Gopatha Brahmana: A Critical Study

Item Code: NAG661
Author: Dr. Tarak Nath Adhikari
Publisher: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar
Language: English
Edition: 1994
Pages: 240
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 360 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Gopatha Brahmana happens to be the only available Brahmana-text, perhaps an incomplete one, now representing all nine schools of the Atharvaveda. The text consists of eleven chapters and a long-neglected one. The subject-matter, for more than one reason, raises controversy among the scholars, down the ages. The present study, thus intended as a comprehensive critique upon the whole text of the Gopatha Brahmana, where all important and controversial issues have been taken into account and critically examined. The present endeavour, for the first time has made a good thrust upon the age-old debates regarding the age, characteristics, position, importance, original and purloined portions, which very distinctly explore the righteous position of the Gopatha Brahmana in the Vedic tradition, disregarding old allegations.

The reader, now will get a total purview over the text due to this detailed observation latest so far, contemplated by the author. This book, we hope, will certainly De a significant contribution to the understanding of the field of the Atharvaveda and the Vedic literature, as well.

About the Author

Born at Kirnahar, a distant village in the district of Birbhum, W.B. in 1959.

Graduated in Sanskrit from Calcutta University in 1979. Completed M.A. in Sanskrit from Jadavpur University. Calcutta in 1982 and stood first class first for which he was awarded Gold Medal.

Awarded Ph. D. degree from Jadavpur University in 1991; dissertation-’Gopatha Brahmana-A Critical Study’.

Started career as Asstt. Teacher in a Christian Missionary School in Calcutta in 1980.

Worked as a Lecturer in Sanskrit in two colleges from 1987 to 1991.

Visited Vienna to attend 8th World Sanskrit Conference.

Joined as a Lecturer in the department of Sanskrit in Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta, where now holds the position of a Reader. Present area of research is Vedic studies, more specially the Atharvaveda, its Brahmana and their accessary literature.

Presented a good number of papers on Indology. At present, engaged to bring out a complete translation with annotation of the Gopatha Brahmana into Bengali.

Foreword One

In addition to the Samhitas the sacred stratum of Vedic literature contains the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanisads, that are presented as the concluding portion of the Brahmanas. Brahmanas are mostly composed in prose interspersed with metrical stanzas and they contain the explanations offered by learned priests upon diverse points of ritual. In course of presenting this exposition the priests are required to refer to myths and legends and consequently the Brahmanas develop a compendium of cosmogonic myths, legends and narratives. The Brahmanas naturally are attached to all the four Vedas, and the tradition which gets a start at a particular Samhita, receives a full-bodied form in the Brahmanas affiliated to that particular Samhita. The Brahmanas, thus, maintain the continuity of the tradition set forth in the particular Samhita and consequently it serves as an entry-point to the speculations preserved in the Samhitas, As a matter of fact, the Brahmanas constitute the best explanation to the Mantras preserved in the Samhitas, and an attempt to penetrate into the thoughts preserved in the Samhitas without taking the help of the Brahmanas is likely to-prove itself fruitless.

Gopatha Brahmana, that has come down probably in an incomplete form is attached to the Atharvaveda Samhita, which is not recognised as having the canonical status of the other three Vedas. It is believed to be of later origin and is accepted as a collection of spells of magic and sorcery directed against diseases, enemies and demons. Unlike the three other Vedas, this Veda is not regarded as furnishing the clue to spiritual upliftment to man, but as a text suggesting the means for attainment of remedies from certain disasters. Thus, while the other three Vedas lead to spiritual benefit, the Atharvaveda leads to material benefit, and consequently the Aryan mind allocates a lower status to it. This explains the casual treatment which the Gopatha Brahmana attached to the Atharvaveda has received at the hands of commentators and interpretors. Commentators and Scholars have expended considerable energy in analysing the Brahmanas attached to the Rigveda the Yajurveda and the Samaveda, but they have only made a cursory mention of the Brahmana attachment to the Atharvaveda, particularly because of this small contribution made by it to ritualistic exercises and sacrificial operations. The fact that the Gopatha Brahmana serves as the best commentary to the Atharvaveda misses the notice of most of the interpretors, as a result of which it remains in cool shade of neglect and continues to remain so even today.

