In fact, Yajurveda is the third of the four Vedas, which is mostly based on the Rig Veda.
Yajurveda is mainly in prose form. It is a ritual Veda. This post shares with you everything about Yajur Veda.
What is Yajur Veda?
“Yajus” means worship, and “Veda” means knowledge, so Yajur Veda is devoted to the worship of the Gods. It primarily contains prose mantras for worship rituals. It describes the way to perform religious rituals as well as sacred ceremonies.
In simple terms, Yajurveda can be understood as a book of rituals. This is a knowledge text of prose mantras that are used in Vedic rituals. It contains the technical mechanics of sacred rituals & ceremonies.
It was the main Vedic script that was used by the priests in ancient India. This is a guide-book for the Adhvaryu priest for doing all ritualistic works in a sacrifice. So, Yajur Veda is a prayer-book for the Adhvaryu priest. It mainly deals with sacrificial rituals.
Moreover, a large part of this Vedic text is devoted to ritual instruments & offerings that relate to certain aspects of Brahman or God. It also details the principles of Pranayama and asana practice. The Yoga teachings that are found in the Yajurveda are referred to as Vedic Yoga.
On a deeper level, Yajurveda seeks to create consciousness among people. It sets forth a yogic practice to purify both the body as well as the mind.
So, Yajurveda seeks to awake your inner consciousness to open up new avenues of learning and understanding life and existence. The veda brings together the cosmic energies within oneself.
It helps to lead a life that is both meaningful and satisfying. It can help you attain higher forms of happiness, including Moksha, Nirvana, or immortality.
Yajur Veda is believed to have been composed around 1200 to 1000 BCE.
Division & Samhitas
The Yajur Veda has been divided into two parts:
- The White Yajur Veda known as Shukla or Pure
- The Black Yajur Veda known as Krsna or Dark
The White Yajurveda contains prayers and specific instructions for performing devotional sacrifices. It implies “well-arranged & clear” Yajur Veda. The White Yajur Veda has survived in the form of two recensions into modern times.
On the other hand, the Black Yajurveda contains instructions for sacrificial rituals. It implies the “un-arranged & un-clear” collection of verses in Yajur Veda. The black Yajur Veda has survived in the form of four recensions into modern times.
There’s a story given by Mahidhara that relates to the two-fold division of the Yajur Veda.
Sage Vaishampayana had taught the Yajurveda to Rishi Yajyavalkya and other pupils. However, once Vaishampayana became angry with Yajyavalkya and instructed him to give back what he had learned.
Yajyavalkya then vomited the Veda that he had learned from Sage Vaishampayana with the power of Yoga, and the other pupils swallowed up the Yajus, thus vomited and assumed the form of birds known as Tittri.
So, the Yajus became dark and was named as Krsna or Taittiriya. Yajyavalkya prayed to the Sun, who descended in the form of a horse and returned him the Yajus. So, this Yajurveda was named as Shukla or Vajasaneyi.
Shukla Yajur Veda includes two Samhitas that are available today in the form of:
- Madhyandina Samhita: It contains 40 Adhyāyas, 303 Anuvakas, and 1975 verses
- Kanva Samhita: It contains 40 Adhyāyas, 328 Anuvakas, and 2086 verses
On the other hand, Krsna Yajurveda includes four Samhitas that are available today in the form of:
- Taittiriya Samhita: It contains 2 Sub-recensions, 7 Kanda, and 42 Prapathakas
- Kapishthala Samhita: It includes 5 Sub-recensions, 6 Kanda, and 48 Prapathakas
- Kathaka Samhita: It includes 12 Sub-recensions, 5 Kanda, 40 Prapathakas, and 3093 Mantras
- Maitrayani Samhita: It includes 6 Sub-recensions, 4 Kanda, and 54 Prapathakas
These Yajur Veda Samhita give a detailed description of sacrifices.
For example, there are vivid descriptions of many important sacrifices like Agnihotra, Vajapeya, Pitrimedha, Ashvamedh, Somayaga, Sarva-Medha, Sautramani, and so on.
The two major sacrifices that are described in the Yajurveda relate to Ashvamedh and Darsapurnamasa.
One of the most popular hymns from Yajurveda is the Gayatri Mantra that is popular even to this day. It is used during auspicious ceremonies and occasions.
The Taittiriya Samhita is considered to be the best part of Yajur Veda. It has been divided into seven books. The oldest Yajurveda Samhita is known to be the Maitrayani Samhita that has survived.
The following are the commentators on the Krsna Yajur Veda:
The commentators on the Shukla Yajurveda are as follows:
- Kanva Recension: Sāyaṇa, Ānanda bodha, Anantācārya, Kālanātha, Murārimiśra, Halāyudha, Aditya-darśana, Devapāla, and Somānanda-putra
- Madhyandina Recension: Saunaka, Harisvāmin, Uraṭa, Gauradhara, and Mahīdhara
The Upanishads of this Veda include:
- The Katha Upanishad
- The Taittiriya Upaniṣad
- The Svetāśvatara
- The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
- The Isha Upanishad
- Maitri Upanishad
Most of the gods that are found in Rig Veda are also found here, such as Rudra and Uṣas. It emphasizes devotion to God.
This Vedic text also proves a useful source of information for agriculture, social, as well as economic life during the Vedic period.
What Yajur Veda Says?
The Yajur Veda has been described as the “Veda of Rituals.” It contains about 1975 verse-mantras set in 40 chapters that had been used in ritual sacrifices by the Adhvaryu priest.
In fact, Yajurveda contains different levels of knowledge and wisdom.
Originally, the Yajur Veda contained 109 branches of knowledge. However, now only seven branches are found. Vajasaneyi is the most prominent branch of knowledge found in the Yajurveda.
The Yajur Veda serves as a guide for the priests to perform sacred rituals like Ashvamedh or Rajasuya. It contains directions or formulas along with the verses that the priests used to sing during sacred ceremonies.
It contains invocations of the deities as well as ritual prescriptions. In simple terms, Yajur Veda describes “sacrificial formulas” for the entire sacrificial ceremony.
It contains prose formulae and prayers known as the Yajus. Within each formula, there are mantras that are associated with each ritual. These are particularly meant for the purpose of sacrificial rituals to manipulate the gods to a certain extent.
So, the Yajurveda contains the most important mantras for sacrificial rituals in the Hindu religion. For example, the Taittiriya Samhita of the Yajur Veda contains the Gayatri Mantra four times.
Another excerpt (mantra) from the Taittiriya Samhita goes like this:
Yo’sman dvesti yam ca vayam dvisma
Idam asya griva api krntami”
(Taittiriya-Samhita 188.8.131.52 c)
Some other mantras from the Yajurveda include:
- Purusha Sukta (Vajasenayi Samhita 31.1-6)
- Sri Rudram (Taittiriya Samhita 4.5, 4.7)
In fact, the Yajur Veda is regarded as the most important of the four Vedas. It brings out the essence of pleasing the gods as well as balancing the cosmos through its rituals.
So, that’s it from us in this post on Yajurveda. We hope that it has offered you an insightful and detailed account of Yajurveda.
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