Were There Any dyumnas at the Time? Cosmogony According to the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa

in Vedic Cosmology and Ethics
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In 1919, when Willem Caland published his Jaiminīya-Brāhmaṇa in Auswahl, he also shared the Jaiminīya version of the well-known cosmogony of the cosmic egg (“because of its importance,” p. 295, n. 20). But he observed in the same footnote: “I forego a translation of this difficult passage.” The critical edition of this Brāhmaṇa which could use more manuscripts appeared in 1954. The final explanation of this important Brāhmaṇa passage we owe to Karl Hoffmann. His essay (1970) contains a generally convincing textual revision and a translation “that at least attempts to bring across the literal meaning of the word” (p. 62). It is in the hope of being able to correct a detail in this brilliant essay, that I would like to publish this contribution.1 The core of my remarks are a text emendation and the interpretation of the word dyumna.

The passage we are dealing with is at the beginning of chapter 3, 361, and describes the breaking of the golden egg:

tasya haritam adharaṁ kapālam āsīd rajatam uttaram / tac chataṁ devasaṁvatsarāñ chayitvā nirbhidyam abhavat sahasraṁ vā dyumnān / dyumnā ha nāma tarhy apy āsuḥ / yāvān eṣa saṁvatsaras tāvantas saṁvatsarasya pratimāḥ / dyumnair ha sma saṁvatsaraṁ vijānanti / atha ha tataḥ purāhorātre saṁśliṣṭe evāsatur avyākṛte / te u agnihotreṇaiva vyākṛte / tad etayā vācā nirabhidyata

Its lower shell was golden yellow, its upper silver-colored. It was ripe to burst open after it had been laying down a hundred years of gods or a thousand dyumnas—The so-called dyumnas were also still there at that time. How big the year is, that big were the images of the year. Through the dyumnas one used to differentiate the year. Before that, day and night were blended together, not separate. Only through the Agnihotra they were separated.—The (egg) bursted open with the following words: …2

In this interpretation by Hoffmann, dyumna- represents an adjunct of time. One hundred divine years are supposedly equivalent to a thousand dyumnas.3 I.e. a dyumna would be the tenth part of a year or divine year. This calculation of time, however mythical it may be, is not enough linked to practical experience and is therefore suspect. On the other hand, it is clear that the dyumnas correspond to the year in some sort of time calculation: yāvān eṣa saṁvatsaras tāvantas saṁvatsarasya pratimā[ḥ] “However great the year that we know is,4 so many (sc. dyumnas) make up the counterpart (or: the measure) of the year.”5 That is, one needs a certain standard to measure the years. There are x components within the measurement (mātrā)6 of our year, which together form the counterpart (pratimā) of the year, and as a totality are a criterion for time calculation. This is, for example, the totality of seasons or months (twelve, or anything twelve-fold, for example, a period of twelve days).7 Ultimately, day and night are the criterion.8 However great our month is, however many days make up a month in our era, so many are the pratimā of the month. However many months make up the year, so many are the pratimā of a year.

Now the measurement of the year is based on a certain number of dyumnas. In other words: by means of the dyumnas one knows the year (dyumnair ha sma saṁvatsara vijānanti). The dyumnas are therefore the most important components of the year (i.e. time). They are the basic elements for a chronology. The cycle of years is determined by the cycle of dyumnas. In the pre-cosmic period, there was no time but only eternity. For the calculation of a year, one needs time, cycles, identifying marks, differentiation. We say: “365 days make a year.” The author of the Brāhmaṇa is explaining more or less the same thing. It is quite clear that he somehow associates dyumna with the concept of day (or day and night), for he continues: atha ha tataḥ purāhorātre saṁśliṣṭe evāsatur avyākṛte “Before (i.e. before the breaking of the egg that represents the beginning of our cosmos, or before the birth of the Agnihotra, as it is often described in cosmogonic contexts)9 day and night were contiguous and not differentiated.” We may therefore conclude that the dyumnas, as the most important elements for calculating the year, are connected with the day, or better with the differentiation of day and night.

