The Vedas are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Veda, (Sanskrit: “Knowledge”) a collection of poems or hymns composed in the Sanskrit Language. There are four types of Vedas – Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. According to Hinduism the Vedas texts were received by scholars direct from God and passed on to the next generations by word of mouth. Vyasa is the compiler of the Vedas, who arranged the four kinds of mantras into four Samhitas (Collections).


What are Vedangas?

Vedangas are ancient characters that relate to the study of Vedas, just like the organs of the body. The Vedangas state that Veda is a Purusha having six limbs and those Six Limbs relate to the Six Vedanags. It is stated that Chhandas are his two feet, Kalpa is his two arms, Jyotisha is his eyes, Nirukta is his ears, Shiksha is his nose and Vyakarana is his mouth. They symbolically represent the organs of the Veda Purusha.


There are six types of Vedangas.

Shiksha: Phonetics
Kalpa : Rituals
Vyakaran : Grammar
Nirukta : Etymology
Chhanda : Metre
Jyotisha : Astronomy


Vedas are Purusha¸ Chhandas His legs, Kalpa is His hands, the Jyotisha Vedanga are the eyes of the Purusha while the Nirukta are His ears, Shiksha is equivalent to the eyes of the Purusha and Vyakarna is His face says Maharishi Panini.

Using the symbology of limbs for Vedangas is meant to point out the interdependence and integrity or oneness of these disciplines with each other and with the Vedas as a whole.




Shiksha: Phonetics

Shiksha Vedanga deals with pronunciation. In Sanskrit, every alphabet has a specified pronunciation technique. Some are pronounced from the throat, others from the mouth, some may be nasal while certain alphabets may be resounding, and so on.

Its aim is the teaching the correct pronunciation of the Vedic hymns and mantras. The oldest phonetic textbooks are the Pratishakyas (prātiśākhya), describing the pronunciation, and intonation of Sanskrit, as well as the Sanskrit rules of sandhi (word combination), specific to individual schools or Shakhas of the Vedas.


Kalpa (Ritual Canon)

It contains the sacrificial practice and systematic sutras. There are three kinds of Sutras part of Kalpa:

  • Śrautasūtras, which are based on the Shruti, teach the performance of the great sacrifices, requiring three or five sacrificial fires
  • Smartasūtras, or rules based on the Smriti or tradition. The Smartasūtras have two classes viz.
    • Grhyasutras, or domestic rules: They are treating the rites of passage, such as marriage, birth, name giving, etc., connected with simple offerings into the domestic fire.
    • Dharmasutras or customs and social duties: The Dharmasūtras are the first four texts of the Dharmasastra tradition and they focus on the idea of dharma, the principal guide by which Hindus strive to live their lives. The Dharmasūtras are written in concise prose, leaving much up to the educated reader to interpret. The most important of these texts are the sutras of Āpastamba, Gautama, Baudhāyana, and Vasiṣṭha.
    • The Dharmasūtras can be called the guidebooks of dharma as they contain the rules of conduct and rites as practiced in the Vedic schools. They discuss the duties of people at different stages of life like studenthood, householders, retirement, and renunciation. These stages are also called āśramas. They also discuss about the rites and duties of kings, judicial matters, and even personal practices like the regulations in diet, offenses and expiations, daily oblations, and funerary practice.

Vyakaran (Grammar)

Vyakaran includes the Aṣṭādhyāyī, of Panini. Most of the work of very early Indian grammarians ranging to 8th century BC is lost. There are 4 parts of Panini’s Grammar:

  • Śivasūtra: Contains phonology (notations for phonemes specified in 14 lines)
  • Aṣṭadhyāyī: Contains morphology (construction rules for complexes)
  • Dhātupāṭha: Contains list of roots (classes of verbal roots)
  • Gaṇapāṭha: Contains a list of classes of primitive nominal stems

Nirukta (explanation)

It is traditionally attributed to Yāska, an ancient Sanskrit grammarian. It deals with etymology, particularly of obscure words, especially those occurring in the Veda

Chhanda (Vedic meter)

It measures and divides Vedic Mantras by many padas in a verse, which is called Padas. Several padas divide each verse, hymn, or mantra and the number of syllables divides each pada. There is a distinct taxonomy on this basis. For example, a Gayatri Chhanda has 3 padas of 8 syllables containing 24 syllables in each stanza. Similarly, Anuṣṭup has 4 padas of 8 syllables containing 32 syllables in each stanza. Anustup is the typical shloka of classical Sanskrit poetry

Jyotisha (Astrology)

It describes rules for tracking the motions of the sun and the moon and the foundation of Vedic Jyotish.


Learn more about Shiksha Vedanga:

Paniniya Shiksha by Santonu Kumar Dhar


Chhanda Sutra