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Not to be confused with Ayurveda.

The Yajurveda ( yajurveda, a tatpurusa compound of yajus "sacrificial formula" and veda "knowledge") is one of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. Estimated to have been mostly composed c. 1200 or 1000 BC, the Yajurveda Samhita, or "compilation", contains the liturgy (mantras) needed to perform the sacrifices of the historical Vedic religion, and the added Brahmana and Śrautasutra add information on the interpretation and on the details of their performance.


There are two primary versions or Samhitas of the Yajurveda: Shukla (White) and Krishna(Black). Both contain the verses necessary for rituals, but the Krishna Yajurveda includes the Brahmana prose discussions mixed within the Samhita, while the Shukla Yajurveda has separately a Brahmana text, the Shatapatha Brahmana.

Shukla Yajurveda

The Shukla Yajurveda is represented by the Vajasaneyi Samhita. The name Vajasaneyi is derived from Vajasaneya, patronymic of sage Yajnavalkya, an authority and according to tradition, founder of the Vajasaneyi branch. The Vajasaneyi Samhita has forty chapters or adhyayas, containing the formulas used with the following rituals:

1.–2.: New and Full Moon sacrifices
3.: Agnihotra
4.–8.: Somayajna
9.–10.: Vajapeya and Rajasuya, two modifications of the Soma sacrifice
11.–18.: construction of altars and hearths, especially the Agnicayana
19.–21.: Sautramani, a ritual originally counteracting the effects of excessive Soma-drinking
22.–25.: Ashvamedha
26.–29.: supplementary formulas for various rituals
30.–31.: Purushamedha
32.–34.: Sarvamedha
35.: Pitriyajna
36.–39.: Pravargya
40.: the final adhyaya is the famous Isha Upanishad

There are two (nearly identical) shakhas or recensions of the Vajasaneyi Samhita (VS):

  • Vajasaneyi Madhyandina (VSM), originally of Mithila (Bihar), comprises 40 Adhyayas (but 41 in the Odisha tradition), 303 Anuvakas, 1975 verses
  • Vajasaneyi Kanva, originally of Kosala (VSK), found to be the first shakha of Shukla Yajurveda, according to the legends of the Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana. It comprises 40 Adhyayas, 328 Anuvakas, 2086 Verses. Thus have 111 verses more than the Madhyandiniya Samhita.

Both the Kanva and Madhyandina Samhitas have been transmitted with the common anudatta, udatta, and svarita accentuation (unlike the two-tone bhasika accent of the Shatapatha Brahmana).

The Madhyandina Samhita is popular in all over North India, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra (north of Nashik) and thus commands a numerous following. The Kanva Shakha is popular in parts of Maharashtra (south of Nasik), Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu. Sureshvaracharya, one of the four main disciples of Jagadguru Adi Shankara, is said to have followed the Kanva shakha. The Guru himself followed the Taittiriya Shakha with the Apastamba Kalpasutra.

The Vedic rituals of the Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, the second biggest temple in India, are performed according to the Kanva shakha. The Jayakhya Samhita of Pañcaratra says its followers are from Kanva shakha.[citation needed]

The extant Aranyakas, Upanishads, Shrautasutras, Grhyasutras and Pratishakhyas are same for both Madhayndina and Kanva shakhas. The Shukla Yajurveda has two Upanishads associated with it: the Ishavasya, as the last part of te Samhita, and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the last part of the Shatapatha Brahmana. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the most voluminous of all Upanishads. Other texts are Katyayana Shrautasutra, Paraskara Grhyasutra and Shukla Yajurveda Pratishakhya. The Shukla Yajurvedins (followers of the Shukla Yajurveda) are sometimes called the Katyayanas.

Krishna Yajurveda

There are four recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda:

  • Taittirīya saṃhitā (TS) originally of Panchala
  • Maitrayani saṃhitā (MS) originally of the area south of Kurukshetra
  • Caraka-Kaṭha saṃhitā (KS) originally of Madra and Kurukshetra
  • Kapiṣṭhala-Kaṭha saṃhitā (KapS) of the southern Punjab and Bahika

Each of the recensions has or had a Brahmana associated with it, and most of them also have associated Shrautasutras, Grhyasutras, Aranyakas, Upanishads and Pratishakhyas.

The Taittiriya Shakha

The best known and best preserved of these recensions is the Taittirīya saṃhitā. Some attribute it to Tittiri, a pupil of Yaksa and an authority according to Panini.[1] Tittiri in Sanskrit means partridge, and according to a legend, Yajnavalkya had quickly grasped a portion of the Yajurveda, but due to his arrogance, he was asked to eject out the portion by his teacher, who was incensed by his attitude. By his learned knowledge, he was able to retch out what he had studied. This regurgitated portion was swallowed by a covey of partridges and known as the TS.

