Gopatha Brāhmaṇa

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Gopatha Brahmana, Gopatha BrAhmaNa, Gopatha Braahmana


Each of the four Vedas has been divided into four sections and the Brāhmaṇa form the second section. They are in prose and generally deal with the practical aspects of Vedic sacrifices.

The Gopatha Brāhmana is the only extant Brāhmaṇa of the Atharvaveda. This work is not as ancient as the other three Vedas. Sage Gopatha composed this work between 2000 B. C. to 1000 B.C. He is one of the sages belonging to the Pippalāda branch in the Atharvaveda, who probably resided in the Madhyadeśa (middle part of India).

The language of this Brāhmaṇa is elegant and not archaic. The definition of words appears a little peculiar but the presentation of ideas are not in a well-knit order. Many words and phrases from the Upaniṣads and ākhyānakas (stories) find a place here. Its style resembles the other Brāhmaṇas.

Sections

Generally, the sutra literature of the Vedāṅgas, like the Śrautasutras, follow the Brāhmaṇas but in this work, Brāhmaṇa in its latter part follow the Vaitānasutras (the Śrautasutras of the Atharvaveda).

This Brāhmaṇa has two parts:

  1. The Purva-Gopatha - It has five prapāṭhakas (chapters) and total 135 kaṇḍikās (short sections)
  2. The Uttara-Gopatha - It has six prapāṭhakas and 123 kaṇḍikās

Each kaṇḍikā has five to six long sentences.

Content

  • The text starts with a description of creation from Brahman which alone existed in the beginning. This creation started with water. From water the sages like Bhṛgu, Atharvan and the ten Ātharvaṇa sages evolved. Further the creation proceeded as follows:
    • The Atharvaveda
    • Praṇava (Oṅkāra)
    • The three worlds
    • Agni
    • Vāyu
    • Surya
    • The three Vedas
    • Oceans
    • Varuṇa (the presiding deity of the oceans and the water principle)
    • Sage Āṅgirasa and his descendants
    • Five quarters (the four directions and the sky above)
    • Subsidiary Vedas like Sarpaveda (the science of serpents)
    • Piśācaveda (the science of goblins)
    • Āsuraveda (the science of demons)
    • Purānaveda (mythology)
  • The other topics that appear in this Brāhmaṇa include:
    • Descriptions of Oṅkāra and Gāyatrī
    • Details regarding the rules of brahmacarya, which is usually spread over twelve years, needed for the study of the Vedas
    • Duties of the four main priests in Vedic sacrifices
    • Descriptions of sacrifices like Agnyādhāna, Agnihotra, Darśapurṇa- māsa, Sattra, Āgrayaṇa, Paśubandha, Rājasuya, Vājapeya, Aśvamedha, Sarpamedha
    • Many mantras of the Ṛgveda
    • Imposition of stringent rules (considered to be new in this work) on the Brāhmaṇas like prohibiting them from learning music and dancing
    • The Uttara-Gopatha Brāhmana bans receiving dakṣiṇā in sacrifices

References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore