (help), who is quite critical of Sayana, noting that many of Sayana's explanations could not have been based on "either tradition or etymology." According to McDonell 1968, p. 62 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFMcDonell1968 (help), "a close examination of his explanations, as well as those of Yaska, has shown that there is in the Rigveda a large number of the most difficult words, about the proper sense of which neither scholar had any certain information from either tradition or etymology." McDonell 1968, p. 62 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFMcDonell1968 (help) further states that "no translation of the Rigveda based exclusively on Sayanan's commentary can possibly be satisfactory." It is Macdonell who states that most of the useful information provided by Yasana could also have been found out by the western pholologists.
- Klostermaier cites Jan Gonda (1975), Vedic Literature.
- Galewicz 2004, p. 40.
- Galewicz 2011, p. 338.
- Collins 2009, "237 Sayana".
- Griffith, Ralph (1 October 1896). Rig Veda Bhashyam (2 ed.). Nilgiri: Evinity Publishing. pp. Introduction.
- Modak 1995, p. 4.
- Modak 1995, pp. 4–5.
- Purushasukta - Sayana's commentary. Melkote: Academy of Sanskrit research.
- Lal Khera. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLal_Khera (help)
- Modak 1995, pp. 34, 40.
- Modak 1995, p. 31.
- Sardesai 2019, p. 33.
- Modak 1995, p. 16.
- Galewicz 2004, pp. 38–39.
- Modak 1995, p. 34.
- Dalal 2014, "Sayana was probably assisted".
- Gopal 1983, p. 170.
- Galewicz 2004, p. 41.
- Galewicz 2004, pp. 41–42.
- Internet Archive search - 'Sayana's commentary'
- Vijayanagara Literature from book History of Andhras Archived 2007-03-13 at the Wayback Machine, p. 268f.
- Mohan Lal, ed. (1992). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. 5: Sasay to Zorgot. Sahitya Akademi. p. 3885. ISBN 978-81-260-1221-3.
- Dalal 2014.
- Jackson 2017, p. 51.
- Macdonell 1968, p. 62.
- Gopal 1983, pp. 172–175.
- Muller 1869.
- Klostermaier 2007, p. 54.
- Klostermaier 2007, p. 54, n.50.
- Gopal 1983, p. 169.
- Collins, Randall (2009), The Sociology of Philosophies, Harvard University Press
- Dalal, Rosen (2014), The Vedas: An Introduction to Hinduism's Sacred Texts, Penguin UK
- Galewicz, Cezary (2004), "Changing Canons: What did Sayana think he commented upon", in Balcerowicz, Piotr; Mejor, Marek (eds.), Essays in Indian Philosophy, Religion and Literature, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
- Galewicz, Cezary (2011), "Why Should the Flower of Dharma be Invisible? Sayana's Vision of the Unity of the Veda", in Squarcini, Federico (ed.), Boundaries, Dynamics and Construction of Traditions in South Asia, Anthem Press
- Gopal, Ram (1983), The History and Principles of Vedic Interpretation, Concept Publishing Company
- Jackson, W.J. (2017). Vijayanagara Voices : Exploring south indian history and hindu literature. Routeledge. ISBN 978-0754639503.
- Klostermaier, Klaus (2007), A Survey of Hinduism (third ed.), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-7082-4
- Lal Khera, Krishan (2002). Directory of Personal Names in the Indian History from the Earliest to 1947. Munshiram Manoharlal. ISBN 978-81-215-1059-2.
- Macdonell, Arthur A. (1968) , A History of Sanskrit Literature, Haskell House Publishers
- Modak, B. R. (1995). Sayana. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 978-81-7201-940-2.
- Muller, Max F (1869). Rig Veda Sanhita: the sacred hymns of the Brahmans. London: Trubner & Co.
- Sardesai, Damodar Ramaji (2019). India: the definitive history. Routledge.
- Max Müller, Rig-Veda Sanskrit-Ausgabe mit Kommentar des Sayana (aus dem 14. Jh. n. Chr.), 6 vols., London 1849-75, 2nd ed. in 4 vols. London 1890 ff.
- Rgveda-Samhitā Srimat-sāyanāchārya virachita-bhāṣya-sametā, Vaidika Samśodhana Mandala, Pune-9 (2nd ed. 1972)
- Siddhanatha Sukla The Rgveda Mandala III: A critical study of the Sayana Bhasya and other interpretations of the Rgveda (3.1.1 to 3.7.3) (2001), ISBN 81-85616-73-6.