Vedapatha Paddhati (वेदपाठपद्धतिः)

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Vedapatha Paddhati (Samskrit: वेदपाठपद्धतिः) was devised by rshis (Vedic seers) as a means of protecting and preserving the text of Vedas (वेदाः) letter by letter, with all their accessories and accents. Committing to memory and passing on the knowledge through oral tradition was the primary transmission method of the Vedas.

Disciples reading scriptures Courtesy: Permitted to use Copyrighted Images from the Book "Sarwang" Published by Adivasi Lok Kala Evam Boli Vikas Academy, Madhya Pradesh Sanskriti Parishad

परिचयः || Introduction

Vedic mantras have स्वराः || Svaras (accents) which preserve its original form of word- construction. Thus, Vedas are not just textual, which were later on in written format but comprise of intonations, pitch, accents, pronunciation, time duration and of fine nuances of human element which cannot be captured on manuscript or paper. Hence, existence of volumes of printed material is of minimal use as the real authority is vested with those very few scholars, who are remaining, keeping the age old tradition of recitation alive.

The modes of chanting prescribe the basics like how much time one has to take for reciting a word, how to regulate breathing while reciting so that required vibrations are produced in the specific parts of the body which will yield pure word-sound. That preservation of the vedas was the aim of different पाठपद्धति-s || pathapaddhatis is given by many scholars. According to Dr. Bhandarkar[1]

"The object of these different arrangements is simply the most accurate preservation of the sacred text."(Indian Antiquary, 1874)

In Rigvedic India by Shri Avinash Chandra Das,[1]

"These hymns, however, were not committed to writing on papyrus, palm-leaves, or baked clay-bricks, but to human memory carefully cultivated for the purpose and were handed down from generation to generation without the loss of even a single word or syllable."

पाठः || Patha

Shabdakalpadruma refers to Patha (पाठः) as विधिना वेदस्याभ्यसनम् । Vidhina Veda Abhyasana or methodical practice of the Vedas, which refers to the traditional chanting of the Vedas in a specific method as instructed by the Gurus. Since the guru-shishya parampara was the primary mode of transmission of Vedas शिष्याणामध्यापनम् । teaching to the students also constitutes Patha.

Veda Patha consists of recitation of specific mantras with the prescribed intonation, pitch and matras etc according to the specifications, a few of which are mentioned, in Vaidika Bhasha Lakshanas which are significantly different from the rules applied in Classical Samskrit. The following sections give an insight about the ways in which recitations are performed and how they aided in the preservation of Vedas when such schemes were committed to memory.

प्रकृतिपाठः || Prakrti Patha

We see three basic ways in which the mantras are recited

  1. संहितापाठः || Samhita Patha –   in which Mantra (मन्त्रः) remains in its true form.
  2. पदपाठः || Pada Patha-   in which each word of a Mantra (मन्त्रः) is separately spoken.
  3. क्रमपाठः || Krama Patha-  in which two words of Mantra (मन्त्रः) are spoken jointly as  क-ख, ख-ग ॥ Ka-kha, kha-ga.

ऋग्वेदसंहिता ॥ Rigveda samhita was of two divisions. The following forms of Samhita Patha recitation are explained using ऋग्वेदमन्त्रः ॥ Rigveda mantra (1.1.1) अग्निमीळे पुरोहितम् ॥ agnimīḻe purohitam ॥

  • निर्भुजसंहिता || Nirbhuja Samhita : मन्त्राः ॥ Mantras are in true form as in अग्निमीळे पुरोहितम् ॥ agnimīḻe purohitam ॥ This form is also called as आर्षीसंहिता ॥ Arshi Samhita
  • प्रतृणसंहिता || Pratrna Samhita : This is of two types.
    1. पदसंहिता || Pada Samhita : Each word of a मन्त्रः ॥ Mantra is uttered separately with a pause after each word as in अग्निम् ईडे, पुरःऽहितम् || agnim īḍe, puraḥ'hitam ||
    2. क्रमसंहिता || Krama Samhita : Each word of a मन्त्रः ॥ Mantra is uttered along with the next word in a sequence as in अग्निम् ईडे; ईडे पुरोहितम् ; पुरोहितमिति पुरःऽहितम् ॥[1]agnim īḍe; īḍe purohitam ; purohitamiti puraḥ'hitam ॥

The above forms of recitation are also called as प्रकृतिपाठः || Prakriti Patha[2] From the Krama Samhita one can note that the Vikriti pathas have arisen.