Strangely enough the language of the Gopatha Brahmana is very much akin to that of the later Brahmanas, like the Satapatha Brahmana ; giving rise to the conjecture that both these Brahmanas appear in the realm of Brahmanical literature about the same time. The texts of the Gopatha Brahmana is written in prose with three metrical stanzas incorporated in the concluding portion of the first part, and like all other Brahmanas it contains frequent citations from old texts and references to ancient myths and legends. If cosmogonic myths, legends and narratives are regarded as characteristic features of the Brahmanical literature, the Gopatha Brahmana possesses very much these characteristic features, and consequently it is very much representative of Brahraanical texts like other Brahmanas. The Gopatha Braamana borrows verses and texts from almost all Samhita texts and ancient Brahmanas like the Aitareya Brahmana, Satapatha Brahmana, Tandyamaha Brahmana Jaiminiya Brahmana, etc. The description of the rituals contained in it is fragmentary and casual, giving rise to the belief that all these have been. incorporated at a later stage in order to ‘give a traditional look to the Brahmanical text. The Gopatha Brahmana, therefore, occupies an interesting position in the realm of Vedic literature. It is interesting that in spite of the significant position occupied; by it in the whole range of Vedic literature it has been neglected by traditional Indian scholars and modem scholars alike, all of whom have discarded it as full of irregularities and limitation.

In a situation when the Gopatha Brahmana has been neglected by almost all Indian and European scholars, Dr. Taraknath Adhikari has come forward with his exposition on this interesting Brahmana, which provides the key for entry into the vast empire of the Atharvaveda, the Character of which has not yet been properly understood and analysed. 1n a sense, Adhikari’s work entitled “Gopatha Brahmana A Critical Study” is a tour-de-jorce, in as much as, it represents the first attempt to present an analytical and critical study of the concepts and clues presented in the Gopatha Brahmana, The work tries to locate the origin of the tradition expounded in the Gopatha Brahmana and proceeds further to show evolution of the particular tradition and concept in later Indian literature. In course of presenting a systematic Study of the subject-matter of the Gopatha Brahmana and projecting a critical analysis of the entire work Adhikari has tried to demolish the viewpoint that this Brahmana is devoid of originality and that it lacks in that freshness of thought, which is usually experienced in other Brahmanas. Though commonly accepted as a dry work, the Gopatha Brahmana gives expression to certain original sparks of thought, when it introduces the concept of OM, the famous hymn to light, commonly known as the Gayatri and diverse sacrifices of shorter and longer duration. The exposition on these concepts goes to show that the Gopatha Brahmans does not consider the Atharvaveda as a compendium of magical formulae and abominable sorcery. The Book concludes with a discussion on the original and borrowed materials of the Gopatha Brahmana, trying thereby to establish the fact that this particular Brahmana is a product of the unbroken tradition to which a start had been given by the Vedic Aryan in the dawn of human civilisation.

To controvert the viewpoints of both Indian and European scholars and to allocate a place of dignity and honour to the Gopatha Brahmans, to project the Atharvaveda as a product of an unbroken Indian tradition is not a mean task, and I am surprisingly delighted to note that in this significant task, Adhikari has attained spectacular success, giving all the time in his remarkable treatment an idea of his original thinking and commendable command over the Vedic literature. The entire work is marked by freshness of thought and newness of approach. Dr. Adhikari’s command over English idioms and expressions is equally commendable. The work “Gopatha Briihmana-A Critical Study”, therefore, is a valuable contribution to the arena of studies in Vedic literature, and consequently I congratulate the author, Dr. Taraknath Adhikari and welcome this magnificient work to the fold of Sanskrit Studies.


Foreword Two

The Vedic literature is represented by four classes of works: the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Arauyakas and the Upanisads, Among the Brahmanas, the Gopatha Brahmana occupies a unique position on account of its connection with the Atharvaveda. This Brahmana possesses some novel features which clearly distinguishes it from other works of the same genre. The role of the Gopatha Brahmana in the realm of Br. literature has attracted the attention of researchers but no work, worth its name, has been published so far. A critical appraisal of this abstruse work has long been a desideratum and Dr. Tarak Nath Adhikari, Reader in Sanskrit, Rabindra Bharati University, has been able to a considerable extent to remove this long-felt want and to present to the bar of the academic world a lucid exposition of Vedic sacrifices and Vedic religion as enshrined in this forgotten text.

The monograph embodies the dissertation submitted by Dr. Adhikari in support of his candidature for admission to the Ph. D. (Arts) degree of Jadavpur University. Divided into seven chapters, the work tries to analyse the distinctive traits of the GB with particular reference to the different sacrificial ceremonies dealt with therein. The designation of this lone Atharvavedic Brahmana evokes curiosity among the scholars and the author has examined the problem marshalling all the facts at his command. While dealing with the concepts of sacred syllable ‘Om’ and Gayatri the writer attains spectacular success in presenting the readers a comprehensive account of the oldest ideas and speculations of the Brahmanas on the subjects. The superiority of the AV and the Brahman priest which forms the core content of the GB has received an excellent analytical treatment at the hands of the author. The personality of Rudra and his prominent role in the Vedic rituals have been correctly brought out with convincing arguments. In this context the GB, faithfully following the Atharvanic style has taken recourse to various myths and legends in delineating ‘their importance in the Vedic sacrifices. The originality of this Br. in this particular field has been pinpointed by the author and the ritual technicalities and paraphernalia connected with Soma sacrifices have received a brilliant expression in the work. The mystery of the sacrifices which plays a dominant role in the Vedic mythology and religion finds a powerful expression enhancing thereby the merit of this treatise. I am sure this work will be received with applause by scholars wishing to enter into the portals of Indian civilisation and culture and it will be appreciated by critical readers both in the East and the West.

