Ancient Sanskrit Online

Lesson 4

Jonathan Slocum

Please pardon our dust: This lesson series is currently under construction as we seek to remove errors and update the series. Karen Thomson contributed significantly to an earlier version of this lesson series. To see the original version of this lesson, please click here.

Twenty poems in the Rigveda are addressed to Ushas, the goddess of the dawn, who is sometimes invoked jointly with her sister, the goddess of night. The lesson text is the last of a group of seven poems, VII, 75-81, all of which are addressed to dawn.

Reading and Textual Analysis

VII, 75-80 are in triṣṭubh, but the metre of this poem, VII, 81 (597), is more complex, consisting of verses in the br̥hatī metre, lines of 8, 8, 12, and 8 syllables, alternating with satobr̥hatī, lines of 12, 8, 12, and 8 syllables. As in the Lesson 2 text the poet makes linguistic play on dawn's name, uṣás. The verb from which it derives is √vas, ucháti 'shine', and a feminine present participle of the verb, uchántī 'shining', describes her in verses 1 & 4. The sun's usríyās 'shining beams' that accompany dawn's vi-úṣ 'brightening' are described in the second verse, and the poet concludes with a radiant metaphor, the wish that dawn should 'shine misfortunes away'. This last line, together with the last line of the first verse, is repeated from a poem to dawn in Book I: víśvam asyā nānāma cákṣase jágaj, jyótiṣ kr̥ṇoti sūnárī, ápa dvéṣo maghónī duhitā́ divá, uṣā́ uchad ápa srídhaḥ 'all the moving world pays reverence to the sight of her; the fair lady makes the light. Let dawn, the gracious daughter of heaven, shine away hatred, shine misfortunes away' (I, 48, 8).

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  • u -- particle; <u> and, now -- now
  • práty adarśi -- verb; 3rd person singular passive aorist of <√dr̥ś> see, appear + emphatic particle; <ít> indeed, just -- she has come into view # The present forms of √dr̥ś are understood to be supplied by another root, √paś, páśyati 'see'.
    (práti adarśi)
  • āyatī́ -- participle; nominative singular feminine present active participle of <√i, éti> go + preverb; <ā́> (intensifies or reverses meaning) -- approaching
  • uchántī -- participle; nominative singular feminine present active participle of <√vas, ucháti> shine -- shining
  • duhitā́ -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <duhitŕ̥> daughter -- the daughter
  • diváḥ -- noun; genitive singular masculine of <dyú, dív> sky, heaven, day -- of heaven
  • máhi -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <máh> great -- the great # In the early language there are a number of related adjectives meaning 'great' from a basic stem máh-; how these should be classified is debated.
  • ápo vyayati -- verb; 3rd person singular active present of <√vyā, vyáyati> cover + preverb; <ápa> away -- she draws away
    (ápa vyayati)
  • cákṣase -- noun; dative singular neuter of <cákṣas> seeing, sight -- for sight
  • támo -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <támas> darkness -- the darkness
  • jyótiṣ -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <jyótis> light -- the light
  • kr̥ṇoti -- verb; 3rd person singular active present of <√kr̥, kr̥ṇóti> do, make -- she makes
  • sūnárī -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <sūnárī> fair lady -- the fair lady

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  • usríyāḥ -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <usríyā> beam -- <i>beams</i>
  • úd sr̥jate -- verb; 3rd person singular middle present of <√sr̥j, sr̥játi> let go + preverb; <út> up -- sends up
    (út sr̥jate)
  • sū́riyaḥ -- noun; nominative singular masculine of <sū́rya> sun -- the sun
  • sácām̐ -- adverb; <sácā> at the same time -- at the same time
  • udyán -- participle; nominative singular neuter present active participle of <√i, éti> go + emphatic particle; <ít> indeed, just -- rising # Compare the feminine of this participle in the first verse, with a different preverb.
  • nákṣatram -- noun; nominative singular neuter of <nákṣatra> star -- the star
  • arcivát -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <arcivánt> possessing rays, flaming -- flaming
  • távéd -- personal pronoun; genitive singular of <tvám> you + emphatic particle; <ít> indeed, just -- your own # The particle ít stresses the previous word, here 'your'.
    (táva ít)
  • uṣo -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <uṣás> dawn -- O dawn
  • viúṣi -- noun; locative singular feminine of <vyúṣ> brightening -- at the brightening # The word is made up of the preverb and -uṣ, from the root vas, ucháti 'shine', like dawn's name, uṣás.
  • sū́riyasya -- noun; genitive singular masculine of <sū́rya> sun -- of the sun
  • ca -- conjunction; <ca> and -- and
  • bhakténa -- noun; instrumental singular of <bhaktá> what is apportioned -- with our share # The exact meaning is uncertain. In form bhaktá is the past participle of √bhaj, bhájati 'apportion, share', which occurs in the Rigveda only twice, here and at I, 127, 5, where it is adjectival: Agni's undying fires are described as seeking out ávas 'help' that is both bhaktá and ábhakta.
  • sám gamemahi -- verb; 1st person plural middle aorist optative of <√gam, gáchati> go + preverb; <sám> together -- may we partake of # sám + √gam 'partake of' takes the instrumental.
    (sám gamemahi)

