A.C. Clyton had made all possible efforts to prepare a book for the lovers of the Vedas. His book the Rg-veda and Vedic religion contains a good amount of critical material and therefore will be very much useful to the scholars interested in the study and research in Vedic lore. He has made critical analysis of the vedic thoughts and has brought to light some interesting facts. The learned author has endeavoured to examine the material from historical perspective. The book was long out of print. We therefore thought of revising it and editing with necessary changes. It is hoped that it will help in developing interest of the scholars and solving their curiosity.
Dr. R.K. Panda, the compiler and Editor of this book is a well-known scholar of Sanskrit. He is working as Reader in the Department of Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit, M.S. University of Baroda. He has published 15 Books, 40 Research papers, 10 poem-collections, 2 story-collections, 2 Novels and 2 play-collections in Sanskrit.
Vedas are the literary heritage of India. They are the books of hymns and verses, melodies and sacrificial formulas composed in hoary antiquity by the successive generations of sages in the course of many centuries. They are the records of elevated thoughts of an age long past, spread over thousands of years representing invocations and incantations, mysteries and mysticism, religion and philosophy and metaphysics and science. They were orally transmitted from generations to generations through the centuries with every little and most minute detail of tone and stress. The hemitages, the humble thatched huts were the spiritual and educational centre in those days where the teachers and the taught lived together, worked together, explored together the mysteries of the universe and its creator. In this way this priceless collection, the oldest indo- European literary monument, was preserved in its pristine purity, without interpolation and corruption by the generation of sages through the centuries.
This literary collection was three-fold, consisting of ricas (verses), samans (melodies)- both composed on various metres as well as Yajus (sacrificial formula) composed in prose. In the Vedic language yaj means to worship. The yajnas were the modes of worship in those days in which the sacred fire was kindled and offerings were made to Gods while the hymns were recited, melodies were sung and the sacrificial formulas were uttered by the respective officiating priests. This large collection accumulated with additions of new revelations from time to time was originally called Brahman, the magnum opus; a student studying these literary works a Brahrnacari, and a teacher in-charge a Brahmarsi, who not only taught the students but also composed new hymns. The word Veda to denote these priceless divine revelations became popular only much later.
With the passage of time, these huge literary collections grew to such a great extent that the Brahmacaris felt it very hard to learn and memorize the entire collections of this magnitude, within the time limit of their brahmacarya, their studentship. Apprehended of deterioration of standard and gradual depletion of this precious heritage, Krsna Dvaipayana, on the request of Brahmarsis, living in the solitude of Himalayas classified and arranged these collections in the order of their employment in sacrificial rites into four-fold as: Rgveda-samhita with collection of rcas that belonged to Hotr priest, Samaveda- samhita with collection of racas on which samans were rendered, together with two classes of melodies sung on these rcas which belong to Udgatr priest, Atharvaveda-samhita with collection of miscellaneous rcas covering incantations, magic spells etc. pertaining to Brahma priest and Yajurveda-samhita with collection of sacrificial formulas and Teas belonging to Adhvaryu priest. Krsna Dvaipayana after having taught these samhitas to four of his chosen disciples viz., Rgveda to Paila, Yajurveda to Vaisampayana , Samaveda to Jaimini and Atharvaveda to Sumantu-asked them to establish Asramas and promote the Vedic learning all over the Aryavarta. For having thus accomplished this Herculean task of classification and orderly arrangement of massive gigantic collection accumulated through centuries Krsna Dvaipayana became better known later as Vedavyasa in Indian history.
Eventually some more works but of different classes were added to each of these four samhitas. They are: Brahrnanas, Aranyakas and Upanisadas, on the one hand, and Vedangas on the other, comprising books on phonetics, etymology, grammar, metrics and astronomy and the Kalpasutras representing Srautasutras dealing with the sacrificial rites, Sulbasutras containing the rules for measurement and- the building of Yajnasala (sacrifial hall), fire-alter etc., Grhyasutras treating the domestic rites and the Dharmasutras consisting of spiritual and secular law. Among these, the sutras, the manuals of rules composed in aphoristic prose style, are peculiar to Indian literature and nothing like these sutras can be seen in the entire literature of the world. In these sutras the science condensed into a few words as far as possible is so systematically arranged that a student can easily commit-the entire subject to memory, recollect any number of sturas any time and act strictly according to the rules. Again among these the Sulbasutras are the oldest works in Indian Geometry and also the oldest contribution of Vedic India to the' history of Mathematical science.
