Let me preface this by saying that I don't intend to question the wisdom of the divine Upanishads; I'm just trying to resolve my confusion.
As you can see in the Anukramani I provided in my answer here, the sage who heard most of the hymns in the Fourth Mandala of the Rig Veda was the sage Vamadeva, a descendant of the sage Gautama. Two of the hymns of this Mandala deal mainly with Garuda's theft of the Soma/Amrita (nectar of immortality) from Devaloka. But the beginning of these hymns are considered by the Upanishads to be of profound significance. Here is how Hymn 26 of the Fourth Mandala begins:
- I was aforetime Manu, I was Sūrya: I am the sage Kakṣīvān, holy singer. Kutsa the son of Ārjuni I master. I am the sapient Uśanā behold me.
- I have bestowed the earth upon the Ārya, and rain upon the man who brings oblation. I guided forth the loudly-roaring waters, and the Gods moved according to my pleasure.
- In the wild joy of Soma I demolished Śambara's forts, ninety-and-nine, together; And, utterly, the hundredth habitation, when helping Divodāsa Atithigva.
The second and third verses describe the deeds of Indra, such as killing the demon Shambara, so it seems natural to assume that Indra is the speaker in this triplet. Yet here is what the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says:
Verily in the beginning this was Brahman, that Brahman knew (its) Self only, saying, 'I am Brahman.' From it all this sprang. Thus, whatever Deva was awakened (so as to know Brahman), he indeed became that (Brahman); and the same with Rishis and men. The Rishi Vâmadeva saw and understood it, singing, 'I was Manu (moon), I was the sun.' Therefore now also he who thus knows that he is Brahman, becomes all this, and even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their Self.
So according to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Vamadeva is speaking about himself, and he is making a profound statement of self-realization.
Similarly, here is how hymn 27 of the Fourth Mandala begins:
- I, As I lay within the womb, considered all generations of these Gods in order. A hundred iron fortresses confined me but forth I flew with rapid speed a Falcon.
- Not at his own free pleasure did he bear me: he conquered with his strength and manly courage. Straightway the Bold One left the fiends behind him and passed the winds as he grew yet more mighty.
Again, it seems like the speaker in these verses is Chandra, who is the god of the divine drink Soma which is protected by the fortifications of Devaloka but is then stolen by Garuda. But here is how the Aitareya Upanishad interprets it:
And this has been declared by a Rishi (Rv. IV, 27, 1): 'While dwelling in the womb, I discovered all the births of these Devas. A hundred iron strongholds kept me, but I escaped quickly down like a falcon.' Vâmadeva, lying in the womb, has thus declared this.** And having this knowledge he stepped forth, after this dissolution of the body, and having obtained all his desires in that heavenly world, became immortal, yea, he became immortal.
So the Aitareya Upanishads is claiming that the speaker is once again Vamadeva, and that he is speaking of his experiences of self-realization from within the womb. And the Rig Veda Anukramani agrees that the person being referred to is Vamadeva in both cases; see the Anukramani for hymns IV.26 and IV.27 in my answer here.
But my question is, have there been any arguments made for why the speaker must be Vamadeva? Indra and Chandra seem more natural choices given the context and meaning. Why would Vamadeva arbitrarily start talking about his philosophical realizations before relating a story of Garuda?
The authors of the newly-released Oxford English translation of the Rig Veda also believe that the Anukramani misinterpreted these verses. See this excerpt and this excerpt, where they call the first three verses of Hymn 26 an Atmastuti (self-praise) of Indra and the first two verses of Hymn 27 an Atmastuti of Chandra. And it isn't only Western Indologists who have this view; the first three verses of Hymn 26 are discussed in this excerpt from the Brihaddevata, a work by the ancient sage Shaunaka:
I (aham: iv.26) is self-praise in a triplet, for there is praise (in it) as if of him (Indra).
So Shaunaka also seems to think that this triplet is an Atmastuti of Indra. In any case, has anyone made any arguments to refute the claim that the speakers are Indra and Chandra? Do any commentators present arguments about this issue?
Let me reiterate that it's not my intention to question the wisdom of the Upanishads. I am a Sri Vaishnava, and Sri Vaishnavism is part of the Vedanta school, which holds the Upanishads as a divine authority. And the sages of the Aitareya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads are the ancient sages Aitareya and Yajnavalkya. So I'm not accusing them of misinterpreting the Rig Veda. I am just trying to understand the logic behind their interpretation.