The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes vyasa and the line of his disciples which is Chapter 34 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 34 - Vyāsa and the Line of his Disciples

Summary: Vyāsa and the Line of his Disciples; Controversy between Yājñavalkya and Śākalya.

Vāyu said:—

1. On hearing his words, the sages asked Sūta thereafter “How were the Vedas classified once again, O highly intelligent one, recount that to us.”

Sūta said:—

2. In the Dvāpara Yuga that had gone before in the Svāyambhuva Manvantara, god Brahmā said to Manu:—“O highly intelligent one, protect the Veda.

3. The Yuga has changed, O dear one. The twice-borns have become deficient in energy and vigour. All of them have been duly enveloped by the defects of the Yuga.

4. Due to the Yuga, its extent is seen to have been reduced. What has been spoken in the Kṛtayuga has been, reduced to a ten-thousandth part.

5. The vigour, the splendour and the strength—everything has become very much diminished. Everything perishes. The Veḍic rites have to be performed. Let there not be the destruction of the Veda.

6. If Veda meets with destruction, the Yajña (institute) will be destroyed. When the Yajña is destroyed the Veda will (automatically) be destroyed. Then everything perishes.

7. The original Veda had four feet and it extended to a hundred-thousand (mantras). Again the Kṛṣṇa (the black Yajurveda) was ten times that (in extent). Indeed the Yajña was the yielder of all desires.”

8. On being told thus, Manu who was engaged in what was conducive to the welfare of all the worlds, said “So be it.” Then the lord divided the Single Veda of four feet into four divisions.

9-10. It was at the instance of Brahmā as well as with a desire for the welfare of all the worlds (that he divided the Veda). Therefore, I shall narrate to you all the classification of the Vedas in accordance with the current Manvantara. It is by adopting the mode of inferring what is beyond perception by means of what is (actually) perceptible, that we decide things of the past. O excellent ones, understand that.

11-13. In this Yuga, Vyāsa, the son of Parāśara, the scorcher of enemies, who was well known as Dvaipāyana was the eternal part of Viṣṇu.

12. Urged by Brahmā, he began to recount the Veda in this Yuga. For the purpose of (preserving the continuity of) the Vedas, he took four disciples viz. Jaimini, Sumantu, Vaiśampāyana and Paila the fourth one. There was a fifth (disciple) also along with these viz, Lomaharṣaṇa.

14-16. With due formality, he accepted Paila as the listener (i.e. disciple) unto the Ṛgveda, O Brāhmaṇa, Vaiśaṃpāyana as the expounder of the Yajurveda; he accepted Jaimini as the disciple for the Sāmveda and the meaning (of its mantras). Similarly, he accepted Sumantu, the excellent sage, as the disciple for the Atharvaveda. The saintly lord accepted me as the disciple for Itihāsas, Purāṇas and Kalpavākyas.

17. The Yajurveda was one and whole. He divided it into four. There was Cāturhotra[1] (four types of sacrificial duties) therein, and he ordained Yajña thereby.

18. He ordained Ādhvaryava (the work of the priest Adhvaryu) by means of Yajur-Mantras and the Hautra (the work of the priest Hotṛ) by means of Ṛk Mantras; he performed Audgātra (the work of the priest Udgātṛ) by means of Sāman Mantras and the duty of Brahmā (the presiding priest) by means of Atharvan Mantras.

19-20. Thereafter, by picking out the Ṛk. Mantras, he composed the Ṛgveda. By selecting Hotṛka Mantras, the lord of the Universe composed the Yajurveda. He composed Sāmaveda by means of the Sāman Mantras and thereby he got the work of Udgātṛ performed. He performed all the rites of the king by means of the Atharvaveda.

21. By means of narratives and subsidiary narratives, folksongs, utterances from Kalpa texts etc. Vyāsa who was an expert in the meanings of the Purāṇas composed the Purāṇa Saṃhitā.

22. Whatever remained he included it in the Yajñrveda and associated Yajña with it. This is the definite conclusion in the scriptural texts that it (came to be called) Yajñrveda on account of Yajana (Sacrifice).

23-24a. Since the feet (of mantra verses) are excessively long, the Yajur Mantras are very intricate. This Veda with excessive vigour is utilised by a hundred Ṛtviks who have perfectly mastered the Vedas. It is with this that the horse-Sacrifice is fully developed.

