The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद, IAST: Sāmaveda, from सामन्, "song" and वेद, "knowledge"), is the Veda of melodies and chants.[3] It is an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, and is one of the sacred scriptures in Hinduism. One of the four Vedas, it is a liturgical text which consists of 1,875 verses. All but 75 verses have been taken from the Rigveda.[4] Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.[5][6]

Four vedas
Four Vedas
ReligionHistorical Vedic religion
LanguageVedic Sanskrit
PeriodVedic period (c. 1200-900 BCE)[1]
Chapters6 adhyayas
Verses1,875 mantras[2]
Samaveda is a Hindu scripture in the Vedic Sanskrit language. Samaveda manuscripts exist in many Indic scripts. Above: Devanagari, Below: Grantha.

While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing samhita text dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, between c. 1200 and 1000 BCE or "slightly rather later," roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.[1][7] Along with the Samhita layer of text, the Samaveda includes Brahmana texts, and a final layer of the text that covers philosophical speculations (Upanishads). These layers of the compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, likely around the 6th century BCE.[8]

Embedded inside the Samaveda are the widely studied Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad. These Upanishads are considered as primary Upanishads and have had influence on the six schools of Hindu philosophy, particularly the Vedanta school.[9] The Samaveda laid important foundations for subsequent Indian music.[10]

It is also referred to as Sama Veda.[11]

Dating and historical context


Michael Witzel states that there is no absolute dating for Samaveda and other Vedic texts.[12] He estimates the composition of the samhita layer of the text chronologically after the Rigveda, and in the likely range of 1200 to 1000 BCE, roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.[12][1][7]

There were about a dozen styles of Samavedic chanting. Of the three surviving versions, the Jaiminiya preserves the oldest surviving tradition of Samavedic chanting.[13]


Geography of the Early Vedic period. Samaveda recensions from the Kauthuma (north India) and Jaiminiya (central India) regions are among those that have survived, and their manuscripts have been found in different parts of India.

The Samaveda is the Veda of Chants, or "storehouse of knowledge of chants".[14] According to Frits Staal, it is "the Rigveda set to music".[15] It is a fusion of older melodies (sāman) and the Rig verses.[15] It has far fewer verses than Rigveda,[6] but Samaveda is textually larger because it lists all the chant- and rituals-related score modifications of the verses.[15]

The Samaveda text contains notated melodies, and these are probably the world's oldest surviving ones.[13] The musical notation is written usually immediately above, sometimes within, the line of Samaveda text, either in syllabic or a numerical form depending on the Samavedic Sakha (school).[16]



R. T. H. Griffith says that there are three recensions of the text of the Samaveda Samhita:[5]



The Samaveda comprises two major parts. The first part include four melody collections and the second part three verse "books" .[4] A melody in the song books corresponds to a verse in the aarchika books.[4] The Gana collection is subdivided into Gramageya and Aranyageya, while the Arcika portion is subdivided into Purvarcika and Uttararcika portions.[17] The Purvarcika portion of the text has 585 single stanza verses and is organized in order of deities, while Uttararcika text is ordered by rituals.[17] The Gramageya melodies are those for public recitations, while Aranyageya melodies are for personal meditative use such as in the solitude of a forest.[17] Typically, the Purvarcika collection were sung to melodies described in the Gramageya-Gānas index, and the rules of how the verses mapped to verses is described in the Sanskrit texts such as the Puspasutra.[17]

Just like Rigveda, the early sections of Samaveda typically begin with Agni and Indra hymns but shift to abstract speculations and philosophy, and their meters too shifts in a descending order.[4] The later sections of the Samaveda, states Witzel, have least deviation from substance of hymns they derive from Rigveda into songs.[4] The purpose of Samaveda was liturgical, and they were the repertoire of the udgātṛ or "singer" priests.[4]

The Samaveda, like other Vedas, contains several layers of text, with Samhita being the oldest and the Upanishads the youngest layer.[18]

Vedic School Brahmana Upanishads Shrauta Sutras
Kauthuma-Ranayaniya Panchavimsha Brahmana Chandogya Upanishad Latyayana Drahyayana
Jaiminiya or Talavakara Jaiminiya Kena Upanishad
Jaiminiya Upanishad



The Samaveda consists of 1,549 unique verses, taken almost entirely from Rigveda, except for 75 verses.[4][19] The largest number of verse come from Books 9 and 8 of the Rig Veda.[20] Some of the Rigvedic verses are repeated more than once. Including these repetitions, there are a total of 1,875 verses numbered in the Samaveda recension translated by Griffith.[21]



Samaveda samhita is not meant to be read as a text, it is like a musical score sheet that must be heard.[3]

Staal states that the melodies likely existed before the verses in ancient India, and the words of the Rigveda verses were mapped into those pre-existing melodies, because some early words fit and flow, while later words do not quite fit the melody in the same verse.[3] The text uses creative structures, called Stobha, to help embellish, transform or play with the words so that they better fit into a desired musical harmony.[22][23] Some verses add in meaningless sounds of a lullaby, for probably the same reason, remarks Staal.[3] Thus the contents of the Samaveda represent a tradition and a creative synthesis of music, sounds, meaning and spirituality, the text was not entirely a sudden inspiration.[3]

The portion of the first song of Samaveda illustrates the link and mapping of Rigvedic verses into a melodic chant:[3]

The veena (vīṇā) is mentioned in Samaveda.[24]

अग्न आ याहि वीतये – Rigveda 6.16.10[25]
Agna ā yāhi vītaye

Samaveda transformation (Jaiminiya manuscript):
o gnā i / ā yā hi vā i / tā yā i tā yā i /

O Agni, come to the feast.

— Samaveda 1.1.1, Translated by Frits Staal[3]

Multiple melodies were created by clans of sages from a Yonimantra, which is a base Mantra for Sama Chanting. Gautama's Parka was one such example cited by Dr. Damodar Satwalekar in his book Samveda.[26]



Two primary Upanishads of Hinduism are embedded inside the Samaveda – the Chandogya Upanishad and the Kena Upanishad. Both are notable for the lifting metric melodic structure, but it is Chandogya which has played a historic role in the evolution of various schools of Hindu philosophy. The embedded philosophical premises in Chandogya Upanishad have, for example, served as foundation for Vedanta school of Hinduism.[9] It is one of the most cited texts in later Bhasyas (reviews and commentaries) by scholars from the diverse schools of Hinduism. Adi Shankara, for example, cited Chandogya Upanishad 810 times in his Vedanta Sutra Bhasya, more than any other ancient text.[27]

Chandogya Upanishad


The Chandogya Upanishad belongs to the Tandya school of the Samaveda.[28] Like Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad is an anthology of texts that must have pre-existed as separate texts, and were edited into a larger text by one or more ancient Indian scholars.[28] The precise chronology of Chandogya Upanishad is uncertain, but it is the youngest layer of text in the Samaveda, and it is variously dated to have been composed by 8th to 6th century BCE in India.[29][30]

The Chandogya text combines a metric, melodic structure with a wide range of speculations and philosophical topics. The text in eighth and ninth volumes of the first chapter, for example, describes the debate between three men proficient in Udgitha, about the origins and support of Udgitha and all of empirical existence.[31] The text summarizes their discussion as,

What is the origin of this world?[32]
Space, said he. Verily, all things here arise out of space. They disappear back into space, for space alone is greater than these, space is the final goal.
This is the most excellent Udgitha. This is endless. The most excellent is his, the most excellent worlds does he win, who, knowing it thus, reveres the most excellent Udgitha (Om, ).

— Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1-1.9.2[31]

Max Muller notes that the term "space" above, was later asserted in the Vedanta Sutra verse 1.1.22 to be a symbolism for the Vedic concept of Brahman.[32] Paul Deussen explains the term Brahman means the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world".[33] The text discusses Dharma and many other topics:

There are three branches of Dharma (righteous life, duty): Yajna (sacrifice), Svādhyāya (self study) and Dāna (charity) are the first,
Tapas (austerity, meditation) is the second, while dwelling as a Brahmacharya for education in the house of a teacher is third,
All three achieve the blessed worlds. But the Brahmasamstha – one who is firmly grounded in Brahman – alone achieves immortality.

— Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.1[34][35][36]

Kena Upanishad


The Kena Upanishad is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam recension of the Samaveda.[37][38] It is much shorter, but it too delves into philosophical and spiritual questions like the Chandogya Upanishad. In the fourth chapter, the Kena Upanishad states, for example, that all beings have an innate longing for spiritual knowledge, for self-awareness.[39] This knowledge of Atman-Brahman is Tadvanam (transcendental happiness, blissfulness).[40] In the final paragraphs, Kena Upanishad asserts ethical life as the foundation of self-knowledge and of Atman-Brahman.

