THE STUDY OF THE VEDAS

        Vedic Dharma (Apaurusesya or Non-Human) has no specific known beginning. It is considered timeless. The mantras, which struck the consciousness of Rishis in their meditation, took the form of Vedas.

        Veda Vyasa, the expositor of the Vedas, mastered the Vedic Texts derived from various Rishis, and arranged them in a set of four. He collected the Vedic Texts of prayer under the Rig Veda, the Vedic texts of rituals under the Yajur Veda, the musical form of the Vedic texts under the Sama Veda and such of the Vedic texts that dispelled dangers and annihilated enemies under the Atharvana Veda. It was because of his typological classification of the Vedas that he came to be known as Veda Vyasa.

         The Vedas were essentially preserved by an oral tradition for the first couple of millennia and Vedic Smrties were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. This tradition emphasized the preservation of the actual sound of the Vedas over their meaning and interpretation. The mantras (sentence or verse of Vedas) acquire their powers by virtue of the acoustic energy of the syllables. This oral tradition has been preserved through a hoary tradition of preceptor and desciple through generations, lest errors in pronunciation creep in while reciting the written text.

    
RECITATION
 

        Svaadhyaya, the oral tradition by which the Vedas have been preserved, emphasizes the preservation of the actual sound of the Vedas over their meaning and interpretation. To ensure that intonations are preserved through the generations, a clever and mathematical method of recitation was developed. In this method euphonic combinations are used to preserve the syllable and content and Parayana (recitation of the mantras) is taught in 5 levels of complexity and difficulty, namely Samhitha, Padha, Krama, Jata and finally Ghanam. The higher the level, the better it preserves the original intonation.

A simple description of these types of recitation are given below:

   
Samhitha
   

      
 The simple Parayana is Samhithapata (continuous chanting). This pattern of parayana can be denoted as follows:

 
   
a b c d … (Where each alphabet is a word or part thereof)

 
   
Padha
 
   

       The second stage of Parayana is Padhapata. In this method, each word is broken into its constituents during recitation, as denoted below:
 
   
a/ b/ c/ d/ …

 
    Krama  
   

       The third stage of Parayana is known as Kramapata and it involves the combination of the first word or part thereof in a mantra with the second, the second with the third and so on. This continues until the last word in the mantra, as is denoted below:
 
   
ab/ bc/ cd/ de…

 
    Jata  
   

       The fourth stage of Parayana is known as Jatapata. It strives to preserve the original intonation of the Vedas, by a complex combination of consecutive words. In this regard, the Jatapata, denoted below, is one of the more difficult forms of Parayana.
 
   
abbaab/ bccbbc/ …

 
    Ghanam  
   

       Ghanapata is the most difficult form of Parayana, and a person who has mastered this technique of recitation is known as a “ Ghanapaati ”. The form of Ghanam is denoted below:

 
   
abbaabccbaabc / bccbbcddcbbcd / cddccdeedccde/ …

 
    THE PERIOD OF STUDY OF THE VEDAS  
   

        It takes at least eight years of dedicated study to gain expertise in the Vedic texts upto Kramapata of any one of the four Vedas. Those who pass the test in any one of the Vedic texts upto the Kramapata are known as Kramapaati. A further two years study of Vedas in Jata, Ghanam forms earns one the title of Ghanapaati and two more years study of Lakshana form (where each syllable of a word is given emphasis) earns one the title of Salakshana Ghanapaati. Seven more years of study of the Bhashya (meaning and interpretations of Vedas) makes proper training in all the Vedic texts. Thus, one can become a veteran in the study of Vedas in a span of nineteen years.


 
   
 
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