The sixth limb or Anga of the Vedapurusa is Kalpa, his hand. The hand is called "kara" since it does work (or since we work with it). In Telugu it is called " sey ". Kalpa is the sastra that involves you in "work". A man learns to chant the Vedas, studies Siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta and Jyotisa. What does he do next? He has to apply these sastras to the rites he is enjoined to perform. He has to wash away his sins, the sins earned by acting according to his whims. This he does by the performance of good works. For this he must know the appropriate mantras and how to enunciate them correctly, understanding their meaning. Also certain materials are needed and a house that is architecturally suited to the conduct of the rituals. The fruits yielded by these must be offered to the Isvara. Kalpa concerns itself with these matters.
Why does a man learn the vedas? Why does he make efforts to gain perfection with regard to the purity and tone of their sound by learning Siksa, grammar and prosody? And why does he learn Jyotisa to find out the right time to perform rituals? The answer is to carry out the injunctions of Kalpa.
How is a rite to be performed, what are the rituals imposed upon the four castes and on people belonging to the four asramas (celibate students, house-holders, forest recluses and ascetics )? What are the mantras to be chanted during these various rites and what are the materials to be gathered? What kind of vessels are to be used, and how many rtviks (priests) are needed for the different rituals? All these come under the province of Kalpa.
A number of sages have contributed to the Kalpa sastra. Six sages have composed Kalpasutras for the Krsna-Yajurveda which is predominantly followed in the South - Apastamba, Baudhayana, Vaikhanasa, Satyasadha, Bharadhvaja, Agnivesa, Asvalayana and Sankhayana have written Kalpasutras for the Rigveda but the former's is most widely followed. For Sukla-Yajurveda there is the Kalpasutra by Katyayana. For the Kauthuma, Ranayaniya and Talavakara Sakhas of the Samaveda, Latyayana, Drahyayana and Jaimini respectively have composed Kalpasutras.
Kalpa contains Grhyasutras and Srautasutras for each recension. Both deal with the 40 samskaras to be performed from conception to death. The cremation of the body is also a sacrifice, the final offering: it is called "antyesti" and it is also to be performed with the chanting of mantras. "Isti" means a sacrifice and in antyesti the body is offered in the sacred fire as a "dravya" or material.
A Brahmin has to perform 21 sacrifices: seven "haviryajnas" based on agnihotra; seven pakayajnas and seven somayajnas. Of them the seven haviryajnas and the seven somayajnas are not included in the Grhyasutras. They belong to the Srautasutras. Together with these there are forty rites for a Brahmin -- they are called samskaras. A samskara is that which refines and purifies the performer.
Agnihotra is performed at home and yajnas [of a bigger type] in specially constructed halls. While the srautasutras contain instructions for the conduct of big sacrifices, the Grhyasutras are concerned with domestic rites. The names given before are of the authors of Srautasutras.
The Kalpasutras deal with the forty samskaras and with the eight "Atmagunas" [qualities to be cultivated by individuals]. Apart from the seven haviryajnas and seven somayajnas (together 14) the remaining 26 belong to the category of Grhyasutras. Among them are garbhadhana, pumsavana, simanta, jatakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, caula, upanayana and vivaha. I shall be dealing with them later.
The eight Atmagunas are compassion, patience, freedom from jealousy, purity or cleanliness, not being obstinate, keeping a cool mind, non-covetousness and desirelessness. These are among the "samanya-dharmas", universal virtues, to be cultivated by all jatis.
When we do "abhivadhana" [as we prostrate ourselves before the fire or before a preceptor or any elder], we mention, among other things, the sutra that we follow. To illustrate: Samavedins mention Drahyayana-sutra. Drahyayana has authored only Srautasutra. Another, Gobhila, has written a Grhyasutra. In the old days when it was a common practice to conduct big sacrifices the Srautasutras which deal with them were mentioned in the abhivadhana. This practice continues though we no longer perform srauta sacrifices and go through only such functions as marriage which are dealt with by Grhyasutras.
In the past even poor people performed srauta rituals. They got all the materials required by begging. Brahmins who were called "prati-vasanthasomayajins" conducted soma sacrifices every year during the spring [that is what the term means]. If a man had enough income to meet three years' expenses (of his family) he conducted the soma sacrifice during every season of spring.
Now there is a decay in all fields. Things have turned topsy-turvy. People spend three times their annual income but, ironically enough, owing to changes in trade and commercial practices all, including the rich, suffer from poverty and hardship. There must be moderation in everything. All the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our times have led only to indigence even in the midst of plenty. The rich man has brought himself to a position of not being able to afford all his expenses. With moderation alone will there be the means to do good works.
The sikha, the pundra and the religious rites vary from sutra to sutra. Some wear "urdhva-sikha" [lock of hair on the crown of the head], some "purva-sikha" [lock of hair on the forepart of the head]. Similarly there are differences in wearing the marks on the forehead: some wear vertical marks (urdhva-pundra) and some horizontal (tripundra). These are according to the tradition one follows.
Cayana is an important feature of sacrifices. There are two types of sulba-sutras in Kalpa: "samanya" (ordinary or common) and "visesa" (special). There are sulba-sutras by Katyayana, Baudhayana, Hiranyakesin and so on. In the south there is what is called "Andapillai-prayoga". "Andapillai" belong to Tiruppanantal and was named after the deity Ganesa ( "pillayar ") of Tiruvidaimarudur (Tanjavur district). It is according to his method that srauta works are performed. The srauta sacrifices are large-scale sacraments not conducted in the home but in a "yagasala". Rites that are not so big are "grhya" and performed at home. Since big sacrifices have become rare, the Grhyasutras have gained greater importance. Besides, alien sastras, alien practices, are becoming more and more popular.
All our sastras have one goal, that of holding the lotus-feet of Isvara. Whatever we read must be in the form of an offering to the Lord and it must be capable of bringing us Atmic merit. Our sastras belong to such a category. It is a matter for regret that the conduct of srauta works (havir and soma sacrifices), which are of the utmost importance to the Vedic religion, has become very rare.
Among those who have authored Kalpasutras, but for Drahyayana and Katyayana, all the rest, like Apastamba, Baudhayana and Asvalayana, have written both Srauta and Grhya sutras.
Apart from the above two types of sutras, we have the "Dharmasutras". These deal with a man's individual, domestic and social life. The Dharmasastra is based on them. What we understand by the English term "law" is derived from them. They are also the basis of the moral and legal sastras of Manu, Mitaksara and so on. (The following Dharmasutras have been handed down to us: those of Vasistha and Visnu for the Rgveda; those of Manu, Baudhayana, Apastamba and Hiranyakesin for the Krsna-Yajurveda; and those of Gautama for the Samaveda). Since the Atharvaveda has hardly any following its Kalpasutras are not in observance.
Kalpa deals with rites in their minutest detail. All the actions of a Brahmin have a Vedic connection. Through each and every breath he takes in, with each step he takes, he will be able to grasp the divine powers for the well-being of the world because of this Vedic connection and only because of it. The Kalpasutras contain rules with regard to how a Brahmin must sit, eat, wear his clothes and so on.
This "limb" of the vedas also deals with the construction of houses. Why? The design -- or architecture -- of a Brahmin's dwelling must be such as to help him in the performance of his duties according to the scriptures. If, say, there is a rule about the doorway where he should offer the " vaisvadeva-bali ", should not the doorway be constructed in the required sastric manner? Is the modern "flat" suitable for such rites? The character of the place where the " aupasana " is to be performed is described in Kalpa. A class-room where children are taught has to meet certain requirements: it must have a desk, benches, etc. The laboratory has to be different from it. Similarly, the architecture of a house and the design of a class-room differ functionally.
I perform puja. The place where I do it must have a certain special character. All rooms are similar in a bungalow. If a puja is performed in such a place, rules regarding ritual purity and difference based on varna and asrama cannot be properly maintained since people will come crowding together. The bungalow is built according to the white man's way of life. There must be separateness and at the same time togetherness; there must be a place for everybody. Even if we wish to have a place according to our customs and traditions, the new type of house does not help in this way. Our architecture has developed according to our traditions and needs. A cement floor cannot be maintained clean after eating. When washed or scrubbed with water, the " eccil " will spread. Westerners living in bungalows (or flats) eat at table.
We must build our houses according to our architectural science. The term "grhastha" itself is from "grha" (house). Those who observe ritual purity in matters like eating, living and clothing, must build their houses according to our architectural concepts. But we are now accustomed to living in houses built in an alien style. At first we may feel some qualms about the difficulty in practising our customs and traditions. Eventually, however, we are likely to get used to style of living and become careless about our religious observances. Instead of abandoning such houses, we abandon the religious and other practices which are part of our dharma.
I shall be speaking to you in some detail about the 40 samakaras included in Kalpa when I deal with Dharmasastra.
We have discussed ten of the caturdasa-vidya, the fourteen branches of vedic lore - the four vedas, Siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktha, Jyotisa, and Kalpa. Four remain.
For a general background, please see here