Upavedas (उपवेदाः)

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Upavedas (Samskrit : उपवेदः) or subsidiary Vedas, are said to be four in number forming auxiliaries to the four Vedas as given below[1]

  1. Ayurveda (आयुर्वेदः)
  2. Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेदः)
  3. Arthaveda (अर्थवेदः)
  4. Gandharvaveda (गन्धर्ववेदः)


Upavedas when treated separately from Vedas and added to the list of Chaturdasha vidyasthanas, form the Ashtadasha Vidyasthanas as accounted by Vishnupurana.[2][3]

आयुर्वेदो धनुर्वेदो गान्धर्वश्चैव ते त्रयः । अर्थशास्त्र चतुर्थन्तु विद्या ह्मष्टादशैव ताः ।। २९ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.6.29)

āyurvēdō dhanurvēdō gāndharvaścaiva tē trayaḥ । arthaśāstra caturthantu vidyā hmaṣṭādaśaiva tāḥ ।। 29 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.6.29)

Shilpaveda (शिल्पवेदः) or Sthapatyaveda (स्थापत्यवेदः) is considered as the Upaveda instead of Arthashastra according to Charanavyuha[4] and Katyayana[5]. The Upavedas supplement the Vedas with more specific applications of Vedic teachings into the cultural field. Upavedas are considered as a part of Veda and not as a separate entity according to a few scholars, in such case there are Chaturdhasha (14) Vidyasthanas only.[6]

S. No. Upaveda Name Contents Associated with Veda
1 Ayurveda (आयुर्वेदः) Science of Health and Life Rigveda according to Charanavyuha. Atharvaveda according to Sushruta.[1][4]
2 Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेदः) Science of Warfare / Martial Arts Yajurveda
3 Gandharvaveda (गन्धर्ववेदः) Music, poetry and dance Sama Veda
4 Arthashastra (अर्थशास्त्रम्) Public administration, governance, economy and polity Atharvaveda

Brief Description of Upavedas

A brief description of the Upavedas are as follows

आयुर्वेदः ॥ Ayurveda

Ayurveda is related to the secret of longevity and medicines to cure diseases. Ancient rshis have, with their research and experience, practically shown the way to lead a happy life by protecting and enriching the health of healthy person (स्वस्थस्य स्वास्थ्यरक्षणम् preventive) and curing the disease of a patient (व्याध्युपसृष्टानां व्याधिरपिमोक्षः curative). Any shastra has two parts - Siddhanta (सिद्धान्तभागः theoretical aspects) which defines the basic rules and Karmabhaga (कर्मभागः practical application) which define the practical usage of those rules. Ayurvedic study involves both the siddhanta and applications in curing the diseases.[7] The originator of Ayurveda is supposed to be Dhanwantari, who originated as one of the treasures during samudra-manthan. Apart from him, other prominent names are Aitareya, Kashyapa, Harit, Agnivesha, and Bhedamuni. At present, three important books of Ayurveda are: Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam. These three books are collectively called Brihat-trayi. Patanjali has also authored text on Ayurveda.[1]

In the most referred Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionaries like Shabdakalpadruma & Vachaspatyam, Ayurveda is mentioned as Upaveda of both Atharvaveda and Rigveda.

According to Sushruta Samhita and भावप्रकाशः Ayurveda is Upaveda of Atharvaveda

इह खल्वायुर्वेदं नामोपाङ्गमथर्ववेदस्यानुत्पाद्यैवप्रजाः श्लोकशत सहस्र-मध्यायसहस्रं च कृतवान् स्वयम्भूः ततोऽल्पायुष्ट्वमल्पमेध स्त्वं चालोक्य नराणां भूयोऽष्टधा प्रणीतवान् ६ (Sush. Samh. 1.6)[8]

विधाताथर्व्वसर्वस्वमायुर्वेदं प्रकाशयन्। स्वनाम्ना संहितां चक्रे लक्षश्लोकमयीमृजुम्” इति भावप्रकाशोक्तेः । (Bhavaprakasha)

iha khalvāyurvedaṁ nāmopāṅgamatharvavedasyānutpādyaivaprajāḥ ślokaśata sahasra-madhyāyasahasraṁ ca kr̥tavān svayambhūḥ tato'lpāyuṣṭvamalpamedha stvaṁ cālokya narāṇāṁ bhūyo'ṣṭadhā praṇītavān 6

vidhātātharvvasarvasvamāyurvedaṁ prakāśayan। svanāmnā saṁhitāṁ cakre lakṣaślokamayīmr̥jum" iti bhāvaprakāśokteḥ ।

