Samhita (संहिता)

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Samhita (Samskrit: संहिता) literally means "put together, joined" and "a methodically, rule-based combination of text or verses". Samhita has been used as a synonym for Vedas and hence used in exchange for each other.

Each Veda has been sub-classified into four major text types[1] [2]

  • Samhitas (mantras and prayers)
  • Brahmanas (explanation of mantras and rituals)
  • Aranyakas (texts which give philosophical interpretation of the rituals)
  • Upanishads (texts discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge)

A collective study of Vedas and later text suggests that the compendium of Samhitas and associated Vedic texts were far larger than currently available. However, most have been lost at some point or over a period of Indian history.


परिचयः || Introduction

The Samhitas are considered to be basic revealed Vedic texts. These are recited in chain like arrangements of words, with no break, no punctuation, and order not be disturbed by arbitrary human meddling[3]

The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into

  • Karma-Kanda (procedures for Yajnas and other rites)
  • Upasana-Kanda (procedures for worship and meditation)
  • Jnana-Kanda (ways of sadhana for attaining the highest knowledge of Brahman)

The Samhitas and the Brahmanas constitute Karma-Kanda; the Aranyakas constitute Upasana-Kanda; and the Upanishads constitute Jnana-Kanda[4]

Another opinion states: "The Samhitas and the Brahmanas form the Karma-Kanda segment of the Vedas. They are apparently concerned with the ceremonial rites and rituals. The Aranyakas and the Upanishads form the Jnana-Kanda segment of the Vedas. They explicitly focus on the philosophy and spiritualism.[5]

Another learned author says: These are four different modes of expressing the same truths, each as a cross check against others so that misrepresentations are avoided, a method used and valid even today.[3]

According to Swami Sivananda, the Mantra-Samhitas are suktas in praise of the Vedic deity for attaining material prosperity here and happiness hereafter. They are mantras comprising prayers and incantations addressed to various deities, both subjective and objective. The Mantra portion of the Vedas is useful for the Brahmacharins.[2]

व्युत्पत्तिः || Etymology

Samhita is a Sanskrit word from the roots, sam (सं) and hita (हित), which mean "correct, proper" and "wholesome, arranged" respectively. The combination word thus means "put together , joined, compose, arrangement, place together, union" and "combination of letters according to euphonic rules, any methodically arranged collection of texts or verses".

Four Samhitas

The Samhitas form the first part of each of the Vedas. A Samhita is a collection of mantras, hence also referred to as the ‘Mantras’. Most of the mantras were concerned with the nature and addressed to the devi and devatas.

The Samhitas are named after the Vedas they belong to. For example, the Samhita of the Rigveda is called the Rigveda Samhita or the Rig Samhita.

ऋक् - संहिता || Rk Samhita

The Rigveda is the oldest, biggest of the four Vedas and the most highly valued work of the Hindus. This Samhita (Collection) is unique in its nature. The present form of this Samhita clearly indicates that the collection is not a single work, but consists of multiple elements, thus, intact through thousands of years are the seeds of India's religious and philosophical development. Various indications of language, style and ideas prove this point. The value of the Rigveda today is not confined to India, for its well-preserved language and mythology have helped a better understanding of languages, literatures and cultures of the whole world.

Swami Sivananda says: The Rig-Veda Samhita is the grandest book of the Hindus, the oldest and the best. Its immortal Mantras embody the greatest truths of existence, and it is perhaps the greatest treasure in all the scriptural literature of the World. Its priest is called the Hotri[4].

Different mantras of this Samhita were composed long before they were systematically arranged. Being a compilation of different stages, there is something which stamps the Rigveda with an individuality of its own. It is much more natural in character and form than other Samhitas.

Origin of Rk Samhita

Purusha sukta states that Richas (ऋचाः) arose from the Thousand-headed Purusha (स॒हस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः) who is yajna-swaroopa Himself.[6]

तस्माद्यज्ञात्सर्वहुत ऋच: सामानि जज्ञिरे । छन्दांसि जज्ञिरे तस्माद्यजुस्तस्मादजायत ॥९॥ (Rig. Veda. 10.90.9)[7]

tasmādyajñātsarvahuta r̥ca: sāmāni jajñirē । chandāṁsi jajñirē tasmādyajustasmādajāyata ॥9॥ (Rig. Veda. 10.90.9)

