‘Yajur Veda’ (translates to “the knowledge of sacrificial formulae (yajus)”) one of the four Vedas of ancient Hinduism. ‘The word ‘Yajur’ means ‘Sacrificial Formula’ and ‘Veda’ means ‘Knowledge’. In its character, Yajurveda is quite different from the Rigveda (1st section of the vedas) & Samaveda Samhitas (melodies). It is said to have composed between circa. 1400 to 1000BC making it the 2nd oldest Veda. It is more pronouncedly a ritual Veda, essentially a guide-book for the Adhvaryu priests who have to perform all sacrificial rituals, and contains the mantras needed to perform.
There are two primary versions of the Yajur Veda: Shukla (white) and Krishna (black), the most important feature of the Yajur Veda is that it supplies the formulae for the entire sacrificial ceremony. Although we must be mindful of The Krishna Yajur Veda, which is different from the Yajur Veda and includes Brahmana prose discussions within the Samhita (a collection of mantras). The Yajur Veda is also important for its presentation of philosophical doctrines. It preaches the concept of Prana (the term is used in Hindu and Yogic philosophy to refer to all the manifest energy in the universe, present in both living beings and inanimate objects; also a form of vedic yoga) and Manas (the mind).
There are two ways of performing the yajus; one is by muttering the prayer which is called yajus and the second is by chanting the prayer out loud, which is called nigada (Alper 6). Within the formulae there are mantras associated with each ritual (Sharma 185). The Vajasaneyi-Samhita gives a vivid description of many important rituals such as – Darsha-purnamasa, Agnihotra, Somayaga, Chaturmasya, Agnihotra, Vajapeya, Ashvamedha, Sarva-medha, Brahma-yajya, Pitrimedha, Sautramani, and so on. Embedded as the final chapter of the Shukla Yajurveda (white) are the popular Ishavasya-Upanishad, the shortest of its kind, which represent a brief philosophical poem discussing the soul/self (Atman). The sacrifice, once performed, goes to the god whom it is being performed for, as a gift (Oldenberg 184). Through the rituals which humans perform, they believe, that the gods can be manoeuvred to a certain extent.
The Yajur Veda holds some of the grandest and most important mantras and rituals in the Hindu religion (Winternitz 163). For instance, the Taittiriya-Samhita contains the Gayatri mantra four times (Sharma 21). It also contains the Sarvamadha or “all-sacrifice”, which is the highest sacrifice that exists (Winternitz 163). Along with one of the grandest of all the yajna which is the asvamedha or horse-sacrifice (Rodrigues 30).