The Samaveda Parayana organised by Pandit Mishra of the Shankara Mutt at Bangalore was an eye opener. The rare knowledge of the ancient Vedas are now incubated in a few centres and a handful of priests have the knowledge to chant them from memory accurately. A few among them know the meaning. This Blog shares some highlights on Vedas and Sama Veda in particular. Towards the last sections I have also included some commentary on best practises and clarifications on common questions about the Vedas.
Why does Lord Krishna state ” Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda ” and “Among hymns I am the Brihat Sama” – I started writing this Blog trying to find answers to this.
Most of the content has come from experts and is not easily available on the Internet. Its a good start for a layman and opens the window to how massive and deep the knowledge in our Vedas are. The structure, the span – even thinking of them is mind boggling. All this existing for thousands of years and being passed by memory across generations.
The Vedas are Apourusheyam – not authored by man. They are Anaadi – without a beginning in terms of time. The Rishis cognised the mantras already in existence and made them known to the world. The Brihadharanyaka Upanishad says that the Vedas are Ishwara’s breath. Just like we cannot exist without breathing, the Vedas are the life breath of the Supreme. If Parmaatma who has no beginning or end exists forever, then the Vedas as his life breath are naturally Anaadi.
The Vedas believed to be vibrations in space were compiled 5000 years ago at the beginning of Kali Yuga by Veda Vyasa consisted of 1131 sabhas (Recensions). 21 in Rig, 101 in Yajur, 1000 in Sama and 9 in Atharva – they were preserved in the parampara of Rishis by oral transmission from father to son and guru to shishya. As of date there are only 10 recensions available (3 in Sama Veda) and there are a handful of Vedic Scholars who can chant the Vedas by memory with the perfect tone and pronunciation
Why does Lord Krishna in the Bhagawad Gita state – Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda
All mantras of the Sama Veda except for 102 are in the Rig Veda. There are at least 214 mantras in the Sama Veda which are common to Rig & Yajur. Of the 6000 mantras in the Atharva Veda – 406 are in the Sama Veda. In total there are only 69 unique verses in the Sama Veda which are not in the other Vedas.
Now we can understand the deeper reason behind the well known quotation of Bhagvad Gita “Among the Vedas I am Sama Veda” – Sama Veda being a compilation makes all the key Vedic Mantras accessible to those who may not have the time to read or recite the huge Rig Veda (Over 10,000 Mantras).
Sama Veda unifies and stresses the commonality of the Veda
Many mantras in the Sama Veda are repeated verbatim. 257 verses in the first part (Purva Archika) are repeated in the second part (Uttara Archika). Thus the distinctive mantras in the Sama Veda Samhita is only 1610. The Purva Archika or the first part of the Sama Veda Samhita contains 650 mantras , the remaining 1225 mantras constitute the second part or Uttara Archika.
There are 3 types of mantras in the Vedas – Rik, Yajur and Saman. A Rik mantra is metrical expressed in a meter like Gayatri. Yajur mantra is a rhythmic prose. A Saman mantra is meant to be sung. The same Rik which is the underlying basis for a Sama mantra can be sung in different ways.
Saama Gana – The singing of the Sama Veda mantra follows a strict procedure. While the mantras are same as in Rig Veda the Saama has set the mantras to music with lengthened notes which is greatly conducive to spiritual evolution of the self and the grace of God’s. The sound while chanting them correctly activates our nerve centres and also affects the the surrounding resulting in individual and collective well being. Saama Gana can be said to be the basis and source of the seven Swaram or notes of Indian music.
Bhagwan is called “Sama” because he is embodiment of Sama Veda. He who knows the Sama Veda is the knower of the Brahman. Adi Shankara explains – ” Sama Gayaati Iti Saamagah” – He sings the Sama Veda hence he is called the Saamagah. Sama Veda is so melodious that Bhagvan himself sings it often. In fact he is the creator of the Sama Veda and he enjoys singing it.
Sama Veda in Vishnu Sahasranamam – Trisaamaa Samagah Sameti Kavacham
Trisaamaa– He is worshipped using the three parts of Sama Veda collectively known as Devavrataas, hence He is called Trisaamaa. The three parts of Sama Veda are called Brihat, Rathantara and Vaamadevya and are collectively called Devavrataas. He whose glory itself is the manifested Sama Veda (Saama), He is none other than the Supreme. This great Lord is like an armour (“kavacham”) to wear for self-protection.
