Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 4

Chapter IV

Division of the Veda, in the last Dvāpara age, by the Vyāsa Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana. Paila made reader of the Rig; Vaiśampāyana of the Yajur; Jaimini of the Shun; and Sumantu of the Atharvan. Sūta appointed to teach the historical poems. Origin of the four parts of the Veda. Saṁhitās of the Rig-Veda.


The original Veda, in four parts, consisted of one hundred thousand stanzas; and from it sacrifice of ten kinds, the accomplisher of all desires, proceeded.

In the twenty-eighth Dvāpara age my son Vyāsa separated the four portions of the Veda into four Vedas:

In the same manner as the Vedas were arranged by him, as Vedavyāsa, so were they divided in former periods by all the preceding Vyāsas, and by myself:

and the branches into which they were subdivided by him were the same into which they had been distributed in every aggregate of the four ages.

Know, Maitreya, the Vyāsa called Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana to be the deity Nārāyaṇa; for who else on this earth could have composed the Mahābhārata? Into what portions the Vedas were arranged by my magnanimous son, in the Dvāpara age, you shall hear.

When Vyāsa was enjoined by Brahmā to arrange the Vedas in different books, he took four persons, well read in those works, as his disciples:

He appointed Paila reader of the Rig; Vaiśampāyana of the Yajur; and Jaimini of the Soma-veda: and Sumantu, who was conversant with the Atharva-veda, was also the disciple of the learned Vyāsa. He also took Sūta, who was named Lomahārṣaṇa, as his pupil in historical and legendary traditions.

There was but one Yajur-veda; but dividing this into four parts, Vyāsa instituted the sacrificial rite that is administered by four kinds of priests:

in which it was the duty of the Adhvaryu to recite the prayers (Yajus) (or direct the ceremony); of the Hotri, to repeat the hymns (Rigs) of the Udgātri, to chant other hymns (Sāma); and of the Brahman, to pronounce the formulae called Atharva.

Then the Muni, having collected together the hymns called Rigs, compiled the Rigveda; with the prayers and directions termed Yajus he formed the Yajur-veda; with those called Sāma, Sāma-veda; and with the Atharvas he composed the rules of all the ceremonies suited to kings, and the function of the Brahman agreeably to practice.

This vast original tree of the Vedas, having been divided by him into four principal stems, soon branched out into an extensive forest:

First - Paila divided the Rig-Veda, and gave the two Saṁhitās (or collections of hymns) to Indrapramati and to Vaṣkali.

Vaṣkali subdivided his Saṁhitā into four, which he gave to his disciples Baudhya, Agnimāṭhara, Yajñawalka, and Parāśara; and they taught these secondary shoots from the root branch.

Indrapramati imparted his Saṁhitā to his son Māndūkeyā, and it thence descended through successive generations, as well as disciples.

Vedamitra, called also Śākalya, studied the same Saṁhitā, but he divided it into five Saṁhitās, which he distributed amongst as many disciples, named severally Mudgala, Goswalu, Vātsya, Śālīya, and Śiśira.

Sākapūrṇi made a different division of the original Saṁhitā into three portions, and added a glossary (Nirukta), constituting a fourth. The three Saṁhitās were given to his three pupils, Krauncha, Vaitālaki, and Valāka; and a fourth, (thence named) Niruktakrit, had the glossary.

In this way branch sprang from branch.

Another Vaṣkali composed three other Saṁhitās, which he taught to his disciples Kālāyani, Gārgya, and Kathājava. These are they by whom the principal divisions of the Rig have been promulgated.