Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Texts of the White Yajurveda, tr. Ralph T.H. Griffith, [1899], at

p. xvii


THE YAJURVEDA—derived from the roots yaj, to sacrifice or, worship, and vid, to know,—is the Knowledge of Sacrifice or Sacrificial Texts and Formulas as distinguished from the Rigveda or Knowledge of Recited Praise, the Sâmaveda or Knowledge of Chanted Hymns, and the Atharva or Brahmaveda which is the Knowledge of Prayer, Charm, and Spells. Though ranking second in the Indian enumeration of the Vedas and containing much that is of very ancient origin, its compilation in its present form, exhibiting as it does the almost complete development of castes and mixt castes and considerable advance in arts and sciences, trades, handicrafts and occupations, is evidently of later date than that even of the Atharva. The Samhitâ or Collection of its hymns, texts, and formulas, constituting the hymn-book and prayer-book of the Adhvaryu priests as distinguished from the Hotar, the Udgâtar, and the Brahman, the special priests, respectively, of the three other Vedas, owes its origin to the increasing multiformity and complication of the Indian ritual and the recognized insufficiency of the simple and unsystematically arranged Collection of Rigveda Hymns to meet the requirements of the performers of various essentially important rites and ceremonies.

The Yajurveda, owing to a schism among its earliest teachers and their followers, was divided into two distinct Samhitâs or Collections called—probably from the names of the Rishis or inspired Seers who, ate respectively their reputed compilers—the Taittirîya and the Vâjasaneya or Vâjasaneyi; the former and older being known also by the title Krishna or Black—probably from its dark or obscure appearance, the collection of sacrificial texts and formulas being perplexingly

p. xviii

intermingled with the Brâhmana or exegetical portion which explains them and teaches their ritual application—, and the latter being called Sukla or White, the revised, systematic and clear collection, containing the texts and formulas by themselves with a totally distinct Brâhmana, the Satapatha, as an appendix. In the two divisions, besides these essential points of difference, are found occasional verbal and orthoepic variations which are generally of little importance. The order of rites and ceremonies is substantially identical, but the White contains a few more texts than the Black.

The Samhitâ of the White Yajurveda consists of forty Adhyâyas or Books containing, with frequent repetitions of the same text, about two thousand verses. A large portion of these are Richas or Strophes borrowed—frequently with variations—from the Rigveda, and sometimes from the Atharva these, of course, are metrical. Nearly equal in quantity are the Yajus texts or sacrificial formulas—the most characteristic portion, from which the Veda derives its name—composed in measured prose 'which rises now and then,' as Professor Weber observes, 'to a true rhythmical swing,' and long passages, such as the lists of victims to be tied up and dedicated at the Asvamedha and the Purushamedha, which are necessarily in the simplest prose.

For further information with regard to this Veda the reader should consult Professor Weber's History of Indian Literature (English Translation by John Mann and Theodor Zachariae: Trübner's Oriental Series); Professor Max Müller's History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature; Professor J. Eggeling's Introduction, Vol. XII. of the Sacred Books of the East, or, for a briefer account, Mrs. Manning's Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. I. pp. 107-109.

My translation follows the fine edition of the White Yajurveda or Vâjasaneyi-Sanhitâ, in the two recensions—the Mâdhyandina

p. xix

and the Kânva—, with Mahîdhara's Commentary, the Vedadîpa, or Lamp of Knowledge, written towards the close of the sixteenth century, published under the patronage of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company in 1849 at Berlin by Dr. Albrecht Weber, at that time Docent of the Sanskrit language at that University. This excellent edition consisting of three Parts the latter two of which contain the Satapatha-Brâhmana in the Mâdhyandina recension with extracts from the Commentaries of Sâyana, Harisvâmin, and Dvivedaganga, and the Srautra-Sûtra of Kâtyâyana with extracts from the Commentaries of Karka and Yâjñikadeva, has not been reprinted and is now practically unobtainable. In India the text of the Mâdhyandina recension with Mahîdhara's Commentary has been issued in a cheap form at Calcutta by Pandit Jîbânanda Vidyâsâgara, B. A., Superintendent of the Free Sanskrit College, of which a second edition appeared in 1892; and a lithographed edition of the text with a Hindi translation of Mahîdhara's Commentary was published in 1874, at Besma in the North-Western Provinces, by Râjâ Giriprasâdavarman of that place. A cheap edition of the text, in unbound MS. form, has been published at Bombay.

No separate translation of the whole Samhitâ or Collection of Texts and Formulas has appeared in any European language. It was Professor Weber's intention, as signified in his History of Indian Literature, to bring out a translation giving the ceremonial belonging to each verse, together with a full glossary, but 'this promise has not been fulfilled, owing to the pressure of other labours.' This scholar had previously published a Latin translation, with annotations in the same language, of Books IX. and X. in his Vâjasaneya-Sanhitae Specimen (Breslau, 1846), and more recently a German version of Book XVI. in Indische Studien II. pp. 14 ff., and of the list of men and women to be dedicated at the Purushamedha in his treatise on Human Sacrifice among Indians of the Vedic Age reprinted

p. xx

in his Indische Streifen I. pp. 76-84. Of Book XL. as an Upanishad there are several translations into English.

Moreover, nearly the whole of the first eighteen Books has been incorporated—dissected and explained clause by clause—in the first nine Books of the Satapatha-Brâhmana; and an admirable translation of this vast work by Professor Julius Eggeling is now nearly completed in the Sacred Books of the East, four volumes (XII, XXVI., XLI., XLIII. of that series) having already appeared, and the concluding volume (XLV) being in the press. From this translation—which, but for its bulk and costliness would make half of my work superfluous—and from Professor Eggeling's annotations, I have derived the greatest assistance, and most gratefully record my obligations.

All that I have attempted to do is to give a faithful translation, to the best of my ability, of the texts and sacrificial formulas of the Veda, with just sufficient commentary, chiefly from Mahîdhara, to make them intelligible. Much additional information way be found in Professor A. Hillebrandt's Ritual-Litteratur, Vedische Opfer and Zauber (Grundriss der Indo-Arischen Philologie and Altertumskunde), Strassburg: 1897; and further minute details of the various sacrifices, rites and ceremonies are given in the Satapatha-Brâhmana as already mentioned, and in various articles, referred to in my notes, by Professor A. Weber, the great authority on the Yajurveda and all that is connected with it.


May, 1899.

Next: Book I