Symbolism: While chanting this in the mind the seeker first touches with the tip of his finger, of each arm, the same shoulders, and afterwards crosses the arm, in front of him making fingers of each palm touch the other shoulder-as if he is actually wrapping himself and wearing the divine armour.
There is reference to the greatness of Sama Veda in Lalita Sahasranamam also.One of the names for Archana in Sri Lalita Sahasranamam is Sama Gana Priyaya Namaha. The greatness of Sama Veda is brought out extensively in all Vedas, Itihasas and Puranas and Sangitha Sastras.
Srimad Bhagavatam – Garuda
In the Bhagavatam it is stated that the two wings of the transcendental bird Garuḍa, who carries the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Sāma Veda known as bṛhat and rathāntara. Garuḍa works as the carrier of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince of all carriers. With his two wings Garuḍa began to vibrate the Sāma Veda, which is chanted by great sages to please the Lord.
Sama Veda – Rig Veda connection
The close relationship between Sama Veda and Rig Veda is mentioned in several Upanishads including the Chandogya Upanishad. The Brihadranyaka Upanishad compares the relationship between these two Veda Samhita as husband and wife.
Earth is Rig, Fire is Saman.
This Saman rests upon the Rig
Therefore the Saman is sung as resting on the Rik.
Earth is “Sa” Agni is “Ama” that creates Sama
Yagna is based on the two horses of Indra – Rchah and Samani. Rchah is the world we aspire and Sama is the world we live in.
Sri Chandrashekarandra Saraswati in his book the Four Vedas explains – “Saama” means to bring “shanti” or peace to the mind. Of the 4 methods of tackling an enemy – saama, daana, bheda and danda – the first Saama is by conquering the enemy by love and conciliatory words.
Sama Veda is grouped into Dashati, Each Dashati having ten Suktas
Vedic Hyms were revealed to the Rishis in a state of Samadhi. Given below are the name of some Rishis to who the Sama Veda mantras were revealed. In parenthesis is the number of relevant Dashatis.
Vasishta (43), Vamadeva (36), Bharadvaja (29), Medhatithi (29), Kanva (29), Vishwamitra (29), Gotama (20), Saubhari (18), Shunashepa (17), Jamadagni (13), Praskanva (13), Pragatha (8), Kashyapa (7), Vebha (5), Atri (4), Valakhilya (3). There were lady Rishi’s also – Godha & Indamatarah Devajamayah
The great Patanjali refers to a 1000 Shakhas or recensions of Sama Veda that once existed. As of date only 3 survive – Kuthumna, Ramayana and Jaimini. Vedas are called Shruti – That which is heard. The ear is called “Srotra”. Vedas have been passed on from generations in the ancient method of learning by the ear the the Guru Shishya tradition. A few places like the Sringeri Mutt are the centres of excellence working to preserve the knowledge of the Sama Veda.
Upanishads in the Sama Veda
Kenopanishad – It is only in the Kenopanishad that the Divine Mother appears in the form of Mother Wisdom, which is one of her attributes mentioned in the “Lalita Sahasranama”. Her glory is especially manifest in this Upanishad from the Sama Veda
Chandogya Upanishad – Chandoga means one who sings the Saama Gaana. The Chandogya Upanishad mantras constitute the chief authority – Pramaana for the Brahma Sutras.
नीलोत्पलदलाभासिः सामवेदो हयाननिः । अक्षमालान्ववतो दक्षे वामे कम्बुधरिः स्मृतिः ॥
Samaveda Murthi is said to be horse-faced, shining like blue lotus and holding Akshamala (rosary of beads) in right hand and conch in left hand.
ॐ नमिः सामवेदाय
Om Namah Samavedaya Om, Obeisance to Sama Veda
सामजालजलाकीर्णं छवदिः कल्लोलसङ्कु लम् । तवरग्राहान्ववतं ववदे सामवेदमहार्णणवम् ॥
I prostrate to Samaveda, the great ocean with web of Samas as water, chandas (metric systems) as waves and tantras as crocodiles.
- Sama Veda by R.L.Kashyap
- The Vedas by Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati
- Photo of Sama Veda presiding Deity from Pandit Mishra Samaveda Parayana
- Video of the Sama Veda Parayanahttps://youtu.be/IxAZvXoYiFE
- Inputs from Dr Vish Ramamaurthy & Mrs Muthulaxmi Rao
- Brihat Sama Inputs from Srikant Vadyar