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By Swami Harshananda

samavāya (‘inherence’)

It is one of the saptapadārthas or seven categories put forward by the Vaiśeṣika system.




The Sāmaveda or the Sāmaveda samhitā is the third in the traditional list of the four Vedas. It comprises mostly the Rgvedic mantras (or ṛks)—1504 to be specific—set to the saptasvara system (the seven basic notes of Indian music), to be sung at appropriate places in a sacrifice. It is the udgātṛ (the third of the four major priests) along with his three assistants (prastotṛ, pratihartṛ and subrah-maṇya) that does this. The total number of ṛks in this Veda as per one calculation is 1875.

It should be noted that this Veda has been eulogised highly in the other Vedas also (vide Rgveda 1.107.2; 2.43.2; 5.44.14. Atharvaveda 2.7.24; 7.54.1;

10.7.20). Kṛṣṇa while describing his special aspects, says in the Bhagavadgītā (10.22) that he is Sāmaveda among the Vedas.

Commentators of the Sāmaveda

The Vedas are difficult to comprehend not only because of their archaic language but also because of their close association with the system of yajña or sacrifice. Hence, the help of bhāṣyas or commentaries by those scholars, who also have an intimate knowledge of the Vedic traditions, is invaluable.

The following are the commentators on the Sāmaveda whose works are available even now, though some of these are still in the form of manuscripts:

Mādhava Pandita (A. D. 630)

Guṇaviṣṇu (12th century A. D.)

Bharatasvāmin (A. D. 1300)

Mahāsvāmin (13th century A. D.)

Sāyaṇa (A. D. 1315-1387)

Śobhākara Bhaṭṭa (circa A. D. 1400) Sūryadaivajña (circa A. D. 1502)

Meaning of Sāma

The etymological meaning of the word sāma is ‘that which destroys sorrow by its sweetness; a song’.

The Brhadāranyaka Upanisad defines the sāma as a ṛk (Rgvedic mantra) set to various tunes of music (vide 1.3.25; 1.3.22).

Thus the sāmas are those mantras of the Rgveda which had been set to the tunes as prescribed by the special treatises like the Nāradlyaślksā.

However, the same ṛk can be sung in different tunes thus producing different sāmas. The number of such sāmas can vary from one to eighteen!

According to one calculation there are 1875 ṛks and 2639 sāmas in the Sāmaveda texts available now.

Sākhās of Sāmaveda

As in the case of the other three Vedas, the Sāmaveda also has several Sākhās (branches or recensions). Though

some traditional works like the Carana-

vyūha (an appendix to the Atharvaveda)

mention that there are a thousand śākhās in the Sāmaveda, only thirteen names have been discovered so far. They are the names of the teachers who were responsible for re-editing the text and starting their own śākhās.

Nevertheless, only three such śākhās are extant now. They are: Jaiminīyaśākhā, Kauthumaśākhā and Rānāyaniyaśākhā. The last two have many similarities like equal number of mantras. The first one has 182 mantras less than the other two.

Internal Divisions

The Sāmaveda has two sections called Pūrvārcikā and Uttrārcikā. (Arcikā means a group of ṛks.) The Pūrvārcikā has several prapāṭhakas or chapters containing a few daśatis (decads, though sometimes the number of ṛks is either more or less than ten). The daśatis, again, comprise of ṛks.

The Uttarārcikā has nine prapāṭhakas. These are divided into khaṇḍas, each of which consists of a large number of ṛks.

In the Pūrvārcikā, the mantras taken from the Rgveda have been regrouped according to the devatā or the deity praised. The first prapāṭhaka contains mantras connected with Agni and hence called Āgneyakānda. Prapāthakas 2 to 4 are known as Aindrakānda since they are devoted to Indr a, the king of gods. The fifth prapāṭhaka contains mantras dedicated to the god Soma-Pavamāna and hence called Pavamānaparva. Most of these mantras have been taken from the ninth maṇdala of the Rgveda which itself is entirely devoted to that deity.

The ṛks of these five prapāṭhakas are known as veyagāna or grāmagāna (or

grāme geya), because they are to be sung in grāmas or villages and towns. The other terms by which they are known are: chandārcikā, prakṛti, prakṛtisaṁhitā, and ṛk.

