Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 6

Chapter VI

Divisions of the Sāma-veda: of the Atharva-veda. Four Paurāṇik Saṁhitās. Names of the eighteen Purāṇas. Branches of knowledge. Classes of Ṛṣis.

YOU shall now hear, Maitreya, how Jaimini, the pupil of Vyāsa, divided the branches of the Sāma-veda:

The son of Jaimini was Sumantu, and his son was Sukarma, who both studied the same Saṁhitā under Jaimini.

The latter composed the Sāhasra Saṁhitā (or compilation of a thousand hymns, etc.), which he taught to two disciples, Hiraṇyanābha, also named Kauśalya (or of Kośala), and Paushyinji. Fifteen disciples of the latter were the authors of as many Saṁhitās: they were called the northern chanters of the Sāman.

As many more, also the disciples of Hiraṇyanābha, were named the eastern chanters of the Sāman, founding an equal number of schools:

Lokākṣi, Kuthumi, Kuṣīdī, and Lāngali were the pupils of Paushyinji; and by them and their disciples many other branches were formed.

Whilst another scholar of Hiraṇyanābha, named Kriti, taught twenty-four Saṁhitās to as many pupils; and by them, again, was the Sāma-veda divided into numerous branches.

I will now give you an account of the Saṁhitās of the Atharva-veda:

The illustrious Muni Sumantu taught this Veda to his pupil Kabandha, who made it twofold, and communicated the two portions to Devaderśa and to Pathya. The disciples of Devaderśa were Maudga, Brahmabali,

Śaulkāyani, and Pippalāda. Pathya had three pupils, Jājali, Kumudādi, and Śaunaka; and by all these were separate branches instituted.

Śaunaka having divided his Saṁhitā into two, gave one to Babhru, and the other to Saindhavāyana; and from them sprang two schools, the Saindhavas and Munjakeśas.

The principal subjects of difference in the Saṁhitās of the Atharva-veda are the five Kalpas or ceremonials:

the Nakṣatra Kalpa, or rules for worshipping the planets; the Vaitāna Kalpa, or rules for oblations, according to the Vedas generally; the Saṁhitā Kalpa, or rules for sacrifices, according to different schools; the Āngirasa Kalpa, incantations and prayers for the destruction of foes and the like; and the Śānti Kalpa, or prayers for averting evil.

Accomplished in the purport of the Purāṇas, Vyāsa compiled a Paurāṇik Saṁhitā, consisting of historical and legendary traditions, prayers and hymns, and sacred chronology.

He had a distinguished disciple, Sūta, also named Lomaharṣaṇa, and to him the great Muni communicated the Purāṇas.

Sūta had six scholars, Sumati, Agnivarchas, Mitrayu, Śānśapāyana, Akritavraṇa, who is also called Kāśyapa, and Sāvarṇi.

The three last composed three fundamental Saṁhitās; and Lomaharṣaṇa himself compiled a fourth, called Lomaharṣaṇika. The substance of these four Saṁhitās is collected into this (Viṣṇu) Purāṇa.

The first of all Purāṇas is entitled the Brāhma Purāṇa.

Those who are acquainted with the Purāṇas enumerate eighteen, or the Brāhma, Pādma, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, Bhāgavata, Nāradīya, Mārkaṇḍeya, Āgneyī, Bhaviṣya, Brahma Vaivarta, Liṅga, Vārāha, Skānda, Vāmana, Kūrma, Mātsya, Garuḍa, Brahmāṇḍa.

The creation of the world, and its successive reproductions, the genealogies of the patriarchs and kings, the periods of the Manus, and the transactions of the royal dynasties, are narrated in all these Purāṇas.

This Purāṇa which I have repeated to you, Maitreya, is called the Vaiṣṇava, and is next in the series to the Padma; and in every part of it, in its narratives of primary and subsidiary creation, of families, and of periods, the mighty Viṣṇu is declared in this Purāṇa.

The four Vedas, the six Angas (or subsidiary portions of the Vedas, i.e. Śikṣā, rules of reciting the prayers, the accents and tones to be observed; Kalpa, ritual; Vyākaraṇam, grammar; Nirukta, glossarial comment; Chhandas, metre; and Jyotish, (astronomy), with Mimāṅsā (theology), Nyāya (logic), Dharma (the institutes of law), and the Purāṇas, constitute the fourteen principal branches of knowledge:

or they are considered as eighteen, with the addition of these four; the Āyur-veda, medical science (as taught by Dhanvantarī); Dhanur-veda, the science of archery or arms, taught by Bhrigu; Gaṅdharva-veda, or the drama, and the arts of music, dancing, etc., of which the Muni Bharata was the author; and the Artha śāstra, or science of government, as laid down first by Brihaspati.

There are three kinds of Ṛṣis, or inspired sages: royal Ṛṣis, or princes who have adopted a life of devotion, as Viśvāmitra; divine Ṛṣis, or sages who are demigods also, as Nārada; and Brahman Ṛṣis, or sages who are the sons of Brahmā, or Brahmans, as Vasiṣṭha and others.

I have thus described to you the branches of the Vedas, and their subdivisions; the persons by whom they were made; and the reason why they were made (or the limited capacities of mankind).

The same branches are instituted in the different Manvantaras. The root Veda of the progenitor of all things is eternal: these branches are but its modifications (or Vikalpas).

I have thus related to you, Maitreya, the circumstances relating to the Vedas, which you desired to hear. Of what else do you wish to hear?