Kalpa (Vedanga)

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This article is about a discipline of Vedic literature. For the reckoning of time, see Kalpa (aeon). For other uses, see Kalpa.

Kalpa is one of the six disciplines of the Vedānga, concerning ritual.

Tradition does not single out any special work in this branch of the Vedānga; but sacrificial practice gave rise to a large number of systematic sūtras for the several classes of priests. A number of these works have been passed down, and they occupy by far the most prominent place among the literary productions of the sūtra-period. The Kalpa-sūtras, or rules of ceremonial, are of two kinds: (1) the Śrautasūtras, which are based on the śruti, and teach the performance of the great sacrifices, requiring three or five sacrificial fires; and (2) the Smartasūtras, or rules based on the smrti or tradition. The latter class again includes two kinds of treatises: (1) the Gṛhyasūtras,[1][2] or domestic rules, treating the rites of passage, such as marriage, birth, namegiving, etc., connected with simple offerings into the domestic fire; and (2) the Dharmasūtras, which treat customs and social duties, and have formed the chief sources of the later law-books. Further, the Śrauta-sūtras of the Yajurveda have usually include a set of so-called Shulba Sūtras, i.e. rules of the cord, which treat of the measurement by means of cords, and the construction, of different kinds of altars required for sacrifices. These treatises are of special interest as supplying important information regarding the earliest geometrical operations in India. Along with the Sūtras may be classed a large number of supplementary treatises, usually called Pariśiṣṭa, on various subjects connected with the sacred texts and Vedic religion generally.

Śrauta Sutras[edit]

The Śrautasūtras (śrautasūtra) form a part of the corpus of Sanskrit sūtra literature. Their topics include instructions relating to the use of the śruti corpus in ritual ('kalpa') and the correct performance of these rituals. Some early Śrautasūtras were composed in the late Brahmana period (such as the Baudhyanana and Vadhula Sūtras), but the bulk of the Śrautasūtras are roughly contemporary to the Gṛhya corpus of domestic sūtras, their language being late Vedic Sanskrit, dating to the middle of the first millennium BCE (generally predating Pāṇini).

Veda Śrautasūtra[3]
Ṛgveda Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra[4]

Sāṅkhāyana Śrautasūtra

Sāmaveda Lātyāyana Śrautasūtra
Drāhyāyana Śrautasūtra
Jaiminiya Śrautasūtra
Kṛsna Yajurveda Baudhāyana Śrautasūtra

Vādhūla Śrautasūtra
Mānava Śrautasūtra
Bharadvāja Śrautasūtra
Āpastamba Śrautastūra
Hiraṅyakeśi Śrautasūtra
Vārāha Śrautasūtra
Vaikhānasa Śrautasūtra

Śukla Yajurveda Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra
Atharvaveda Vaitāna Śrautasũtra


The Gṛhyasūtras "domestic sūtras" are a category of Sanskrit texts prescribing Vedic ritual, mainly relating to rites of passage. Their language is late Vedic Sanskrit, and they date to around roughly 500 BCE, contemporary with the Śrautasūtras. They are named after Vedic shakhas.

Veda Gr̥hyasūtra[3]
R̥gveda Âśvalāyana-Gṛhyasūtra [4]
Kausîtaki-Gṛhyasūtra (Bāṣkala śakha)
Śāṅkhāyana-Gr̥hyasūtra [1]
Sāmaveda Gobhila-Gṛhyasūtra
Khādira-Gṛhyasūtra (Drāhyāyana-Gṛhyasūtra)
Kṛsna Yajurveda Baudhāyana-Gṛhyasūtra
Hiraṇyakeśi-Gṛhyasūtra (Satyāsādha-Gṛhyasūtra) [2]
Kāthaka-Gṛhyasūtra (Laugāksi-Gṛhyasūtra)
Kapisthala-Katha Gṛhyasūtra (unpublished)
Śukla Yajurveda
Atharvaveda Kauśika Gṛhyasūtra


The Dharmasūtras are texts dealing with custom, rituals, and law. They include the four surviving written works of the ancient Indian tradition on the subject of dharma, or the rules of behavior recognized by a community. Unlike the later Dharmaśāstra, the dharmasūtras are composed in prose. The oldest Dharmasūtra is generally believed to have been that of Apastamba, followed by the dharmasūtras of Gautama, Baudhayana, and an early version of Vasistha. It is difficult to determine exact dates for these texts, but the dates between 500–300 BCE have been suggested for the oldest Dharmasūtras. Later Dharmasūtras include those of Kashyapa, Bṛhaspati, and Ushanas.

Veda Dharmasūtra[3]
R̥gveda Vasishtha Dharmasūtra
Sāmaveda Gautama Dharmasūtra
Kr̥sna Yajurveda Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra
Āpastamba Dharmasūtra
Śukla Yajurveda Vishnu Dharmasūtra

Shulba Sutras[edit]

The Śulbasûtra deal with Shrauta ritual and altar geometries.

Veda Śulbasûtra[3]
Kr̥sna Yajurveda Baudhāyana Śulbasûtra
Mānava Śulbasûtra
Āpastamba Śulbasûtra
Śukla Yajurveda Kātyāyana Śulbasûtra

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hermann Oldenberg, trans., Max Müller, ed. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXIX, "The Grihya-sûtras, rules of Vedic domestic ceremonies", part 1, Oxford, The Clarendon press 1886
  2. ^ Hermann Oldenberg, trans., Max Müller, trans. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXX, "The Grihya-sûtras, rules of Vedic domestic ceremonies", part 2, Oxford, The Clarendon press 1892
  3. ^ a b c d Kochar, Rajesh Vedic People:Their History and Geography, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2000, ISBN 81-250-1080-7, p.18
  4. ^ a b Catalogue of Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit Books in the British Museum (1876) p. 9. Gargya's commentaries (vrttis) are based on the longer bhashyas by Devasvamin (11th century). B.K. Sastry, review of K. P. Aithal (ed.), Asvalayana Grihya Sutra Bhashyam of Devasvamin, 1983.


Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.