विकृतिपाठः || Vikrti Patha

Memorization of the sacred Vedas included up to eleven forms of recitation of the same text. These texts were subsequently "proof-read" by comparing the different recited versions. This ensured their verbatim preservation through ages of time. Based on the क्रमसंहिता || Krama Samhita eight methods of recitation are given by व्याडि-ऋषिः || Vyadi Rishi in व्याडिविकृतिवल्ली ॥ Vyadi Vikrtavalli[1]

जटा माला शिखा लेखा ध्वजो दण्डो रथो घनः | अष्टौ विकृतयः प्रोक्ता क्रमपूर्वा मनीषिभिः | (विकृतिवल्ली 1.5)

jaṭā mālā śikhā lekhā dhvajo daṇḍo ratho ghanaḥ | aṣṭau vikṛtayaḥ proktā kramapūrvā manīṣibhiḥ | (vikṛtivallī 1.5)

The following were eight ways of memorizing Vedas.[2][3]

  1. जटापाठः || Jatapatha
  2. मालापाठः || Malapatha
  3. शिखापाठः || Shikhapatha  
  4. रेखापाठः || Rekhapatha (लेखापाठः || Lekhapatha)  
  5. ध्वजपाठः || Dhvajapatha
  6. दण्डपाठः || Dandapatha
  7. रथपाठः || Rathapatha
  8. घनापाठः || Ghanapatha

Patapaddhatis - Examples

An example of a few of these vikriti pathas are given below for the mantra from Rigveda.

मन्त्रः ॥ Mantra

ओषधयः सं वदन्ते सोमेन सह राज्ञा । यस्मै कृणोति ब्राह्मणस्तं राजन्पारयामसि ॥२२॥ (Rigveda 10.97.22)[4]

oṣadhayaḥ saṃ vadante somena saha rājñā । yasmai kṛṇoti brāhmaṇastaṃ rājanpārayāmasi ॥22॥ (Rig Veda 10.97.22)

पदपाठः || Pada Patha

Scheme for Pada Patha : (1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6 indicate ओषधयः । सं । वदन्ते । सोमेन । सह । राज्ञा । words respectively)

ओषधयः । सं । वदन्ते । सोमेन । सह । राज्ञा । यस्मै । कृणोति । ब्राह्मणः । तं । राजन् । पारयामसि ॥२२॥

oṣadhayaḥ । saṃ । vadante । somena । saha । rājñā । yasmai । kṛṇoti । brāhmaṇaḥ । taṃ । rājan । pārayāmasi ॥22॥

क्रमपाठः || Krama Patha

Scheme for Krama Patha (1, 2 । 2, 3। 3, 4। 4, 5। 5, 6। राज्ञेति राज्ञा । Similar is the case for the second line)

ओषधयः सं । सं वदन्ते । वदन्ते सोमेन । सोमेन सह । सह राज्ञा । राज्ञेति राज्ञा । यस्मै कृणोति । कृणोति ब्राह्मणः । ब्राह्मणस्तं । तं राजन् । राजन् पारयामसि । पारयामसीति पारयामसि ॥२२॥

oṣadhayaḥ saṃ । saṃ vadante । vadante somena । somena saha । saha rājñā । rājñeti rājñā । yasmai kṛṇoti । kṛṇoti brāhmaṇaḥ । brāhmaṇastaṃ । taṃ rājan । rājan pārayāmasi । pārayāmasīti pārayāmasi ॥22॥

जटापाठः || Jata Patha

Scheme for Jatapatha : (1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 2 । 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3 । and the rest follow)

ओषधयः सं, समोषधयः, ओषधयः सम् । सं वदन्ते, वदन्ते सम्, सं वदन्ते । वदन्ते सोमेन, सोमेन वदन्ते, वदन्ते सोमेन । सोमेन सह, सह सोमेन सोमेन सह। सह राज्ञा, राज्ञा सह, सह राज्ञा । राज्ञेति राज्ञा ।

