Vedic Literature

Vedic Literature
A leaf of Samaveda
It is difficult to say what consists Vedic literature or not. At the surface level, one can say that Samhita portion of the Vedas forms the core Vedas, but the agreement over here. According to Arya Samaj, only Samhita is the Veda, and other literature than Samhita is not  Veda. The Arya Samaj ridicules even Taittiriya Samhita of Yajurveda to be included in the definition of Veda. Next, Yajniks consider four Veda Samhitas and Brahamans associated with these Samhitas as the part of Vedic literature. They also consider six ancillaries, the  grammar (Vyakaran), etymology (nirukta), phonetics (Shiksha granth), astronomy (Jyotish), metre (Chhand) and the rituals (the Kalpa sutras, consisting of the shrautsutras and the shulbsutras) as part of the Vedic literature. Next, Vedanta School adds Upanishads and  Aranyaks as part of the Vedic literature. Finally, Puranics consider everything that comes under the Sun as the Vedic literature. According to them, Mahakavyas such as Ramayana and Mahabharata and Puranas as Bhagavad Purana as part of the Vedic literature. One  can say, the definition of Vedic literature has streched over the course of time by  each and every person.

Vedic Literature

The vedic literature can be simply divided into two categories: Shruti and Smriti. Shruti means "that which is heard" or "that which can be communicated" whereas Smriti means "that which is memorised". The major differnce between Shruti and Smriti literature is first  category of literature does not have any authorative figure, they are considered of divine origin, one can only listen them whereas Shruti, the second category of literature can be memorized (written) with a scope of change. Shruti literature holds authority over Smriti  literature as they can be only heard and there is less chance of corruption, but in smriti literature, there is an ample chance of corruption.

Shruti Literature

Shruti Literature all four Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. Moreover, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads associated with these Vedas are also part of the Shruti literature.

1. Rigveda is oldest of four vedas. It is known as ‘the first testament of mankind’.
2. The core text, the Rigveda Samhita, is a collection of 1,028 hymns (suktas) in about 10,600 verses, organized into ten books (mandalas).
3. The hymns are said to be composed around 1500 BC.
4. The initial codification of Rigveda is said to be taken place during Kuru kingdom (1200-900 BC)
5. The mandalas 2 to 7 forms are oldest part of the Rigveda. These mandalas are known as the Vansha Mandalas (family books) as each of them is attributed to a single rishi and was transmitted within the lineage of this rishi's family or students.
6. The first and tenth mandalas are the youngest mandalas. They are known as the Kshepak as they provide introduction and conclusion to Rigveda. These two are also the largest mandalas.
7. The eighth mandala is distinct from other nine mandalas, especially hymns 8:49 to 8:59 in its structure. This is why, the eighth mandala of Rigveda is known as "killa", the distinct one or the false one.
8. The tenth mandala consists the famous Purushasukta explaining the four varnas (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra).
9. There are 33 dities mentioned in Rigveda. Indra is recognized as the most powerful god, followed by Agni, Soma, Asvins. Soma here has multiple means. Soma can be identified as a lunar god or drink.
10. The ninth mandala is also known as the Soma Mandala, as it is only dedicated to Soma the drink.
11. There are 40 rivers mentioned in Rigveda with three instance of Sapta Sindhus.
12. In 7th Mandala, the war between Sudas and ten kings has been described.
13. Agriculture has been mentioned 24 times.
14. There are 30 odd manuscripts of Rigveda found.


1. Samaveda is known as the Vedas of melodies and chants. It has 1549 unique verses but except 75, all have been borrowed from the Rigveda. There are few repeative verses, and if they are taken into count, the total number of verses are 1875.
2. Most of these verses are taken from 8th and 9th mandala of Rigveda.
3. According to Frits Staal, it is Rigveda on music, as it is fusion of melodies and Rigvedic verses.
4. The Samaveda verses are meant to be sung at the time of soma sacrifice.
5. There are three recension of Samaveda: Kauthuma (Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and parts of Bihar), Ranayanijya (Maharashtra, Karnataka, few parts of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh), and  Jaiminiya (in the Carnatic, Tamil Nadu and Kerala).
6. The Samaveda has two parts: Purvarchika (with six subdivisions known as Apathaka) and Uttrarchika (with nine subdivisions known as Prapathaka).
7. There are two Upanishads associated with Samaveda: Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad.