The Taittirīya saṃhitā consists 7 books or kandas, subdivided in chapters or prapathakas, further subdivided into individual sections (anuvakas). Some individual hymns in this Samhita have gained particular importance in Hinduism; e.g. TS 4.5 and TS 4.7 constitute the Rudram Chamakam, while 1.8.6.i is the Shaivaite Tryambakam mantra. The beejas bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ prefixed to the (rigvedic) Savitur Gayatri mantra are also from the Yajurveda. The Taittiriya recension of the Black Yajurveda is the shakha now most prevalent in southern India. Among the followers of this Shakha, the Apastamba Sutras are the common. The Taittiriya Shakha consists of Taittiriya Samhita (having seven kandas), Taittiriya Brahmana (having three kandas), Taittiriya Aranyaka (having seven prashnas) (See Aranyaka Literature), Taittiriya Upanishad (having three prashnas or vallis – Shiksha valli, Ananda valli and Bhrigu valli) and the Mahanarayana Upanishad. The Taittiriya Upanishad and Mahanarayana Upanishad are considered to be the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth prashnas of the Aranyaka. The words prapathaka and kanda (meaning sections) are interchangeably used in Vedic literature. Prashna and valli refer to sections of the Aranyaka.

7 schools of Shrautasutras and Grhyasutras are related to the Taittiriya Shakha. These are:

  1. Apastamba
  2. Agniveshya
  3. Baudhayana
  4. Hiranyakeshi
  5. Vaikhanasa
  6. Bharadvaja
  7. Vadula

There is another short tract apart from the above, commonly known as Ekagni Kanda, which mainly consists of mantra-s used in the marriage and other rituals.

The Maitrayani Shakha

Propounded, according to tradition, by the Sage Maitreya, the followers of this shakha reside in northern parts of Maharastra and in Gujarat. The Maitrayani saṃhitā differs largely in content from the Taittiriyas, as well as in some different arrangement of chapters. Like the Katha Samhita, it provides much more detailed accounts of some rituals. In fact, it is the oldest Yajurveda Samhita preserved. Its Brahmana portions are interspersed with the Mantra sections, like in the Taittiriya Samhita. The well known Maitrayaniya Upanishad and Maitrayaniya Aranyaka belong to this shakha.

Two schools of the Shrautasutras, Grhyasutras and Shulba Sutras are related to this shakha:

  1. Manava
  2. Varaha (surviving on the border of Maharastra and Gujarat)

Other Shakhas

The Caraka-Katha and Kapisthala shakhas are available with their texts. Previously Brahmins of Kashmir and Punjab were the followers of these shakhas; nowadays only the Kashmiris follow the Grhya rituals of the Katha Shakha.

The Kāṭhaka saṃhitā or the Caraka-Kaṭha saṃhitā, according to tradition was compiled by Katha, a disciple of Vaisampayana. Like the Maitrayani Samhita, it offers much more detailed discussion of some rituals than the younger Taittiriya samhita that frequently summarizes such accounts. It comprises 40 chapters, apparently originally arranged into 5 books. The Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā or the Kapiṣṭhala-Kaṭha saṃhitā, named after the sage Kapisthala is extant only in some large fragments and edited without accent marks. This text is practically a variant of the Kāṭhaka saṃhitā.[2]

The Brahmana of this school, originally consisting of 100 chapters ('shatadhyayana'), is available only in some fragments (some have been edited); however, the major portion of the Katha Aranyaka, based on just one Kashmiri birchbark manuscript, has recently been printed. The well known Laugakshi Grihyasutra (or Kathaka Grhya Sutra) is associated with the Kathaka Sakha and is still used, in Paddhati form, by Kashmiri Brahmins. The Shrautasutra is available only in some very short fragments. Apart from the well-known (later) Katha Upanishad, there also is a short Upanishad, the Shiksha Upanisad, that parallels Taittiriya Upanishad I.


The core text of the Yajurveda falls within the classical Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE - younger than the Rigveda, and roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda, the Rigvedic Khilani, and the Sāmaveda.[3] The scholarly consensus dates the bulk of the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda hymns to the early Indian Iron Age, c. 1200 or 1000 BC,[4] corresponding to the early Kuru Kingdom.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Dowson, John (1984) [1879]. A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, and Religion, Geography, History. Calcutta: Rupa & Co. p. 319. 
  2. ^ Gonda, Jan (1975). A History of Indian Literature: Veda and Upanishads. Vol.I. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 326–7. ISBN 3-447-01603-5. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^


  • Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith, The Texts of the White Yajurveda. Translated with a Popular Commentary (1899).
  • Devi Chand, The Yajurveda. Sanskrit text with English translation. Third thoroughly revised and enlarged edition (1980).
  • The Sanhitâ of the Black Yajur Veda with the Commentary of Mâdhava ‘Achârya, Calcutta (Bibl. Indica, 10 volumes, 1854–1899)
  • Kumar, Pushpendra, Taittiriya Brahmanam (Krsnam Yajurveda), 3 vols., Delhi (1998).

External links