Kalpa Vedanga (कल्पवेदाङ्गम्)

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Kalpa (Samskrit : कल्पः) not to be confused with Kalpas defined by Kala pramana (time) is a part of the Shad Vedangas. They are called as Sutragranthas consisting of a group of texts that relate specifically to aspects of conduct of Vedic yajnas or Shrauta yajnas, their procedural and result explanations, measurements involved and associated dharmas. Usually described as the "arms of Vedapurusha", they systematically codified the ceremonies given in the Brahmana texts of the Vedas referred to as manuals for karmakanda or yajna related activities. It may be noted that the article is titled Kalpa Vedanga to distinguish it from Kalpa, the time terminology.

Guru describing preparation of Vedi for Yajna


The origin of Kalpa was for the organization of all the extensive rituals described in Vedas (वैदिककर्मकाण्डः | Vaidika Karmakanda). Kalpas are texts classified under the Shad Vedangas. They include the contents directly mentioned in Brahmanas and Aranyakas, presented in a systematic manner, explaining those not mentioned explicitly in the Brahmanas and omitting others not directly related to a particular yajna or ceremony.

Since Kalpas generally presuppose the knowledge of Veda samhitas and Brahmanas, they are often placed after the Vedic time.

They differ from Vedas as they are Paurusheyas whereas Vedas are Apaurusheya.


  • एष वै प्रथमः कल्पः प्रदाने हव्यकव्ययोः । eṣa vai prathamaḥ kalpaḥ pradāne havyakavyayoḥ । Manusmriti (3.147)[1] defines Kalpa as विधिः । Vidhi to follow in the offering of हव्यकव्याः | havyakavyas (yajna vidhis).
  • कल्प्यते विधीयते | kalpyate vidhīyate | (Shabdakalpadruma) defines kalpa as vidhis (for yajnas)
  • वैदिकविधानज्ञापकेशास्त्रभेदे स चाश्वलायनापस्तम्बबौधायनकात्यायनादि-सूत्रात्मकः। vaidikavidhānajñāpakeśāstrabhede sa cāśvalāyanāpastambabaudhāyanakātyāyanādi-sūtrātmakaḥ | (Vachaspatyam)[2] Kalpa is defined as the (set of) sutras defining the vaidika vidhanas (vedic rituals) as given by Ashvalayana, Apastamba, Baudhayana, Katyayana among others.
  • As given by Vishnumitra, कल्पो वेदविहितानां कर्मणामानुपूर्व्येण कल्पनाशास्त्रम् | kalpo vedavihitānāṃ karmaṇāmānupūrvyeṇa kalpanāśāstram | ie. Kalpa shastra is a guideline for all the actions laid down in Veda (such as yajnas and yagas)   

Sutra Style of Writing

As we see the Vedas and their extensive associated literature needed to be preserved for the coming generations. In order to accomplish the task of preserving the precious mass of cultural traditions in a manageable and recollectable form, the seers of ancient Bharata invented the style of composition of texts characterized by utmost brevity and rigid systematization. A short sentence composed in this peculiar style is called Sutra, i.e., a thread. A diffuse and scattered precepts are succinctly systematized in a compact sentence called sutra, just as the loose fibres are compressed into a terse thread.

Among the different types of Sutras composed during Sutra period the Kalpasutras are by far the most important reflecting the cultural history of that period.

Four Kinds of Kalpasutras

Kalpa Vedanga deals with four types of Sutragranthas.[3][4]

  1. श्रौतसूत्राणि || Shrautasutras : They include procedures of Shrauta yajnas as per the veda shakas. They also include Paribhasha sutras which imply general rules and they applied in the interpretation of the Vedas. They detail the 14 yajnas (major) laid down in the Shrutis.
  2. गृह्यसूत्राणि || Grhyasutras : They deal with the rules and regulations pertaining to the social and domestic activities and customs prescribed to a grhasta and his family. They detail the samskaras, 7 kinds of Grhyayajnas, and Panchamahayajnas.
  3. धर्मसूत्राणि || Dharmasutras : They are connected closely with the Grhyasutras in their contents but are elaborate with the social, religious, political and economic life of the people. They deal with Varna, Ashrama and Rajadharmas. Example : Baudhayana and Apastamba Dharmasutras
  4. शुल्बसूत्राणि || Sulbasutras : Associated mainly with Shrauta sutras, these sutras deal with measurements and construction of the yajna vedi to conduct shrauta yajnas. They are the earliest available texts of geometry given to the world by the Vedic era. Example : Baudhayana and Apastamba Sulbasutras.
Vedas and Associated Sutra Works[4][5]
Vedas Shakas Shrautasutra Grhyasutra Dharmasutra Shulbasutra
Rigveda Ashvalayana Ashvalayana (आश्वलायनः) (Author Rshi Ashvalayana) Ashvalayana Vasishta
Shankhayana Shankhayana (शाङ्खायनः) Shankhayana (By Suyajna)
Kaushitaki Kaushitaki Kaushitaki (By Shambhavya) Vishnu dharmasutra
Shukla Yajurveda Vajasaneya Katyayana (कात्यायनः) (Author Rshi Katyayana) Paraskara Harita, Shankhalikhita Katyayana
Krishna Yajurveda Taittriya Baudhayana (बौधायनः)(Author Rshi Baudhayana), Apastamba (आपस्तम्बः)(Author Rshi Apastamba), Hiranyakeshi (हिरण्यकेशी), Vaikhanasa, Bharadvaja, Varaha (वाराहः) Baudhayana, Apastamba, Hiranyakeshi, Bharadvaja Baudhayana, Apastamba, Hiranyakeshi Baudhayana, Apastamba, Hiranyakeshi, Vadhula (वाधूलः)
Maitrayani Manava (मानवः) Manava Manava, Maitreyi (मैत्रेयी)
Katha Kathaka (काठक)
Samaveda Kauthuma Arsheya (आर्षेयः) (Rshi Mashaka), Latyayana (लाट्यायनः) Gobhila (गोभिल)
Ranayana Drahyayana (द्राह्यायनः) Khadira (खादिर)
Jaimini Jaiminiya (जैमिनीयः) Jaiminiya, Gautama and Chandogya Gautama (गौतमः)
Atharvaveda Vaitana (वैतानः) Kaushika (कौशिक)


  1. Manusmriti (3.147)
  2. Vachaspatyam Link for Kalpa Definition
  3. Malladi, Sri. Suryanarayana Sastry (1982) Samskruta Vangmaya Charitra, Volume 1 Vaidika Vangmayam Hyderabad : Andhra Sarasvata Parishad
  4. 4.0 4.1 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. Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1958) Vaidik Sahitya.