1. Yajurveda is the Veda of prose mantras used during 'yajna'. It is known as book of sacrificial prayers.
2. The earliest layer of Yajurveda consists of 1875 distinct verses, borrowed and build upon the foundation of Rigveda.
3. The middle layer of Yajurveda includes the Satapatha Brahmana, one of the largest Brahmana texts.
4. The youngest layer of Yajurveda consists a collection of primary Upanishads such as Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Shvetashvatara Upanishad and Maitri Upanishad.
5. The Yajurveda can be divided into two parts: Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda.
6. Krishna Yajurveda contains mantras (hymns) and the Shukla Yajurveda has commentary in prose.
7. The samhita of the Shukla Yajurveda is known as Vajasneyi samhita. It has 16 different recensions, but only two have survived. These two recensions are Vajasneyi Madhyandina and Vajasneyi Kanva.
8. There are four different recensions of the Krishna Yajurveda: Kasthak, Kapishthal, Maitrayani and Taittiriya.
9. The first three vedas, Rigveda, Samaveda, and Yajurveda together are known as Trayi.

1. The Atharvaveda is the youngest veda.
2. It describes the popular beliefs and superstitions of the humble folk.
3. It is a collection of 731 hymns with 5987 mantras, divided into 20 books. About 1200 mantras are taken from Rigveda.
4. Two different recensions of Atharvedas has survived: Shaunk and Pippalad.
5. It is also known as Brahmaveda or Atharvagirasveda.
6. It contains formulas for magic. It also contains hymns related to learning, marriage and funerals.
7. It includes Gopatha Brahmana text, which is read along with Atharva Samhita.
8. There are 3 upanishads embedded in the Atharvaveda: Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad and Prashna Upanishad.

Samhita literally means "put together" or "collection", and refers to the collections of sacred hymns, verses, prayers, litanies and benedictions which forms the Vedas. The four main Vedic Samhitas are: Rigveda Samhita, Samaveda Samhita, Yajurveda Samhita, and  Atharvaveda Samhita.

There are other well-known post-vedic samhitas, and these should not be confused with Vedic samhitas. Some of these post-vedic samhitas are: Ashtavakra Gita, Bhrigu Samhita, Brahma Samhita, Charaka Samhita, Deva Samhita, Garga Samhita, Gheranda Samhita,  Kashyapa Samhita, Shiva Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Yogayajnavalkya Samhita.

1. Brahmanas are the collection of commentaries on the hymns of Vedas.
2. They are primarily a digest incoporating myths, legends, and explanation attached with the Vedic ritual.
3. There are only 19 Brahmanas survived the test of time.
4. Aitareya Brahmana and Kaushitaki Brahmana are associated with Rigveda.
5. Tandya Mahabrahmana, Sadvimsha Brahmana, Samavidhana Brahmana, Arsheya Brahmana, Devatadhyaya, Chandogya Brahmana, Samhitopanishad Brahmana, Vamsa Brahmana, Jaiminiya Brahmana, Jaiminiya Arsheya Brahmana, and Jaiminiya Upanishad  Brahmana are associated with Samaveda.
6. Kasthak Brahmana, Kapishthal Brahmana, Maitrayani Brahmana, Taittiriya Brahmana, and Shatapatha Brahmana are part of Yajurveda.
7. Gopatha Brahmana is the only surviving Brahaman text associated with Atharveda.

1. Aranyaka defines the philosophy behind the Vedic rituals.
2. They along with Upanishads form the later of the Veda.
3. There are only seven surviving aranyakas. Rigveda has two aranyakas, Yajurveda has four aranyakas, and Samaveda has one. Atharvedas has no surviving aranyaka.
4. Aitareya and Kaushitaki aranyaks belong to Rigveda.
5. Talavakara aranyaka belongs to Samaveda.
6. Taittiriya, Taittiriya, and Katha aranyaks belong to Krishna Yajurveda whereas Brihad aranyak belong to Shukla Yajurveda.

