Hindu texts are manuscripts and historical literature related to any of the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few texts are shared resources across these traditions and broadly considered as Hindu scriptures. These include the Vedas and the Upanishads. Scholars hesitate in defining the term "Hindu scripture" given the diverse nature of Hinduism, many include Bhagavad Gita and Agamas as Hindu scriptures, while Dominic Goodall includes Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti to the list of Hindu scriptures.
There are two historic classifications of Hindu texts: Shruti – that which is heard, and Smriti – that which is remembered. The Śruti refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts, believed to be eternal knowledge authored neither by human nor divine agent but transmitted by sages (rishis). These comprise the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts - the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the early Upanishads. Of the Shrutis (Vedic corpus), the Upanishads alone are widely influential among Hindus, considered scriptures par excellence of Hinduism, and their central ideas have continued to influence its thoughts and traditions.
The Smriti texts are a specific body of Hindu texts attributed to an author, as a derivative work they are considered less authoritative than Sruti in Hinduism. The Smrti literature is a vast corpus of diverse texts, and includes but is not limited to Vedāngas, the Hindu epics, the Sutras and Shastras, the texts of Hindu philosophies, the Puranas, the Kāvya or poetical literature, the Bhasyas, and numerous Nibandhas (digests) covering politics, ethics, culture, arts and society.
Many ancient and medieval Hindu texts were composed in Sanskrit, many others in regional Indian languages. In modern times, most ancient texts have been translated into other Indian languages and some in Western languages. Prior to the start of the common era, the Hindu texts were composed orally, then memorized and transmitted orally, from one generation to next, for more than a millennia before they were written down into manuscripts. This verbal tradition of preserving and transmitting Hindu texts, from one generation to next, continued into the modern era.
Manuscripts of 18th-century Hindu texts in Sanskrit and in a regional language Odiya (below)
The Vedas are a large body of Hindu texts originating in ancient India, with its Samhita and Brahmanas complete before about 800 BCE. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit hymns, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Hindus consider the Vedas to be apauruṣeya, which means "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless". The knowledge in the Vedas is believed in Hinduism to be eternal, uncreated, neither authored by human nor by divine source, but seen, heard and transmitted by sages.
Vedas are also called śruti ("what is heard") literature, distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti ("what is remembered"). The Veda, for orthodox Indian theologians, are considered revelations, some way or other the work of the Deity. In the Hindu Epic the Mahabharata, the creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma.
There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda. Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types – the Samhitas (mantras and benedictions), the Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices), the Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge).
The Upanishads are commonly referred to as Vedānta, variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" or "the object, the highest purpose of the Veda". The concepts of Brahman (Ultimate Reality) and Ātman (Soul, Self) are central ideas in all the Upanishads, and "Know your Ātman" their thematic focus. The Upanishads are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought and its diverse traditions. Of the Vedic corpus, they alone are widely known, and the central ideas of the Upanishads have had a lasting influence on Hindu philosophy.
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads. The mukhya Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and were, for centuries, memorized by each generation and passed down verbally. The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, some in all likelihood pre-Buddhist (6th century BCE), down to the Maurya period. Of the remainder, some 95 Upanishads are part of the Muktika canon, composed from about the start of common era through medieval Hinduism. New Upanishads, beyond the 108 in the Muktika canon, continued being composed through the early modern and modern era, though often dealing with subjects unconnected to Hinduism.
The Sutras and Shastras texts were compilations of technical or specialized knowledge in a defined area. The earliest are dated to later half of the 1st millennium BCE. The Dharma-shastras (law books), derivatives of the Dharma-sutras. Other examples were bhautikashastra "physics", rasayanashastra "chemistry", jīvashastra "biology", vastushastra "architectural science", shilpashastra "science of sculpture", arthashastra "economics" and nītishastra "political science". It also includes Tantras and Agama literature.