The word 'Veda' philologically means knowledge. But in Indian tradition it implies the sacred knowledge that was divinely vouchsafed to the sages of yore. The word goes back to the Indo- European period having its cognate roots in Greek Oida, Latin Videre, German Wissen and English wit. The Veda which embodies the knowledge revealed to the sages, is regarded as sacred, and the knowledge concealed and preserved therein, as eternal, valid for all times and climes amrta, as it is called, since it leads one to amrta, immortality, the ultimate goal sought by a sadhaka. The Veda assures us that one who seeks the eternal truth, guided by ita, the cosmic Law, will not miss the path of immortality, the path of ultimate truth.
The Veda which forms the basic source of all schools of thought,-religious, philosophical and secular,-originated in the Aryavarta, the home of the Vedic Aryans, that represented one of the most ancient civilizations of the world that campaigned to make the entire world, a happy heaven, where noble ideas and idealism could flourish-'krnvanto visvam aryam.'
All branches of Indian knowledge-science, pure and applied, as well as arts, and social institutions, whether religious or secular, proudly trace their origin back to the Veda. Gautama, a descendant of the great Vedic sage Gotam of Angirasa clan, clearly says :- The Veda is the source of dharma and the tradition and practices of those who know it." The Veda is held, as a matter of fact, to be the indisputable final authority, Vedah pramanam,-on all matters that are intimately related to the secular, religious and spiritual culture of a Hindu, in fact to his very existence, from time immemorial. In distress and happiness, in suffering and joy, in poverty and prosperity, - in short, in all situations and circumstances, in all happenings and events in one's life, the Veda has provided the guidelines, the codes of conduct for all I" including those treading the dust path of life. To practice austerity and not to indulge in extravagance, to restrain cravings and not to allow the sense organs to run amuck, to cultivate contentment with whatever has fallen to one's lot and to get by no means tempted by other's wealth-these are some of the basic principles, moral lessons, given to us in the Vedas. Whenever there arises a doubt regarding any of these matters and an easy solution is not forthcoming, one is asked to seek the answer in the Veda. It may be noted that the Veda has guided the destiny of the people of this great land for thousands of years in all circumstances, holding indisputable authority in matters relating their secular and religious life. In short the Veda is a veritable treasure- house of ancient wisdom. It is regarded as an encyclopedia of universal knowledge, and has formed the very basis of all round development of the Aryan civilization.
As the oldest Indian and also the oldest Indo-Germanic literary monument the Veda deserves an outstanding place in the history of world literature. It is for the reason that millions of Hindus for 3000 years consider the word of Veda as the word of God. It has controlled the thinking and feeling of Indians. No one can understand the spiritual life and the culture of the Indians without acquiring an insight into the Vedic literature. The word Veda means knowledge and then the knowledge par excellence' i.e. the sacred, the religious knowledge' and it does not denote any one single literary work. It means a large extent of literature that came into being in the course of many millennia and was transmitted centuries long from generation to generation by word of mouth, until at last by a later generation-of course in the hoary past-it was declared as 'sacred knowledge' as 'divine revelation' on account of its age as well as its content.
Every work that belongs to one of the three classes and to one of the four Vedas, must be described as 'Vedic'; and thus the whole Vedic literature presents itself to us therefore a large number of works of religious content-collections of songs, prayer-books, theological and theosophical treatises-which belong to several successive epoques, which however from one unit in this that altogether they constitute the basis for the Brahminical religious system. The Brahminical Hindus hold the Veda in its full extent to be divine revelation. The Veda is called Sruti means hearing because the revealed texts were not written and read but only spoken and heard.
There is one more class of works which most closely follow the Vedic literature but cannot be described as belonging to Veda. They are the so called Kalpasutras or the text books of rituals, which are written in a peculiar, aphoristic prose style. Among them we find the Srautrasutras, which contain the rules for the execution of the great sacrifices often lasting for many days, during which several sacrificial fires burn and a large number of priests must be employed, the Grhyasutras, which- contain rules for the simple ceremonies and sacrificial acts of every day life ( at birth, wedding, death etc.) and the Dharmasutras, the text books of spiritual and worldly law-the oldest law books of Indians. Just like the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanisads works are appended to one of the four Vedas; and there are Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras which belong to the Rgveda, others which belong to the Samaveda, to the Yajurveda or to the Atharvaveda. They have originated evidently from particular Vedic schools which have set to themselves the task of the study of anyone particular Veda. But these text books are considered as man's work and not as divine revelation any more. They do not belong to the Veda but to the Vedangas, the parts, i.e. 'the auxiliary sciences of the Veda. Indisputably the oldest and the most important of all the works of the Vedic literature is the Rgveda-samhita, usually called simply 'the Rgveda', Of the various recensions of this samhita, which have once existed, only one has been preserved this (the recension of the Sakalaka-school ) consists of the text handed down to us in a collection of 1,028 hymns (suktas) which are divided into ten books.
