The Vedas (/ˈveɪdəz, ˈviː-/; Sanskrit: वेद veda, "knowledge") are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, 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".
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 seen by ancient sages after intense meditation, and texts that have been more carefully preserved since ancient times. In the Hindu Epic the Mahabharata, the creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma. The Vedic hymns themselves assert that they were skillfully created by Rishis (sages), after inspired creativity, just as a carpenter builds a chariot.[note 1]
According to tradition, Vyasa is the compiler of the Vedas, who arranged the four kinds of mantras into four Samhitas (Collections). 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 (texts discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge). Some scholars add a fifth category – the Upasanas (worship).
The various Indian philosophies and denominations have taken differing positions on the Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as "orthodox" (āstika).[note 2] Other śramaṇa traditions, such as Lokayata, Carvaka, Ajivika, Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities, are referred to as "heterodox" or "non-orthodox" (nāstika) schools. Despite their differences, just like the texts of the śramaṇa traditions, the layers of texts in the Vedas discuss similar ideas and concepts.
The Sanskrit word véda "knowledge, wisdom" is derived from the root vid- "to know". This is reconstructed as being derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *u̯eid-, meaning "see" or "know", cognate to Greek (ϝ)εἶδος "aspect", "form". This is not to be confused is the homonymous 1st and 3rd person singular perfect tense véda, cognate to Greek (ϝ)οἶδα (w)oida "I know". Root cognates are Greek ἰδέα, English wit, etc., Latin videō "I see", etc.
The Sanskrit term veda as a common noun means "knowledge". The term in some contexts, such as hymn 10.93.11 of the Rigveda, means "obtaining or finding wealth, property", while in some others it means "a bunch of grass together" as in a broom or for ritual fire.
A related word Vedena appears in hymn 8.19.5 of the Rigveda. It was translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith as "ritual lore", as "studying the Veda" by the 14th-century Indian scholar Sayana, as "bundle of grass" by Max Müller, and as "with the Veda" by H.H. Wilson.
Vedas are called Maṛai or Vaymoli in parts of South India. Marai literally means "hidden, a secret, mystery". But Tamil Naanmarai mentioned in Tholkappiam isn't Sanskrit Vedas. In some south Indian communities such as Iyengars, the word Veda includes the Tamil writings of the Alvar saints, such as Divya Prabandham, for example Tiruvaymoli.
The Vedas are among the oldest sacred texts. The Samhitas date to roughly 1700–1100 BCE, and the "circum-Vedic" texts, as well as the redaction of the Samhitas, date to c. 1000–500 BCE, resulting in a Vedic period, spanning the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE, or the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The Vedic period reaches its peak only after the composition of the mantra texts, with the establishment of the various shakhas all over Northern India which annotated the mantra samhitas with Brahmana discussions of their meaning, and reaches its end in the age of Buddha and Panini and the rise of the Mahajanapadas (archaeologically, Northern Black Polished Ware). Michael Witzel gives a time span of c. 1500 to c. 500–400 BCE. Witzel makes special reference to the Near Eastern Mitanni material of the 14th century BCE, the only epigraphic record of Indo-Aryan contemporary to the Rigvedic period. He gives 150 BCE (Patañjali) as a terminus ante quem for all Vedic Sanskrit literature, and 1200 BCE (the early Iron Age) as terminus post quem for the Atharvaveda.
Transmission of texts in the Vedic period was by oral tradition, preserved with precision with the help of elaborate mnemonic techniques. A literary tradition is traceable in post-Vedic times, after the rise of Buddhism in the Maurya period,[note 3] perhaps earliest in the Kanva recension of the Yajurveda about the 1st century BCE; however oral tradition of transmission remained active. Witzel suggests the possibility of written Vedic texts towards the end of 1st millennium BCE. Some scholars such as Jack Goody state that "the Vedas are not the product of an oral society", basing this view by comparing inconsistencies in the transmitted versions of literature from various oral societies such as the Greek, Serbia and other cultures, then noting that the Vedic literature is too consistent and vast to have been composed and transmitted orally across generations, without being written down. However, adds Goody, the Vedic texts likely involved both a written and oral tradition, calling it a "parallel products of a literate society".
Due to the ephemeral nature of the manuscript material (birch bark or palm leaves), surviving manuscripts rarely surpass an age of a few hundred years. The Sampurnanand Sanskrit University has a Rigveda manuscript from the 14th century; however, there are a number of older Veda manuscripts in Nepal that are dated from the 11th century onwards.
The term "Vedic texts" is used in two distinct meanings:
The corpus of Vedic Sanskrit texts includes:
The Vedas (sruti) are different from Vedic era texts such as Shrauta Sutras and Gryha Sutras, which are smriti texts. Together, the Vedas and these Sutras form part of the Vedic Sanskrit corpus.
