Taittiriya Upanishad

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The Taittiriya Upanishad (Devanagari: तैत्तिरीय उपनिषद्) is a Vedic era Sanskrit text, embedded as three chapters (adhyāya) of the Yajurveda. It is a Mukhya (primary, principal) Upanishad, and likely composed about 6th century BCE.[1]

The Taittiriya Upanishad is associated with the Taittiriya school of the Yajurveda, attributed to the pupils of sage Tittiri (literally, partridge birds).[2] It lists as number 7 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads.

The Taittiriya Upanishad is the seventh, eighth and ninth chapters of Taittiriya Aranyaka, which are also called, respectively, the Siksha Valli, the Ananda Valli and the Bhrigu Valli.[3] This Upanishad is classified as part of the "black" Yajurveda, with the term "black" implying "the un-arranged, motley collection" of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the "white" (well arranged) Yajurveda where Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Isha Upanishad are embedded.[3][4]

The Upanishad includes verses that are partly prayers and benedictions, partly instruction on phonetics and praxis, partly advice on ethics and morals given to graduating students from ancient Vedic gurukul (schools), partly a treatise on allegory, and partly philosophical instruction.[3] These parts in Taittiriya Upanishad have neither discernible close connection nor cohesiveness of theme, and therefore it is unlike the well arranged Upanishads of "white" (Shukla) Yajurveda. Parts of the Taittiriya Upanishad were translated into European languages as early as the 17th century.[citation needed]


Taittiriya is a Sanskrit word that means "from Tittiri". The root of this name has been interpreted in two ways: "from Vedic sage Tittiri", who was the student of Yāska; or alternatively, it being a collection of verses from mythical students who became "partridges" (birds) in order to gain knowledge.[2] The later root of the title comes from the nature of Taittriya Upanishad which, like the rest of "dark or black Yajur Veda", is a motley, confusing collection of unrelated but individually meaningful verses.[2]

Each chapter of the Taittiriya Upanishad is called a Valli (वल्ली), which literally means a medicinal vine-like climbing plant that grows independently yet is attached to a main tree. Paul Deussen states that this symbolic terminology is apt and likely reflects the root and nature of the Taittiriya Upanishad, which too is largely independent of the liturgical Yajur Veda, and is attached to the main text.[3]


The chronology of Taittiriya Upanishad, along with other Vedic era literature, is unclear.[5] All opinions rest on scanty evidence, assumptions about likely evolution of ideas, and on presumptions about which philosophy might have influenced which other Indian philosophies.[5][6]

Stephen Phillips[5] suggests that Taittiriya Upanishad was likely one of the early Upanishads, composed in the 1st half of 1st millennium BCE, after Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya, and Isha, but before Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Kena, Katha, Manduka, Prasna, Svetasvatara and Maitri Upanishads, as well as before the earliest Buddhist Pali and Jaina canons.[5]

Ranade[7] shares the view of Phillips in chronologically sequencing Taittiriya Upanishad with respect to other Upanishads. Paul Deussen[8] and Winternitz,[9] hold a similar view as that of Phillips, but place Taittiriya before Isha Upanishad, but after Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chandogya Upanishad.


The Taittiriya Upanishad comprises of three chapters: the Siksha Valli, the Ananda Valli and the Bhrigu Valli. The first chapter Siksha Valli includes twelve Anuvaka (lessons). The second chapter Ananda Valli, sometimes called Brahmananda Valli includes nine verses.[10] The third chapter Bhrigu Valli consists of ten verses.[11]

Some ancient and medieval Hindu scholars have classified the Taittiriya Upanishad differently, based on its structure. For example, Sâyana in his Bhasya (review and commentary) calls the Shiksha Valli (seventh chapter of the Aranyaka) as Sâmhitî-upanishad, and he prefers to treat the Ananda Valli and Bhrigu Vallu (eighth and ninth Prapâthakas) as a separate Upanishad and calls it the Vāruny Upanishad.[10]

