- The Vedas are the earliest known vedic literature in India & written in Sanskrit.
- The word ‘Veda’ literally means knowledge.
- In Hindu culture, Vedas are considered as eternal & divine revelations.
- They treat the whole world as one human family ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam‘.
- There are 4 Vedas, namely, the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda & Atharva Veda.
- Each Veda consists of the Brahmanas, the Upanishads and the Aranyakas.
- The Rig Veda, Sama Veda and the Yajur Veda are collectively known an Traji.
- In later years the Atharava Veda was incorporated in this group.
- It is very difficult to determine the age of the Vedas and also the time they were written.
- Max Muller says that the Rig Veda was composed before 1000 B.C.
- While according to Lokmanya Tilak it appeared before 6000 B.C.
- It is the earliest of the Vedas & collection of 1028 hymns in Vedic Sanskrit.
- The prayers are for seeking worldly prosperity & for the development of a highly cultured society.
- Along with religion Rig Veda provides us knowledge about social, political and economic condition of ancient India.
- Prominent rishis: Vasistha, Gautama, Gritasamada, Vamadeva, Vishvamitra & Atri.
- Prominent gods: Indra, Agni, Varun, Rudra, Aditya, Vayu, Aditi & the Ashwini twins.
- Prominent goddesses: Usha , Vak & Prithvi etc..
- Yajur means sacrifice or worship.
- It concerned mostly with rites & mantras of different sacrifices.
- It gives directions for the performance of the yajnas.
- It has both poetic & prose renderings.
- Being a treatise on rituals, it is the most popular of the 4 Vedas.
- There are two major branches of Yajur Veda, namely Shukla & Krishna Yajur Veda.
- This text reflects on the social & religious condition of India at that time.
- Sama means melody or songs.
- This Veda consists of 16,000 ragas & raginis or musical notes.
- Out of total 1875 verses only 75 are original & others are from the Rig Veda.
- It prescribes the tunes for the recitation of the hymns of the Rig Veda.
- It may be called the book of Chants (Saman).
- This book is an evidence of the development of Indian music during this period.
- It is also known as the Brahma Veda.
- It contains treatment for 99 diseases.
- The source of this Veda is traced to two rishis called Atharvah & Angiras.
- It is of immense value as it represents the religious ideas at an early period of civilisation.
- It has 2 branches, the Paippalada & the Saunaka.
- This book gives detailed information about the family, social & political life of later Vedic period.
- In order to understand the Vedas, it is necessary to learn the Vedangas or the limbs of the Vedas.
- These supplements of the Vedas provide education (siksha), grammar (vyakarana), ritual (kalpa), etymology (nirukta), metrics (chhanda) & astronomy (Jyotisha).
- A good deal of literature grew around these subjects.
- It was written in the form of precepts in the sutra style.
- A precept was called sutra because of its brevity.
- The most famous example of this is Panini’s grammar, Ashtadhyayi, which illustrates the rules of grammar & also throws light on society, economy and culture of those times.
Brahmanas & Aranyakas
- After the 4 Vedas, a number of works called the Brahmanas were developed.
- These books gave a detailed explanation of Vedic rituals and instructions & deal with the science of sacrifice.
- The latter portions of the Brahmanas were called the Aranyakas.
- The final parts of the Aranyakas are philosophic books named Upanishads which belong to the later stage of the Brahmana literature.
Each of the 4 Vedas have their own Brahmana books;
- Rig Veda had Kaushitaki & Aitreya,
- Yajur Veda had Taitteriya,
- Shukla Yajur Veda had Shatpath &
- Atharva Veda had Tandav, Panchvish & Jaimaniya.
- Deals with soul, birth and death and life beyond it.
- These were studied and taught by men in Vanprastha i.e. Munis and the inhabitants living inside the forests.
- All these works were in Sanskrit.
- Initially they were handed down orally and were put to writing much later.
- The word Upanishad is derived from upa (nearby), and nishad (to sit-down), that is, “sitting down near”.
- Groups of pupil sit near the Guru to learn from him in the Guru-shishya parampara or tradition.
- The Upanishads mark the culmination of Indian thought and are the final parts of the Vedas.
- As the Upanishads contain abstract and difficult discussions of ultimate philosophical problems, they were taught to the pupils at the end.
- That is why they are called the end of Vedas.
- Vedas start with the worship of the manifest, as that is obvious and then slowly transform to the knowledge of the unmanifest
- There are more than 200 known Upanishads.
- The Muktika, gives a list of 108 Upanishads – this number corresponds to the holy number of beads on a mala or Hindu rosary.
- The Upanishads form an important part of our literary legacy.
- They deal with questions like the origin of the universe, life and death, the material and spiritual world, nature of knowledge and many other questions.
- The earliest Upanishads are the Brihadaranyaka which belongs to the Sukla Yajur Veda and Chand yogya which belongs to the Sama Veda.
Some of the other important Upanishads are the Aitareya, Kena, Katha Upanishad.