While production of Brahmanas and Aranyakas ceased with the end of the Vedic period, additional Upanishads were composed after the end of the Vedic period.
The Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads, among other things, interpret and discuss the Samhitas in philosophical and metaphorical ways to explore abstract concepts such as the Absolute (Brahman), and the soul or the self (Atman), introducing Vedanta philosophy, one of the major trends of later Hinduism. In other parts, they show evolution of ideas, such as from actual sacrifice to symbolic sacrifice, and of spirituality in the Upanishads. This has inspired later Hindu scholars such as Adi Shankara to classify each Veda into karma-kanda (कर्म खण्ड, action/ritual-related sections) and jnana-kanda (ज्ञान खण्ड, knowledge/spirituality-related sections).
The texts considered "Vedic" in the sense of "corollaries of the Vedas" is less clearly defined, and may include numerous post-Vedic texts such as the later Upanishads and the Sutra literature. Texts not considered to be shruti are known as smriti (Sanskrit: smṛti; "the remembered"), or texts of remembered traditions. This indigenous system of categorization was adopted by Max Müller and, while it is subject to some debate, it is still widely used. As Axel Michaels explains:
These classifications are often not tenable for linguistic and formal reasons: There is not only one collection at any one time, but rather several handed down in separate Vedic schools; Upanişads ... are sometimes not to be distinguished from Āraṇyakas...; Brāhmaṇas contain older strata of language attributed to the Saṃhitās; there are various dialects and locally prominent traditions of the Vedic schools. Nevertheless, it is advisable to stick to the division adopted by Max Müller because it follows the Indian tradition, conveys the historical sequence fairly accurately, and underlies the current editions, translations, and monographs on Vedic literature."
The Upanishads are largely philosophical works, some in dialogue form. They 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 are at the spiritual core of Hindus.
The four Vedas were transmitted in various śākhās (branches, schools). Each school likely represented an ancient community of a particular area, or kingdom. Each school followed its own canon. Multiple recensions are known for each of the Vedas. Thus, states Witzel as well as Renou, in the 2nd millennium BCE, there was likely no canon of one broadly accepted Vedic texts, no Vedic “Scripture”, but only a canon of various texts accepted by each school. Some of these texts have survived, most lost or yet to be found. Rigveda that survives in modern times, for example, is in only one extremely well preserved school of Śåkalya, from a region called Videha, in modern north Bihar, south of Nepal. The Vedic canon in its entirety consists of texts from all the various Vedic schools taken together.
Each of the four Vedas were shared by the numerous schools, but revised, interpolated and adapted locally, in and after the Vedic period, giving rise to various recensions of the text. Some texts were revised into the modern era, raising significant debate on parts of the text which are believed to have been corrupted at a later date. The Vedas each have an Index or Anukramani, the principal work of this kind being the general Index or Sarvānukramaṇī.
Prodigious energy was expended by ancient Indian culture in ensuring that these texts were transmitted from generation to generation with inordinate fidelity. For example, memorization of the sacred Vedas included up to eleven forms of recitation of the same text. The texts were subsequently "proof-read" by comparing the different recited versions. Forms of recitation included the jaṭā-pāṭha (literally "mesh recitation") in which every two adjacent words in the text were first recited in their original order, then repeated in the reverse order, and finally repeated in the original order. That these methods have been effective, is attested to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian religious text, the Rigveda, as redacted into a single text during the Brahmana period, without any variant readings within that school.
The Vedas were likely written down for the first time around 500 BCE. However, all printed editions of the Vedas that survive in the modern times are likely the version existing in about the 16th century AD.
The canonical division of the Vedas is fourfold (turīya) viz.,
Of these, the first three were the principal original division, also called "trayī vidyā"; that is, "the triple science" of reciting hymns (Rigveda), performing sacrifices (Yajurveda), and chanting songs (Samaveda). The Rigveda is the oldest work, which Witzel states are probably from the period of 1900 to 1100 BCE. Witzel, also notes that it is the Vedic period itself, where incipient lists divide the Vedic texts into three (trayī) or four branches: Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva.
Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types – the Samhitas (mantras and benedictions), the Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies such as newborn baby's rites of passage, coming of age, marriages, retirement and cremation, sacrifices and symbolic sacrifices), the Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge). The Upasanas (short ritual worship-related sections) are considered by some scholars as the fifth part. Witzel notes that the rituals, rites and ceremonies described in these ancient texts reconstruct to a large degree the Indo-European marriage rituals observed in a region spanning the Indian subcontinent, Persia and the European area, and some greater details are found in the Vedic era texts such as the Grhya Sūtras.
Only one version of the Rigveda is known to have survived into the modern era. Several different versions of the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda are known, and many different versions of the Yajur Veda have been found in different parts of South Asia.
The Rigveda Samhita is the oldest extant Indic text. It is a collection of 1,028 Vedic Sanskrit hymns and 10,600 verses in all, organized into ten books (Sanskrit: mandalas). The hymns are dedicated to Rigvedic deities.