I congratulate the author for his remarkable contribution and recommend the present work to the academic community.



The AV (i.e. Atharvaveda), when it indites-‘manye vam dyavaprthivi subhojasau sucetasau’, we, at once very clearly recognize the true odour of this Veda, nearer to earth although its total approach to life can never be misprized. Each Veda is complete and better understood with its Brahrnana texts and thus is the case with the AV. Surprisingly enough, the study of the GB (i.e. Gopatha Brahmana), the lone Brahmana text of the AV has not been yet taken into account seriously. In the plangent shore of Vedic studies, to our utter surprise, the irradiance of the GB winks helplessly being repulsively secluded from the Vedic stratum. Discourses on this Brahmana, down the ages, appeared exceptionally sketchy, scrappy and some-times obtuse. Pioneers in this field remained penurious. Being a student of the Vedic studies, such slighting approach prickled my notice and thus, when my teacher and supervisor Professor Bhabani Prasad Bhattacharya of Jadavpur University made me sentient to this point and Professor Sukumari Bhattacharya of J.U., my another teacher encouraged me to carry on a serious study on it, a deep penchant obverted my thrust to this neglected text. And then, the present work ‘Gopatha Brahmana-A Critical Study’ is a modest attempt of the revised version of my dissertation under the same title for which I was awarded Ph. D. degree from J.U., Calcutta, in 1991. Works on the Gopatha Brahmana suffered all along adversely, nor did it face spring-tide. The Introduction to the GB of R. Mitra is not at all enough; M. Bloomfield’s-‘The Atharvaveda and Gopatba Brabmana’ is though valuable, but there, the GB ponies is exceptionally sketchy and today’s perspective, it is some-how antiquated. The only painstaking translation into English with a brilliant introduction of the GB, made by Dr. H.C. Patyal of Pune still remains. unpublished. Thus a serious subject-based analysis of the text becomes a desideratum. And, this may be reckoned as the reason of my present contemplation. Again, while preparing this book, a few inextricable allegations besmeared with the GB, down the ages regarding the age, true position, indebtedness, originality in question etc. made me more interested to it which I have thoroughly discussed in the opening and concluding chapters of my book in detail. All these appeared to be a sine qua non for the study of the book.


The book is a seven-chaptered endeavour, where some important topics, mentioned above are discussed in the opening and the concluding chapters along with a few other topics including the salient features of the GB, its relation with other Vedic texts and the AV specially, source texts etc. In remaining chapters all important topics are discussed including the pre-eminent position of the AV, the GB and its priest, Brahman in the sacrifice. Discussion on all important sacrifices is to be found in the GB, specially the Soma sacrifice. No important issues are left unturned and a reader will get a total purview of the Gopatha Brahmana, Each deliberation, at its end is supplemented by necessary footnotes. The concluding remark at the end of the book makes a brief fore-look of the whole book. A list of the books used by me from time to time has been tabulated in the Select Bibliography part. An Appendix, a list of the verses cited in the GB has been categorically pre- pared at the end. Throughout the book an objective outlook has been envisaged, an honest and sincere attempt has been contemplated. At this stage, I must argue that no final verdict has been educed, but only a structure has been erected, where some stages of thought, regarding the GB as a whole have been considered.


Yes, I am fully aware, I am treading on an area without having the requisite expertise to do it. Due to my disorderly incompetence, incongruous thought and vulnerable limitations in dealing with such abtruse subject, there lies always the possibility of gross lapses, miscalculation and technical flaws. Again, in regards with the right interpretation of the Vedic literature, scholars almost differ widely. I regret misprints that might have occurred because of my inadvertence. Notwithstanding all these limitations, this study is now presented before the academic world for interaction. All sorts of constructive suggestions will enrich my faculty of thought. This endeavour will touch a favourable termination, if this debut, anyway helps to encourage interest and attention of the Vedic readers to this neglected Brahmana text, which may help to make an avenue for a new interpretation of the AV and the Vedic literature as well.

Now let me have the opportunity to recount the pleasant task of acknowledgement for receiving guidance, assistance and inspiration from different persons and institutions.