Structure of Rigveda

  • Samhita : Shakala samhita is the one surviving shaka available in entirety for Rigveda.[8]
  • Veda Vargeekarana of Rig Samhita includes the vibhajana (classification) of Rig Veda into Mandalas and Ashtakas apart from elucidating the nature of Valakhilya Suktas or Khila suktas.
  • The Samhita of the Rigveda in general comprises of 10 Mandalas, 85 Anuvakas, 1028 Suktas and 10552 Mantras. Usually Anuvaka is not mentioned for the reference of a Mantra of the Rigveda. For example Rig. Veda. 3.16.7 simply means the seventh Mantra of the sixteenth Sukta of the third Mandala of the Rigveda.
  • Vedic Language of Rigveda is believed to be the oldest even among the four vedas. The information regarding Vedic Language, the tones and accents used are explained in Shiksha part of the Vedaangas.

देवताः छन्दसः ऋत्विक् च ॥ Devatas, Chandas and Rtvik

Every Mantra of a Sukta has a Rishi (Mantra Drashta), a Devata (deity) and a Chandas (meter).   

Rigveda mantras are metered and chanted by the Hota (होता) (the Rigveda priest), to invoke the deities to the yajna.    

Important Rigvedic deities are Agni (अग्निः), Indra (इन्द्रः), Varuna (वरुणः), Ushas (उषस्), Savita (सविता), Pusha (पूषा), Mitra (मित्रः), Vishnu (विष्णुः), Rudra (रुद्रः), Marut (मरुत्) and Parjanya (पर्जन्यः). Gayatri (गायत्री), Jagati (जगती), Brhati (बृहती), Pankti (पङ्क्ती), Trishtubh (त्रिष्टुभ्) and Anustubh (अनुष्टुभ्) are widely used meters (Page No 7 of Reference[9]).   

विषयविभागः ॥ Vishayavibhaga

Taittriya Samhita emphasizes that practicing of karmas as prescribed by procedures given by Rks is stronger and those practiced by following the Sama (सामन्) and Yajus (यजुस्) will disintegrate.[6]

यद् वै यज्ञस्य साम्ना यजुषा क्रियते शिथिलं तत् । यद् ऋचा तद् दृढम् । (Tait. Samh.[10]

yad vai yajñasya sāmnā yajuṣā kriyatē śithilaṁ tat । yad r̥cā tad dr̥ḍham । (Tait. Samh.

While lot of yajnas involve chanting of Rks during their procedures, Rigveda samhita does not elaborate on any of the yajnas. The text material falls majorly into the following three categories.

स्तुतिपराः || Eulogical

The first group is in praise of the deities like Agni, lndra, Varuna, Mitra, Marut, Rudra, Ushas, Surya, Bhumi, and Soma,. The Vedic deities numbering 33 are assigned to the three regions of the universe  viz. Prithvi (पृथ्वी । Earth), Dyaus (द्यौस् । Heaven) and Antariksha (अन्तरिक्षम् । Intermediary space also called as ether). Although these deities appear as personifications of forces of nature, they are actually different facets of Brahman (ब्रह्मन्), the Only One Supreme Reality. Indra sukta, Varuna sukta are a few to name. The famous mantra on the unity of all deities, the Brahman occurs in this Samhita. 

एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्त्यग्निं यमं मातरिश्वानमाहुः ॥४६॥ (Rig. Ved. 1.164.46)[11]

ekaṁ sadviprā bahudhā vadantyagniṁ yamaṁ mātariśvānamāhuḥ ॥46॥

Meaning : Truth is one, learned call it by various names.

उपासनापराः ॥ Philosophical

The second group of mantras are concerned with philosophical speculations like the origin of the Universe and the real nature of human beings. Although the Samhita contains mantras in praise of the devatas, the concept of Vedanta is present at least in a rudimentary form. However, advocacy of worship of devatas with form and qualities - सगुणोपासना || Sagunopasana - is predominant. Various Rigveda mantras show एकदेवतावादः || eka-devata-vada or monotheism and not polytheism.

For example, the Samhita states that Prajapati (प्रजापतिः) creates the world out of Himself and rules over it; He is omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). He is ever perfect, infinitely compassionate, easily approachable by the devotees and He grants us immortality. But the idea about actual process of creation of the universe finds a place only in the later Vedantic literature i.e. the Upanishads (उपनिषदः). The concept of Brahman is clearer in the Upanishad parts.

