What Is Vedanga?
The Vedanga (वेदाङ्ग, vedāṅga, “limbs of the Veda”) are six auxiliary disciplines in Vedic culture that developed in ancient times, and have been connected with the study of the Vedas.These are:
- Shiksha (śikṣā): phonetics, phonology, pronunciation. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
- Chandas (chandas): prosody. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
- Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): grammar and linguistic analysis. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
- Nirukta (nirukta): etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
- Kalpa (kalpa): ritual instructions. This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
- Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy. This auxiliary Vedic discipline focussed on time keeping.
The character of the Vedangas has roots in ancient times, and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mentions it as an integral part of the Brahmanas layer of the Vedic texts. Individually, these auxiliary disciplines of study are traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE, and the 5th-century BCE scholar Yaska quotes the Vedangas. However, it is unclear when and where a list of six Vedangas were first conceptualized.
The Vedangas likely developed towards the end of the Vedic period, around or after the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. These auxiliary fields of Vedic studies emerged because the language of the Vedic texts composed centuries earlier grew too archaic to the people of that time. The Vedangas were sciences that focused on helping understand and interpret the Vedas that had been composed many centuries earlier.
Vedangas developed as ancillary studies for the Vedas, but its insights into meters, structure of sound and language, grammar, linguistic analysis and other subjects influenced post-Vedic studies, arts, culture and various schools of Hindu philosophy. The Kalpa Vedanga studies, for example, gave rise to the Dharma-sutras, which later expanded into Dharma-shastras.
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