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  • tvā -- personal pronoun; accusative singular enclitic form of <tvám> you -- you
  • duhitar -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <duhitŕ̥> daughter -- O daughter
  • diva -- noun; genitive singular masculine of <dyú, dív> sky, heaven, day -- of heaven # Unaccented as forming part of the vocative, 'O daughter of heaven', within the sentence.
  • úṣo -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <uṣás> dawn -- O dawn
  • jīrā́ -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <jīrá> eager -- eager
  • práti abhutsmahi -- verb; 1st person plural middle sigmatic aorist of <√budh, bódhati> wake, observe + preverb; <práti> against -- we have wakened to meet
    (práti abhutsmahi)
  • yā́ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <yás, yā́, yát> who, which -- who
  • váhasi -- verb; 2nd person singular active present of <√vah, váhati> conduct, bring -- brings
  • purú -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <purú> much, many -- much
  • spārháṃ -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <spārhá> desirable -- that is desirable
  • vananvati -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <vánanvant> lovely -- O lovely one
  • rátnaṃ -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <rátna> treasure -- treasure
  • -- particle; <ná> like -- like # Compare 'not', which occurred in the first verse of the Lesson 3 text.
  • dāśúṣe -- noun; dative singular masculine of <dāśvā́ṃs> the one worshipping -- for the worshipper
  • máyaḥ -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <máyas> happiness -- happiness

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  • uchántī -- participle; nominative singular feminine present active participle of <√vas, ucháti> shine -- shining
  • yā́ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <yás, yā́, yát> who, which -- who
  • kr̥ṇóṣi -- verb; 2nd person singular active present of <√kr̥, kr̥ṇóti> do, make -- you make
  • maṃhánā -- adverb; <maṃhánā> assuredly -- assuredly
  • mahi -- adjective; vocative singular feminine of <máh> great -- great
  • prakhyaí -- infinitive; dative infinitive of <√khyā> look upon + preverb; <prá> forth -- to be gazed upon # This verb, like √dr̥ś, has no present forms in the Rigveda. As with vártave in the first verse of the Lesson 3 text, the dative infinitives in this line have a passive sense.
  • devi -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <devī́> divine, goddess -- O goddess
  • súvar -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <svàr> sunlight, heaven -- the sunlight
  • dr̥śé -- infinitive; dative infinitive of <√dr̥ś> see, appear -- to be seen
  • tásyās -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <sás, sā́, tát> that; he, she, it -- her
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvám> you -- you
  • ratnabhā́ja -- adjective; genitive singular feminine of <ratnabhā́j> dispensing treasure -- dispensing treasure # The second element, 'dispensing', comes from the root √bhaj; compare the past participle bhaktá in verse 2.
  • īmahe -- verb; 3rd person plural middle present of <√yā, yā́ti> approach with longing, solicit -- we approach with longing # Considered to be a separate root from √yā, yā́ti 'go, travel' in the third verse of the Lesson 3 text.
  • vayáṃ -- personal pronoun; nominative of <vayám> we -- we
  • syā́ma -- verb; 1st person plural active optative of <√as, ásti> be -- may we be
  • mātúr -- noun; genitive singular feminine of <mātŕ̥> mother -- of the mother
  • -- particle; <ná> like -- like
  • sūnávaḥ -- noun; nominative plural masculine of <sūnú> son -- sons