यस्मै कृणोति, कृणोति यस्मै, यस्मै कृणोति। कृणोति ब्राह्मणो, ब्राह्मणः कृणोति, कृणोति ब्राह्मणः। ब्राह्मणस्तं, तं ब्राह्मणो, ब्राह्मणस्तम् । तं राजन्, राजंस्तं, तं राजन् । राजन् पारयामसि, पारयामसि राजन्, राजन् पारयामसि । पारयामसीति पारयामसि ॥२२॥[1]

oṣadhayaḥ saṃ, samoṣadhayaḥ, oṣadhayaḥ sam । saṃ vadante, vadante sam, saṃ vadante । vadante somena, somena vadante, vadante somena । somena saha, saha somena somena saha। saha rājñā, rājñā saha, saha rājñā । rājñeti rājñā ।

yasmai kṛṇoti, kṛṇoti yasmai, yasmai kṛṇoti। kṛṇoti brāhmaṇo, brāhmaṇaḥ kṛṇoti, kṛṇoti brāhmaṇaḥ। brāhmaṇastaṃ, taṃ brāhmaṇo, brāhmaṇastam । taṃ rājan, rājaṃstaṃ, taṃ rājan । rājan pārayāmasi, pārayāmasi rājan, rājan pārayāmasi । pārayāmasīti pārayāmasi ॥22॥

Here, two words of the मन्त्रः ॥ mantra are chanted in forward and reverse orders till the end of the मन्त्रः ॥ Mantra. In शिखापाठः ॥ Shikhapatha, three words of the मन्त्रः ॥ mantra are chanted in such permutations and combinations.[5]

शिखापाठः ॥ Shikha Patha

Scheme for Shika Patha (1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 2 - 3। 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3 -4 । and the rest follow)

ओषधयः सं, समोषधयः, ओषधयः सं - वदन्ते। सं वदन्ते, वदन्ते सम्, सं वदन्ते - सोमेन। [3]

oṣadhayaḥ saṃ, samoṣadhayaḥ, oṣadhayaḥ sam - vadante। saṃ vadante, vadante sam, saṃ vadante - somena।

Recitations of the रेखा ॥ Rekha (line), ध्वजः ॥ Dhvaja (flag), दण्डः ॥ Danda (staff), and रथः ॥ Ratha (chariot) are further complex recitation methods involving even the पदाः ॥ padas of the mantra.[6] Among them Ghanapatha  is most difficult and the longest.[1][5]

घनापाठः || Ghana Patha

पूर्वार्धः || Purvardha

Backwards to Forwards :

राज्ञेति राज्ञा ।सह राज्ञा । सोमेन सह । वदन्ते सोमेन । सं वदन्ते । ओषधयः सं ।

rājñeti rājñā ।saha rājñā । somena saha । vadante somena । saṃ vadante । oṣadhayaḥ saṃ ।

Forwards to Backwards :

ओषधयः सं । सं वदन्ते । वदन्ते सोमेन । सोमेन सह । सह राज्ञा । राज्ञेति राज्ञा ।

oṣadhayaḥ saṃ । saṃ vadante । vadante somena । somena saha । saha rājñā । rājñeti rājñā ।

उत्तरार्धः ॥ Uttarardha

Backwards to Forwards : पारयामसीति पारयामसि । राजन् पारयामसि । तं राजन् । ब्राह्मणस्तं । कृणोति ब्राह्मणः । यस्मै कृणोति ।

pārayāmasīti pārayāmasi । rājan pārayāmasi । taṃ rājan । brāhmaṇastaṃ । kṛṇoti brāhmaṇaḥ । yasmai kṛṇoti ।

Forwards to Backwards : यस्मै कृणोति । कृणोति ब्राह्मणः । ब्राह्मणस्तं । तं राजन् । राजन् पारयामसि । पारयामसीति पारयामसि ॥२२॥

yasmai kṛṇoti । kṛṇoti brāhmaṇaḥ । brāhmaṇastaṃ । taṃ rājan । rājan pārayāmasi । pārayāmasīti pārayāmasi ॥22॥

Without the use of writing, a fool-proof method,where each Mantra was chanted in various patterns and combinations to prevent any errors creeping into the Vedas continued through ages.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Shastri, Jwalanth Kumar. (2009) Ved aur vedarth Rajasthan: Sri Ghudhmal Prahladkumar Arya Dharmarth Nyasa
  2. 2.0 2.1 Introduction to Vedas (Vedic Heritage Portal)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Upadhyaya, Baldev. (1958) Vaidik Sahitya.
  4. Rig Veda (Mandala 10 Sukta 97)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamiji, (2000) Hindu Dharma (Collection of Swamiji's Speeches between 1907 to 1994)Mumbai : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  6. Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian, The Vedic Chanting-a perfectly formulated Oral Tradition available at http://www.svbf.org/journal/vol1no2/chanting.pdf