The sage Śaunaka (500 B.C.) has done yeomen service to the preservation of the Vedic literature by composing ten works, generally classed as ‘anukramaṇīs’ (See ANUKRAMAṆĪ for details.) in which is included this celebrated work, Bṛhad-devatā. It is an index of the Vedic gods, more extensive than other similar works.
This treatise on the Vedic deities is in the form of verses in the anuṣṭubh meter spread over eight adhyāyas or chapters, corresponding to the eight aṣṭakas (the more ancient method of dividing the Ṛgveda) of the Ṛgveda. The first two chapters contain 125 verses of an introduc-tory nature which discuss several aspects of Vedic grammar useful in the analysis or interpretation of the Vedic words. Then the book takes up the difficult task of determining and describing the devatās or deities of the various sūktas of the Ṛgveda, often narrating interesting anecdotes also, related to those deities.
Some of the more ancient sages mentioned in this work are: Śākaṭāyana, Yāska, Śākapūṇi and Gālava.
Since an ‘Ācārya Śaunaka’ has been mentioned in this Bṛhad-devatā itself, some Western scholars opine that this work must have been composed by another person, probably his contemporary. But other scholars do not subscribe to this view.
See also ŚAUNAKA.