Introduction to Shiksha

 In Vedangas
In the following article, Professor Korada describes the first of the disciplines of the Vedas, SHIKSHA, which is the art and science of pronunciation. In ancient Indian Vedic studies correct pronunciation was accorded utmost importance. This emphasis on proper pronunciation is reflected in the complete fidelity with which the Vedas — even today — are recited; whether in a traditional Gurukul or teaching hermitage, or in religious schools in India, or in a school in Yorkshire, England, for example, where the Vedas are recited with remarkable, traditional style.

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There are a number of reasons for the ancient insistence on proper pronunciation. In the past, the absence of the printing press or sound recording the correct way of sacred chanting had to be assured. Secondly, the entire philosophy of the spiritual efficacy and effectiveness of the chanting of the Mantras and Suktas (Vedic invocations) depends upon the correctness of pronunciation; the slightest change in the articulatory process can distort the meaning ofthe unique and precise language of Sanskrit.

Professor Korada’s article gives a fascinating account of the rules of Shiksa. The reference to the way in which a tigress carries hercubs with her sharp teeth, and is concerned with either dropping them by holding themtoo loosely, or biting through their skin by holding them too tightly is a picturesque analogy that explains the necessity of mastering the delicate art of articulating sounds. The article also refers to the characteristics of good and bad speakers/readers, and emphasizes the involvement of the speaker’s entire personality in producing speech, rather than the merely mechanical movements of the vocal organs.

The article deals with verbs, consonants, and other related grammatical considerations. Professor Korada explains pitch, and how it is intricately connected to the evolution of music. The musical aspect of pronunciation is further developed in the section of the article concerning the processes and procedures of Vritti. Relating the myth of when Tvasta, using an invocation, tried to avenge the death of his son, the article gives an example of the unfortunate results of bad pronunciation.

A glossary of the Sanskrit terms used is also provided…

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