The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद, sāmaveda, from sāman "song" and veda "knowledge"), is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, and part of the scriptures of Hinduism. One of the four Vedas, it is a liturgical text which consists of 1,875 verses. All but 75 verses have been taken from the Rigveda. Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.
While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, c. 1200 or 1000 BCE, but roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.
Embedded inside the Samaveda is the widely studied Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad, considered as primary Upanishads and as influential on the six schools of Hindu philosophy, particularly the Vedanta school. The classical Indian music and dance tradition considers the chants and melodies in Samaveda as one of its roots.
It is also referred to as Sama Veda.
The Samaveda is the Veda of Chants, or "storehouse of knowledge of chants". According to Frits Staal, it is "the Rigveda set to music". It is a fusion of older melodies (sāman) and the Rig verses. It has far fewer verses than Rigveda, but Samaveda is textually larger because it lists all the chant- and rituals-related score modifications of the verses.
The Samaveda text contains notated melodies, and these are probably the world's oldest surviving ones. The musical notation is written usually immediately above, sometimes within, the line of Samaveda text, either in syllabic or a numerical form depending on the Samavedic Sakha (school).
R. T. H. Griffith says that there are three recensions of the text of the Samaveda Samhita:
- the Kauthuma recension is current in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and since a few decades in Darbhanga, Bihar,
- the Rāṇāyanīya in the Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gokarna, few parts of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
- and the Jaiminiya in the Carnatic, Tamil Nadu and Kerala
The Samaveda comprises two major parts. The first part include four melody collections (gāna, गान) and the second part three verse "books" (ārcika, आर्चिक). A melody in the song books corresponds to a verse in the arcika books. The Gana collection is subdivided into Gramageya and Aranyageya, while the Arcika portion is subdivided into Purvarcika and Uttararcika portions. The Purvarcika portion of the text has 585 single stanza verses and is organized in order of deities, while Uttararcika text is ordered by rituals. The Gramageya melodies are those for public recitations, while Aranyageya melodies are for personal meditative use such as in the solitude of a forest. Typically, the Purvarcika collection were sung to melodies described in the Gramageya-Gānas index, and the rules of how the verses mapped to verses is described in the Sanskrit texts such as the Puspasutra.
Just like Rigveda, the early sections of Samaveda typically begin with Agni and Indra hymns but shift to abstract speculations and philosophy, and their meters too shifts in a descending order. The later sections of the Samaveda, states Witzel, have least deviation from substance of hymns they derive from Rigveda into songs. The purpose of Samaveda was liturgical, and they were the repertoire of the udgātṛ or "singer" priests.
|Vedic School||Brahmana||Upanishads||Shrauta Sutras|
|Kauthuma-Ranayaniya||Pancavimsa Sadvimsa||Chandogya Upanishad||Latyayana Drahyayana|
|Jaiminiya or Talavakara||Jaiminiya||Kena Upanishad
The Samaveda consists of 1,549 unique verses, taken almost entirely from Rigveda, except for 75 verses. The largest number of verse come from Books 9 and 8 of the Rig Veda. Some of the Rigvedic verses are repeated more than once. Including these repetitions, there are a total of 1,875 verses numbered in the Samaveda recension translated by Griffith.
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Staal states that the melodies likely existed before the verses in ancient India, and the words of the Rigveda verses were mapped into those pre-existing melodies, because some early words fit and flow, while later words do not quite fit the melody in the same verse. The text uses creative structures, called Stobha, to help embellish, transform or play with the words so that they better fit into a desired musical harmony. Some verses add in meaningless sounds of a lullaby, for probably the same reason, remarks Staal. Thus the contents of the Samaveda represent a tradition and a creative synthesis of music, sounds, meaning and spirituality, the text was not entirely a sudden inspiration.
The portion of the first song of Samaveda illustrates the link and mapping of Rigvedic verses into a melodic chant:
Two primary Upanishads of Hinduism are embedded inside the Samaveda – the Chandogya Upanishad and the Kena Upanishad. Both are notable for the lifting metric melodic structure, but it is Chandogya which has played a historic role in the evolution of various schools of Hindu philosophy. The embedded philosophical premises in Chandogya Upanishad have, for example, served as foundation for Vedanta school of Hinduism. It is one of the most cited texts in later Bhasyas (reviews and commentaries) by scholars from the diverse schools of Hinduism. Adi Shankara, for example, cited Chandogya Upanishad 810 times in his Vedanta Sutra Bhasya, more than any other ancient text.
The Chandogya Upanishad belongs to the Tandya school of the Samaveda. Like Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad is an anthology of texts that must have pre-existed as separate texts, and were edited into a larger text by one or more ancient Indian scholars. The precise chronology of Chandogya Upanishad is uncertain, but it is the youngest layer of text in the Samaveda, and it is variously dated to have been composed by 8th to 6th century BCE in India.