So why did the author introduce here this information about the first differentiation of day and night (by means of the Agnihotra, which does not reappear in this context) and what is the relationship to the dyumnas and in general to the whole episode of the cosmic egg? Apparently, dyumnā ha nāma tarhy apy āsuḥ … etc. (translated by Hoffmann with “The so-called dyumnas were also still there at that time …”) is the interpretation of a detail from the preceding passage. The actual narrative is only continued by tad etayā vācā nirabhidyata “The (egg) bursted open with the following words.” We have already indicated above that dyumna must mean something like day or differentiaton of day and night, i.e. daylight or light. This implies that the message “The so-called dyumnas were also still there at that time” cannot possibly be right. The dyumnas, which are associated with the emergence of day and night, have been produced later. Before the breaking of the golden egg (i.e. before the beginning of the cosmos) there was no heavenly light,10 and therefore no differentiation of day and night, no dyumnas, no time, no pratimā for the year, no year.11 It cannot be said how long the egg lay before it broke. The author speaks of a hundred divine years, i.e. mythical years, not years of our era. And in my opinion, in the absence of any criterion he even doubts the number hundred. The insertion about the dyumnas between nirbhidyam abhavat and nirabhidyata deals only with the fundamental problem that one cannot say anything about the duration of the incubation.12

Here a textual emendation presents itself. A negation would be more appropriate in this context. In such cosmogonies it is often said that something was not yet in existence at that time. See e.g. ŚB 11, 1, 6, 1 ájāto ha tárhi saṁvatsará āsa “The year then was (still) unborn”; ŚB 11, 1, 6, 2 nā́ha tárhi kā́ caná pratíṣṭhāsa “There was (still) no support at that time”; BĀU 1, 2, 4 ná ha purā́ tátaḥ saṁvatsará āsa “Before there was (still) no year”; ṚV 10, 129, 1–2 nā́sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadā́niṁ nā́sid rája nó vyòmā paró yát … ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛtaṁ ná tárhi ná rā́tryā áhna āsīt praketáḥ “Neither non-being nor being were there at the time; there was no airspace, nor the sky above it … Neither death, nor immortality were there then; there was no indication of day and night” (Geldner); MBh 12, 329, 4 nāsīd aho na rātrir āsīt / na sad āsīn nāsad āsīt / tama eva purastād abhavad viśvarūpam; JB 3, 318 tad vai tama ivāsīt / rātrī hy ahna uttarā “This world was darkness, so to speak. Because the night was more powerful than the day”; MaiU 6, 15 dve vāva brahmaṇo rūpe kālaś cākālaś cātha yaḥ prāg ādityāt so ’kālo ’kalo ’tha ya ādityādyaḥ sa kālaḥ sakalaḥ / sakalasya vā etad rūpaṁ yat saṁvatsaraḥ “Brahman has two forms, time and non-time. That which is before the sun is non-time, without parts. That which begins with the sun is time, which has parts. Of the partite (Brahman) the form is the year.”

It is clear that in our context, where the origin of the heavens and the seasons still has to be described later (3, 361–362), the dyumnas as heavenly lights and elements of the calculation of time do not even come into question. Somehow, a negation must be hidden in dyumnā ha nāma tarhy apyāsuḥ. One might suggest: dyumnā nāha nāma tarhy apy āsuḥ (see ŚB 11, 1, 6, 2 nā́ha tárhi kā́ caná pratíṣṭhāsa). Perhaps the awkward apy could be dropped too because one manuscript has tapy āsuḥ, which Caland emendates into tarhy āsuḥ. Probably api was inserted after the corrupt manuscript tradition had made the negation disappear. The dropping of one syllable in dyumnā nāha nāma should not surprise us. It should be noted, however, that dyumnā nāha nāma tarhy āsuḥ may not be perfect for stylistic reasons. Possibly a further emendation is required. In any case, the internal logic of this passage and its parallels requires a negation. This implies, of course, that at the end of the preceding sentence, dyumnān (after sahasraṁ vā) must be dropped. And indeed, this dyumnān is missing in the manuscript used by Caland.13

