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Vedic chant

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v t e
The oral tradition of the Vedas (Srauta) consists of several pathas, recitations or
ways of chanting the Vedic mantras. Such traditions of Vedic chant are often
considered the oldest unbroken oral tradition in existence, the fixation of the
Vedic texts (samhitas) as preserved dating to roughly the time of Homer (early Iron
Age).[1]

UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of Vedic chant a Masterpiece of the Oral and
Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003. Wayne Howard noted in the
preface of his book, Veda Recitation in Varanasi, The four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama
and Atharva) are not 'books' in the usual sense, though within the past hundred
years each veda has appeared in several printed editions. They are comprised rather
of tonally accented verses and hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper
realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission. They are robbed of their
essence when transferred to paper, for without the human element the innumerable
nuances and fine intonations inseparable and necessary components of all four
compilations are lost completely. The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is
never the printed page but rather the few members ... who are today keeping the
centuries-old traditions alive.[2]

Contents [hide]
1 Pathas
2 Oral transmission
3 Divine sound
4 See also
5 Notes
6 References
7 External links
Pathas[edit]
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v t e
The various pathas or recitation styles are designed to allow the complete and
perfect memorization of the text and its pronunciation, including the Vedic pitch
accent. Eleven such ways of reciting the Vedas were designed - Samhita, Pada,
Krama, Jata, Maalaa, Sikha, Rekha, Dhwaja, Danda, Rathaa, Ghana, of which Ghana is
usually considered the most difficult.[3]

The students are first taught to memorize the Vedas using simpler methods like
continuous recitation (samhita patha), word by word recitation (pada patha) in
which compounds (sandhi) are dissolved and krama patha (words are arranged in the
pattern of ab bc cd ...); before teaching them the eight complex recitation styles.
[4]

A pathin is a scholar who has mastered the pathas. Thus, a ghanapaathin has learnt
the chanting of the scripture up to the advanced stage of ghana. The Ghanapatha or
the Bell mode of chanting is so called because the words are repeated back and
forth in a bell shape. The sonority natural to Vedic chanting is enhanced in Ghana.
In Jatapatha, the words are braided together, so to speak, and recited back and
forth.[5]

The samhita, pada and krama pathas can be described as the natural recitation
styles or prakrutipathas. The remaining 8 modes of chanting are classified as
complex recitation styles or Vikrutipathas as they involve reversing of the word
order. The backward chanting of words does not alter the meanings in the Vedic
(Sanskrit) language.[5]

Oral transmission[edit]
Prodigious energy was expended by ancient Indian culture in ensuring that these
texts were transmitted from generation to generation with inordinate fidelity.[1]
[6] Many forms of recitation or pathas were designed to aid accuracy in recitation
and the transmission of the Vedas and other knowledge texts from one generation to
the next. All hymns in each Veda were recited in this way; for example, all 1,028
hymns with 10,600 verses of the Rigveda was preserved in this way. Each text was
recited in a number of ways, to ensure that the different methods of recitation
acted as a cross check on the other. Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat summarizes this as
follows[7]

Samhita-patha continuous recitation of Sanskrit words bound by the phonetic rules


of euphonic combination;
Pada-patha a recitation marked by a conscious pause after every word, and after any
special grammatical codes embedded inside the text; this method suppresses euphonic
combination and restores each word in its original intended form;
Krama-patha a step-by-step recitation where euphonically-combined words are paired
successively and sequentially and then recited; for example, a hymn word1 word2
word3 word4 ..., would be recited as word1word2 word2word3 word3word4 ...; this
method to verify accuracy is credited to Vedic sages Gargya and Sakalya in the
Hindu tradition and mentioned by the ancient Sanskrit grammarian Panini (dated to
pre-Buddhism period);
Krama-patha modified the same step-by-step recitation as above, but without
euphonic-combinations (or free form of each word); this method to verify accuracy
is credited to Vedic sages Babhravya and Galava in the Hindu tradition, and is also
mentioned by the ancient Sanskrit grammarian Panini;
Jata-pa?ha, dhvaja-pa?ha and ghana-pa?ha are methods of recitation of a text and
its oral transmission that developed after 5th century BCE, that is after the start
of Buddhism and Jainism; these methods use more complicated rules of combination
and were less used.
These extraordinary retention techniques guaranteed the most perfect canon not just
in terms of unaltered word order but also in terms of sound.[8] That these methods
have been effective, is testified to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian
religious text, the ?gveda (ca. 1500 BCE).[7]
Example of a text with 9 words in different patas are mentioned below

Name Example Remarks


ja?a ?? 1 2 2 1 1 2 ~
2 3 3 2 2 3 ~

3 4 4 3 3 4 ~

4 5 5 4 4 5 ~

5 6 6 5 5 6 ~

6 7 7 6 6 7 ~

7 8 8 7 7 8 ~

8 9 9 8 8 9 ~

9 _ _ 9 9 _ ~

I+1 I+2 I+2 I+1 I+1 I+2


mala ??? 1 2 ~ 2 1 ~ 1 2 ~
2 3 ~ 3 2 ~ 2 3 ~

3 4 ~ 4 3 ~ 3 4 ~

4 5 ~ 5 4 ~ 4 5 ~

5 6 ~ 6 5 ~ 5 6 ~

6 7 ~ 7 6 ~ 6 7 ~

7 8 ~ 8 7 ~ 7 8 ~

8 9 ~ 9 8 ~ 8 9 ~

9 _ ~ _ 9 ~ 9 _ ~

I+1 I+2 ~ I+2 I+1 ~ I+1 I+2


sikha ??? 1 2 ~ 2 1 ~ 1 2 3 ~
2 3 ~ 3 2 ~ 2 3 4 ~

3 4 ~ 4 3 ~ 3 4 5 ~

4 5 ~ 5 4 ~ 4 5 6 ~

5 6 ~ 6 5 ~ 5 6 7 ~

6 7 ~ 7 6 ~ 6 7 8 ~

7 8 ~ 8 7 ~ 7 8 9 ~

8 9 ~ 9 8 ~ 8 9 _ ~

9 _ ~ _ 9 ~ 9 _ _ ~

I+1 I+2 ~ I+2 I+1 ~ I+1 I+2 I+3


rekha ??? 1 2 ~ 2 1 ~ 1 2 ~
2 3 4 ~ 4 3 2 ~ 2 3 ~
3 4 5 6 ~ 6 5 4 3 ~ 3 4 ~

4 5 6 7 8 ~ 8 7 6 5 4 ~ 4 5 ~

5 6 7 8 9 ~ 9 8 7 6 5 ~ 5 6 ~

6 7 8 9 ~ 9 8 7 6 ~ 6 7 ~

7 8 9 ~ 9 8 7 ~ 7 8 ~

8 9 ~ 9 8 ~ 8 9 ~

9 ~ 9 ~ 9 _ ~