Shrautasutras (श्रौतसूत्राणि)

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Shrautasutras (Samskrit: श्रौतसूत्राणि), as the name suggest, refers to the texts which have been derived from the Shruti or the Vedas. The Shrauta sutras contain a very detailed, meticulously accurate and vivid description of the several yajnas that were performed in the very ancient times. These works were manuals compiled for the practical purpose of giving directions to those who engaged in such yajnas. They are based on ancient Brahmana texts, which they quote at every step, many individual sutras being couched in the very language of the Brahmana texts.[1]

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

The Shrauta rituals cover a whole gamut of rituals from the simplest to the most complicated. Most of them are no more practiced, but their study is useful for historical reasons. According to Prof. Radhakrishna Bhat,

"Most of the ‘Haviryajnas’, ‘Agnihotra’, ‘Darsapurnamasa’ and ‘Caturmasya’ yajnas, the basic ‘Somayajnas’, ‘Agnistomas’ and its varieties, and some culturally and historically important yajnas like ‘Vajapeya’, “Asvamedha’, ‘Sarvamedha’ etc are found in ‘Yajurveda’ (Adhvaryuveda). Later in ‘Puranas’ the references to Vedic rituals and practices are found. In classical Sanskrit literature some references to Vedic rituals and practices are mentioned. This shows that the Vedic ritual tradition is continued to modern period too without any interruption". [2]

Authors and Commentators

The procedures for Shrauta karmas are compiled in Shrauta Sutras as given in the Kalpa Vedanga. Some of the Shrauta Sutras associated with particular vedas are as follows[3][4][5]

Shrautasutras Contents and Commentaries
Vedas Shakas Shrautasutra Contents Commentator and commentary
Rigveda Shakala and Bashkala Ashvalayana (आश्वलायनः) by Ashvalayana Rshi 12 Adhyayas[4] Gargya Narayana (Tika)
Bashkala? Shankhayana (शाङ्खायनः) by Suyajnacharya 18 Adhyayas[4] Aanartiya Tika (आनर्तीयः)
Kaushitaki None available
Shukla Yajurveda Vajasaneya Katyayana (कात्यायनः) 26 Adhyayas Bhartruyajna, Anantadeva
Krishna Yajurveda Taittriya Baudhayana (बौधायनः), 30 Prashnas Bhavasvami's Bhashya (1 -26 Prashnas), Sayanacharya (1st Prashna), Vasudeva Dikshit's Mahagnisarvasva (10th Prashna),
Apastamba (आपस्तम्बः), 24 Prashnas Dhurtasvami's Bhashya and Koushik Ramagnichit's Tika, Rudradatta's Bhashya (on 1-15 Prashnas), Kapardi Svami's Bhashya.
Vaikhanasa (वैखालसः) by Vikhana Muni (विखना मनिः) 21 Prashnas) Shrinivas Dikshit
Bharadvaja 15 Prashnas
Hiranyakeshi (हिरण्यकेशी) by Satyashada (सत्याषाढः) 1-18, 22, 23 Prashnas of the Charana (Total of 20 Prashnas) 1-6 and 21 Prashnas by Mahadeva Dikshit (Vyjayanti Tika), 7-10 Prashnas by Gopinath Dikshit (Jyotsna Tika)
Vadhula Vadhula (वाधूलः)[5] 15 Prapathakas
Maitrayani Manava (मानवः) 10 Bhagas
Varaha (वाराह)[3] 3 Adhyayas
Katha Kathaka (काठक) 39 Adhyayas Available as references only
Samaveda Kauthuma Arsheya (आर्षेयः) of Mashaka, 11 Adhyayas Varadaraja's Vivruti Tika.
Latyayana (लाट्यायनः) 10 Prapathakas Agnisvami's Bhashya
Rananiya Drahyayana (द्राह्यायनः) 31 Patalas Also called as Chandogasutras, Pradhanasutras and Vashistasutras. Dhanvin's Deepa bhashya.
Jaimini Jaiminiya (जैमिनीयः) 3 Khandas Bhavatrata and Jayant Bharadvaj
Atharvaveda Vaitana (वैतानः) 8 Adhyayas Somaditya's Akshepanuvidhi Bhashya

Besides these above mentioned Shrautasutras, and their commentators, there are many other western scholars who have brought out critical editions of these sutra texts and they are widely available. The above list is not exhaustive and work on preparing a comprehensive list of all the kalpa texts requires to be undertaken.

