Introduction in Vedāṅgas

Many use Vedic Astrology and Jyotiṣa as synonyms. However, the latter is one of the vedāṅgas. Hence understanding the context of these so-called ‘six ancillary studies of the vedas‘ is pivotal for anyone wanting to understand Jyotiṣa.

The vedāṅgas are often referred to as the last treatises of the Vedic era and we called into life to preserve the Vedic knowledge. They are mentioned in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (around 700 BCE) as an integral part of the Brāhmaṇas layer of the Vedic texts. It is quite likely that they developed in this same period.

This was the end of the Vedic era. Vedāṅgas emerged this period because the understanding of the Vedic texts composed many centuries earlier became difficult. Hence, more structured education became needed. Pāṇinīya Sikşā (verse 41-42) describes the vedāṅgas as a puruśa (cosmic man) having six limbs:

VedāṅgaDescriptionLimbs
ŚikṣāPhonologyNose
ChandasPoetic metersTwo feet
Vyākaraṇa Grammar and linguistic studyMouth
NiruktaEtymologyEars
KalpaRitualsTwo arms
JyotiṣaMathematics, astronomy, palmistry, interpretation of omens and Horā (astrological interpretive principles)Eyes

The place of Vedāṅgas in time and spiritual evolving

In the Nirukta text (5th century BC) the eight siddhi for attainment (attainments, perfection) are defined. This passage has drawn special attention from scholars because it seems to refer to the origin of the Vedas. In the context of Jyotiṣa, the place of the vedāṅgas is also noteworthy.

In summary, it states the following: The first attainment named “comprehension” (ūha) takes place when one attains the desired aim of discernment only, i.e. this is without interference of perceptions, inference and authoritative verbal testimony.

This first attainment is called tāraka for it causes one to cross over the ocean of saṁsāra.

When one is obstructed in attaining in this way, the upadeśa of a Guru is required, which is called the second siddhi. And when this attainment is not possible, then one can attain through study.

In a similar sequence, it is said that there were once ṝṣis who had a direct insight into the nature of things. They handed down mantras by upadeśa to “the later ones” who were destitute of a direct insight into nature.

These “later ones”, compiled the vedas and developed the vedāṅgas for grasping a thorough understanding (Lucyszyna, 2020 in International Journal of Hindu Studies)).

Hence, the purpose of Jyotiṣa, being one of the vedāṅgas, is to help humankind to gain true understanding of the vedas through study.

~ Om Tat Sat ~

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