The Ancient ‘Record’
When the world ‘heard’ Sanskrit.
‘His Masters Voice’ (HMV) had once published a pamphlet giving the history of gramophone record.
Gramophone, originally known as the Phonograph, was invented by Thomas Alva Edison in the 19th century. Edison, who had invented many other gadgets like electric light and the motion picture camera, had become a legend even in his own time.
When he invented the gramophone record, which could record human voice for posterity, he wanted to record the voice of an eminent scholar on his first piece.
For that, he chose Prof. Max Muller of England (a German by ethnicity), another great personality of the 19th century.
He wrote to Max Muller saying,
“I want to meet you and record your voice. When should I come?”
Max Muller who had great respect for Edison asked him to come on a suitable time when most of the scholars of the Europe would be gathering in England. Accordingly, Edison took a ship and went to England. He was introduced to the audience. All cheered Edison’s presence.
Later at the request of Edison, Max Muller came on the stage and spoke in front of the instrument. Then Edison went back to his laboratory and by afternoon came back with a disc & played it on the gramophone.
The audience was thrilled to hear the voice of Max Muller from the instrument.
They were glad that voices of great persons like Max Muller could be stored for the benefit of posterity. After several rounds of applause and congratulations to Thomas Edison, Max Muller came to the stage and addressed the scholars and asked them,
“You heard my original voice in the morning. Then you heard the same voice coming out from this instrument in the afternoon. Do you understand what I said in the morning or what you heard in the afternoon?”
The audience fell silent because they could not understand the language in which Max Muller had spoken.
It was ‘Greek and Latin’ to them as they say.
But had it been Greek or Latin, they would have definitely understood because they were from various parts of Europe. It was in a language which the European scholars had never heard.
Max Muller then explained what he had spoken.
He said that the language he spoke was Sanskrit and it was the first sloka of Rig Veda, which says “Agni Meele Purohitam”
This was the first recorded public version on the gramophone plate.
अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवं रत्वीजम।
(Rig Veda 1.001.01)
Why did Max Muller choose this?
Addressing the audience he said,
“Vedas are the oldest text of the human race. And “Agni Meele Purohitam” is the first verse of Rig Veda.
In the most primordial time, when the people did not know how even to cover their bodies and lived by hunting and housed in caves, Indians had attained high civilization and they gave the world universal philosophies in the form of the Vedas.”
When “Agni Meele Purohitam” was replayed, the entire audience stood up in silence as a mark of respect.
The verse means :
“Oh Agni, You who gleam in the darkness, to You we come day by day, with devotion and bearing homage. So be of easy access to us, Agni, as a father to his son, abide with us for our well being.”
Proud to be part of a truly glorious ancient civilization.