The Upanishad is one of the earliest known texts where index was included at the end of each section, along with main text, as a structural layout of the book. At the end of each Vallĩ in Taittiriya Upanishad manuscripts, there is an index of the Anuvakas which it contains. The index includes the initial words and final words of each Anuvaka, as well as the number of sections in that Anuvaka.[10] For example, the first and second Anuvakas of Shiksha Valli state in their indices that there are five sections each in them, the fourth Anuvaka asserts there are three sections and one paragraph in it, while the twelfth Anuvaka states it has one section and five paragraphs.[10] The Ananda Valli, according to the embedded index, state each chapter to be much larger than currently surviving texts. For example, the 1st Anuvaka lists pratika words in its index as brahmavid, idam, ayam, and states the number of sections to be twenty one. The 2nd Anuvaka asserts it has twenty six sections, the 3rd claims twenty two, the 4th has eighteen, the 5th has twenty two, the 6th Anuvaka asserts in its index that it has twenty eight sections, 7th claims sixteen, 8th states it includes fifty one sections, while the 9th asserts it has eleven. Similarly, the third Valli lists the pratika and anukramani in the index for each of the ten Anuvakas.[10]


Shiksha Valli[edit]

The Siksha Valli chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad derives its name from Shiksha (Sanskrit: शिक्षा), which literally means "instruction, education".[12] The various lessons of this first chapter are related to education of students in ancient Vedic era of India, their initiation into a school and their responsibilities after graduation. It mentions lifelong "pursuit of knowledge", includes hints of "Self-knowledge", but is largely independent of the second and third chapter of the Upanishad which discuss Atman and Self-knowledge. Paul Deussen states that the Shiksha Valli was likely the earliest chapter composed of this Upanishad, and the text grew over time with additional chapters.[13]

The Siksha Valli includes promises by students entering the Vedic school, an outline of basic course content, the nature of advanced courses and creative work from human relationships, ethical and social responsibilities of the teacher and the students, the role of breathing and proper pronunciation of Vedic literature, the duties and ethical precepts that the graduate must live up to post-graduation.[13][14]

First Anuvāka[edit]

The first anuvaka (lesson) is a prayer and promise that a student in Vedic age of India was supposed to recite. Along with benedictions to Vedic deities, the recitation stated,[15]

I will speak what is right,
I will speak what is true,
May that protect me, may that protect the teacher!
May it protect me, may it protect the teacher!
Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

—Taittirĩya Upanishad, I.1.1, Translated by Paul Deussen[15]

Max Muller and Adi Shankara state that the first anuvaka is proclaiming all Vedic deities as Brahman (Cosmic Soul, the constant Universal Principle, Unchanging Reality).[10][16] Adi Shankara comments that the "Peace" phrase is repeated thrice, because there are three potential obstacles to the gain of Self-knowledge by a student: one's own behavior, other people's behavior, and the devas; these sources are exhorted to peace.[16]

Second Anuvāka[edit]

Third, Fourth and Fifth Anuvāka[edit]

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Anuvāka[edit]

Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Anuvāka[edit]

Brahmananda Valli[edit]

The statement "Brahmavida Apnoti Param" which means "The one who knows Brahman attains supreme state" is the formula (Sutra-Vaakya) to get the high level gist of this Valli. First Anuvak starts with Shanti Mantra "OM sham no mitra" and "Sahana vavatu" pleasing gods and removing obstacles for study of Upanishad being the objective of these Mantras. Second Anuvak starts with formula sentence "Brahmavida Apnoti Param" as stated above and also tries to define Brahman succinctly as "Truth, Omniscient, and Infinite" (Satyam Jnyanam Anantam Brahma).

Anuvaks Second to Fifth describe that Five sheaths subtle bodies or the Pancamaya Koshas (Five Atmans) reside in one another in human body. Starting with grosser, tangible human body called "Annamaya" or "Formed out of Food" to "Pranamaya" or "formed out of Vital life force" to "Manomaya" or "Formed out of Mind" to "Vijnyanamaya" or "One who is of Knowledge" to Final and subtle most being "Anandamaya" or one who is full of Joy.

In Sixth and Seventh Anuvaks, some of the questions asked by a disciple are answered. such as

"Brahman being equal to both knower and ignorant, who gets the Brahman after death, knower or ignorant and why?"

Eighth Anuvak, compares happiness of various evolved beings starting from Man to that of next higher level till Happiness of Brahman itself.

Ninth Anuvak describes that knower of Brahman doesn't repent for not having done any good because for him/her, the terms good and bad loses their meaning and he/she has equalled them with Brahman since it is the only one which is really existing.

Bhṛgu Vallī[edit]

This Vallī describes how son of Varuṇa (The Water God) Bhṛgu obtained realization of Brahman through repeated Tapas under his fathers guidance.

