Definition - What does Vedanga mean?

Vedanga can be literally translated as "the limbs of the Vedas," referring to the six disciplines associated with studying the ancient Indian spiritual texts, the Vedas. These texts laid the foundation for both yoga and Hinduism.

These six "limbs" can together support the study, preservation and interpretation of the Vedas. In ancient India, where they developed, they were designed to provide students of the Vedas with a holistic and integrated understanding of the scriptures.

Although it is unclear when the list of the six Vedangas was collated, it is likely around the middle of the 1st millennium B.C.E. They were possibly necessary because, by this time, the language of the earlier Vedas would have been archaic and difficult for scholars of the time to understand.

Yogapedia explains Vedanga

The Vedangas give insights into the meters, structure, language and meaning of the Vedas, as well as helping to understand other post-Vedic texts and aspects of Hindu and yogic philosophy.

The six Vedangas are:

  1. Shiksha - the study of phonology, phonetics and pronunciation. This focuses on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, as well as the way that words are combined and expressed in a Vedic recitation.
  2. Chhandas - the study of prosody, which looks at poetic meter. This incorporates analyzing the number of syllables per verse, and any fixed patterns within them.
  3. Vyarkarana - the analysis of grammar and linguistics, in order to establish the precise way in which words and sentences were constructed to express ideas.
  4. Nirukta - the study of etymology, particularly with regard to explaining the meaning of words that are archaic.
  5. Kalpa - the focus on ritual instructions. This field looks at procedures described for rites of passage, weddings, births and other rituals associated with life events. It also explores concepts of individual duty and proper conduct.
  6. Jyotisha - the study of auspicious times, which draws on the Vedic practice of using astrology and astronomy to guide rituals and timekeeping.

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