According to Skaanda Purana, Sootasamhitaa and Brahmaanda Purana, there were 107 branches of Yajurveda. Muktikopanishad states 109, the Mahaabhaashya of Patanjali quotes 100 and Sounaka in his Charanavyooha refers to the existence of 86 branches. It is our great misfortune that only five branches are available to us today.
- Krishna Yajurveda
- Sukla Yajurveda
Just as only one branch of Rigveda from among its 21 is available, five branches or sub-branches of Yajurveda are available today. Of these five, three - Taittireeya, Maitraayinee and Kata belong to the Krishna Yajurveda; two - Vaajasaneyee and Kanva samhitaa belong to Shukla Yajurveda.
The Krishna Yajurveda Samhitaa contains both prose and poetry. In the available three samhitaas the mantra and braahmana parts are found combined together. The Taittireeya samhitaa is classified into seven cantoes (Kaanda), 44 Prapaatakaas or chapters, 651 anuvaakas and 2198 kaandikas (mantras). Generally, each kaandika contains about 50 words. The commentaries written on this by Saayanaachaarya, Balakrishna Deekshita and Bhatta Bhaskara are available.
No elucidatory work on Krishna Yajurveda like the Kaatyaayaneeya "Sarvaanukramane" of Rigveda is found; and therefore, it is difficult to form a clear picture of the rishies etc. There are certainly a few references to the Kaanda rishies being worshipped. Perhaps, the names of 6 Kaandas are named after them. They are as follows: Praajaapatya, Soumya, Aagneya, Vaishvadeva, Svaayambhuva and Aaruna. A majority of devas of the Taittireeya are the Rigvedic devas.
Rudra is its principal deity. A complete chapter "Rudraadhyaaya" is devoted to Rudra. Shaakalya and Gaalava are the authors of the Kramapaata and Padapaata respectively. The 7th canto of this samhitaa contains the account of Maharshi Vasishta and Sudaasa, the solar dynasty monarch.
Tailanga and Draavida brahmanas call this Taittireeya Samhitaa as Aapastamba branch. There is remarkable similarity between the mantras of Rigveda and Taittireeya samhitaa. The Maitraayinee samhitaa of the Krishna Yajurveda contains 4 cantoes, 54 prapaatakas and 634 mantras.
The Charanavyooha claims this as the chief branch. It is also known as Kalaapashaakha. 6 classes of Maitraayinee branch are cited in the Charanavyooha. One was Maanava shaakha, the source of maanava dharma sutras that formed the basis for Manusmriti. The Kataka Samhitaa - Katashaakha is classified in 18 prapaatakas on the basic of the various sacrificial rituals.
The prapaatakas are named Sthaanaka in this samhitaa. There is not much difference between Maitraayinee and Kata branches. The Kataka branch brahmanas are found in Kashmir and those of Maitraayinee are found in Gujarat and the south.
Of the seventeen branches of Sukla Yajurveda the Vaajasaneya and Kanva Samhitaa are available in print form. The Vaajasaneya Samhitaa is the most popular all over the country. No other Samhitaa enjoys such practice, as does the Vaajasaneya. Lord Surya enumerated this Samhitaa to Yaagnyavalkya in the form of a Vaaji
i.e; a horse during mid day. Therefore this Samhitaa is known as Vaajasaneya or Maadhyandina. As it was attained from the sunrays, one branch is known as Shukla and the other Krishna.
Vaajasaneya Samhitaa is classified into 40 chapters and contains 303 Anuvaakaas, 1975 Khandikaas or mantras. There are 29,625 words in all and 88,875 letters. Mantras are found both in poetry and prose. The Rishi of the first chapter is Prajaapati and Dadhyan that of the last.
The first chapter deals with Dasapoornamaasa, the second with Pinda Pitruyagna and the third with Agnihotra and Chaaturmaasya. The most sacred and renowned Gayatri mantra appears or is dealt with in the context of Agnihotra.
Agnihotra is the subject covered from the fourth to eighth chapter, while the ninth deals with Rajasuya, the tenth with Sautramani. The eleventh to the eighteenth deals with Agni-chayana, which was the most important feature of Aaryan culture.
A majority of the mantra of these eighteen chapters is also found in the Taittireeya. The parisishta begins from the nineteenth chapter. The preparation of Soma is described in chapters till the 21st.
The 22nd to 25th chapters deal with the Ashwamedha sacrifice. The rest contain the details about Purushamedha, Sarvamedha, Pitrumedha and others. The 40th chapter forms the famous Isaavaasyopanishat. The followers of this branch pronounce SHA as KHA (both Hindi alphabets).
The Aaryans laid great emphasis on education for girls. They say Brahmacharini and well-educated girl should be given in marriage--(8.1) – A).
Of the five Samhitaas of Yajurveda that are available today, Saayanaacharya’s commentaries are available only on Taittireeya and Kanva. Regarding the most famous book of Vaidic literature, the Vaajasaneya Samhitaa, we have the commentaries written by Uvvata and Maheedhara.
