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A Tribute to the VedAs

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Sun Mar 22 1998 - 17:51:22 PST

Sri LakshmI Hayavadana ParabrahmaNE Nama :
Dear VedAbhimAnis :
I just  finished listening to the splendidly
recorded tapes on Rg Vedam ( Volume I ) and
Atharva Vedam ( Volume I ) sent to me by 
Sri Krishnan , Trustee of the Delhi Vedic Trust .
I want to share with you my great joy 
and anandhAnubhavam of listening to the
sacred recitation .

Thanks to the Trustees of the Delhi Vedic Trust 

It is a great blessing for the Veda dhvani to 
pervade the mind and body .These are the set of tapes
that would be most important to every one of the temples 
in North America for use in their daily worship of
the Veda Purushan . The tireless effort to produce
these high quality tapes with the particpation 
of GanapAtis trained in the traditional manner is 
beyond imagination . I thank Sriman KrishNan and 
his fellow trustees for undertaking this challenge
of an immense dimension and completing it .

Scope of my postings on Vedams 
I will post a few articles on the VedAs and 
the powerful meaning of some of the Rks and
manthrAs as I continue with the journey of 
listening to these tapes . Some six years ago ,
I studied all the four samhithAs in the text form 
without the benefit of listening to them in 
the recited form . These tapes will help to fulfill
my life's ambition of listening to them in their 
entirety and be linked to the timeless tract 
travelled by our ancient rishis and AchaaryAs .
I will start with Atharva Vedam and then go onto
Rig Veda SamhithA . 

The Connection Between Purva and Uttara mImAmsam
Purva MeemAsam deals with the karma khAndam 
sections/rituals of the VedAs . In an earlier article , 
I referred to PurvamImAmsam 's first sUtram : 
athAthO dharma jigy~nAsA ( Now , therefore , 
there must be an inquiry into the nature of duty );
In that context , I quoted the first sUthram of 
BadarAyaNA , athAthO Brahma jigy~nAsA ( Now , therefore ,
let us proceed with the inquiry of the infinite and eternal
Brahman ) . I mentioned that the study and performance 
of the Vedic sacrifices have ephemeral and limited 
fruits , whereas the results of the knowledge of
Brahman is eternal and infinite and therefore 
the inquiry into the nature of Brahman should be
undertaken with the appropriate AchAryAs .It is however
not possible to skip the study of VedAs and 
jump on to the inquiry about Brahman .

The two kinds of Knowledge: Para and apara vidhyAs

The great tradition of the transmisison of knowledge 
thru AchArya Mukham is recorded in Mundaka Upanishad 
as a conversation between BrahmA , the creator and his 
eldest son, AtharvA about the knowledge of BRAHMAN  ,
the corner stone of ALL knowledge .AtharvA taught 
what he had learned from his father to AngirA , 
who in turn taught it to SatyavAhA belonging to 
the clan of BharadvAjA ;SatyavAhA passed that 
supreme knowledge in succession to Sage Angiras . 

SaunakA , the celebrated grahasthA approached Sage 
Angiras and asked humbly : " O Illustrious sage !
kasminnu BhagavO vig~nyAthE sarvamidham vig~nAtham
bhavathee ? ( What is that by the knowing of which
all this becomes known ? ) . 

Sage Angiras replied : " two kinds of knoweldge 
needs to be known according to the knowers of Brahman .
They are the higher knowledge ( parA ) and the lower
knowledge (aparA )" . 

Sage Angiras explained further that the lower knowledge
is the Rig Veda, the Yajur VedA , the Saama VedA and
Atharva VedA , SikshA (phonetics ) , kalpA ( rituals ) ,
vyAkarNam ( grammer) , NirukthA (etymology ) ,cchandas
(metre) and JyOthisham ( astronomy ) ; and the higher 
knowledge is that by which the imperishable Brahman 
is attained .

