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Vedam is eternal, without beginning or end and is Apourusheyam (not of human origin). The word Apourusheyam means, Rishis or "Manthra Drashtas" were only a medium for revelation of Mantrams, and their individuality just disappeared while composing the Riks of Vedams due to their Divine Enlightenment.

Its contents are the expressions in words - prose, verse and song / music - of the divine inner visions of truth experienced by the ancient saints, sages and seers (Rishis). There are four Vedams - Rik, Yajus, Saamam and Athharvam. The Manthrams with Chhandass (see box) are in verse and are found in all the four Vedams; the prose form is found in Yajurvedam; while Saamam is a musical version of the Chhandass Manthrams.

Rishi - Chhando - Devathas of Vedams

Each portion of Vedam has a Rishi (who composed it), a Chhandass (specific metre) and a Devatha (a deity) in whose praise the Rik has been composed. Usually each Sooktham has a particular Rishi - Chhando - Devatha. But it is not a universal law. Rishi, Chhandass, and Devatha can change anywhere between the Riks and it is not necessary that it changes at the beginning of Sooktham only. Actually when Vedam is taught by-heart (as is the practice among Kerala Namboothiris), Rishi - Chhando - Devathas are not taught except for Pavamaana Mandalam. For Pavamaana Mandalam ("Cherumanam") it is taught, as it becomes useful while performing "Cherumanam Homam".

Example for Rishi - Chhando - Devatha System :

For "Aano Bhadra Sooktham" it is like this :
Rishi - Raahoo Gano Gothamah: (Rishi "Gothama" son of Rahoogana )
Chhandass - Jagathy
Devatha - Viswadevatha (Universe)

For the Sooktham "Thyamooshu Vaginam" it is like this :
Rishi - Thaarkshyo Arishta Nemih
Chhandass - Thristup
Devatha - Thaarkshyah

Gaayathri, Ushnik, Anushtup, Brihathi, Pamkthi, Thrishtup, Jagathi, Athrishti, Athija-Gathi and Viraat are different Chhandass.

When Riks are chanted as Manthrams, the method is slightly different which is explained below.

At the beginning and end of the chanting of several (not all) designated Manthrams for prayers (hymns from scriptures, "Manthropaasana"), a specific Chhandass is said. For example, during Sandhhyaavandanam, the specific Chhandass before and after the Pranavam (AUM) chant is :

Brahma Prajaapathi, Rishi :
Devee Gaayathree, Chhandah :
Paramaatmaa, Devathaa.
And the Chhandass used for Gaayathri is :
Gaathino Viswaamithrah : Rishi :
Gaayathree Chhandah :
Savithaa, Devathaa.
The Method :

With the tips of the ring and middle fingers and the thumb together, touch the top of the head while mentioning Rishi (the first line), then touch under the nose (above the upper lip) for Chhandass, and then on the chest ("Hridayam", heart) for Devatha. This Mudra or Nyaasam and the method are the same for all Chhandass.

It is said that words (Vachanam) originated from Rik, acting (Abhinayam) from Yajus, music (Sangeetham) from Saamam and aesthetics (Rasam) from Athharvam. In Yaagam (Click Here for Yaagam) the Rithwik, Hothan, recites Manthrams from Rigvedam, Adhwaryu from Yajurvedam, Udgaathaavu (Udgaathan) sings from Saamavedam and Brahman from Athharva Vedam. The function of Brahman (Rithwik) is to observe the proceedings, advise, and in case of mistakes, to have the doers perform Praayaschitham (atonement).

It is said that Rigvedam evolved from Agni (fire / energy), Yajurvedam from Vaayu (air / wind), and Saamavedam from Sun. Just as among the gods, Agni is considered as the primary one, Rigvedam is taken as the prime Vedam, while the others are its derivatives in a sense, but important in their own way.

Vishnu, in the incarnate form of Sreeraaman or Sreekrishnan, is perhaps considered by most people in the country, as the primary god, as is evidenced in "Raamaayanam", "Bhaaratham" and "Bhaagavatham". However, Rigvedam surprisingly does not contain too many Manthrams in praise of Vishnu. This has even led to an incorrect view that Vishnu's importance grew during the post-Vedic era. This is not true, like for instance, in Agnishtoma Yaagam (Click Here for Yaagam), as a part of Somakrayam, although it is king Soman who is ceremonially welcomed, the Devatha for the Ishti (Aathithhyeshti) is Vishnu, showing that both are one and the same.

Vedam contains the end goal, the means of achieving the goal, and in fact, every aspect of knowledge which one is seeking. The seed of a tree cannot give all the details of the tree into which the seed transforms, till it actually germinates and grows. In humans, even the latest DNA analysis of genes cannot give the precise characteristics and behavioural pattern of the individual and the transmission of traits from generation to generation, until the seed develops in the mother's womb and later grows outside it. In the same manner, the meanings and concepts contained in the Veda Manthrams cannot be fully grasped until they pass through the divine and sharp minds of the learned sages, and then they are developed for our consumption in the form of Smruthis, Puraanams, Ithihaasams, etc. Thus,

     "Vedey Sarvam Prathishtthitham"

is literally and unequivocally true, with Sarvam representing "entirety" in a far superior sense than our ordinary minds perceive!

| Article No:4.2 | Last update of this article:18th November 2003 |
Article by : K N Krishnan Namboodiri (Keezhmundayoor Mana), Ramadevi Mandiram, Poonkunnam, Thrissur - 680 002

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