The Yajur Veda

1. Nature and Importance:

In its character Yajurveda is quite different from the Rigveda & Samaveda Samhitas. It is principally in prose form. The word ‘Yajush‘ in the Yajurveda is explained variously. But one of its definitions says –

‘Gadyatmakam yajuh’.

A ‘Yajuh’ is that which is in prose form’. Another definition – ‘Yajur Yajateh’ talks about its relation with the sacrifice (Yajna) because both the terms are derived from the root. ‘Yaj ‘.

The Yajurveda is more pronouncedly a ritual Veda for it is essentially a guide-book for the Adhvaryu priest who had to do practically all ritualistic works in a sacrifice. His works vary from the selection of a plot of land for the sacrificial altar down to offering oblations to the sacred fires. Just as the Samaveda-Samhita is the song-book of the Udgata priest, so the Yajurveda-Samhitas are the prayer-books for the Adhvaryu priest. It is solely meant for the purposes of sacrificial rituals.

The Yajurveda is also important for its presentation of philosophical doctrines. It preaches the concept of Prana and Manas also. Many times, it is quoted for depicting religious and social life of the Vedic people. It is also known for giving certain geographical data.

2. Division and Samhitas:

The Yajurveda is two-fold-

  1. The White (or Pure) Yajurveda
  2. The Black (or Dark) Yajurveda

The Krishna Yajurveda is characterised by mixture of mantra and brahmana whereas the Shukla Yajurveda maintains the clear separation of the two. The Shukla Yajurveda is related with the Aditya-school and the Krishna Yajurveda is related with the Brahma-school. In the beginning of his commentary on the Shukla-Yajurveda Samhita, a story is given by Mahidhara, about the two-fold division of the Yajurveda. Rishi Vaishampayana taught the Yajurveda to Rishi Yajyavalkya and other pupils. Once Vaishampayana got angry with Yajyavalkya and asked him to give back what he had learnt. Yajyavalkya vomited the Veda by the power of Yoga, while the other pupils at the command of his teacher swallowed up the Yajush thus vomited, assuming the form of birds called Tittiri. Thus, the Yajush became dark and was named Kishna or Taittiriya. Then Yajyavalkya prayed to the Sun, who came to him in the form of a horse i.e. Vaji ) and gave him back the Yajush. Hence this Yajurveda was named Shukla or Vajasaneyi.

Sukla Yajurveda has two Samhita available today:

  1. Madhyandina Samhita
  2. Kanva Samhtia

Krishna Yajurveda has four Sanhitas available today:

  1. Taittiriya Samhita
  2. Kathaka Samhita
  3. Kapishthala Samhita
  4. Maitrayani Samhita

3. Contents :

We find a detailed description of sacrifices in the Samhita of Yajurveda. The Vajasaneyi-Samhita gives a vivid description of many important sacrifices such as – Darsha-Muramasa, Agnihotra, Somayaga, Chaturmasya, Agnihotra, Vajapeya, Ashvamedha, Sarva-Medha, Brahma-Rajya, Pitrimedha, Sautramani, and so on. For a general idea, the contents can be divided into three sections. The first section comprises the Darshapurnamasa, the second section deals with the Somayaga and the third section comprises the Agnicayanas. The last section of the Vajasaneyi-Samhita contains the popular Ishavasya-Upanishad. It is important to know that the first eighteen Adhyayas of the Vajasaneyi- Samhita are completely given, word for word, and explained in the Shatapatha Brahmana of the white Yajurveda. On the basis of this point, few scholars think that the last sections of this Samhita are of a later date.

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