The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Classification of Vedas in Different Branches which is chapter 6(b) of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the zeroth chapter 6(b) of the Twelfth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 6(b) - Classification of Vedas in Different Branches

[Read previous for the first part of this chapter (i.e., verses 1-35)]

Śaunaka said:

36. Be pleased to tell us into how many branches (or schools) were the Vedas divided by Paila and others (viz. Vaiśampāyana, Jaimini, Sumantu and Śuka) great-souled teachers of the Vedas, the disciples of Vyāsa!

Śūta [Sūta?] said:

37. While god Brahmā, the occupant of the highest position in the creation, was meditating with well-composed mind, from the space (the sky-like, vacuum) in his heart arose a sound. The same sound is even perceptible when the function of the sense of hearing is closed.

38. By concentrating on that sound (nāda)[1] O sage, yogins wipe out all the impurities of the mind caused by the Adhibhūta, the Adhyātma and the Adhidaiva[2] and attain, to Liberation from saṃsāra (lit. the state from which there is no return).

39. From that nāda (sound) arose the sacred syllable Om which consists of three mātrās (viz. a, u, m,) the source of which is unmanifest[3] and shines (i.e. becomes manifest in the heart) by itself. That Om is the special index of the glorious Brahman, the Supreme Soul.

40. He (god Brahmā) hears the unmanifest syllable OM even when the auditory sense has ceased to work (as when the ears are closed) and whose cognition remains unaffected even when all senses become function-less[4], (as in Samādhi or in deep sleep). It is that sacred syllable OM which, evolving from Paramātman, becomes manifest (audible) in the cavity of the heart and produces the great speech called the Vedas.

41.[5] It (Praṇava or OM) directly and comprehensively expresses the Supreme Soul (Paramātman), the Brahman itself which is its source. It is the eternal seed of all the Mantras, Vedas and Upaniṣads.

42. It i.e. OM is constituted of three sounds: A and others viz. U and M, O most prominent member of the Bhṛgu clan. These sounds—A, U and M severally contain (the seed of) the triads of entities, viz. guṇas (modes of prakṛti, viz. sattva, rajas and tamas), names (the Vedas—Ṛg, Sāman and Yayus), substances[6] (the three spheres or worlds known as bhūḥ—the earth, bhuvaḥ—the sky and the aerial region svaḥ—the heaven and states of consciousness (wakefulness, dream and deep sleep).

43. Out of the (above) three syllables, the glorious Lotus-born god Brahmā evolved the alphabets consisting of semi-vowels (y, v, r, l,) aspirants (ś, ṣ, s, h), vowels, consonants (viz. gutturals, palatals, cerebrals, dentals, and labials) short, long and predated accents or sound measures.)

44. With the help of these sounds (letters of the alphabet) Brahmā, through his four mouths, gave expression to four Vedas together with the vyāhṛtis (bhūḥ, bhuvaḥ, svaḥ) and the sacred syllable OM. He intended to lay down the duties of the priests, viz., hotā, adhvaryu, udgātā and Brahmā officiating at sacrifice.

45. He taught the Vedas to his sons (like Marīci and others) who were Brāhmaṇa sages and made them experts in the Vedic pronunciation and intonation. They became the promulgators of dharma and taught the same, in their turn, to their sons.

46. During the course of the four Yugas those Vedas were handed clown from generation to generation by their disciples who were strict in the observance of Vows. These Vedas were rearranged by great sages at the beginning of the Dvāpara age[7].

47. Observing that men are having decreasing span of life growing less and less energetic and becoming poorer in intellectual capacity, the Brāhmaṇa sages, as directed by Lord Viṣṇu, enthroned in their heart, re-arranged the Vedas.

48. Even in this (Vaivasvata Manvantara also, O sage, the glorious Lord, the Protector of the world was prayed by the rulers of various spheres like god Brahmā, Ṛuḍra and others to protect the path of righteousness.

49. (Responding favourably to their prayers) the Almighty Lord descended as the son of Parāśara and Satyavatī, out of a ray (particle) of Sattva which is but a part of the Māyā. He divided the Veda into four parts, O fortunate sage!

50. Just as (out of a heap of mixed up precious stones) precious stones of the same kind are assorted and kept in separate heaps, he (Vyāsa) selected and classified the Vedic Mantras as belonging to the category of the Ṛg, Atharvan, Yajus, and Sāman and thus compiled four Saṃhitās or collections out of those (formerly mixed up) Mantras.

51. The vastly intelligent Vyāsa summoned four of his pupils and entrusted to each of them one of the Saṃhitās, O Śaunaka.

52. As the tradition goes, he taught the first compilation called Bahvṛca[8] or the Ṛgveda to Paila and to Vaiśampāyana, the compilation called Yajurveda which (being a collection of prose texts to be recited at the sacrifice) is also called Nigada.

53. He taught the compilation of Sāma-Veda or the Chandoga saṃhitā (compilation of mantras to be sung according to metre in which they are composed) to Jaimini. And the compilation of Atharvāṅgiraṣī or the Atharva Veda to his disciple named Sumantu.