The emended text and interpretation of this passage are now as follows:14

tac chataṁ devasaṁvatsarāñ chayitvā nirbhidyam abhavat sahasraṁ vā / dyumnā nāha nāma tarhy āsuḥ / yāvān eṣa saṁvatsaras tāvantas saṁvatsarasya pratimā / dyumnair ha sma saṁvatsaraṁ vijānanti / atha ha tataḥ purāhorātre saṁśliṣṭe evāsatur avyākṛte / te u agnihotreṇaiva vyākṛte / tad etayā vācā nirabhidyata

After (the egg) had been laying down a hundred divine years (mythical years), it became ripe to burst open; or maybe there had been a thousand. One must know that at that time there were no heavenly lights (or daylights, appearances of daylight). In number corresponding to the extent of our year, these (appearances of the daylight) are the depiction (or measure) of the year. One distinguishes the year by means of the daily appearances of the light of heaven.15 Before that time, day and night were contiguous and undifferentiated.16 They were only differentiated by the Agnihotra. (So there is no possibility of determining whether the egg had been laying down there a hundred, a thousand, or God knows how many years before it got ripe to burst open). It bursted open with the following words: …

A side result of this study is the interpretation of the word dyumna-. First, it is striking that dyumna- occurs here in the masculine, whereas the dictionaries give dyumnam and grammar recognizes only the neuter of the suffix -mna-.17 Even if the masculine is based on a correct text, it is clear that in terms of meaning, it is inseparable from the neuter dyumnam. This meaning was originally “heavenly light” or “Himmelsherrlichkeit” (Wackernagel 1918, 398). Renou, however, notes that “this meaning is obliterated” (1957, 15) and always emphasizes “the figurative meaning” of this word. I think this is wrong. The literal meaning may be found not only in this Brāhmaṇa passage, but elsewhere as well. According to JB 1, 6, after the sun has gone down, but before the darkness, and after it has become light, but before sunrise, the light of the sky (dyumna masculine) is dedicated to Savitṛ. Indeed, this literal meaning is rarely found in the ṚV18 and in the other Saṁhitās. Still, one might consider in some passages whether some other translation would work better than the mechanical “glory” (“Herrlichkeit”) especially when sun, heaven or something similar occurs in the context.19 The original, literal meaning was still in use in fairly late Brāhmaṇa texts, as is clear from the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa passage discussed here.

*Translation of the German article on pp. 29–36.
1The lecture presented in Lübeck (German Congress of Orientalists 1972) forms the basis (see also Bodewitz 1973, 32 f.). Details have been improved and some notes added.
2Text and translation according to Hoffmann (1970, 64 f.). Translation of Hoffmann’s German into English by editors.
3But it is questionable whether the disjunctive particle occurs at all in the sense of an identifying particle. A disjunctive has almost no sense when one includes dyumnān in the text as do Lokesh Chandra and Hoffmann. Caland’s edition has only sahasraṁ vā.
4eṣa saṁvatsaraḥ, the year of our era, is different from the divine year (devasaṁvatsara) in the preceding passage. In compounds, deva- often gives the second member a mythical, metaphorical, unreal color. See, for example, deva-ratha, °-cakra, °-kośa, °-mithuna, °-iṣu, °-pātra. Sometimes the metaphor has no relation to the cosmos (adhidevam identification) or to the gods, but only designates the unreal aspect. In our context, there are still no gods and no cosmos. Of course, actual years are missing too.
5One can count the years only if one has something to measure it by. There has to be a counterpart (prati!), a pratimā, to measure them (I am reading a singular pratimā with Caland, not a plural pratimāḥ). Previously, I did not understand this construction correctly. An incongruence of tāvantas and pratimāḥ is not to be assumed. The singular pratimā is, as a measure, the totality of the details (i.e. the dyumnas), which together correspond in number to the extent of the year (tāvantaḥ … yāvān). If the texts (e.g. TB 1, 1, 6, 7) declare that twelve days are the pratimā (singular!) of the year, then not the days themselves but their number (corresponding to the number of months, which make up the year) form the pratimā. For the correspondence of the singular yāvān (“quantitative meaning”) and the plural tāvantaḥ (“multiplicity”) see Minard (1936, 62 f., especially § 182). In such correspondences between yāvān (quantity) and tāvantaḥ (number), the ŚB adds the term mātrā (measure): ṣáḍ vā́ ṛtávaḥ saṁvatsarásya saṁvatsaró yajñáḥ prajā́patiḥ sá yā́vān evá yajñó yā́vaty asya mā́trā tā́vatībhir dakṣayati (ŚB 2, 2, 2, 3) “for six seasons, indeed, there are in the year, and the sacrifice, Prajāpati, is the year: thus as great as the sacrifice is, as large as its extent is, by so many (gifts, dakṣiṇās) does he thereby invigorate it” (Eggeling).
6See the previous note about this term in ŚB. In our context, such an expression with mātrā would be very appropriate: yāvān eṣa saṁvatsaras ⟨yāvaty asya mātrā⟩ tāvantas (sc dyumnās, ellipse as in ŚB 2, 2, 2, 3 dakṣiṇābhiḥ) saṁvatsarasya pratimā “The annual measurement or the equivalent of a year is the number of dyumnas, which corresponds with the year, as we know it in our time, with the measure of this year.”
7See KS 7, 15: 79.5 f.; TB 1, 1, 6, 7; 1, 1, 9, 10; ŚāṅkhB 25, 15.
8ŚāṅkhB 17, 5 (edition Sarma 17, 4, 17) clarifies: etāvān vai saṁvatsaro yad ahorātre. See also ŚB 3, 2, 2, 4 saṁvatsaró vái prajā́patiḥ prajā́patir yajñò ’horātre vái saṁvatsará eté hy ènaṁ pariplávamāne kurutaḥ; JB 2, 422 etad dha vai saṁvatsarasya vyāptaṁ yad ṛtavo yan māsā yad ṛtusandhayaḥ tad u vā āhur ya ṛtavo ye māsā ya ṛtusandhayo ’horātre vāva tad bhavataḥ ahorātre vāva saṁvatsarasya vyāptam iti.
9For the simultaneous coming into existence of Agnihotra and cosmos see KS 6, 1; MS 1, 8, 1; TB 2, 1, 2, 1 ff.; VādhS 3, 19; ŚB 2, 2, 4, 1 ff.
10I do not think that jyotis has anything to do with heavenly light in this context (see JB 3, 360 tasminn asati sati na kasmiṁś cana saty ṛtaṁ jyotiṣ-mad udaplavata satyaṁ jyotiṣmad udaplavata tapo jyotiṣmad udaplavata … teṣām annam eva jyotir āsīt / tāny ekam abhavan / tad ekaṁ bhūtvaitenānnena jyotiṣāpyāyata “In this, which was (sati) something non-existing (asati), which was (sati) a nothing (na kasmiṁś cana), the Ṛta floated up provided with Light, the Satya floated up provided with Light, the Tapas floated up provided with Light … Light was their food. They became the One. When this One had originated, it was swelling on account of this food: the light,” Hoffmann). It is not the light of the sun; it is not the cyclically appearing and vanishing light that is associated with time. The jyotis is (much more than an enlightenment of the whole primal cosmos or primal chaos) the energy that is closely related to the primal principle, or even to the three elements that together have formed the primal principle. This energy makes cosmogony possible.
11See MaiU 6, 14 … sūryo yoniḥ kālasya / tasyaitad rūpaṁ yan nimeṣādikālāt saṁbhṛtaṁ dvādaśātmakaṁ vatsaram … “The origin of time is the sun. The embodiment of this (time) is the twelve-fold year, which is built up from the interval of a blink of the eye, etc.” This is followed by a technical discussion about the term “time” and its proof. The Upaniṣad is extremely important for understanding our passage in the JB because it connects time with the sun (thus also with the light of heaven) and derives the existence of time and year from the smallest units. The statement yāvatyo vai kālasya kalās tāvatīṣu caraty asau “As many moments of time as there are, in so many she passes by” (Deussen) agrees with yāvān eṣa saṁvatsaras tāvantas (sc. dyumnāḥ) saṁvatsarasya pratimā. The year or time, the proof of their existence and the possibility to measure them are based on their parts. Without differentiation there is no year and no time.Van Buitenen (1962, 141) misunderstood this passage. MaiU 6, 15 explains that before the origin of the sun, non-time (akāla) prevailed, which was without parts (akala). The sun creates time (kāla), which is differentiated and has parts (sakala). Van Buitenen’s view (p. 46) that sakala means “complete,” and his argument about this passage (“As in the older Year speculations, the creator’s self-creation, his becoming the Year, is considered his completion”) are wrong. But also see his correct translation, which however is entirely inconsistent with the above-mentioned views, “Of the partite (Brahman) the form is the year” (p. 141). The embodiment of the differentiated is the year: sakalasya vā etad rūpaṁ yat saṁvatsaraḥ. On time and non-time in relation to the cosmic egg see also Minard (1936, § 244).
12The whole passage about the length of time during which the egg was lying there, is perhaps in contradiction with older versions of this cosmogony. In any case, the Brāhmaṇa was not much successful, because texts such as ChU 3, 19 and Manu 1, 1 f., which are undoubtedly younger, allow the egg to swim around for a year (in accordance with ŚB 11, 1, 6, 1 ájāto ha tárhi saṁvatsará āsa tád idáṁ hiraṇmáyam āṇḍáṁ yā́vat saṁvatsarásya vélā tā́vat páry aplavata “The year then was still unborn. This golden egg floated around for as long as the duration of one year”).
13See in addition to his Auswahl also Caland (1915, 46): “After having been laying down for a hundred or thousand divine years, it was ripe to burst open …” Caland does not translate the rest of this passage and continues with the breaking of the egg (“The text is, however, so corrupt, that I have to leave out a lot,” p. 45).
14[The article, in fact, does not give the emended text, but the editors of this volume have added it on the basis of the preceding discussion.]
15Ultimately, the criterion for our knowledge of the year is the day (that is, their number determines the year), or rather the appearance of daylight. See also JB 3, 385 (eṣa ha vāva devānām adhidevo ya eṣa tapati / tasyaitat sahasrasthūṇaṁ vimitaṁ dṛḍham ugraṁ yat saṁvatsara ṛtavo māsā ardhamāsā ahorātrāṇy uṣasaḥ) for a connection between the sun and the year or time. The appearance of daylight is the last chronological element.
16ṚV 10, 129, 2 and 3: “… there was no sign of day and night … In the beginning darkness was hidden in darkness” (Geldner); MBh 12, 329, 4 nāsīd aho na rātrir āsīd …; TS 5, 3, 4, 7 “Now there was neither day nor night in the world, but it was undiscriminated,” 6, 4, 8, 3 “This was not day or night, but undiscriminated … Mitra produced the day, Varuṇa the night” (Keith). The emergence of the cosmos implies the development of a dualism (day—night, good—evil, gods—Asuras). Day and night represent time in its destructive aspect and form the counterpart to eternity (the undifferentiated “time” before the cosmos) and release (immortality, “getting out of time,” see, for example, JB 1, 11).
17See Wackernagel–Debrunner (1954, 777). It should be noted, however, that Simon’s Index verborum to the KS mentions a masculine dyumnas (KS 5, 2). See also JB 1, 6. Burrow (1965, 151) explains that neuters like dyumná- “appear from their accentuation to be of adjectival origin.” In the prose of the Brāhmaṇas, dyumnā cannot be neut. plur.
18Grassmann refers only to 3, 24, 3 and 6, 16, 21 for the basic meaning “Glanz” (“sonst überall bildlich”).
19ṚV 6, 19, 9 (dyumnáṁ svàrvad) and AV 6, 35, 3 (dyumnáṁ svàryamat) show that lustre (dyumna) is perceived as light. Also, ṚV 7, 82, 10 mentions dyumna in the context of light (“Indra, Varuṇa, Mitra, Aryaman should grant us lustre and their large shield, the truth promoters of Aditi (should grant) undestructible light …,” Geldner; see also Renou (1959, 100): “… the brilliance, the large, extensive protection, the indestructible light”; in this context “the reputation of Aditi, of the god Savitṛ” is hardly anything other than heavenly light). The light aspect is also very clear in AV 13, 2, 34 divākaró ’ti dyumnáir támāṁsi víśvātārīd duritáni śukrā́ḥ “The sun, the clear one, has removed all darkness, all difficulties, with its light phenomena.”

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