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  • tác -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <sás, sā́, tát> that; he, she, it -- that
  • citráṃ -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <citrá> bright, radiant -- radiant
  • rā́dha -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <rā́dhas> favour, gift -- favour
  • ā́ bhara -- verb; 2nd person singular active imperative of <√bhr̥, bhárati> bring, bear + preverb; <ā́> (intensifies or reverses meaning) -- bring hither
    (ā́ bhara)
  • úṣo -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <uṣás> dawn -- O dawn
  • yád -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <yás, yā́, yát> who, which -- which
  • dīrghaśrúttamam -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dīrghaśrúttama> most widely known, famed -- most famed
  • yát -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <yás, yā́, yát> who, which -- which
  • te -- personal pronoun; dative/genitive singular enclitic form of <tvám> you -- your
  • divo -- noun; genitive singular masculine of <dyú, dív> sky, heaven, day -- of heaven # See note to this word in the first line of verse 3.
  • duhitar -- noun; vocative singular feminine of <duhitŕ̥> daughter -- O daughter
  • martabhójanaṃ -- noun; nominative singular neuter of <martabhójana> mortal sustenance -- mortal sustenance
  • tád -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <sás, sā́, tát> that; he, she, it -- that
  • rāsva -- verb; 2nd person singular middle aorist imperative of <√rā> grant -- grant
  • bhunájāmahai -- verb; 1st person plural middle subjunctive of <√bhuj, bhuñjáte> turn to account -- may we turn to account # Accented as first word in the (grammatical) sentence.

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  • śrávaḥ -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <śrávas> fame -- fame
  • sūríbhyo -- noun; dative plural masculine of <sūrí> prince -- to princes
  • amŕ̥taṃ -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <amŕ̥ta> immortal, undying -- undying
  • vasutvanáṃ -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <vasutvaná> prosperity -- prosperity
  • vā́jām̐ -- noun; accusative plural masculine of <vā́ja> power, strength -- strength
  • asmábhyaṃ -- personal pronoun; dative of <vayám> we -- to us
  • gómataḥ -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <gómant> consisting of cattle -- in cattle
  • codayitrī́ -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <codayitrī́> rouser -- rouser
  • maghónaḥ -- adjective; genitive singular masculine of <maghávan> gracious -- of the gracious # The declension is irregular (see section 22 in the next lesson).
  • sūnŕ̥tāvatī -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <sūnŕ̥tāvant> possessing joy, joyous -- the joyous one
  • uṣā́ -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <uṣás> dawn -- dawn
  • uchad ápa -- verb; 3rd person singular active injunctive of <√vas, ucháti> shine + preverb; <ápa> away -- let her shine away
    (ápa uchat)
  • srídhaḥ -- noun; accusative plural feminine of <srídh> failure, misfortune -- misfortunes

Lesson Text

práty u adarśi āyatī́
uchántī duhitā́ diváḥ
ápo máhi vyayati cákṣase támo
jyótiṣ kr̥ṇoti sūnárī

úd usríyāḥ sr̥jate sū́riyaḥ sácām̐
udyán nákṣatram arcivát
távéd uṣo viúṣi sū́riyasya ca
sám bhakténa gamemahi

práti tvā duhitar diva
úṣo jīrā́ abhutsmahi
yā́ váhasi purú spārháṃ vananvati
rátnaṃ ná dāśúṣe máyaḥ

uchántī yā́ kr̥ṇóṣi maṃhánā mahi
prakhyaí devi súvar dr̥śé
tásyās te ratnabhā́ja īmahe vayáṃ
syā́ma mātúr ná sūnávaḥ

tác citráṃ rā́dha ā́ bhara
úṣo yád dīrghaśrúttamam
yát te divo duhitar martabhójanaṃ
tád rāsva bhunájāmahai

śrávaḥ sūríbhyo amŕ̥taṃ vasutvanáṃ
vā́jām̐ asmábhyaṃ gómataḥ
codayitrī́ maghónaḥ sūnŕ̥tāvatī
uṣā́ uchad ápa srídhaḥ


Now she has come into view, approaching,
Shining, the daughter of heaven.
She draws away, for sight, the great darkness,
The fair lady makes the light.
The sun, at the same time, sends up beams,
Rising, a flaming star.
At your own brightening, O dawn, and the sun's,
May we partake of our share.
You, O daughter of heaven,
We have wakened eager to meet, O dawn.
Who brings much that is desirable, O lovely one,
Happiness, like treasure, to the worshipper.
You who, shining, assuredly, O great goddess,
Makes the sunlight to be gazed on, seen;
We approach you with longing, may we be
Like her sons, of the mother dispensing treasure.
Bring hither that radiant favour,
O dawn, which is most famed.
That mortal sustenance of yours, O daughter of heaven,
Grant; may we turn it to account.
Fame to princes, undying prosperity,
Strength in cattle to us,
Rouser of the gracious, may the joyous one,
Dawn, shine misfortunes away.