Rest of the part of Vallī describes greatness of donating food, that is feeding the hungry. It also emphasises on greatness of Food. It says that since food is support of all life, food should not be insulted, food should not be declined.


The ninth and eleventh anuvakas of Shiksha Valli prescribe a moral or religious way of life which a person aspiring for self-realization or divine knowledge follow. Ninth Anuvak emphasizes heavily on learning, studying and teaching (Swadhyaya and Pravachana) and ordains that this should be done all through the life of an individual. According to this anuvaka, the following are the duties to be performed.

All through this anuvak, emphasis is laid on continuous study, learning and teaching of Vedas to students. This is termed as Swadhyaya and Pravachana.

Eleventh Anuvak is a set of instructions that teacher(Acharya) gives to his disciple after the completion of vedic education and the disciple is about to start a household life. In this anuvak we find famous saying "Matrdevo bhava" which emphasizes on reverence to ones mother, father, teacher and guests. Here teacher ordains disciple as follows.

Tell truth always, observe Dharma or (eternal divine laws), continue progeny, never leave truth, never leave Dharma, never abandon care of your health, never abstain from good rituals ordained in scriptures, never leave study/learning and teaching, never abandon worshipping gods (Deva's) and revering ancestors (Pitru's). Treat mother as a God. Treat father as a God. Treat your teacher as a God. Treat guests as Gods. Those deeds, rituals that are good and lauded by people should be done. Have reverence for great men, sages and wise ones.

Engage in charity work with diligence, donate according to your wealth, donate with faith, donate with humility. Donate with friendliness (not belittling the receiver); in case of any doubts about performing these duties, follow as do the selfless, kindhearted sages do.

Finally to emphasize that these duties are to be performed with greater importance and due care, the verse states, This is divine ordain and divine commandment.

Forming the gist of these two Anuvaks, one can guess what kind of life a house holder, aspiring divine knowledge tried to lead at the time of this Upanishad.

Popular Verses[edit]

Taittiriya Upanishad 2.1:

त्व्ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम्‌ |
Brahmavidāpnoti Param
He who knows Brahman attains Parabrahman.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Angot, Michel. (2007) Taittiriya-Upanisad avec le commentaire de Samkara, p.7. College de France, Paris. ISBN 2-86803-074-2
  2. ^ a b c A Weber, History of Indian Literature, p. 87, at Google Books, Trubner & Co, pages 87-91
  3. ^ a b c d Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 217-219
  4. ^ Taittiriya Upanishad SS Sastri (Translator), The Aitereya and Taittiriya Upanishad, pages 57-192
  5. ^ a b c d Stephen Phillips (2009), Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231144858, Chapter 1
  6. ^ Patrick Olivelle (1996), The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text & Translation, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, Introduction Chapter
  7. ^ RD Ranade, A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy, Chapter 1, pages 13-18
  8. ^ Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, pages 22-26
  9. ^ M Winternitz (2010), History of Indian Literature, Vol 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120802643
  10. ^ a b c d e f Max Muller, The Sacred Books of the East, Volume 15, Oxford University Press, Chapter 3: Taittiriya Upanishad, Archived Online
  11. ^ Original: Taittiriya Upanishad (Sanskrit);
    English Translation: Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 220-246
  12. ^ zikSA Sanskrit English Dictionary, Cologne University, Germany
  13. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 220-231
  14. ^ Aitareya and Taittiriya Upanishads with Shankara Bhashya SA Sastri (Translator), pages 56-192
  15. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 221
  16. ^ a b Aitareya and Taittiriya Upanishads with Shankara Bhashya SA Sastri (Translator), page 62
  17. ^ Swami Sivananda (2008). Brahma Sutras: Text, Word-to-word Meaning, Translation, and Commentary. Tehri-Garhwal: Divine Life Society. p. 34. ISBN 8170521513. 
  18. ^ Dave, Kishorebhai (2012). Akshar Purushottam Upasana. Ahmedabad: Swaminarayan Aksharpith. p. 124. ISBN 9788175264328. 

Further reading[edit]

  1. Outlines Of Indian Philosophy by M.Hiriyanna. Motilal Banarasidas Publishers.
  2. Kannada Translation of Taittireeya Upanishad by Swami Adidevananda Ramakrishna Mission Publishers.

External links[edit]