Sām is composition of words in Rigvedic hymns from notes. The hymns of Rigveda form the base of Sāmagān. Sāmagān is not merely a name given to singing hymns of Veda but represents the philosophy and science of uniting thought, sound and music. Sāmagān is purpose of creation of Samaveda.
Sām is singing of hymns from Rigveda alone and not from other Veda-s. "richi adhyoodham sam" ऋचि अध्यूढ्रम साम (Chhandog Upnishad 1.6.1). Hence Sām is composition of words in Rigvedic hymns into notes. The richā-s or hymns of Rigveda are called yoni or ādhār as they form the base of Sāmgān. In musicological parlance Sām Veda has taken mātu (words) from Rigveda and provided dhātu (notes) to these words. (Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihaas. Dr. Thakur Jaidev Singh. Calcutta: Sangeet Research Academy, 1994, pp. 35 – 72)
Parts of Sām Veda
Ārchik.आर्चिक् Only a few hymns in Sām Veda Samhita were not based upon richa-s taken from Rigveda. The bulk being based on Rigveda is known as Ārchik. It has two parts.
Poorvārchik. पूर्वार्चिक 585 Richa-s are sub-grouped into 6 Prapāthak-s. Each Prapāthak has two Ardh-s. Each Ardh has 10 Dashati-s. A collection of ten (here, hymns) is called a Dashati.
Uttarārchik. उत्तरार्चिक It has 1225 richa-s contained in 9 Prapāthak-s, first five having two ardh-s each and the remaining four having three ardh-s each.
Āranyak Samhita. अरण्यक सम्हिता It is merely a collection of verses that could be sung.
Branches of Sām
Patanjali's statement, "sahasravartma samvedah" सहस्रवर्त्म समवेदः gives rises to speculation that there were a thousand branches of Sām, while he poetically indicated there could be a thousand ways in which Sām could be sung. In Sāmtarpan there are a maximum of 13 Āchārya-s but today there are only three branches. 1. Rān#aneeya राणानीय 2. Kouthumeeya कौथ्हुमीय 3. Jaimineeya जैमिनीय
Relationship of Ārchik and Gān-grantha
Ārchik grantha (treatises) contains hymns that are yoni or base to Gān or singing. The collections of suitably modified richa-s are known as Gān-grantha. These are the true Sām. Sām created on richa-s of Poorvārchik are called Grām-gān,ग्रामगान् Grāmegeya-gān, ग्रामगेयोगान् Prakriti-gān प्रकृतिगान or Veya-gān वेयगान्. Sām created on richa-s of Āranyak Samhita are termed Aranya-gān अरण्यागान or Aranyageya-gān अरण्यगेयोगान्. Sām created on richa-s of Uttarārchik are known as Ooh-gān.ऊहगान् The Sanskrit root ooh means 'to modify according to need'. (Caland in preface to PanchVimshBrahmin)
Application of Gān-s
Gramgeyo-gān: Sung in villages or towns. Aranyageya-gān: Practiced in solitude of forest. Also called Rahasyageyo-gān. Ooh-gān: Pragath-s specially created for yajna on basis of Gramgeyo-gān. Oohya-gān ऊह्यगान: Pragath-s created for yajna on basis of Rahasyageyo-gān.
There is a difference in number of songs attributed to different branches. Shri Satvalekar in preface to Sāmveda Samhita has given the following table of songs.
|Songs of Jaimineeya Branch||Songs of Kouthumeeya Branch|
Grām or Scale of Sāmveda
Fox Strangways in Music of Hindustan says, "Vocal scales are conceived downwards. They are so conceived, because the telling notes of the voice in its upper register, and this presents itself, therefore as the starting point for a vocal scale." The Sāyan#-bhāshya (critique) on Sām-vidhān Brāhmin establishes that note of Sām were of nidhan prakriti (diminishing nature) and followed a descending order.
Swara of Sām
In Naradiya Shiksha the seven notes of Sām are First, Second, Third, Fourth, Mandra, Krushta and Atiswār. This indicates that initially only three or four notes were used for Sāmgān. Ārchik songs were sung on the basis of just one note, e.g. Sa Sa Sa, or Ni Ni Ni. This kind of chanting was well suited to Havan, Mantra-pāth and Jap Gāthik songs were hymns in praise of deities and used two notes, e.g. Ni Ni Ni Ni, Sa Sa Sa Sa. Sāmic songs for the first time used three notes. The word Sāmic is taken to mean three notes. The songs were like Ga Ga Re Re Sa Sa Sa.