इतिहासपराः ॥ Historical

The third group deals with several subjects like protection of cows, food and agriculture, trade, commerce, marriage, war strategy and defense, alloys, implements and tools etc., which show the nature of society of those times though not exactly historical. A just and equitable social order existed. However, social life was conditioned by spiritual consciousness. There was Samanvaya (समन्वयः) or harmony of life here and hereafter. Satya (सत्यम् । Truth) and Dharma (धर्मः। Righteousness) are glorified and Amritatva (अमृतत्वम् । Immortality) as the goal of life was accepted. Thus we see that the concept of Purusharthas were well adhered to by the people in Vedic age.

It may be noted that starting from Mandala 2 to Mandala 7 the collection of suktas involve those given by rishis of great lineages. Mandala 8 contains suktas given primarily by Kanva rishi. Mandala 9 includes suktas on the topic of Pavamana (Soma) given by rishis of different lineages.

Mandala 10 is considered modern than all the other mandalas based on the language, chandas, the devatas praised, social conditions, praise of charitable actions (danastuti), and philosophical views in mantras. The concept of Universal Supreme Being (Hiranyagarbha, Purusha and Prajapati) first arose in this mandala.[6]

 प्रसिद्धाः विषयाः ॥ Famous Aspects [9]

Among the 1028 Suktas of the Rigveda Samhita some suktas are very popular and frequently referred by the readers of Vedas. Some of them are: [12]

Apart from the suktas, some Samvada Suktas (dialogue hymns)[6] are also widely discussed such as :

  • Urvasi Pururava Samvada (ऊर्वसी-पुरूरवा-संवादः in Rigveda. 10.85)
  • Yama Yami Samvada (यम-यमी-संवादः in Rigveda. 10.10)
  • Sarama and Pani Samvada (सरमा-पणि-संवादः in Rigveda. 10.130)

Some of these discussions are presented in Puranas.

Examples of Rigveda Sukta

It begins with a sukta to Agni and concludes with a sukta to the same deity. Agni sukta (01.01.01)[13]

Rishi : Madhucchanda Visvamitra, Devata : Agni, Chandas: Gayatri goes as follows

अग्निसूक्तम् in प्रथमं मण्डलम्।

९ मधुच्छन्दा वैश्वामित्रः । अग्निः।  गायत्री।

अ॒ग्निमी॑ळे पु॒रोहि॑तं य॒ज्ञस्य॑ दे॒वमृ॒त्विज॑म् । होता॑रं रत्न॒धात॑मम् ॥१

अ॒ग्निः पूर्वे॑भि॒र्ऋषि॑भि॒रीड्यो॒ नूत॑नैरु॒त । स दे॒वाँ एह व॑क्षति ॥२

अ॒ग्निना॑ र॒यिम॑श्नव॒त् पोष॑मे॒व दि॒वेदि॑वे । य॒शसं॑ वी॒रव॑त्तमम् ॥३

अग्ने॒ यं य॒ज्ञम॑ध्व॒रं वि॒श्वत॑: परि॒भूरसि॑ । स इद् दे॒वेषु॑ गच्छति ॥४

अ॒ग्निर्होता॑ क॒विक्र॑तुः स॒त्यश्चि॒त्रश्र॑वस्तमः । दे॒वो दे॒वेभि॒रा ग॑मत् ॥५

यद॒ङ्ग दा॒शुषे॒ त्वमग्ने॑ भ॒द्रं क॑रि॒ष्यसि॑ । तवेत् तत् स॒त्यम॑ङ्गिरः ॥६

उप॑ त्वाग्ने दि॒वेदि॑वे॒ दोषा॑वस्तर्धि॒या व॒यम् । नमो॒ भर॑न्त॒ एम॑सि ॥७

राज॑न्तमध्व॒राणां॑ गो॒पामृ॒तस्य॒ दीदि॑विम् । वर्ध॑मानं॒ स्वे दमे॑ ॥८

स न॑: पि॒तेव॑ सू॒नवे ऽग्ने॑ सूपाय॒नो भ॑व । सच॑स्वा नः स्व॒स्तये॑ ॥९

As seen in the above example, the Vedic mantras are notated with lines above and below the letters which indicate the svara or tone of the particular letter in which it has to be uttered. The Gayatri mantra is among the famous Hindu mantras. It is found in Rig Veda Samhita.

ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात् (Rig Veda 3.62.10)
Oṁ Bhūr Bhuva~Swah', Tat savitur varenyam, Bhargo devasya dhīmahi, Dhiyo yo nah prachodayāt (Rig Veda 3.62.10)
Meaning : Let us meditate on that excellent glory of the divine Light (Sun). May he inspire our thoughts, stimulate our understandings.

The concluding sukta of the Rgveda (10.191) also has Agni as Devata and should be regarded as having a higher significance than the national anthem of any country: it is a prayer for amity among all nations, a true international anthem.[13]

Rishi : Samvanana Angirasa, Devata : Agni, Chandas: Anusthub and Tristubh

संगठन सूक्तम्

४ संवनन आङ्गिरसः। १ अग्निः,२-४ संज्ञानम्। अनुष्टुप्, ३ त्रिष्टुप्।

संस॒मिद्यु॑वसे वृष॒न्नग्ने॒ विश्वा॑न्य॒र्य आ । इ॒ळस्प॒दे समि॑ध्यसे॒ स नो॒ वसू॒न्या भ॑र ॥१

सं ग॑च्छध्वं॒ सं व॑दध्वं॒ सं वो॒ मनां॑सि जानताम् । दे॒वा भा॒गं यथा॒ पूर्वे॑ संजाना॒ना उ॒पास॑ते ॥२

स॒मा॒नो मन्त्र॒: समि॑तिः समा॒नी स॑मा॒नं मन॑: स॒ह चि॒त्तमे॑षाम् । स॒मा॒नं मन्त्र॑म॒भि म॑न्त्रये वः समा॒नेन॑ वो ह॒विषा॑ जुहोमि ॥३

स॒मा॒नी व॒ आकू॑तिः समा॒ना हृद॑यानि वः । स॒मा॒नम॑स्तु वो॒ मनो॒ यथा॑ व॒: सुस॒हास॑ति ॥४

Meaning : "May mankind be of one mind, " it goes. "May it have a common goal. May all hearts be united in love. And with the mind and the goal being one may all of us live in happiness".

यजुर्वेद-संहिता ॥ Yajus Samhita

Yajus samhita deals with the karmakanda and yajnas, serving practically as manuals to perform yajnas.

Structure of Yajurveda

The textual organization of Yajurveda is significantly different from that of Rigveda with both गद्यम् (gadya । prose) and छन्दस् (chandas । metrical) constructs. More information about the divisions of Yajurveda into prapathakas and anuvakas, shakas is available in Veda Vargeekarana article. To summarize

  • The Yajurveda is two-fold-     1. The Shukla Yajurveda             2. The Krishna  Yajurveda
  • The Krishna Yajurveda is characterised by a mixture of mantra and brahmana whereas the Shukla Yajurveda maintains the clear separation of the two.
  • The Shukla Yajurveda is related with the Aditya-school and the Krishna Yajurveda is related with the Brahma-school.
  • Shukla Yajurveda has two samhitas : माध्यन्दिन-संहिता || Maadhyandina and कण्व-संहिता || Kanva
  • Krishna yajurveda has four Samhitas : मैत्रायणि || Maitrayani, कथा || Katha, कपिस्थल-कथा || Kapisthala-Katha, तैत्रिय || Taittiriya

In its character Yajurveda is quite different from the Rigveda & Samaveda Samhitas. It is principally in prose form. The Yajur-Veda Samhita is meant to be used by the Adhvaryu (अध्वर्युः), the Yajur-Vedic priest, for explanation of rites, supplementing the Rig Vedic Mantras[14].

देवताः छन्दसः ऋत्विक् च ॥ Devatas, Chandas and Rtvik

The devatas praised in Yajurveda are the same as in Rigveda because a majority of mantras in Yajurveda are drawn from there. The Yajurvedic procedural details are recited and conducted by अध्वर्युः || Adhvaryu for the proper performance of Yajnas. In Shukla Yajurveda, the mantras have the same chandas as in Rigveda from where they have been taken.

