Schifffahrt im Rigveda

  • Rainer Stuhrmann (Author)

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The present study addresses the question of what kind of ships existed that are mentioned in the Rigveda and for what purpose the (semi-) nomadic Ṛgvedic people used it. After all, the word nā́u- f. "ship" is attested in the Rigveda with many of the passages, about a quarter of those found for rátha- m., "chariot". While Wilson, Lassen and Bühler still assumed oceangoing vessels, the prevailing opinion of Western Indology views the Rigvedic naus as small rowing boats or punts, used to cross the numerous Panjab rivers (Klaus, Wasserfahrzeuge, 1989, p. 26).
The mention of the miraculous ship of the two Aśvin – flown by self-hitched birds or equipped with a hundred oars – by which they rescued Bhujyu from marine distress, is relegated to the realm of fable and myth (e.g. Lüders p.110f, Zeller p. 67ff, Gotō p. 264ff).
An examination of all relevant passages of Ṛgvedic nā́u, however, shows that the Vedic people used the naus to cross rivers; and also that this involved, in part, larger vessels, by which one could transport collapsible chariots and dwellings as well as many people over the sometimes very wide Panjab rivers. (...)