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Textual Criticism And Mnemonic Texts

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Chapter Summary

Textual criticism becomes something entirely different when applied to an oral tradition, although Indological scholarship has not always recognized this crucial fact. The Vedas and the Upaniṣads were transmitted orally, but unlike the oral epics, the texts were transmitted in a fixed form. A highly developed mnemonic culture existed in ancient India, and students were expected to memorize, with perfect accuracy, the texts recited by their teachers. This chapter identifies various textual layers from different time periods within each Upaniṣad by systematically analyzing the meters, types of sandhi (euphonic combination of sounds), linguistic forms, and the internal coherence of each text. It gives a brief overview of the history of the two meters most prevalent in the older Upaniṣads, triṣṭubh-jagatī and anuṣṭubh-śloka. The metrical and linguistic analysis suggested in the chapter provides a solid basis for identifying parts of the texts that are considerably later than the oldest layers.

Keywords: anuṣṭubh-śloka; mnemonic texts; older Upaniṣads; textual criticism; triṣṭubh-jagatī



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