Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/45

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

It results from what has been said that the contrasts between the two older phases of Vedic literature are strongly marked. The Vedas are poetical in matter and form; the Brāhmaṇas are prosaic and written in prose. The thought of the Vedas is on the whole natural and concrete; that of the Brāhmaṇas artificial and abstract. The chief significance of the Vedas lies in their mythology; that of the Brāhmaṇas in their ritual.

The subject-matter of the Brāhmaṇas which are attached to the various Vedas, differs according to the divergent duties performed by the kind of priest connected with each Veda. The Brāhmaṇas of the Rigveda, in explaining the ritual, usually limit themselves to the duties of the priest called hotṛi or "reciter," on whom it was incumbent to form the canon (çastra) for each particular rite, by selecting from the hymns the verses applicable to it. The Brāhmaṇas of the Sāma-veda are concerned only with the duties of the udgātṛi or "chanter" of the Sāmans; the Brāhmaṇas of the Yajur-veda with those of the adhvaryu, or the priest who is the actual sacrificer. Again, the Brāhmaṇas of the Rigveda more or less follow the order of the ritual, quite irrespectively of the succession of the hymns in the Veda itself. The Brāhmaṇas of the Sāma- and the Yajur-veda, on the other hand, follow the order of their respective Vedas, which are already arranged in the ritual sequence. The Brāhmaṇa of the Sāma-veda, however, rarely explains individual verses, while that of the Yajur-veda practically forms a running commentary on all the verses of the text.

The period of the Brāhmaṇas is a very important one in the history of Indian society. For in it the system of the four castes assumed definite shape, fur-