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Vedanga

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By Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavalli

Understanding Vedangas is a pre-requisite to understanding the Veda. There are six Vedangas.

Nirukta Vedanga 
Nirukta is the science of etymologies. It explains the word-roots and derivation of meanings of words in different contexts. Text: Yaska's Nirukta.
Vyakarana Vedanga
Vyakarana is Grammar. Panini's Astadhyayi is the authority on Sanskrit Grammar. It was not written in Sanskrit but Panini used a meta-language called Upadesa to define the grammar of Sanskrit in about 8000 sutras/rules. Text: Panini's Astadhyayi.
Siksha Vedanga 
Siksha deals with phonetics, the pronunciation and accent. It explains how each syllable should be pronounced in which context and the psychic effects of those. There are two variations to plain pronunciation, called Udatta and Anudatta. Altering the pronunciation alters the meaning of what is being chanted and the results of chanting. Text: Panini's Siksha.
Chandas Vedanga 
Chandas is the science of metres. Syllables are classified into two categories, Guru and Laghu. A string of Guru-Laghu sequence of a particular length is called a metre. There are various metres in which the Vedic mantras are composed, such as Gayatri, Anusthup, Trishtup and Jagati. The chandas of a mantra determines its usage, such as its purpose and context. But it acts more as an error-correcting mechanism. Since the Veda is an oral tradition, any aberration in the chandas because of error in text or the swara, can be easily identified and corrected. Text: Pingala's Chandassastra.
Jyotisha Vedanga 
Jyotisha is the science of shining objects - astronomy. Text: Lagadha's Vedanga Jyotisha.
Kalpa Vedanga 
Kalpa speaks of the ritual portion, how and when sacrifice is to be conducted. Texts: Kalpa Sutras, consisting of Sulba Sutras and Srauta Sutras. Sulba Sutras contain the geometry of altars along with mathematical deductions for the geometry. Srauta Sutras contain guidelines for conducting sacrifices.