Are the 3 gunas, namely, sattva, rajas, tamas mentioned in the Vedas? I know they are mentioned throughout the Smrtis, notably the Puranas, Bhagavad Gita, and the Sankhya Smriti. In fact, the 3 gunas concept is closely linked with the Sankhya school.

But is there any mention of them in the Vedas?

  • Looking for explicit mention in Samhitas or mention of Tri Guna in Upanishads will work?
    – Pandya
    Nov 11, 2017 at 0:53
  • Yes, OR something that has been interpreted to mean the gunas.
    – Ikshvaku
    Nov 11, 2017 at 0:53
  • this has already been answered in a previous question. duplicate question. The words sattva, rajas, and tamas are not used in the vedas. They are referred to in the vedas as colors - black, red, and white. Nov 11, 2017 at 7:19
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    see my answer to this question - hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/16355/… Nov 11, 2017 at 7:30
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    @SwamiVishwananda tired of mutt people and thier quotes. Nov 12, 2017 at 3:15

2 Answers 2


Yes The three gunas is mentioned in Maitri upanishad here

Fifth Prapathaka

In the beginning 5 darkness (tamas) alone was this. It was in the Highest, and, moved by the Highest, it becomes uneven Thus it becomes obscurity ragas) . Then this obscurity, being moved, becomes uneven. Thus it becomes goodness sattva). Then this goodness, being moved, the essence flowed forth . This is that part (or state of Self) which is entirely intelligent, reflected in man (as the sun is in different vessels of water) knowing the body (kshetragña), attested by his conceiving, willing, and believing, it is Pragâpati, called Visva. His manifestations have been declared before 3. Now that part of him which belongs to darkness(Tamas), that, O students , is he who is called Rudra. That part of him which belongs to Obsucurity(rajas) , that, students, is he who is called Brahmâ. That part of him which belongs to Goodness(sattva) , that, O students, is he who is called Vishnu.He being one, becomes three, becomes eight , becomes eleven , becomes twelve, becomes infinite. Because  he thus came to be, he is the Being (neut.), he moves about, having entered all beings, he has become the Lord of all beings. He is the Self within and without, yes, within and without

This gunas are mentioned in maitri upanishad I don't think these are mentioned in samhitas but I will look for refernces. The words goodness,absucurity,Goodness means rajasnTamas,sattva in sanskrit.

Sanskrit verse can be found in last verse of forth prapathaka here instead of beginning of fifth prapathaka as sacred-texts translation says.

तमो वा इदमेकमास तत्पश्चात्परेणेरितं विषयत्वं प्रयात्येतद्वै रजसो रूपं तद्रजः खल्वीरितं विषमत्वं प्रयात्येतद्वै तमसो रूपं तत्तमः खल्वीरितं तमसः सम्प्रास्रवत्येतद्वै सत्त्वस्य रूपं तत्सत्त्वमेवेरितं तत्सत्त्वात्सम्प्रास्रवत्सोंऽशोऽयं यश्चेतनमात्रः प्रतिपुरुषं क्षेत्रज्ञः सङ्कल्पाध्यवसायाभिमानलिङ्गः प्रजापतिस्तस्य प्रोक्ता अग्र्यास्तनवो ब्रह्मा रुद्रो विष्णुरित्यथ यो ह खलु वावास्य राजसोंऽशोऽसौ स योऽयं ब्रह्माथ यो ह खलु वावास्य तामसोंऽशोऽसौ स योऽयं रुद्रोऽथ यो ह खलु वावास्य सात्विकोंऽशोऽसौ स एवं विष्णुः स वा एष एकस्त्रिधाभूतोऽष्टधैकादशधा द्वादशधापरिमितधा चोद्भूत उद्भूतत्वाद्भूतेषु चरति प्रतिष्ठा सर्वभूतानामधिपतिर्बभूवेत्यसावात्मान्तर्बहिश्चान्तर्बहिस् ह्च ॥ ५॥ चतुर्थः प्रपाठकः ॥

  • You have changed the reference you give. It does not use the words tamas, rajas, or sattva. You changed the quote you referenced!!! Nov 11, 2017 at 7:13
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    @swami Vishwananda the actuall words is Rajas,Tamas,Sattva only it is translated as darkness,Obscurity,goodnees by sacred texts and this case it does not means colours it means qualities,Kindly check the Sanskrit text of matri upanishad.You have down voted my answer without checking Sanskrit text. Nov 11, 2017 at 7:52
  • @KarmanyaNanda Do you have the Sanskrit Text of Maitrei Upanishad? You can add it to ur answer. I think you are simply copy-pasting from sacred text, Isn't the whole block quote a copy paste from the source?
    – Rickross
    Nov 11, 2017 at 8:04
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    Yes i have checked, you have simply copy pasted..You have not made any changes urself. @KarmanyaNanda
    – Rickross
    Nov 11, 2017 at 8:18
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    @KarmanyaNanda Copy pasting is certainly allowed. I meant that since you have copy pasted from your source you can not be accused of altering anything.
    – Rickross
    Nov 11, 2017 at 8:27

Yes, there is reference to the Tri GunAs in the Vedas.

See the following Mantra from Atharva Veda (AV):

Pundarikam navadwAram (1)
Tribhir gunebhirAvritam (2)
Tasmin yad yakshamAtmanvat (3)
Tad vai brahmavido viduhu (4).


There is a nine-gated lotus (1), covered under three bands of GunAs (tribhir gunebhi) (2), in which lives the Spirit with the Atman within (3), that the Veda-knowers know (4).

AV 10.8.43

The above Mantra is a direct reference to the three GunAs or the three qualities which came to be well known later as Tamas (inertia), Rajas (activity partially controlled or uncontrolled by discrimination) and Sattwa (balanced dynamism).

And, this is probably the earliest reference to Tri-GunAs in Hindu scriptures.

  • 9 gates are 9 holes in the body? Nov 11, 2017 at 8:24
  • In this case, they are 9 gates of the Lotus of the heart. But there is another mantra where the human body is mentioned as a 9-gated city. In that case, yes reference is to the 9 apertures we have in our body. @Rohit.
    – Rickross
    Nov 11, 2017 at 8:38
  • What are 9 gates of the heart? Nov 11, 2017 at 8:43
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    @Rohit. I don't know what they are, never read anything so far. But Navadwara Pundarika refers to a 9-gated Lotus. (Pundarika=Lotus), As said earlier there is another mantra which explicitly mentions our body as a 9-gated city In that case, i am quite clear on what those gates are.
    – Rickross
    Nov 11, 2017 at 8:50
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    Nice found! Yes, it looks the earliest reference. I couldn't find the reference in RigVeda.
    – Pandya
    Nov 11, 2017 at 9:23

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