Book: Hindu Dharma, Written by Swami Chandrashekarendra
The Vedas -- Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvanaveda -- are the
first four of the pramanas (authoritative texts) of our religion and
most important. Of the remaining ten, six are Angas of the Vedas and
four are Upangas.
Man possesses a number of angas or limbs. In the same way the Vedas
personified -- the Vedapurusa -- has six limbs. (It must be noted that
Vedas are also spoken of as Vedamatha, Mother Veda.) The four
Upangas, though not integral to the Vedas, are supporting limbs of the
Vedapurusa. The Angas, as already stated, are six in number -- Siksa,
Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyotisa and Kalpa. The four Upangas are
Mimamsa, Nyaya, Purana and Dharmasastra.
The Vedas are fundamental importance; the Angas and Upangas derive
their importance from them. Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Arthasasthra and
Gandharvaveda are called Upavedas, subsidiary Vedas. Their connection
with the prime scripture is thus obvious.
The Vedas must be learned along with the Angas and Upangas. Such a
thourough study of the scripture is called "Sa-Anga-Upanga-adhyayana"
(study of the Vedas with the Angas and Upangas). The term
"sangopanga", which has come into popular usage, is derived from this.
a speaker deals with a subject thoroughly, whether it be politics or
something else, we use the word "sangopanga" in describing his
performance. The term refers to the ancient caturdasa-vidya (the six
Angas plus the four upangas). We have totally forgotten the old system
education but our culture is so steeped in it that we still use the term
(sangopanga) to refer to any full scale treatment or exposition of a
subject. The inference is clear. That for centuries the Vedas, together
with their Angas and Upangas formed such an intimate part of life in
Tamil land that a term associated with this tradition, "sangopanga", is
used by the common people there. But the irony of it is that today we do
not know even the names of these old sastras.
The Vedas form the core of our religion and are the direct authority for
our dharma and for all our religious practices. They are our Bible, our
Qur'"an, our Granth sahib. But, of course, the Vedas are far far older
these scriptures of other faiths. All of them originate from truths
the Vedas. The very word "Veda" connotes what is authoritative. There is
a practice of reffering to the Bible, the Quran and other scriptures as
"Christian Veda", "Mohammedan Veda", "Parsi Veda", "Sikh Veda" and so
on. Christians in India refer to the Bible as "Satya-Veda".
It is rather difficult to speak about the Vedas as a topic. One does not
know where to begin and how to conclude. It is a bewildering task. The
magnitude of our scripture is such -- and such is its glory.
"Pramanam Vedasca", says the Apastamba Dharmasutra. The Vedas are
indeed the sources of all dharmas as well as the authority on which they
are founded. A book that has been cherished by the great men of the
Tamil country from the earliest times is Manu-dharma-nul (Manusmriti).
Throughout India, Manu's dharmasastra is held in the highest esteem. In
Tamil Nadu there was a king who earned the name of "Manu-niti-kanda-
Cola" for the exemplary manner in which he administered justice. Once a
calf got crushed under the wheel of the chariot ridden by his son. The
king was so fair and strict that, when the aggrieved cow, the mother of
the calf, sought justice, he ordered his son to be crished to death
the wheel of the same chariot. For us "Manu-niti-sastra"(Manusmriti) is
the authority on dharma. But does it claim that it is the authority for
dharma? No. "Vedokhilo dharmamulam", says Manu, i. e. the Vedas
constitute the root of all dharma. They prescribe the dharma for all
We must obey the dictates of the Vedas. When we are asked to accept a
statement without questioning it, it is customary to remark; "Is that
word of the Vedas?” This confirms the fact that the common people
believe that the word of the Vedas, or their injunction, must be obeyed
without being questioned. The "Vedavak" (the word or pronouncement
of the Vedas) has been our inviolable law for thousands of years.