top of page

BACK TO 28.1

  28.1.2 :  THE VEDAS  - STYLE AND CONTENT - Pt 1



Actually the Vedas are infinite in extent.  anantA vai vedAH . But for the benefit of people in Kaliyuga, Vyasa, more than 5000 years ago Divided them into four main streams . As an all-knowing Rishi he was  aware of the 1180 sAkhAs of these vedas. But as of now there are only twenty or so shAkhAs. What do these Vedas talk about? The vedas talk about creation, Nature and God They sing ecstatically in praise of the bounties of Mother Nature They glorify the majesty that is transparent in the workings of Nature They contain long prosaic instructions on rituals  to be followed for propitiating various Gods Vedic sacrifices are described in all detail Agnihotram, darshapurnamasam,  these are performed at home chaturmasyam, niruDhapashubandhaM ,   performed in a yagashaalaa jyotishhTomaM,     somayaga , rajasuya  (for political conquest),  vajapeya  (for getting wealth)  soutramani (for reconquering lost property) ashvamedham for becoming lord of the world or for conquest of self  and several other yagas The parts of the vedas which deal with these and also all the duties  of a householder, are classified as karma-kANDa portion of the vedas There is also upAsana kANDa portion  which deals with how to propitiate the different devatas And then there is the jnAna kANDa which contains metaphysical  wealth of information about the Ultimate Truth which is everywhere  But the 3 portions  karma, upasana and jnAna are not physically separated  Material relevant to all three subjects are scattered throughout the texts However the last part of each veda contains what we call the Upanishads  and these contain only the metaphysical research-like discourses  or dialogues about the transience of ordinary sensory experience  and about the Only everlasting Truth, the nameless Absolute Reality

While Rigveda is all poetry, Yajurveda is mostly prose. More than the contents, when we hear the Vedas being recited, one of the things that strikes us is the repetition and Peroration which seems to be everywhere in the text. We r familiar with the NamakaM and CamakaM. In the chapter NamakaM the word namaH is repeated about 180 times.If you ask a modern western-educated scholar to make  a précis of this NamakaM  chapter , he will list all the three hundred or so names and

write one ‘namaH’ at the end  and that is it !


But Veda knows also to condense long prayers like a math formula, as in the following passage from Krishna Yajur Veda:

agnirAyushhmAn sa vanaspatibhirAyushhmAn tena tvAyushhAyushhmantaM karomi soma AyushhmAn sa oshhadhIbhiryaGYa AyushhmAn sadakshhiNAbhirbrahmAyushhmat tadbrAhmaNairAushhmaddevA Ayushhmantas temRRitena ayushhmantas tenatvAvAyushhaayushhmantaM karomi ..


This passage, when used in the corrsponding homa ritual, will be elaborated as


agnirAyushhmAn sa vanaspatibhir

                           AyushhmAntena  tvAyushhAyushhmantaM karomi

soma AyushhmAn sa oshhadhIbhir

                           AyushhmAntena  tvAyushhAyushhmantaM karomi

yaGYa AyushhmAn sadakshhiNAbhir

                           AyushhmAntena  tvAyushhAyushhmantaM karomi

brahmAyushhmat tadbrAhmaNair

                           AyushhmAttena  tvAyushhAyushhmantaM karomi

devA Ayushhmantas temRRitena

                     Ayushhmantastena  tvAyushhaayushhmantaM karomi


The grand final prayer  in the Rudram chapter also has this strategy of condensation.  In fact, there are hundreds of places in the Yajurveda (probably it is also so in the other vedas), where such mathematical type of condensationis used, to be expanded when needed.



These two prayers are natural, in the sense they ask benefits for us; But look at this: 

आदित्यो वा एष एतन्मण्डलं तपति तत्र ता ऋचस्तदृचामण्डलँ स ऋचां लोकोऽथ य एष

एतस्मिन्मण्डलेर्चिर्दीप्यते तानि सामानि स साम्नां लोकोऽथ य एष एतस्मिन् मण्डलेऽर्चिषि

पुरुषस्तानि यजूँषि स यजुषा मण्डलँ स यजुषां लोकः सैषा त्रय्येव विद्या

तपति य एषोऽन्तरादित्ये हिरण्मयः पुरुषः

This is a glorification of the Sun. Gayatri has three facets: Glorification; Communion and Prayer. Thr Orb of the Sun is the collection of Rik Verses of the Rigveda. The flame which is shining in the orb is the collection of SAma chants. He who is within the Sun is the collection of Yajus. By these three the threefold knowledge alone shines, He who is within the Sun is the Golden Person Himself. The vedic view is that every object has three aspects Adhyatma (Essence as Subject), - here the collection of Yajus  (the formulas), the white appearance of the Sun as mentioned in Ch.U. adhidaiva (Divinity within) –here the collection of Riks (hymns), and  adhibhuta (physical) – here the collection of Sama chants , the flame shining in the orb.


There is no prayer  in the above ; But see this very familiar prayer


उदुत्यं जातवेदसं देवं वहन्ति केतवः।दृशे विश्वाय सूर्यं।

चित्रं देवानामुदगादनीकं चक्षुर्मित्रस्य वरुणस्याग्नेः।

आप्राद्यावापृथ्वी अन्तरिक्षँ सूर्य आत्मा जगतस्तस्तुषश्च।

अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान् विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान्।

युयोध्यस्स्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्टान्ते नम उक्तिं  विधेम ।

Yajurveda-samhita 1-4-43

udityaM jAtavedasaM sUryaM tyaM devaM vishvAya dRRishe ketavaH udvahanti : That famous, all knowing Sun God is borne by the rays, his horses,   for the view of the entire Universe .

devAnAM citram mitrasya varuNasya agneH  cakshhuH  The Surya (the eye of mitra varuna and agni)

anIkaM udagAt   – MaNDalaM has risen

sUryaH jagataH tasthushhashca AtmA: The Sun , the soul of the Movable and the Immovable

AprAH has pervaded

dyAvA pRRithvI antarikshhaM  the Earth the atmosphere and the sky



Vedas raise wonderful questions to feed our Quest for Truth. Rigveda 10th Mandala: (Also repeated in Taittiriya Brahmana of KYV):

Who really  knows and who could here proclaim whence this creation flows  and where is its origin?

Ko addhA veda ka iha pravocat; kuta AjAtA kuta iyam visRRishhTiH

The gods are later than the world’s production.  Who knows then, whence it first came into being?

arvAgdevA asya visarjanena; athA ko veda yata AbabhUva

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,

iyaM visRRishhTiryata AababhUva; yadi vA dadhe yadi vA na

He the Observer in the highest heaven,  he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

Yo asyAdhyakshaH parame vyoman; so anga veda yadi  vA na veda

The essence of this Nasadiya suktam of Rigveda is to declare

"When something is known by the intellect and mind

the known becomes smaller than the instruments of knowledge"

                                 GO TO CONTINUATION OF THIS IN 28.1.3

bottom of page