Vedic Literature

Vedic literature consists of four classes of literary creations, viz. Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The Vedas are hymns, prayers, charms, litanies, and sacrificial formulae. The term veda means "knowledge," and it is believed that they contain fundamental knowledge relating to the underlying cause of, function of, and personal response to existence.


The literal meaning of the word rig is 'to praise'. It is a collection of hymns in praise of gods. It was compiled around 1500-1000 BC. 

It has been divided into ten volumes called Mandals, each of which contains 1,028 hymns and 10,600 verses. The oldest books are Mandal II through VII. They are also known as family books because they are attributed to rishi families. Mandal VIII and IX are from the middle ages. Mandals I and X are the most recently completed. Mandal III contains the Gayatri Mantra, which was written in honour of the sun god Savitri. Mandal IX is solely dedicated to Soma, the Lord of Plants. Mandal X contains a hymn called Purusha Sukta, which discusses the origins of the varna system. Hotra or hotri were rishis who were experts in Rigveda. The Rigveda shares many similarities with Avesta, the oldest text in Iranian language.


In fact, Samaveda is the shortest of all the four Vedas. It is a collection of songs mostly taken from the hymns of Rigveda and set to tune It is a book of chants. Sama Veda is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is believed that the Samaveda was compiled during 1200 or 1000 BCE. It holds a divine status in the Hindu tradition.
In fact, Lord Krishna describes the Samaveda as the most important of all the Vedas in the Bhagavad Gita. Sama Veda has been compiled solely for ritual use. It contains 1549 verses. Its verses were chanted during ceremonies like the Soma sacrifice. It honours deities like Indra, Agni, and Soma. Furthermore, its prayers are devoted to summoning the Supreme Being. Only three recensions of the Samaveda have survived to this day. Worship and devotion are central themes in this work. It believes that devotion and musical chanting are the only ways to reach the Glorious Lord and Brahman. The experts in Samaveda knowledge were known as udgatri. The Samaveda compilation is regarded as the birthplace of Indian music.


The Yajur Veda ("Worship Knowledge" or "Ritual Knowledge") consists of recitations, ritual worship formulas, mantras, and chants used in worship services. It is a collection of sacrificial formulae. Like Sama Veda, its contents are derived from the Rig Veda, however it focuses 1,875 verses is on religious observance liturgy. The experts in the knowledge of Yajurveda were called adhvaryu. It is found in both prose and poetry. It consists of two parts, viz. Krishna Yajurveda ( dark) and Shukla Yajurveda(light). Theses are not distinct parts but rather characteristics of the whole. The "dark Yajur Veda" refers to parts that are unclear and poorly organized, whereas the "light Yajur Veda" refers to verses that are clearer and better organized. It describes the rituals to be followed at the time of recitation of mantra. 


The Atharva Veda ("knowledge of Atharvan") is distinguished from the first three by its emphasis on magical spells to ward off evil spirits or danger, chants, hymns, prayers, initiation rituals, marriage and funeral ceremonies, and observations on daily life. The name is thought to be derived from the priest Atharvan, who was reputed to be a healer and religious innovator. It is thought that the work was written around the same time as the Sama Veda and Yajur Veda by an individual (possibly Atharvan, but this is unlikely) or individuals (c. 1200-1000 BCE). It is divided into 20 books and contains 730 hymns, some of which are based on the Rig Veda. It consists of charms and spells. It contains magical hymns for disease relief. Ayurveda, an Indian medicinal science, derives from Atharvaveda.

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