The Brahmana literature of Yajurveda
The two most important features of the Vedas are – 1. Mantra 2. Brahmana. Both are interrelated. One of the meanings of the word Brahma is a sacrifice. As these books expound the sacrifices, they have come to be known as the Brahmanaas.
Rituals and the practical form of worship are the mainstays of any religion. If we discard the rites and ritualistic aspect of a religion, then that religion becomes lifeless and banal. Therefore the life-book of the Hindus are the Brahmanas. The quintessence of the samhitaa or mantra part cannot be understood properly unless one understands the Brahmanaas correctly. Thus they are so interrelated that sometimes it becomes difficult to differentiate between the Mantras and the Brahmanaas. Therefore it has been said – "Mantra Brahmanaatmako Vedah"--(Aapastamba paribhaashaa-31)
The Brahmana texts deal with the analytical process of establishing the correct meaning of the mantras, give detailed description and procedures of various rituals and sacrifices and their application, etymology and narrate the stories of ancient kings and sages. Thus we find the roots of the six Vedaangaas and the entire Sanskrit literature in the Brahmanaas.
Krishna Yajurveda’s Maitraayani and Kaataka samhitaas braahmanaas are inter-mixed with the mantras. Taittireeya Braahmana of the same samhita is available in print with Saayanaacharyaa’s commentary on it. The Taittireeya Braahmana contains all the three parts of kaanda, 25 prapaatakas and 308 anuvaakaas.
The four classes, the four-fold stages of life (Varnaashrama) and rules and guidelines to lead an ideal life are beautifully explained in detail. It also deals with the three svaras – udaatta, anudaatta and svaritaexplicitly. Topics pertaining to Braahmana literature such as Hetu, Nirvachana, Prashansaa, Ninda, Vidhi, Samshaya, Puraakalpa, Vyavadhaarana, Parakriti, Kalpanaa, Upamaana etc.., are dealt with in this Braahmana.
The Braahmana belonging to the Sukla Yajurveda is called Satapatha Braahmana associated with both the available samhitas Maadhyandina and Kaanva. This is so called because it contains a hundred chapters. The Satapatha Braahmana of Maadhyandina Saakha is very voluminous and is also known as Vaajasaneya Braahmana.
There are 14 cantos in the Satapatha. The first nine cantos explain the various sacrifices. The tenth contains Agnirahasya-the secret of fire. The tenth and eleventh chapters explain many things about Agni-Chayana. The 12th canto discusses Praayaschitta or atonement. Naramedha and Ashwamedha are the topics explained in the 13th canto.
Dushyanta, Shakuntala, their son Bharata, Satraajit, the king of Bharatas, their opponent Dhrutaraashtra, the king of Kaasi, Parikshit’s son Janamejaya and his brothers Bheemasena, Ugrasena and Srutasena also find mention in this canto. The 14th canto is known as Aaranyaka.
The Satapatha mentions about 33 devas – 8 Vasus, 11 Rudras, and 12 Aadityas, the sky and the earth. There are many scientific facts mentioned in Satapatha Braahmana. Food sustains life. Energy is attained from food therefore food is praised as soma. "Annam vai Somah (126.96.36.199). Man can not live without life force (Praana) for a single moment. Therefore, Praana is called Prajaapati" (188.8.131.52). It is understood from the 13.3.6 verse that 21 days were added every fourth year to update the year. The Ashvamedha sacrifice was performed during this year.
The Satapatha belonging to the Kaanva branch is somewhat similar to the Maadhandina branch. The lineage of Goutama rishi is described in the Satapatha.
In the concluding article on Yajurveda, we bring you the most prominent and meaningful Suktis(wise-sayings).
Bhadram karnebhihi srunuyaama
May we always hear auspicious and benign words.
Saotah protascha vibhooh prajaasu
That all pervading supreme lord is present in every being.
Sham nah kuru prajaabhyah
O Lord! Grant prosperity to our progeny/children.
Maa grudhah kasyasvidhanam
Do not covet others’ wealth.
Mitrasya chakshushaa sameekshaamahe
May we see everyone with a friendly gaze.
Vayam rashtre jaagruyaama purohitaah
May we be circumspect leaders in our country.
Tasmin ha tasthurbhuvanaani vishvaa
The whole universe rests on/in that supreme Lord.
Avoiding dishonesty I follow the truth.
Tameva viditvaati mrutyumeti
Man transcends death only by knowing the Brahman (supreme consciousness).
Bhootyai jaagaranam abhootyai svapanam
Being awake (knowledge) bestows prosperity and sleep (lethargy) is
the root cause for poverty.
Kurvanneveha karmaani jijivishecchatam samaah
Man should aspire to live for hundred years leading an industrious life.
Rtasya pathaa preta
Walk the path of truth.
Asmaakam santvaasishah satyaah
May our benedictions come true.
Adeenaah syaama sharadah shatam
May we live for hundred years without suffering poverty.
Tanme manah shivasankalpamastu
May my mind contemplate lofty thoughts.
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