Everything need to know about YaJurveda

Yajurveda is a compound Sanskrit word, composed of ya jus (यजुस्) and Veda (वेद). Monier-Williams translates ya jus as "religious reverence, veneration, worship, sacrifice, a sacrificial prayer, formula, particularly mantras uttered in a peculiar manner at a sacrifice". Veda means "knowledge". Johnson states ya jus means "(mostly) prose formulae or mantras, contained in the Yajur Veda, which are muttered". Michael Witzel interprets Yajurveda to mean a "knowledge text of prose mantras" used in Vedic rituals. Ralph Griffith interprets the name to mean "knowledge of sacrifice or sacrificial texts and formulas". Carl Olson states that Yajurveda is a text of "mantras (sacred formulas) that are repeated and used in rituals".

Jul 17, 2021 - 17:56
Jul 18, 2021 - 18:31
Everything need to know about YaJurveda

The Yajurveda (Sanskrit: यजुर्वेद, Yajurveda, from ya jus meaning "worship", and Veda meaning "knowledge") is the Veda primarily of prose mantras for worship rituals.

An ancient Vedic Sanskrit text is a compilation of ritual offering formulas that were said by a priest while an individual performed ritual actions such as those before the yajna fire. Yajurveda is one of the four Vedas, and one of the scriptures of Hinduism.

The exact century of Yajurveda's composition is unknown and estimated by Witzel to be between 1200 to 800 BCE, contemporaneous with Samaveda and Atharvaveda.

The Yajurveda is broadly grouped into two – the "black" or "dark" (Krishna) Yajurveda and the "white" or "bright" (Shukla) Yajurveda. The term "black" implies "the un-arranged, unclear, motley collection" of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the "white" which implies the "well arranged, clear" Yajurveda.

The black Yajurveda has survived in four recensions, while two recensions of white Yajurveda have survived into modern times. The earliest and most ancient layer of Yajurveda Samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda.

The middle layer includes the Satapatha Brahmana, one of the largest Brahmana texts in the Vedic collection. The youngest layer of Yajurveda text includes the largest collection of primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu philosophy.

These include the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Isha Upanishad, the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Maitri Upanishad.

Two of the oldest surviving manuscript copies of the Shukla Yajurveda sections have been discovered in Nepal and Western Tibet, and these are dated to the 12th-century CE.

Dating and historical context

The core text of the Yajurveda falls within the classical Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE - younger than the Rigveda, and roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda, the Rigvedic Khilani, and the Sāmaveda. The scholarly consensus dates the bulk of the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda hymns to the early Indian Iron Age, after c. 1200 and before 800 BCE. Georg Feuerstein suggests that the dates given to most of these texts are far too late.

Text of Yajurveda


The Yajurveda text includes Shukla Yajurveda of which about 16 recensions are known, while the Krishna Yajurveda may have had as many as 86 recensions. Only two recensions of the Shukla Yajurveda have survived, Madhyandina and Kanva, and others are known by name only because they are mentioned in other texts. These two recensions are nearly the same, except for a few differences. In contrast to Shukla Yajurveda, the four surviving recensions of Krishna Yajurveda are very different versions.

Shukla Yajurveda

The Samhita in the Shukla Yajurveda is called the Vajasaneyi Samhita. The name Vajasaneyi is derived from Vajasaneya, the patronymic of Yajnavalkya, and the founder of the Vajasaneyi branch. There are two (nearly identical) surviving recensions of the Vajasaneyi Samhita (VS): Vajasaneyi Madhyandina and Vajasaneyi Kanva.

The lost recensions of the White Yajurveda, mentioned in other texts of ancient India, include Jabala, Baudhya, Sapeyi, Tapaniya, Kapola, Paundravatsa, Avati, Paramavatika, Parasara, Vaineya, Vaidheya, Katyayana and Vaijayavapa.

Recensions of the White Yajurveda
Recension Name Adhyayas Anuvakas No. of Verses Regional presence
Madhyandina 40 303 1975 Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, North India
Kanva 40 328 2086 Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
Shukla Yajurveda Shaakhaas
Shakha Samhita Brahmana Aranyaka Upanishad
Madhyandina (VSM) Vajasneyi Samhita


Madhyandina Shatapatha (SBM) survives as Shatapatha XIV.1-8, with accents. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Kanva (VSK) Vajasneyi Samhita


Kanva Shatapatha (SBK)

(different from madhyandina)

survives as book XVII of SBK Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

(different from above)

Krishna Yajurveda

There are four surviving recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda – Taittirīya saṃhitā, Maitrayani saṃhitā, Kaṭha saṃhitā and Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā. A total of eighty-six recensions are mentioned to exist in Vayu Purana, however, the vast majority of them are believed to be lost. The Katha school is referred to as a sub-school of Carakas (wanderers) in some ancient texts of India because they did their scholarship as they wandered from place to place.

