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The Brahmanas ("/ˈbrɑːmənə/; "Sanskrit: ब्राह्मणम्, Brāhmaṇa) are a collection of ancient "Indian texts with commentaries on the hymns of the four "Vedas. They are a layer or category of Vedic Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda, and form a part of the "Hindu "śruti literature.[1][2] They are primarily a digest incorporating myths, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases speculations about natural phenomenon[3] or "philosophy.[4][5]

The Brahmanas are particularly noted for their instructions on the proper performance of rituals, as well as explain the original symbolic meanings- translated to words and ritual actions in the main text.[4] Brahmanas lack a homogeneous structure across the different Vedas, with some containing chapters that constitute "Aranyakas or "Upanishads in their own right.[6]

Each Vedic "shakha (school) has its own Brahmana. Numerous Brahmana texts existed in ancient India, many of which have been lost.[7] A total of 19 Brahmanas are extant at least in their entirety.

The dating of the final codification of the Brahmanas and associated Vedic texts is controversial, which occurred after centuries of verbal transmission.[8] The oldest is dated to about 900 "BCE, while the youngest Brahmanas (such as the "Shatapatha Brahmana), were complete by about 700 BCE.[4][9][10] According to "Jan Gonda, the final codification of the four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and early Upanishads took place in pre-Buddhist times (ca. 600 BCE).[11]

Contents

Discussion[edit]

The Brahmana are a layer of texts in Vedic Sanskrit embedded within each Veda, and form a part of the "śruti literature of "Hinduism.[12] They are primarily a digest incorporating mythology and Vedic rituals and in some cases speculations about natural phenomenon[3] or "philosophy.[4][5]

Mythology and rituals[edit]

The Brahmanas layer of Vedic literature contain the exposition of the Vedic rites and rituals.[4][5] For example, the first chapter of the Chandogya Brahmana, one of the oldest Brahmanas, includes eight suktas (hymns) for the ceremony of marriage and rituals at the birth of a child.[13][14] The first hymn is a recitation that accompanies offering a "Yajna oblation to deity "Agni (fire) on the occasion of a marriage, and the hymn prays for prosperity of the couple getting married.[14] The second hymn wishes for their long life, kind relatives, and a numerous progeny.[13] The third hymn is a mutual marriage pledge, between the bride and groom, by which the two bind themselves to each other, as follows (excerpt),

यदेतद्धृदयं तव तदस्तु हृदयं मम ।
यदिदं हृदयं मम तदस्तु हृदयं तव ॥

That heart of thine shall be mine,
and this heart of mine shall be thine.

— Chāndogya Brāhmaṇa, Chaper 1, Translated by "Max Muller[13][15]

The next two hymns of the first chapter of the Chandogya Brahmana invoke deities Agni, Vayu, Kandramas, and Surya to bless the couple and ensure healthful progeny.[13] The sixth through last hymn of the first chapter in Chandogya Brahmana are not marriage-related, but related to hymns that go with ritual celebrations on the birth of a child, and wishes for health, wealth and prosperity with a profusion of milch-cows and "artha.[13]

The Brahmanas are particularly noted for their instructions on the proper performance of rituals, as well as explain the symbolic importance of sacred words and ritual actions in the main text.[4] These instructions insist on exact pronunciation (accent),[16] "chhandas (छन्दः, meters), precise pitch, with coordinated movement of hand and fingers – that is, perfect delivery.[5][17] Satapatha Brahamana, for example, states that verbal perfection made a mantra infallible, while one mistake made it powerless.[5] Scholars suggest that this "orthological perfection preserved Vedas in an age when writing technology was not in vogue, and the voluminous collection of Vedic knowledge were taught to and memorized by dedicated students through "Svādhyāya, then remembered and verbally transmitted from one generation to the next.[5][18]

Speculations about nature and philosophy[edit]

The Brahmanas are a complex layer of texts within the Vedas. Some embed speculations about natural phenomenon such as sunrise and sunset. For example, section 3.44 of the Aitareya Brahmana speculates whether sun really rises or sets.[3][19]

The sun does never rise nor set. When people think the sun is setting it is not so. For after having arrived at the end of the day, it makes itself produce two opposite effects, making night to what is below and day to what is on the other side.

When they believe it rises in the morning this supposed rising is thus to be accounted for. Having reached the end of the night, it makes itself produce two opposite effects, making day to what is below and night to what is on the other side.

— Aitareya Brahmana 3.44, Translator: J.S. Speyer[3][20]

The Panchavimsha Brahmana speculates on rivers starting in mountains, fed by snow and rain, flowing over the ground and underground, both emptying into the sea.[21] These speculations, however, are in the context of rituals.[3][20] Each Vedic "shakha (school) has its own Brahmana, many of which have been lost.[7] A total of 19 Brahmanas are extant at least in their entirety: two associated with the "Rigveda, six with the "Yajurveda, ten with the "Samaveda and one with the "Atharvaveda. Additionally, there are a handful of fragmentarily preserved texts. They vary greatly in length; the edition of the "Shatapatha Brahmana fills five volumes of the "Sacred Books of the East. The Brahmanas were seminal in the development of later Indian thought and scholarship, including "Hindu philosophy, predecessors of "Vedanta, law, astronomy, geometry, linguistics ("Pāṇini), the concept of "Karma, or the stages in life such as "brahmacarya, "grihastha, "vanaprastha and eventually, "sannyasa.