In the context of Rishis in Yajurveda, 3 types of categories are seen

  1. आदिद्रष्टा ॥ Adidrasta is the first rishi to whom the veda was revealed to. It was Maharshi Vedavyasa (महर्षिः वेदव्यासः) who received Vedas in a single form but later codified them and gave the Rigveda to Paila (पैलः), Yajurveda to Vaishampayana (वैशम्पायनः). From Vaishampayana, his students Yajnavalkya (याज्ञवल्क्यः) and others received the knowledge. It is also said that since Shukla Yajurveda was received later from Aditya (आदित्यः) or Vivasvan (विवस्वान् ), he is also considered as the mantra drashta (मन्त्रद्रष्टा).[15]
  2. प्रकरणऋषिः ॥ Prakaranarishi is one who is associated with each prakarana (प्रकरणम् or section) of the Yajurveda. For example, for Darsapurnamasa prakarana (दर्शपूर्णमासप्रकरणम्), the rishi is Prajapati (प्रजापतिः).
  3. वैयक्तिकऋषिः॥ Vaiyaktikarishi is the category which includes all the rishis who praised the deities and practiced particular rituals to attain mantrasiddhi (मन्त्रसिद्धिः).[15]

विषयः || Vishaya (Content)

The Yajurveda is a ritual Veda for it is essentially a guide-book for the Adhvaryu priest who had to do practically all ritualistic works in a yajna. His works vary from the selection of a plot of land for the yajna vedi down to offering oblations to the sacred fires. The Yajurveda-Samhitas are the mantra6-books for the Adhvaryu priest.

  • It is mainly meant for the purposes of yajnas, yagas and related rituals.
  • The Yajurveda is also important for its presentation of philosophical doctrines. It preaches the concept of Prana and Manas also.
  • Depicting religious and social life of the Vedic people, it is also known for giving certain geographical data.

Whether Krishna or Shukla, both the shakhas of Yajurveda deal primarily with the karmakanda (कर्मकाण्डः) and are also called yajnakanda (यज्ञकाण्डः)[16]. All the shakha texts deal with detailed descriptions of Shrauta yajnas (श्रौतयज्ञाः) like Rajasuya (राजसूयः), Vajapeya (वाजपेयः), Somayaga (सोमयागः) etc. Krishna Yajurveda is considered older than the Shukla Yajurveda.[17]

For example, in Madhyandina samhita (माध्यन्दिन-संहिता), the yajna kriyas for Darshapurnamasa (दर्शपूर्णमासः), Agnihotra (अग्निहोत्रम्), Chaturmasya (चातुर्मास्यम्), Agnistoma (अग्निष्टोमः), Nirudhapasubandha, Chayanayajna, Sautramani, Ashvamedha (अश्वमेधः), Vajapeya (वाजपेयः), Rajasuya etc among other yajnas and Ishtis (इष्टि-s) are present. Due to excessive intake of Soma, Indra the chief of devatas, developed some afflictions which was cured by Asvini devatas by conducting Sautramini yajna. Thus we see that yajnas were conducted with some desires like regaining lost kingdoms, cattle and progeny (kamyakarma). Asvamedha yajna was performed by kings to attain the position of Chakravarti (emperor).[6] More about the Yajnas is dealt with in a separate article.

प्रसिद्धाः मन्त्राः ॥ Famous Mantras

  • The popular mantras in praise of Lord Siva - SriRudraprashna (श्रीरुद्रप्रश्नः) – finds a place in this Veda (Adhyaya 16 of Taittriya Samhita).
  • The other famous sukta, Purusha Sukta (पुरुषसूक्तम्) also occurs here additionally with 6 mantras as compared to Rigveda version (Adhyaya 31 of Tattriya samhita).
  • In the 34th Adhyaya of the Taittriya Samhita the first six mantras are called as 'Shivasankalpa Upanishad'.
  • The 40th Adhyaya is the Ishavasyopanishad (ईशावास्योपनिषद्); this is the only instance where an Upanishad is associated with the Samhita.

सामवेद-संहिता ॥ Samaveda Samhita

The Sama Samhita contains mantras in the form of songs meant for liturgy or public worship. The Samaveda is shortest of all the four Vedas. It is closely connected with the Rigveda. It is meant to be sung by the Udgatri (उद्गाता), the Sama-Vedic priest[14] thus the Samaveda-Samhita is the song-book of the Udgata priest.

It is important to note that the Samhita of the Samaveda is an independent collection (Samhita), yet it has taken many verses, a large number indeed, from the Samhita of Rigveda. These verses are chiefly derived from the eighth and the ninth Mandalas of the Rigveda.

