Vedic Literature

The literature of this period is divided into two parts the first, Shruti (all the four Vedas) and the second, Samhita (Apurusheymayam).

Shruti Literature

Rig Veda: This is the first and most important of the Vedas and the first text in world literature. It is also the first specimen of writing in Indo. European languages. It consists of 1028 verses, divided into 10 chapters. Its main theme is prayer. It defines India as Bharat and Jambudweepa. Hotri is the priest who recites the verses of the Rig Veda.

Sam Veda: This deals with chchendus (metre or volume). It is composed in the form of ragas. Thus it became the basis of Indian music tradition (sangeet shastra). It is recited by the priests called udgatar.

Yajur Veda: This Veda deals with rituals and ceremonies. It is composed in the prose form. It is divided into two parts called Sukola or white Sajur Veda which deals with Aryan ceremonies and black Yajur Veda which deals with non-Aryan ones. Adhvaryu is the priest who recites the Rajur Veda.

Artharva Veda: For a long time it was not considered a Veda at all. It’s completely the work of non-Aryans. It deals with witchcraft, magic and invoking evil spirits. However Indian medicine (ayurveda), mathematics (ganita shastra) and geometry (rekha ganita) were part of the Atharva Veda. No priest is associated with this Veda.

Smriti Literature

Smriti consists of Brahamans, Aranyakas, Upanishads, the six vedangas and four upvedas. Brahamans, Aranyakas literature and Upanishads are portion attached to the Vedas – chapters, sub chapters and commentaries.

The Brahamans deal with ceremonies and rituals. Aranyakas deal with forest life. Upanishads are the last portion and so are also called the Vedanta. They deal with metaphysics. They are 108 in number and are the richest source of Indian philosophy.

Important Upanishads

  1. Katho Upanishad: is deals with the subject of death. It is a dialogue between student Nachiketa with the
    lord of death.
  2. Essa Upanishad deals with creation.
  3. The slogan Satyamev Jayetey is a part of the Mundoko
    Upanishad.
  4. Svetasvatra Upanishad describes Shiva for first time.
  5. Keno Upanishad talks about Uma and Parvati for the first time.
  6. Chandogya Upanishad refers to Krishna for the first time and says that he was the disciple of Ghora and
    Agnirasa and Sandipani.

Six Vedangas

  1. Niryukta, etymology deals with the origin of words.
  2. Shiksha, Phonetics teaches the art of pronounciation.
  3. Chchendus, discusses metre or volume.
  4. Vyakarna teaches grammar.
  5. Kalpa talks about rituals.
  6. Jyotisha discusses Astronomy.

Of the six vedangas, Kalpa is the most important, full of formulae, and is divided into three parts.

Four Upvedas

  • Ayur Veda — Medicine
  • Gandharva Veda — Music
  • Silpa veda — Sculptor
  • Dhanur Veda — Archery

OM

‘Om’ is the most sacred of sounds in Hinduism and is said to be the syllable that preceded the universe. According to
Hindu mythology, the gods were made from ‘Om’, which is a cosmic vibration that holds the heavens together. Because of its sacred nature, ‘ Om’ precedes all Hindu prayers and is also used as the final exclamation, similar to ‘Amen’ in Christianity.

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