54-56. (Dividing the Ṛgveda into two branches) the sage Paila taught that Saṃhitā to Indra-pramiti and Bāṣkala. Bāṣkala on his part divided the Saṃhitā taught to him in four branches and taught one each respectively to (his pupils) Bodhya, Yājñavalkya, Parāśara and Agnimitra, O descendant of Bhṛgu (i.e. Śaunaka). Indrapramiti, a man of controlled mind, taught his Saṃhitā to the learned sage Māṇḍūkeya (who was his son). Māṇḍūkeya’s disciple was Devamitra who taught it to Saubhari and others.

57. Śākalya was Māṇḍukeya’s son. He divided his Saṃhitā into five branches and imparted the knowledge of one each to his pupils, Vātsya, Mudgala, Śālīya, Gokhalya, and Śiśira.

58. The sage Jātūkarṇya was another disciple of Śākalya. He (divided his Sarṅhitā into three parts) taught his Saṃhitā together with its Nirukta (etymological explanation of Vedic words) to his (four) pupils, Balāka, Paija, Vaitāla and Viraja.

59. Bāṣkala’s son, Bāṣkali, carved out of all the above mentioned branches a new Saṃhitā called Vālakhilya Saṃhitā which was mastered and preserved by (his disciples) Bālāyani, Bhajya and Kāsāra.

60. These compilations (branches) of the Bahvṛca or the Ṛgveda were learnt and preserved by these Brāhmaṇa sages. He who listens to the classification of the Vedas is absolved of all sins. (Now follows the account of the Taittirīya Saṃhitā of the Yajurveda).

61. It is traditionally reported that Vaiśampāyana had pupils called Carakādhvaryus.[9] For the sake of their preceptor, they performed a penance in expiation of the sin of Brahma- hatyā (killing a Brāhmaṇa).

62. One of his disciples, Yājñavalkya, remarked (to Vaiśampāyana). “O worshipful Sir, what (insignificant) amount of reward (in the form of expiation of the sin) can be gained through the poor performance of penance by these weaklings? I alone can undergo such austere penance as will be extremely difficult for others to perform (and will alone absolve you of the sin of Brahma-hatyā).”

63. When (boastfully) addressed thus, the preceptor (Vaiśampāyana) got offended. He (peremptorily) ordered; “Get out. Enough of a pupil like you who contemptuously speak of Brāhmaṇa sages. Give up at once whatever you have learnt from me.”

64. Thereupon, the son of Devarāta (Yājñavalkya) on his part immediately vomitted out the collection of Yajurveda passages (that he learnt from his preceptor) and left the place. And the sages saw the collection of the Yajurveda texts.

65. (At that sight) the sages were so enamoured of it (and greedily wanted to master as much of it as they could. But acceptance of vomition being disgraceful to Brāhmaṇas) they assumed the form of Tittira birds (francoline Partridges) and collected it. Hence the beautiful branches of the Yajurveda came to be known as Taittirīyas. (The origin of the branches called Kāṇva, Mādhyandina of the white Yajurveda is now explained).

66. Thereupon, in search of Śruti portions not known even to his preceptor, Yājñavalkya devoutly worshipped and prayed the sun-god, the Master of Vedas[10] as follows:

Yājñavalkya implored:

67. Salutations to the glorious sun-god denoted by the syllable OM[11]—The sun-god who, though one, abides in the form of ātman, in the whole of the universe, enthroned in the hearts of four categories of beings (viz. oviparous, viviparous, Sweat-born, sprouted from the earth i.e. the plants, etc.) beginning from god Brahmā down to a clump of grass but who (though inside like a Jīva) is not circumscribed by any condition, who like the limitless sky envelops the universe from the out-side as well in the form of Time. The almighty God maintains, all alone, the life and progress of the world by evaporating waters’ (during the summer) and releasing them back (as rain-showers during the rainy season) throughout years constituted of parts of time such as a moment, an instant, an eye- wink, etc. (This explains the Vareṇyatva stated in the first foot of the Gāyatrī-mantra).

68. O Prominent god! The creator of the world! We devoutly and properly as per Vedic procedure) meditate upon that celebrated orb of yours which is shining over these. O god of blazing splendour! You burn down all the sins and (the resultant) miseries as well as their seed (ignorance) in the case of those who worship (and contemplate upon) you as per prescriptions laid down in the Vedas. We worship you thrice a day (in the morning, the mid-day and the evening) as per rules laid down in the Vedas. (This explains the second foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra).

69. You of your own accord become the soul, the inner controller of the multitudes of mobile and immobile beings in this world, which depend on you for their very existence and direct their minds, sense-organs, vital breaths which are distinct from the soul and hence inert matter. (This explains the third foot of the Gāyatrī).

70. Beholding that this world is swallowed up by an extremely horrendous boaconstrictor (of terrible jaws) called ‘darkness’ and is bereft of consciousness as if it is dead, you, being extremely tender-hearted, resuscitated it by your compassionate glance and directed it to attend to the course of performing their religious duties thrice every day which ultimately lead to the summum bonum and you go about like the sovereign of the world instilling terror in the hearts of the wicked.

