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Danastuti – On Acts Of Giving Gifts In Vedas

Danastuti in Vedas are dedicated to the acts of giving gifts and the patrons are praised in these verses. Danastutis mentions the names of the donors, the gifts offered, and the occasions on which they are given. Thus Svanaya, a patron, living on the banks of Sindhu River is said to have gifted to Kakshivanta one hundred pieces of gold, one hundred horses, one hundred bulls, sixty thousand cows, one thousand attendants and ten chariots carrying brides drawn by forty horses (Rig Veda 1.26.2-4).

Danastuti generally do not have any particular ritualistic significance. Ritualist texts specify the use of four danastutis only. For the rest, there use is either contingent or general in nature. Their significance relates mainly to the ethical aspect of giving gifts. This finds the fullest expression in Rig Veda (10.117), which praises generosity as a virtue. It is well know that every Vedic verse has a deity. For the danastutis, dana, or making gift, is itself the deity. According to the later Shastras, giving gifts is a pious act and one of the essential duties of people.

The two ancient indices of Rig Veda, Brihaddevata of Saunaka and Sarvanukramani of Katyayana mention 26 hymns of Rig Veda in which gifts given by particular kings have been praised. The actual number of danastutis must be more than this because similar panegyrics in Rig Veda as well as a few verses in the appendices to it are not mentioned in the indices. Two other hymns (10.107 and 117) praise dakshina (sacrificial gift) and generosity as virtuous acts. All these are nowadays considered along with the above.

Six of the danastutis are complete hymns. The rest are units of one to four verses, usually occurring at the end of the hymns. Brihad Devata and Sarvanukramani sometimes give details of the actual events leading to the gifts.

The names of donor kings, particularly in Book Eight, where the maximum number of danastutis occur, often deviate from normal Aryan names – Bibhindu, Kuranga, Kasu, Tirindira, Varu, Kanita, Dasa Balbutha, Trauksa and so on. Some of the names occur in history much later. One also finds the mention of camel as part of donation in the danastutis of Book Eight.

SourceEncyclopedia of Hinduism Volume III page 285-86 – Rupa – IHRF publications 2011.