The Puranas are a vast genre of Hindu texts that encyclopedically cover a wide range of topics, particularly myths, legends and other traditional lore. Composed primarily in Sanskrit, but also in regional languages, several of these texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Goddess Devi.
The Puranic literature is encyclopedic, and it includes diverse topics such as cosmogony, cosmology, genealogies of gods, goddesses, kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, folk tales, pilgrimages, temples, medicine, astronomy, grammar, mineralogy, humor, love stories, as well as theology and philosophy. The content is highly inconsistent across the Puranas, and each Purana has survived in numerous manuscripts which are themselves inconsistent. The Hindu Puranas are anonymous texts and likely the work of many authors over the centuries; in contrast, most Jaina Puranas can be dated and their authors assigned.
There are 18 Maha Puranas (Great Puranas) and 18 Upa Puranas (Minor Puranas), with over 400,000 verses. The Puranas do not enjoy the authority of a scripture in Hinduism, but are considered a Smriti. These Hindu texts have been influential in the Hindu culture, inspiring major national and regional annual festivals of Hinduism. The Bhagavata Purana has been among the most celebrated and popular text in the Puranic genre.
The Tevaram is a body of remarkable hymns exuding Bhakti composed more than 1400–1200 years ago in the classical Tamil language by three Saivite composers. They are credited with igniting the Bhakti movement in the whole of India.
The Nalayira Divya Prabandha (or Nalayira (4000) Divya Prabhamdham) is a divine collection of 4,000 verses (Naalayira in Tamil means 'four thousand') composed before 8th century AD , by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centuries. The Alvars sung these songs at various sacred shrines. These shrines are known as the Divya Desams.
In South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the Divya Prabhandha is considered as equal to the Vedas, hence the epithet Dravida Veda. In many temples, Srirangam, for example, the chanting of the Divya Prabhandham forms a major part of the daily service. Prominent among the 4,000 verses are the 1,100+ verses known as the Thiru Vaaymozhi, composed by Nammalvar (Kaaril Maaran Sadagopan) of Thiruk Kurugoor.
Hindu texts for specific fields, in Sanskrit and other regional languages, have been reviewed as follows,
|Agriculture and food||Gyula Wojtilla|||
|Drama, dance and performance arts||AB Keith,
Rachel Baumer and James Brandon,
|Education, school system||Hartmut Scharfe|||
|Gnomic and didactic literature||Ludwik Sternbach|||
|Law and jurisprudence||J Duncan M Derrett|||
|Mathematics and exact sciences||Kim Plofker
|Music||Emmie te Nijenhuis,
|Poetics||Edwin Gerow, Siegfried Lienhard|||
|Gender and Sex||Johann Jakob Meyer|||
|State craft, politics||Patrick Olivelle|||
|Tantrism, Agamas||Teun Goudriaan|||
|Temples, Sculpture||Stella Kramrisch|||
|Scriptures (Vedas and Upanishads)||Jan Gonda|||
The Hindu scriptures provide the early documented history and origin of arts and sciences forms in India such as music, dance, sculptures, architecture, astronomy, science, mathematics, medicine and wellness. Valmiki's Ramayana (500 BCE to 100 BCE) mentions music and singing by Gandharvas, dance by Apsaras such as Urvashi, Rambha, Menaka, Tilottama Panchāpsaras, and by Ravana's wives who excelling in nrityageeta or "singing and dancing" and nritavaditra or "playing musical instruments"). The evidence of earliest dance related texts are in Natasutras, which are mentioned in the text of Panini, the sage who wrote the classic on Sanskrit grammar, and who is dated to about 500 BCE. This performance arts related Sutra text is mentioned in other late Vedic texts, as are two scholars names Shilalin (IAST: Śilālin) and Krishashva (Kṛśaśva), credited to be pioneers in the studies of ancient drama, singing, dance and Sanskrit compositions for these arts. Richmond et al estimate the Natasutras to have been composed around 600 BCE, whose complete manuscript has not survived into the modern age.
Manuscripts collections (incomplete)
Diet in Hinduism varies with its diverse traditions. The ancient and medieval Hindu texts strongly prohibit eating meat, and they recommend ahimsa—non-violence against all life forms including animals because they believe that it minimizes animal deaths. Many Hindus prefer a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian lifestyle, and methods of food production that are in sync with nature, compassionate, and respectful of other life forms as well as nature.The diet of many Hindus includes eggs, fish or certain other meat. For slaughtering animals and birds for food, meat-eating Hindus often favor jhatka (quick death) style preparation of meat since Hindus believe that this method minimizes trauma and suffering to the animal. Ancient Hindu texts describe the whole of creation as a vast food chain, and the cosmos as a giant food cycle.Hindu mendicants (sannyasin) avoid preparing their own food, relying either on alms or harvesting seeds and fruits from forests, as this minimizes the likely harm to other life forms and nature.Gita Govinda
The Gita Govinda (Sanskrit: गीत गोविन्द) (Song of Govinda) is a work composed by the 12th-century Indian poet, Jayadeva. It describes the relationship between Krishna and the gopis (female cow herders) of Vrindavana, and in particular one gopi named Radha.
The Gita Govinda is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty-four divisions called Prabandhas. The prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. It is mentioned that Radha is greater than Krishna. The text also elaborates the eight moods of Heroine, the Ashta Nayika, which has been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances.List of Hindu texts
Hinduism is an ancient religion with diverse traditions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and others. Each tradition has a long list of Hindu texts, with subgenre based on syncretization of ideas from Samkhya, Nyaya, Yoga, Vedanta and other schools of Hindu philosophy. Of these some called Sruti are broadly considered as core scriptures of Hinduism, but beyond the Sruti, the list of scriptures vary by the scholar.Several lists include only the Vedas, the Principal Upanishads, the Agamas and the Bhagavad Gita as scriptures broadly accepted by Hindus. Goodall adds regional texts such as Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti to the list. Beyond the Sruti, Hindu texts include Smritis, Shastras, Sutras, Tantras, Puranas, Itihasas, Stotras, Subhashitas and others.Most of these texts exist in Sanskrit, several others have been composed in regional languages such as Tamil. In modern times, most have been translated into other Indian languages and some in Western languages. This list includes major Hindu texts, along with the Hindu scriptures.Naalayira Divya Prabhandham
The Nalayira Divya Prabandham (Tamil: நாலாயிரத் திவ்வியப் பிரபந்தம், romanized: nālāyira divya prabandham) is a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses (Naalayiram in Tamil means 'four thousand') composed by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centuries. The work, an important liturgical compilation of the Tamil Alvars, marks the beginning of the canonization of 12 Vaishnava poet saints, and these hymns are still sung extensively today. The works were lost before they were collected and organized in the form of an anthology by Nathamuni.
The Divya Prabandham sings the praise of Narayana (or Vishnu) and his many forms. The Alvars sang these songs at various sacred shrines known as the Divya Desams. The Tamil Vaishnavites are also known as Ubhaya Vedanti (those that follow both Vedas, i.e., the Sanskrit Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda, as well as the Tamil-language Tiruvaymoli, a work which many South Indian devotees regard as the Tamil Veda). In many temples — Srirangam, for example — the chanting of the Divya Prabhandham forms a major part of the daily service.