According to Charanavyuha of Shaunaka it is Upaveda of Rigveda

चरणव्यूहमते ऋग्वेदस्योपवेदः आयुर्वेदः[citation needed]

caraṇavyūhamate r̥gvedasyopavedaḥ āyurvedaḥ

धनुर्वेदः ॥ Dhanurveda

This Upaveda explains civil and military defense, war and politics. The art of warfare, well known for bringing victory in ancient days, has now been reduced to obscurity and these days, unfortunately, it is mentioned as the art of using bows and arrows. Starting from the Samhitas and Brahmanas there is a mention of this shastra, terms of battlefield instruments such as Ashti, Vajri, Shatagni, which gives us evidence of their usage even in vedic times. Later in the Ramayana and Mahabharata a good deal of light is thrown upon this science and art, particularly in the descriptions of battles. This shastra has it origins from Brahma as given in Shrutis, Smrtis and puranas. Rigveda sukta (9.112) describes the art of making bows and arrows (grinding of the tips of arrows and carving stones using them) apart from praises of Indra, Varuna, Agni, Rudra as great warriors wielding the bows.[4] The most ancient books of Dhanurveda are not available, but some of the known books are Dhanurvidhi, Drauna Vidya, Kodanda Mandana and Dhanurveda Samhita.[1]

गन्धर्ववेदः॥ Gandharvaveda

Gandharva veda is the science of music, derived from the Sama-Veda as evidenced by the list of pravartakas seen in Samaveda Anukramanikas. Starting from Ranaayani to Jaimini, 13 seers have given gandharva vidya in Bharatavarsha, later developed by maharshi Jaimini and his students. This ancient veda was the root of Ganavidya which gave musical notes and spread as classical musical tradition is evident from Narada shiksha. Yamalashtaka tantra (यामळाष्टक तन्त्रम्) describes the existence of Gandharvaveda (containing 36000 slokas), but it is at present unavailable. Gandharvaveda is treated and studied as a part of 64 Kalas in the present ages.[4]

अर्थशास्त्रम् ॥ Arthashastra

Dr. R. Shamasastry, who first translated Kautilya's Arthashastra[9], elaborately discusses, in the preface to his translation, the authorship of Arthashastra and mentions the different aspects given in various works like Vishnupurana (4.24), Nitisara of Kamandaka, Shakuntaka of Kalidasa, Dandi's work, Kadambari of Bana, Panchatrantra etc. Kautilya also known as Vishnugupta and Chanakya, has been ascribed to the authorship of Arthashastra, though there is little clarity whether all these names refer to one person.

Nevertheless, the work itself is a masterpiece that covers a whole gamut of topics covered in 15 Adhikaranas and 150 Adhyayas (total of 6000 slokas). Kautilya in his opening statement offering salutations to Sukra and Brhaspati mentions that

"This Arthashastra is made as a compendium of almost all the Arthasastras, which, in view of acquisition and maintenance of the earth, have been composed by ancient teachers."[9]

Topics dealt with include discipline, restraint of sense organs, creation of Councillors and priests, institution of spies, ministers, duties of a raja, maharaja, his duty to protect his parivara (harem) and personal safety, duties of the government incharges and superintendents, sovereignty, formation of villages, division of land, construction of forts, revenue, armoury, treasury, agriculture, weaving, slaughter-houses, forest produce, ships, chariots, infantry, resolution of legal disputes, recovery of debts, cooperative undertakings, rules for slaves and laborers, dealing with betting and gambling, robbery, defamation among many other laws and policies relating to war, invasion, army, strategic planning and secret punishments.

शिल्पवेदः॥ Shilpaveda or Sthapatyaveda (स्थापत्यवेदः)

Few scholars treat Shilpaveda or Sthapatyaveda as the Upaveda instead of Arthashastra.[1][5]It deals with architecture and various arts. Also considered as one of the 64 Kalas now, Shilpashastra originally dealt with architectural sites including waterbodies (tataka), rest houses (aramas), temples (alayas) etc.[4] According to Shukra-niti there are a number of arts but 64 are considered to be more prominent. More commonly called Vastu, it shows the right design of structures to bring in wholesome earth and spatial energies. Yoga uses Vastu for the orientation of temples, ashrams and meditation rooms.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 All About Hinduism, Swami Sivananda, Page 33
  2. Vishnupurana (Amsha 3 Adhyaya 6)
  3. Introduction to Upavedas given in Vedic Heritage Portal
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Malladi, Sri. Suryanarayana Sastry (1982) Samskruta Vangmaya Charitra, Volume 2 Laukika Vangmayam Hyderabad : Andhra Sarasvata Parishad
  5. 5.0 5.1 Shri. Kishore Mishra's Article : Vaidik Vangmay ka Shastriya Swaroop in Vedic Heritage Portal.
  6. Raghunathacharya, S. B. (1982) Arshavijnana Sarvasvamu, Volume 1 : Vedasamhitalu (Telugu) Tirupati : Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam
  7. Acharya Baldeva Upadhyaya (1969) Sanskrit Shastron Ka Itihas. Varanasi : Sharada Mandir
  8. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthana Adhyaya 1)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dr. R. Shamasastry. (1915 First Edition, 1929 Third Edition) Kautilya's Arthasastra. Mysore : Weslevan Mission Press