The Sama Veda, or Veda of Holy Songs, third in the usual order of enumeration of the three Vedas, ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rig Veda. The word Sama is derived from the word ‘saman’ meaning ‘destroying sin’. It’s metrical portion, consists chiefly of hymns to be chanted by the Udgatar priests at the performance of important sacrifices. The collection is made up of hymns, portions of hymns, and detached verses, taken mainly from the Rig Veda, transposed and re-arranged, without reference to their original order, to suit the religious ceremonies in which they were to be employed. In these compiled hymns there are frequent variations of more or less importance, from the text of the Rig Veda as we now possess it with variations, although in some cases they are apparently explanatory, seen in others to be older and more original than the readings of the Rig Veda. In singing, the verses are still further altered by prolongation, repetition and insertion of syllables, and various modulations, rests and other modifications prescribed, for the guidance of the officiating priests, in the ganas or song-books.
The Sama Veda contains the melodies or music for the chants used from the Rig Veda for the sacrifices. These are considered the origin of Indian music and probably stimulated great artistry to make the sacrifices worthwhile to their patrons who supported the priests. Classical Indian music is said to have been born from the chants of the Sama Veda.
The Sama Veda chants were used extensively in agricultural rites and in the soma rituals, in which the juice of the soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients, was offered in libation to various deities.
The Sama Veda represents the ecstasy of spiritual knowledge and the power of devotion.
The Sama Veda is represented by three recensions:
The Kauthuma Samaveda has been traditionally associated with Gujarat. Today, it is prevalent in North India, and in Tanjavur in South India.
The Ranayaniya rescension does not differ mush textually from the Kauthuma recension. This is extant among the Havik brahmanas of northern Karnataka.
Jaiminiya or Talavakara
The Jaiminiya Sama Veda is extant today primarily among the Nambudiri Brahmin community in Kerala.