Yajur Veda

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Yajur Veda is the second Veda in the usual enumeration of the four Vedas, usually enumerated after Rig Veda. It is sometimes enumerated after Sama Veda as the third Veda. Like Sama Veda, Yajur Veda too derives much of its contents from the Rig Veda. Unlike Sama Veda, Yajur Veda also contains hymns from Atharva Veda. While Sama Veda specializes on the musical recitation of the Rics (Rig Vedic hymns), Yajur Veda focuses on the ritualistic application of the Rics or hymns in sacrificial ceremonies. Yajur Veda is thus a primary text for the performance of sacrifices like Rajasuya, Ashvamedha, Vajapeya and Atiratra (Agnichayana). These sacrifices are mentioned in Mahabharata and Ramayana. While Mahabharata and Ramayana concentrate on describing the historical instances of the performance of these sacrifices, Yajur Veda concentrates on describing how these sacrifices are performed, detailing each step and every ritual which is part of these sacrifices. These sacrifices where events involving many people; including priests, kings, queens, generals and many other officials. These were attended by the masses and involved huge amount of expenditure and hence usually performed by kings or wealthy families.

Thus Yajur Veda, with its grand sacrificial rituals, indicates the sophistication of the society which had its simple beginnings that can be glimpsed in Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. Apart from instructions to priests, Yajur Veda also contains instructions for house holder to perform his / her daily rituals in home, where they themselves act as priests.


From the analysis of Yajur Veda, it is clear that this Veda (along with Sama Veda) emerged after a major portion of Rig Vedic and Atharva Vedic hymns were composed. It represents the state of society when it became sophisticated enough to conduct events lasting for several days and participated by many people as high as the king, queen and the priests of a kingdom. Yajur Vedic hymns also describe the construction of altars, the laying of bricks in various geometric forms etc. Thus it also gave great impetus to the fields of knowledge like basic mathematics, geometry and algebra as these were essential in the construction of geometric forms. Thus Yajur Veda could be the basis of ancient Indian mathematics, much like the role played by Sama Veda in the emergence of ancient Indian music and by Atharva Veda in the emergence of ancient Indian medicine.


There are two main versions of the Yajurveda; Sukla (white) and Krishna (black). Both contain the verses necessary for rituals. In northern India, Sukla Yajurveda is more popular while in southern India, Krishna Yajur Veda is popular. Among the several versions of the Sukla Yajur Veda, Vajasaneyi Samhita is most poular. Among the several versions of the Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittiriya saŠĻÉhita is most popular.


The Krishna Yajurveda includes the Brahmana prose discussions mixed within the Samhita, while the Sukla Yajurveda has separately a Brahmana text, the Shatapatha Brahmana. The last book of the Sukla Yajur Veda is the famous Upanishad named Isavasya Upanishad.

Key People

Like most of the ancient Indian texts, the authorship of Yajur Veda is not attributed to any individual, ie they are Apaurusheya. These were the result of a civilization and not that of any individual, much like language and mathematics. In other words, these texts arose organically through the activities of the collective human consciousness or the collective human mind of the civilization.

However there are some key people associated with the growth and development of Yajur Veda.

Vasistha, Parasara, Vyasa

Many hymns of the Rig Veda, from which Yajur Veda derives most of its content were authored by sages in the family of Angirasa and Bhrigu and their branches including the Bharadwajas, Gautamas, Vasisthas and Agastyas. Many hymns of Atharva Veda which too contributed hymns to Yajur Veda were authored by the ancient Atharvan sages, believed to be the ancestors of Angirasas and Bhrigus.

Vasistha and his grandson Parasara had contributed hymns to Rig Veda and were instrumental in the emergence of Yajur Veda along with others like Bharadwaja and Gautama. These sages officiated as priests in the Rajasuya / Ashvamedha / Vajapeya / Atiratra sacrifices performed by kings like Dasarathi Rama, Janaka and Pandava Yudhisthira.

Vyasa who was a third generation sage in the line of Vasistha, became the custodian of all the Vedic knowledge. His original name was Krishna Dwaipayana Parasarya (Krishna Dwaipayana, the son of Parasara). He classified or arranged the Vedas in the four-fold form that we now know today as Rik, Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas. This is how he earned the title "Vyasa" meaning the divider or re-classifier or re-arranger (of the Vedas).

Thus Vyasa became a foremost teacher of all the four Vedas. He gave sanctity to Atharva Veda, which was not counted among the Vedas. He also formalized Yajur Veda and Sama Veda. He fixed the number of hymns in Rig Veda to be 1028 and arranged it into 10 Mandalas.


Vyasa had four famous disciples; Paila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu. Vyasa taught Rig Veda to Paila, Yajur Veda to Vaisampayana, Sama Veda to Jaimini and Atharva Veda to Sumantu. (Brahmanda Purana 1.4.21). Vaisampayana thus became the custodian of Yajur Veda after the life of Vyasa. He also was a famous narrator of Mahabharata along with others like Sanjaya and Ugrasrava Sauti. It is believed that he also contributed verses to Mahabharata along with others like Vyasa, Jaimini, Lomaharshana, Sauti and Suka.