These mantras are used more in brahmayajña (reciting and teaching the Vedas), upākarma (See UPĀKARMA.) and certain other rituals. Their use in Vedic sacrifices is limited.

The sixth prapāṭhaka is called Aranyakānda or Āranyakaparva. These mantras have to be chanted in an araṇya or forest, since they are conducive to contemplation.

The ten ṛks appearing at the end of this section are known as Mahānāmnī. They are like an appendix to the Pūrvārcikā. Known also as Śakvaryah—their deity is Indra—they are generally used on the 5th day of the sacrifice.

Since these mantras are addressed to Indra as God, the mahān (= supreme or great), they have come to be known as Mahānāmnī.

In the Uttarārcikā, there are nine prapāṭhakas. Each prapāṭhaka has several khaṇḍas (like the daśatis of the Pūrvārcikā) which contain the ṛks.

The chanting or singing of these ṛks is divided into two groups: ūhagāna

and ūhyagāna or rahasyagāna. The basic models for these two are, respectively, the grāmagāna and the araṇyagāna.

There is a repetition of 267 mantras of the Pūrvārcikā in this. The mantras of this section are used in stoma (a kind of repetitive prayer) in yajñas or sacrifices. (See also STOMA.)

The following tables give an idea of the two arcikās as extant now:


Prapathaka Kaṇda Daśati Rks 1 Agneyakāṇḍa 10 96 2 Aindrakāṇḍa 10 97 3 Aindrakāṇḍa 10 99 4 Aindrakāṇḍa 10 98 5 Pavamānaparva 10 96 6 Araiiyakaparva 9 99 Araṇyakāṇḍa 5 55 Mahānāmnī - 10 Total 64 650


Prapathaka Kaṇda Rks 1 12 124 2 12 111 3 14 145 4 13 144 5 21 172 6 15 182 7 12 128 8 13 144 9 8 111 Total 120 1261

Methods of Sāmagana

As already stated, there are four groups of sāmas: grāmageya, āraṇyaka, ūha and ūhya.

The first two are the prakṛtis (basics) and the last two, the vikṛtis (derivatives).

Any mantra taken from the Rgveda (a ṛk), when set to music as per the system of svaras or notes of the Sāmaveda,

becomes a sāma. This system has been explained in the famous work Nāradiyaśiksā.

According to this work there are 7 svaras (musical notes), 3 grāmas (scales of music —lower range, middle range and top range, respectively called mandrasthāyī, madhyamasthāyī and tārasthāyī), 21 mūrchanas (variation of the notes in an orderly manner) and 49 tānas (protracted notes).

The seven notes of sāmagāna are the equivalents of the seven notes of Indian music as shown in the following table:

Sāmasvara Sañgīta-svara 1. prathama madhyama ma 2. dvitīya gāndhāra ga 3. tṛtīya ṛṣabha ri 4. caturtha ṣaḍja sa 5. pañcama or atisvārya niṣāda ni 6. ṣaṣṭha or mandra daivata da 7. saptama or kruṣta pañcama pa

While singing the ṛks as sāma (set to music), certain changes are effected in the letters of the text to facilitate singing. They are listed as follows:

1. vikāra Changing the letter or the

word; for example ‘agne’ becomes ‘ognāyi’.

2. viślesana Separating a word; for

example ‘vītaye’ is changed as ‘voyi toyā 2 yi’

3. vikarsana Lengthening and varying a

note; for instance, ‘ye’ is sung as ‘yā 23 yi’.

4. abhyāsa Repetition of a word, as in

‘toyāyi’ which is sung twice.

5. virāma stopping near a word for

slight rest, as for example

in ‘gṛṇāno havyadātaye’, stopping before ‘ha’.

6. stobha Certain letters used to embellish singing, like au, hovā and hāvu.

The numbers like 2, 23 etc., indicate the mātrās or time-units needed for chanting at that place.

There are five fundamental steps in the singing of every sāma. They are:

1. prastāva This is the beginning of the

mantra. The prastotṛ priest begins with the sound ‘hum’.

2. udgītha The main priest udgātṛ

sings this, beginning it with Om.

3. pratihāra Sung by the priest prati-

hartṛ, this part generally expresses a sense of dedication to the deity to whom it is addressed.

4. upadrava This is sung by the udgātṛ

priest himself.

5. nidhana Comprising the last part of

the mantra—sometimes including the Om also—this is sung by all the three priests mentioned above, bringing it to a close.

Some more information may now be adduced here about the sāmas for further elucidation.

The mantras of the Purvārcikā are prakṛtis or basic role models. Each of the ṛks generally has only one sāma, though there are exceptions where the number of sāmas can go up to 18. All the sāmas on the ṛks are already fixed by tradition. Some ṛks may not have any sāma at all. Again, the ṛks sung as sāma may be in

any of the well-known metres like gāyatrī, anuṣṭubh, triṣṭubh, jagatī etc.

Sometimes, the same ṛk can be sung as a sāma in all the four groups beginning with veyagāna.

Some ṛks like punānah soma dhārayā (Sāmaveda 511) have as many as 61 sāmagānas!

The sāmas (mantras of the Sāmaveda) have been grouped in different ways and have been given different nomenclatures.

The prakṛti (the first two sections of the purvārcikā) has seven types of gānas.

They are: Gāyatragāna (based on the famous gāyatrīmantra); Āgneyagāna (containing ṛks pertaining to Agni); Aindra-gāna (with ṛks on Indra in several metres); Pavamānagāna (with ṛks on Soma-Pavamāna); Parvatrayagāna (containing ṛks on Arka [here, Agni], couplets called dvandva and vratas); Śukriyagāna (with ṛks on Śukra or sun)’ and, Mahānāmnī (explained already).

The names of some of the other sāmas are: Amṛtasaṁhitā, Ariṣṭavarga, Pavitra-varga, Pitṛsarhhitā, Skandasamhitā,

Vaināyakasaiṅhitā and so on.

Bṛhatsāma, Rathantarasāma, Vairāja-sāma, Vāmadevyasāma—these are a few of the other sāmas mentioned in works like the Upaniṣads.

Rsis, Chandas and Devatās

Anyone wishing to study the Vedic mantras, or even recite them, must know three things about them. They are: ṛṣi (the sage to whom it was revealed), chandas (the metre in which it is composed) and devatā (the deity to whom it is addressed.)

Since the mantras of the Sāmaveda have been taken mostly from the Rgveda

it can be presumed that the ṛṣi is the first sage to whom the sāma-pattern was originally revealed.

The following are some of the ṛṣis and the number of sāma-mantras revealed to them given in terms of daśatis: Bhāra-dvāja (29); Gotama (20); Jamadagni (13); Kaṇva (29); Medhātithi (29); Praskaṇva (13); Saubhari (18); Śunaśśepha (17); Vāmadeva (36); Vasiṣṭha (43); Viśvāmitra (29).

Though chandas means the metre, etymologically speaking, it is interpreted as something that covers and hence protects, as also gives joy. A knowledge of the chandas is necessary for the knowledge of the padapāṭha (breaking the words of the sentences and the compound words) which is very important in this Veda.

The following are the Vedic metres used here: anuṣṭubh; bṛhatī; jagatī; paṅkti; triṣṭubh; uṣṇik.

The devatās or the presiding deities of the various Sāmavedic mantras are: Agni, Indra, Prajāpati, Soma, Varuṇa, Tvaṣṭā, Aṅgirasa, Pūṣā, Sarasvatī and Indrāgnī.

Subsidiaries of the Sāmaveda

Apart from the Saṁhita, every Veda has three more parts: Brāhmaṇa,

Araṇyaka and Upaniṣad.

To facilitate its study, the help of the Vedāṅgas is also necessary.

A list of these, belonging to the Sāmaveda may now be given:


1. Ārseya Brāhmana;

2. Devatādhyāya Brāhmana-,

3. Praudha Brāhmana, also known as Tāndya Mahābrāhmana and Pañcavimśa Brāhmana;

4. Sadvimśa Brāhmana-,

5. Sāmavidhāna Brāhmana-,

6. Sarhhitopanisad Brāhmana-,

7. Talavakāra Brāhmana-,

8. Upanisad Brāhmana-,

9. Vamśa Brāhmana.

The Tāndya Mahābrāhmana is the most important of these.