Prominent among its 4,000 verses are the over 1,100 verses known as the Tiruvaymoli or Thiruvaaymozhi ("words of the sacred mouth"), composed by Nammalvar (Kaari Maaran, Sadagopan of Alwarthirunagari Temple) and which forms the third portion of the overall Divya Prabandham. Nammalvar self-identifies as a lovelorn gopi pining for Krishna.Prāyaścitta
Prāyaścitta (Sanskrit: प्रायश्चित्त) is the Sanskrit word which means "atonement, penance, expiation". It refers to one of the corrective measures in dharmaśāstra as an alternative to incarceration or other forms of danda (punishment) when someone is convicted of certain categories of crimes. The word is also used in Hindu texts to refer to actions to expiate one's errors or sins, such as adultery by a married person.Those texts that discuss Prāyaścitta, states Robert Lingat, debate the intent and thought behind the improper act, and consider penance appropriate when the "effect" had to be balanced, but "cause" was unclear. The roots of this theory are found in the Brahmana layer of text in the Samaveda.Purva Mimamsa Sutras
The Mimamsa Sutra (Sanskrit: मीमांसा सूत्र, Mīmāṁsā Sūtra) or the Purva Mimamsa Sutras (ca. 300–200 BCE), written by Rishi Jaimini is one of the most important ancient Hindu philosophical texts. It forms the basis of Mimamsa, the earliest of the six orthodox schools (darshanas) of Indian philosophy. According to tradition, sage Jaimini was one of the disciples of sage Veda Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata.Samkhya Pravachana Sutra
The Samkhya Pravachana Sutra (Sanskrit: सांख्यप्रवचन सूत्र Sāṁkhyapravacanasūtra) is a collection of major Sanskrit texts of the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. It includes the ancient Samkhya Sutra of Kapila, Samkhya karika of Ishvarakrishna, Samkhya Sutra Vritti of Aniruddha, the Bhasya (commentary) of Vijnana Bhikshu, the Vrittisara of Vedantin Mahadeva, Tattva Samasa and commentary of Narendra, and works of Gaudapada, Vachaspati Mishra, and Panchashikha.The text provides foundational doctrines of one of the influential schools of Hindu philosophy, such as "nothing can come out of nothing, and nothing can altogether vanish out of existence" in its doctrine of Sat-Karya-Siddhanta, a debate on the two theories for the origin of the world - the creationists (Abhava Utpatti) and the evolutionists (Vivarta, changing from one state to another), the doctrine of Parinama (transformation), among others.
Samkhya Pravachana Sutra is also known as Samkhya Sutra.Saptakanda Ramayana
Saptakanda Ramayana is the 14th-15th century Assamese version of the Ramayana attributed to the famous assamese poet Madhava Kandali. It is considered to be the first translation from the Sanskrit into a modern regional Indo-Aryan language, preceded only by Kambar's translation into Tamil. The work is also considered one of the earliest written examples of Assamese.
A particular feature of this work is the non-heroic portrayal of Rama, Sita, and other characters, as explicitly stated by Madhav Kandali himself, which rendered the work unsuitable for religious purposes. This feature disturbed a later poet, Ananta Kandali, who was moved enough to comment on it. The first (Adikanda) and last (Uttarakanda) cantos of Madhava Kandali's work were lost, and were later inserted by Madhavdeva and Sankardeva respectively in the 16th century. The poem has been translated into English.Shikshapatri
The Shikshapatri (Gujarati: શિક્ષાપત્રી, Devanagari: (शिक्षापत्री) is a religious text consisting of two hundred and twelve verses, written in Sanskrit by Lord Swaminarayan. The Shikhapatri is believed to have been written in the current form in Sanskrit by Satanand Swami, who incorporated into and compiled the scripture known as SatsangiJivan. The Shikshapatri is a key scripture to all followers of Swaminarayan and is considered the basis of the sect.