24b. Taking up the Ṛk-Mantras, Paila classified them into two groups.[2] After composing two Saṃhitās the eminent preceptor handed them over to his two disciples—one to Indrapramati and the other one to Bāṣkala.


26. The excellent Brāhmaṇa, Bāṣkala composed four Saṃhitās and taught his disciples who were eagerly engaged in serving him and who were desirous of his welfare.

27. The four Saṃhitās are as follows: The first branch is Bodhyā; the second branch is Agnimātṛ; the third one is Pārāśarī and the last one is Yājñavalkyā.

28. Indrapramati, the excellent sage taught one (undivided) Saṃhitā. He taught the highly fortunate and famous Māṇḍukeya.

29-30. That sage of great fame taught his eldest son Satyaśravas. The renowned sage Satyaśravas taught his son Satyahita. Satyahita taught his son Satyaśrī who was noble-souled and who was eagerly devoted to truthfulness and piety.

31. Satyaśrī had three disciples who had great brilliance, were learned, and were eagerly devoted to the clear grasp of the scriptural texts.

32-33. Śākalya was the first among them. Another one was Rathītara and the third one was Bharadvāja the son of Bāṣkala—these were those who made the Śākhās (of that Veda) function (and flourish).

Śākalya (also known as) Devamitra was haughty and arrogant on accounṭ of his knowledge. O Brāhmaṇa, he was slain during the Yajña of Janaka.

Śāṃśapāyana enquired:—

34-35. How was that sage who was haughty and arrogant on account of his knowledge slain during the horse-sacrifice of Janaka? How did the argument begin? Why did it start at all? With whom was the argument done? Mention all these as they had’ happened as it is known to you.[3]

Sūta said:—

36. There was a great assemblage (of learned men) during the horse-sacrifice of Janaka. Many thousands of sages came there.

37-38. All of them were desirous of watching that Yajña of the saintly king Janaka. On seeing the Brāhmaṇas who arrived, he had his curiosity aroused—“Who is the most excellent Brāhmaṇa among these? How can I come to that decision?” After thinking thus, the king hit upon an intelligent plan.

39-41a. He brought the following articles (as gift) viz. A thousand cows, plenty of gold, villages, jewels and maidservants. The king then announced to the sages, “O sages of excellent fortune, I bow down my head unto all of you. The wealth that has been brought here is for the most excellent one -among you. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, know that my wealth is for you.”[4]

41b-45. On hearing the words of Janaka and on seeing the most valuable wealth, those sages well-versed in the Vedas became greedy. They were desirous of seizing the same.

They challenged one another in their height of arrogance due to Vedic knowledge, with their mind dwelling on the riches displayed. They began to quarrel and claim thus—“This wealth (ought to) be mine. This is mine and not yours”. Another said: “Say, why do you swagger”.

Owing to the fault of wealth, they began to argue in “various ways.

But there was another scholar there who was a great seer and also the son of god Brahmā, called Yājñavalkya. He was endowed with great splendour; he was a great ascetic and was the most excellent among those who had realized Brahman. Yājñavalkya who was born of a part of Brahmā, proclaimed loudly:

46. He said to his disciple who was the most excellent among the knowers of Brahman, “Take this wealth, O dear one and take it home. There is no doubt about it that this is mine.

47. I am the sole arguer in all arguments. No one else is equal to me. If any learned man is not pleased (with this) let him challenge me without delay.”

48. Then the vast expanse of the ocean-like crowd of Brāhmaṇas became agitated like an ocean in the deluge. Thereupon, Yājñavalkya who was absolutely calm and normal said smilingly:

49. “O learned men, do not get angry. All of you are speakers of truth. Let us speak (i.e. argue) in accordance with our capacity, trying to understand each other”.

50-51. Thereafter, their arguments were accepted with many words and thousands of splendid meanings originating from subtle vision (of Branches of Philosophy). There were examiners engaged by the king. They were endowed with good qualities, embellished with places of spiritual learning both of the worldly matters as well as in the Veda (i.e. they had competence in secular as well as religious topics for discussion).

52. The arguments between the noble-souled scholars began for the purpose of winning the wealth. All the sages were on one side and Yājñavalkya was on the other.

53. Thereafter, all those sages were individually asked by the intelligent Yājñavalkya. They did not reply. (They were unable to reply).

54. After conquering all the sages, that (sage) of great intellect, a mass of Vedic wisdom, suddenly spoke to Śākalya, the originator of arguments.

55. “O Śākalya, sp eak out what is relevant. Why do you remain (silent) meditating. The stake has been deposited by the Yajamāna (i.e. the King on whose behalf they are to perform sacrifice etc.) and has been taken away and held by me”.

56. On being attacked thus, his face and eyes became red like copper due to anger. In the presence of the sages he spoke to Yājñavalkya accompanied by his man (i.e. the disciple[5]).

57. “Slighting us as well as other excellent Brāhmaṇas like blades of grass, you wish to seize for yourself the gift of wealth of great value, as a prize for learning”.

58. On being spoken thus by Śākalya, Yājñavalkya said to him,—“Know that the strong point of Brahmiṣṭhas (persons engrossed in the meditation on Brahman) is the vision (insight) of the principles of learning and objects of reality.

59. Love or desire has its association with wealth. Hence we love wealth. Brāhmaṇas are Kāmapraśnas (those who can ask whatever they wish). Hence, we speak out the question as we please.

60-61. This is the reward of the saintly king. Hence, the gift of wealth has been taken away by me”.

On hearing these words (of Yājñavalkya), Śākalya became extremely infuriated. In order to ask the question as he pleased, he spoke these words to Yājñavalkya—“Now reply to me factually whatever question (I am pleased to ask) pointed out by me.”

62. Then a great argument took place between those two knowers of Brahman. More than a thousand questions were put then by Śākalya.

63. Even as the other sages listened—Yājñavalkya replied everything. Śākalya had no further argument or question. Yājñavalkya spoke to him.

64. “Answer at least one question put by me, O Śākalya as I please.

In this disputation with the stake of (the wealth offered by Janāka as bait) or instantaneous death here (if you fail to reply[6]).

65. Which is well associated with the subtlest of knowledge—Sāṅkhya or Yoga? which is more important, the path of spirituality or the path of meditation?”[7]

66. Then the question was put forward by the intelligent Yājñavalkya. Unable to know it (and reply), Śākalya had to court death.

67-68. Thus, it is remembered that Śākalya became distressed in the course of his explanation of the question.

Thus a great dispute took place among (the sages) seeking wealth. There were arguments between the sages and Yājñavalkya.

Yājñavalkya took away the gift of wealth after establishing his own fame. Surrounded by his disciples (that learned sage) of great self-control went home.

Footnotes and references:


For duties to be performed by four Chief Priests viz, Hotṛ, Adhvaryu, Udgātṛ and Brahmā in a sacrifice, vide the next verse.


VV.24b-33 describe the divisions of the Ṛgveda along with the principal teachers thereof:

Paila > (b): Bāṣkala

> (a): Indra-Pramati (4 branches)
(1) Bodhyā
(2) Agnimātṛ
(3) Pārāśarī
(4) Yājñavalkyā
Māṇḍukeya (complete Ṛgveda)
Śākalya or Devamitra
Bharadvāja (son of Bāṣkala)


The story how Śākalya lost his life as a result of his discomfiture in his disputation with Yājñavalkya is based on the dispute recorded in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upa III.8. 12-26. The difference between the stories is that in the Bṛhad-Upa it was after Gārgī that Śākalya accepted Yājñavalkya’s challenge.

This is a good picture of disputations held in royal courts, the appointment of referees and the methodology of disputations in ancient India.


For me vittaṃ vittaṃ dvijottamāḥ / of the text Vā.P.60.38b (identical verse) reads: (tasmāi tad upanītam) hi vidyā-vittaṃ dvijottamāḥ / ‘This is brought as the prize for scholarship’ etc.


For sa-puruṣam of the text, Vā P. 60.51b reads taṃ paruṣam (spoke harsh words to him)—a better reading.


Vā P. 60.58b reading is more explicit:

śāpaḥ paṇo'sya vādasya abruvan mṛtyum āvrajet.


Vā P. 60.58b reading is more explicit:

śāpaḥ paṇo'sya vādasya abruvan mṛtyum āvrajet.

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