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The Yajurveda Introduction

The Yajurveda (यजुर्वेदः, yajurvedaḥ) is composed up of two terms- ‘yajus’ meaning “worship, religious reverence, adoration, sacrifice, a sacrificial prayer, formula, especially mantras uttered in an uncanny way at a sacrifice” and Veda meaning “knowledge”. Johnson divulges yajus connotes “(typically) prose formulae or mantras, mustered in the Yajur veda, which are chanted, whispered or spoken out”. Yajurveda, one of the four Vedas in Hindu Philosophy, traces blueprints and mantra-chantings to be enounced during yajna (sacrificial fire rituals). Offerings are normally cow’s ghee, milk, cereal, and aromatic seeds.  This Veda essentially contains prose mantras for homage and worship rites.  It is an anthology of ceremonial-offering precepts that were spoken by a person while a person carried out ritual exertions like before the yajna (ritual fire), worship, etc.

Two main parts of Yajurveda

The Yajurveda is openly categorized into two parts – Krishna (black/dark) Yajurveda and Shukla (white/ bright) Yajur veda. The word “black” infers “the messy, scattered, fuzzy, varied collection” of poesy in Yajur veda, in the other way round the “white” which means “well ordered, vivid”. The Krishna Yajurveda has abided in 4 amendments, while 2 emendations of Shukla Yajurveda have remained into the current era.

Shukla Yajurveda

The Shukla Yajur veda (well-ordered, clear Veda) has Samhita which is known as the Vajasaneyi Samhita. The term Vajasaneyi is extracted from ‘Vajasaneya’, the family name of Yajnavalkya, and the prime mover of the Vajasaneyi dynasty. There are two (about alike) living critical revisions of the Vajasaneyi Samhita– Vajasaneyi Madhyandina (with 40 chapters/ adhyaya, 303 Anuvakas, 1975 verses)  and Vajasaneyi Kanva (with 40 chapters/ adhyaya, 328 Anuvakas, 2086 verses)  . The lost editions of the Shukla Yajurveda, mentioned in other texts of ancient India and Nepal are

  • Jabala
  • Baudhya
  • Sapeyi
  • Tapaniya
  • Kapola
  • Paundravatsa
  • Avati
  • Paramavatika
  • Parasara
  • Vaineya
  • Vaidheya
  • Katyayanaand
  • Vaijayavapa.


The known emendations of Shukla Yajurveda has about 16 in number, while the Krishna Yajur veda may have had about 86 recensions. Now only 2 recensions of the Shukla Yajurveda are available, Madhyandina and Kanva, and rest are acknowledged by name only as they are introduced in other Vedic texts. These 2 emendations are very close to each other, excluding for a few distinctions. On the contrary to Shukla Yajur veda, the four living emendations of Krishna Yajurveda are very different varieties.


Srautasutras are sacred rituals formula based on Vedic Sruti. Shrautasutras and Grhyasutras were linked to the Yajurveda, from 17 schools:

  1. Apastamba
  2. Agastya
  3. Agniveshyaka
  4. Baudhayana
  5. Bharadvaja
  6. Hiranyakeshi
  7. Kaundinya
  8. Kusidaka
  9. Katyayana
  10. Lokaksita
  11. Madhyamdina
  12. Panca-Kathaka
  13. Satyasadha
  14. Sakala
  15. Sandilya
  16. Vaikhanasa, and
  17. Vadula.

Only nine of these have survived, along with parts of Kaundinya.

Elements and Upanishad in Yajurveda

The first and most primeval veneer of Yajurveda Samhita contains almost 1,875 stanzas, which are discrete and specific, yet takes up and formed upon the base of stanzas in Rigveda. The central veneer contains one of the bulkiest Brahmana books in the Vedic series known as the “Satapatha Brahmana”. The last veneer of Yajur veda book contains the most prodigious anthology of fundamental Upanishads, prominent to several teachings of Hindu Ideology. These incorporate

  1. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: It is found in the Shukla (white) Yajurveda, one of the Mukhya Upanishads, and among the bulkiest and most ancient as well (~700 BCE)
  2. The Isha Upanishad: The term ‘Isha’ is derived from “unseen in the Lord (Self)”. It is one of the shortest Upanishads, set as the last chapter of the White Yajur veda.
  3. The Taittiriya Upanishad: It is available in the Krishna Yajur veda. The Taittiriya Upanishad, the teaching of the Veda, by sage Trisanku, is the 7th, 8th, and 9th chapters of Taittiriya Aranyaka, which are respectively known as- the Siksha Valli, the Ananda Valliand the Bhrigu Valli.
  4. The Katha Upanishad: It is the part of the Black Yajurveda. The Upanishad is the mythical story of a young boy, Nachiketa (sage Vajasravasa’s son), who comes across Yamaraj (the deity of death). Their dialogue opens out to a symposium of the man’s nature, wisdom, Ātma (seer, Soul, Self) and moksha (emancipation).
  5. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad: It is available in the Krishna Yajur veda. The Shvetashavatara Upanishad begins with transcendental integrations about the basic source of all existence, its alpha and omega, etc.
  6. The Maitri Upanishad: The other name for Maitrayaniya Upanishad is Maitri Upanishad, set in the Black Yajurveda. It has 7 Prapathakas(lessons). The 1st lesson is introductory, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th are constructed in a question-answer pattern and talks on incorporeal queries about Atman (Seer, Self, Soul), while the 5th, 6th and 7th lessons are supplements.

Two of the earliest alive codex of the Shukla Yajurveda parts have been found in Nepal and Western Tibet, and their date is about 12th-century CE.

Dating and historical context

The time of Yajurveda’s formation is uncertain, but Witzel approximated it to be between 1200 to 800 BCE, coeval with Atharvaveda and Samaveda. Yajur veda is younger than the Rigveda, whose crucial text lies within the classicistic Mantra span of Veda at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, and about contemporaneous with the Sāmaveda, the Atharvaveda, and the Rigvedic Khilani. The scholastic concord dates the volumes of the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda doxology to the early Eastern (Indian, Nepalese) Iron Age, between c. 1200 and 800 BCE.  Yet, Georg Feuerstein states that the dates supposed to most of these books are long overdue.

Krishna Yajurveda

The Vayu Puran mentions a total of 86 recensions of Krishna Yajurveda exists. The only four recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda are living now. They are:

  • Taittirīya saṃhitā: It is the best preserved recensions which have 2 sub-recensions, 7 Kandas, and 42 Prapathaka. Taittiriya Samhita is connected with Taittiriyasect of the Yajur veda, and ascribed to the sage Tittiri’s disciples (literally, partridge birds).
  • Maitrayani saṃhitā: It is the oldest living Yajurveda Samhita having consists 6 sub-recensions, 4 Kandas, and 54 Prapathaka. Maitryani Samhita is highly distinct in subject matters from the Taittiriyas, also in some non-identical positioning of chapters. This is greatly detailed in its explanation.
  • Kaṭha saṃhitā: Katha, a disciple of Vaisampayana had compiled the Kāṭhaka saṃhitāor the Caraka-Kaṭha saṃhitā  It also offers a comprehensive discourse of some of the rituals than the younger Taittiriya Samhita.  It contains 12 sub-recensions, 5 Kandas, 40 Prapathaka, and 3093 mantras.
  • Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā: It is also known as Kapiṣṭhala-Kaṭha saṃhitā, both were named after the sage Kapisthala. It includes 5 sub-recensions, 6 Kandas, and 48 Prapathaka. Kapiṣṭhala saṃhitā is rationally a revision of the Kāṭhaka saṃhitā in some large parts and emended without intonation marks.

Structure of the mantras in Yajurveda

The several ritual mantras in the Yajurveda Samhitas are generally put in a meter. They praise and appeal deities like the Savita (Sun), Prajapati, Indra, Rudra, Agni, and others. For an instance, the Taittiriya Samhita in Book 4 contains these balladry for the Agnicayana ritual recitation-

First dedicating the mind, Savita; making thoughts and observing luminosity, introduced Agni (fire) from the earth.
Pay homage to Gods; they who move thought to the sky, to paradise, Savita sets in motion those who will create eminent lustre.
With the mind devoted, we are got under way by god Savita, for vigor to go to the abode of deities.

Whose travel the rest of demigods walk behind, worshiping the potency of the god, who estimated the ablaze terrains of the earth, he is the noble god Savita.
God Savita, oblige the ritual, drive for better fate the earl of ritual!
Deific Gandharva, a refiner of thought, cleanse our thoughts! May the god of speech make our expressions pleasing!

God Savita, motivate us for this ritual,
Admiring the gods, obtaining companions, ever winner, gaining wealth, procuring heaven!

— Taittiriya Samhita 4.1.1