The books were composed by poets from different priestly groups over a period of several centuries from roughly the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE (the early Vedic period), starting with the Punjab (Sapta Sindhu) region of the northwest Indian subcontinent. The Rigveda is structured based on clear principles – the Veda begins with a small book addressed to Agni, Indra, Soma and other gods, all arranged according to decreasing total number of hymns in each deity collection; for each deity series, the hymns progress from longer to shorter ones, but the number of hymns per book increases. Finally, the meter too is systematically arranged from jagati and tristubh to anustubh and gayatri as the text progresses. In terms of substance, the nature of hymns shift from praise of deities in early books to Nasadiya Sukta with questions such as, "what is the origin of the universe?, do even gods know the answer?", the virtue of Dāna (charity) in society, and other metaphysical issues in its hymns.
There are similarities between the mythology, rituals and linguistics in Rigveda and those found in ancient central Asia, Iranian and Hindukush (Afghanistan) regions.
The Samaveda Samhita consists of 1549 stanzas, taken almost entirely (except for 75 mantras) from the Rigveda. The Samaveda samhita has two major parts. The first part includes four melody collections (gāna, गान) and the second part three verse “books” (ārcika, आर्चिक). A melody in the song books corresponds to a verse in the arcika books. Just as in the Rigveda, the early sections of Samaveda typically begin with hymns to Agni and Indra but shift to the abstract. Their meters shift also in a descending order. The songs in the later sections of the Samaveda have the least deviation from the hymns derived from the Rigveda.
In the Samaveda, some of the Rigvedic verses are repeated. Including repetitions, there are a total of 1875 verses numbered in the Samaveda recension translated by Griffith. Two major recensions have survived, the Kauthuma/Ranayaniya and the Jaiminiya. Its purpose was liturgical, and they were the repertoire of the udgātṛ or "singer" priests.
The Yajurveda Samhita consists of prose mantras. It is a compilation of ritual offering formulas that were said by a priest while an individual performed ritual actions such as those before the yajna fire.
The earliest and most ancient layer of Yajurveda samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda. Unlike the Samaveda which is almost entirely based on Rigveda mantras and structured as songs, the Yajurveda samhitas are in prose and linguistically, they are different from earlier Vedic texts. The Yajur Veda has been the primary source of information about sacrifices during Vedic times and associated rituals.
There are two major groups of texts in this Veda: the "Black" (Krishna) and the "White" (Shukla). The term "black" implies "the un-arranged, motley collection" of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the "white" (well arranged) Yajurveda. The White Yajurveda separates the Samhita from its Brahmana (the Shatapatha Brahmana), the Black Yajurveda intersperses the Samhita with Brahmana commentary. Of the Black Yajurveda, texts from four major schools have survived (Maitrayani, Katha, Kapisthala-Katha, Taittiriya), while of the White Yajurveda, two (Kanva and Madhyandina). The youngest layer of Yajurveda text is not related to rituals nor sacrifice, it includes the largest collection of primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu philosophy.
The Artharvaveda Samhita is the text 'belonging to the Atharvan and Angirasa poets. It has about 760 hymns, and about 160 of the hymns are in common with the Rigveda. Most of the verses are metrical, but some sections are in prose. Two different versions of the text – the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya – have survived into the modern times. The Atharvaveda was not considered as a Veda in the Vedic era, and was accepted as a Veda in late 1st millennium BCE. It was compiled last, probably around 900 BCE, although some of its material may go back to the time of the Rigveda, or earlier.
The Atharvaveda is sometimes called the "Veda of magical formulas", an epithet declared to be incorrect by other scholars. The Samhita layer of the text likely represents a developing 2nd millennium BCE tradition of magico-religious rites to address superstitious anxiety, spells to remove maladies believed to be caused by demons, and herbs- and nature-derived potions as medicine. The text, states Kenneth Zysk, is one of oldest surviving record of the evolutionary practices in religious medicine and reveals the "earliest forms of folk healing of Indo-European antiquity". Many books of the Atharvaveda Samhita are dedicated to rituals without magic, such as to philosophical speculations and to theosophy.
The Atharva veda has been a primary source for information about Vedic culture, the customs and beliefs, the aspirations and frustrations of everyday Vedic life, as well as those associated with kings and governance. The text also includes hymns dealing with the two major rituals of passage – marriage and cremation. The Atharva Veda also dedicates significant portion of the text asking the meaning of a ritual.
The Brahmanas are commentaries, explanation of proper methods and meaning of Vedic Samhita rituals in the four Vedas. They also incorporate myths, legends and in some cases philosophy. Each regional Vedic shakha (school) has its own operating manual-like Brahmana text, most of which have been lost. A total of 19 Brahmana texts have survived into modern times: two associated with the Rigveda, six with the Yajurveda, ten with the Samaveda and one with the Atharvaveda. The oldest dated to about 900 BCE, while the youngest Brahmanas (such as the Shatapatha Brahmana), were complete by about 700 BCE. According to Jan Gonda, the final codification of the Brahmanas took place in pre-Buddhist times (ca. 600 BCE).
