BY Swami Harshananda
The Śuklayajurveda Samhitā, also known as the Vājasaneya Samhitā, is attributed to the great sage Yājñavalkya. It is believed to have 15 śākhās or recensions. They actually bear the names of the disciples to whom Yājñavalkya taught. Some of them are:
However, only the first two are extant now, the rest being completely lost.
Content of Śuklayajurveda Samhitā
The Kānvaśākhā contains 2086 mantras spread over 40 adhyāyas or chapters. The Mādhyandinaśākhā also has 40 chapters but only 1900 or 1975 according to another version are mantras. The entire work is in verses without prose portions as in the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. A brief summary of this is explained ahead.
It has 31 verses. It explains about the following:
- Darśapurṇamāsa sacrifices
- Tyāga-vrata resolve to give the object of offering
- Bringing water and purifying it
- Spreading the deer-skin
- Preparing cooked rice
- Driving away the demons and evil spirits
It has 34 verses. It includes the following topics:
- Purifying the samidh and kuśa grass
- Lighting the fire
- Keeping the implements in their respective places
- Prayer for the protection of the sacrifice
- Putting the samidhs into the fire
- Keep away a part of the offering for the demons
- Mantras for getting offspring
It has 63 verses. It includes the following topics:
- Eulogy of the cow
- Worship of the other fires like the āhavanīya
- Dīkṣā - taking the vows of the sacrificer
- Worship of Rudra, the three-eyed God
It has 37 verses which delineates about the Somayāga and some of its details.
It has 43 verses which shows the details of the preparation for the Somayāga are continued here. They include preparation of soma juice and placing of the appropriate vessels.
It has 37 verses. It is about the:
- Erecting the yupastambha
- Tying the animal to it
- Bali - immolation and sacrifice
- Mantras for sending it to heaven
It has 48 verses explaining the filling the soma juice in various cups meant for the various deities like Indra, Vāyu, Mitra, Varuṇa and others.
It has 63 verses. It talks about the topics like:
- Continuation of the previous topics
- Some Soma sacrifices like Soḍaśin, Dvādaśin and Gavāmayana
It has 40 verses describing Vājapeya and Rājasuya, two well- known and popular sacrifices of those days.
It has 34 verses showing the description of the Rājasuyayāga.
It has 83 verses giving a detailed description of Agnicayana is started from this chapter to the 18th chapter.
It has 117 verses. Topics of this chapter are:
- Viṣṇukrama - taking 4 steps with appropriate mantras
- Vaṇīvāhana rite - coming and going of fire kept in a vessel on a cart
- Purification of the place
- Bringing the bricks and so on
Chapters 13 to 15
It has 153 verses describing in details about the building up the altar with 10,008 bricks in four layers, in the form of a bird with its wings stretched.
It has 66 verses containing the famous Rudrādhyāya used in the Satarudrīya homa which appears in the Taittiriya Samhitā also.
It has 99 verses. Ascending the vedi, inviting the Fire-god, offering madhuparka, raising Agni and Indra, pouring of milk and a few more rites are described here.
It has 77 verses which contains the mantras used in vasordhārā, an oblation of ghee poured in a continuous stream into the fire on the altar.
It has 95 verses. The topics dealt with are:
- The Sautrāmaṇi sacrifice
- Offering milk to the deities the Aśvins, Indra and Sarasvati
- Offering wine, after purifying with mantras, into the dakṣiṇāgni
- Praising the pitṛs like the Agniṣvattas
- Story of Indra being rejuvenated by the Aśvins
It has 90 verses. The subjects of this chapter are:
- Mantra for one’s welfare
- Avabhṛtha of the sacrificer
- Mantra for destruction of sins
- Giving sacrificial food to Indra
- Chanting of the Āprisuktas
- Inviting Indra
- Hymns to the Aśvins, Sarasvatī and Agni
It has 60 verses. This contains the following topics:
- Hymns to Varuṇa and Agni
- Worship of Aditi the mother of gods
- Oblations to Mitrā-Varuṇa
- Chanting of Indrasukta
- Conclusion of the Sautrāmaṇi sacrifice
Chapter 22 - 25
It has 34 verses which details about the Aśvamedha sacrifice through Chapters 23, chapter 24 and chapter 25.
Chapters 26 - 29
The topics included are:
- Various minor sacrifices
- Conclusion of Aśvamedha sacrifice
- Hymn to the horse and the Sun-god identifying the two as one
- Eulogy of the weapons of war
Chapters 30 - 31
The sacrifice called Puruṣamedha is described here with 184 varieties of living beings as the offering. Scholars however describe it as only symbolical.
Chapter 32 has 16 verses and 33 has 97 verses. These deal with the sacrifice called Sarvamedha. Along with the praise of the sacrificer there is a prayer for granting knowledge, wisdom and wealth. There are several mantras and yajus in praise of several deities.
It has 58 verses. The first six mantras are known as the Śivasañkalpopaniṣad followed by some details of a few sacrifices and hymns of praise of the deities Bhaga, Puṣan and Brahmaṇaspati.
It has 22 verses telling in details about Pitṛmedha mantras.
Chapters 36 to 39
It has 86 verses having the mantras connected with the Pravargya rite.
It has 18 verses. This is the famous Iśāvāsya Upaniṣad. Some important aspects of the teaching of the Samhitā are:
- Meticulous performance of the Vedic sacrifices was considered the highest puruṣārtha.
- Even the gods got special powers by performing sacrifices
- Mantras are very powerful, if chanted correctly and will harm if chanted wrongly, the power being dependent on the correctness of chanting.
- ↑ Samidh means faggots.
- ↑ Agnyādhāna means producing the fire.
- ↑ Yupastambha means the sacrificial post of wood.
- ↑ Agnicayana means the rite of piling the fire-altar for Soma sacrifices in 5 layers with bricks.
- ↑ Taittiriya Samhitā 4.5
- ↑ Vedi means the altar.
- ↑ Vasordhārā means ‘flow of wealth’.
- ↑ Pitṛs means manes.
- ↑ Avabhṛtha means final bath.
- ↑ It has 65 verses.
- ↑ It has 40 verses.
- ↑ It has 47 verses.
- ↑ Puruṣamedha is a human sacrifice.
- ↑ Yajus means prose passages.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore