By Swami Harshananda
Śatapatha Brāhmana is the biggest of all the Brāhmanas. It belongs to the Śukla Yajurveda. It derives its name from the fact that it has śata or one hundred chapters. It might have been compiled during 3000 B. C.
Overview of Śatapatha Brāhmana
It is available in two śākhās or recensions:
- The Kānva - The Kānvaśākhā has 17 kāṇḍas divided into 104 adhyāyas. They are subdivided into 435 brāhmaṇas, the total number of kaṇḍikās or mantras being 6806.
- The Mādhyandina - The Mādhyandinaśākhā has 14 kāṇḍas divided into 100 adhyāyas. They are subdivided into 438 brāhmaṇas, the total number of kaṇḍikās or mantras being 7624.
Content in Mādhyandina Recension
It may be interesting to note that the first nine kāṇḍas of the Mādhyandina recension follow the Samhitā closely. They may be considered like a commentary. The work, almost entirely, concerns itself with the various aspects of Vedic sacrifices. A very brief summary of the contents is as follows:
It includes Darśapurṇamāsa sacrifice.
It includes the following rituals:
- Agnyādhāna - producing the sacrificial fire
- Piṇḍapitṛyajña - sacrifice to the manes
- Āgrayaṇa - offering of first fruits
- Cāturmāsya - four-monthly sacrifices
Kāndas 3 & 4
It includes the ritual Somayāga.
It has the rituals included in Vājapeya and Rājasuya sacrifices.
Kāndas 6 to 10
It includes the following sacrifices:
- Viṣṇukrama - taking three or four steps in a Somayāga with mantras of Viṣṇu
- Vaṇī-vāhana - coming and going of the vessel containing fire on a cart
- Cayana - piling of fire
- Satarudrīyahoma - homa with the mantras of the Rudrādhyāya
- Upāsanā - meditation
- Sacrifices on Agni
- Few other topics
Kāndas 11 to 14
It includes the following:
Content in Kāṇva Recension
There is a very little difference of topics in the Kāṇva recension. The sage Yājñavalkya is prominent in the first five kāṇḍas. However, the sage Sāṇḍilya is very conspicuous in the next five. Even then, all the ten kāṇḍas must have been the handiwork of Yājñnavalkya who gave Śāṇḍilya his due place out of respect. The contents can be delineated as follows:
- The Śatapatha Brāhmana mentions by name many janapadas or countries such as:
- Apart from describing many Vedic sacrifices in great detail, the work also gives many interesting ākhyānas or stories of the ancient periods often with historical content.
- There is an obvious reference to the spread of Vedic religion and culture from the river Sarasvatī in the west to the river Sadānīrā in the east.
- Spiritual interpretations of the sacrifices are also mentioned occasionally.
- The root of the story of Matsyāvatāra and jalapralaya or water-deluge are also recorded here.
On the whole, it can be declared that Śatapatha Brāhmana is one of the few and most important works of the Vedic literature.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore