Kalpa Vedanga

Kalpa Vedanga or also known as the Kalpa Sutras (Sanskrit: "Procedural or ceremonial Veda-limb") — a body of three groups of auxiliary Vedic texts: 1) the Shrauta Sutras and Shulba Sutras, on public Vedic rites (yagna), 2) the Grihya Sutras (or Shastras), on domestic rites and social custom, and 3) the dharma-shastra (or Sutras), on religious law. Among all the literature related with the Vedanga, Kalpa holds a very prominent and primary place. Kalpa means the scripture, which contains the systematic imagination of all the activities as described in the Vedas. So the Kalpas are the 'precept scriptures' which systematically describe about the various religious activities and ceremonies like Yagya (oblation), marriage and sacred thread ceremony etc propounded by the Vedas. There are numerous sets of Kalpa Sutras, composed by various rishis. Each set is associated with one of the four Vedas.


These aphorisms or precepts are considered as very ancient as its contents have direct relation with the 'Brahmans' and 'Aranyakas'. 'Etareya Aranyak' contains numerous statements which are in fact, in the forms of precepts or aphorisms and which are considered to have been created by 'Ashwalayan' and 'Shaunak'.

'Yagya' (oblation) was the main religious activity of the Vedic Aryans according to the traditions prevalent during the 'Brahmana period' but because of its expanse and vastness, the necessities of precise and systematic scriptures were felt for the use of the performers of the 'Yagya' (oblation).

'Kalpa Sutras' were created to meet this demand and in all the branches of the Vedas.

Kalpa Sutra is mainly of four types:-

1) SHRAUT SUTRA — it contains the description of various religious rites as mentioned in the 'Brahmans' and also the various oblations performed in the sacrificial fire.

2) GRIHYA SUTRA — it contains the detailed description about the various oblations performed in the household like sacred thread ceremony, marriage, 'Shraadh' etc.

3) DHARMA SUTRA — it contains the detailed description about the duties of all the four castes i.e. Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The duties of the king are especially emphasized. It is considered as the main 'Kalpa Sutra'.

4) SHULVA SUTRA — it contains the methods of constructing the 'Altar' of the oblation which are based on the ancient geometrical science of the Aryans and which are considered to be very scientific.

The main subject of the Shraut Sutra is the description of the various oblations as propounded by the Vedas. The names of these Vedas are as follows:-


According to the 'Shraut Sutra' all the rituals of the oblations are performed only after igniting fire. Hence great emphasis has been given on the selection of the sacrificial fire and its re-ignition in some special circumstances. Due to their complexities the Shraut Sutras do not find any interest in the general people but their religious importance is incomparable.

Rigveda has two 'Shraut Sutras'- Ashwatayan and Shankhayan. In both of them various oblations are described which are performed by the performer with a specific purpose.

There are twelve chapters in the Ashwalayan Shraut Sutra. It is a well known fact that sage Ashwalayan was sage Shaunak's disciple and it is also believed that the last two chapters of the 'Etareya Aranyak' were the works of both of them.

Similarly the 'Shankhayan Shraut Sutra' has eighteen chapters and it has detailed description of the methods of performing the various oblations. 'Shankhayan Shraut Sutra which is related with the 'Brahmana' seems to be most ancient of all the 'Shraut Sutras' going by the contents and style of narration and it also has similarities with the 'Brahmana' to some extent. The last two chapters of its eighteen chapters are believed to be a later edition and which have similarities with the first two chapters of the 'Kaushitaki Aranyak' in its contents.

SHUKLA YAJURVEDIYA KALPASUTRA: There are two 'precept scriptures' on the Shukla Yajurveda- a) Katyayan Shraut Sutra and b) Paraskar Grihya Sutra

The knowledge of the contents of 'Katyayan Shraut Sutra' is essential for understanding the 'Shraut Sutra'. Katyayan Shraut Sutra is considered as a scripture representing the Shraut Sutra. Katyayan Shraut Sutra has been written in the mode of the precepts and aphorisms and is classified into 26 chapters which has a detailed description of the various types of oblations.

The first chapter of Katyayan Shraut Sutra' which consists of ten 'Kandikas' (subdivisions) describes about the characteristics of the various subjects related with oblations.

The second and third chapters which consist of eight 'Kandikas' each give the complete description of the oblations performed on the 'dark moon' and 'full moon' days. The first 'Kandika' of the second chapter gives information about the initial ceremonies and the last Kandika of the third chapter sheds light on the 'main ceremonies' or the 'main oblations'. The fourth chapter which consists of 15 'Kandikas' describe about the various oblations like 'PINDA PITRA YAGYA', 'DAKSHAYAN YAGYA', 'SHRAUT YAGYA' and 'AGNIHOTRA YAGYA' respectively.

