Yajnas and yagas sacrifices offered into the duly consecrated fire occupied
the central place in Vedic religion. Hence,
the need for clear and elaborate instructions to conduct them was keenly felt.
And, the Brahmanas fulfilled that need.
The primary content of the Brahmanas can be stated as 'vidhi' or
injunctions concerning the various rites
and rituals which form a part of the
sacrificial system. It comprises such details
as: when to perform a sacrifice, which
sacrifice for which purpose, who is the
person fit to perform it, which are the
various components, what are the mantras
to be used, where and how, and so on.
Apart from the vidhis, the Brahmanas
also contain other topics: hetu, nirukti,
stuti or arthavada and akhyana.
Those portions of the work that
provide logic and reasoning in support of
a vidhi are called 'hetu'. Wherever certain
words are explained with their etymological derivations, such statements are
termed as 'nirukti'. Stuti or arthavada
comprises the statements of praise in
support of the injunctions and of derogation, in support of prohibitions. Akhyanas are stories or narration of ancient incidents interspersed in the body of the Brahmana literature. They are often full
of esoteric meanings or philosophical
The Brahmanas occupy a very important place in the Vedic lore. They provided
not only the necessary details for the
performance of Vedic rites but also the
inspiration to sustain them. The various
discussions that used to take place during
the Brahmana period, concerning the
several aspects of the sacrificial religion,
gave rise to the Mimamsa system of philosophy.
Each of the four Vedas has its own
Brahmanas. Since the number of the
extant Brahmanas is rather small compared to what has been mentioned in the
grhyasutras and other ancient works, it
can safely be surmised that many of them have been lost, perhaps irretrievably.
The Brahmanas available now, may
be listed as follows:
Aitareya Brahmana and Kausitaki Brahmana.
Taittiriya and Satapatha Brahmana.
Tandya Brahmana, Sadvimsa Brahmana, Samavidhana Brahmana, Arseya Brahmana, Daivata Brahmana, Samhitopanisad Brahmana, Upanisad Brahmana, Vamsa Brahmana and Jaiminiya Brahmana.
Q1. How many types of Brahmanas are
The Brahmanas are ancient
explanatory texts related to the mantras and hymns of the four Hindu Vedas. The
Brahmanas are divided into 10 main territorial divisions, five of which are
associated with the north and five with the south. The northern group consists
of Sarasvati, Gauda, Kannauj, Maithil, and Utkal Brahmans, and the southern
group comprises Maharashtra, Andhra, Dravida, Karnata, and Malabar Brahmans. Some
Brahmanas contain mystical and philosophical material, which is what the Aranyakas
are made out of. Each Veda has one or more Brahmanas, each of whom is often
linked with a certain Shakha or Vedic school. There are just about twenty
Brahmanas left, as most have been lost or destroyed.
Q2. Why are Brahmanas important?
Brahmanas contain legends, myths, notes on the performance of rituals, as well
as explanations of particular sacred words from the Vedas and
some philosophy. More commonly, Brahmanas are used to refer to the explanation
and meaning of a sacred word. The details given in the Brahmanas are often
precise instructions as to how the rituals described in the Vedas should be
properly performed. This may include details about the proper pronunciation
(accent), chhandas (छन्दः,
meters), and intonation with the coordinated movement of hand and fingers –for
the chanting of mantras. The Satapatha Brahamana, for example, states that
verbal perfection made a mantra infallible, while one mistake made it
Q3. What are the Brahmanas?
has two Brahmanas
Aitareya Brahmana : it is also known as Ashvalayana
Brahmana. The legendary author ascribed to this Brahmana is Mahidas Aitareya.
It is of Shakala shakhas of Rig-Veda.
Kaushitaki Brahmana : It is of the Vatkal or Bashkala
shakhas of Rig-Veda and is sometimes also known as Śānkhāyana
Samveda Brahmanas - Although Sama Veda
has 10 Brahmanas, some are Jaiminiya, Mantra or Chandogya Brahmana etc.
Yajurveda Brahmanas : Satapatha Brahmana, Krishna, the
Brahmanas are integrated into the Samhitas.
Atharva Veda Brahmanas : Gopatha Brahmana.
Q4. What do the Brahmanas contain?
are ancient Hindu texts which contain prose commentaries attached to the four
Vedas, the oldest Hindu
sacred texts. These contain explanations of mantras and hymns from the
Vedas, teachings of legends illustrated by the myths, information about the
performance of rituals, as well as some philosophy. They are a layer or category
of Vedic Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda and form a part of the Hindu śruti
literature. Expounds scientific knowledge of the Vedic Period, including
observational astronomy and, particularly about altar construction, geometry.
Divergent in nature, some Brahmanas also contain mystical and philosophical
material that constitutes Aranyakas and Upanishads.
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