Vedas and Upanishads- A Structural Profile

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Codification of the Vedas

It is believed that the potency of the Vedas started decaying with the departure of Bhagawan Sri Krishna from this world. Even this was considered to be a Divine Plan for the Kali Yuga as per which only a part of the glory and effulgence of the Vedas is to be left over from total extinction. This Divine Arrangement could be put through the agency of Sage Veda Vyasa. This sage was then not known under this name. His name was Dwaipayana as he was born in an island (Dweepa). He was considered as a manifestation of Bhagawan Sri Krishna himself for fulfilling a specific purpose in this world and hence he was known as Krishna Dwaipayana. He was also known as Badarayana.

The word ’Vyasa’ means an essay or composition. It also means dealing with a matter subject wise and classifying it suitably. As Krishna Dwaipayana did all these tasks for the proper study and understanding of the Vedas he became famous as Sage Veda Vyasa. His contribution to the codification of the Vedas is so great that he is more widely known as Veda Vyasa than by any other name. Sage Veda Vyasa collected all the Mantras in existence during his period, edited, codified and organized them into four groups which he taught to his four chief disciples. These are as under:

Name Of The Veda Taught To
Yajus Vaishampayana
Sama Jaimini
Atharvan Sumantu
Vedic Texts

The Vedas were mainly utilized in the performance of Yajnas (sacrifices) which were the most common form of early Vedic religion. Such uses of the Veda led to its division based upon the convenience of the chief priests conducting the sacrifices.

All the hymns used by the priest whose function was to invoke the deities to the sacrifice (who is called Hotra) became the Rig Veda. The part of the Veda used by the chief executor of the sacrificial rites (called Adhvaryu) formed Yajur Veda. Collection of all the musical chants to be sung by the concerned priest (called Udgatir, the singer) became Sama Veda. The rest of the hymns dealing with a variety of topics was called Atharva Veda which was assigned to a priest considered as the supervisor over the whole process of sacrifice (called Brahma).

Auxiliary and Subsidiary Texts of the Vedas

Because of the difficulty in understanding the Vedas, the sages evolved a system of auxiliaries to the Vedas known as I.Vedangas, II.Veda-Upangas both meaning the limbs of the Vedas, and III. Upa-Vedas meaning subsidiary parts of the Vedas,


They are six in number viz.

Title Subject Dealt With
1.Siksha Science of phonetics or pronunciation and intonation.
2.Vyakarana Science of the grammar of language
3.Nirukta Etymology or the science of origin, meaning and explanation of the Vedic words.
4.Chandas Prosody or science of composition of the hymns like meter, rhyme, paada etc. of the mantras
5.Jyotisha Astronomy and astrology mainly directed towards fixing up of auspicious moments for the performance of the Vedic sacrifices
6.Kalpa Science or manual of sacrificial rituals, both Vedic and domestic.

These are the six systems of Hindu philosophy which is known as Shad Darsanas.
They are:

Shad Darshana Or Six Systems Of Hindu Philosophy
Nyaya Vaiseshika Sankhya Yoga Poorva Mimamsa Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta.

C. Upa Vedas

They are called the subsidiary Vedas. They are four in number one attached to each Veda viz.

UPA VEDA Or Subsidiary Vedas
Title Subject Dealt with Veda to which attached
Ayurveda Science of life, of sound health including the art of preventing and curing diseases Rig Veda
Gandharva Veda Science of fine arts like music and dance Sama Veda.
Artha Veda Known as Artha-sastra science of economics, politics and statecraft Atharva Veda
Dhanurveda Science of archery and warfare Yajurvoda.

Vedas are thus a storehouse of knowledge needed for mankind, not merely spiritual but also secular or temporal. They are not compositions made in any one particular period. They are spread over a period of time; one group separated from the other probably by centuries and handed down from one generation to the other through word of mouth.

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