Shrauta

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Śrauta (Devanagari श्रौत) traditions are conservative ritualistic traditions of the historical Vedic religion in Hinduism, based on the body of Śruti literature. They are still practiced in India today although constituting a small minority within Hinduism.

Classification[edit]

Shrauta traditions presently alive are:

  • Rig veda: Ashvalayana (Shakala) and Sankhayana (Kausitaki)
  • Sama veda: Drahyayana (Kauthuma), Latyayana (Ranayaniya), Jaiminiya
  • Krishna Yajurveda: Baudhayana, Vadhoola, Bharadvaja, Apastamba, Hiranyakesin, Vaikhanasa (for Taittiriya) and Manava, Varaha (for Maitrayani)
  • Shukla Yajurveda: Katyayana (for Kanva and Madhyandina both)
  • Atharva Veda: Vaitana (Shaunaka and Paippalada)
  • Yajur Veda

Practices[edit]

The Shrauta tradition places more emphasis on the performance of rituals rather than having a set of beliefs. The practices of the Shrauta tradition mainly consist of yajnas. The yajnas are divided into two categories, nitya-karma and kaamya karma. Nitya-karma refers to those yajnas that have to be performed daily or as per occasion. Kaamya-karma refers to those yajnas performed with a particular purpose, such as wishing for rain, cattle, overlordship or for a son (e.g. Putrakameshti).

Yajnas[edit]

Main article: Yajna

The Vedas describe 400 Yajnas.[1] A (late) subset of them are the Pancha Mahayajnas (Five Great Yajnas, see Taittiriya Aranyaka 2.10):

  • Devayajña consists of offering āhutis to devas
  • Pitṛyajña consists of offering libations[2] to ancestors or pitṛs
  • Bhūtayajña consists of offering bali or food to certain spirits
  • Manuṣyayajña consists of feeding guests
  • Brahmayajña consists of daily repetition of reciting the Vedas.

Pantheon[edit]

Main articles: Hindu deities and Rigvedic deities

The pantheon in the Shrauta tradition consists of various gods and goddesses, known as devas, who represent natural forces or deified social concepts. For instance, the deva Agni has one aspect as fire.

Since Shrauta focuses on conservative Vedic rituals, the pantheon corresponds to the Rigvedic deities more than to that of mainstream (Puranic) Hinduism. Among the most prominent deities are Agni, Indra (god of weather and war), and Soma (lunar god, known also as Chandra), as well as the All-gods (Viśve devāḥ), Ashvins (twin gods of sunrise and sunset), Ushas (goddess of the dawn), Surya (sun god), Savitr (another solar deity), Parjanya (god of rain and thunder), Rudra (an early form of Shiva, known as "the howler," god of storms and hunting), or Sarasvati, goddess of knowledge and the arts. (cf. Chamakam 6):

Oral tradition[edit]

Main article: Vedic chant

The Shrauta tradition of transmitting the Vedas consisted solely of oral tradition from the Guru (teacher) to the shishya (student). Vedic scholars have made use of manuscripts in order to teach the Vedas to their students at least since the Middle Ages, and have used printed books since the advent of Western philology in British India, but the use of writing has always been secondary to the oral tradition.

Methods of recitation[edit]

Main article: Patha

The oral tradition of the Vedas consists of several ways of recitation. The students are first taught the Samhita Patha. Here, patha means a way of recitation. The other methods of chanting include "pada", "krama", "jata", "mala", "sikha", "rekha", "dhvaja", "danda", "ratha", "ghana" etc.

Some Veda reciters, called ghanapaathins, have learned the recitation of the texts up to the advanced stage called ghana. Ghanapaathins recite a mantra in different ways, with individual words repeated back and forth. Similarly, in the other methods of chanting like krama, jata, sikha, mala, and so on. The chief purpose of such methods is to ensure that not even a syllable of a mantra is altered to the slightest extent. The words are braided together, so to speak, and recited back and forth.[3]

Present situation of Shrauta tradition[edit]

The Shrauta rituals continue to be practiced by Brahmins from all over India. The Aupasana [4] is performed in many houses. However the Shrauta tradition emphasises the Vedic form of the Agnihotra, New and Full Moon sacrifices and a few more complex rituals, including the Agnistoma (Soma) sacrifice.

Prominent Shrauti scholars and communities[edit]

  • Nambudiri Brahmins in Kerala maintain Shrauta traditions
  • The center of Shrauta tradition is Varanasi, where there are more than 50 Veda Patashalas. The Saryupareen Brahmins a division of Kanyakubja Brahmins are the most prominent of the Shrauta Brahmins. Their surnames like Trivedi, Chaturvedi, Bajpai indicate their proficiency in the Shrauta rituals.
  • Pune, Maharashtra. There are a number of Veda Patasalas here.[5]
  • Pandit Satyavrata Samashrami, Sanskrit research scholar and Professor, Calcutta University who first translated the Sama Veda into English in 1874.
  • The other prominent Shrautis include reside in Mattur, Sringeri, Holenarsipur and other places in Karnataka
  • The village Sengalipuram in Tamil Nadu is also famous for producing great Shrauti scholars like Sengalipuram Anantarama Dikhshitar
  • Warangal and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh have produced many Shrauti scholars
  • Puri in Odisha is a major centre for great Shrauti scholars

Recent Shrauta yaagas[edit]

Some recent major Shrauta Yajnas:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Essentials of Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda- RL Kashyap; SAKSI, Bangalore, Karnataka

Further reading[edit]

  • Staal, J. F. 1961. Nambudiri Veda Recitation. 's Gravenhage.
  • Staal, J. F. 1979a. "The meaninglessness of ritual", Numen 26, 2-22.
  • Staal, J. F. 1979b "Ritual syntax", in Nagatomi et al., pp. 119–142.
  • Staal, J. F. 1982. The Science of Ritual. Poona.
  • Staal, J. F. 1983. Agni: The Vedic ritual of the fire altar. 2 vols. Berkeley.
  • Staal, J. F. 1990. Jouer avec le feu. Pratique et théorie du ritual védique. Paris.
  • Dumont, P.-E. 1927. L'Aśvamedha: Description du sacrifice solonnel du cheval dans le culte védique d'après les textes du Yajurveda blanc. Paris.
  • Dumont, P.-E. 1939. L'Agnihotra: Description de l'agnihotra dans le rituel védique d'après les Śrautasūtras. Baltimore.
  • Tsuji, N. [alias N.Fukushima]. 1952. On the relation between Brahmanas and Śrautasūtras, [Burahumana to shurauta sūtora to no kanken]. Repr. 1982, 1-247, Engl. summary, pp. 181–247. Tokyo.

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