The Shikshapatri was written in Vadtal on (Maha Sud 5, 1882 VS) February 11, 1826. It is a dharma text, providing detailed instructions on how to live a spiritually uplifting life.Shiva Samhita
Shiva Samhita (IAST: śivasaṃhitā, also Siva Samhita, meaning "Shiva's Compendium") is a Sanskrit text on yoga, written by an unknown author. The text is addressed by the Hindu god Shiva to his consort Parvati. The text consists of five chapters, with the first chapter a treatise that summarizes nondual Vedanta (Advaita Vedanta) philosophy with influences from the Sri Vidya school of South India. The remaining chapters discuss yoga, the importance of a guru (teacher) to a student, various asanas, mudras and siddhis (powers) attainable with yoga and tantra.The Shiva Samhita is one of three major surviving classical treatises on hatha yoga, the other two being Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is considered the most comprehensive treatise on hatha yoga, one that recommends that all householders practice and benefit from yoga. Over a dozen variant manuscripts of the text are known, and a critical edition of the text was published in 1999 by Kaivalya Dham Yoga Research Institute.Shudra
Shudra or Shoodra is of the four varnas of the Hindu social order in India. Various sources translate it into English as a caste, or alternatively as a social class. It is the lowest rank of the four varnas.The word Shudra appears only once in the Rig veda but is found in other Hindu texts such as the Manusmriti, Arthashastra and Dharmashastras. Theoretically, Shudras have constituted the hereditary labouring class serving others. In some cases, they participated in the coronation of kings, or were ministers and kings according to early Indian texts.Smriti
Smriti (Sanskrit: स्मृति, IAST: Smṛti), literally "that which is remembered" are a body of Hindu texts usually attributed to an author, traditionally written down, in contrast to Śrutis (the Vedic literature) considered authorless, that were transmitted verbally across the generations and fixed. Smriti is a derivative secondary work and is considered less authoritative than Sruti in Hinduism, except in the Mimamsa school of Hindu philosophy. The authority of smriti accepted by orthodox schools, is derived from that of shruti, on which it is based.The Smrti literature is a corpus of diverse varied texts. This corpus includes, but is not limited to the six Vedāngas (the auxiliary sciences in the Vedas), the epics (the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana), the Dharmasūtras and Dharmaśāstras (or Smritiśāstras), the Arthasaśāstras, the Purānas, the Kāvya or poetical literature, extensive Bhasyas (reviews and commentaries on Shrutis and non-Shruti texts), and numerous Nibandhas (digests) covering politics, ethics (Nitisastras), culture, arts and society.Each Smriti text exists in many versions, with many different readings. Smritis were considered fluid and freely rewritten by anyone in ancient and medieval Hindu tradition.Stotra
Stotra (Sanskrit:स्तोत्र)(sometimes stotram,स्तोत्रम्) is a Sanskrit word that means "ode, eulogy or a hymn of praise". It is a literary genre of Indian religious texts designed to be melodically sung, in contrast to a shastra which is composed to be recited.A stotra can be a prayer, a description, or a conversation, but always with a poetic structure. It may be a simple poem expressing praise and personal devotion to a deity for example, or poems with embedded spiritual and philosophical doctrines.Many stotra hymns praise aspects of the divine, such as Devi, Shiva, or Vishnu. Relating to word "stuti", coming from the same Sanskrit root *stu- ("to praise"), and basically both mean "praise". Notable stotras are Shiva Tandava Stotram in praise of Shiva and Rama Raksha Stotra, a prayer for protection to Rama.
Stotras are a type of popular devotional literature. Among the early texts with Stotras are by Kuresha, which combine Ramanuja's Vedantic ideas on qualified monism about Atman and Brahman (ultimate, unchanging reality), with temple practices.Sushruta Samhita
The Sushruta Samhita (सुश्रुतसंहिता, IAST: Suśrutasaṃhitā, literally "Suśruta's Compendium") is an ancient Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery, and one of the most important such treatises on this subject to survive from the ancient world. The Compendium of Suśruta is one of the foundational texts of Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), alongside the Caraka-Saṃhitā, the Bheḷa-Saṃhitā, and the medical portions of the Bower Manuscript. It is one of the two foundational Hindu texts on medical profession that have survived from ancient India.The Suśrutasaṃhitā is of great historical importance because it includes historically unique chapters describing surgical training, instruments and procedures.Tantras (Hinduism)
Tantras ("Looms" or "Weavings") refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The religious culture of the Tantras is essentially Hindu, and Buddhist Tantric material can be shown to have been derived from Hindu sources. And although Hindu and Buddhist Tantra have many similarities from the outside, they do have some clear distinctions. The rest of this article deals with Hindu Tantra. Buddhist Tantra is described in the article on Vajrayana.Timeline of Hindu texts
Hindu scriptures are classified into two parts: shruti or śruti, meaning what has been heard and smriti, or smṛti, meaning what has been retained or remembered. The Vedas are classified under śruti.
