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Vedic Literature


Four Vedas

  1. Rig Veda

  2. Yajur Veda

  3. Sama Veda

  4. Atharva Veda

Rig Veda

  • It is the oldest Veda. It was written during the early Vedic period.

  • The composition of Rig Veda started by 1500 BC and it ended by 1000 BC.

  • Rig Veda literally means 'Veda of praise'.

  • It consists of 1017 hymns.

  • It contains 10 mandalas (books).

  • Mandalas 2 to 7 are the oldest. They are known as family books.

  • Mandalas 1 and 10 are the latest.

  • In the 3rd mandala, we can see 'Gayatri Mantra' written by Viswamitra. It is addressed to solar deity Savitri.

  • In the 10th mandala, we can see 'Purushasukta', which is the largest hymn of the Rig Veda. It mentions about Chaturvarnya scheme of society.

Yajur Veda

  • It was written during the later Vedic period.

  • It consists of various mantras and chants for the purpose of sacrifices and rituals.

  • The two royal ceremonies of 'Rajasuya' and 'Vajapeya' are first mentioned in this Veda.

  • In contrast two Rig Veda and Sama Veda, which consist of verse only, Yajur Veda consists of both verse and prose.

Sama Veda

  • It was written during the later Vedic period.

  • It consists of hymns taken from Rig Veda, and set to tune for the purpose of singing.

  • It is called the 'Book of Chants'.

  • The origin of Indian music is traced to Sama Veda.

Atharva Veda

  • It was written during the later Vedic period.

  • It was compiled by Sage Atharva, a non-Aryan.

  • All the other three Vedas were written by Aryans.

  • Atharva Veda consists of charms and spells to ward off evils and diseases.

  • It has the origins of Indian medicine.

The Brahmanas

  • They are prose commentaries on the four Vedas.

  • They deal with the science of sacrifices and ceremonies.

  • They were written in the later Vedic period.

  • There are a total of 18 Brahmanas. Important ones are:

    • Satapatha Brahmana

    • Aitreya Brahmana

    • Taitiriya Brahmana

The Aranyakas

  • These are forest books. They were composed in the forest and were meant to study in the forests.

  • They deal with mysticism and symbolism of sacrifices.

  • They contain transitional materials between the mythical contents of Brahmanas and the philosophical contents of the Upanishads.

The Upanishads

  • The word 'Upanishad' means 'to be seated at the feet of the Guru'.

  • There are a total of 108 Upanishads.

  • The Upanishads are philosophical texts and were written by the Kshatriyas.

  • The Upanishads are critical on the ritualistic interpretation of the Vedas and stress on the spiritualistic interpretation of them.

  • The term 'tat tvam asi' (You are that) is found in Chandogya Upanishad.

  • The concept of 'unity in diversity' is found in Mundaka Upanishad.

  • The concept of 'rebirth' is found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

  • The earliest reference of Lord Krishna is in Chandogya Upanishad.

  • The earliest reference of Lord Siva is in Svetasvatara Upanishad.

Vedangas

  • 'Vedangas' literally means 'limbs of the Vedas'.

  • They are necessary to understand the Vedas properly.

  • There are six Vedangas (Sutras):

    1. Shiksha- deals with Phonetics

    2. Kalpa- deals with Rituals

    3. Vyakarana- deals with Grammar

    4. Nirukta- deals with Etymology

    5. Chandas- deals with Metrics

    6. Jyotisha- deals with Astronomy (not Astrology)

  • Kalpa Sutras are divided into three classes:

    1. Strauta Sutras: Concerned with rituals of great sacrifices. Sulva Sutras which are the oldest books on Indian geometry are part of Strauta Sutras.

    2. Grihya Sutras: Concerned with sacrifices that are to be performed by a householder.

    3. Dharma Sutras: Concerned with the legal aspects of life.

Four Upa Vedas

  1. Ayur Veda- deals with medicine

  2. Silpa Veda- deals with sculpture

  3. Gandharva Veda- deals with music

  4. Dhanur Veda- deals with warfare

Sruti Literature and Smriti Literature

  • Sruti Literature are of divine origin. Eg: Vedas

  • Smriti Literature are of human origin. Eg: Vedangas


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