Structure of Samaveda

  • The Samaveda samhita comprises two major parts namely
    • Gana (गानम्) containing melody information.
    • Arcika (आर्चिक) contains the mantras.
  • According to the ancient tradition, told by Patanjali, the Samaveda had 1000 Shakhas. But at present there are only three Shakas. These are – (1) कौथुम || Kauthuma, (2) जैमिनीय || Jaiminiya, (3) राणायनीय || Ranayaniya.
  • गान ॥ Gana texts contain the information about how Samagana is to be sung. While singing the mantras, matras (मात्रा) such as deergha (दीर्घः), pluta (प्लुतः), and pathapaddhati (पाठपद्धतिः । recitation methods) are clearly mentioned in these texts.
  • Sama Gana or singing of mantras as per the rules of Sama Veda is said to be the basis and source of the seven svaras or notes fundamental to the Indian music systems. According to Narada Shiksha, the svaramandala of sama are given as 7 svaras (स्वराः), 3 grama (ग्रामम्), 21 murchna (मूर्छना) and 49 tana (तानम्). [6]

देवताः छन्दसः ऋत्विक् च ॥ Devatas, Chandas and Rtvik

All the mantras of the Samaveda are sung by the Udgata (उद्गाता) priest during Somayajna. Unlike Rigveda, deities of Samaveda are predominantly Agni, Indra and Soma.[8]

विषयः || Vishaya (Content)

It is said in Brhaddevata that those who know the Samaveda knows the secret of Vedas.[6]

सामानि यो वेत्ति स वेद तत्त्वम् । sāmāni yō vētti sa vēda tattvam ।

In Chandogya Upanishad, proclaims that Udgita is the gist of all of Samaveda. Udgita is the other name of Omkar. Thus, Samaveda proclaims the reverence to Omkar given in all Vedas.

साम्न उद्गीथो रसः । sāmna udgīthō rasaḥ ।

It is also said here that Angirasa maharshi, while teaching Vedas to SriKrishna, first taught Samagana vidhi (सामगान-विधिः) called "Chalikhya" to Him, in which He attained perfection and played it on His flute.[9]

Similarly, in the Lalita Sahasranama (ललिता सहस्रनामम्), one of the epithets used to describe the Divine Mother is Sama Gana Priye (सामगानप्रिये । one who is pleased with the recital of Saman).

Traditionally the three Vedas are spoken as'Trayi (त्रयी), because they are composed of three kinds in mantras- Rks or verses, Yajus or prose, Saman or chants.

Here Indra, Agni and Soma deities are mainly invoked and praised but most of the time these prayers seem to be the invocations for the Supreme Being. In the spiritual sense Soma represents All-pervading Brahman, who is attainable only through devotion and musical chanting. Thus major theme of the Samaveda can be regarded as worship and devotion (Upasana).[9]

प्रसिद्धाः विषयाः ॥ Famous Aspects

Firstly, the famous Chandogya Upanishad belongs to this veda. Many deep philosophical thoughts are associated with this Upanishad given in the form of samvaada suktas (dialogue hymns).

Secondly, Bharatamuni (भरतमुनिः), the author of Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्रम्), cites Samaveda as the origin of music.[18]

जग्राह पाठ्यं ऋग्वेदात्‌, सामभ्यो गीतमेव च यजुर्वेदादभिनयान्‌ रसमाथर्वणादपि।। (Naty. shas. 1.17)

jagrāha pāṭhyaṃ ṛgvedāt‌, sāmabhyo gītameva ca yajurvedādabhinayān‌ rasamātharvaṇādapi।। (Naty. shas. 1.17)

Meaning : Samaveda is the origin of geeta (गीतम् । music).

सामवेदादिदं गीतं संजग्राह पितामहः (Sang. Ratn. 1.25)

sāmavedādidaṃ gītaṃ saṃjagrāha pitāmahaḥ (Sang. Ratn. 1.25)

Meaning : Brahma (ब्रह्मा) collected musical notes (गीतम् । geeta) from Samaveda.

According to Sarangadeva (सारङ्गदेवः), the author of Sangeeta Ratnakara (सङ्गीतरत्नाकरम्), musical notes in words arose from Samaveda texts.[18]

अथर्ववेद-संहिता ॥ Atharvaveda Samhita

The Atharvaveda Samhita is meant to be used by the Brahma, the Atharva-Vedic priest, to correct the mispronunciations and wrong performances that may be accidentally be committed by the other three priests[14].

The Atharva-Samhita, contains mantras meant for routine rites and rituals. Atharvan (अथर्वन्) denotes directions and mantras especially in connection to ward off evil and hardship and also contains philosophical thoughts. 'Atharvan' originally means 'priest' and the Mantras in the Atharvaveda-Samhita were brought to light by Rishi Atharva.