1. Upanishad literally means to "sit down near", referring to the act of student (Shishya) sitting near a teacher (Guru) while he/she imparts the knowledge.
2. There are 108 Upanishads as per Muktikopanishad. The number can go upto 200.
3. Isa, Kena, Katha, and Chandogya Upanishads are example of oldest upanishads. They are called principle upanishads. They are thirteen in number.
4. Muktikopanishad lists 21 Upanishads as Samanya Vedanta, 20 as Sanyasa, 14 as Vaishnava, 12 as Shaiva, 8 as Shakta, and 20 as Yoga.
5. If one list them according to Vedas, 10 Upanishads are associated with Rigveda, 16 with Samaveda, 32 with Krishna Yajurveda, 19 with Shukla Yajurveda, and 31 with Atharvaveda.

1. Sutra refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual
2. The oldest sutras are found in Brahaman and Aranyak layers of the Veda.
3. Some of surviving vedic sutras are Kalpa Sutras, Smarta Sutras, Srauta Sutras, Dharma Sutras, Grhya Sutras, and Sulba Sutras.
4. Some post-vedic sutras are Brahma Sutras, Yoga Sutras, Samakhya Sutras, Vaisheshika Sutras, Nyaya Sutras, Mimamsa Sutras, Kama-sutras, Moksha Sutras, Shiva Sutras, and Narada Bhakti Sutras.
5. The sutras are also found in Buddhist and Jain literature.
6. In Chinese Buddhist tradition, sutras are called Jing.

Smriti Literature

Smriti means the memorized (or written). It has a vast literature of derivate work and its roots are regarded to be in Smriti literature. The Vedangas, Itihasa, Text on Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha, Puranas, Kavya, and numerous Nibandhas are part of smriti literature.


1. There are six Vedangas: Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chhanda and Jyotisha.
2. Shiksha deals with the appropriate pronunciation of the Mantras.
3. Kalpa deals with rituals, duties and sanskara.
4. Vyakarana deals with grammar and the linguistic analysis.
5. Nirukta deals with explanation of word, mainly of those with ambiguous meaning.
6. Chhanda deals with poetic meters. Chhandasutra was composed by Aacharya Pingle.
7. Jyotisha deals with auspicious time for rituals, astronomy, and astronomy.


1. Purana literally means old.
2. There are 18 Maha Purana and 18 Upa Purana with over 400000 verses.
3. Some of these puranas are also written in regional languages.
4. The 18 Mahapuranas are Agni, Bhagavata, Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahmavaivarta, Garuda, Kurma, Linga, Markandeya, Matsya, Narada, Padma, Shiva, Skanda, Vamana, Varaha, Vayu, and Vishnu.
5. The Skanda Purana is the largest Purana with 81,000 verses.
6. They include topics like cosmology, cosmogony, genealogies, folk tales, pilgrimages, medicine, astronomy, grammar, mineralogy, humor, as well as theology and philosophy.

1. Itihasa means history in Sanskrit. They are sometimes called Mahakavyas. Epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana are considered Itihasa.
2. Ramayana was written by Valmiki whereas Mahabharata was written by Vedvyasa.
3. Ramayana is the oldest epic in the world. It is also known as Adi Kavya.
4. Ramayana is divided in 7 kands (books): Bal Kand, Ayodhya Kand, Aranya Kand, Kishkindha Kand, Sundar Kand, Lanka Kand and Uttar Kand
5. There are 24000 shlokas in Ramayana.
6. Mahabharat is the longest epic of the world with 100000 shlokas, divided in 18 chapters or parva.
7. The Shanti Parva is the largest parva.
8. The Bhagavad Gita is extracted from the Bhishma Parva.
9. Originally, it was named Jay Samhita with 8800 verses. Later, it became Bharat samhita with 24000 verses, and its final avatar, it came to be known as Mahabharat or Shatasahastri
10. The Mahabharata is also known as Pancham Veda or fifth veda.

1. The term upaveda is used for works of applied knowledge.
2. Charanavyuha mentions four Upavedas: 1. Dhanurveda (Archery) associated with Yajurveda, 2. Sthapatyaveda (Architecture) associated with Atharveda, 3. Gāndharvaveda (Music and Dance) associated with Samaveda and 4. Ayurveda (Medicine) associated with Atharveda.
3. Other Upavedas include Arthaveda/Arthashastra (Economics and Polity), Kamasutra (Love making), and Vimana Shastra (aircraft).

1. Darshana means "to see" in Sanskrit. However, it means philosophy or thought process in the broader sense.
2. There are six schools of Darshana: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedanta.
3. Buddhism and Jainism are the form of non-Hindu darshanas.
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