samudra समुद्र

Definition: (Literally ‘gathering of waters’), ‘ocean,’ is a frequent word in the Rigveda and later. It is of importance in so far as it indicates that the Vedic Indians knew the sea. This is, indeed, denied by Vivien de Saint Martin, but not only do Max Muller and Lassen assert it, but even Zimmer, who is inclined to restrict their knowledge of the sea as far as possible, admits it in one passage of the Rigveda, and of course later. He points out that the ebb and flow of the sea are unknown, that the mouths of the Indus are never mentioned, that fish is not a known diet in the Rigveda (cf. Matsya), and that in many places Samudra is metaphorically used, as of the two oceans, the lower and the upper oceans, etc. In other passages he thinks that Samudra denotes the river Indus when it receives all its Panjab tributaries. It is probable that this is to circumscribe too narrowly the Vedic knowledge of the ocean, which was almost inevitable to people who knew the Indus. There are references to the treasures of the ocean, perhaps pearls or the gains of trade, and the story of Bhujyu seems to allude to marine navigation. That there was any sea trade with Babylon in Vedic times cannot be proved : the stress laid on the occurrence in the Hebrew Book of Kings of qof and iukhiīm, ‘monkey’ (kapi) and ‘ peacock,’ is invalidated by the doubtful date of the Book of Kings. There is, besides, little reason to assume an early date for the trade that no doubt developed later, perhaps about 700 B.C. In the later texts Samudra repeatedly means the sea.


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