At the outset, I pay my respectful gratitude to my teacher and supervisor Professor Bhabani Prasad Bhattacharya of J.U., Calcutta. He drew first my attention to this slighting Brahmana and showed keen interest so that the dissertation might be published soon and very kindly prepared a valuable foreword for the book. I took my first lesson on the Vedas from Prof. Pranab Kumar Adhikari of Vidyasagar College, Calcutta. My gratitude is due to this erudite personality. I am grateful to late Prof. Nilmadhav Sen of Poona, who helped me in procuring the unpublished thesis of Dr. H.C. Patyal I thank here the author too H.W. Bodewitz of Netherlands, whom I met in Vienna in 1990, supplied me with some valuable suggestions on the age of the GB. He deserves thanks. I am highly grateful to Hon’ble Chancellor, Professor Rama Ranjan Mukherjee for his constant encouragement and help. His foreword for this book is an asset. Professor Sarniran Chandra Chakraborty, Director, School of Vedic Studies, R.B.U., Calcutta, profusely helped me all along. I pay homage to this personality, a refulgent Vedic-wisdom embodied.

Since my joining Rabindra Bharati University, Professor Karunasindhu Das, Head of the Department of Sanskrit and Dean, Faculty of Arts has been caring keenly my academic peripheri. My poor vocabulary is fairly inadequate to saturate the debt I owe to this versatile savant. Sincere gratitude is due to my teachers Sri Subuddhi Charan Goswami, Dr. Satya Narayan Chakravorty, Sri Nabanarayan Bandyopadhyay of the Deptt. of Sanskrit of RBU for their encouragement. Dr. P.K. Datta, Reader, School of Vedic Studies, R.B.U., deserves a special mention for his co-operation. All my colleagues and friends in the Deptt. of Sanskrit and University and outside inspired me many a way to publish this book. I remember their debt. I have received helps from various libraries in Calcutta and outside. I tender my cordial thanks to the authorities and staff of those libraries. This book is being published with the help of financial assistance from T.T. Devasthanams, Tirupati. I take the opportunity to pay homage to Lord Tirupati and the said religious institution. Vice-Chancellor, Prof. S.V. Raghunathacharya of Tirupati, the man behind this grants, deserves. a special note of regards.

I deep sense of gratitude must be rendered to my wife Smt. Supriya Adhikari. Having understood the hardship of this type of job, she shouldered all the household activities to. alleviate me of that hardship. I reckon her unstinted co-operation and assistance in the deepest corner of· my heart. My son little Rudradeep is also a source of inspiration to me. My parents, specially my father Sri Sudhir Kumar Adhikari, my first teacher in life deserves mention. Sri Sunil Kumar Chandra, my father-in-law extended his help in many a crucial period. I owe a lot to him. Sri Ramakrishna, my spiritual inspiration all the way obviates all my hindrance in life and academic persuit. I have little vocabulary to pay homage to this great soul.

Mr. Shyamapada Bhattacharya, the owner of Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, Calcutta, being fully aware of the financial risk of publishing this type of works, unhesitatingly extended the’ hands of co-operation. No word is befitting to his gratitude. Arunima Printing Works certainty deserve thanks for their sincere printing work. I, here again thank them all, who anyway contributed to this work, but are not mentioned due to my frivolous memory. Let us pray with words of the AV-yan me chidram manaso yacca vacah sarasvati manyumantam jagama visvaistad devaihsaha samvidana sam dadhatu brhaspati












Chapter I (introduction)


Different Schools of the AV and the position of the GB among them


Title of the GB


Some important features of the GB


Gopatha Brahmana and Vaitana Sutra: A Comparative Chronology


Date of the GB


Chapter II


Concept of Trayi and the AV


The three great Rsis of the AV


The AV and the GB (Creation of the AV)


Puranic Sources


Discussion on ‘Om’


Gayatri in the Vedas


Chapter III


Religious Studentship (Brahmacarya)


Brahmacarya : A general discussion


GB on Brahmacarya and Brahmacarin


Pre-eminence of the AY and the priest Brahmana


Various titles of the AV : Brahmaveda and its significance


Chapter IV


Consecration (Diksa) of the Sacrificial Personalities


Diksa or Consecration Consecration


Ceremony in the GB


Significance and Importance


A New Ordination of Sacrifices  Gavamayana Sacrifice


Enumeration of Various Sacrifices : Agnyadhana, Agnihotra, Darsapnrnamasa, Catnrmasya, Odanasava, Sautramani, Tanunaptra, Pravargya, Agnicayan, Prayascitta


Somayaga and its Varieties


Ahina Sacrifice


Chapter V


Rudra in the Vedas


Rudra in the VS


Rudra in the AV


Rudra in the Brahmanas and other Vedic Texts


Rudra’s Position in the sacrifice


Various .offerings in the sacrifice


A discussion on Purusamedha




More about Ekaha (one day) Soma sacrifice; three pressings


Various rites related to three pressings


Vasatkara and Himkara


CHAPTER VII (Conclusion)


Original and borrowing contents of the GB 190


Information of Source-texts


Concluding Remarks


Select Bibliography




[List of Vedic verses cited in the GB]




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