10 Jun 2017, Manish Padhi

The Yajurveda :

The Yajurveda is the Veda of prose mantras. An ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, it is a compilation of ritual offering formulas that were said by a priest while an individual performed ritual actions such as those before the yajna fire.

Yajurveda's composition is unknown, and estimated by scholars to be around 1200 to 1000 BCE, contemporaneous with Samaveda and Atharvaveda.

The Yajurveda is broadly grouped into two

  1. The "black" (Krishna) Yajurveda
  2. The "white" (Shukla) Yajurveda

The term "black" implies "the un-arranged, unclear, motley collection" of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the "white" which implies the "well arranged, clear" Yajurveda.

The black Yajurveda has survived in four recensions, while two recensions of white Yajurveda has survived into the modern times.

  1. The earliest and mostancient layer of Yajurveda samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda.
  2. The middle layerincludes the Satapatha Brahmana, one of the largest Brahmana texts in the Vedic collection.
  3. The youngest layerof Yajurveda text includes the largest collection of primary Upanishads.

    These include the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Isha Upanishad, the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Maitri Upanishad.


The Yajurveda text includes Shukla Yajurveda of which about 16 recensions are known, while the Krishna Yajurveda may have had as many as 86 recensions.


Shukla Yajurveda

The samhita in the Shukla Yajurveda is called theVajasaneyi Samhita. The name Vajasaneyi is derived from Vajasaneya, patronymic of sage Yajnavalkya, and the founder of the Vajasaneyi branch.

Recension Name Madhyandina Kanva
Adhyayas 40 40
Anuvakas 303 328
No. of Verses 1975 2086
  • Regional presence (Madhyandina): Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, North India
  • Regional presence (Kanva): Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu


Krishna Yajurveda

There are four surviving recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda – Taittirīya saṃhitā, Maitrayani saṃhitā, Kaṭha saṃhitāand Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā.

No. of Mantras Caraka: 3093

Recension Sub Rec. Kanda Prap athaka
Taittiriya 2 7 42
Maitrayani 6 4 54
12 5 40
Kapiṣṭhala 5 6 48
  • Regional presence (Taittiriya): South India
  • Regional presence (Maitrayani): Western India
  • Regional presence [Kāṭhaka (Caraka)]: Kashmir, North India, East India
  • Regional presence (Kapiṣṭhala): Haryana, Rajasthan

The Vajasaneyi Samhitahas forty chapters oradhyayas, containing the formulas used with rituals.

Ritual Names:  Darsapurnamasa, Agnihotra, Somayajna, Vajapeya and Rajasuya, Agnicayana, Sautramani, Ashvamedha, Purushamedha, Sarvamedha, Pitriyajna, Pravargya.

The Atharvaveda :

The Atharvaveda is the "knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life" 


The Atharvaveda is composed in Vedic Sanskrit, and it is a collection of 730 hymns with about 6,000 mantras, divided into 20 books. 

Two different recensions of the text – thePaippalāda and theŚaunakīya – have survived into modern times.

Reliable manuscripts of the Paippalada edition were believed to have been lost, but a well preserved version was discovered among a collection of palm leaf manuscripts in Odisha in 1957.

The Atharvaveda is sometimes called the"Veda of magical formulas", an epithet declared to be incorrect by other scholars. 

  • Many books of the Atharvaveda Samhita are dedicated to rituals without magic and to theosophy.
  • It was likely compiled as a Veda contemporaneously with Samaveda and Yajurveda, or about 1200 BC - 1000 BC.
  • The Atharvaveda is a collection of 20 books, with a total of 730 hymns of about 6,000 stanzas.
  • The Atharvaveda had nine shakhas, or schools: paippalāda,stauda,mauda,śaunakīya,jājala, jalada,brahmavada,devadarśa andcāraṇavaidyā.
  • The Atharvaveda Samhita originally was organized into 18 books (Kāṇḍas), and the last two were added later.
  • The Atharvaveda includes mantras and verses for treating a variety of ailments.


The Atharvaveda has three primary Upanishads embedded within it.

1. The Mundaka Upanishad, embedded inside Atharvaveda, is a poetic-style Upanishad, with 64 verses, written in the form of mantras. However, these mantras are not used in rituals, rather they are used for teaching and meditation on spiritual knowledge.

In ancient and medieval era Indian literature and commentaries, the Mundaka Upanishad is referred to as one of the Mantra Upanishads.

2. The Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of all the Upanishads, found in the Atharvaveda text. The text discusses the syllable Om, presents the theory of four states of consciousness, asserts the existence and nature of Atman (Soul, Self). The Mandukya Upanishad is notable for inspiring Gaudapada's Karika, a classic for the Vedanta school of Hinduism. Mandukya Upanishad is among the oft cited texts on chronology and philosophical relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism.

3. The Prashna Upanishad is from thePaippalada school of Atharvavedins.

The text contains sixPrashna (questions), and each is a chapter with a discussion of answers. The first three questions are profound metaphysical questions but, states Eduard Roer, do not contain any defined, philosophical answers, are mostly embellished mythology and symbolism. The fourth section, in contrast, contains substantial philosophy. The last two sections discuss the symbol Om and Moksha concept



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