A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the samhitas: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “the vedas, brahmanas and their philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

There are four collections or Saṃhitās, namely

  1. Ṛg-Veda,
  2. Sāma-Veda,
  3. Yajur-Veda
  4. and Atharva-Veda.

Of these the Ṛg-Veda is probably the earliest. The Sāma-Veda has practically no independent value, for it consists of stanzas taken (excepting only 75) entirely from the Ṛg-Veda, which were meant to be sung to certain fixed melodies, and may thus be called the book of chants. The Yajur-Veda however contains in addition to the verses taken from the Ṛg-Veda many original prose formulas. The arrangement of the verses of the Sāma-Veda is solely with reference to their place and use in the Soma sacrifice; the contents of the Yajur-Veda are arranged in the order in which the verses were actually employed in the various religious sacrifices. It is therefore called the Veda of Yajus—sacrificial prayers. These may be contrasted with the arrangement in the Ṛg-Veda in this, that there the verses are generally arranged in accordance with the gods who are adored in them. Thus, for example, first we get all the poems addressed to Agni or the Fire-god, then all those to the god Indra and so on. The fourth collection, the Atharva-Veda, probably attained its present form considerably later than the Ṛg-Veda. In spirit, however, as Professor Macdonell says,

“ it is not only entirely different from the Rigveda but represents a much more primitive stage of thought. While the Rigveda deals almost exclusively with the higher gods as conceived by a comparatively advanced and refined sacerdotal class,th t. Atharva-Veda is, in the main a book of spells and incantations appealing to the demon world, and teems with notions about witchcraft current among the lower grades of the population, and derived from an immemorial antiquity. These two, thus complementary to each other in contents are obviously the most important of the four Vedas[1].”

Footnotes and references:


A. A. Macdonell’s History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 31.