Just as the Sarnaveda-Samhita is the text book of songs for the Udgatar, so also the Yajurveda-Sarnhitas are the prayer books for the Adhvaryu-priest. The grammarian Patanjali speaks of "101 schools of the Veda of the Adhvaryu" and it is understandable that there are many schools of just this particular Veda; because with respect to the individual sacrificial acts as the Adhvaryu had to perform them and to accompany them with his prayers, easily differences of opinion and sectarian variations were caused which led to the creation of their own handbooks and prayer-books. The slightest divergence in ceremony or liturgy was enough for the foundation of new Vedic schools. We till today the following five Samhitas and schools of the Yajurveda:
1. The Kathaka the Yajurveda-Samhita in the recension of the Katha-school.
2. The Japisthala-Katha-Samhita.
3. The Maitrayani-Samhita, the Yajurveda-Samhita in the recension of the Maitrayaniya-school.
4. The 'Iaittiriya-Samhita, i.e. the Yajurveda-Samhita in the recension of the Taittlriya-school, according to the Apastamba-school, one of the main schools in which this text was taught, also called "Apastamba-Samhtta". These four recensions are closely related to one another and are described as belonging to the "black Yajur- veda". Different from these is-
5. 'The Vajasaneyi-Samhita or the Samhita of the "white Yajurveda" which derives its name from Yajiiavalkya Vajasaneya, the principal teacher of this Veda. Of this Vajasaneyi-Samhita there are two recensions, that of the Kanva School and that of the Madhyandina School, which however differ from each other in minor aspects.
Of all the numerous Samhitas of the Samaveda, which are said to have existed once-the Puranas speak of even a thousand Samhitas-only three have come down to us. The best known of these, the Sarnavedasamhita of the Kauthumas consists of two parts, the Arcaka or the collection of stanzas and the Uttaracaka, the second collection of stanzas. Both parts consist of verses all of which recur in the Rgveda. The first part of the Samaveda- samhita, theArcika consists of 585 individual stanzas, to which the various hymn-melodies belong.
'Atharvaveda' means so to say "the Veda of the Atharvans" or 'the knowledge of the magic spells '. Originally however the word meant a fire-priest and it is perhaps the oldest Indian name for priest' "as such, for the word can be traced back to the Indo-Iranian times. Corresponding to the Indian Atharvans there are the Atharvans or "firemen" of the Avesta. Fire-cult played in the everyday life of the ancient Indians no less a role than in the case of the ancient Persians who were so often termed as "Fire worshippers" the priests of this aboriginal fire cult were also magic-priests. Thus it is clear that the word " Atharvan" was used also to mean the spells of the Atharvans or of the magic-priests: i.e. the magic spells and the magic formulas themselves. The oldest name, however by which this Veda is known in Indian literature, is known as Atharvangirasah, i.e. "the Atharvans and the Angiras". The Angiras are similarly a class of fire-priests of prehistorically times and the word acquired, just like the Atharvan, the meaning of "magic- formulas and magic-spells '. But the two words Atharvan and Angiras describe two different kinds of magic-formulas; Atharvan is sacred, auspicious magic' whereas Angiras means "hostile, black magic." The magic-formulas that serve to cure diseases for example 'belong to the Atharvans while the curses on enemies, on rivals in love and on wicked magicians etc. belong to the Angiras. The old name Atharvangirasah denotes therefore both these kinds of magic formulas which form the main theme of the Atharvaveda. The later name Atharvaveda is only an abbreviation for Veda of the Atharvans and Angiras. This is a brief introduction to Veda which is considered to be an ocean of knowledge and an unavoidable source of book for Indians.
A.C. Clyton had made all possible efforts to prepare a book for the lover of the Vedas. His book the Rg-veda and Yedic religion contains a good amount of critical material and therefore will be very much useful to the scholars interested in the study and research in Vedic lore. He has made critical analysis of the vedic thoughts and has brought to light some interesting facts. The learned author has endeavoured to examine the material from historical perspective. The book was long out of print. We therefore thought of revising it and editing with necessary changes. It is hoped that it will help in developing interest of the scholars and solving their curiosity.
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