The substance of the Brahmana text varies with each Veda. For example, the first chapter of the Chandogya Brahmana, one of the oldest Brahmanas, includes eight ritual suktas (hymns) for the ceremony of marriage and rituals at the birth of a child. The first hymn is a recitation that accompanies offering a Yajna oblation to Agni (fire) on the occasion of a marriage, and the hymn prays for prosperity of the couple getting married. The second hymn wishes for their long life, kind relatives, and a numerous progeny. The third hymn is a mutual marriage pledge, between the bride and groom, by which the two bind themselves to each other. The sixth through last hymns of the first chapter in Chandogya Brahmana are ritual celebrations on the birth of a child and wishes for health, wealth, and prosperity with a profusion of cows and artha. However, these verses are incomplete expositions, and their complete context emerges only with the Samhita layer of text.
Aranyakas, however, neither are homogeneous in content nor in structure. They are a medley of instructions and ideas, and some include chapters of Upanishads within them. Two theories have been proposed on the origin of the word Aranyakas. One theory holds that these texts were meant to be studied in a forest, while the other holds that the name came from these being the manuals of allegorical interpretation of sacrifices, for those in Vanaprastha (retired, forest-dwelling) stage of their life, according to the historic age-based Ashrama system of human life.
The Upanishads reflect the last composed layer of texts in the Vedas. They are commonly referred to as Vedānta, variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Vedas" 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 influenced the diverse traditions of Hinduism.
Aranyakas are sometimes identified as karma-kanda (ritualistic section), while the Upanishads are identified as jnana-kanda (spirituality section). In an alternate classification, the early part of Vedas are called Samhitas and the commentary are called the Brahmanas which together are identified as the ceremonial karma-kanda, while Aranyakas and Upanishads are referred to as the jnana-kanda.
The Vedangas developed towards the end of the vedic period, around or after the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. These auxiliary fields of Vedic studies emerged because the language of the Vedas, composed centuries earlier, became too archaic to the people of that time. The Vedangas were sciences that focused on helping understand and interpret the Vedas that had been composed many centuries earlier.
The six subjects of Vedanga are phonetics (Śikṣā), poetic meter (Chandas), grammar (Vyākaraṇa), etymology and linguistics (Nirukta), rituals and rites of passage (Kalpa), time keeping and astronomy (Jyotiṣa).
Vedangas developed as ancillary studies for the Vedas, but its insights into meters, structure of sound and language, grammar, linguistic analysis and other subjects influenced post-Vedic studies, arts, culture and various schools of Hindu philosophy. The Kalpa Vedanga studies, for example, gave rise to the Dharma-sutras, which later expanded into Dharma-shastras.
Pariśiṣṭa "supplement, appendix" is the term applied to various ancillary works of Vedic literature, dealing mainly with details of ritual and elaborations of the texts logically and chronologically prior to them: the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Sutras. Naturally classified with the Veda to which each pertains, Parisista works exist for each of the four Vedas. However, only the literature associated with the Atharvaveda is extensive.
The term upaveda ("applied knowledge") is used in traditional literature to designate the subjects of certain technical works. Lists of what subjects are included in this class differ among sources. The Charanavyuha mentions four Upavedas:
Some post-Vedic texts, including the Mahabharata, the Natyasastra and certain Puranas, refer to themselves as the "fifth Veda". The earliest reference to such a "fifth Veda" is found in the Chandogya Upanishad in hymn 7.1.2.
Let drama and dance (Nātya, नाट्य) be the fifth vedic scripture. Combined with an epic story, tending to virtue, wealth, joy and spiritual freedom, it must contain the significance of every scripture, and forward every art. Thus, from all the Vedas, Brahma framed the Nātya Veda. From the Rig Veda he drew forth the words, from the Sama Veda the melody, from the Yajur Veda gesture, and from the Atharva Veda the sentiment.
Other texts such as the Bhagavad Gita or the Vedanta Sutras are considered shruti or "Vedic" by some Hindu denominations but not universally within Hinduism. The Bhakti movement, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in particular extended the term veda to include the Sanskrit Epics and Vaishnavite devotional texts such as the Pancaratra.
The Puranas is a vast genre of encyclopedic Indian literature about a wide range of topics particularly myths, legends and other traditional lore. Several of these texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. There are 18 Maha Puranas (Great Puranas) and 18 Upa Puranas (Minor Puranas), with over 400,000 verses.