16 Stems in -as, -is, and -us.
16.1 Stems in -as.

There are a number of stems in -as, accented on the first syllable and of neuter gender, most of which are abstract nouns. Many of these have been encountered in previous lessons: sáhas 'might', áṃhas 'trouble', ávas 'help', páyas 'plenty', vácas 'speech', námas 'honour', mánas 'understanding, spirit', dvéṣas 'enmity'; and in this lesson text cákṣas 'sight', śrávas 'fame', máyas 'happiness' and and rā́dhas 'favour'. In addition, támas 'darkness' and rájas 'airy space', words with a semi-concrete sense, also belong to this group. The forms that would occur if made from mánas 'understanding, spirit' are given to show the declension.

    Singular   Plural
Nom, Acc, Voc   mánas   mánāṃsi
Ins   mánasā   mánobhis
Dat   mánase   mánobhyas
Abl   mánasas   mánobhyas
Gen   mánasas   mánasām
Loc   mánasi   mánassu

Plural forms other than the nominative, accusative and instrumental are of infrequent occurrence, as are dual forms; the dual nominative/accusative/vocative would be mánasī.

Some of these abstract nouns shade into a more concrete sense in some passages: ā́ na índro yātu ácha [...] ávase rā́dhase ca (IV, 20, 2) 'may Indra come towards us, for help and for favour' [83], tváṃ dātā́ prathamó rā́dhasām asi (VIII, 90, 2) 'you are the first giver of gifts' [84]; dádhānāś [dádhānās] cákṣasi priyám (IX, 17, 6) '(the poets) placing the beloved in sight' [85], távedáṃ [táva idám] víśvaṃ [...] yát páśyasi cákṣasā sū́ryasya (VII, 98, 6) 'all this (is) yours, which you see with the eye of the sun' [86]; enā́ vayám páyasā pínvamānāḥ (Lesson 3 text) 'in this way we, swelling with plenty' [87], páyo góṣu ádadhā [ádadhās] óṣadhī́ṣu (X, 73, 9) 'you placed fruitfulness in cattle, in plants (milk, sap)' [88].

The adjectives belonging to this declension are chiefly compounds, like mádhu-vacas 'sweetly speaking', devá-śravas 'having divine renown', and prá-cetas 'mindful' from the first verse of the Lesson 2 text, which when neuter inflect as above. The compounded su-mánas 'well-disposed' is given below to show the nominative, accusative and vocative masculine and feminine endings. The endings of the oblique cases are the same for all three genders.

Masculine/Feminine   Singular   Dual   Plural
Nom   sumánās   sumánasā   sumánasas
Acc   sumánasam   sumánasā   sumánasas
Voc   súmanas   súmanasā   súmanasas

A few of the neuter nouns have parallel adjectives, distinguished by a shift in accent: ápas 'work' apás 'active', yáśas 'glory' yaśás 'glorious'.

The feminine uṣás 'dawn', if it belongs in this group, is very irregular, not only in gender and accent, but also in optionally lengthening the second syllable in some forms of the nominative, vocative and accusative.

16.2 Stems in -is and -us.

These stems, fewer in number, are also chiefly neuter, and their inflection is similar to that of the stems in -as, although the final s becomes before vowel endings, and changes to r, not o, before the bh of the instrumental, dative and ablative plural endings: mánas, mánobhis, vápus 'marvel, marvellous', vápurbhis. Three nouns with stems in -is have been encountered so far: chardís 'protection, shield' in the Lesson 2 text, jyótis 'light' in this lesson, and śocís 'flame' in the example quoted at the end of the last lesson, ádābhyena śocíṣā (X, 118, 7) 'with flame that is not to be deceived'. Another noun in this group, neuter arcís 'ray (of light)', appears slightly more frequently than masculine arcí, with the same meaning. There is a similar parallel with mánu 'man' and mánus, like mánu in this instance necessarily of masculine gender.

  • chardír [chardís] yéna dāśúṣe yáchati tmánā (Lesson 2 text) 'with which by his nature he extends a shield for the worshipper' [89]
  • út sū́ryaṃ nayatho [nayathas] jyótiṣā sahá (VI, 72, 2) 'you two lead up the sun together with the light' [90]
  • tád ékaṃ, devā́nāṃ śréṣṭhaṃ vápuṣām apaśyam (V, 62, 1) 'I saw that one, the finest of the marvels of the gods' [91]
  • út sū́ryo br̥hád arcī́ṃṣi aśret (VII, 62, 1) 'the sun has shed rays up on high (the neuter br̥hát used adverbially)' [92]
17 Secondary nominal formation.
17.1 Secondary stems in -a, -ya, and -tvá.