Apart from these three basic notes, the singers came across a fourth which they called Swarāntar. When they discovered a note lower than the lowest known note they called it Mandra. When a still lower note than Mandra was found they called it Atiswār. A higher note determined was called Krushta after Sanskrit root Krush (to scream, speak loudly). So the complete Sāmic Saptak in descending order contains:
|First Note||Second Note||Third Note||Fourth Note||Fifth Note||Sixth Note||Seventh Note|
To preserve the Sāmik notes, Raga Sāmeshwari was created. Dr. Lalmani Misra first translated the notes M G R S D N P into Shadja gram—S N D P G M R—and then created a Raga which is performed in the evening.
Shruti-jāti is defined as the way in which a particular note could be applied to make the song appealing. There are five with individual signs for three shruti-jāti-s.
The hymn part of the Vedas are called Samhitas. Brahmanas are the earliest known text after the Vedas were written, as explanation and appendices of Vedas, and guides to the custom and practice of vedic singing and ritual. The Upanisads and the Aranyakas (forest-books) became in turn appendices to the Brahmanas. Upanishad or Vedanta (i.e. end of Vedas) deal with systematic treatment of metaphysical questions and form the philosophical basis of Hinduism. They are dated from 1000 BC to 300 BC, the end of the Vedic period to the beginning of Puranic period. The Pre-Buddha time is considered Early Brahmana period and Post-Buddha period is considered the Later Brahmana period. The oral texts were composed by a great number of rishis. Though upanishads number more than a hundred, there are about 8 to 12 principal ones (Upanisad List). All upanishads are based on one of the four Vedas. Upanisads deal with various subjects such as the nature of Brahman, the ideal human conduct, the practice of yoga, the nature of Atman, creation of the world, creation of humanity, the nature of reality, the nature of true knowledge (vidya) and ignorance (avidya), the nature of consciousness, the concept of karma, and incarnation of soul.
A Rishi in Rig Veda is an author of a Rik, a hymn mantra, derived from oral tradition and direct insight, not from reasoning or intellect. Envisioned are beings beyond the range of human senses, conceived from self-evident knowledge (svatah pramana) and realized Truth by direct intuition. Rishi Vamadeva, in hymn (RV 4.3.16) describes himself as the illumined one, expressing his Truth revealed (ninya vachasmi).
The term Rishi is defined as "rishati jnānena samsāra-pāram” meaning one who goes beyond the mundane world by means of knowledge. Further, some scholars think the root 'drish' (sight) might have given rise to root 'rish' meaning 'to see'.
Rishi is therefore a divine seer, a drastara, one who visualizes a mantra. Also the one who hears the voices and song. The seers were the "hearers of the Truth" (kavayaha sathya srutah). Sri Aurobindo described Shruthi as "divine recordings of cosmic sounds of truth" heard by the Rishis. The Vedas are thus Shruthis, revealed scriptures. That is the reason, the Vedas are Apaurusheya, not authored by any agency.
The Rig Veda contains 10,552 hymns; grouped into 1,028 Sukthas each of roughly ten mantras, spread over ten Mandalas (Books). The Mandalas are of differing sizes. These mantra songs are authored by some 400 Rishis of whom about 30 were women.
Of the ten Mandalas (Books) six Mandalas, numbering from 2 to 7 are homogenous in character and are considered the oldest parts of the Rig Veda. Each of these six books was composed by a Rishi and by members of the Rishi family/disciples and of the Gotra, and are therefore often called Family Books. Books 1, 8 and 10 composed by different individual Rishis. The Books 1 and 8 are almost Family Books as a majority of their hymns are composed by the family of Kanvas and many hymns are found in both the Books. The Book 9 is different from the rest; all the hymns therein are addressed to Soma, from groups of Rishis. The tenth Book is an addition of various early and late hymns. Books 1 and 10 are the latest and longest, accounting for about 40 percent of the bulk of the Rig Veda.
Certain texts called Anukramani (also called Anukramanika) serve as Index to the Rig Veda and provide information about each hymn of the Rig Veda. The most well-known of the Aukramani is Katyayana’s sarvanukramani and is dated around the 2nd century. The entries in the texts mention each hymn, specifying the name of the Rishi who authored the hymn, or transposed them into writing; the Devatha who inspired or to whom the hymn is addressed; and the Chandas or the metre of the hymn. These are extremely useful in historical analysis of the Rig Veda.
- Thakur Jaidev Singh (1994). Bharatiya Sangeet Ka Itihaas. Calcutta: Sangeet Research Academy
- Fox-Strangways (1914). Music of Hindostan. Oxford: Clarendon Press
- Lalmani Misra (1973). Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya
- Lalit Kishor Singh (1954). Dhwani Aur Sangeet. New Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith