The Four Vedas: Sacred Scriptures of Hinduism

The Four Vedas: Sacred Scriptures of Hinduism

 

The Vedas are ancient Hindu text that are considered to be the most holy scriptures. One could say that the Vedas to Hindus is akin to what the Bible is to Christians. The sacred scriptures found in the Vedas are considered to define the truth for Hinduism. The word Veda itself is Sanskrit for “knowledge” or “wisdom”. While no one can say precisely when the Vedas were composed, most scholars accept that the Vedas originate from somewhere between 1500-1200 BCE, making them the oldest text of the Hindu religion.

 

An Introduction to The Vedas

These sacred scriptures are said to have been introduced to India by the Aryans. Being truly sacred, Hindus believe that god himself imparted the Vedas to scholars. As such, Hindus think of the Vedas as being apauruseya or in other words, “not of man but supernatural”. The scholars then passed on the holy words of god. For many centuries, the sacred scriptures were entirely passed on and spread to Hindu believers by word of mouth. Complex mnemonic techniques, such as the Vedic chant, greatly helped in the oral transmission of the sacred scriptures, passing the Vedas on from one generation to the next, since the second millennium BCE. To this day, so many years later, many parts of the Vedas are still recited with particular intonations, specific syllabic accents, cadence, and rhythm that have been passed down orally since the early days of the Vedas.

Veda Knowledge in Modern Context (Audio CD)

 The sacred scriptures themselves that are contained in the Vedas are a collection of poems or hymns that were produced in archaic Sanskrit. These were composed by individuals who were living in the northwest of India and who believed and worshipped many different gods. The Vedas are divided into four – the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. The four Vedas are each further classified into four subdivisions. These subdivisions are: the Samhitas – mantras and benedictions, the Aranyakas – text about ceremonies, ritual and sacrifices, Brahmanas – commentaries and explanations of the ceremonies, rituals, and sacrifices, and lastly, Upanishads – which are narratives that discuss meditation, philosophy, and spiritual wisdom. While most scholars consider the four subdivisions, other scholars add Upasanas as a fifth subdivision, which refers to Hindu worship. The entire contents of Vedic scriptures, including all four subdivisions, are regarded as Shruti or “what is heard”, which come from divine revelation.

 

Selected Mantras From Rig Veda- With Brief Commentary (Vedic Chanting) (Audio CD)

Of the four Vedas, the Rigveda is the oldest. It is a compilation of one thousand twenty-eight Vedic Sanskrit hymns, along with ten thousand six hundred verses. All of these are arranged into ten mandalas or books. The ten mandalas, which were created by various priestly groups of poets throughout a period of centuries, are dedicated to the different Rigvedic deities.

 

Saama Veda - Amaavaasya Tarpanam (Audio CD)

The second of the four Vedas is the Samaveda, which is comprised of one thousand five hundred forty-nine stanzas. The Samaveda is divided into two primary parts. The first part contains four collections of melodies that are referred to as gana. The second part, on the other hand, includes three verse books or arcika. The two parts are connected to each other with a melody in the gana corresponding to a verse in the arcika books.

 

Yajur Veda Blessing Ghana Patha: Mantras for all Occasions - Samhita and Ghanam (Set of 2 Audio CDs)

The second to the last Veda, the Yajurveda, is comprised of prose mantras. It features directions for ritual offerings that were dictated by a priest as another individual performs the actual rituals. Like the Samaveda, the Yajurveda is also divided into two major groups of text. The first group is the “Black” or Krishna, which refers to the unarranged collection of verses in the Yajurveda. The second book is the “White” or Shukla, which, in contrast, contains well-arranged verses.

Atharva Veda (Sanskrit Text, English Translation and Explanaotry Notes) (Set of 6 Volumes)


Last but not least is the Atharvaveda. As the name suggests, this Veda contains text that are said to belong to the Atharvan and Angrasa poets. The Atharvaveda has approximately seven hundred sixty hymns. This Veda was compiled last and was not, in fact, considered a Veda until the late first millennium BCE. The Atharvaveda includes text that are meant to address superstitious anxieties, magic spells, and herbal potions, among others. There are currently two versions of the Atharvaveda text that have survived to this day. These are the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya. Regardless of the two versions, the Atharvaveda has been a major reference for information on Vedic culture, rituals, customs, and beliefs.

 

Vedas: Divine Message of God to Mankind

The ancient sacred scriptures found in the Vedas have not only survived oral dissemination throughout thousands of years. Today, they still serve as a holy guide and a reference for religious truths for Hindus everywhere.

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