Recensions of the Black Yajurveda
Recension Name No. of Sub-recensions Kanda Prapathaka No. of Mantras Regional presence
Taittiriya 2 7 42 South India
Maitrayani 6 4 54 Western India
Kāṭhaka (Caraka) 12 5 40 3093 Kashmir, North India, East India
Kapiṣṭhala 5 6 48 Haryana, Rajasthan
Krishna Yajurveda Shaakhaas
Shakha Samhita Brahmana Aranyaka Upanishad
Taittiriya Taittiriya Samhita Taittiriya Brahmana and Vadhula Brahmana

(part of Vadhula Srautrasutra)

Taittiriya Aranyaka Taittiriya Upanishad
Maitrayani Maitrayani Samhita Not Available virtually same as the Upanishad Maitrayaniya Upanishad
Caraka-Katha Katha Samhita - Katha Aranyaka (almost the entire text from a solitary manuscript) Kathaka Upanishad,

Katha-Shiksha Upanishad

The best known and best-preserved of these recensions is the Taittirīya saṃhitā. Some attribute it to Tittiri, a pupil of Yaska and mentioned by Panini. The text is associated with the Taittiriya school of the Yajurveda and attributed to the pupils of sage Tittiri (literally, partridge birds).

The Maitrayani saṃhitā is the oldest Yajurveda Samhita that has survived, and it differs largely in content from the Taittiriyas, as well as in some different arrangements of chapters, but is much more detailed.

The Kāṭhaka saṃhitā or the Caraka-Kaṭha saṃhitā, according to tradition was compiled by Katha, a disciple of Vaisampayana. Like the Maitrayani Samhita, it offers a much more detailed discussion of some rituals than the younger Taittiriya Samhita that frequently summarizes such accounts.

The Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā or the Kapiṣṭhala-Kaṭha saṃhitā, named after the sage Kapisthala is extant only in some large fragments and edited without accent marks. This text is practically a variant of the Kāṭhaka saṃhitā.

Each regional edition (recension) of Yajurveda had Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyakas, Upanishads as part of the text, with Shrautasutras, Grhyasutras and Pratishakhya attached to the text. In Shukla Yajurveda, the text organization is the same for both Madhayndina and Kanva shakhas. The texts attached to Shukla Yajurveda include the Katyayana Shrautasutra, Paraskara Grhyasutra and Shukla Yajurveda Pratishakhya. In Krishna Yajurveda, each of the recensions has or had their Brahmana text mixed into the Samhita text, thus creating a motley of the prose and verses, and making it unclear, disorganized.

Samhitas of Yajurveda

The Vajasaneyi Samhita has forty chapters or adhyayas, containing the formulas used with the following rituals:

Chapters of the White Yajurveda
Chapter No. Ritual Name Days Nature of Ritual
1-2 Darsapurnamasa (Full and new moon rituals) 2 Offer cow milk to fire. Separate calves from the cows.
3 Agnihotra 1 Offer butter and milk to fire. Welcome three chief seasons: Spring, Rains and Autumn.
4-8 Somayajna Bathe in the river. Offer milk and soma to fire. Offerings to deities of thought, speech. Prayer to Vishnu to harm no crop, guard the cattle, expel demons.
9-10 Vajapeya and Rajasuya Cup of Victory, Inauguration of a King. The offering of butter and Sura (a kind of beer or wine) to fire.
11-18 Agnicayana 360 Formulas and rituals for building altars and hearths for Agni yajna, with largest in the shape of outspread eagle or falcon.
19-21 Sautramani Offerings of Masara (rice-barley liquor plus boiled millet) to fire. Expiate evil indulgences in soma-drinking. For the dethroned king, for soldiers going to war for victory, for regulars to acquire cattle and wealth.
22-25 Ashvamedha 180 or 360 Only by King. A horse is released, followed by armed soldiers, wherein anyone who stops or harms the wandering horse is declared enemy of the state. The horse is returned to the capital and is ceremoniously slaughtered by the soldiers. Eulogy to the departed horse. Prayers to deities.
26-29 Supplementary formulas for the above sacrifices
30-31 Purushamedha The symbolic sacrifice of Purusha (Cosmic Man). The nominal victim played the part, but was released uninjured after the ceremony, according to Max Muller and others. A substitute for Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice). The ritual plays out the cosmic creation.
32-34 Sarvamedha 10 Stated to be more important than Purushamedha above. This ritual is a sacrifice for Universal Success and Prosperity. Ritual for one to be wished well, or someone leaving the home, particularly for solitude and moksha, who is offered "curd and ghee (clarified butter)".
35 Pitriyajna Ritual funeral-related formulas for cremation. Sacrifice to the Fathers and Ancestors.
36-39 Pravargya According to Griffith, the ritual is for long life, unimpaired faculties, health, strength, prosperity, security, tranquility and contentment. Offerings of cow milk and grains to yajna fire.
40 This chapter is not an external sacrifice ritual-related. It is Isha Upanishad, a philosophical treatise about the inner Self (Atman, Soul). The verse 40.6 states, "The man who in his Self beholds all creatures and all things that be, And in all beings sees his Self, then he doubts no longer, ponders not.

The Yajurveda has six primary Upanishads embedded within it.

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