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Kanva Samhita – Origin – Facts

 Kanva Samhita is the older of the two extant sakhas (recensions) of Shukla Yajurveda. Kanva Samhita and Madhyandina Samhita differ slightly in arrangement, variants and phonetics. Thus there are only slight variations in the patha (text) at certain places; otherwise, the subjects, as well as the sequence, in both the sakhas are the same. Kanva Sakha is more in vogue in South India while Madhyandina Sakha prevails more in the North.

According to tradition, Shukla Yajurveda was acquired by Maharishi Yajnavalkya from the Sun God, because he (Yajnavalkya) was dissatisfied with the Krishna Yajurveda School of Vaisampayana. He discarded the prose part and kept only the verses in his Samhita. Yajnavalkya first taught it to his fifteen disciples, who were regarded as responsible for founding fifteen different recensions. Of these fifteen, only two have survived.

Traditionally the Kanva recension tops the list of the fifteen recensions, but Madhyandina has gained a larger number of followers.

Being Samhitas of Shukla Yajurveda, Madhyandina and Kanva recensions collect the Yajus (and Rk) formulae (mantra) to be utilized by the adhvaryu priest in the performances of Vedic sacrifices. Unlike Krishna Yajurveda, they are not co-mingled with the Puranic texts.

Kanva Samhita is divided into the adhyayas which are subdivided into anuvakas each collecting the number of mantras just enough to complete the relevant sacrificial act.

Kanva Samhita collects the formulae for the following sacrifices – Darsha, Paurnamasa, Adhana, Agnihotra and Agnyupasthana, Chaturmasya, Agnistoma, including Pasu, Vajapeya, Rajasuya, Sautramani, Ashwamedha, Sarva Medha, Purusha Medha and Pravargya.