Sage Angiras said :" dhvE vidhyE vEdhithavyE ithi 
ha sma yadh BrahmavidhO vadanthi ParA chaivAparA cha "
AparA are the four VedAs and their six angAs  to understand 
the nature of DharmA and the ParA is the knowledge 
about the imperishable ( akshaya ) Brahman , which 
is the embodiment of DharmA . That omniscient ,
Omnipotent , all merciful Brahman has been defined 
as  the source/origin , sustenance and dissolution of this 
multifacetted world according to the second Brahma sUthrA
( JanmAdhyasya yatha: ) .That Brahman is cognized only 
through the scriptures , the sources of authoritative 
knowledge about Brahman ( Saasthra yOnithvAth: Brahma-
sUthram 1.3 ).The next Brahma sUtram goes on to point
out that Brahman is the main purport of all Vedic 
and upanishadic texts ( tatthu samanvayAth ) . Thus 
one can not dismiss the VedAs quickly as 
apara vidhyA and jump on to Para vidhyA . 
Rigorous study of the VedAs reveal 
to us the appproach to Brahman , the para VidhyA , 
the ultimate goal for us all .

The four categories of Knowledge in the VedAs

The four VedAs contain four important categories 
of knowledge related to DharmA : (1) Injunctions
and Prohibitions (2) Valedictory ( praise ) and 
depreceatory passages (3) MantrAs and (4) Names .
All these four are necessary to understand true
DharmA or righteous duty from different angles.
Thus an inquiry in to them through the study 
of the VedAs becomes an essential pre-requisite 
in one's journey towards the comprehension of 
Brahman ( para VidhyA ) . The authority of
the VedAs for us is supreme and final and hence 
a proper understanding of them with 
the help of a qualified AchAryA sets us on 
a safe footing to comprehend  Brahman 
and achieve the parama purushArtham of 
Moksham .Our tradition is therefore 
called Vaidhikam or the one based on 
the authoritativeness of the VedAs . 

The four kinds of Veda SamhithAs : Atharva SamhithA

Rig , Yajur , Saama and Atharva samhithAs
constitute the four VedA samhithAs . Each of them
have more than one branch (SaakA ) . The oldest
VedA is recognized as Rig Vedam and the youngest
is the Atharva Vedam . Latter has nine branches 
or rescensions ( navadhAatharvaNO veda: ).These 
nine branches are : (1) PaippalAda (2) Tauda 
(3) MuNda (4) SaunakIya (5) Jaajala (6) Jalada
(7) BrAhmaveda (8) Devadarsa and (9) ChAraNavaidya .
Today , only two of the nine branches of Atharva 
Vedam (Saunakha and PaippalAda )are available to us.
The Delhi Vedic trsut has recorded the Saunakha sAkA .

The Atharva Veda samhithA has 5977 verses spread 
over 20 KhAndams ( books/chapters ) . The khAndams are
further subdivided into hymns and they in turn 
house a group of manthrAs .Some prefer to catalog the Atharva 
Veda Text (SamhithA )into prapaathakAs ( Lessons or
lectures ). Under this classification , there are 34
prapAthakAs that house the 5977 verses. Among NammAzhwAr's
four Tamil Prabhandhams , Periya ThiruvanthAdhi 
is considered as the essence of Atharva Vedam . 

The Delhi Vedic trust has recorded the 20 KhAndhams of 
Atharva Vedam in 14 audio tapes . I have now enjoyed
listening to two of the twenty khAndams .I will write about 
some of the striking manthrAs from these two khAndams 
later .

Rg Veda SamhithA

This ancient Vedam has 1,028 sUkthams (hymns ) 
and contains in all 10,589 verses.These are grouped 
into either 8 KhAndAs or 10 MandalAs with 85 anuvAkAs
( subsections ) . There used to be 21 sakAs ( redactions )
of the Rig VedAs . There is only one available today .
That is Saakala SaakA . IythrEya Upanishad belongs to
Rig Veda SamhithA .NammAzhwAr's Thiruviruttham 
is consdieres as the Veda SaarArtham of Rig Vedam .

The Delhi Vedic Trust has recorded Saakala sAkA 
in 27 ninety minute tapes. During my father's
sahasrAbhshEkam celebration , there was one Rig Vedic
expert from Mayavaram , who recited that samhithA . 
He was lost in the ghOsham of Saama and KrishNa yajur Vedams .
My great desire to hear the authentic renditon of
the Rig Vedam is now satisfied . 

Yajur Veda SamhithA 

This Vedam has 1975 verses grouped under 40 
chapters known as adhyAyAs .The longest chapter has 
117 "verses" and the shortest chapter has 13 "verses ".
There are two Yajur samhithAs : Sukla and KrishNa
( White and Black ) samhithAs . The White Yajur Veda
samhithA is also known as VajasanEyi -MadhyAndina Sukla 
Yajur vedam to distinguish it from KrishNa Yajur
Veda or Taittiriya SamhithA , which is generally
considered to be more close to a BrahmaNA rather than to
a Sruthi . Most of  the people in AndhrA and Tamil Naadu
are KrishNa Yajur Vedins . 

The two samhithAs have number of recensions inview of
their wide popularity .These variations arose from 
a variety of textual differences and their applications
in Vedic rituals . The two popular recensions of
the Sukla Yajur Vedam are : MaadhyAndhina and 
KaaNva ; the KrishNa Yajur Vedam has three recensions :
kAtaka , Kapishtala-Kata and MaithrAyaNee .

Saama samhithA 

In its importance in YaagAs and sacredness ,
Saama Veda SamhithAs rank next to Rig VedA .
The Lord of GeethA however has put this 
Saama samhithA on the top of all four 
SamhithAs with His declaration that He is
Saama VedA among the VedAs .This samhithA 
consists of hyms chanted by udhgAtri priests 
at the Soma YaagAs . Many of the hymns originate 
from Rig Vedam and have been rearranged without
reference to the original order in the Rig Vedam 
and set to music .Only 75 verses of the total of 
1,875 verses of Saama Vedam are not to be found 
in Rig Vedam . The remaining 1,800 verses are 
essentially the repetitions of Rig Vedic verses .
The important distinction however is that they are 
sung instead of being recited.The Rig Vedam
deals with knowledge and Saama Vedam deals 
with UpAsanA , Worship and DhyAnam .

According to one classification , the Saama
samhithA is cataloged under two sections :
PurvArchikA and UttarArchikA . Each archikA 
is subdivided into prapaathakAs and adhyAyAs .
In another classification , the 1875 verses 
are grouped under FOUR categories :
1. PurvArchikA: 585 verses (1-585 )
2. AraNya KhAndam : 55 verses ( 586-640 )
3. MahAnAmnyArchikA : 10 verses( 641-650 )
4. UttarArchikA: 1225 verses ( 651-1875) 

In singing , the priests of the Yaj~nams 
follow specific styles through alteration of 
prolongation , repetition , modulation , 
rests et al . These become the various 
styles of Saama GhAnams : congregational
( GrAma gEya GhAnam ) , AraNya ghAnam
( Forest song style ) , Uha ghAnam and
Uhya GhAnam .

Saama Vedam had originally 1001 branches . 
We have very few left now. NammAzhwAr's celebrated 
Thiruvaimozhi is recognized as the Saama Veda 
SaarArtham .

In the next posting in this series , I will 
include the meaning and commentary on
selected ManthrAs from the Rig Vedam 
that I have listened to so far ( Khnadam I.
Hymns 1-33). I will follow it up with the 
selected manthrams from the first two KhAndams of 
Atharva Vedam .

Veda PurushAya Nama :
Sri LakshmI Hayagreeva ParabrahmaNE Nama:
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan