Indian history is very old and is the birthplace of vedas. Vedas are historical sacred texts consisting of much valuable information. Brahmana originates from the root brahman or priest in Hindu literature. It consists of prose explanation in the form of commentaries of four known vedas. They are differentiated as a part of sruti literature. Sruti means heard. There were numerous brahmanas in India, but during the course of the evolution of civilisation, the majority have been lost. However, we still have 19 of them to our satisfaction.
Brahmanas contain heard stories, legends, myths, instruction on how to perform rituals and it acts as a base of explanation for a few of the sacred words mentioned in our vedas. Coming to the history, it roots back to a period roughly between 900 to 700 BC when hymns collection had become a work of focus among brahmins. They mostly take the form of storytelling and present a collection of teachings either by the creation of legend or mythologies. Brahmanas were used to explain the importance of karma and sacrifice in a philosophical way.
As Brahmanas were mainly focusing on the term sacrifice, the Aranyakas were the pillar of the philosophy behind the ritual of sacrifice-that latter from the base of upanishads, the Sanskrit literature for all the religious teaching. Aranyakas become the connecting links between the Brahmanas and the Upanishads.
Elements Of Brahmanas
There is a certain amount of ambiguity regarding the origin of the word Bhrahmanas. They are text in the heard form or small scripts. There are very few observations regarding the definition of Brahmana. The term is interpreted differently by different scholars. It comes from the word called Brahman, which relates to the mantra in veda. In other words, the name is nothing but an explanation of a ritual conversed by a priest. Later the collection of such explanations were given the term as Brahmana.
It’s like a standard operating procedure as to how to perform a ritual task. According to a scholar called Apastamba, Brahmana consists of six different topics, as mentioned below.
- Vidhi: Procedure to perform a particular ritual.
- Arthavada: It explains to us the meaning of mantra and their chants.
- Ninda: It tells us about the criticism and scrutiny of the opponents.
- Prashansa: It tells us about the praise, accolade and testimonial.
- Purakalpa: It tells us about the performance of the sacrificial rites.
- Parakriti: It tells about the milestone and achievement
The main focus of the Brahmana is the Vidhi; all other topics are trivial and submissive to the former one. They are classified differently. Doing a sacrifice or Yagna in Brahmana has several iconic relations. It mostly represents the knowledge of sacrifice and the secrets behind the sacrifice.
Deep Dive Into Brahmanas
Samveda, Rigveda, Yajurveda and Rigveda are four pillars of veda. Of these, the Rigveda Brahmanas consists of Aitareya Brahmana and the Kaushitaki Brahmana.
Brahmana Of The Rigveda
Aitareya Brahmana is also known as Ashvalayana Brahmana. The author of this Brahmana is Mahidas Aitareya. It belongs to the Shakala shakhas of Rigveda. Te Kaushitaki Brahmana is quite young in terms of style and content as compared to the Aitareya Brahmana. It belongs to the Vatkal shakha of Rigveda. These two Brahmanas discuss the work of gavamayana (the going of the cows), dvadashaha (12day rituals), agnihotra(morning and evening sacrifices) agynyadhana (how to set up the fire for sacrifice), rituals to be done for poonam and amavasya and the rituals done for rajyabhishek of king.
Brahmana Of The Samveda
Coming to the Brahmanas of the samveda, we have mainly the panchavimsha, the shadvimsha and the jaiminiya. Other Brahmanas include the Samavidhana Brahmana, Arseya Brahmana, Davita Brahmana, Mantra Brahmana, Vamsa Brahmana, Samhitopanisad Brahmana and Jayminiya Aresya Brahmana. They represent the work related to the cow ceremony, soma ceremony and rites performed from 1st to 12th day. It also suggests the forgiving or repent work to be done if any mistakes occur during performing any sacrifice rituals.
Brahmana Of The Yajurveda
The Brahmanas of the Yajurveda are somewhat different in work. They were first inserted in the text parallel to the material they commented on. This was the difference from the practice performed by the brahmanas of Rigveda and Samveda, who would collect all the information at once. The Yajurveda is divided into the Shukla (White) and the Krishna (Black). The shatapatha Brahmana consisted of 100 lessons and included in the Shukla Yajurveda. This lies next to the Rigveda in terms of importance. This Brahmana is further divided into Kanva and Madhamdina. They tell us about the instructions to be followed for domestic rituals. Other than the above mentioned Brahmanas, there are Kathaka Brahmana, Krishna Brahmana, Carakakatha Brahmana, Kapisthalakatha Brahmanas and Taittiriya Brahmana.
Brahmana Of The Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda had Gopatha Brahmana. It consists of the role of a priest who performs or supervises the sacrifice.
Each shakha consists of different types of Brahmana, and they were all recorded in the vedic Sanskrit. Collection of different Brahmana formed a rich library of teachings on rituals, sacrifices and philosophical meaning of the vedic literature. The details given in the Brahmanas are very specific and give precise details on how to perform a ritual. Details like the correct pronunciation of a chant or mantra, hand movement during the chanting and intonation are included in Brahmana. Apart from the sacrifices, Chandogya Brahmana contains hymns and rituals for the marriage ceremony and birth of a child. Brahmanas have been long lost during the course of human evolution, but one can prevent them from becoming extinct by preserving the important scripts available.