The Chandogya text combines a metric, melodic structure with a wide range of speculations and philosophical topics. The text in eighth and ninth volumes of the first chapter, for example, describes the debate between three men proficient in Udgitha, about the origins and support of Udgitha and all of empirical existence. The text summarizes their discussion as,
What is the origin of this world?
Space, said he. Verily, all things here arise out of space. They disappear back into space, for space alone is greater than these, space is the final goal.
This is the most excellent Udgitha. This is endless. The most excellent is his, the most excellent worlds does he win, who, knowing it thus, reveres the most excellent Udgitha (Om, ॐ).— Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1-1.9.2
Max Muller notes that the term "space" above, was later asserted in the Vedanta Sutra verse 1.1.22 to be a symbolism for the Vedic concept of Brahman. Paul Deussen explains the term Brahman means the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world". The text discusses Dharma and many other topics:
There are three branches of Dharma (religious life, duty): Yajna (sacrifice), Svādhyāya (self study) and Dāna (charity) are the first,
Tapas (austerity, meditation) is the second, while dwelling as a Brahmacharya for education in the house of a teacher is third,
All three achieve the blessed worlds. But the Brahmasamstha – one who is firmly grounded in Brahman – alone achieves immortality.
The Kena Upanishad is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam recension of the Samaveda. It is much shorter, but it too delves into philosophical and spiritual questions like the Chandogya Upanishad. In the fourth chapter, the Kena Upanishad states, for example, that all beings have an innate longing for spiritual knowledge, for self-awareness. This knowledge of Atman-Brahman is Tadvanam (transcendental happiness, blissfulness). In the final paragraphs, Kena Upanishad asserts ethical life as the foundation of self-knowledge and of Atman-Brahman.
— Kena Upanishad, 4.8 (paragraph 33)
Dating and historical context
Michael Witzel states that there is no absolute dating for Samaveda and other Vedic texts. He estimates the composition of the samhita layer of the text chronologically after the Rigveda, and in the likely range of 1200 to 1000 BCE, roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.
There were about a dozen styles of Samavedic chanting. Of the three surviving versions, the Jaiminiya preserves the oldest surviving tradition of Samavedic chanting.
Manuscripts and translations
The Kauthuma recension has been published (Samhita, Brahmana, Shrautasutra and ancillary Sutras, mainly by B.R. Sharma), parts of the Jaiminiya tradition remain unpublished. There is an edition of the first part of the Samhita by W. Caland and of the Brahmana by Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra, as well as the neglected Upanishad, but only parts of the Shrautasutra. The song books remain unpublished.
A German edition of Samaveda was published in 1848 by Theodor Benfey, and Satyavrata Samashrami published an edited Sanskrit version in 1873. An English translation was published by Ralph Griffith in 1893. A translation in Hindi by Mridul Kirti called "Samveda Ka Hindi Padyanuvad" has also been published recently.
The Samaveda text has not received as much attention as the Rigveda, because outside of the musical novelty and melodic creativity, the substance of all but 75 verses of the text have predominantly been derived from the Rigveda. A study of Rigveda suffices.
The Indian classical music and dance, states Guy Beck, is rooted in the sonic and musical dimensions of the Sama Veda, along with the Upanishads and Agamas. The Samaveda, in addition to singing and chanting, mentions instruments. The rules and suggestions for playing various instruments form a separate compilation, called the Gandharva-Veda, and this Upaveda is attached to the Samaveda. The structure and theory of chants in the Samaveda have inspired the organizing principle for Indian classical arts and performances, and this root has been widely acknowledged by musicologists dealing with the history of Indian music.
Our music tradition [Indian] in the North as well as in the South, remembers and cherishes its origin in the Samaveda... the musical version of the Rigveda.— V. Raghavan, 
- Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 107-112
- Michael Witzel (1997), "The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu" in Inside the Texts, Beyond the Texts: New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas, Harvard University Press, pages = 269-270
- Griffith, R. T. H. The Sāmaveda Saṃhitā, ISBN 978-1419125096, page vi
- James Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics at Google Books, Vol. 7, Harvard Divinity School, TT Clark, pages 51-56
- Michael Witzel The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu Harvard University
- Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, pages LXXXVI-LXXXIX, 1-144 with footnotes
- Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, pages 107-108
- John Stevenson, Translation of the Sanhita of the Sama Veda, p. PR12, at Google Books, page XII
- Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, page xvi-xvii, Quote: "The Vedas are an Oral Tradition and that applies especially to two of the four: the Veda of the Verse (Rigveda) and the Veda of Chants (Samaveda). (...) The Vedas are not a religion in any of the many senses of that widespread term. They have always been regarded as storehouses of knowledge, that is: veda."
- Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 4-5
- Bruno Nettl, Ruth M. Stone, James Porter and Timothy Rice (1999), The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Routledge, ISBN 978-0824049461, pages 242-245
- KR Norman (1979), Sāmavedic Chant by Wayne Howard (Book Review), Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, page 524;
Wayne Howard (1977), Samavedic Chant, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300019568
- Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, page 230 note 85
- Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 80, 74-81
- Axel Michaels (2004), Hinduism: Past and Present, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08953-1, page 51
- Michael Witzel (2003), "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Editor: Gavin Flood), Blackwell, ISBN 0-631215352, page 76
- For 1875 total verses, see numbering given in Ralph T. H. Griffith. Griffith's introduction mentions the recension history for his text. Repetitions may be found by consulting the cross-index in Griffith pp. 491-99.
- R Simon and JM van der Hoogt, Studies on the Samaveda North Holland Publishing Company, pages 47-54, 61-67
- Frits Staal (1996), Ritual and Mantras, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814127, pages 209-221
- Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, pages 107-109
- ६.१६ ॥१०॥ Wikisource, Rigveda 6.16.10;
अग्न आ याहि वीतये गृणानो हव्यदातये ।
नि होता सत्सि बर्हिषि ॥१०॥
- Paul Deussen, The System of Vedanta, ISBN 978-1432504946, pages 30-31
- Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, page 166-169
- Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, page 12-13
- Stephen Phillips (2009), Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231144858, Chapter 1
- Robert Hume, Chandogya Upanishad 1.8.7 - 1.8.8, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pages 185-186
- Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, page 17 with footnote 1
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 91
- Chandogya Upanishad with Shankara Bhashya Ganganath Jha (Translator), pages 103-116
- Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad Twenty Third Khanda, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, page 35 with footnote
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 97-98 with preface and footnotes
- Johnston, Charles (1920-1931), The Mukhya Upanishads, Kshetra Books, ISBN 9781495946530 (Reprinted in 2014)
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 207-213
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 208
- Kena Upanishad Mantra 6, G Prasadji (Translator), pages 32-33
- Meditation, Penance, Inner heat, See: WO Kaelber (1976), "Tapas", Birth, and Spiritual Rebirth in the Veda, History of Religions, 15(4), pages 343-386
- Self-restraint, see: M Heim (2005), Differentiations in Hindu ethics, in William Schweiker (Editor), The Blackwell companion to religious ethics, ISBN 0631216340, pages 341-354
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 211-213
- Michael Witzel (2003), "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Editor: Gavin Flood), Blackwell, ISBN 0-631215352, pages 68-70
- A. Parpola. The literature and study of the Jaiminīya Sāmaveda. In retrospect and prospect. Studia Orientalia XLIII:6. Helsinki 1973
- W. Caland, Die Jaiminīya-Saṃhitā mit einer Einleitung über die Sāmaveda-literatur. Breslau 1907
- Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra. 1954. Jaiminīya-Brāhmaṇa of the Sāmaveda. (Sarasvati-Vihara Series 31.) Nagpur. 2nd revised ed., Delhi 1986
- H. Oertel. The Jaiminīya or Talavakāra Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa. Text, translation, and notes. JAOS 16,1895, 79–260
- A. Parpola. The decipherment of the Samavedic notation of the Jaiminīyas. Finnish Oriental Society 1988
- Theodor Benfey, Die Hymnen des Samaveda FA Brockhaus, Leipzig
- Satyavrata Samashrami, Sama Veda Sanhita at Google Books
- Griffith, Ralph T. H. The Sāmaveda Saṃhitā. Text, Translation, Commentary & Notes in English. Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith. First published 1893; Revised and enlarged edition, enlarged by Nag Sharan Singh and Surendra Pratap, 1991 (Nag Publishers: Delhi, 1991) ISBN 81-7081-244-5; This edition provides the text in Devanagari with full metrical marks needed for chanting.
- SW Jamison and M Witzel (1992), Vedic Hinduism, Harvard University, page 8
- H Falk (1992), Samaveda und Gandharva (German language), in Ritual, State, and History in South Asia (Editors: Heesterman et al), BRILL, ISBN 978-9004094673, pages 141-158
- SS Janaki (1985), The role of Sanskrit in the Development of Indian Music, Journal of the Music Academy, Vol. 56, pages 67, 66-97
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- Ralph Griffith, Hymns of the Samaveda 1895, full text, (online at sacred-texts.com)
- Veda Prasar Samiti (MP3 examples of vedic chants)
- Samaveda Song Books in Devanagari with svara marks and musical notes file for download