The Yajur Veda

The Yajurveda (Sanskrit यजुर्वेदः yajurveda, a tatpurusha compound of yajus “sacrificial formula’, + veda “knowledge”) is the third of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. By some, it is estimated to have been composed between 1,400 and 1000 BC, the Yajurveda ‘Samhita’, or ‘compilation’, contains the liturgy (mantras) needed to perform the sacrifices of the religion of the Vedic period, and the addedBrahmana and Shrautasutra add information on the interpretation and on the details of their performance.


There are two primary versions or Samhitas of the Yajurveda: Shukla (white) and Krishna (black). Both contain the verses necessary for rituals, but the Krishna Yajurveda includes the Brahmana prose discussions mixed within the Samhita, while the Shukla Yajurveda has separately a Brahmana text, the Shatapatha Brahmana.

Shukla Yajurveda

There are two (nearly identical) shakhas or recensions of the Shukla (White) Yajurveda, both known as Vajasaneyi-Samhita (VS):

  • Vajasaneyi Madhyandiniya (VSM), originally of Mithila (Bihar)

Contain 40 Adhyayas, 303 Anuvakas, 1975 Verses in the Samhita.

  • Vajasaneyi Kanva of originally of Kosala (VSK)

Found to be first shakha of Shukla Yajurveda,according to legends of Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana. Contains 40 (41 in some publication) Adhyayas, 328 Anuvakas, 2086 Verses. Thus have 111 verses more than the Madhyandiniya Samhita. Moreover the Kanva samhita is with accents of vedic syllables,which shows its oldest appearance and similarity to Rigveda.

The former is popular in all over North India, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra (north of Nashik) and thus commands a numerous following. The Kanva Shakha is popular in parts of Maharashtra (south of Nasik), OrissaKarnatakaAndhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu.Sureshvaracharya, one of the four main disciples of Jagadguru Adi Shankara, is said to have followed the Kanva shakha. The Guru himself followed the Taittiriya Shakha with the Apastamba Kalpasutra.

The Vedic rituals of the Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, the second biggest temple in India, are performed according to the Kanvashakha.The Jayakhya Samhita of Pañcaratra says its followers are from Kanva shakha . Raghu vamsam; Dasaratha and Sri Rama’s clan follows the Shukla Yajurveda branch. The White Yajurveda has two Upanishads associated with it: the Ishavasya and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the most voluminous of all Upanishads.

The VS has forty chapters or adhyayas , containing the formulas used with the following rituals:

1.-2.: New and Full Moon sacrifices
3.: Agnihotra
4.-8.: Somayajna
9.-10.: Vajapeya and Rajasuya, two modifications of the Soma sacrifice
11.-18.: construction of altars and hearths, especially the Agnicayana
19.-21.: Sautramani, a ritual originally counteracting the effects of excessive Soma-drinking
22.-25.: Ashvamedha
26.-29.: supplementary formulas for various rituals
30.-31.: Purushamedha
32.-34.: Sarvamedha
35.: Pitriyajna
36.-39.: Pravargya
40.: the final adhyaya is the famous Isha Upanishad

The ShrautasutrasGrhyasutrasAranyakasUpanishads and Pratishakhyas are found today are same for both Madhayndina and Kanva,i.e. Katyayana ShrautasutraParaskara Grhyasutra,BrhadaranyakaIshavasya Upanishad ,and Shukla Yaju Pratishakhya. Hence the shukla yajurvedins are sometimes called Katyayanas.

Krishna Yajurveda

There are four recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda:

  • Taittirīya saṃhita (TS) originally of Panchala
  • Maitrayani saṃhita (MS) originally of the area south of Kurukshetra
  • Caraka-Katha saṃhita (KS) originally of Madra and Kurukshetra
  • Kapiṣṭhala-Katha saṃhita (KapS) of the southern Panjab, Bahika

Each of the recensions has or had a Brahmana associated with it, and most of them also have associated ShrautasutrasGrhyasutrasAranyakasUpanishads andPratishakhyas.

The Taittiriya Shakha: The best known and best preserved of these recensions is the TS, named after Tittiri, a pupil of Yaska. It consists of 7 books or kandas, subdivided in chapters or prapathakas, further subdivided into individual sections (anuvakas). Some individual hymns in this Samhita have gained particular importance in Hinduism; e.g. TS 4.5 and TS 4.7 constitute the Rudram Chamakam, while 1.8.6.i is the Shaivaite Tryambakam mantra. The beejas bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ prefixed to the (rigvedic) SaviturGayatri mantra are also from the Yajurveda. The Taittiriya recension of the Black Yajurveda is the shakha now most prevalent in southern India. Among the followers of this Shakha, the Apastamba Sutras are the common. The Taittiriya Shakha consists of Taittiriya Samhita (having seven kandas), Taittiriya Brahmana (having three kandas), Taittiriya Aranyaka (having seven prashnas) (See Aranyaka Literature), Taittiriya Upanishad (having three prashnas or vallis – Shiksha valli, Ananda valli and Bhrigu valli) and the Mahanarayana Upanishad. The Taittiriya Upanishad and Mahanarayana Upanishad are considered to be the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth prashnas of the Aranyaka. The words prapathaka and kanda (meaning sections) are interchangeably used in Vedic literature. Prashna and valli refer to sections of the Aranyaka.

The most interesting part is the same Taittiriya Shakha has 7 recenssion of ShrautasutrasGrhyasutras.

These are:

There is another Short tract apart from the above and that is commonly known as Ekagni Kanda which mainly consists of mantra-s used in the marriage and other rituals.

The Maitrayani Shakha: Propounded by Sage Maitreya,the followers reside in northern parts of MaharastraGujarat.It differs from main Taittiriya as some different arrangement of chapters.It has similarity to Shukla Yajurveda in some aspect,but the Brahmana portions are mixed like Taittiriya Samhita.Famous Maitrayaniya Upanishadand Maitrayaniya Aranyaka belong to this shakha.

The recenssions of ShrautasutrasGrhyasutras and Shulba Sutras are of two groups

  • Manava
  • Varaha