Shiksha and Chandas are aids for pronouncing and reciting Vedic mantras correctly, Vyakarana and Nirukta are
for understanding their meaning, and Jyotisha and Kalpa
provide appropriate times and methods for performing the
Vedic sacrificial rites and rituals. The origins of these six auxiliary 'sciences' are found in the Vedas. A brief description of each of them follows.
(i) Shiksha - This branch teaches the science of phonetics or
pronunciation and recitation of the Vedic mantras. Any
deviation in the pronunciation can change the meaning and
thus mar the desired effect or purpose for which the mantras
are chanted and applied in sacrifices.
Some outstanding examples of Shiksha texts include the
Paniniya Shiksha by the great grammarian Sage Panini and
the writings of Sage Bharadwaja.
(ii) Chandas - Chandas is the science of prosody. It deals with
versification, or the rules for the metres in which Vedic
mantras and poems were composed. There are eleven
major and minor metres like, Gayatri, Anushtup, Ushnik,
Trishtup, Jagati, etc. Pingala is the earliest known author
of the Chanda shastra written in sutra form, which became
popularly known as Pingala shastra.
According to tradition, before reciting any Vedic mantra
the reciter has to pay respect to the respective rishi, devata
and chandas of the mantra.
(iii) Vyakarana - Vyakarana is the science of grammar, which helps to
make language clearer. It is called the 'mouth' of the Vedas.
Without it, the Vedas and all other Shruti works would be
impossible to understand correctly. The earliest available
text on Sanskrit grammar today is the Ashtadhyayi of Panini
(c. 500 BCE). Panini wrote his work for the understanding
of the Vedic and mainly the classical Sanskrit language, and
especially for the style of Sanskrit spoken in his day. Though
the Vedas were revealed and chanted many millennia
before him, a systematic grammar for both Vedic and
classical Sanskrit was first given by Panini. The Ashtadhyayi
is considered to be the most basic and standard work in
Sanskrit grammar today. It has been recognized as one of
the greatest intellectual achievements of all time. Panini,
however, mentions several scholars who were grammarians
and lexicographers before him.
It is worth noting that some ancient grammarians like
Patanjali (200 BCE) and Bhartruhari (between 450 and
500 CE) developed a spiritual philosophy out of grammar.
They identified the eternal aspect of sound with Brahman
(shabda Brahman) of Vedanta by writing the Mahabhashya
and Vakyapadiya respectively. Vyakarana also includes
dictionaries like Amarakosha, Halayudhakosha and others.
(iv) Nirukta - There was a Sanskrit work called Nighantu, now extinct,
which was a dictionary of difficult Vedic words. The work is
attributed to Yaska by some scholars, but it is not certain
who the real author was. According to Yaska, the difficult
words were collected and classified by the descendants of
The Nirukta is the oldest Indian treatise on etymology,
philology and semantics, also ascribed to Yaska. The work
is available today, and it is a commentary on the Nigbantu.
It thus enables one to understand the Vedas. Sage Yaska
was the last of the commentators on Nigbantu. His work
on Nirukta is the best known work available. It is considered to be the earliest Vedabhashya or commentary on the Vedas. It consists of three parts: (1) a list of synonyms called Naighantuka Kanda, (2) a list of words used only in
the Vedas called Naigama Kanda, and (3) a list of words relating to deities and rituals known as Daivata Kanda. In the Daivata Kanda, Yaska gives the etymological explanation of the names of the deities. Finally, Nirukta ends with
instructions, teachings and eulogies of the Vedic devas.
(v) Jyotisha - Jyotisha is the Vedic science of astrology that includes
astronomy, geometry and mathematics. Movements of the
sun, moon, planets and constellations are observed and
recorded in order to fix suitable days and auspicious times
for the commencement and conclusion of sacred rites and
yajnas for various purposes. The influence of the movement
of celestial bodies on human life was also studied (astrology).
References to eclipses are found in the Rig Veda.
Two Jyotisha books available from the early Vedic
period are Archajyotisha of the Rig Veda with 36 verses and
Yajusjyotisha of the Yajur Veda with 43 verses, and from the
later period we have the Atharvajyotisha with 162 verses.
Later, the astronomy section of jyotisha science
was gradually advanced by the works of Aryabhatta I (476 CE), Varahamihira (580 CE), Brahmagupta (628 CE), Bhaskaracharya I (700 CE), Aryabhatta II (c. 950 CE) and
Bhaskaracharya II (1114 CE). These rishi-scientists helped in
the development of Hindu astronomy and astrology.
(vi) Kalpa - The ritualistic Vedanga is called kalpa comprising the following
four types of works written in sutras (aphorisms) :
1. Srauta-sutra – dealing with the Vedic rituals. These
contain details about Vedic sacrifices. Each Veda had its
own srauta-sutras, e.g., Asvalayana-srauta-sutra and
Samkhayana-srauta-sutra belonging to the Rgveda.
2. Sulba-sutra – closely connected with the Srauta-sutras
above are these sutras dealing with the measurement of
sacrificial altars; sulba means the measuring tape. These
are the earliest works on Indian geometry, and occupy a
significant position in the history of mathematics.
3. Grhyasutra – dealing with rituals right from the ceremony
of impregnation (niseka or garbhadhana) to funeral rite
(antyesti-kriya). These also are attached to particular Vedas.
For instance, the Asvalayana and Samkhayana Grhyasutras belong to the Rgveda.
4. Dharmasutra – dealing with rules and regulations relating
to the four castes and four stages of life, royal duties (raja-dharma) and secular law (vyavahara).
Besides the above works, some works of the type of Index were written for determining the rsis, deities and metres of the hymns of the Rgveda. Thus, we have Arsanukramani, Devanukramani and Chando'nukramani. The Anuvakanukramani contains index to the anuvakas into which hymns, rather the Mandalas (books) of the Rgveda are sub-divided. Katyayana's Sarvanukramani, as the title indicates, contains all the aforesaid anukramanis. The Brhaddevata of Saunaka lists the names of the rsis to whom are ascribed the rks of the hymns.
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