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Divine pairs in ancient Indian scriptures: gender and stylistic expressions of dual deities in the Rgveda

Final Report Summary - DIVINE PAIRS IN RV (Divine pairs in ancient Indian scriptures: gender and stylistic expressions of dual deities in the Rgveda)


DIVINE PAIRS IN RV: Divine pairs in ancient Indian scriptures: gender and stylistic expressions of dual deities in the Rgveda (IRG, PIRG02-GA-2007-224432)


Tamara Ditrich, Univerza v Ljubljani, faculty of arts, Askerceva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia, email:

Summary of the project

The project investigates gender issues and stylistic patterns of divine pairs in the oldest recorded Indian text, the Rgveda. A considerable number of Vedic deities are joined together to form pairs which are expressed in a variety of linguistic constructions. These pairs are investigated by applying an innovative methodology, combining classical Vedic philology with semiotics, and by examining the causal interconnectedness between the Vedic language and the style of the Rgveda. This research addresses the divine pairs, usually of the same gender, in the Rgveda—an unexpected phenomenon from the perspective of other religions—and investigates the links between gender and the variety of stylistic paradigms for dual deities. The project researches different nominal constructions for dual deities as stylistic expressions of the poetic language of the Rgveda. The most significant outcomes of the project have are:
(1) New contributions to Vedic studies with particular foci on gender and stylistic expressions of dual deities in the Rgveda. Specific stylistic patterns of hymns addressing divine pairs have been investigated by identifying several types of expressive paradigms, created by repetition of divine names, which are used to express a copulative relationship between the two deities, depending on the type of hymn in which the pair is attested. It is shown that the greatest variety of expressions for dual deities occurs in hymns devoted to the pair in question. Special attention has been given to the pair Dyaus and Prthivi ('heaven and earth'), the only prominent male-female pair in the Rgveda, considered by many earlier scholars to be the prototype of dual deities, and that following that analogy many other deities were joined together in pairs. However, this research shows that Dyaus and Prthivi are frequently expressed in dvandva compound of feminine grammatical gender, signifying that the pair comprises two females and furthermore, the male deity heaven himself is sometimes of feminine grammatical gender. The link between gender issues in the Vedic pantheon and Vedic societies has been explored through incorporation of extra-linguistic background; e.g. the remarkable rareness of male-female pairs in the Vedic pantheon indicates the primary role of women as mothers in Vedic societies, as opposed to their primary role as wives in post-Vedic literature. It has been shown that in hymns addressing dual deities various types of coordinative constructions (dvandva compounds, elliptic duals, syntagms constructed with copulative conjunctions and asyndeta) are repeatedly used, often varying, which would make the incantations more powerful and produce greater magical effects in the Vedic rituals. In the Rgveda, six types of coordinative compounds (dvandva) can be observed which express, as believed by many scholars, the stages in the historical development of the Vedic language. This project has shown, through investigation of alternate usage of dvandva compounds with the usage of asyndeta, elliptic duals and coordinative constructions, that dvandva compounds in Rgvedic hymns express stylistic variants rather than stages in the development of Vedic. It is demonstrated that different types of dvandva compounds expressing divine names—those which are considered to be the oldest types as well as those considered to be the youngest—occur throughout the Rgveda without any marked differences among the ten books. The coordinative nominal constructions for dual theonyms display different stylistic patterns from the constructions comprised of non-theonyms. The examination of the typology and historical development of dvandvas and their relationship with other coordinative constructions has indicated that dvandvas cannot be viewed as a single category but rather a distinction has to be made among those comprising theonyms, non-theonyms or numerals, each displaying different linguistic and stylistic features. Similarly, other coordinative constructions such as coordinative particles in the Rgveda show a significant difference in their grammatical and stylistic features between theonyms and non-theonyms. The research has included also iterative compounds (amredita); those comprised of theonyms are extremely rare in the Rgveda and it is indicated that they have developed later into the Indo-Aryan period, by analogy with reiterated non-theonyms. Investigation of coordinative constructions has also thrown a new light on the relative chronology of the Rgvedasamhita, the Rgvedapadapatha, and the Astadhyayi.
(2) Publications: the direct outcomes from this research are six book chapters, six journal articles, and preparation of the monograph on dual deities in the Rgveda. The most innovative and significant publications are: a journal article which studies in depth syntagms constructed with coordinative particles in the Rgveda; a journal article on the typology and historical development of iterative compounds; a book chapter on the chronological relationship among three early Vedic exegetical texts; a book chapter on gender roles in Vedic pantheon; a journal article on the variety of coordinative construction for Dyaus and Prthivi; a journal article on the historical development of dvandva compounds in the Rgveda.
(3) Participation in relevant research and teaching programs: (a) researcher and lecturer in the department of Asian and African studies, university of Ljubljana; (b) lecturer of Sanskrit in the department of Indo-European Linguistics, university of Ljubljana; (c) supervisor of phD students at the university of Ljubljana, Australian national university, university of Sydney, and université de Strasbourg; (d) honorary lecturer at the university of Sydney.
(4) Development of a new double major undergraduate program for indology at the university of Ljubljana: currently in the accreditation process (to start in 2013-14).
(5) Participation in conferences, seminars and symposia: presented twelve conference papers and numerous lectures and seminars. The most significant are: a research paper on relative chronology of Vedic texts at the 14th world Sanskrit conference, Kyoto university, Japan; a research paper on typology of dvandva compound at the Linguistic seminar, university of Ljubljana; a research paper on the exegesis of technical terms ajjhatam and bahiddha at the international conference in Sydney; a research paper on the roles of Vedic goddesses in Vedic pantheon at the international conference in Maribor, Slovenia; a research paper on the concept of smrti at the Australasian association of buddhist studies, Sydney; a research paper on gender relations in the Rgveda at the international symposium at university of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
(6) Communication of research results and knowledge to a broader audience through community lectures and media opportunities: seven radio and television presentations on radio-television Slovenia; numerous public interviews and lectures in Slovenia and Australia.
(7) Establishment of lasting cooperation with the following academic institutions inside and outside Europe: university of Ljubljana, Slovenia (research and teaching, especially when the program for indology is accredited in 2013); Primorska University (Slovenia); Université de Strasbourg (France), University of Sydney (Australia), Australian National University.

The project has developed innovative methodology through which gender issues in the Vedic pantheon have been investigated and stylistic paradigms expressing dual deities in the Rgveda identified. The publications have had an impact on the research of ancient Indo-European texts which has been evident from the scholarly responses received. The research has enhanced lasting cooperation with academic institutions outside Europe, especially in Australia. The researcher will continue to participate and contribute to relevant research and teaching programs in Slovenia, particularly at the university of Ljubljana where she has developed a new double major undergraduate program for indology, to begin in 2013-14. The researcher has become well integrated into the academic environment of Slovenia and has developed strong links with other academic communities in the EU. She will continue expanding links with the wider community through public lectures, seminars, workshops and media opportunities.

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