Note on Vedic shAkhAs

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Aug 25 09:40:31 CDT 1999

On Sun, 22 Aug 1999, Ashish Chandra wrote:

> 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 of
> 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 me
> whether one can find out about one's Veda and Shakha etc. from these records
> (I am presuming these records are still available in Kashi) ?

I'll tell you something interesting about this.  My kai. Grandfather went
to Kashi on a yatra.  Prior to that, the last time anyone in our family
that we knew of had gone there was in the 19th century.  Yet the Pande's
or priests there were able to find the records of that trip.  So if you
know ancestors of yours have made such a yatra (or to Gaya or Prayag or
some other major tirth especially if it is a place where Shraddhas ae
performed) you may be able to find out stuff.

Pandit Harikrishna Venkataram Joshi wrote a book called
Brahmanottpattimartanda which contains information about the various
Brahmana castes and their gotras and Shakhas.  Because he was a Gujarati
living in Aurangabad Maharashtra, the main focus is on those areas and
details get sketchier about people in more distant areas but if you give
me some details I'll look them up and send you a photocopy of any

> 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 ?

We discussed this on the list once before.  Because it is the duty of
every Brahmana to learn the Vedas, you should learn what you can, even if
it is the "wrong" shakha but it is preferable to learn your own and you
should make the best possible effort to do so.

> 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 ?

The Shalivahana shaka is a calender.  (It's year 1921 right now.)

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

I don't think so.  Although the different Vedas do occur in "clumps" any
particular area should have some of each as reciters of all four Vedas are
needed to perform the Shrauta yagnas.

> 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 for
> Sri Ganesh recited by him differs a lot from the way its done in
> Maharashtra.
> 6. Someone once pointed out to me that if the recitation (and hence
> pronounciation) of the Mantras became unclear, or if the technique was lost,
> 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 ?

According to our shastras, the Rshis saw all these different mantras.  At
the dawn of the Kaliyuga when people started getting progressively
stupider, Maharshi Krshna Dvaipayana gathered them altogether.  (For this
reason he is better known as Veda Vyas--the arranger of the Vedas)  He
taught the Rgveda, to Shaunaka, the Yajurveda to Vaishampayana, the
Samaveda to Jaimini, and the Atharvaveda to Sumantu.  Their pupils are the
founders of the shakhas.  Mostly the differences are very minor, a
slightly different arrangement of the mantras or a different
pronounciation etc.  The only really big difference is between the Shukla
and Krshna Yajurveda.  The story is the famous Yagnavalkya was the student
of Vaishampayana.  Once he had a big argument with his teacher and left
vomitting up all he had learnt.  Then he did tapa and from Surya Bhagawan
was given the Shuklayajurveda.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list