Sanskrit has a remarkable facility for elaborating new words out of existing ones, like building blocks. Secondary formations, or derivatives, are made by adding suffixes to existing words to form new ones. Two common suffixes used in this way are -a and -ya (usually to be read -iya), often used to make adjectives from nouns; from the neuter vápus mentioned in the previous section both the adjectives vápuṣa and vapuṣyà (vapuṣíya) are formed. The first vowel may be strengthened in such derivative formations. The initial word of the first lesson text was an example: vaiśvānará 'for all men' is a secondary formation from the compound viśvā́nara, as the strengthening of the i of the first element to ai indicates. The adjective pā́rthiva 'earthly' in the third verse of the Lesson 2 text occurred alongside divyá 'heavenly', and these two words are secondary formations from pr̥thivī́ 'earth' and dív 'heaven, sky', the first with strengthened vowel. The secondary formation daívya 'divine' from example 36 in Lesson 2, daívyāni vratā́ni 'divine laws', is probably made from devá 'god, divine'; but devá itself has the form of a secondary formation of dív.

Another productive suffix is -tvá, added to nouns or adjectives to express the sense conveyed by English '-ness'. The neuter nouns mahi-tvá 'greatness, majesty', deva-tvá 'divinity', and amr̥ta-tvá 'immortality' appear frequently, but the regular way in which the suffix is applied permits nonce formations: bhrātr̥-tvá occurs three times, but the feminine equivalent only once: nā́háṃ [ná ahám] veda bhrātr̥tváṃ nó [ná u] svasr̥tvám (X, 108, 10) 'I know neither brotherhood nor sisterhood' [93].

17.2 Secondary stems in -vant and -mant.

The suffixes -vant and -mant both have the sense 'possessing, consisting of'. Of the two -vant is found more frequently, as in this lesson text: arcivánt in verse 2 (possessing arcí 'ray', rather than arcís), the feminine of vánanvant in verse 3, vánanvatī (of debated meaning as *vanan does not occur), and sūnŕ̥tāvatī, feminine of sūnŕ̥tāvant 'joyous' (possessing sūnŕ̥tā 'joy') in the last verse. The suffix -mant is also found in the last verse, in the word gómant 'consisting of cattle ()'. These forms decline like the present active participles in -ant described in section 7 of Lesson 2, with the exception of the vowel of the suffix in the nominative singular masculine, which is lengthened to ā (the vocative ending is -vas). Like present active participles they form their feminine in ; see below.

  • samudrā́d ūrmír mádhumām̐ [mádhumān] úd ārat (IV, 58, 1) 'from the sea the wave (ūrmí, masculine) of sweetness (consisting of mádhu) has arisen' [94]
  • prá parjányam īrayā [īraya] vr̥ṣṭimántam (X, 98, 8) 'lead forth (causative imperative of īr, ī́rte 'move' with preverb prá 'forth') Parjanya bearing rain (possessing vr̥ṣṭí)' [95]
  • dákṣiṇāvanto amŕ̥tam bhajante (I, 125, 6) 'the generous (possessing dákṣiṇā) share (√bhaj, bhájate) immortality' [96]
  • utédā́nīm [utá idā́nīm] bhágavantaḥ syāma (VII, 41, 4) 'and may we now be fortunate (possessing bhága)' [97]
  • páyasvatīr [páyasvatīs] óṣadhayaḥ, páyasvan [páyasvat] māmakáṃ vácaḥ (X, 17, 14) 'the plants (feminine) are fruitful (possessing páyas), my speech (neuter) is fruitful' [98]
17.3 Secondary feminine stems in -ī.

The suffix is used to form the feminine of a large number of masculine stems, including the present participles in -ant and agent nouns in -tr̥, as mentioned in Lesson 2, and the possessive stems in -vant and -mant described above. The n of the possessive suffix, as the examples from the lesson text and number 98 above show, is dropped before the additional feminine suffix. Feminine participles of second conjugation verbs also drop the n: āyatī́ [ā-yatī́] 'approaching' (masculine ā-yánt) in the first verse of the lesson text is from the second conjugation verb √i, but √vas, which forms the participle uchántī 'shining' (masculine uchánt) in verses 1 & 4, belongs to the first conjugation.