The fifth chapter which consists of 13 Kandikas describes about the oblations and rites performed during the month of 'Chaturmasya' in great detail.

The sixth chapter which consists of 10 'Kandikas' describes about the methods of sacrificing animals.

From the seventh chapter to the tenth chapter there is a complete description of 'AGNISHTOMA YAGYA'. The seventh and eighth chapter contain the various ceremonies which are performed prior to the performance of 'AGNISHTOMA YAGYA', the ninth chapter contains the various rituals performed during the early morning and the tenth chapter describes about the various rituals performed during the noon time and during the evening time.

The eleventh chapter contains the detailed description of the works of a sacrificial priest named Brahma and the importance of his works.

Similarly the twelfth chapter contains the description about the 'DWAADASHAAHA YAGYA', the thirteenth chapter about the 'GAWAMAYAN YAGYA', the fourteenth chapter about the 'VAAJAPEYA YAGYA' and the fifteenth chapter contains the description about the 'RAAJASUYA YAGYA'.

From the sixteenth chapter to the eighteenth chapter there is a detailed description about the selection of the sacrificial fire (agnichayan).

Similarly the nineteenth chapter contains the detailed description about 'SAVTARAMANI', the twentieth chapter about the ASWAMEGHA, the twenty-first chapter about the 'PURUSHMEGHA', the 'SARVAMEGHA' and 'PITRAMEGHA YAGYA'.

The subject matters of the chapters from twenty second to twenty fourth are 'EKAHA' (oblation completed in one day), 'AHEEN' (oblation which gets completed within two to eleven days) and 'SATRA YAGYA'. The base of this section is 'TANDAYA MAHABRAHMAN' which is considered to be the main 'Brahmana' of the SAMAVEDA and hence has been appropriately adjusted in the 'SHUKLA YAJURVEDIYA BRAHMAN'.

The twenty-fifth chapter describes about the various methods of atonement for the mistakes committed during the process of oblation.

The last chapter (26th chapter) describes about 'PRAVARGYA' (classification of all the subjects).

PARASKAR GRIHYA SUTRA: The Grihya Sutra of Shukla Yajurveda is also known as Paraskar Grihya Sutra. It has been divided into three 'Kandas'.

The first 'Kanda' contains the description of 'Awasathya-Agni'. (name of a special kind of sacrificial fire) and its conception, marriage ceremony, conception of a child and 'ANNAPRASHAN' (a ceremony in which a child is given for the first time rice cooked in milk) rite which is performed on the return of the disciple to his household after finishing his studies), 'Panchamaha Yagya' (five essential duties of a householder), 'Shravanakarm' (listening to the scriptures) and Sita Yagya.

The third and the last Kanda contains the description about 'Shraadh' (act of devotion to the names) and atonement for the mistakes committed during the 'Shraadh' etc.

KRISHNA YAJURVEDA: The following 'Shraut Sutras' are available which are related to 'Krishna Yajurveda'. They are:-

1. Baudhayan Shraut Sutra.
2. Apastamba Shraut Sutra.
3. Hiranyakeshi Shraut Sutra or Sanyashadha.
4. Vaikhanus Shraut Sutra.
5. Bhardwaj Shraut Sutra.
6. Manav Shraut Sutra.

The first five of these Sutras are related to the branch of 'Taitereya' and the last one is related to the branch of 'Maitrayani'. Baudhayan Shraut Sutra and Apastamba Shraut Sutra have the complete details of all the four precept scriptures (sutra grantha) of the Kalpa i.e. Shraut, Grihya Dharma and Shulva.

SAMVEDIYA KALPASUTRA: Among the 'Kalpa sutras' which are related with 'SAMVEDA ARSHEYA KALPA is considered to be the supreme. A sage by the name of Mashak is supposed to be the creator of this Kalpa Sutra. This enormous scripture contains eleven chapters. The main objective of this text is to show as to which 'Sama' (versus of Samaveda) is to be sung in which oblation.

There are three types of SOM YAGYA. They are as under:-

1. EKAHA:- which gets completed within a day.

2. AHEENA:- which gets completed within two days to eleven days.

3. SATRA:- which takes at least twelve days and at the most one year for completion.

Arsheya Kalpa is related to 'Tandya-Maha-Brahman' i.e. the order in which it describes about the oblations of the Samavediya Brahmana, the same order has been initiated by this Kalpa Sutra. The applications of different modes of the singing of 'Samas' (verses of Samveda) during the performance of Soma Yagya is described in detail and is the specialty of the Arsheya Kalpa.



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