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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 Veda[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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
Gramgeyo-gān: 1233 1197
Aranyageya-gān: 291 294
Ooh-gān: 1802 1026
Oohya-gān: 356 205
Total 3681 2722

Grām or Scale of Sāmveda[edit]

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[edit]

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
Krushta Prathama Dwitiya Tritiya Chaturth Mandra Atiswār
क्रुश्ट प्रथम द्वितीय तृतीय चतुर्थ मन्द्र अति-स्वार

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[edit]

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.

Shruti-jāti Sign
Deepta U
Āyatā ^
Karunā *


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. 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'.[citation needed]

Sri Aurobindo described Shruthi as "divine recordings of cosmic sounds of truth" heard by the Rishis. The Vedas are thus Shruthis, revealed scriptures.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  • 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

External links[edit]