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A traditional Vedic yagna (fire-ritual) would be conducted by three main priests - a Hotar who would chant hymns from the Rig Veda Samhita, an Adhvaryu who would chant hymns from the Yajur Veda Samhita, and an Udgatri who would chant (or rather sing) hymns from the Sama Veda Samhita. (The Samhitas are the core part of the Vedas, consisting of verses heard directly from the gods.). Now the reason the Sama Veda priest was called an Udgatri is because the Udgitha is the name for a certain portion of the Sama Veda Samhita.

My question is, what part of the Sama Veda is the Udgitha? You can read the Sama Veda here, as you can see, it's divided into two Parts, each of which has a bunch of Books, each of which consists of a bunch of Chapters, each of which consists of a bunch of Hymns with ten verses or less. So which hymns are included in the Udgitha?

Note that if you search for the term Udgitha, you'll often come across assertions that "Om is the Uditha." Such assertions originate in the Chandogya Upanishad, but the reason the Chandogya Upanishad refers to the sound Om as the Udgitha is because the Udgitha portion of the Sama Veda is sung beginning with Om, as described in the beginning of the Chandogya Upanishad:

Let a man meditate on the syllable Om, called the udgîtha; for the udgîtha (a portion of the Sâma-veda) is sung, beginning with Om.

So let me be clear that this question is not about Om.

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There are two primary part of Sama Veda:

  1. Archik(आर्चिक)
    Archik means group of Rik(ऋक्) which has two parts:

    • Purvarchik(पूर्वार्चिक)
    • Uttararchik(उत्तरार्चिक)
  2. Gaan(गान).
    Gaan mantra are composed on the basis of Samyoni mantra. There are 4 type of Gaan:

    • Gram Greya Gaan (ग्राम ग्रेय गान) also called Prakriti(प्रकृति) Gaan or Vey(वेय)
    • Aaranyak Gaan (आरण्यक गान)
    • Uh Gaan (उह गान)
    • Uhya Gaan (उह्य​ गान) or Rahashya Gaan.

The method of performing Samagana (सामगान) is very difficult. Very subtly study is expected for this.

There are five parts/vibhakti(विभक्ति) of Sam:

  1. Prastav (प्रस्ताव) : It is the initial part of mantra which starts from 'हुँ'. It is chanted/sung by Rutvij(ऋत्विज) named Prastota(प्रस्तोता).
  2. Udgeeth (उद्गीथ) : It is chanted by Pradhan(प्रधान) Rutvij Udgaata of Sam. ॐ is added at the initial of it.
  3. Pratihar (प्रतिहार) : It means joiner of two. It is chanted by Pratiharta(प्रतिहर्ता) Rutvij.
  4. Upadrav (उपद्रव) : It is chanted by Udgaata.
  5. Nidhan (निधन) : In which two parts of Pdhya/Aum stays. It is chanted by three Rutvij, Prastota, Udgaata, Pratiharta together simultaneously.

Example- First mantra of Samaveda:

अग्न आ याहि वीतये गृणानो हव्यदातये ।
नि होता सत्सि बर्हिषि ॥ १ ॥

agna A yAhi vItaye gR^iNAno havyadAtaye |
ni hotA satsi barhiShi || 1 ||

Five parts of Saam of Sam Gaan on the above verse would be:

  1. हुँ ओग्नाइ (Prastav)
  2. ओम् आ याहि वीतये गृणानो हव्यदातये (Udgeeth)
  3. नि होता सत्सि बर्हिषि ओम् (Pratihar)

This Pratihar would have 2 difference that will be chanted in two following two types:

  1. नि होता सत्सि बर्हिषि (Upadrav)
  2. बर्हिषि ओम् (Nidhan)

Source: from scanned book of Samaveda Samhita (probably this)

So, Udgeetha is one of the Five parts/divisions/Vibhakti of Saam


Quoting the related part of Adi Shankaracharya Bhashya on the verse you've described in the question:

It is a well-known fact that this syllable is largely used in Japa, at rites and in the beginning and at the end of Vedic study; which clearly indicates its superiority.-It is for these reasons that one should meditate upon this syllable, in the verbal form. which is spoken of as 'Udgitha', on the ground of its forming a constituent part of this name (' U dgitha'); which means that one should firmly' cultivate concentrated attention upon the syllable 'Om' which represents the Supreme SELF and which is an essential part of all sacrificial acts. The Text itself provides the reason for the syllable 'Om' being spoken of as 'U dgitha' : because one sings (beginning) with ' Om '; inasmuch as one begins singing with 'Om'. this syllable is called' U dgitha'.

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