The Puranas have been influential in the Hindu culture. They are considered Vaidika (congruent with Vedic literature). The Bhagavata Purana has been among the most celebrated and popular text in the Puranic genre, and is of non-dualistic tenor. The Puranic literature wove with the Bhakti movement in India, and both Dvaita and Advaita scholars have commented on the underlying Vedanta themes in the Maha Puranas.
The study of Sanskrit in the West began in the 17th century. In the early 19th century, Arthur Schopenhauer drew attention to Vedic texts, specifically the Upanishads. The importance of Vedic Sanskrit for Indo-European studies was also recognized in the early 19th century. English translations of the Samhitas were published in the later 19th century, in the Sacred Books of the East series edited by Müller between 1879 and 1910. Ralph T. H. Griffith also presented English translations of the four Samhitas, published 1889 to 1899.
Voltaire regarded Vedas to be exceptional, he remarked that:
Apaurusheya (Sanskrit: अपौरुषेय, apauruṣeya, lit. means "not of a man"), meaning "superhuman"., or "impersonal, authorless", is a context used to describe the Vedas, the earliest scripture in Hinduism.Apaurusheya shabda ("impersonal words, authorless") is an extension of apaurusheya which refers to the Vedas and numerous other texts in Hinduism.Apaurusheya is a central concept in the Vedanta and Mimamsa schools of Hindu philosophy. These schools accept the Vedas as svatah pramana ("self-evident means of knowledge"). The Mimamsa school asserts that since the Vedas are composed of words (shabda) and the words are composed of phonemes, the phonemes being eternal, the Vedas are also eternal. To this, if asked whether all words and sentences are eternal, the Mimamsa philosophers reply that the rules behind combination of phonemes are fixed and pre-determined for the Vedas, unlike other words and sentences. The Vedanta school also accepts this line of argument.Aranyaka
The Aranyakas (; Sanskrit: āraṇyaka आरण्यक) constitutes the philosophy behind ritual sacrifice of the ancient Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas. They typically represent the later sections of Vedas, and are one of many layers of the Vedic texts. The other parts of Vedas are the Samhitas (benedictions, hymns), Brahmanas (commentary), and the Upanishads (spirituality and abstract philosophy).Aranyakas describe and discuss rituals from various perspectives, but some include philosophical speculations. For example, the Katha Aranyaka discusses rituals connected with the Pravargya. The Aitareya Aranyaka includes explanation of the Mahavrata ritual from ritualisitic to symbolic meta-ritualistic points of view. Aranyakas, however, neither are homogeneous in content nor in structure. Aranyakas are sometimes identified as karma-kanda (कर्मकाण्ड) / (कांड), ritualistic action/sacrifice section), while the Upanishads are identified as jnana-kanda (ज्ञानकाण्ड /कांड) knowledge/spirituality section). In an alternate classification, the early part of Vedas are called Samhitas and the ritualistic commentary on the mantras and rituals are called the Brahmanas which together are identified as the ceremonial karma-kanda, while Aranyakas and Upanishads are referred to as the jnana-kanda.In the immense volume of ancient Indian Vedic literature, there is no absolute universally true distinction between Aranyakas and Brahmanas. Similarly, there is no absolute distinction between Aranyakas and Upanishads, as some Upanishads are incorporated inside a few Aranyakas. Aranyakas, along with Brahmanas, represent the emerging transitions in later Vedic religious practices. The transition completes with the blossoming of ancient Indian philosophy from external sacrificial rituals to internalized philosophical treatise of Upanishads.Atharvaveda
The Atharva Veda (Sanskrit: अथर्ववेद, Atharvaveda from atharvāṇas and veda, meaning "knowledge") is the "knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life". The text is the fourth Veda, but has been a late addition to the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism.The Atharvaveda is composed in Vedic Sanskrit, and it is a collection of 730 hymns with about 6,000 mantras, divided into 20 books. About a sixth of the Atharvaveda text adapts verses from the Rigveda, and except for Books 15 and 16, the text is in poem form deploying a diversity of Vedic matters. Two different recensions of the text – the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya – have survived into modern times. Reliable manuscripts of the Paippalada edition were believed to have been lost, but a well-preserved version was discovered among a collection of palm leaf manuscripts in Odisha in 1957.
In contrast to the 'hieratic religion' of the other three Vedas, the Atharvaveda is said to represent a 'popular religion', incorporating not only formulas for magic, but also the daily rituals for initiation into learning (upanayana), marriage and funerals. Royal rituals and the duties of the court priests are also included in the Atharvaveda. Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in ancient India, suggests a link between this Veda and medicine.
