Shatapatha Brahmana

The Shatapatha Brahmana (IAST: Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, "Brāhmaṇa of one hundred parts") is a prose text describing Vedic rituals, history and mythology associated with the Śukla Yajurveda.[1]

The text describes in great detail the preparation of altars, ceremonial objects, ritual recitations, and the Soma libation, along with the symbolic attributes of every aspect of the rituals.

Linguistically, the Shatapatha Brahmana belongs to the later part of the Brāhmaṇa period of Vedic Sanskrit (i.e. roughly the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, Iron Age India).[2]

Michael Witzel dates this text to the 7th-6th centuries BCE.[3] Jan N. Bremmer dates it to around 700 BCE.[4] According to Julius Eggeling (who translated the Vājasaneyi mādhyandina recension to English), the final version of the text was committed in 300 BCE, although some of its portions are "far older, transmitted orally from unknown antiquity".[5]

Indian scholar Shankar Balakrishna Dixit dates the Shatapatha Brahmana to 3000 BCE, based on a statement in the text that the Krittikas (the open star cluster Pleiades) never deviate from the east. Dikshit interpretesd this statement to mean that the Krittikas rise exactly in the east, and calculated that the Krittikas were on the celestial equator at about 3000 BCE. American scholar David Pingree, a professor at the Brown University, argues that according to the Shatapatha Brahmana, only the Krittikas never deviate from the east, but several other nakshatras were also on the equator at about 3000 BCE. Based on this argument, Pingree rejects Dikshit's dating. B. N. Narahari Achar, professor at the University of Memphis, dismisses Pingree's objection as baseless, based on his analysis of the text and of the historical star positions using the SkyMap software. According to Achar, the Shatapatha Brahmana also states that the Saptarishis (the Big Dipper stars) rise in the north, which suggests that the authors of this statement in the text made their observation around 3000 BCE, from a location to the south of Delhi.[6]

It survives in two recensions - Vājasaneyi mādhyandina śākhā and Kāṇva śākhā, with the former having the eponymous 100 adhyāyas (chapters), 7,624 kāṇḍikās (parts) in 14 kāṇḍas (books), and the latter 104 adhyāyas, 6,806 kāṇḍikās in 17 kāṇḍas. The name given to the Vājasaneyi mādhyandina śākhā is due to its origin being ascribed to Yājñavalkya Vājasaneya whose opinions are considered authoritative and quoted prolifically in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, apart from those of Śāṇḍilya.

The 14 books of the Madhyandina recension can be divided into two major parts. The first 9 books have close textual commentaries, often line by line, of the first 18 books of the corresponding samhita of the Yajurveda. The following 5 books cover supplementary and ritualistically newer material, besides including the celebrated Bṛhad-Āraṇyaka Upaniṣad as most of the 14th and last book.

Among the points of interest in the text are its mythological sections, including the myths of creation and the Deluge of Manu.[7][8] The creation myth has several similarities to other creation myths, including the use of primordial water, the explanation of light and darkness, the separation of good and evil, and the explanation of time.

The Shatapatha Brahmana of Madhyandina School was translated into English by Julius Eggeling, in the late 19th century, in 5 volumes published as part of the Sacred Books of the East series.

The English translation of Kanva School was done by W.E. Caland in 3 parts.