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Gopatha Brahmana In Hinduism

Gopatha Brahmana is the second of the four parts of Atharva Veda dealing with various subjects. It is the only Brahmana text belonging to both the shakhas (recensions) of Atharva Veda, viz., Saunaka and Paippalada, which have been retrieved in the course of time.

Date Of Gopatha Brahmana

The text is, in all probability, named after the seer Gopatha. The text, as it has come down to us, does not bear any accent marks. No commentary on the Gopatha Brahmana is available. It is one of the late Brahmana texts. The exact dating of Gopatha Brahmana, however, is unclear, but the nucleus of the Brahmana might have belonged to the period before Panini, i.e. 7th century BC.

Contents Of Gopatha Brahmana

Gopatha Brahmana is divided into two parts – the purva bhaga (first half) in five praparhakas and the uttara bhaga (latter half) in six prapathakas. Each prapathaka is further subdivided into kandikas.

The Purvabhaga shows more originality especially in the glorification of the Atharvan and its priests. One section of the Purvabhaga (I.1-15) discusses Atharvanic cosmology in Upanishadic manner. The following section (1.16-30) is almost identical with Pranava Upanishad and the subsequent section (1.31-30) is an exposition of the Gayatri or Savitri mantra.

The Uttarabhaga is much less original, heavily borrowing from many older Vedic texts, such as Aitareya, Kaushitaki and Satapatha Brahmana. In some of the legends, Atharvanic coloring is given by introducing Atharvanic personages, e.g. seers Idhma Angirasa and Barhi Angirasa. In many respects, the subject matter differs from that of other Brahmana texts.

In chronological order, Gopatha Brahmana is believed to be later than Kaushikasutra, which is also called Samhitavidhi, since it is concerned with the recitation of Atharva Veda Samhita.

Among the topics dealt with in Gopatha Brahmana, mention may be made of:
  1. Importance of observing Brahmacharya and the duties of brahmacharin
  2. Anecdotes of Janamejaya, son of Parikshita.
  3. Advantages of the sacrifice with cooked rice
  4. Procedures and requirements of agniyadhana (establishment of sacrificial fires)
  5. Ordination of four types of priests – Brahmin, udgatr, hotrs and advaryu.
  6. Various vedic sacrifices and ceremonies
  7. Origin of nakshatras
  8. Victory of the devas over asuras
  9. Implication and efficacy of the mystic sound vasat
  10. Application of various types of hymns.
  • Gopatha Brahmana (1919) Dieuke Gaastra, Leiden E J Brill
  • Vedic Literature: Samhitas and Brahmanas (1975) Jan Gonda – Wiesbaden Otto Harrasowitz
  • Gopatha Brahmana (1872) Rajendralal Mitra and Harachandra Vidyabhushana – Asiatic Society Of Bengal Kolkata.
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 332 – IHRF