The Atharvaveda was likely compiled as a Veda contemporaneously with Samaveda and Yajurveda, or about 1200 BC - 1000 BC. Along with the Samhita layer of text, the Atharvaveda includes a Brahmana text, and a final layer of the text that covers philosophical speculations. The latter layer of Atharvaveda text includes three primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu philosophy. These include the Mundaka Upanishad, the Mandukya Upanishad and the Prashna Upanishad.Atheism in Hinduism
Atheism (Sanskrit: निरीश्वरवाद, nir-īśvara-vāda, lit. "statement of no Lord", "doctrine of godlessness") or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies. In Indian philosophy, three schools of thought are commonly referred to as nastika for rejecting the doctrine of Vedas: Jainism, Buddhism and Cārvāka.Hinduism is a religion, but also a philosophy. Among the various schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, Yoga and Mimamsa while not rejecting either the Vedas or the Brahman, typically reject a personal God, creator God, or a God with attributes. While Samkhya and Yoga rejected the idea of an eternal, self-caused, creator God, Mimamsa argued that the Vedas could not have been authored by a deity.
Though some schools of thought view the path of the atheist as difficult to follow in matters of spirituality, it is still a valid one.Brahma
Brahma (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मा, IAST: Brahmā) is a creator god in Hinduism. He is also known as Svayambhu (self-born) or the creative aspect of Vishnu, Vāgīśa (Lord of Speech), and the creator of the four Vedas, one from each of his mouths. Brahma is consort of Saraswati and he is the father of Four Kumaras, Narada,Daksha and many more.Brahma is sometimes identified with the Vedic god Prajapati, he is also known as Vedanatha (god of Vedas), Gyaneshwar (god of Knowledge), Chaturmukha (having Four Faces) Svayambhu (self born), Brahmanarayana (half Brahma and half Vishnu), etc, as well as linked to Kama and Hiranyagarbha (the cosmic egg). He is more prominently mentioned in the post-Vedic Hindu epics and the mythologies in the Puranas. In the epics, he is conflated with Purusha. Although, Brahma is part of the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva Trimurti, ancient Hindu scriptures mention multiple other trinities of gods or goddesses which do not include Brahma.Several Puranas describe him as emerging from a lotus, connected to the navel of Lord Vishnu. Other Puranas suggest that he is born from Shiva or his aspects, or he is a supreme god in diverse versions of Hindu mythology. Brahma, along with other deities, is sometimes viewed as a form (saguna) of the otherwise formless (nirguna) Brahman, the ultimate metaphysical reality in Vedantic Hinduism. In an alternate version, some Puranas state him to be the father of Prajapatis.According to some, Brahma does not enjoy popular worship in present-age Hinduism and has lesser importance than the other members of the Trimurti, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is revered in ancient texts, yet rarely worshiped as a primary deity in India. Very few temples dedicated to him exist in India; the most famous being the Brahma Temple, Pushkar in Rajasthan. Brahma temples are found outside India, such as at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok.Brahmana
The Brahmanas (; Sanskrit: ब्राह्मणम्, Brāhmaṇam) are a collection of ancient Indian texts with commentaries on the hymns of the four Vedas. They are a layer or category of Vedic Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda, and form a part of the Hindu śruti literature. They are primarily a digest incorporating myths, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases speculations about natural phenomenon or philosophy.The Brahmanas are particularly noted for their instructions on the proper performance of rituals, as well as explain the original symbolic meanings- translated to words and ritual actions in the main text. Brahmanas lack a homogeneous structure across the different Vedas, with some containing chapters that constitute Aranyakas or Upanishads in their own right.Each Vedic shakha (school) has its own Brahmana. Numerous Brahmana texts existed in ancient India, many of which have been lost. A total of 19 Brahmanas are extant at least in their entirety.
The dating of the final codification of the Brahmanas and associated Vedic texts is controversial, which occurred after centuries of verbal transmission. The oldest is dated to about 900 BCE, while the youngest Brahmanas (such as the Shatapatha Brahmana), were complete by about 700 BCE. According to Jan Gonda, the final codification of the four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and early Upanishads took place in pre-Buddhist times (ca. 600 BCE).Hindu texts
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.Jaimini
Jaimini was an ancient Nepali scholar who founded the Mimansa school of Hindu philosophy. He was a disciple of sage Veda Vyasa, the son of Parashara. Traditionally attributed to be the author of the Mimamsa Sutras and Jaimini Sutras, he is estimated to have lived around the 4th-century BCE. His school is considered non-theistic, but one that emphasized rituals parts of the Vedas as essential to Dharma.Jaimini's guru was Badarayana, the latter founded the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, emphasizing the knowledge parts of the Vedas, and credited with authoring Brahma Sutras. Both Badarayana and Jaimini quoted each other as they analyzed each other's theories, Badarayana emphasizing knowledge while Jaimini emphasizes rituals, sometimes agreeing with each other, sometimes disagreeing, often anti-thesis of the other.Jaimini's contributions to textual analysis and exegesis influenced other schools of Indian philosophies, and the most studied bhasya (reviews and commentaries) on Jaimini's texts were by scholars named Shabara, Kumarila and Prabhakara.Karnavedha
Karnavedha (Sanskrit: कर्णवेध, Karṇavedha) or Karnavedham is one of the sixteen major sanskaras (sacraments) known as "Shodasha Sanskaras" of Sanatana Dharma. It is an ear piercing ceremony that is typically performed between the first and fifth year of life. This can also be performed during later years. Brahmins, especially those studying the vedas, usually undergo karnavedha and the other samskaras during the course of their lifetime. The samskaras are mentioned in the Brahmana portion of the vedas. Some scholars advise that the performance of karnavedha should be considered just as important as upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony - another major samskara ) and the other sacraments as each holds its own symbolic spiritual value.
