When the whole world was engulfed in the darkness of absence of knowledge, our country, the Bharath was resplendent with the light of knowledge of self and our great Rsis were engaged in the highly evolved discussion about Atman and how to attain that. The Rsis declared “we understand there is an omnipotent, omniscient power beyond all this light of knowledge and only those who understand and experience the presence of this power can truly win over the death and be not born again”. The sublime truths resulting in the bliss experienced by these great souls are the Vedas. The Vedas, the oldest religious literature of the world, are eternal as they are not the creation of man. The Vedas represent the permanent edifice of ancient India’s spiritual heritage and ethical values and deal with social laws, administration of the country, state-society inter relationship and basic codes of human conduct in all walks of life.
The Vedas are considered as authorities by Hindus and all the theological philosophies like Advaita, Visistadhvaitha and Dwaitha etc are based on Vedas. The age of Vedas has not been authoritatively established even though some assessment has been made by Western and Indian Scholars. Some may say the Vedas are as old as eight thousand or nine thousand years, but the Vedas are as new as in the olden days. The Vedas are called Srutis because they have been handed over from generation to generation orally through thousands of years. The methodology adopted for such an enormous task without written material is really fantastic and incomparable to any other system of maintenance of literature. An elaborate procedure based on strict discipline of chanting supported by study of six parts of Vedas called Angas like Siksa (Phonetics); Vyakarana (grammar); Nirukta (lexicon, etymology); Kalpa (manual of rituals); Chandas (prosody); Jyotisa (astronomy-astrology) has been used.
Vedas are Brahman. Veda mantras are potent sources of power and energy. Vedas should be learnt with precise utterance and proper pronunciation and written words may not indicate the correct accents and appropriate articulation of sounds. Veda Mantras follow chronological measures of metres, resonances and sound waves. The sound waves of the Veda mantras send a vibratory sensation through the network of myriad nerve centres in the human body and mind.
These can be acquired only from a guru through direct adhyayana and repeated recitations through live and direct personal learning. Learning of Vedas is not mere understanding of the words or their meaning, it has to be meditated upon and to experience the truths revealed therein. The Guru has to impart and transfer such an experience to the disciple.
The four Vedas are Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The root Rk means Stotra or hymn. Rgveda consists of mantra (hymn) in praise of deities. Rg Veda treats the deities of creation like Maruts, Brahaspati, Rudra, Mitra, Varuna, Soma, Yama and other Gods giving prominence to Agni, Indra and Aditya.
Yajus is derived from the word “yaj” meaning worship and Yajus means the method of worship. The Kausitaki Brahmana of Rg Veda mentions that the Yajur Veda and Sama Veda have emanated from Rg Veda. The Yajur Veda tells in prose the procedure, rules and regulations governing sacrifice for conducting various rites.
revealed by the Rsis have been compiled by the Great Rsi Veda Vyasa into four
groups called Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas. Each of the Vedas are normally grouped into Samhita (Prayers to Gods),
Brahmana (Procedures for conducting Yaga) and Aranyaka (Upanisads which deals
with discussion about Atman, Brahman etc). There are two divisions of Yajur
Veda was revealed to the sage Sri Yogeeswara
Yagnavalkya (give hyper link) directly by
Lord Surya. The details of how this Veda originally had been given to Sri
Yogeeswara Yagnavalkya will be seen elsewhere in this site. Sri Shukla Yajur
Veda originally had 15 Sakhas out of which only two Sakhas or branches, called
Madyandina and Kanva Sakhas are available at present. Madyandina Saha is more
In both the
Sakhas the Brahmana is called Sathapatha Brahmana. The name Sathapatha
literally means hundred paths. In the Indian tradition the word “sata” does not
indicate the exact number of one hundred, sometimes it means anything near
about one hundred. The Brahmanas are the earliest annotations of the hymns of
Samhita and serve as manuals for the performance of Vedic Sacrifices involving
the usage of hymns. In addition they also have some narratives and anecdotes to
explain the significance of the statements in Samhita and their usages in
particular contexts. Brahmanas thus enumerate the mental and physical
activities in consonance with the righteousness to reveal the nature of dharma
which will lead to other realizations by man like wealth (artha), enjoyment (
Krishna Yajurveda has three sakhas (branches) existing now and out of this only for one sakha, namely Taittriya the Brahamana is available whereas in Shukla Yajur Veda, Brahmanas are available in both Madyandina and Kanva Sakhas. Both the Brahmanas are called by the same name Sathapatha Brahmana. Both Sathapatha Brahamanas are divided into Kandas, Adhyayas, Brahmanas and Kandikas. In Madyandina Sathapatha Brahmana an additional sub division called Prapathakas exists where as it is not found in Kanva Sathapatha Brahmana. Madyandina Sathapatha Brahmana contains 14 Kandas, 100 Adhyayas, 68 Prapathakas, 436 Brahmanas and 7179 Kandikas whereas Kanva Sathapatha Brahmana contains 17 Kandas, 104 Adhyayas, 435 Brahmanas and 6806 Kandikas.
The word "Aranyaka" is derived from "aranya". "Aranya"means a forest. Neither in the Samhita nor in the Brahmana is one urged to go and live in a forest. Vedic rites like sacrifices are to be preformed by the householder (grhastha) living in a village. But after his mind is rendered pure through such rites, he goes to a forest as a recluse to engage himself in meditation. It is to qualify for this stage of vanaprastha, to become inwardly pure and mellow, that Vedic practices like sacrifices are to be followed.
The Aranyakas prepare one for one's stage in life as an anchorite. They expound the concepts inherent in the mantras of the Samhitas and the rites detailed in the Brahmanas. In other words, they explain the hidden meaning of the Vedas, their metaphorical passages. Indeed, they throw light on the esoteric message of our scripture. For the Aranyakas, more important than the performance of sacrifices is the awareness of their inner meaning and significance. According to present-day scholars, the Aranyakas incorporate the metaphorical passages representing the metaphysical inquiries conducted by the inmates of forest hermitages.
A number of books in English and Sanskrit are available and they are given under Bibliography.