The following list provides a somewhat common set of reconstructed dates for the terminus ante quem of Hindu texts, by title or genre. All dates here given ought to be regarded as roughly approximate, subject to further revision, and generally as relying for their validity on highly inferential methods and standards of evidence.
Samhita, Brahmana layers of the VedasRigveda, 1800 – 1100 BCE
Samaveda, 1200 - 800 BCE
Yajurveda, 1100 - 800 BCE
Atharvaveda, 1000 - 800 BCEThe early Upanishads were composed over 900 - 300 BCE.
OthersMahabharata, 400 BCE
Bhagavad Gita, 400 BCE
Ramayana, 400 BCE
Mimamsa Sutra, 300-200 BCE
Arthashastra, 400 BCE-
Nyaya Sutra, 2nd century BCE
Vaiseshika Sutra, 2nd century BCE
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 100 BCE - 500 CE
Brahma Sutra, 500 BCE
Puranas, 100 BCE
Shiva Sutras, 120 BCE
Abhinavabharati, 950 - 1020 CE
Yoga Vasistha, 750 CEVairagya
Vairāgya (वैराग्य) is a Sanskrit term used in Hindu philosophy that roughly translates as dispassion, detachment, or renunciation, in particular renunciation from the pains and pleasures in the temporary material world. The Hindu philosophers who advocated vairāgya told their followers that it is a means to achieve moksha.
True vairāgya refers to an internal state of mind rather than to external lifestyle and can be practiced equally well by one engaged in family life and career as it can be by a renunciate. Vairāgya does not mean suppression of or developing repulsion for material objects. By the application of vivek (spiritual discrimination or discernment) to life experience, the aspirant gradually develops a strong attraction for the inner spiritual source of fulfillment and happiness and limited attachments fall away naturally. Balance is maintained between the inner spiritual state and one's external life through the practice of seeing all limited entities as expressions of the one Cosmic Consciousness or Brahman.Vaiśeṣika Sūtra
Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, (Sanskrit: वैशेषिक सूत्र), also called Kanada sutra, is an ancient Sanskrit text at the foundation of the Vaisheshika school of Hindu philosophy. The sutra was authored by the Hindu sage Kanada, also known as Kashyapa. According to some scholars, he flourished before the advent of Buddhism because the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra makes no mention of Buddhism or Buddhist doctrines; however, the details of Kanada's life are uncertain, and the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra was likely compiled sometime between 6th and 2nd century BCE, and finalized in the currently existing version before the start of the common era.A number of scholars have commented on it since the beginning of common era; the earliest commentary known is the Padartha Dharma Sangraha of Prashastapada. Another important secondary work on Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is Maticandra's Dasha padartha sastra which exists both in Sanskrit and its Chinese translation in 648 CE by Yuanzhuang.The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is written in aphoristic sutras style, and presents its theories on the creation and existence of the universe using naturalistic atomism, applying logic and realism, and is one of the earliest known systematic realist ontology in human history. The text discusses motions of different kind and laws that govern it, the meaning of dharma, a theory of epistemology, the basis of Atman (self, soul), and the nature of yoga and moksha. The explicit mention of motion as the cause of all phenomena in the world and several propositions about it make it one of the earliest texts on physics.Vimanarcanakalpa
The Vimānārcanākalpa is a 10th to 11th century text on Hatha yoga, attributed to the sage Marichi.