The word “Yajus” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yaj” which means “prayer” or “worship”. The word “Yajna” is also derived from this very root. We saw in the earlier post (click here) on the Rig Veda that the word “Rig” is derived from “Rik” which means a hymn or shloka.
The Yajur Veda systematizes the hymns of the Rig Veda (Riks) into a practical and practicable form – yajnas and procedures of worship and prayer. In summary, that which is chanted in Rig Veda is performed via Yajur Veda.
The two main branches of the Yajur Veda (there are many, as we have seen in an earlier post Click to read) are Shukla Yajur Veda and Krishna Yajur Veda (Shukla = White and Krishna = Black). The Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita is also known as the Vajasaneyi Samhita.
“Vaajasani” is one of the names of the “Sun-god”. There is an interesting story connected to this name and how it came about. When Veda Vyasa finished compiling and collating the Vedas into four, Yajur Veda had only one branch/version – he taught this Yajur Veda to Sage Vaisampayana who in turn taught it to Sage Yajnavalkya. There was a falling out between Teacher and pupil and Sage Vaisampayana ordered that Yajnavalkya must return all the knowledge (of the Yajurveda) back to him, essentially robbing Yajnavalkya of the right to propagate the knowledge of the Yajur Veda to others.
Sage Yajnavalkya not one to take things lying down meditated on the Supreme deity embodied as the Sun (Surya) god and came up with his own version of the Yajur Veda which came to be know as the Shukla Yajur Veda or the Vajasaneyi Samhita. Since Yajnavalkya’s Yajur Veda came to be known as Shukla Yajur Veda, Vaisampayana’s came to be known as Krishna Yajur Veda.
The Yajur Veda provides procedural and explanatory details of the Vedic Karmas and rituals including Somayaga, Darsha Poornamasas, Vaajapeya, Rajasuya, and Ashwamedha.
Most importantly the Sri Rudram in vogue today is the one present in the Yajur Veda. Although a few suktas from the Rudram are present in the Rig and Saama Veda as well, the Sri Rudram in vogue today and that which is chanted, only refers to the one in the Yajur Veda.
It is because of this that the great Saivite saint Appayya Dikshitar lamented that he should have been born in the Yajur Veda instead of the Saama Veda.
Similarly the Purusha Sukta present in the Rig Veda is also present in the Yajur Veda with minor differences between the two versions. However, when the Purusha Sukta is mentioned, it refers only to the version in the Yajur Veda.
Yajur Veda also holds a special significance for the followers of the Advaita philosophy (non-dualism). As per Sanatana Dharma, any Siddhanta (philosophy), should contain:
- A Sutra (Aphorism, definition)
- A Bhaashya (Commentary)
- A Vaartika (Explanatory notes, clearer and expanded elucidation of the sutra and the Bhaashya)
Sureshwaraacharya, a direct disciple of Adi Sankaracharya wrote the Vaartika i.e. explanatory notes on the Bhaashya i.e. commentary written by Sankara on two of the Upanishads pertaining to the Krishna Yajurveda – The Taitrriya Upanishad and the Brihadaranyaaka Upanishad.
This is the reason the Yajur Veda holds a special place in the minds of Advaitins