Vedānga – the limbs of the Vedas

Post By: Published on: December 24, 2016 Reading time: 4 minutes

School of Yoga explains Vedānga – the limbs of the Vedas.


Elements of Vedanga

Vedānga (वेदाङ्गlimbs of the Vedas) are six sub-disciplines connected with the study of the Vedas. The intent of Vedānga was to ensure retention of purity of the original texts from degradation arising from time, local syntax, pronunciation changes, introduction of grammatical changes etc., all of which impact languages over time. This study allows the Vedas to retain their original design purity.

School or Yoga explains – Elements of the Vedāngas.

  1. Śikṣā or study in phonetics and pronunciation. The focus here is to ensure that the recitation of the Vedic texts follows a specific accent, stress, melody and incantation. It had six elements – vārna (quality), svara (accent), mātra (cadence), balā (strength of delivery or articulation), sāman (recital) and saṁtana (continuity of delivery).
  2. Chandas or study of meter in the poetry of the Vedas, including number of syllables, words, spacing etc in the structuring of the śloka or verse. The placement of words was defined and precise; this when used in conjunction with vyākaraṇa and śikṣā, the meaning and formation could remain unchanged for centuries.
  3. Vyākaraṇa or grammar. This is the study of grammar which allows correct formation of words and sentences to represent ideas. Though there were many, the most famous of Sanskrit grammarians are Panni and Taska (around 500 BCE). The term literally means “separation, analysis or explanation”. The most celebrated vyākaraṇa work is Panini’s 4,000-sutra aṣṭādhyāyī, which set the linguistic standards for classical Sanskrit, but it should be understood that development of vyākaraṇa principles have been enunciated in the Rig Veda (2000 BCE) and there have been many since, such as Patanjali who have worked on vyākaraṇa.
  4. Nirukta is study of etymology or glossary of words. It emerged as a limb of the Vedas due to a requirement whereby the meaning and source of almost 20% of the words used in the Vedas started getting lost as they had been used only one. Nirukta ensures that the meaning and correct usage are explained. This removes ambiguity in the meaning of various words and establishes the context in which they may be used. Major contribution in this limb is credited to Yaska (around 500 BCE).
  5. Kalpa or ritual processes. This is the instruction manual of how various rituals need to be performed. There are four primary kalpa-śāstra
  • Śrauta-sūtra and Śulba-sūtra which primarily deal with public rituals or yajñá (sacrifice)
  • Gṛhya-sūtra which deals with rituals connected with the home, often major life events as detailed in the saṃskāra  such as birth, thread ceremony, marriage and funeral rites.
  • Dharma-sūtra which deals with the duties of various individuals, castes and communities. This deals with conditioning of behavior within a society.
  1. Jyotiṣa refers to astrology/ astronomy or study of movement of planets and their impact on various elements of life, used mainly for conducting rites and rituals. Over time, the science of jyotiṣa was used for many other activities such as astrology.

What you should know after reading this blog;

  • What are the Vedangas? Why are they important?
  • Detail the connection between Veda and Vedanga?
  • What are the elements of the Vedangas?
  • Explain śikṣā, its importance to the Vedas and its elements
  • What is the relevance of chandas and its importance to the Vedas.
  • Explain vyākaraṇa and its importance to the Vedas.
  • How does nirukta impact the study of the Vedas.
  • Explain kalpa, its importance to the Vedas and its elements
  • What is the relevance of jyotiṣa and its importance to the Vedas.

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