Brahmanas also lack a homogeneous structure across the different Vedas, with some containing sections that are "Aranyakas or "Upanishads in their own right.[6] The Shathapatha Brahmana discusses "ontological and "soteriological questions.[22]

Language and chronology[edit]

The language of the Brahmanas is a separate stage of "Vedic Sanskrit, younger than the text of the samhitas (the "mantra texts of the Vedas proper), ca. 1000 BCE, but for the most part are older than the text of the "Sutras. The dating of the Brahmanas is controversial, with oldest being dated to about 900 BCE, while the youngest Brahmanas (such as the Shatapatha Brahmana), were complete by about 700 BCE.[4][9][10]

According to "Jan Gonda, the final codification of the four Vedas, Brahmanas, "Aranyakas and early Upanishads took place in pre-Buddhist times (ca. 600 BCE).[11] Erdosy suggests that the later Brahmanas were composed during a period of urbanisation and considerable social change.[23] This period also saw significant developments in mathematics, geometry, biology and grammar.[24]

List of Brahmanas[edit]

Each Brahmana is associated with one of the four Vedas, and within the tradition of that Veda with a particular "shakha or school:

"Rigveda[edit]

Keith has published his translation of Aitereya Brahmana,[31] and the Kaushitaki Brahmana.[32]

"Samaveda[edit]

"Yajurveda[edit]

"Krishna Yajurveda[edit]

"Shukla Yajurveda[edit]

The Satapatha Brahmana consists of a hundred adhyayas (chapters), and is the most cited and famous among the Brahmanas canon of texts.[6] Much of the text is commentaries on Vedic rituals, such as the preparation of the fire altar. It also includes "Upanayana, a ceremony that marked the start of "Brahmacharya (student) stage of life, as well as the Vedic era recitation practice of "Svadhyaya.[6] The text describes procedures for other important Hindu rituals such as a funeral ceremony. The old and famous "Brhadaranyaka Upanishad form the closing chapters of Śatapatha Brahmana.[6]

"Atharvaveda[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brahmana". "Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
  2. ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–37. "ISBN "978-0-521-43878-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Speyer, J. S. (1906). "A remarkable Vedic Theory about Sunrise and Sunset". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. Cambridge University Press. 38 (03): 723–727. "doi:10.1017/s0035869x00035000. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Brahmana Encyclopædia Britannica (2013)
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Klaus Klostermaier (1994), A Survey of Hinduism, Second Edition, State University of New York Press, "ISBN "978-0791421093, pages 67-69
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Moriz Winternitz (2010), A History of Indian Literature, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, "ISBN "978-8120802643, pages 178-180
  7. ^ a b Moriz Winternitz (2010), A History of Indian Literature, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, "ISBN "978-8120802643, pages 175-176
  8. ^ Klaus Klostermaier (2007), A Survey of Hinduism, Third Edition, State University of New York Press, "ISBN "978-0791470824, page 47
  9. ^ a b "Michael Witzel, "Tracing the Vedic dialects" in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 1989, 97–265.
  10. ^ a b Biswas et al (1989), Cosmic Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, "ISBN "978-0521343541, pages 42-43
  11. ^ a b Klaus Klostermaier (1994), A Survey of Hinduism, Second Edition, State University of New York Press, "ISBN "978-0791421093, page 67
  12. ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–37. "ISBN "978-0-521-43878-0. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, page LXXXVII with footnote 2
  14. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, "ISBN "978-8120814684, page 63
  15. ^ The Development of the Female Mind in India, p. 27, at "Google Books, The Calcutta Review, Volume 60, page 27
  16. ^ The pronunciation challenge arises from the change in meaning, in some cases, if something is pronounced incorrectly; for example hrA, hrada, hradA, hradya, hrag, hrAm and hrAsa, each has different meanings; see Harvey P. Alper (2012), Understanding Mantras, Motilal Banarsidass, "ISBN "978-8120807464, pages 104-105
  17. ^ "Max Muller, A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature at "Google Books, page 147
  18. ^ "Gavin Flood (Ed) (2003), The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., "ISBN "1-4051-3251-5, pages 67-69
  19. ^ Lionel D. Barnett (1994). Antiquities of India. Asian Educational Services. pp. 203 footnote 1. "ISBN "978-81-206-0530-5. 
  20. ^ a b AB Keith (Translator) (1998). Rigveda Brahmanas: The Aitareya and Kausitaki Brahmanas of the Rigveda. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 193. "ISBN "978-81-208-1359-5. 
  21. ^ Catherine Ludvík (2007). Sarasvatī, Riverine Goddess of Knowledge: From the Manuscript-carrying Vīṇā-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma. BRILL Academic. pp. 271–272. "ISBN "90-04-15814-6. 
  22. ^ Ian Philip McGreal (1996). Great Literature of the Eastern World. HarperCollins. p. 175. "ISBN "978-0-06-270104-6. 
  23. ^ Erdosy, George, ed, The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1995
  24. ^ Doniger, Wendy, The Hindus, An Alternative History, Oxford University Press, 2010, "ISBN "978-0-19-959334-7, pbk
  25. ^ Theodor Aufrecht, Das Aitareya Braahmana. Mit Auszügen aus dem Commentare von Sayanacarya und anderen Beilagen, Bonn 1879; TITUS etext
  26. ^ a b c d Moriz Winternitz (2010), A History of Indian Literature, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, "ISBN "978-8120802643, pages 176-178
  27. ^ "Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads at "Google Books, pages 4-6
  28. ^ "Michael Witzel, The Vedic Canon and its Political Milieu, Harvard University Press, pages 320-321
  29. ^ KB Keith, Rigveda Brahmanas, Harvard Oriental Series, pages 22-45
  30. ^ ed. E. R. Sreekrishna Sarma, Wiesbaden 1968.
  31. ^ KB Keith, Rigveda Brahmanas: Aitereya, Harvard Oriental Series, pages 105-344
  32. ^ KB Keith, Rigveda Brahmanas: Kaushitaki, Harvard Oriental Series, pages 345-540
  33. ^ "Vedic Samhitas and Brahmanas – A popular, brief introduction". 

External links[edit]

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