While equally recommended for males and females, in modern times, karnavedha has become an uncommon practice amongst males.
Karnavedha is considered a vedic rite of passage with symbolic spiritual significance. Some believe that it is intended to open the inner ears for receiving sacred sounds. Hearing of sacred sounds with concentration is considered meritorious in that it cleanses the mind and nurtures the spirit.
During certain medieval periods, "karnavedha" became associated with religious attire and its performance became obligatory to the extent that its non-performance became regarded as sinful among some communities.Kumārila Bhaṭṭa
Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (fl. roughly 700) was a Hindu or brahminical philosopher and Mīmāṃsā scholar from medieval India. He is famous for many of his various theses on Mimamsa, such as Mimamsaslokavarttika. Bhaṭṭa was a staunch believer in the supreme validity of Vedic injunction, a great champion of Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā and a confirmed ritualist. The Varttika is mainly written as a subcommentary of Sabara's commentary on Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutras. His philosophy is classified by some scholars as existential realism.Scholars differ as regards Kumārila Bhaṭṭa's views on a personal God. For example, Manikka Vachakar believed that Bhaṭṭa promoted a personal God (saguna brahman), which conflicts with the Mīmāṃsā school. In his Varttika, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa goes to great lengths to argue against the theory of a creator God and held that the actions enjoined in the Veda had definite results without an external interference.
Kumārila is also credited with the logical formulation of the Mimamsic belief that the Vedas are unauthored (apauruṣeyā). In particular, his defence against medieval Buddhist positions on Vedic rituals is noteworthy. Some believe that this contributed to the decline of Buddhism in India, because his lifetime coincides with the period in which Buddhism began to decline. Indeed, his dialectical success against Buddhists is confirmed by Buddhist historian Taranatha, who reports that Kumārila defeated disciples of Buddhapalkita, Bhavya, Dharmadasa, Dignaga and others. His work strongly influenced other schools of Indian philosophy, with the exception that while Mimamsa considers the Upanishads to be subservient to the Vedas, the Vedanta school does not think so.Rishi
Rishi (Sanskrit: ऋषि IAST: ṛṣi) is a Vedic term from ancient India for an inspired poet of hymns from the Vedas. Post-Vedic tradition of Hinduism regards the rishis as "Jogi", "great sadhus" or "sages" who after intense meditation (tapas) realized the supreme truth and eternal knowledge, which they composed into hymns.Saint-Jean-de-Védas
Saint-Jean-de-Védas is a commune in the Hérault department in the Occitanie region in southern France.Samaveda
The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद, sāmaveda, from sāman "song" and veda "knowledge"), is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, and part of the scriptures of Hinduism. One of the four Vedas, it is a liturgical text which consists of 1,549 verses. All but 75 verses have been taken from the Rigveda. Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, c. 1200 or 1000 BCE, roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.Embedded inside the Samaveda is the widely studied Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad, considered as primary Upanishads and as influential on the six schools of Hindu philosophy, particularly the Vedanta school. The classical Indian music and dance tradition considers the chants and melodies in Samaveda as one of its roots.It is also referred to as Sama Veda.Svādhyāya
Svādhyāya (Devanagari: स्वाध्याय) is a Sanskrit term which literally means "one's own reading" and "self-study". It is also a broader concept with several meanings. In various schools of Hinduism, Svadhyaya is a Niyama (virtuous observance) connoting introspection and "study of self". The term also means the self-study and recitation of the Vedas and other sacred books.Vedanga
The Vedanga' (Sanskrit: वेदाङ्ग vedāṅga, "limbs of the Veda") are six auxiliary disciplines in Vedic culture that developed in ancient times, and have been connected with the study of the Vedas. These are:
Shiksha (śikṣā): phonetics, phonology, pronunciation. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
Chandas (chandas): prosody. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): grammar and linguistic analysis. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
Nirukta (nirukta): etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
Kalpa (kalpa): ritual instructions. This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy. This auxiliary Vedic discipline focussed on time keeping.The character of Vedangas has roots in ancient times, and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mentions it as an integral part of the Brahmanas layer of the Vedic texts. Individually, these auxiliary disciplines of study are traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE, and the 5th-century BCE scholar Yaska quotes the Vedangas. However, it is unclear when and where a list of six Vedangas were first conceptualized.The Vedangas likely developed towards the end of the vedic period, around or after the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. These auxiliary fields of Vedic studies emerged because the language of the Vedic texts composed centuries earlier grew too archaic to the people of that time. The Vedangas were sciences that focused on helping understand and interpret the Vedas that had been composed many centuries earlier.Vedangas developed as ancillary studies for the Vedas, but its insights into meters, structure of sound and language, grammar, linguistic analysis and other subjects influenced post-Vedic studies, arts, culture and various schools of Hindu philosophy. The Kalpa Vedanga studies, for example, gave rise to the Dharma-sutras, which later expanded into Dharma-shastras.Vedic chant
