Vedic Heritage of India (A Brief Survey)


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Vedas 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 Ashramas, the humble thatched huts were the teachers and the taught lived together, worked together, explored together the mysteries of the universe and its creator. In this priceless collection, the oldest Indo-European literary monument, was preserved in its pristine purity, without interpolation and corruption by the generation of Rishis through the centuries. This literary collection was three-fold, consisting of 1. ricas (verses) 2. Samans (melodies) – both composed on various metres – and 3. Yajus (sacrificial formula) composed in prose. In the Vedic language yaj means to worship and the yajnas were the modes of worship in those days in which the sacred fire was kindled the offerings were made to Goods while the hymns were recited, melodies were sung and the sacrificial formulas 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 Brahmachari, and a teacher in-charge a Brahmachari, 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 collection grow to such a great extent that the Brahmacharies felt it very hard to learn and memorize the entire collections of this magnitude, within the time limit of their Brahmacharya, their studentship. Apprehended of deterioration of standard and gradual depletion of this precious heritage, Krishna Dvaipayana, on the request of Brahmarshis, living in the solitude of Himalayan resort classified and arranged these collections in the order their employment in sacrificial rites into four-fold as:

1. Rigveda-Samhita with collection of ricas that belonged to Hotr priest, (2) Samaveda-Samhita with collection of ricas on which Samans were rendered, together with two classes of melodies sung on these ricas which belonged to Udgatr priest, (3) Atharvaveda-Samhita with collection of miscellaneous ricas covering incantations magic spells etc., pertaining to Brahma priest and (4) Yajurveda-Samhita with collection of sacrificial formulas and ricas belonging to Adhvaryu priest. Krishna Dvaipayana after having taught these samhitas, to four of his chosen disciples viz., the Rigveda to Paila, the Yajurveda to Vaishampayana, Samaveda to Jaimini and Atharvaveda to Sumantu, - asked them to establish Asbramas and promote the Vedic learning all over the Aryavarta. For having thus accomplished this massive gigantic collection accumulated through centuries Krishna 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: Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads, on the one hand, and the Vedangas, on the other, comprising books on phonetics, etymology, grammar, metrics and astronomy and the Kalpasutras representing 1. Srautasutras dealing with the sacrificial rites, 2. Shulbasutras containing the rules for measurement and the building of Yajnashala (sacrificial hall), fire-altar etc. (3) Grihyasutras treating the domestic rites, and (4) Dharmasutras consisting of spiritual and secular law. Among these, the Sutras, the manuals of rules composed in euphoristic prose style, are peculiar to Indian literature and nothing like these sutras can be seen in the entire 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 sutras any time and act strictly according to the rules. Again among these the Shulbasutras are the oldest works in Indian geometry and also the oldest contribution of Vedic India to the history of Mathematical science.

This in brief is an outline of the history of the vast Vedic literature consisting of over one hundred books.

This book, as may be seen, focuses on the view held by the teachers of the ancients on the great heritage of India. The Vedic words etc., imply the great Vedic tradition, believed to have come through the ages and even the Kalpas prior to the present one, in which we live e.g. speaks of Agni’s previous birth in the far off ages, and refers to sojourn of the Sages in Naka, on their way to Eternity. The Vedas, it may be noted, are not the ballads of wandering bards nor are they folksongs of rustic merry workers of the early age. They are the solemn records in which the great heritage of this ancient land has been preserved. The Rishis endowed with medha, a mental faculty, which stores the experiences and memories of one’s previous incarnations, could feel and perceive things transcending space and time. The word medha is derived by Yaska as and the Avestan Mazda is a cognate terms of this word. The Brahmarshis derived inspiration from this heritage, the secrets of which were hidden in the ever-shining cave of their hearts:

Here is such a verse from the Samaveda itself which is regarded as a khila, supplement in the Rigveda:

Kanva, the sage, not satisfied with trite euologies sung by the singers asks them to recollect the glorious hymns, the melodious songs of the previous ages and he in despair with folded hands prays to God saying: “May the medhas of the singers (in which the past memories are preserved) be set open”. A Brahmachari, in his daily prayer while making offerings prays to Agni to confer on him this ‘medha,’ this mental faculty in which he could store the learnings acquired from his guru, by the study of scriptures, by practice of Sadhana, by experience in life.

I started my career as the Curator, Anup Sanskrit Library, Bikaner, in 1951. In the same year I got married to Miss Mohini Sabnis, B.Sc., B.T., Dip-in Physical Education, the second daughter of late Mr. Rama Rao G. Sabnis, Pleader, Dharwar. She was a teacher at the Higher Secondary School, Bijapur at that time. Latter she resigned the post and joined me at Bikaner and also worked as a Science teacher at the Maharani Sudarahan College, till we both moved together to Darbhanga in 1952. Here too she worked for a couple of years as a teacher at the Multipurpose Higher Secondary School, Laheriasarai and then resigned the post. In 1961 on the pursuation of local friends she accepted the post of the founder Principal of a newly started Public School at Darbhanga. In August 1962 I was appointed the Director of the Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, newly started by the Government of India at Tirupati. We both, with our daughter Sadhana, who was at that time about 5 years old, moved down to Tirupati where we lived full 8 years.

I am happy that this book on our great heritage with its history and the sentiment attached thereto is being published in the series of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha now a deemed-to-be-University with which we both, I directly, Mrs. Sharma indirect

Item Code: IDK891
Cover: Hardcover
Edition: 1991
Publisher: Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha
Size: 10.0" X 7.5”
Pages: 232
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