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Rule-extension Strategies in Ancient India

Ritual, Exegetical and Linguistic Considerations on the "tantra</I>- and "prasaṅga</I>-Principles

Elisa Freschi and Tiziana Pontillo

This study focuses on the devices implemented in Classical Indian texts on ritual and language in order to develop a structure of rules in an economic and systematic way. These devices presuppose a spatial approach to ritual and language, one which deals for instance with absences as substitutions within a pre-existing grid, and not as temporal disappearances. In this way, the study reveals a key feature of some among the most influential schools of Indian thought.
The sources are Kalpasūtra, Vyākaraṇa and Mīmāṃsā, three textual traditions which developed alongside each other, sharing – as the volume shows – common presuppositions and methodologies. The book will be of interest for Sanskritists, scholars of ritual exegesis and of the history of linguistics.


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Chapter 1 General Introduction


Chapter 1 General Introduction This volume will focus on three textual traditions which deeply influenced the development of a systematic approach to their fields and also to any other topic within Indian thought, namely Kalpasūtra, Vyākaraṇa and Mīmāṃsā. Although, as we will show, they developed alongside each other and shared common presuppositions, the Kalpasūtra is the one which displays the most ancient traits. It consists of a collection of texts of various origin in time and space (see below, § 2.1) based on Vedic prescriptions. Accordingly, of the three partitions of the Kalpasūtra, the most ancient one, and the one which will be more relevant for the present study, is the Śrautasūtra one, which deals with the systematisation of the Vedic ritual. The Gṛhyasūtras deal with domestic rituals and the Dharmasūtras with social conduct. The Mīmāṃsā originated out of the same milieu, but focussed on the development of exegetical rules apt to interpret the Vedic prescriptions, instead of bringing order in specific issues as generally done by the Kalpasūtras. The grammatical tradition (Vyā- karaṇa) regards Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī as its foundational text. The Aṣṭādhyāyī is a highly technical text which displays a surprising level of abstraction in its metalinguistic devices. Out of the three, the Vyākaraṇa approach seems to be the most refined and wide-reaching, as regards its exhaustiveness. We shall see that this exhaustiveness relies...

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