The Taittiriya Shakha (Sanskrit ?, loosely meaning 'Branch or School of the Taittiriya'), is a shakha (i.e. 'branch' or rescension) of the Krishna (black) Yajurveda. Most prevalent in South India, it consists of the Taittiriya Samhita (, 'TS'), Taittiriya Brahmana (, 'TB'), Taittiriya Aranyaka (, 'TA'), Taittiriya Praticakhya ('TP'), and the Dharmasutra texts (?pastamba, Baudhayana, and Vaikhanasa).
The Taittiriya Shakha (Sanskrit ?) can be loosely translated as 'Branch or School of the Taittiriya' or 'School of the Pupils of Tittiri'.
According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, Taittiri was a pupil of Yaska (estimated 4th-5th century BCE). According to the Vishnu Purana, Yaska was in turn a pupil of Vai?ampáyana, (estimated 6th century BCE). Taittiri is also stated in the Mahabharata to have attended 'the Yaga [Vedic ritual sacrifice] conducted by Uparicaravasu'.
Tittiri () also means 'partridge'. This meaning is worked into the account of the stated origin of the School of the Taittiriya in the Vishnu Purana (Book 3, Chapter 5). Following a division between Brahmins at Mount Meru - including Vai?ampáyana (whose pupil, Tittiri, is attributed to the Krishna (black) Yajurveda) and Yajnavalkya (attributed to the Shukla (White) Yajurveda) - 'The other scholars of Vai?ampáyana, transforming themselves to partridges (Tittiri), picked up the texts which he [Yájnawalkya] had disgorged, and which from that circumstance were called Taittiríya'. This indicates both Yaska and Taittiri were pupils of Vai?ampáyana.
The translator, H.H. Wilson, states in his commentary to this chapter that 'the term Taittiríya is more rationally accounted for in the Anukrama?í or index of the black Yajush [Krishna YajurVeda]. It is there said that Vai?ampáyana taught it to Yaska, who taught it to Tittiri, who also became a teacher; whence the term Taittiríya, for a grammatical rule explains it to mean, 'The Taittiríyas are those who read what was said or repeated by Tittiri'.'
Yaska, attributed as the teacher of Taittiri, is also attributed as the author of the Nirukta, a study of etymology concerned with correct interpretation of Sanskrit words in the Vedas. This is significant as the Nirukta references and quotes extensively from the Taittiriya texts (e.g. as listed in Appendix 1 of the Nirukta).
The Taittiriya school of the Krishna (black) Yajurveda produced several types of texts layered in the Vedas, i.e. Brahmana, Samhita, Aranyaka, Praticakhya, and Shrautasutra (or '?rauta Sútras'). Various Upanishads are also found in some of these texts. Other schools also produced their own versions of these types of texts, prefixed with the name of the school or sage they are attributed to (e.g. the Vajasaneyi Samhita was produced by the Vajasaneyi school or Shakha, founded by Yajnavalkya, attributed to the Shukla (White) Yajurveda).
The Taittiriya Samhita (, 'TS') consists of seven kandas (or 'books') of hymns, mantras, and prayers, as well as three Anukramanis (indexes). In translations such as that by A.B. Keith, this Samhita is presented as the Krishna (black) Yajurveda.
Notably, from the fourth Kanda, Prapathakas five and seven are important in Shaivism as constituting the Shri Rudram Chamakam and Namah Shivaya, homages to Rudra / Shiva. The Nak?atra S?ktam (meaning 'star', relating to new and full moon ceremonies), also originates from the third ka, praphaka? 5, Anuv?ka? 1 (3.5.1).
A.A. Macdonell and R. Janmajit both state that the origin and development of the Varaha (boar) avatar of Vishnu can be found in the Taittiriya Samhita, albeit initially as a form of Prajapati:
This was in the beginning the waters, the ocean. In it Prajapati becoming the wind moved. He saw her, and becoming a boar he seized her. Her, becoming Viçvakarma, he wiped. She extended, she became the earth, and hence the earth is called the earth (lit. 'the extended'). In her Prajapati made effort. He produced the gods, Vasus, Rudras, and Adityas.-- Taittiriya Samhita, translated by Arthur Berriedale Keith (1914), Kanda VII ('The Exposition of the Sattras; The Ahina Sacrifices'), Prapathaka I (vii.1.5)
Another extract attributed to the early development of the Varaha avatar by Macdonell is:
Now a boar, stealer of the good, keeps the wealth of the Asuras which is to be won beyond the seven hills. Him smite, if thou art he who smites in the stronghold. He [Indra] plucked out a bunch of Darbha grass, pierced the seven hills, and smote him. He said, 'Thou art called he who brings from the stronghold; bring him.' So the sacrifice bore off the sacrifice for them; in that they won the wealth of the Asuras which was to be won (védyam), that alone is the reason why the Vedi is so called. The Asuras indeed at first owned the earth, the gods had so much as one seated can espy.
The Taittiriya Brahmana is also significant in the development of Varaha, as outlined below.
