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What are the Vedas?

26 November 2006 YogiVishwaVedanta

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The Vedas are the body of knowledge, which are the basic foundation of Sanatan Dharma (Eternal Religion), now commonly known as Hindu religion. Veda means ‘knowledge’ and Rig Veda is the world's oldest known text of any Indo-European language. The knowledge of Vedas was preserved in India for over 5000 years by oral tradition alone.

Who composed the Vedas?
It is believed that humans did not compose the revered compositions of the Vedas, which were handed down through generations by the word of mouth from time immemorial. The general assumption is that the Vedic hymns were revealed themselves to the sages who were the seers or “mantradrasta” of the hymns. Thus, the Vedas are considered authorless, they were transmitted verbally as it was received by Sages over the generations and do not change, they are preserved in its original form. Seers, both male (Rishis) and female (Rishiska) made the contribution to the Vedas. Following were the most important Seers who contributed to Vedas.

Rishis: Agastya, Atri, Bhardwaja, Gautam, Jamadagni, Vashista, Visvamitra, Kasyapa, Bhrigu, Gungu, Agastya, Gritsamada, Kanwa, Vamadeva and Atharvan

Rishikas: Romasha, Lopamudra, Apala, Kadru, Visvavara, Ghosha, Juhu, Vagambhrini, Paulomi, Yami, Indrani, Savitri, Devayani, Nodha, Akrishtabhasha, Sikatanivavari and Gaupayana.

It was said that initially, all the Vedic knowledge were put together as one. But later for simplicity, it was compiled and divided into four parts by Vyasa.

Written by : Sri Ganesha
Compiled by: Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana also popularly known as Veda Vyasa
Compilation Period: 1500 BCE approx.

  1. Rig-Veda – Book of Mantra - The rig Veda accounts in detail the social, religious, political and economic background of the Rig-Vedic civilization. It is the oldest book in any Indo-European language and contains the earliest form of all Sanskrit mantras that date back to 1500 B.C
  2. Sama Veda – Book of Song - Its text is a reduced version of the Rig Veda. As Vedic Scholar David Frawley puts it, if the Rig Veda is the word, Sama Veda is the song or the meaning, if Rig Veda is the knowledge, Sama Veda is its realization, if Rig Veda is the wife, the Sama Veda is her husband.
  3. Yajur Veda - Book of Ritual – It was made to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion. The Yajur Veda practically served as a guidebook for the priests who execute sacrificial acts muttering simultaneously the prose prayers and the sacrificial formulae.
  4. Atharva Veda – Book of Spell - It consists of spells and charms prevalent at its time, and portrays a clearer picture of the Vedic society. This is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to Rig-Veda with regard to history and sociology.

Structure of Vedas:
Each consists of four parts –
  1. Samhitas (Hymns)
  2. Brahmanas (Rituals)
  3. Aranyakas (Theologies)
  4. Upanishads (Philosophies)
The collection of mantras or hymns are called the Samhita. The Brahmanas are ritualistic texts and include precepts and religious duties. Each Veda has several Brahmanas attached to it. The Upanishads form the concluding portions of the Veda and therefore called the “Vedanta” or the end of the Veda and contains the essence of Vedic teachings. The Upanishads and the Aranyakas are the concluding portions of the Brahmanas, which discuss philosophical problems. The Aryanyakas (forest texts) intend to serve as objects of meditation for ascetics who live in forests and deal with mysticism and symbolism.

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