A feminine agent noun, codayitrī́ 'rouser' (the masculine would be *codayitŕ̥), occurs in the last verse of the lesson text; others are jánitrī 'female parent' (masculine janitŕ̥ or jánitr̥), avitrī́ 'female helper' (avitŕ̥), and netrī́ 'female leader, guide' (netŕ̥).

The suffix -ī also forms the feminines of a number of stems in -a, like sūnárī in the first verse of the lesson text, masculine sūnára, devī́ 'divine, goddess', masculine devá, and vápuṣī, the feminine of the derivative adjective vápuṣa mentioned at the beginning of this section. It can similarly be used to form the feminine of stems in -u, like urú 'broad, wide', feminine urvī́, as in the Lesson 3 text: tásya vayám prasavé yāma urvī́ḥ [urvī́s] 'at his impelling we broad ones go', and purú 'much, many', feminine pūrvī́. The feminine of pr̥thú, also 'broad', pr̥thvī́, was used to describe the earth, and developed into the feminine noun pr̥thvī́ or, more usually, pr̥thivī́ 'earth' (urvī́ is also occasionally used with this meaning). Stems in -i however do not form their feminine in this way. As described in section 3, the feminine endings of the -i stems are generally the same as the masculine endings.

Also belonging to this secondary declension are a few independent feminine nouns, like śácī 'might' (see example 82 above, śácyā) and rā́trī 'night'. These are the forms that would occur if made from devī́ 'goddess'.

    Singular   Plural
Nom   devī́   devī́s
Acc   devī́m   devī́s
Ins   devyā́   devī́bhis
Dat   devyaí   devī́bhyas
Abl   devyā́s   devī́bhyas
Gen   devyā́s   devīnā́m
Loc   devyā́m   devī́ṣu
Voc   dévi   dévīs
  • prabodháyantī suvitā́ya devī́ (IV, 14, 3) 'the goddess (dawn) awakening (causative participle) for well-being (suvitá, neuter)' [99]
  • bhā́svatī netrī́ sūnŕ̥tānām (I, 92, 7; I, 113, 4) 'She (dawn,) possessing light (bhā́s, neuter 'light' with suffix -vant, feminine -vatī), leader of joys (sūnŕ̥tā; compare sūnŕ̥tāvatī in the lesson text)' [100]
  • hváyāmi rā́trīṃ jágato nivéśanīm (I, 35, 1) 'I call upon (√hvā, hváyati, a secondary form of √hū) night, the source of rest (feminine of nivéśana, see the last verse of the Lesson 2 text) of the moving world' [101]
  • pr̥ṣṭó diví pr̥ṣṭó agníḥ pr̥thivyā́m (Lesson 1 text) 'Agni invoked in heaven, invoked on earth' [102]
  • tisró dívaḥ pr̥thivī́s tisrá invati (Lesson 2 text) 'he gives motion to the three heavens, the three earths' [103]
  • rā́tryāś [rā́tryās] cid ándho áti deva paśyasi (I, 94, 7) 'O god (Agni), you see even beyond the darkness (ándhas, neuter) of night' [104]

Dual forms, particularly the nominative, accusative and vocative, occur frequently, referring to pairs of female deified bodies, like ródasī 'the two worlds'.

Nom, Acc   devī́
Dat, Abl   devī́bhyām
Gen, Loc   devyós
Voc   dévī
  • asyá me dyāvāpr̥thivī [...] bhūtám avitrī́ vácasaḥ (II, 32, 1) 'O heaven-and-earth, be helpers of this my speech' [105]
  • huvé devā́nām ávasā jánitrī (I, 185, 6) 'I call upon the two parents (female, referring to heaven and earth) with the help of the gods' [106]
  • yásya śrávo ródasī antár urvī́ (VII, 18, 24) 'whose fame (is) between the two wide worlds' [107]
18 The imperfect.

The imperfect is the past tense of story-telling, and belongs to the Present System. It is characterised by a prefixed augment a-, like the Greek augment ε-, which always carries the accent if the verb is accented. The following table gives the endings of the imperfect tense.

The alternative second and third person plural active endings -tana and -ur are found in some verbs of the athematic conjugation. The ending -i of the first person singular middle combines with the -a- of the thematic conjugation to give -e.