Tapas,[41] Damah,[42] Work - these are the foundations, the Vedas are the limbs of the same, the Truth is its fulcrum.

— Kena Upanishad, 4.8 (paragraph 33)[43]

Manuscripts and translations


The Kauthuma recension has been published (Samhita, Brahmana, Shrautasutra and ancillary Sutras, mainly by B.R. Sharma), parts of the Jaiminiya tradition remain unpublished.[44] There is an edition of the first part of the Samhita by W. Caland[45] and of the Brahmana by Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra,[46] as well as the neglected Upanishad,[47] but only parts of the Shrautasutra. The song books remain unpublished.[48]

A German edition of Samaveda was published in 1848 by Theodor Benfey,[49] and Satyavrata Samashrami published an edited Sanskrit version in 1873.[50] A Russian translation was published by Filipp Fortunatov in 1875.[51] An English translation was published by Ralph Griffith in 1893.[52] A translation in Hindi by Mridul Kirti called "Samveda Ka Hindi Padyanuvad" has also been published recently.[citation needed]

The Samaveda text has not received as much attention as the Rigveda, because outside of the musical novelty and melodic creativity, the substance of all but 75 verses of the text have predominantly been derived from the Rigveda. A study of Rigveda suffices.[53]

Cultural influence


The Indian classical music and dance, states Guy Beck, is rooted in the sonic and musical dimensions of the Sama Veda, along with the Upanishads and Agamas.[10] The Samaveda, in addition to singing and chanting, mentions instruments. The rules and suggestions for playing various instruments form a separate compilation, called the Gandharva-Veda, and this Upaveda is attached to the Samaveda.[10][54] The structure and theory of chants in the Samaveda have inspired the organizing principle for Indian classical arts and performances, and this root has been widely acknowledged by musicologists dealing with the history of Indian music.[10][55]

Our music tradition [Indian] in the North as well as in the South, remembers and cherishes its origin in the Samaveda... the musical version of the Rigveda.

