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VEDIC RELIGION (MATHAM)
Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
Veda is a book which has been learnt only direct from the teacher for thousands of years in Bharatadesa. It is in four: Rigveda, Yajyrveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Atharvaveda is also known as Aatharvanaveda, Atharvaangiras, Bhriguvistharam, Bhriguvaangiras. ‘Veda’ denotes mantra and Brahmana. Mantras are used to prayerfully call Devatas. Brahmanas are like explanations for mantras. In every Veda, mantras have been compiled and that compilation is known as ‘Samhita’. Rik mantras are found in Rigveda Samhita, Yajur mantras in Yajurveda Samhita, Sama mantras in Samaveda Samhita and Atharva mantras in Atharvaveda Samhita.
Rik mantras are in the form of Riks, which may be called Vedic poems. Yajur mantras are in the form of Yajus, which may be called Vedic prose. Sama mantras are in the form of Sama, which may be called Sama songs. Atharva mantras are generally in the form of Rik.
Brahmanas in each Veda are generally in prose. Their first part details the meaning and usage of mantras. The second part talks of Vanaprasthas’ dharma. For this reason it is also called ‘Aaranyakam’. The third part gives the method of approaching the Guru, learning from him the nature of Atman and attaining Moksha. It is also called ‘Upanishad’. There are many Upanishads. Of them, some 8 to 10 are the best. Isavasyam, Kathopanishad and Mundakam are in the form of poetry. The rest are generally in prose. As Isavasyam is the final part of Sukla Yajurveda Samhita, it is also called ‘Mantropanishad’. In Vedas, the part dealing with karmas like Yagas is also sometimes called ‘Karmakandam’ and the part dealing with Gnana is called ‘Gnanakandam’.
As these Vedas were learnt verbally from Guru, it became necessary to ensure the correctness of the words therein. As the words are made of letters, it became necessary to write down the grammar of those words. This is called ‘Siksha’. There the types, origin, changes occurring during union etc. of letters are covered. As words are found to have compounds and breakdown words, a set of rules to understand this process became necessary; that is called ‘Vyakaranam’.
As Rigveda Samhita, Atharvaveda Samhita, Kathopanishad etc. are in poetry form and as poems were formed in different structures of words, there had to be a grammar for poetry. That is called ‘Chandas’. If the meaning of words is not clear, it is not possible to understand the meaning of Veda. If the meaning of mantras is not clear, it is not possible to chant them properly. This necessitated a book to explain the meanings of words; that book is called ‘Niruktam’.
In Vedas it is stated that the karmas mentioned therein have to be performed at a particular time. In order to know time, astronomy became necessary; that book is called ‘Jyotisham’. Vedas say that yagas have to be performed. Each yaga was performed in a certain way. In latter times, they thought that it would be convenient to write down these procedures in the form of books and such books, which came to be authored, are known as ‘Kalpasutram’.
Like books dealing with yagas covered in Vedas, books came to be written about karmas to be performed in Vivahagni as stipulated in Smritis. These books are known as ‘Grihyasutram’. Other than these, books were also written about the general dharma of varnas and asramas, the method of study of Vedas, determination of Aasoucha (impure period) etc.; they are called ‘Dharmasutram’.
The above three types of books came to be called ‘Kalpasutram’ in course of time. In that case, it may be understood that the books dealing with yagas came to be known as ‘Srouthasutram’.
As Siksha, Vyakaranam, Chandas, Niruktam, Jyotisham, Kalpam- all these six were useful to protect Vedas, each in a certain way, they were known as ‘Vedangas’.
Vedic ‘Siksha’ has also got another name- ‘Praatisaakhyam’. This name itself indicates that there must have been a ‘Siksha’ for every ‘Saakha’ of Veda. But now there are only very few ‘Praatisaakhyas’ in vogue.
What is ‘Saakha’? Saakha means branch. Every Veda was studied by many Rishis in their families. May be, Veda studied in a family has been considered a separate Saakha. They say that there were 21 Saakhas in Rigveda, 10 Saakhas in Yajurveda, 1000 Saakhas in Samaveda and 9 Saakhas in Atharvaveda. Now there are only very few Saakhas available to us.