        Active           Middle    
    Singular   Dual   Plural   Singular   Dual   Plural
1   -am   -va   -ma   -i   -vahi   -mahi
2   -s   -tam   -ta, -tana   -thās   -ethām (I), -āthām (II)   -dhvam
3   -t   -tām   -an, -ur   -ta   -etām (I), -ātām (II)   -anta (I), -ata (II)

The imperfect tense is described as belonging to the Present System because the stem of the verb, the part that follows the augment and precedes the endings as given in the table, corresponds to the stem of the present tense. So, from the thematic conjugation, √juṣ, juṣá-te 'he enjoys', á-juṣa-ta 'he enjoyed'; √ruh, róha-ti 'it springs up' á-roha-t 'it sprang up'; √man, mánya-te 'he thinks', á-manya-nta 'they thought'; from the athematic conjugation √as, ás-ti 'he is', ā́[á+a]s-am 'I was'; √kr̥, kr̥ṇó-ti 'he makes', á-kr̥ṇo-ta 'you made'; √dā, dádā-ti 'he gives', á-dadā-s 'you (singular) gave'.

The phonology of Sanskrit does not permit more than one consonant at the end of a word, and when this might result the second consonant is dropped. As the endings of the 2nd and 3rd person singular imperfect are simply the consonants s and t, without a union vowel, the ending may therefore disappear. In the Lesson 3 text, for example, ápāhan [ápa ahan] 'he struck away' occurs for the phonologically impossible ápa *ahant.

In the third lesson text the streams told the story of their release from the demon using a series of 3rd person singular imperfects: áradat 'he dug' (present rádati), áhan 'he struck' (present hánti), ánayat 'he led' (present náyati). In the next verse, where the imperfect occurs with the preverb , the augment is omitted, as the narrative tense has become clear: vi-vr̥ścát 'he cut in pieces' (present vr̥ścáti).

  • sóṣā́m [sás uṣā́m] avindat sá svàḥ [svàr] só agním (X, 68, 9) 'he it was found (from √vid, vindáti) the dawn, the sunlight, the fire' [108]
  • páyo góṣu ádadhā [ádadhās] óṣadhī́ṣu (X, 73, 9) 'you placed fruitfulness in cattle, in plants' [109] (=88)
  • tát savitā́ vo amr̥tatvám ā́suvat [ā́ asuvat] (I, 110, 3) 'then Savitar generated immortality for you' [110]
  • áprathatam pr̥thivī́m mātáraṃ ví (VI, 72, 2) 'you two spread out mother earth' [111] (=42)
  • sukṣétrākr̥ṇvann [sukṣétrā akr̥ṇvan] ánayanta síndhūn [...] ápo hí eṣām ájuṣanta devā́ḥ (IV, 33, 7, 9) 'they made good fields (kṣétra, neuter), they led the rivers... for the gods delighted in their work' [112]
  • yáj jā́yathā [yát jā́yathās] apūrvya [...] tát pr̥thivī́m aprathayaḥ (VIII, 89, 5) 'when you were born (imperfect without augment), O incomparable one, then you spread out (causative) the earth' [113] (=67)
19 The subjunctive mood.

The meaning of the subjunctive lies somewhere between that of the optative, the mood of wishing, and the imperative, the mood of command. It shows greater confidence in the future outcome than the optative, and is frequently used simply to express future time in the Rigveda. The endings of the subjunctive are attached to the stem with an added a or ā. Where this union vowel may be either long or short a is given in square brackets in the table.

        Active           Middle    
    Singular   Dual   Plural   Singular   Dual   Plural
1   -āni, ā   -āva   -āma   -ai   -āvahai   -āmahai, -āmahe
2   -[a]si, -[a]s   -[a]thas   -[a]tha   -[a]se   -aithe   -[a]dhve, -[a]dhvai
3   -[a]ti, -[a]t   -[a]tas   -[a]n   -[a]te   -aite   -anta, -ante

The subjunctive is formed in more than one system, but the examples below belong to the Present System.

  • yát te divo duhitar martabhójanaṃ, tád rāsva bhunájāmahai (lesson text) 'that mortal sustenance of yours, O daughter of heaven, grant; may we turn it to account' [114]
  • yás túbhyaṃ dā́śān [dā́śāt] ná tám áṃho aśnavat (II, 23, 4) 'he who will worship (from √dāś, dā́śati) you, may distress not reach (from √aṃś, aśnóti) him' [115]
  • yásya bráhmāṇi sukratū ávātha [ávāthas], ā́ yát krátvā ná śarádaḥ pr̥ṇaíthe (VII, 61, 2) 'whose prayers, O very able pair, you may favour, so that you will fill (his) autumns with capability, as it were' [116] (=56)
  • tvā́ṃ nakṣanta no gíraḥ (VIII, 92, 27) 'let our songs reach you' [117] (=4)
20 Word order in the sentence.

As we saw in section 2 of the first lesson, in Sanskrit the object usually precedes the verb in the sentence, unlike in English. All the examples given in that grammar section followed this order. Sanskrit is described therefore as an Object Verb (OV) language; modern English is a Verb Object (VO) language. An example of a textbook sentence in an OV language appeared in section 8 of the second lesson: tváṣṭā duhitré vahatúṃ kr̥ṇoti (X, 17, 1), literally, 'Tvashtar for the daughter a bridal arranges' (44). The subject begins the sentence, the verb is at the end, the object, 'a bridal', immediately precedes the verb and the indirect object 'for the daughter' precedes the object.

The order of words in a Rigvedic sentence is however far from invariable. It is quite usual for a verb in the imperative mood to begin the sentence, giving it emphasis, as in the Lesson 3 text: rámadhvam me vácase somyā́ya 'rest for my inspired speech'. In two examples given to illustrate the use of participles, the first person plural form of the optative, the mood of wishing, began the sentence: páśyema nú sū́ryam uccárantam (VI, 52, 5 & X, 59, 4) 'now we would see the sun rising' (33); abhí ṣyāma maható mányamānān (I, 178, 5) 'may we surpass those thinking themselves great' (81). And we have seen a number of other sentences where a straightforward tense form precedes the object: sácethe aśvinoṣásam [aśvinā uṣásam] (VII, 5, 2) 'you accompany, O Ashvins, the dawn' (26); áprathatam pr̥thivī́m mātáraṃ ví (VI, 72, 2) 'you two spread out mother earth' (42 & 111).

The Rigveda is poetry, and there are frequently poetic reasons for the variety in word order. The following three lines from the grammar sections of the third lesson demonstrate a form of chiasmus, both OV and VO word order being used by the poet; in each case OV comes first. tā́ sūríbhyo gr̥ṇaté rāsi sumnám (VI, 4, 8) 'those things to princes, to the singer grant favour' (78); urú jyótiḥ kr̥ṇuhi mátsi devā́n (IX, 94, 5) 'a broad light make, delight the gods' (79); agníṃ vr̥ṇānā́ vr̥ṇate kavíkratum (V, 11, 4) 'Agni choosing, they choose the sage-wise' (80).

A distinguishing characteristic of an OV language is that the genitive regularly precedes the subject to which is belongs, as in the description of Savitar in the second lesson text: divó dhartā́ bhúvanasya prajā́patiḥ 'of heaven supporter, of existence creature-lord'. The grammar sections have shown a number of examples of this: devā́nāṃ sumataú syāma (VII, 41, 4) 'of gods in the favour may we be' (8); apā́m ūrmíṃ sacate (IX, 86, 8) 'of waters the wave he accompanies' (19); bhúvanasya rā́jā (IX, 97, 40) 'of existence the king' (32); devā́nām ávasā (I, 185, 6) 'of the gods with help' (106). But this word order can also be varied when the sense requires it, as in the first verse of II, 32 when the poet appeals to the gods to inspire him: bhūtám avitrī́ vácasaḥ 'be helpers of the speech' (105).

The adjective, in OV languages, like the dependent genitive, stands naturally before the noun it describes. In VO languages the adjective usually follows, as in French 'carte blanche', 'Le Bateau Ivre'. English, despite now being a VO language, still maintains an earlier word order: 'white feather', 'The Cruel Sea'. In French too examples of this survive: 'mauvaise honte', 'Grande-Bretagne'. In the Rigveda the adjective usually precedes the noun: citráṃ rā́dhaḥ 'radiant gift' (this lesson text, verse 5), úttarā yugā́ni 'future generations' (the last verse of the Lesson 3 text), and from section 16.2 in this lesson, ádābhyena śocíṣā 'with not to be deceived flame'. But we have also seen instances where the adjective follows: vájraṃ svaryàm 'a weapon of sunlight (svàr 'sunlight' with secondary suffix -ya)' (71); rayíṃ viśvávāraṃ sam inva 'treasure all-precious bestow' (75). In these passages this inverted word order is perhaps more poetic, as it is in English.

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