When the completion of yajna does not happen in a year (samvatsara) then everything is not stable. Then one has to seek the grace of Vishnu (Vamana) by performing a special rite on the ekadashi day. Yajna means Vishnu (worshipping Vishnu). They perform yajna only for stabilising. They depend on Indra and Agni. Indra and Agni give the abode for Gods (devas). Devas only seek shelter in them and only depend on them.-- Taittiriya Brahmana, translated by R.L. Kashyap (2017), Ashtaka 1, Prapathaka 2, Anuvaka 5, Verses 1-7
The Taittiriya Brahmana (, 'TB') consists of three Ashtakas (books or parts) of commentaries on the performance of Vedic sacrificial rituals, astronomy, and information about the gods. It is stated by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) to be 'mixed of mantras and Brahmans... composed in poetic and prose manner'.
The lord of creation [Prajapati] practiced austerities, wondering: 'How should this (universe) be?' He saw a lotus leaf standing and thought: 'This lotus must rest on something.' Assuming the shape of a boar, he dived beneath and found the earth. Breaking off a fragment, he rose to the surface and spread it on [the] lotus leaf. As he spread it, it became [abhut] something that is spread. Hence the earth [is] called 'that-which-became (Bhumi)'.-- Mythology of Vishnu and His Incarnations by Manohar Laxman Varadpande, Chapter 4 ('Varaha')
The Taittiriya Aranyaka (, 'TA') 'is by the far largest of the Aranyakas. It extends together to ten Prapathakas or Great Lessons, i.e. books or chapters, of which the last four are Upanishads'.J. Dowson states that 'Aranyaka' means 'belonging to the forest' as this type of text is intended to 'expound the mystical sense of the [sacrificial] ceremonies, discuss the nature of God [etc.]. They are attached to [or supplement] the brahmanas, and [are] intended for study in the forest by brahmanas who have retired from the distractions of the world'. The Upanishads contained in the Taittiriya Aranyaka are the:
A. Daniélou states that a hundred-armed black boar lifts the earth out of the waters in the Taittiriya Aranyaka (TA 10.1.8).J. Eggeling in note 451:1 to the Shatapatha Brahmana (relating to the Shukla (White) Yajurveda) incorrectly states it was 'a black boar with a thousand arms'. The Journal Of The Indian Society Of Oriental Art (volume 13) states 'in the 'Taittiriya Aranyaka', the earth is said to have been raised by a black boar with a hundred arms ([verse 7:] 'varahena krsnena satabahuna uddhrta'). It is an easily understandable step to the making of the boar an incarnation of Visnu himself, a step which is finally taken in the epics and the Puranas'. This legend is also contained in the Mahanarayana Upanishad (again, part of the Taittirya Aranyaka):
bh?mirdhenurdhara lokadh?ri uddh?t?si var?he?a kena ?atab?hun?
The earth [Bhumi] is the giver of happiness like the milk cow, the sustainer of life and support for all living beings. (Represented as such the earth is addressed:) Thou wert raised up by Ka in His incarnation of the boar having hundred hands.-- Mahanarayana Upanishad, Section 1, Verse 38
As 'Krishna' also means 'black', the verse can also be interpreted as 'black boar' or 'raised up by the black boar', as stated by Daniélou and Eggeling. However, the translation given above clearly shows how Krishna is linked with Varaha.
N. Aiyangar states that the following verse from the Taittiriya Aranyaka (I.23-25) 'is narrated in connection with the ritual called Arunaketuka-kayana, in which the tortoise ['Kurma'] is placed below the uttara-vedi [altar]. In it Prajapati or his juice the Tortoise is called Arunaketu (one who had red rays)':
The waters, this (universe), were salilam (chaotic liquid) only. Prajapati alone came into being on a lotus leaf. Within his mind, desire (Kama) around as 'Let me bring forth this (universe).' Therefore what man gets at by mind that he utters by word and that he does by deed... He (Prajapati desired to bring forth the universe) performed tapas (austere religious contemplation). Having performed tapas, he shook his body. From his flesh sprang forth Aruna-Ketus, (red rays as) the Vatarasana Rishis, from his nakhas, nails, the Vaikhanasas, from his valas, hair, the Valakhilyas, and his rasa, juice, (became) a bhutam (a strange being, viz.,) a tortoise moving in the middle of the water. He [Prajapati] addressed him thus 'you have come into being from my skin and flesh.' 'No,' he replied, 'I have been here even from before (purvan eva asam).' This is the reason of the Purusha-hood of Purusha. He (the tortoise) sprang forth, becoming the Purusha of a thousand heads, thousand eyes, thousand feet. He (Prajapati) told him, 'you have been from before and so you the Before make this (idam purvah kurushva).'... From the waters indeed was this (universe) born. All this is Brahman Svayambhu (Self-Born).-- Essays On Indo Aryan Mythology by Narayan Aiyangar ('The Tortoise')
The V?tara?an Rishis (or Munis) created are also mentioned in RigVeda 10.136 where Shiva drank water/poison, linking to the legend of the churning of the Ocean of Milk, referred to as the Samudra manthan.Prajapati then encounters a tortoise (Kurma/Arunaketu) that existed even before he, the creator of the universe, came into being.
The Taittiriya Praticakhya ('TP') is concerned with phonetics, i.e. the correct pronunciation of words.