Vedic Vyakaranas must have been a minimum of 8, as our forefathers say that Panini’s Vyakarana is the ninth and that on its arrival the other vyakaranas died. We come to know from Veda that Indra authored a vyakarana; similarly we know from Mahabhashyam that Brihaspati wrote a book called ‘Sabdaparayanam’. Many differences were found in the Samskrit language used in Vedas and that used in Panini’s time. He created vyakarana, calling the former as ‘Vaidikam’ and the latter as ‘loukikam’; the method adopted in his book is appreciated by all.
On Vedic Chandas, a little coverage is found in Taittiriya Samhita, Sankhyayana Sroutha Sutram, Samaveda Nidana Sutram and Katyayana Sarvanukramani. There is no book available now which goes into detail of Chandas. Pingala’s Chandas Sastra came in latter days.
That there were many books on Nirukta is clear from Yaskar’s Nirukta, available now. Very few books are available on Jyotisha and Kalpasutras. Manusmriti etc. were written on the basis of Dharmasutras extant earlier.
Jaimini wrote in the form of Sutras (aphorisms) the purport of Karmakanda in Vedas and Badarayana Vyasa wrote on Gnanakanda. The former is called ‘Purvamimamsa’ and the latter ‘Uttaramimamsa’.
Nyaya sutram was composed by Gautama to understand the import of philosophy using logic. For people in general to know dharma well, Valmiki wrote Ramayana and Vyasa, the Mahabharata and Puranas.
All these are books enabling us to understand Vedic dharma; these are called 14 Vidyas.
People were divided into four classes: Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. It is possible that in early times the former castes were called upper castes and the latter, lower castes. That is why Dharmasutram says that if brahmana thinks he is superior to others, he will lose his brahmanya (characteristic of brahmana) immediately. Out of the four varnas, children born of union of males of the first three varnas and females of the last varna were called ‘Anuloma’ caste. Children born of the union of uppercaste women and lower caste men are called ‘Pratiloma’ caste.
Of the four varnas, men of the three varnas of brahmana, kshatriya and vaisya were taught Vedas through direct teaching of Guru. By doing study of Vedas, they were deemed to have cleared their debt to Rishis. They then got married and performed Agnihotram, yagas etc. They were thus considered to have cleared the debt to Devas. In that condition they honoured brahmachari, sanyasi et al and all guests and lived with wife and children. Only if everyone had a male offspring, he was deemed to have cleared the debt to Pitrus. Hence there was a rule that husband should have union with his wife during the Ritu (fertile) period till a son was born to them.
When their son grew up to be capable of shouldering family responsibility and in turn had his own male offspring, they became Vanaprasthas. If their wives were willing to accompany them, they took them along. If the wife was not willing, she was left with her son and the husband went to the forest and lived there. He did a bit of Agni karmas and spent their time in penance, subsisting on fruits, roots etc.
Six are the duties assigned to brahmana- study of Vedas, teaching Vedas, performing yagas, guiding others in yagas, giving danam (ceremonial gifts) and receiving danam.
Kshatriya was assigned five duties- study of Vedas, performing yagas, giving danam, protecting the citizens, and punishing the guilty. Vaisya was assigned the duties of study of Vedas, performing yagas, giving danam, protecting cows and engaging in agriculture, trade etc. Sudra was assigned the duties of working in agriculture, carpentry etc.,sculpture, dance and adoring brahmana etc.
As study of Vedas was not assigned to Sudra, upanayanam was not performed to him. As study of Vedas was assigned to the three varnas starting from brahmana, they underwent upanayanam. Hence they were known as ‘Dvija’ (twice-born). “Trayo varna dvijatayah”. In the second birth, Gayatri is the mother and the Guru the father. Hence it is necessary for them to chant Gayatri continuously. They should chant Gayatri 1000 times, or 100 times or at least 10 times in the morning and evening. By this his sins will go away. He will not face difficulties from planets not favourable to him.
When a person dies, the one who makes the soul leave the body is called Yama. After death, the soul goes to Swarga, if he is to enjoy the fruit of good deeds alone. He goes to naraka, if he is to undergo the fruit of evil deeds alone. The instrument enabling his journey is the post death rituals performed by his son. Further, food for the Devatas in Pitruloka is the offerings by people here in sraadham. Hence begetting a son is fulfilling the duty to Pitrus.
Devas live in Swarga; their king is Indra. Their food is the Homam performed by people in Bhuloka. If people offer homam to a Devata in Agni, Agni will carry and reach that offering to that Devata. In response to the help offered by people here, Devas shower rain.
There are frequent fights between Devas and Asuras. Devas then request help from Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
What gives strength to Devas is Somarasam. People therefore performed Somayaga. Somayaga is of seven types. In yagas, Ritviks (priests) are sixteen. Of them, the most important are Hota, Adhvaryu, Udgata and Brahma. Hota chants mantras for Devatas. Adhvaryu performs homam etc. Udgata sings Samaveda for Devatas. Brahma oversees if all of them perform their functions properly.
Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas talk in detail about divinities like Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Durga, Balarama and Skanda.
Brahma: He was born in the lotus out of the navel of Mahavishnu. He has four faces. He is seated on lotus. He is the creator of worlds. There are many Asuras who did austerities towards him and attained their fruit.
Vishnu: Rigveda says that he measured the three worlds with his three steps. He took many incarnations in order to protect Devas from the unbearable cruelties inflicted by Asuras and Rakshasas. He protected the devotee Prahlada. He is of the blue-cloud complexion. He has conch and discus in his hands and wears garland on his chest. He wears Pitambaram (yellow silk). He has names like Pundarikaksha (lotus-eyed), one with Garuda on flag etc. he is the consort of Lakshmi. He became an arrow when Siva destroyed Tripura (three asuras in the form of three worlds).
Siva: Books describe him as Three-eyed, one who has consumed poison, Nilakantha (blue-throated), Chandrasekhara (having crescent moon on head), one who punished Kala (Yama), Consort of parvati, father of Skanda, one who dwells at the foot of banyan tree, ruler of Kailasa, Destroyer of Tripura, one who is praised in four Vedas, one whose vehicle is Vrishabha (Bull- Nandi) and Parasuhasta (one who has axe in his hand).
Balarama: He is called Halayudha (one whose weapon is ploughshare), milk-complexioned, blue-clothed, one with flag of Palmyra and the elder of Achyuta (Krishna) in books.
Durga: She was prayed for removal of obstacles and fulfilment of missions.
Skanda: After marriage, Siva and Parvati spent a happy time. Indra feared that if they got a son, he would conquer all worlds and suppress him also. He went to Siva with Devas and Brahma at the head and expressed his request. Siva agreed. Now a part of Siva’s retas (semen) fell in Agni. Sapta Rishis used it as Havis (offering in yaga) and performed yaga. They asked their wives to consume the balance of that retas. The wives with the exception of Arundhati consumed it and begot six babies and left them in Saravana (grass forest). At that time Siva and Parvati were travelling in the sky. Parvati happened to see the babies. She asked her husband as to whose were those babies. He replied that the babies were indeed hers. Parvati immediately went down and picked them up. That child became the head of Devas’ army and destroyed Tarakasura. Trimurthis (brahma, Vishnu and Siva) and 33 Devas came and handed the child a toy each. (This is the story of Skanda as it appears in Ramayana, Mahabharata and certain versions of Skanda Puranam).
For the good and bad that one experiences now, the good and bad deeds done by him in the previous births are alone the cause. Hence if one wishes to be in good state later, he should perform good deeds only now.
“Vidhirhi balavan Devi dustyajam vai purakritam||
Bhagavan is everywhere. He is indeed the substratum in every material. Due to Avidya (ignorance) he appears in different forms. The duty of all people is to remove that Avidya. Once Avidya is removed, everyone will appear as the self-luminous Paramatma. The great obstacle to this realisation is desire alone. Everyone should put in efforts to remove that desire. Once desire is removed, the person will attain to Mukti (Liberation). When the Jiva is still in this body, if desire goes away in entirety, the Mukti that jiva attains is called Jivanmukti.
“Yatha sarve pramuchyante kama yesya hridi sritah|
VEDA DHARMA SASTRA PARIPALANA SABHA
Translated by: P R Kannan, Navi Mumbai
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