Structure of Atharvaveda

  • It is the Shaunaka-Samhita that is frequently meant when the Atharvaveda is mentioned in ancient and modern literature. It is a collection of 730 Suktas containing 5987 Mantras, divided into 20 Kandas with 36 Prapathakas. Some 1200 mantras are derived from the Rigveda.[19]. Veda vargeenkarana of Atharvaveda has more information regarding the structure and shakas.
  • About one sixth of the text of the Atharvaveda including two entire books (15 and 16) is written in prose, similar in style and language to the Brahmanas, the rest of the text is in metered structure.
  • According to Patanjali, Atharvaveda had nine Shakhas, but the Samhita of the Atharvaveda is today available only in two recensions - शौनक ॥ Shaunaka and पैप्पलादः ॥ Paippalada.

देवताः छन्दसः ऋत्विक् च ॥ Devatas, Chandas and Rtvik

Like Rigveda from where Atharvanaveda takes a significant part, the chandas here includes Anustup, Tristup along with many other new chandas or metrical forms.  

Worship of many devatas is also seen along with the acceptance of the Brahman as Supreme Being. No other vedic text has such extensive yet minute description of Him as seen in the Atharvasamhita. Many viewpoints of Brahmatattva have been discussed in this veda and the concept of Brahmavidya elaborated in the Upanishads is borrowed from here.  

The rtvik of Atharvaveda is Brahma (ब्रह्मा) who supervises the conduct of the Yajnas. 

विषयः || Vishaya (Content)

As the Atharvaveda Samhita (अथर्ववेदसंहिता) has some special features, it stands apart from the other three Vedas. It deals with worldly things and the yajnas mentioned here are utilized as a means to acquire them. Amidst mundane subjects high philosophical ideas are found in this Veda.

  • It contains numerous Mantras, which according to their subject-matter, can be broadly divided into three categories:[6]
    1. Adhidaivata (अधिदैवतम्) : Related to different deities, yajna and their timing.
    2. Adhibhuta (अधिभूतम्) : Related to kings, wars, governance, protection.
    3. Adhyatma (अध्यात्मम्) : Related to the nature of Supreme Reality, time, death and immortality.

This Veda contains many types of mantras for the following worldly or materialistic purposes [6][19]

  • भैषज्यसूक्तानि || Bhaishjyasuktas (Medicinal Suktas) - The Atharvaveda is the oldest literary monument of Indian medicine. It is believed to be the origin of Ayurveda, the Indian science of medicine. We find mention and application of medicines and medicinal herbs which distinguishes the Atharvaveda from the rest of the Vedas. There are a series of mantras
    • related to cure of various physical (fevers, poisons) and mental diseases
    • related to physical strength
    • for protection from the bite of snakes or injurious insects
    • to ward off evils and supernatural forces such as demons
  • आयुष्यसूक्तानि || Ayushyasuktas (Longevity Suktas) - For longevity many mantras are given in this veda. Chanted particularly during family festivities such as the head-shaving ceremony for children, upanayana etc. Mantras for long lifespan, preventing certain diseases, warding of apamrityu (अपमृत्यु । untimely death) and wearing amulets for protection (रक्षासूत्रम्) are described at length.
  • पौष्टिकसूक्तानि || Paushtikasuktas (Suktas for Abundance) - In this section prayers for construction of house, bringing ploughs, sowing seeds and growing foodgrains, wellbeing of tradesmen who go overseas for trade and other such matters are dealt with. Example : a beautiful description of rain and for abundance of rains a prayer is given (वृष्टिसूक्तम्).
  • प्रायश्चित्तसूक्तानि || Prayaschittasuktas (Suktas for Expiation_ - Expiatory measures for removal of sins accrued from wrong actions (known and unknown) is the major topic dealt in this section. Actions which are deviations from what is prescribed in dharmashastras, such as marriages outside the framework of the shastras, younger brother getting married before the older one etc are to be remedied. Remedies for badP omens, dreams, inflictions, mantras to dispel the inauspicious effects of birth in certain nakshatras are described.
  • स्त्रीकर्मसूक्तानि || Strikarmasuktas (Suktas related to Women) - Matters related to women, marriage, love, gaining male progeny, winning over husband's affection are narrated including mantras to ward of other women from eyeing her husband. Such actions that are performed with a negative intent and bring evil to another person is called Abhicharika kriya (आभिचारिक क्रिया) where even death of a person can also be brought about.
  • राजकर्मसूक्तानि || Rajakarmasukatas (Suktas related to Rajas) - Rajas and rajaneeti (राजनीतिः) including statecraft, defense systems of the country, training for soldiers, winning strategy in wars, building war vehicles such as chariots, instruments and effects of their sounds such as dundhubhhi (Dundubhi sukta 5.20.5), shanka (counch), elections of kings and chiefs are extensively given, hence this veda is named as Kshtraveda also. Sukta for the reinstatement of a banished king (Athar. Veda. 3.3) is described vividly.
  • भूमिसूक्तम् || Bhumisuktas (Sukta related to Earth) - Comprising of 63 mantras the greatness of the motherly earth is poetically described in this section. Details of the devatas protecting the earth are explained. Atharvana rishi extols the greatness of mother land in the following way