— V. Raghavan, [10]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Witzel 2001, p. 6.
  2. ^ "Construction of the Vedas". VedicGranth.Org.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 107-112
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Michael Witzel (1997), "The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu" in Inside the Texts, Beyond the Texts: New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas, Harvard University Press, pages = 269-270
  5. ^ a b Griffith, R. T. H. The Sāmaveda Saṃhitā, ISBN 978-1419125096, page vi
  6. ^ a b James Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics at Google Books, Vol. 7, Harvard Divinity School, TT Clark, pages 51-56
  7. ^ a b Dalal 2014, "The Rig Veda is considered later than the Rig Veda".
  8. ^ Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press; ISBN 978-0195124354, pp. 12-13
  9. ^ a b Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, pages LXXXVI-LXXXIX, 1-144 with footnotes
  10. ^ a b c d e Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, pages 107-108
  11. ^ John Stevenson, Translation of the Sanhita of the Sama Veda, p. PR12, at Google Books, page XII
  12. ^ a b Michael Witzel (2003), "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Editor: Gavin Flood), Blackwell, ISBN 0-631215352, pages 68-70
  13. ^ a b Bruno Nettl, Ruth M. Stone, James Porter and Timothy Rice (1999), The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Routledge, ISBN 978-0824049461, pages 242-245
  14. ^ Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, page xvi-xvii, Quote: "The Vedas are an Oral Tradition and that applies especially to two of the four: the Veda of the Verse (Rigveda) and the Veda of Chants (Samaveda). (...) The Vedas are not a religion in any of the many senses of that widespread term. They have always been regarded as storehouses of knowledge, that is: veda."
  15. ^ a b c Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 4-5
  16. ^ KR Norman (1979), Sāmavedic Chant by Wayne Howard (Book Review), Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, page 524;
    Wayne Howard (1977), Samavedic Chant, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300019568
  17. ^ a b c d Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, page 230 note 85
  18. ^ a b Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 80, 74-81
  19. ^ Axel Michaels (2004), Hinduism: Past and Present, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08953-1, page 51
  20. ^ Michael Witzel (2003), "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Editor: Gavin Flood), Blackwell, ISBN 0-631215352, page 76
  21. ^ For 1875 total verses, see numbering given in Ralph T. H. Griffith. Griffith's introduction mentions the recension history for his text. Repetitions may be found by consulting the cross-index in Griffith pp. 491-99.
  22. ^ R Simon and JM van der Hoogt, Studies on the Samaveda North Holland Publishing Company, pages 47-54, 61-67
  23. ^ Frits Staal (1996), Ritual and Mantras, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814127, pages 209-221
  24. ^ Guy Beck (1993), Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0872498556, pages 107-109
  25. ^ ६.१६ ॥१०॥ Wikisource, Rigveda 6.16.10;
    अग्न आ याहि वीतये गृणानो हव्यदातये ।
    नि होता सत्सि बर्हिषि ॥१०॥
  26. ^ "Illustration on Samveda Musical Notes". August 2020.
  27. ^ Paul Deussen, The System of Vedanta, ISBN 978-1432504946, pages 30-31
  28. ^ a b Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, page 166-169
  29. ^ Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, page 12-13
  30. ^ Stephen Phillips (2009), Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231144858, Chapter 1
  31. ^ a b Robert Hume, Chandogya Upanishad 1.8.7 - 1.8.8, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pages 185-186
  32. ^ a b Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, page 17 with footnote 1
  33. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 91
  34. ^ Chandogya Upanishad with Shankara Bhashya Ganganath Jha (Translator), pages 103-116
  35. ^ Max Muller, Chandogya Upanishad Twenty Third Khanda, The Upanishads, Part I, Oxford University Press, page 35 with footnote
  36. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 97-98 with preface and footnotes
  37. ^ Johnston, Charles (1920-1931), The Mukhya Upanishads, Kshetra Books, ISBN 9781495946530 (Reprinted in 2014)
  38. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 207-213
  39. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 208
  40. ^ Kena Upanishad Mantra 6, G Prasadji (Translator), pages 32-33
  41. ^ Meditation, Penance, Inner heat, See: WO Kaelber (1976), "Tapas", Birth, and Spiritual Rebirth in the Veda, History of Religions, 15(4), pages 343-386
  42. ^ Self-restraint, see: M Heim (2005), Differentiations in Hindu ethics, in William Schweiker (Editor), The Blackwell companion to religious ethics, ISBN 0631216340, pages 341-354
  43. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 211-213
  44. ^ A. Parpola. The literature and study of the Jaiminīya Sāmaveda. In retrospect and prospect. Studia Orientalia XLIII:6. Helsinki 1973
  45. ^ W. Caland, Die Jaiminīya-Saṃhitā mit einer Einleitung über die Sāmaveda-literatur. Breslau 1907
  46. ^ Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra. 1954. Jaiminīya-Brāhmaṇa of the Sāmaveda. (Sarasvati-Vihara Series 31.) Nagpur. 2nd revised ed., Delhi 1986
  47. ^ H. Oertel. The Jaiminīya or Talavakāra Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa. Text, translation, and notes. JAOS 16,1895, 79–260
  48. ^ A. Parpola. The decipherment of the Samavedic notation of the Jaiminīyas. Finnish Oriental Society 1988
  49. ^ Theodor Benfey, Die Hymnen des Samaveda FA Brockhaus, Leipzig
  50. ^ Satyavrata Samashrami, Sama Veda Sanhita at Google Books
  51. ^ [bare URL]
  52. ^ Griffith, Ralph T. H. The Sāmaveda Saṃhitā. Text, Translation, Commentary & Notes in English. Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith. First published 1893; Revised and enlarged edition, enlarged by Nag Sharan Singh and Surendra Pratap, 1991 (Nag Publishers: Delhi, 1991) ISBN 81-7081-244-5; This edition provides the text in Devanagari with full metrical marks needed for chanting.
  53. ^ SW Jamison and M Witzel (1992), Vedic Hinduism, Harvard University, page 8
  54. ^ H Falk (1992), Samaveda und Gandharva (German language), in Ritual, State, and History in South Asia (Editors: Heesterman et al), BRILL, ISBN 978-9004094673, pages 141-158
  55. ^ SS Janaki (1985), The role of Sanskrit in the Development of Indian Music, Journal of the Music Academy, Vol. 56, pages 67, 66-97