A Jaiminiya Brāhmana is also available but only in parts. However it also is considered important.


There is only one Āraṇyaka available called Talavakāra Ārany aka. It is a part of the Talavakāra Brāhmana.


The Chāndogya and the Kena or Talavakāra Upanisads are the major Upanisads of the Sāmaveda.

Other Upanisads—considered as minor ones—are: Arunopanisad; Jābāladarśa-

nopanisad', Jābālyupanisad] Mahopanisad; Vāsudevopanisad.


The Vedāṅgas dealing exclusively with the Sāmaveda can be listed as follows: Pāninlya Śikśā\ Nāradīya Śikśā; Gautama Sikśā; Lomaśa Sikśā; Puspa-sūtras; Rktantra.

Nidānasūtra of Patañjali and Anu-padasūtra of Gārgya deal with the chandas or metres of the Sāmavedic mantras.

The Śrautasūtras of Sāmaveda are:

Drāhyāyana Śrautasūtras; Jaiminiya Srautasūtras; Lātyāyana Śrautasūtras.

Gobhila Grhyasūtras and Jaiminīya Grhyasūtras belong to the gṛhyasūtra group of the Sāmaveda.

As regards the dharmasūtras of the Sāmaveda, the Gautama Dharmasūtras is the only ancient work that is extant now.

Quite a few other ancient and medieval works dealing with the subjects

of the Sāmaveda are also available.


Since the Sāmaveda contains only the mantras of the Rgveda set to music, it has no philosophy of its own, but that of the Rgveda itself. However, quite a few of the sāmas bespeak a high kind of bhakti or devotion. Some of these sentiments may be summarised as follows:

God is brilliant light. May he light up our hearts! (Sāmaveda, Āgneyakānda 1.1) O God! Please accept the offerings of our good deeds, (ibid 1.2)

You are our dear friend, respected guest. You take us in the path of bliss and auspiciousness. I pray to you. (ibid 1.5)

0 Lord! All speech, hymns of praise, hymns describing your greatness will ultimately merge in your holy feet, (ibid 1.2.13)

May the spiritual aspirant think of the Supreme Lord, the Being of Light, in his own heart, thereby gaining in faith and the strength to do good deeds! (ibid 1.2.19)

God as Agni destroys our sins and ignorance and enlightens us. (ibid 1.4)

O God as Agni! The yogi realises your greatness through divine wisdom.

0 singers of the sāmas! Praise the all-powerful God, the destroyer of all sins!

We too will eulogise him, the omniscient Lord, the dear friend of all!

O Effulgent God! The ever youthful, the brilliant, the compassionate one! Please shine in our hearts!

O Supreme Lord! You have two forms, one of brilliant splendour and the other of great peace, fit for contemplation. You are the gracious protector of the universe.

We have infinite faith in that creator of the world, who is the dispeller of all sorrow, the best of leaders, the eternal, the all-pervading, the giver of light and the great protector as also the omniscient.

None can vanquish that devotee of God who has surrendered himself to him.

O God! Give us all that we need for our welfare here and destroy all fear brought out by our wrong decisions.

May the all-knowing God, the destroyer of all our troubles, the indweller in the hearts of all, the all-merciful one, lead us in the straight path!


Though the Sāmaveda is, comparatively speaking, a smaller work than the other Vedas, it has endeared itself to all by its sweet music, high literary value (as excellent poetry) and noble sentiments of devotion.

It is, undoubtedly, the origin of Indian classical music, though very difficult to master.

It definitely needs more effective propagation and the sāmagas—singers of the sāmas—greater encouragement.


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


By Swami Harshananda

samavāya (‘inherence’)

It is one of the saptapadārthas or seven categories put forward by the Vaiśeṣika system.



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


samavāya (‘inherence’) It is one of the saptapadārthas or seven categories put forward by the Vaiśeṣika system. See VAIŚEṣlKA-DARŚANA.