Most ancient people used durable materials like gold, iron and marble  to immortalise their achievements. Ancient Indians turned to the most volatile material of them all – the spoken word and out of this bubble of air fashioned  a monument which many centuries later stands untouched by time or elements. While material monuments have been eroded, broken and stolen, the Veda remains recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations travelling like  a great wave though the living substance of the mind… summarised from a quotation by John Lee Mee.

The Way to the Vedas…

The Way to the Vedas is through Hinduism.

In Hindusim, the ultimate reality is referred to as Brahman – which literally means The Great. This Brahman is not to be confused with Brahma, the creator, Brhaspati, the planet Jupiter or any human being.

In ancient times, students would practice brahmacharya – the way of life to be adapted while learning the vedas. One of the many aspects of brahmacharya is celibacy. Today the word brahmacharya is used to mean only celibacy and a brahmachari simply means unmarried man. This is not the context of the Vedic Learning. In the context of Vedic Learning, Brahmacharya was an Asrama (stage of life) completely devoted to acquiring the knowledge of the Brahman through the Vedas and Upanishads.  Only after this would a student enter the Grhasta Asrama or the householder stage of life where he would acquire a Sahadharmacharin or a partner who would practice dharma with him (a wife).

The Brahman is Nirguna (without attributes) nirakara (without form), avyaktha (undifferentiated – unmanifest), sasvata (eternal), ananta (endless), aja (without birth), avyaya (unchanging) … and so on.

This Nirguna Brahman is hard for ordinary people to attain. Especially for people who have no time or opportunity for Vedic Learning. To make the concepts easy for all normal people, Veda Vyasa used the incidents of the Mahabharata and Bhagavatha to illustrate various tenets and principles discussed in the Vedas and Upanishads. He said that the Mahabharata is like the moon that shines light on the Vedas.

Another step that the ancients took was to explain the Nirguna Brahman, with the help or assistance of Saguna Brahman. The Saguna Brahman is with attributes. It can be male or female, dark or fair, human or animal or object, bright or dark.. and so on. The Saguna Brahman is a stage on the way to attaining the Nirguna Brahman.

The gunas of the Saguna Brahman can be Satva (Existence, Reality or Truth), Rajas (Light, Activity, Passion) or Tamas (Darkness, Inertia). Some Hindus say that Siva is that Tamasik Brahman and some say that he is the Satvik Brahman. Some others say that Vishu is the Satvik Brahman or that he is the Rajasik Brahman. Yet others say that Brahma is the Satvik Brahman.

Even that is far too complicated for a lot of people and especially for many small children. Therefore every single possible attribute is deified. So we have Lakshmi or Lustre or Light, who further becomes, Dhanya Lakshmi or the wealth of grains, Dhana Lakshmi or the wealth of  money, Dhairya Lakshmi or the wealth of courage… and so on.

So now it is easier. If you want courage and are comfortable with a  God who looks like a mother, then you pray to Dhairya Lakshmi. You are quite safe, because the Bhagavad Gita assures you that Sarva Deva Namaskararam Kesavam Pratigacchati – or all salutations go towards Sri Krishna.

It has been simplified even further. What do you see when you look at the fire? Brightness, Light, Energy, Heat, Destruction, Construction, Modification, Golden Yellow Colour…. and so on.

Knowledge is light. Fire gives light. Fire can give us knowledge (gnyanam). So in the form of Agni, the fire, you can salute those aspects of the Brahman, which can give you, light, knowledge, warmth and energy.

Agni can destroy too. What deserves to be destroyed? Ignorance, Evil, Falsehood, Troubles, Difficulties, Invaders. So in the form of Agni you can worship that attribute of  The Brahman who can help you destroy bad things and keep evil insects, dangerous animals, bad people and wrong thoughts at bay!

Agni can kill all the bacteria and purify the milk you boil, the water you drink and the food you eat. Through Agni you can worship the Nirguna Brahman for purity.

And Krishna has already promised you that all worship goes to Him alone, so you are quite safe in worshipping Agni as the fire, the fire in the sun, the fire in lightning and the fire in your digestive juices.

And Agni is a Deva who know the way  to Svarga (Heaven), but can be easily invoked on the earth. What you wish to offer the Brahman can be given to Agni or put into the fire. And when you wish to call The Brahman as your witness, you can build a fire and in the presence of Agni, get married or seal a friendship.

Even today Hindus get married in front of Agni and in the days of Sri Rama, treaties and friendships were also sealed with Agni as the witness. That is AgniSakshi.

The very first Veda Mantra in the Prathama Suktham of the Rg Veda worships Agni.

That is Agnim Ile.

The meaning of the Vedas :

The best translation of the Vedas that I have come across so far is by H.P. Venkata Rao into kannada.

You may find my notes and conclusions based on his work here :

H. P. Venkata Rao, Veda Translation

The contents of the Veda

The contents of the Veda maybe classified under 3 broad headings.

  1. Jnana (gnyana): Knowledge
  2. Karma : Action
  3. Upasana : Approaching Divinity.

While all the Vedas cover all the topics, Rk covers knowledge, Yajuh covers karma and Sama covers devotion.

The Vedas do not accept the demarcation between the material and the spiritual: everything is Isavasya : ie underthe control of Isa. ( The Lord).

The Vedas may be said to be monotheistic :

There are many mantras in the Vedas which proclaim that there is only one God.

