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3. Saamavedam

The Primacy of Saamavedam is in Upaasana (meditation) through the singing of hymns (musical Sthuthi). The science of music is said to have evolved from this Vedam through Brahmaavu. Gaandharva Vedam is a subsidiary of Saamavedam.

As with other Vedams, Saamavedam originally had numerous branches, but only three exist now - Jaimineeyam, Raanaayaneeyam and Kauthhumam, of which Namboothiris follow the first. There are only about twenty Saamavedi families spread over Panjal (Thrissur district), Mookkuthala (Malappuram district), and Kidangoor and Onamthuruthu (Kottayam district), but practised primarily in Panjal.

It has two parts - Poorvaarchikam and Utharaarchikam, and contains totally 1875 Manthrams. It has the sub-divisions of Samhitha, Ooham, Ooshaani, Upanishath and Braahmanam. All except the less than 80 Riks (Moolam) of Saamavedam, are contained in Rigvedam.

Samhitha contains Rik, Gaanam and Aaranyakam, of which Rik is not as musical as the rest (eg.: Purusha Sooktham). The Rik part has 112 Othus, each sub-divided into several Riks and further into Paadams, not necessarily the same numbers always, and often different from those in Rigvedam. For example, Purushasooktham has 7 Riks of 4 Paadams each, while Rigvedam uses 16 Riks for the same. Rik is the basis for the musical score; often the same Rik may be "sung" in a few different but specified ways, or Saamams.

Saamams are made by modifying Riks - using the same words, changed, repeated, deleted, or letters and words added, all according to strict rules, with no provision for improvisations. The musical chanting has come down through the ages from "Guru" (teacher) to "Sishyan" (disciple) by "word of mouth". Words such as Haabu, Haavuvaa, Oyizha and Haayi, not found in the Rik part, are called "Sthobham" (emotion), while a collection of words (Padasamuchayam) are known as Vachanam, more than one Vachanam making up a Saamam.

The Jaimineeya branch is the most musical of the three existing branches. While other Vedams use three notes (Swarams) like Udaatham, Saamam is sung using seven notes (Prathhama, etc.). The method of musical chanting among Kerala Braahmanans is quite different from the Tamil Braahmanans of the same branch. Only Namboothiris use "zha" in their Saamavedaalaapanam.

During the Murajapam (Click here), the three Vedams (Athharvam not included) are chanted once from beginning to end. But during the consecration (Prathishttha) ceremony for Vishnu and Durga, the hymns of Saamam are to be sung. Serious studies may reveal the evolution of the musical sciences from Saamavedam and the possible positive impact of the rendering on health care and even curing of illness.

| Article No: | Last update of this article:14th November 2001 |
Article by : Dr Thottam Sivakaran Namboothiry, Chief Physician, Sreedhari Medical Centre, P O : Kurichithanam - 686 634, Kottayam Dist.

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