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The Sanctity of the Upanishads in Kerala elucidated

The Vedas are typically split into 2 parts: Karma-Kanda (section associated with religious deeds or ritualistic practices) and Jnana-Kanda (a segment that interacts with the acquisition of knowledge). The Samhita and Brahmanas primarily depict the Karma-Kanda, or ritual component, whereas the Upanishads primarily depict the Jnana-Kanda, or knowledge segment of the Vedas. The Upanishads, on the other hand, have been included in the Shruti. They are considered the more common and widely read Vedic scriptures. The Upanishads are frequently referred to as 'Vedanta.' Vedanta essentially signifies the end of the Vedas (Vedasya antah), which in turn alludes to the summation (Anta) and purpose (Anta) of the Vedas. Since the Upanishads tackle challenging conversations about existential questions, they were incorporated into the curriculum close to the end of a pupil's study. There exist about 180-200 Upanishads, however, the most popular of these are the texts that are found within the textual matter of the Vedas. The most talked about Upanishads in the state of Kerala are: 


  • Mundaka Upanishad: A part of the Atharva Veda, the Mundaka Upanishad is one of the most commonly translated Upanishadic scriptures. It speaks of freedom, bravery, ultimate deliverance, self-reliance and bliss.


  • Mandukya Upanishad: The Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest Upanishad that exists and is ascribed to the Atharva Veda. It contains knowledge on the attainment of moksha and the symbol Aum.


  • Kena Upanishad: This Upanishad is also a part of the Mukhya Upanishads (Principal Upanishads). It is found within the last volume of the Talavakara Brahmana of the Sama Veda. It specifically deals with the nature of the Brahman (God) and the role of all the different Gods present in Hinduism. 


  • Katha Upanishad: A Mukhya Upanishad (Principal Upanishad) is found embedded in the Yajur Veda. The content written in this Upanishad revolves around the Atman (self) that includes teachings about the power of self-knowledge and how it provides the highest form of bliss. 


  • Isha Upanishad: One of the most prominent Upanishads in all regions, this text is regarded as one of the shortest scriptures, forming a part of the Shukla Yajur Veda. This Upanishad describes the Atman (Self) doctrines of Hinduism.


  • Prashna Upanishad: This Upanishad is a part of the Atharva Veda and like the name suggests poses a bunch of philosophical questions, with each chapter encompassing the answer to those questions. It is renowned for its design and sociological observations related to the Indian educational system.


  • Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: Considered one of the Principal Upanishads and among the earliest in Upanishadic doctrines, this text mainly focuses on the Atman (self). It comprises excerpts on philosophical teachings, morals and the quest for knowledge. It is known to be an influential text in the birth of many Indian religions and movements. 


  • Chandogya Upanishad: The Chandogya Upanishad is a part of the Chandogya Brahmana found in the Sama Veda. It is revered as one of the oldest Upanishads. It is also the largest text among the Upanishads with 8 Prapathakas (chapters). It comprises a vast range of tales and motifs. Like the Samaveda, the Chandogya Upanishad deals with the significance of dialogue, rhetoric, melodies and chants that play an important role in the attainment of salvation and knowledge.


  • Taittiriya Upanishad: This Upanishad is a part of the Yajur Veda. Like the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, it is a Principal Upanishad as well. It consists of three chapters and is considered a part of the ‘black’ Yajur Veda (unorganized collection of verses). This particular text largely comprises prayers and invocations. 


  • Aitareya Upanishad: This particular Upanishad is also a Mukhya Upanishad (Principal Upanishad). It is attributed to the Rig Veda. Its content mainly focuses on 3 metaphysical motifs, which is, that man and the world are a result of the formation of the Atman (Universal self), the second being that the Atman has a threefold birth and finally, the third being, that the consciousness is at the core of the Atman. 


  • Amritabindu Upanishad: The Amritabindu Upanishad is a minor Upanishad in Hinduism. This spiritual document is particularly noteworthy for criticizing conventional educational systems and emphasizing practice, and for introducing a Yoga system involving six main structures that correspond to 5 stages of Patanjali's eight-stage Yoga Sutras while providing a different, distinct sixth phase.


  • Mahanarayana Upanishad: This text is prominent due to its glorification of both Narayana and Rudra (Shiva), both of whom are regarded as the first comparable embodiments of Brahman, Hinduism's notion of supreme, impersonal, and sublime reality. The Upanishad employs Vedanta jargon and excerpts from the Rigveda, Taittiriya Brahmana, Vajasaneyi Samhita, and the Major Upanishads. 


FAQ’s: 


Q1. What is the primary categorization of the Upanishads? 


The Upanishads range between 180 - 200, and these are primarily split into two distinct categories, namely the Mukhya or Principal Upanishads and the Minor Upanishads. 


Q2. What is the main message delivered in the Upanishads? 


The Upanishads depict an interrelated universe with a solitary, dominant principle that underpins the perceptible distinctiveness of the cosmos, any expression of which is referred to as Brahman. The Upanishads' teachings suggest that the Brahman is an inherent part of the atman, the immutable foundation of the living entity.