(Last Updated on : 19-10-2012)
Sama Veda, also known as the Veda of Holy Songs, is one of the four canonical Vedic texts of India. In Sanskrit language
, Sama Veda refers to the knowledge that is rendered through melody. In terms of sanctity and liturgical importance Sama Veda ranks just after the Rig Veda
. It contains the hymns which are recited while performing a Yajna
. The date of compilation of Sama Veda is not specifically known. The exact date of the compilation of Sama Veda cannot be specified but it can be said that Sama Veda had been compiled much later and that is one of the reasons why certain hymns are incomplete and are portions of hymns part of the Rig Veda. It is however said that probably these hymns date back to 1000 BC. The Sama Veda has exactly 1875 verses and each of the verses has a specific metre. In fact it can be said that Sama Veda has been the first attempt to give melody to any chanted verse.
Sama Veda has a very close association with Rig Veda. The purpose behind creating the Sama Veda was the Samagan. According to the Indian musical canon the lyrics for the hymns are provided by the Rig Veda but it is the Sama Veda that has provided the notes.
The metrical portion of Samhita usually consists of hymns which are to be chanted by the Udgatar priests during the times of those sacrifices in which the juice of the Soma is offered to the various deities.
Composition of Sama Veda
Of the many Samhitas of the Sama Veda which are said to have existed once -the Indian Puranas even speak of a thousand Samhitas- only three have come down to us. The three recensions of Sama Veda are Kouthomiya, Rahayaniya and Jaiminiya. Kouthomiya and Rahayaniya are identical in contents. They differ only in the arrangements of the hymns in various adhyayas. The Jaiminiya recension has fewer hymns as compared to the other two recensions. The best known of these, the Sama Veda Samhita of the Kauthumas, consists of two parts, the Archika or the "verse-collection" and the Utttararchika, the "second verse-collection." Both parts consist of verses, which nearly all recur in the Rig Veda. Of the 1810, or, if one subtracts the repetitions, 1549, verses, which are contained in the two parts together, all but 75 are also found in the Rig Veda Samhita and, mostly in Books VIII and IX of the latter.
The first part of the Sama Veda Samhita, the Archika, consists of five hundred and eighty-five single stanzas to which the various melodies (Saman) belong, which are used at the sacrifice. The Uttararchika, the second part of the Sama Veda Samhita consists of four hundred chants, mostly of three stanzas each out of which the Stotras which are sung at the chief sacrifices are formed. While in the Archika the stanzas are arranged partly according to the metre, partly according to the gods to which they are addressed (in the sequence - Lord Agni
, Indra, Soma), the chants in the Uttararchika are arranged according to the order of the principal sacrifices. A Stotra then, consists of several, usually three stanzas, which are all sung to the same tune, namely to one of the tunes which the Archika teaches.
It is usually assumed that the Uttararchika is of later origin than the Archika. In favour of this assumption is the fact that the Arcika contains many melodies, which do not occur at all in the chants of the Uttararchika, and that the Uttararchika also contains some songs for which the Archika teaches no melody. On the other hand, however, the Uttararchika is an essential completion of the Arcika- the latter is as it were, the first, the former the second course in the instruction of the Udgatar.
There are, attached to the Archika, a Gramageyajana (book of songs to be sung in the village) and an Aranyagana (book of forest songs). In the latter those melodies were collected, which were considered as dangerous and a taboo, and therefore, had to be learnt in the forest, not in the village. There are also two other books of songs, the Uhagana and the Uhyagana. These were composed for the purpose of giving the Samans in the order in which they were employed at the ritual, the Uhagana being connected with the Gramageyagana, the Uhyagana with the Aranyagana.
There is a ritual-book belonging to the Sama Veda, called Samavidhana Brahmana, the second part of which is a regular handbook of magic, in which the employment of various Samans for magic purposes is taught.
The seventy-five verses which do not occur in the Rig Veda, are partly found in other Samhitas, partly in various works on ritual; some may be taken from a recension unknown, but some are only pieced together out of sundry verses of the Rig Veda without any proper meaning. Both parts of the Samhita give us only the texts as they are spoken.
Metre of Hymns of Sama Veda
Most of these verses are composed in Gayatri metre or in Pragatha stanzas which are made up of Gayatri and Jagati lines, and doubtless the stanzas and songs composed in these metres were from the beginning intended for singing. Among the three types of verses that are generally found in the Vedas, Sama Veda generally consists of Sama verses.
Melody of Sama Veda
The melodies themselves, in any case in the earliest times, were taught by oral, and probably also instrumental rendering. Of later origin are the so-called Ganas or "song-books", which designate the melodies by means of musical notes, and in which the texts are drawn up in the form which they take in singing. i.e. with all the extensions of syllables, repetitions and interpolations of syllables and even of whole words- the so-called "stobhas," as hoyi, huva, hoi, and so on. The oldest notation is probably that by means of syllables, as ta, co, na, etc. More frequent, however, is the designation of the seven notes by means of the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7. When singing, the priests emphasize these various notes by means of movements of the hands and the fingers.
The number of known melodies must have been a very large one, and already at a very early period every melody had a special name. Not only are they often mentioned by these names in the ritual-books, but various symbolical meanings are also ascribed to them, and they play no insignificant part in the symbolism and mysticism of the Brahmanas
and Upanishads, especially a few of them, such as the two melodies " Brhat" and " Rathantara," which already appear in the Rig Veda. The priests and theologians certainly did not invent all these melodies themselves. The oldest of them were presumably popular melodies, to which very early times semi-religious songs were sung at solstice celebrations and other national festivals, and yet others date back as far as that music with which pre-Brahmanical wizard-priests accompanied their wild songs and rites. Traces of this popular origin of the Saman melodies are seen already in the above-mentioned Stobhas or shouts of joy, and especially in the fact that the melodies of the Sama Veda were looked upon as possessing magic power even as late as in Brahmanical times.
According to Mahabharata
Sama Veda is best among the four Vedas. The hymns of Sama Veda not only contain the deep meaning of the Rig Vedic Mantra but also add the musical dimension to it. In fact it can be said that Sama Veda is the foundation of music in the Indian land.