माता भूमिः पुत्रोऽहं पृथिव्याः । mātā bhūmiḥ putrō'haṁ pr̥thivyāḥ (Athar. Veda. 12.1.12)

Meaning : Earth (bhumi) is my mother and I am her son.

  • ब्रह्मण्यसूक्तानि || Brahmanyasuktas (Suktas related to Brahman) - Related to Supreme Reality, Immortality and other philosophical matters, this section outlines the process of Creation and emergence of the Universe. Brahma the Creator is praised in different forms namely Virat (विराट्) Brahma (ब्रह्मा) Skambh (स्कम्भ) Rohita (रोहित) Vratya (व्रात्य) Ucchishta (उच्छिष्ट) Prana (प्राण) Svargodan (स्वर्गौदन) in this samhita.

The अथर्ववेदः ॥ Atharvaveda was not considered as a Veda in the Vedic era, and was accepted as a Veda during later ages; though some schools do not consider it so even in modern era.

The Atharvaveda has been a primary source for information about Vedic culture, their customs and beliefs, the social economic conditions, agricultural and scientific matters, the requirements of people in everyday life in Vedic era ranging from mantras for snakes to those associated with kings and governance and deep philosophical matters.

प्रसिद्धाः विषयाः ॥ Famous Aspects

  • पृथ्वीसूक्तम् || Prthvi Sukta
  • मधुविद्यासूक्तम् ॥ Madhuvidya Sukta
  • Kanda 15 is called Vratya kanda (व्रात्यकाण्डः). It deals about people whose origin and nature is debated by many scholars, and they did not follow any kind of vaidika kriyas (वैदिकक्रियाः), nor had respect for any rituals.[9]


  1. A Bhattacharya (2006), Hindu Dharma: Introduction to Scriptures and Theology, ISBN 978-0595384556, pages 8-14
  2. 2.0 2.1 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 29
  3. 3.0 3.1 Insights Into the Taittiriya Upanishad, Dr. K. S. Narayanacharya, Published by Kautilya Institute of National Studies, Mysore, Page 75 (Glossary)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 30-31
  5. Indian Scriptures Website
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1958) Vaidik Sahitya.
  7. Rig Veda (Mandala 10 Sukta 90)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pt. Shriram Adhikari's Article : Rigved ka parichay evam vaishistya on Vedic Heritage Portal
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Gopal Reddy, Mudiganti and Sujata Reddy, Mudiganti (1997) Sanskrita Saahitya Charitra (Vaidika Vangmayam - Loukika Vangamayam, A critical approach) Hyderabad : P. S. Telugu University
  10. Taittriya Samhita (Kanda 6 Prapathaka 5)
  11. Rig Veda (Mandala 1 Sukta 164)
  12. Rigveda Introduction on Vedic Heritage Portal
  13. 13.0 13.1 Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamiji, (2000) Hindu Dharma (Collection of Swamiji's Speeches between 1907 to 1994)Mumbai : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 32
  15. 15.0 15.1 Yajurveda Samhita (Hindi Translation)
  16. Topic : Yajus samhita from Vaidika Vangmayasya itihasa bharatiya samskriti cha, Volume: Vedaparichaya by Rastriya Samskrit Samsthan.
  17. Regmi, Sri Rishiramji. Article : Yajurved ka Sankshipth Parichay available in Vedic Heritage Portal.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Adhikari, Shriram Article : Samaved ka parichay evam vaisishtya from Vedic Heritage Portal
  19. 19.0 19.1 Introduction to Atharva Veda Samhita from Vedic Heritage Portal