Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Guruparampara included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Guruparamparā

The origin of the Vedas and the lineage of Gurus is given below:

Origin of the Vedas.

At the time of creation the Veda was born from the face of God. It contained a lakh of granthas with four pādas like Ṛk. From the Veda were born the ten yajñas. The Veda was originally one. It was Vyāsa who divided it into four divisions resulting in the four Vedas.

Vyāsa divided the Vedas thus: When Brahmā commanded Vyāsa to divide the Vedas into divisions he first selected four disciples who could see the end of the Vedas. He accepted Paila to study Ṛgveda, Vaiśaṃpāyana to study Yajurveda, Jaimini to study Sāmaveda and Sumantu to study Atharvaveda. Besides these he selected the highly intelligent Romaharṣaṇa alias Sūta to study the Itihāsas and Purāṇas.

At first, the Veda was one. Vyāsa divided it into four. He based the division on the cāturhotra, performance of four hotṛs. He arranged the performance of Adhvaryu as Yajus, that of hotṛ as Ṛks, that of Udgātṛ as Sāmans and that of Brahmā as Atharvans. Then he separated the Ṛks to form Ṛgveda, Yajus to form Yajurveda and Sāmans to form Sāmaveda. He devoted Atharvaveda to specify the rites and duties of Kings and the deeds of Brahmā. Vedavyāsa thus split the single Veda tree into four and from there arose later a forest of Veda trees.

The saints of Ṛgveda.

Paila divided Ṛgveda into two saṃhitās and gave one each to Indrapramati and Bāṣkala. Sage Bāṣkala divided his Saṃhitā again into four and taught it to four of his disciples, Bodhi, Ādimāḍhava, Yājñavalkya and Parāśara. Indrapramati without splitting his saṃhitā taught it to his renowned son, Māṇḍūkeya. The branch of Indrapramati thus went down into circulation through the disciples of Māṇḍūkeya and the disciples of the disciples and so on. Vedamitra of Śākalya gotra, one sage in the line of the disciples of Māṇḍūkeya, split the saṃhitā into five, and taught it to Mudgala, Gomukha, Vātsya, Śālīya and Śarīra. Śākapūrṇa a colleague of Vedamitra divided it into three and added a division to it by composing a Nirukta of his own. He taught them to Vaitālika, Balāka and Krauñca. This was how the Indrapramati Saṃhitā produced branches and sub-branches. Bāṣkala divided his saṃhitā into another set of three and taught it to Kālāyani, Gārgya, and Kathājava. The sages mentioned above are the ones who spread Ṛgveda in the world.

Saints of Yajurveda.

Vaiśampāyana, disciple of Veda Vyāsa, made twentyseven divisions of Yajurveda and taught them to his disciples. Among those disciples was Yājñavalkya, son of Brahmarāta. The branch Taittirīya originated from Yājñavalkya.

The Taittirīya branch.

Once all the sages learned in the Vedas made a decision. He who does not attend the Brahmasamāja meeting held at the mountain of Mahāmeru will be tainted with the sin of Brahmahatyā (murder of a brahmin). At one time Vaiśampāyana was not able to attend and so was charged with the sin of Brahmahatyā. He called his disciples to his side and told them that they should observe a Vrata to absolve Vaiśampāyana of his sin. Then one of his disciples, Yājñavalkya, stood up and said that he would observe the vrata alone and that there was no need of anybody else in that matter. When asked why he said so he replied that none of the colleagues of his was so brilliant and majestic as he was. Vaiśampāyana did not like this arrogance of Yājñavalkya and so angrily commanded Yājñavalkya to give back all that had been taught to him by Vaiśampāyana. Obeying orders Yājñavalkya vomited all the yajus and went away from the place. The other sages taking the form of the bird, Tittiri, accepted the vomited yajus. Therefore that branch of the Veda got the name of Taittirīya and those sages were known as the Taittirīyas.


On his leaving Vaiśampāyana Yājñavalkya put into operation a new set of Yajus called Ayātayāma unknown even to Vaiśampāyana. This was how it happened. Yājñavalkya after leaving the Brahmasamāja went and did penance to propitiate the Sun-god. The Sun appeared before him in the form of a horse. Yājñavalkya then requested him to grant him new yajus unknown even to Vaiśampāyana. The Sun then remaining in the shape of the horse (Vāji) itself imparted to him instructions on a new set of Yajus called Ayātayāma which were not known to anybody else, even to Vaiśampāyana. Those who studied it were called Vājis. There are fifteen branches of the Vājis, Kānnu being one of them. All were put into operation by Yājñavalkya.

The Sannyāsins of Sāmaveda.

Vedavyāsa taught Sāmaveda to Jaimini. Jaimini had a son, Sumantu, and he in turn had a son named Sutva. Sumantu and Sutva were very intelligent and they studied one branch each of the Vedas. Sutva had a son, Sukarmā, and he divided Sāmavedasaṃhitā into a thousand branches. Sukarmā had two disciples: Hiraṇyanābha and Pauṣpiñji, and both of them studied all the thousand divisions of the Sāmaveda. The five hundred disciples of Hiraṇyanābha who came from the north and studied Sāmaveda were called Udīcya Sāmagas (those come from the north). Another five hundred came from the east and studied Sāmavedasaṃhitā from Hiraṇyanābha and they were called Prācya sāmagas. (Hiraṇyanābha is known as Kauśalya also.) Pauṣpiñji had four disciples: Logākṣi, Kauthumi, Kakṣīvān and Lāṅgali. These four and their disciples split their saṃhitās and increased them. Kṛti, one of the disciples of Hiraṇyanābha, taught his disciples twentyfour saṃhitās. They also split them into many more and made the Sāmaveda bigger.

The saints of Atharvaveda.

Vyāsa taught Atharvaveda to Sumantu. Sage Sumantu taught it to his disciple Kabandha first. Kabandha split it into two and gave one each to his disciples: Devādarśa and Pathya. Deva had four discīples: Medhā Brahmabali, Śāntakāyani and Pippalāda. Pathya had three: Jābāli, Kumuda and Śaunaka. All these made saṃhitās. Śaunaka split his saṃhitā into two and taught one to Badru and another to Saindhava. Muñjikeśa learnt it from Saindhava. He split it into two first and then again into three. The five śaṃhitās of Muñjikeśa namely, Nakṣatrakalpa, Vedakalpa, Saṃhitākalpa, Āṅgirasakalpa and Śāntikalpa are the most important divisions of the Atharvaveda. The Nakṣatrakalpa contains methods of worshipping Nakṣatras; the Vedakalpa contains the rites of the Ṛtvik Brahmā, and the Saṃhitākalpa contains the science of the care of horses and elephants.


Vyāsa compiled a Purāṇa saṃhitā using speeches, appendices, poems and Kalpanirṇayas and taught it to Romaharṣaṇa alias Sūta. Sūta had six disciples named Sumati, Agnivarcas, Mitrāyus, Sāṃśapāyana, Akṛtavraṇa, and Sāvarṇi. Akṛtavraṇa, Sāvarṇi and Śāṃśapāyana born of Kaśyapagotra have themselves made Purāṇasaṃhitās. There is another saṃhitā composed by Romaharṣaṇa based on the saṃhītās made by the above three.

Viṣṇu Purāṇa is based on the latter four saṃhitās. There are eighteen Purāṇas, namely, Āgneya, Brāhma, Brahmāṇḍa, Brahmavaivarta, Bhāgavata, Bhaviṣya, Garuḍa, Kūrma, Liṅga, Mārkaṇḍeya, Matsya, Nāradīya, Padma, Śiva, Skanda, Vāmana, Varāha and Viṣṇu. There are eighteen sub Purāṇas also. In all these are described the creation, the deluge, the dynasties of the devas, history of kingly dynasties, changes of generations etc. (Aṃśa 3, Viṣṇu Purāṇa; 12th Skandha, Bhāgavata).

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