Subject matter of Shrautasutras

It is well known that Vedas are divided into three based on their subject matter; Karmakanda, Jnanakanda and Upasanakanda. The Vedas and vedic literature primarily describe the Karmakanda, manifesting as the innumerable activities of the Yajna system (यज्ञसंस्थाः). Yajnas are the integral part of Karmakanda in the Vedas. The Veda-mantras are recited and used to perform Yajnas, clearly showing the complete dependence on each other.[6] It is amply evident that without veda-mantras there are no yajnas and without yajnas there is no usage of veda-mantras. Manusmrti and Vishnudharmottara Purana reiterate that Vedas have originated for the conduct of Yajnas

दुदोह यज्ञसिद्ध्यर्थम्... (Manu. Smrt. 1.23)[7]

वेदास्तु यज्ञार्थमभिप्रवृत्ताः... (Vishnudharmmottara. Pura. 2.174)[8]

In these vaidika vangmaya texts, the composite social life and cultural activities centrally revolved around Yajnas. Yajnas formed the central theme of life in that ancient period of time and without the fundamental knowledge of the system of yajnas, vaidika dharmas, philosophies of darshana shastras and the socio-economic lifestyle of the people cannot be understood. These texts proclaim that Yajnas, decisively, were the best of Karmas (यज्ञो वै श्रेष्ठतमं कर्म।) extending their influence on all spheres of life.[9]

यज्ञाङ्ग स्वरूपम् ॥ Yajna-angas

An interesting concept Yajna-angas (यज्ञाङ्ग स्वरूपम्) may be considered, where the yajna-angas are equated to a person's physical and mental angas (शरीरादि अङ्गानि । body and other parts) representing the holistic role of each physical entity in the yajna purusha.[9]

Yajamana's-anga (physical and mental attributes) Yajna-anga (यज्ञाङ्गानि)
Atma Yajamana
Shraddha Yajamana patni
Yajamana's sharira Fuel in Yajna
Yajamana's hrdayam Yajnavedi
Yajamana's shika Handful of Kusha grass
Kamana (Desires) Ajya (the ghee offering)
Krodha (Anger) Pashu (the animal offering)
Tapasya (Penance) Agni (the fires)
Yajamana's offering of Dakshina (fee) Vani (the speech)
Eyes Adhvaryu (Rtvik)
Manas (Mind) Brahma (Rtvik)
Ears Agnit (अग्नीत्) rtviks

All the activities of a human being are also considered as yajnas; many of these are performed mentally as described in the Aranyakas and Upanishads.

यज्ञः ॥ Yajna

Yajna (यज्ञः) involves various activities of a human being as a part of his lifestyle as described in the Vaidika and Laukika sahitya. While there are many definitions about what constitutes Yajna, most commonly, it is characterized by the features of Devapuja, Yachana (याचना । requesting, asking, praying) for food and rains and utterance of Mantras (mostly of Yajurveda). Here Yachana (याचना) is of three kinds - people, in general, seeking food and other essentials from the Yajamana (one who does the yajna); yajamana praying to devatas for welfare of people, say, for good rains; devatas in turn asking that havis (food for devatas) be offered them from mankind. All these activities constitute Yajna. Nirukta explains above mentioned aspects clearly

यज्ञः कस्मात् । प्रख्यातं यजतिकर्म इति नैरुक्ताः । याच्ञः भवति इति वा । यजुरुन्नः भवति इति वा । बहुकृष्णाजिनः इति औपमन्यवः । यजूंषि एनं नयन्ति इति वा ।(Niru. 3.4.19)[10]

Matsyapurana (145.44)[11]and Brahmandapurana summarizes the five lakshanas of Yajna as follows

पशूनां द्रव्यहविषामृक्‌सामयजुषां तथा। ऋत्विजां दक्षिणायाश्च संयोगो यज्ञ उच्यते।। (Brahmanda. Pura. Purvabhaga. 32.47)[12]

Meaning : That activity which involves a coordination (of five activities) of collection of materials (pashu and others) for yajnas, Havis (ghee and others) offerings, Rk, Sama and Yajus mantras, Rtviks (priests), Dakshinas (fees given during yajnas) is called Yajna.[13]

Yajnas are classified into many kinds, but based on the origin of their procedures they are classified as Shrauta and Smarta Yajnas. Shrauta Yajnas are completely based on the mantras given in the Vedas whereas in Smarta Yajnas include recitation of Veda mantras, and Puranas and even Tantras are recited while performing the rites.[6]

Shrauta Yajnas


  1. Kane, Pandurang Vaman. (1941) History of Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law) Volume 2, Part 2. Poona : Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
  2. Radhakrishna Bhat, N. Vedic Ritual Tradition of Karnataka, Vedic Heritage Portal.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Purkayastha, Dipanjona (2014) Ph. D Thesis from Assam University : A Study of the Asvalayana srauta sutra with reference to the principal sacrifices
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gopal Reddy, Mudiganti and Sujata Reddy, Mudiganti (1997) Sanskrita Saahitya Charitra (Vaidika Vangmayam - Loukika Vangamayam, A critical approach) Hyderabad : P. S. Telugu University. (Pages 59-71)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1997) Samskrit Vangmay ka Brhad Itihas, Dvitiya Khand - Vedang. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Samskrit Sansthan (Pages 56-112)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pt. Shriveniram Sharma Gauda (2018) Yajna Mimamsa. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Vidyabhavan
  7. Manusmrti (Adhyaya 1)
  8. Vishnudharmottara Purana (Khanda 2 Adhyaya 174)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1997) Samskrit Vangmay ka Brhad Itihas, Dvitiya Khand - Vedang. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Samskrit Sansthan (Pages 112-121)
  10. Nirukta Shastra (Adhyaya 3)
  11. Matsya Purana (Adhyaya 145)
  12. Brahmanda Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 32)
  13. Tagare, G. V. (1958 First Edition) Brahmanda Purana. Part 1. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (Page 318)