The Vedangas ( Sanskrit वेदाङ्ग vedāṅga , n. ' Member of the Veda') are auxiliary sciences for the understanding and the correct transmission of the Veda , one of the Indian collections of scriptures that are particularly important in Hinduism .
The Vedangas cover the following areas:
- Shiksha (शिक्षा, śikṣā ): phonetics , knowledge of letters, articulation, sandhir rules
- Chandas (छन्दस्, chandas ): metric
- Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa ): grammar
- Nirukta (निरुक्त, nirukta): Etymology , explanation of important Vedic words, attributed to the grammarian Yaska
- Jyotisha (ज्योतिष, jyotiṣa ): Astronomy or astrology , knowledge of the Vedic calendar to determine the auspicious days, Jyotisha , the eye of the Vedas
- Kalpa (कल्प, kalpa): ritual
Phonetics and metrics are intended to aid in the correct recitation and pronunciation of the Veda, grammar and etymology are intended for proper understanding, and astronomy and ritual are intended to ensure the correct performance of the rituals at the right time.
The Vedangas are first mentioned in the Mundaka Upanishad . Originally, this did not mean independent books or schools, but only topics that should be dealt with in studying the Veda in order to properly understand the Veda . In the course of time these subjects became more and more systematic and special schools for the six Vedangas developed. This then resulted in independent text books that were written in the Sutra style.
Shiksha originally means "instruction", then specifically instructions for recitation , i. H. for the correct pronunciation of the Samhitas (hymns). It was not only necessary to know the rituals, but also to pronounce the sacred texts without errors.
The oldest textbooks on phonetics are the Pratishakyas. They contain rules for pronunciation, intonation and euphonic sound changes in the sentence (Sandhi rules). Such phonetic textbooks exist for all samhitas. The Rigveda Pratishakya is the oldest surviving text book on Vedic phonetics.
A Sanskrit text does not consist of individual, isolated words; most words are contracted according to precise phonetic rules (Sandhi rules). The Rigveda Samhita offer a good teaching example. In addition to the Samhita-pathas (coherent text with euphonic sound changes), a Pada-patha was created in which the (inflected) words are listed individually.
Example from the Samhita-patha from the Rigveda-Samhita:
- agniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhirirīḍyonūtanairuta sa devāneha vakṣati
- अग्निः पूर्वेभिर्र्षिभिरीड्यो नूतनैरुत। स देवानेह वक्षति॥
In Samhita-patha the last letter of a word and the first letter of the next word are often merged or the last sound of a word is changed. This happens according to the rules of euphonic sound change. This results in long word structures made up of several words.
The same line from the Pada-patha :
Each word is listed here individually. The word endings are recognizable.
(Translation of the line: "Agni is invoked by the past and present seers; may he bring the gods here".)
The ritual literature (kalpa) arose from the need to compress the rules for the sacrificial rituals in a shorter and clearer form in order to be more suitable for the practical needs of the priests. The Kalpasutras are an aid to the Brahmanas . Since these texts deal with the domestic (grihya) ceremonies and the sacrificial ceremonies (Shrauta), they are called Grihyasutras and Shrautasutras.
The Shrautasutras contain z. B. the rules for lighting the three holy fires - for the fire sacrifice (agnihotra), the new moon and the full moon sacrifice, for the seasonal sacrifice, the animal sacrifice (e.g. ashvamedha , horse sacrifice) and the soma sacrifice (Soma = holy Vedic Potion).
The Grihyasutras contain the rules for domestic customs, ceremonies and sacrifices with which every Indian is still familiar today. These ceremonies are related to conception, childbirth, the puerperium, naming, the child's first meal, the boy's first haircut. The Grihyasutras also describe the initiation rite with which a (high-caste) student begins the study of the Veda ( Upanayanam , putting on the sacred cord ) and thus becomes “born twice”. The second birth is understood as a cultural birth after the natural birth. The end of the life cycle are the rites of cremation.
For everyday religious life the daily small offerings to the gods and the sacrifices for the ancestors ( Shraddha ) are described. The latter were considered so important that the Shraddhakalpas became a work of their own.
Quite a few of these rites are still popular today, others have not been practiced for over 1500 years, especially the horse sacrifice and the soma sacrifice.
- VM Apte: The Vedangas. In: The cultural heritage of India. Volume 1: The early phases. 2nd Edition. Calcutta 1958, pp. 264-292.
- Moritz Winternitz : History of Indian Literature , Leipzig, 1905–1922, Volume I – III ( archive.org , archive.org , archive.org ), reprint in English translation: Maurice Winternitz: History of Indian Literature. Motilal Barnarsidass, Delhi 1985.