Brief notes on the Vedic Literature of India

The wisdom and knowledge of the Aryans is contained in their sacred literature, collectively known as the Vedic literature.

Early Vedic Literature:

1. The Vedas are the oldest and the most sacred books of the Aryans, and are four in number: the Rigveda, the Samaveda, the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda.

2. The Brahmanas are the prose texts containing observations on the various sacrificial rites and ceremonies.

3. The Aranyakas, also known as the 'Forest Books', are the concluding portion of the Brahmanas and deal with mysticism and philosophy.

4. The Upanishads are the main source of Indian philosophy and have found an important place in the history of world literature, having been translated into various foreign languages like English, French, German and Persian. They are about 300 in number, the more prominent ones being Isa, Kena, Katha, Mundaka and Brihadranyaka.

Later Vedic Literature

1. The Sutras: They are a collection of the various new customs developed with the passage of time and are divided into three classes- Srauta-Sutras, Griha-Sutras and Dharma-Sutras.

2. Vedangas and Upavedas : Vedangas are a part of Vedic texts and deal with religious practices, pronunciation, grammar, etymology (science of words), metro and astronomy. The Upavedas deal with subjects such as medicine, music, art and architecture and war.

The important Upavedas are Ayurveda, Gandharvaveda, Dhanurveda and Shilpaveda.

3. Six Shastras: These are the six well-known schools of Hindu philosophy, known as Darshanas or Shastras. In these, the ancient sages have tried to give answers to certain difficult philosophical questions concerning God, soul, birth and death. These are Sankhya Shastra by Kapila, Yoga Shastra of Patanjali, Nyaya Shastra of Gautama, Vaisheshik Shastra of Kanad, Puna Mimansa of Jamini and Uttarr Mimansa of Vyasa.

4. The Puranas: They are the ancient texts of Hindus and are 18 in number.

5. The Epics: The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epics of Hindus, which throw an important light on the social, religious, economic and political life of the Vedic Age Aryans.

6. Dharma Shastras: These are a very important source of information about the laws and judicial procedures of the Aryans. Manu Smriti is the most important of the Dharma Shastras.