Vaisampayana controlled the text of Yajur Veda till his life time. He also taught it to his disciples like Yajnavalkya.


Yajnavalkya was a sage born in Mithila (northern Bihar). Yajnavalkya learned Yajur Veda from his Guru Vaisampayana who then lived in Naimsaranya (central Uttar Pradesh), a forest that lied between Panchala and Kosala. Yajnavalkya made some re arrangements to Yajur Veda which was not approved by his preceptor Vaisampayana. This resulted in a dispute between Vaisampayana and Yajnavalkya. After the death of Vaisampayana, Yajnavalkya taught his version of Yajur Veda to his disciples. He called his version the Sukla Yajur Veda, (the White Yajur Veda) and considered it better and refined than his preceptor's version, which he called the Krishna Yajur Veda or the Black Yajur Veda. Thus two main recensions of Yajur Veda is born, in the third generation of Vyasa. It is also speculated that the name 'Krishna' indicate Vyasa (Krishna Dwaipayana) himself, who was the preceptor of Vasampayana and thus the original source of Krishna Yajur Veda.

Yajnavalkya and his disciples popularized Sukla Yajur Veda in Mithila and Kosala. The Mithila version of Sukla Yajur Veda is known as Vajasaneyi Madhyandina. Kosala Version is known as Vajasaneyi Kanva. The name Vajasaneyi is derived from Vajasaneya, patronymic of sage Yajnavalkya.

The other disciples of Vaisampayana, spread the Krishna Yajur Veda in Panchala, Kuru, Madra and Bahlika kingdoms. Among these, the Taittiriya Samhita of Panchala is the original Yajur Veda. The version that spread in Kuru kingdom (Hariyana) was known as Maitrayani Samhita named after sage Maitreya; that spread in Madra (Punjab, Pakistan) is known as Charaka Samhita or Katha Samhita named after sage Katha and that spread in Bahlika (Punjab, India; North-West-Pakistan) is known as Kapisthala Samhita named after sage Kapisthala. It is not clear if sages Maitreya, Charaka, Katha or Kapisthala were direct disciples of Vaisampayana. Some consider Katha to be disciple of Vaisampayana.

Geographical Spread

It will not be an exaggeration if we say that, the spread of various recensions and versions of Yajur Veda indicates the major migration patterns of Yajur Vedic Brahmanas into different parts of India. The Taittariya Samhita of Panchala which emerged directly from Vaisampayana and his disciples have now spread to southern India, especially in Kerala. The Katha Samhita is now followed in Kashmir. The Kapisthala Samhita that spread in Bahlika is now almost extinct due to Islamic invasions. The Maitreyani Samhita of Kuru (Hariyana) too is almost extinct due to Islamic invasions (1200 CE to 1800 CE). In northern India, Sukla Yajur Veda, that spread from Videha (Bihar) and Kosala (eastern Uttar Pradesh) is currently more predominant.

Historical Importance

Since Yajur Veda is the primary text dealing with sacrificial formulas and contained instructions to conduct sacrifices and construct sacrificial altars, it gained importance as the primary text for the Brahmana-priests who officiated in these sacrifices. It was like a rule book, much like an engineering text for an engineer. However, following the tradition of other Vedas, philosophical treaties too got attached to the core Samhita text of this Veda in the form of Brahmanas (text), Upanishads and Sutras. In these supplementary texts we find philosophical interpretations of many rituals and sacrifices.


In this site the frequency spectral analysis of Yajur Vedic nouns is done. A wiki for Yajur Veda, similar to those created for Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and Sama Veda is constructed. For details see the section below titled 'Further Reading'. Noun analysis and frequency spectral analysis is done for both Krishna Yajur Veda and Sukla Yajur Veda. The Yajur Veda wiki created in this site is thus a dual-wiki. A comparative analysis of nouns in Krishna and Sukla Yajur Veda is pending. This will show the divergence between these two recensions of Yajur Veda quantitatively. A new metric is to be defined to express the divergence.

Further Reading

Internal Articles

  1. Sukla Yajur Veda Nouns
  2. Sukla Yajur Veda Frequency Spectrum
  3. Krishna Yajur Veda Nouns
  4. Krishna Yajur Veda Frequency Spectrum
  5. Yajur Veda Wiki
  6. Rig Veda
  7. Sama Veda
  8. Atharva Veda

External Sources

  1. Krishna Yajur Veda, English - Keith (sacred-text) - Complete
  2. Sukla Yajur Veda, English - Griffith (sacred-text) - Complete
  3. Krishna Yajur Veda MP3 Audio - Astrojyoti - Best Quality, Complete
  4. Sukla Yajur Veda MP3 Audio - Astrojyoti - Best Quality, Complete
  5. Yajur Veda MP3 Audio - Gatewayforindia - Moderate Quality, Complete
  6. Yajurveda - Sanskrit web
  7. Yajur Veda, Sanskrit - Aryasamajam
  8. All Vedas all Versions - GRETIL
  9. Yajurveda - Wikipedia
  10. Yajnavalkya - Wikipedia

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 05 Jul 2011 11:57 and updated at 20 Jul 2011 11:55

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