chapter  11
15 Pages

Artha

ByHartmut Scharfe

Artha, its meaning ranging from “goal” to “worldly objective” and “wealth,” has beenconsidered in India one of the driving forces in human life for more than two thousand years. It did not always play such a role, though. The oldest text in the Hindu tradition is the ¸g Veda, a collection of more than a thousand hymns, which may roughly be dated between 1500 and 1000 BCE. In these hymns artha denotes a goal, especially the goal of a journey (“going to the same artha”) but also of an enterprise (“the matter at hand”). It is an old inherited word; for in the closely related language of Eastern Iran we find a corresponding term “ar78am” surviving with the meaning “matter, object of a lawsuit.” Grammatically speaking, the word “artha” originally was a neuter, but in the latter parts of the ¸g Veda, as in all later Hindu texts, it has masculine gender. There were fleeting hints in the ¸g Veda of the things to come: artha was linked, or rather contrasted, with kåma (desire). The priests once are asked to deal with the matter at hand (artha) so as to get a honorarium, and it is hoped that they will escape the desire (kåma) of greedy men (¸g Veda 8.79.5), and in ¸g Veda 10.29.5 the god Indra is implored to steer those to the other shore who agreed to his desire (kåma), as the sun goes to its goal (artha).