Note on Vedic shAkhAs

Anand V. Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 23 09:21:32 CDT 1999

On Sun, 22 Aug 1999 23:42:06 EDT, Ashish Chandra <ramkisno at HOTMAIL.COM>
>1. We are Brahmins from Western UP but have nothing remaining that tells of
>our scriptural studies/Vedic Shakha etc. As far as I know, most of the
>people from our community that I have come across only know their Gotras
>and not much. A few elderly people say that during the Islamic period, most
>the relation to Vedic studies was lost. But there were people (Bhattas) who
>used to come at the time of birth/death to make a record. Can anyone tell
>whether one can find out about one's Veda and Shakha etc. from these
>(I am presuming these records are still available in Kashi) ?

  I can't answer this question because I don't know what those records
  are. But if the records were made by the bhaTTa's (priests) then they
  would be more likely to know the Vedic shAkhA of your family. For
  instance, my family priest knows details of my family such as my
  Vedic shAkhA, gotra, the observances my family should follow, and so on.
  The family priest, especially if he is a "hereditary" priest of your
  family, is more likely to know such details. In my case, for example,
  my family priest's father and his ancestors were family priests of
  my ancestors. The current priest is a priest to both my father's
  generation (partly) and to my generation. Besides, he is also
  knowledgeable in jyotisha, so he has the birth details of everyone
  in our family.

>2. One of my friends is from Karnataka and knows his Veda to be RgVeda. But
>he says his shikshan has been in Yajur Veda. Is this fairly common ?
  This could be the case if he were unable to find anyone who could
  teach him the Rg Veda.

>3. Also, his Shakha is Shalivahan (he thinks but is not sure). Is there, or
>was there ever was, a Shalivahan shakha, because it is not listed here in
>this list that Anandji gave ?

  I have never heard of this one! (My guess is he is mistaking it for
  the calendar system, not a Vedic shAkhA!)

>4. As far as I remember, Adi Shaknaracharya had assigned one Veda to each
>the four Mathas. I think the one is Jyotirmath was assigned the RgVeda.
>it mean that there were more RgVedins in the area, hence meaning chances
>my Veda is RgVeda ?

  If I remember correctly, the Veda assigned to Jyotirmath was the
  atharva veda with toTaka as the mathAdhipati. I am not aware of
  any association of the Veda assigned to a Math to the number of
  followers of that Veda in the region. True, Sringeri was assigned
  the Yajur Veda and we do find a large number of Yajur Vedins in the
  South. But Puri, if I remember correctly, was assigned the Rg veda.
  Does this mean there were a large number of Rg vedins in that area,
  ie. the east? Historically, the western part of India, including
  Maharashtra, and parts of Karnataka have had followers of the Rg Veda.

>5. What exactly does a Shakha denote? Can there be a difference in the ways
>various Shakhas recite the Mantras? My friend pointed out that one stuti
>Sri Ganesh recited by him differs a lot from the way its done in

  A shAkhA is a somewhat like a branch of  a Veda. It means that all
  followers of a shAkhA must have the same saMhitA, brAhmaNa, and
  AraNyaka (including the upanishhads) and often, the same gR^ihya and
  shrauta sUtras. Yes, the same mantra could be recited differently by
  people from different shAkhAs. The difference is more in the recitation
  style than in the texts. For example, Dr. Yegnasubramanian, who teaches
  the Krishna Yajur Veda (taittirIya shAkhA) in the New Jersey area,
  remarked  in one of his talks, that he was not able to join the
  recitation of the shatarudrIya with the priests at trayaMbakeshvar
  (Nasik, Maharashtra) who  were chanting in the shukla yajur vedic
  (probably mAdhyandina shAkhA) style.

>6. Someone once pointed out to me that if the recitation (and hence
>pronounciation) of the Mantras became unclear, or if the technique was
>one would go to Kashi to get the proper pronounciation. Is there only one
>way in which a Mantra is to be recited ? If so, then why so many Shakhas ?

 It is best to put it this way. There is only one way to chant a mantra
 according to one shAkha! So if you chant a mantra in a particular way,
 you must be able to point out the shAkhA according to which you are
 chanting it. You cannot chant it just any way you like. There may be
 more than one way to chant a mantra, but that can only happen if the mantra
 occurs in more than one shAkhA! A mantra which is unique to a shAkhA
 (does not occur in any other shAkhA) must be chanted in exactly one way.


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