Atharva VedA has its own place for the approach of the Brahman thru tantrA and other rituals . Rg vedam thru prayer and intellectual pursuits; Yajur Vedam thru invocation of Agni for transporting the message enshrined in hymns to the Sureme . Saama Vedam thru rendering of those hyms of Rg and Yajur vedams in music or singing .
(Meaning ) : The name Rg (rik ) is applied to those manthrAs that are divided into paadhAs ( feet ) , that is , certain well defined parts , each of which consists of a definite number of syllables ; and are called on that account by such prosodial names (chandas) like GayathrI(24 syllables), Trishtup (44) , Bruhathi (36) ,Anushtup (32) Asthi (64) , Jagathi (48 ) et al .
Saama Vedam is defined as the one given to music , where the mantrAs are sung in different styles of music like RathantarA , Brihath and the like . These different methods of singing are followed precisely . Bruhath sAman is sung for instance with force and loudly in contrast to RathAnthara saaman ( geethishu SamAkhyA : JS 1.12.36).
Yajur Veda mantrAs are defined as those not having metres (paadhams ) or associated with singing ( sEshu yaju: sabdha: ). If there are any metrical portion in Yajur vedam , they are considered by some under the above strict definition as comparitively modern .
The two kinds of hymns are further dividable across the four vEdAs as SthOthrAs and SaasthrAs :
sthuthasasrayOasthu samskArE yAjyaAvadhyEvatA abhidhAnathvAth - Js: 1.5.13
SthOthrAs and SaasthrA hymns bring about santification like YaajyA hymns , because they distinctly signify deities ( which are sEshAs to the SEshi ) .
SthOthrAs are the name of those hymns that consist of manthrAs capable of being set to music and sung ,- as distinct form the SaasthrA hymns consisting of manthrAs not sung .
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 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 .
There are four Veda Samhitas (Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva). The Yajur Vedam has two Samhitas known as the Krishna and Sukla Yajur Vedas . Hence , One can say that there are 5 Veda Samhitas, if we take into account the 2 Samhitas of Yajur Veda. Each of the 4 Samhitas referred to above has several branches or Saakaas. Each Saaka has a Karma Khanda dealing with the actions to be performed and is made up of Mantras and Btrahmanaas. Latter deals with Upasana or meditation and has Aranyakas inside them for the benefit of those who have resorted to the quiet habitat of the forest to pursue their spiritual Quest. The Upanishads are found mostly in the Aranyaka section of the Vedas .
The oldest VedA is recognized as Rig Vedam and the youngest is the Atharva Vedam .
In the Vedic context , Yajur Veda Samhita means redactions of the Rg Verses according to different schools or sakaas or branches such as Vajasaneyi -Madhyandhina Sukla Yajur Veda or the white Yajur Veda. There is another samhita known as Taittiriya Samhita or the Krishna Yajur Veda , which is more akin to a BrahmaNaa rather than Sruthi .There are many rescensions of both sukla and krishna yajur veda samhithAs .
When we use the larger definition , a congregation of several independent units , then AagamAs like PaancharAtra with its independent samhithAs dealing with temple ritual onwards ,Brahma SamhitA ( hymns of Brahma in praise of Lord KrishNA containing manthrAs such as Kama bija manthram and kaama gayatri manthram and a host of other topics ranging from GanesA , DurgA to BhagavAn KrishNa ) , Bhrigu SamhitA dealing with Jyothisha saasthram , DakshiNA murthy Samhitha ( Taantric work dealing with Sri Vidya UpAsanA ) , Susrutha samhitha dealing with Aayur Vedam , ALL of these fall in place.
SamhitA also is made up two words ( sam +hitha ). It means roughly one that brings hitham close to one . There are lot of aspects to the word SamhitA , which are worthy of intrepretation .
BrahmaNAs are also " Sruthis " .
Each Veda has its own BraahmaNA(s). Rg Vedam : IytharEya, AasvalAyana , Kouseethaki Yajur Vedam : sathapatha BraahmaNam Saama Vedam : Pancha vimsa and Shad Vimsa Atharva Vedam : Gopatha BrAhmaNam
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 .
This Vedam is closely tied with sages AtharvaNA and AngirA . The literal translation of the name of the above two sages ( Rishis ) have been given as :
Atharvan= holy magic bringing happiness Angiras = hostile or black magic
The manthrams however contain more " theosophic matter" than any other samhithA and it is unfortunate that the Atharva Vedam was not considered as an equal to the other three by the Vedic priests for a long time. The Gopatha BrAhmaNam and the Mundaka Upanishad are associated with Atharva Vedam and house some of the profound thoughts linked to Atharva Vedam .
The concept of Ucchishta Bhrammam ( Final Reality , Sarva Seshi , Akshara Bhramam , the Undecaying Self ) is housed in this Vedam . In adition to housing Purusha sUktham like the other three VedAs , Atharva Vedam salutes with great reverence the Cosmic form of the Creator in a glorious hymn known as " Skhamba sUktham "( AV X.7.1-44 ) .The heights of imagination , the sacredness of the conceptions are matchless .
Our Lord Sriman NaarAyaNA is visualized in this Vedam as the Master Weaver , who weaves the entire Universe with His divine thread (tanthu ) of Unified Law (rOhithO dhyAvA pruthvee jajAna tathra tanthum ParamEshtee tathAna ) .
Sriman NaarAyaNA , our Lord is conceived as the divine support ( Skhambha) that sustains the Universe --the terrestrial ,the interspace and the celestial regions --in the most perfect manner . Great concepts of Mathematics are invoked to describe the way in which our Lord balances the entire creation and holds the six dimensions of space in a marvellous equalibrium ( skhambhO dhAdhAra pravisa: shaDurvee skhambha idham bhuvanamA vivEsa ) . His leela of Creation at the auspicious stage ( Sri Rangam ) has been compared to the weaving of a Cosmic Cloth " with divine woofs and warps , shuttles and pegs , the art of two divine maidens (day and night ) working incessantly in the parameters of Space and Time .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
Veda PurushAya Nama : Sri LakshmI Hayagreeva ParabrahmaNE Nama: Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan Credits: V.Sadagopan