71. On all sides, at every stage, you are worshipped by the guardian deities of the cardinal points with presents in their lotus-bud-like joined palms.

72. Hence, as I am desirous of learning those texts of the Yajurveda which are fresh (i.e. not properly known to others), I approach and worship your lotus-feet which are bowed down by (Indra and other) rulers of the three worlds.” Thus prayed Yajñavalkya.

Sūta said:

73. Being thus extolled and pleased thereby, the glorious Lord Hari i.e. the sun-god, assumed the form of a horse and out of grace, imparted to that sage the knowledge of those portions of the Yajuṛveda which were not stale (i.e. known to others).

74. That (spiritually) powerful sage classified hundreds of those mantras of the Yajurveda into fifteen branches, known as Vājasanīs (They were called Vājasanī as they were delivered very rapidly from the hair of his mane by the sun god in the form of a horse) Kāṇva, Mādhyandina and other sages learnt those branches.

(Now begins the topic of Sāma-veda)

75. Jaimini, the Chanter of the Sāma-Veda had a son called Sumantu who was (already) a sage. He had a son called Sunvan. To each of them, Jaimini taught a separate branch of the (Sāma-Veda) saṃhitā.

76. Jaimini had another disciple called Sukarmā who was a Brāhmaṇa of vast intellectual capacity. He classified the compilation of Sāman hymns into one thousand branches (lit. he made the tree of the Sāmaveda grow into a thousand branches)

77. Hiraṇyanābha of Kosala (country) and Pauṣyañji—both disciples of Sukarman accepted (i.e. learnt) the entire Sāmaveda. So did another disciple Āvantya (a resident of Avanti) who was the most prominent knower of Brahma (Veda).

78. Pauṣyañji and Āvantya as well, each had five hundred disciples. They say that Pauṣyañji, Āvantya as well as Hiraṇyanābha[12] had five hundred disciples who learnt as many branches of Sāma, They hailed from the northern part of the country and hence arc called ‘Northerners’ though some call them “easterners”.

79. Laugākṣi, Māṅgali, Kulya, Kuśīda and Kukṣi—the (other) pupils of Pauṣyañji accepted (learnt) hundred compilations (Branches) of Sāmaveda each.

80. Kṛta, the disciple of Hiraṇyanābha taught twenty- four compilations (of Sāma hymns) to his pupils and Āvantya, a man of self-control, taught the remaining collections to his students.

Footnotes and references:


Concentration on the Nāda (sound) is a special Type of Yoga.


These terms arc variously interpreted: Thus dravya or adhi-bhūta is taken as pertaining to the bhūtas or elements the body; Krīyā or adḥyātma as organs of actions (Padaratnāvalī) but karma—merit as well as sin (Bhāgavata Candrikā); Kāraka or adhidaiva as sense of perception’ (Padaratnāvalī) Sense-organs (Bhāgavata Candrikā).


aprabhava (i) The source of which is too subtle to be understood by those who are not adept in Yoga (Bhāgavata Candrikā).

(ii) Whose source is the unmanifest Hari (Padaratnāvalī).


This is not possible in the case of Jīva who depends on sense-organs (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā).


Both Bhāgavata Candrikā and Padaratnāvalī use the adjectives in this verse as qualifying the Brahman e.g. the Brahman who is the most powerful in its own essential glory. Padaratnāvalī states that previously OM is called ‘a significant index (liṅga) of the Brahman, here it is described as its comprehensive (vācaka) expression and the seed of Mantras and Vedas which when pronounced and articulated properly have the potency to give the fruit of all Mantras:

acchinnatvenoccāryamāṇaṃ sarva-mantrādīnāṃ japtānām phala-dāna-sāmarthyaṃ janavati /


arthaḥ: Bhāgavata Candrikā, as a Viśiṣṭādvaitin, proposes the following triad:

(i) Jīvātman deserves to be a part and parcel of Paramātman. (ii) He depends for shelter on Paramātman and is (iii) fit to be enjoyed by him.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā corrects this statement by pointing out that it was at the end of the Dvāpara age, at the time of King Śantanu, that Vyāsa re-arranged the Vedas.


Bahvṛc so called as it consists of the biggest number of Mantras.


The term is variously explained: Pupils called

(i) Carakas and Adhvaryus;
(ii) Carakas who became Adhvaryus (experts in the Yajurveda)

Caraka—(1) One who observed a vow (2) Pilgrims to places of holy water (Padaratnāvalī)

Adhvaryus—experts in conducting sacrifices. (Padaratnāvalī).


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s quotation:

ṛgbhiḥ pūrvāhṇe divi-deva īyate, yajurvede tiṣṭhati, madhye ahnaḥ
sāma-vedenāstamaye mahīyate
vedair aśūnyas tribhireti sūryaḥ / /


Padaratnāvalī: Salutations to the Supreme Lord denoted by the syllable Oṃ, the Brahman itself. You are endowed with six excellent attributes which show your supreme nature as applied to sages like Vasiṣṭha). You are eternal preceding all creation (ādityāya).


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā quotes Viṣṇu-purāṇa 3.6.4. b and 5 to support this.

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