The oral tradition of the Vedas (Śruti) consists of several pathas, "recitations" or ways of chanting the Vedic mantras. Such traditions of Vedic chant are often considered the oldest unbroken oral tradition in existence, the fixation of the Vedic texts (samhitas) as preserved dating to roughly the time of Homer (early Iron Age).UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of Vedic chant a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003. Wayne Howard noted in the preface of his book, Veda Recitation in Varanasi, "The four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva) are not 'books' in the usual sense, though within the past hundred years each veda has appeared in several printed editions. They are comprised rather of tonally accented verses and hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission. They are robbed of their essence when transferred to paper, for without the human element the innumerable nuances and fine intonations – inseparable and necessary components of all four compilations – are lost completely. The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is never the printed page but rather the few members ... who are today keeping the centuries-old traditions alive."Vyasa
Vyasa (; Sanskrit: व्यास, literally "Compiler") is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, veda-vyāsa, "the one who classified the Vedas") or Krishna Dvaipāyana (referring to his dark complexion and birthplace). He is generally considered the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it and the scribe of both the Vedas and Puranas, also known as Puranik. Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to Hindu belief.
The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him. It is also known as Vyasa Purnima, for it is the day believed to be both his birthday and the day he divided the Vedas.Yajurveda
The Yajurveda (Sanskrit: यजुर्वेद, yajurveda, from yaj meaning "worship", and veda meaning "knowledge") is the Veda primarily of prose mantras for worship rituals. An ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, it is a compilation of ritual offering formulas that were said by a priest while an individual performed ritual actions such as those before the yajna fire. Yajurveda is one of the four Vedas, and one of the scriptures of Hinduism. The exact century of Yajurveda's composition is unknown, and estimated by scholars to be around 1200 to 1000 BCE, contemporaneous with Samaveda and Atharvaveda.The Yajurveda is broadly grouped into two – the "black" or "dark"(Krishna) Yajurveda and the "white" or "bright"(Shukla) Yajurveda. The term "black" implies "the un-arranged, unclear, motley collection" of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the "white" which implies the "well arranged, clear" Yajurveda. The black Yajurveda has survived in four recensions, while two recensions of white Yajurveda have survived into the modern times.The earliest and most ancient layer of Yajurveda samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda. The middle layer includes the Satapatha Brahmana, one of the largest Brahmana texts in the Vedic collection. The youngest layer of Yajurveda text includes the largest collection of primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu philosophy. These include the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Isha Upanishad, the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Maitri Upanishad.Āstika and nāstika
Āstika (Sanskrit आस्तिक IAST: āstika) derives from the Sanskrit asti, "there is, there exists", and means “one who believes in the existence (of a soul separate from the material world, Brahman, etc.)” and nāstika means "an unbeliever". These have been concepts used to classify Indian philosophies by modern scholars, and some Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina texts. Āstika has been defined in one of three ways; as those who accept the epistemic authority of the Vedas, as those who accept the existence of ātman, or as those who accept the existence of Ishvara. In contrast, nāstika are those who deny the respective definitions of āstika.The various definitions for āstika and nāstika philosophies has been disputed since ancient times, and there is no consensus. Buddhism is considered to be nāstika, but the Gautama Buddha is considered an avatar of Vishnu in some Hindu traditions.The most studied Āstika schools of Indian philosophies, sometimes referred to as orthodox schools, are six: Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta. The most studied Nāstika schools of Indian philosophies, sometimes referred to as heterodox schools, are four: Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, and Ājīvika. This orthodox-heterodox terminology is a construct of Western languages, and lacks scholarly roots in Sanskrit. Recent scholarly studies state that there have been various heresiological translations of Āstika and Nāstika in 20th century literature on Indian philosophies, but quite many are unsophisticated and flawed.
Astika and Nāstika do not mean "theism" and "atheism" respectively in ancient or medieval era Sanskrit literature. In current Indian languages like Hindi, āstika and its derivatives usually mean "theist", while nāstika and its derivatives denote an "atheist.” However, the terms are used differently in Hindu philosophy. For example, Sāṃkhya is both an atheist (as it does not accept an anthropomorphic God) and āstika (Vedic) philosophy, though “God” is often used as an epithet for consciousness (purusa) within its doctrine.