Ekam Sat Viprah bahudha vadanti: RV I 164.46: There is one Sat (Reality), the knowledgeable ones (Viprah) , bahudha vadanti (describe it in many ways).

Unlike other religions which claim that there is one true God and that other Gods are false, both the Vedas and the Gita, proclaim that there is one God that is described in many ways.

  1. akashat patitam toyam, yatha gacchati sagaram, sarva deva namaskaram kesavam prati gacchati: as the water that falls from the sky, goes to the sea (through many rivers, the salutations offered to all Gods, goes to Krishna.
  2. Sri Krishna also says in the Bhagavad Gita, that whatever deity a person has faith in, He strengthens their faith to that alone.
  3. In RV II 1.4,1.6 and 1.7 it is said that God is one though known by many names like Agni, Indra etc.
  4. This concept is repeated in YV XXXII, RV X.110.9, AV X7.35, AV XIII 1.6, RV VI45.3
  5. Instead of saying that there is ‘no God but X”, the Vedas say, all Gods are You. (tvam Eva agni, tvameva raja, tvameva indra, tvameva mitra etc.)

Veda of Satya Yuga was just “OM” :

Source: Srimad Bhagavatham

SB 9.14.48:

eka eva pura vedah

pranavah sarva-vanmayah

devo narayano nanya

eko ‘gnir varna eva ca

ekah — only one; eva — indeed; pura — formerly; vedah — veda; pranavah omkarasarvavakmayah — consisting of all vak/speech; devah — God; narayanah — only Narayanana anyah – no other; ekah agnih — one agnivarnah — order of life; eva ca — and certainly.”

Here pura refers to satya yuga as evidenced by the next s’loka.

SB 9.14.49:

“pururavasa evasit

trayi tretamukhe nrpa

agnina prajaya raja

lokam gandharvam eyivan

pururavasah — from King Pururava; eva — only; asit — there was; trayi — the three;  tretamukhe – in the beginning of the Treta (yuga); nrpa — O King (Pariksit); agnina — by fire;  prajaya — by his son/subject; raja — the King (Pururava);  lokam gandharvam — Gandharva Loka; eyivan — went.

“O Maharaja Pariksitat the beginning of Tretayuga, King Pururava inaugurated a karmakanda sacrifice. Thus Pururava, who considered the yajnic fire his son, was able to go to Gandharvaloka as he desired.”

See Also : How many kinds of Yugas are there?

Division of one Veda into four and development of many S’akas or branches.

Veda Vyasa collected, consolidated, and classified the Vedas into the 4 Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads.

  • Different brahmans had different functions in a yajna (yaj: means to worship, yajna is worship. I think many people inaccurately translate the word yajna as sacrifice).

Vyasa taught each of these functionaries a different set of Veda Mantrams and asked them to perform the Yajnams together. So for a complete understanding, we need to study the Vedas all together with the gestures and the actions to be performed along with the yajnam.

I also think that since other gurus such as Gauthama also taught the Vedas prior to Vyasa, their students, may have preserved a different order or classification of the Veda Mantras. We need to know where to find these versions. Different branches of these Vedas evolved over time.

As per the Vishnu Puranam, Vyasa taught :

  1. Rig Veda to Paila
  2. Yajur Veda to Vaisampayana
  3. Sama Veda to Jaimini
  4. Atharva Veda to Sumanthu
  5. Puranas and Itihasas to Romaharshana.

Here is the description from the Srimad Bhagavatham:

Source : 1.4.15 to 1.4.23

Vyasadeva purified himself in the Sarasvati River and sat by her banks and meditated at sun-rise. He thought about the Dharma in the different Yugas. He observed the fall in Dharma, the decreased longevities and competencies of the people. He divided the Single Veda into 4 Vedas : ṛgyajuḥsāmaatharva as well as the puranas and the itihasas and taught them as follows. The Sakas are branches of the Vedas grew as each student acquired disciples and grand-disciples of his own.

  1. Rig Veda to Paila
  2. Yajur Veda to Vaisampayana
  3. Sama Veda to Jaimini
  4. Atharva Veda to Angirasa also known as Sumanthu (1.4.22)
  5. Puranas and Itihasas to Romaharshana, the father of Ugrasrava.

(Note : Max Mueller theorised that the Vedas were written one after the other at arbitrary and equally spaced intervals and treated the Rg Veda as the oldest. (This also explains the western obsession with the Rg Veda alone. My study, so far, shows that this theory of Max Mueller was not only wrong but also baseless, as per his own admission. There are Veda Mantrams in all the 4 Vedas that are composed at different points in time as revealed by astronomic dating and by the age and time of the rshis who composed/received them.  See : Date of Veda Mantras.)

The Shakalya branch is what I found online here

Methods of Chanting the Veda Mantras

The gentleman who runs the Veda Gurukula in Machilipatnam, passed on this list to me through my father.

Image Source : Elamanchali Veda School : Gayathri Seva Trust

The many reetis (rItis) and gatis for chanting (repeating) the Veda Mantras.

  1. vakya (vAkya)
  2. pada
  3. krama
  4. jata (jaTa)
  5. mala (mAla)
  6. s’ikha
  7. rekha (rEkha)
  8. dhvaja
  9. danda
  10. ratha
  11. ghana
Other Posts : 

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

I felt that the Vedas deserved their own web-site. In this web-site, I published all that I find out about the vedas. If you wish to learn about the Vedas, you can take advantage of my ‘learning and findings’.

Now, I am in the process of bringing it all back into the fold of this Ancient Indians web-site.

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula