[Advaita-l] Etymology of names of upanishad-s

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Mar 21 19:04:11 CDT 2008

On Fri, 21 Mar 2008, Ananta Bhagwat wrote:

> Namaste,
> I was trying to trace etymology of names of pramANa upanishad-s:

Interesting topic.

> (1) bRhadAraNyaka (bRhat = great upanishad)

The last kanda of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Shuklayajurveda is called 
Brhadaranyaka.  Some sections of this are called Upanishad while the rest 
are Aranyaka.

> (2) chAndogya (chAndoga is the singer of sAma)

Right, because this upanishad belongs to the kauthuma shakha of 
the samaveda.

> (3) taittirIya (sage tittira, the disciple of sage vaiSaMpAyana)

Tittira means a kind of bird (I have seen sparrow or partridge as English 
translations.)  When Yajnavalkya quarreled with Vaishampayana who 
originally learned Yajurveda from Vedavyasa, he vommited up the mantras he 
had learned and went away.  The other shishyas took the form of Tittiras 
and took it up again founding the taittirIya shakha of krshnayajurveda.

> (4) aitareya (sage aitareya mahidAsa)

Yes.  It is part of the aitereya brahmana of the bashkala shakha of the 

> (5) kaTha (or kaThaka, etymology could not be traced)

Katha is a shakha of krshnayajurveda that this upanishad belongs to.

> (6) ISa (ISAvAsya the first word of the upanishad)

Yes.  It is the last chapter of the Vajasaneyi samhita of the 

> (7) kena (kena, the first word, by whom)

Yes.  This upanishad is also called talavakara upanishad after the shakha 
of samaveda it belongs to.

> (8) muNDaka (root muND = to shave of (Ignorance))

The upanishad of the shaven ones.  This upanishad belongs to 
atharvaveda.  According to Shankaracharya, the atharvavedis had a vrata 
which involved shaving their heads.

> (9) praSna (questions)

Yes.  Six questions are asked to Pippalada the shishya of Vedavyas who was 
taught atharvaveda.  According to Shankaracharya, this upanishad is also a 
sort of commentary on the mundaka which also belongs to atharvaveda as we 
have noted.

> (10) mANDUkya (maNDUka = toad, no further clarifications)

This upanishad belongs to mandukya shakha of the atharvaveda.

> (11) SvetASvetara (sage of the same name)

And the shakha of krshnayajurveda he founded.

> (12) kaushitaki (saMsArikam sukham yasya kushitaH eva kushitakaH...)

It is part of the kaushitaki the kaushitaki brahmana of the sakala shakha 
of rgveda.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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