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    • Rig Veda
    • Sama Veda
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    • Atharva Veda
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Veda redirects here. For other uses, see Veda (disambiguation).

The Vedas (Sanskrit:- वेद), collectively refers to a corpus of ancient Indo-Aryan religious literature that are associated with the Vedic civilization and are considered by adherents of Hinduism to be revealed knowledge. The word Veda means Knowledge and is cognate with the word "wit" in English (as well as "vision" through Latin).The word "Veda" is derived from the root 'vid'-- to know-- in Sanskrit. Many Hindus believe the Vedas existed since the beginning of creation. The texts of the Vedas have several references to specific patterns in the ancient flows of the Ganges River, which coincide with the sites of its ancient (but now dried) tributaries.

Many historians regard the Vedas as the oldest surviving text of humanity. The newest parts of the Vedas are estimated to date back to around 500 BCE. The oldest text (RigVeda) found is now dated to around 1,500 BCE, but most Indologists agree that a long oral tradition possibly existed before it was written down. They represent the oldest stratum of Indian Literature and according to modern scholars are written in forms of a language which evolved into Sanskrit. They consider the use of Vedic Sanskrit for the language of the texts an anachronism, although it is generally accepted.



The Vedas consist of several kinds of texts, all of which date back to early times. The core is formed by the Mantras which represent hymns, prayers, incantations, magic and ritual formulas, charms etc. The hymns and prayers are addressed to a pantheon of gods (and a few goddesses), important members of which are Rudra, Varuna, Indra, Agni, etc. The mantras are supplemented by texts regarding the sacrificial rituals in which these mantras are used as well as texts exploring the philosophical aspects of the ritual tradition, narratives etc.


The Mantras are collected into anthologies called Samhitas. There are four Samhitas: the Rk (poetry), Sāman (song), Yajus (prayer), and Atharvan (a kind of priest). They are commonly referred to as the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda respectively. Each Samhita is preserved in a number of versions or recensions (shakhas), the

differences among them being minor, except in the case of the Yajur Veda, where two "White" (shukla) recensions contain the Mantras only, while four "Black" (krishna) recensions interspersed the Brahmana parts among the Mantras.

The Rigveda contains the oldest part of the corpus, and consists of 1028 hymns. The Samaveda is mostly a rearrangement of the Rigveda for musical rendering. The Yajurveda gives sacrificial prayers and the Atharvaveda gives charms, incantations, magic formulas etc. Apart from these there are some stray secular material, legends, etc.

The next category of texts are the Brahmanas. These are ritual texts that describe in detail the sacrifices in which the Mantras were to be used, as well as commenting on the meaning of the sacrificial ritual. The Brahmanas are associated with one of the Samhitas. The Brahmanas may either form separate texts, or in the case of the Black Yajur Veda, can be partly integrated into the text of the Samhita. The most important of the Brahmanas is the Shatapatha Brahmana of the White Yajur Veda.

The Aranyakas and Upanishads are theological and philosophical works. They often form part of the Brahmanas (e.g. the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad). They are the basis of the Vedanta school of Darsana.

Position and compilation

Hindu tradition regards the Vedas as uncreated, eternal and being revealed to sages (Rishis). The hymns of the Rig-Veda Samhita are believed to have been collected and arranged by Paila under the supervision of Vyasa. Others were chanted during religious and social ceremonies and were compiled by Vaishampayana under the title Yajus mantra Samhita (see Yajur-Veda). Jaimini is said to have collected hymns that were set to music and melody — 'Saman' (see Sama-Veda). The fourth collection of hymns and chants known as Atharva Samhita.

Philosophies and sects that developed in the Indian subcontinent have taken differing positions on the Vedas. In Buddhism and Jainism, the authority of the Veda is repudiated, and both evolved into separate religions. The sects which did not explicitly reject the Vedas remained followers of the Sanatana Dharma, which is known in modern times as Hinduism.

In later Hinduism, the Vedas hold an exalted position. They are regarded as Shruti, i.e. Revelation, and the Brahminical caste based on the Vedas forms an important part of Hindu religious life to this day. Vedanta, Yoga, Tantra and even Bhakti acknowledge the Vedas as revelation.


In the dharmashastras the study of the Vedas was regarded as a religious duty of the three upper varnas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas). Women and Shudras were neither required nor allowed to study the Veda (this came to happen only in the very Later Vedic or the Sutra Age, because numerous evidences suggest

that all humans were equally allowed to study the Vedas, and many Vedic "authors" were women). Elaborate methods for preserving the text (by learning them by heart and not by writing), subsidiary disciplines (Vedanga), exegetical literature, etc., were developed in the Vedic schools. In the fourteenth century Sayana wrote famous commentaries on the Vedic texts.

In modern times, Vedic studies are crucial in the understanding of Indo-European linguistics, as well as ancient Indian history.

It may be interesting to note that Hinduism encourages the Vedic mantras to be interpreted as liberally and as philosophically as possible unlike the Abrahamic religions (concerning the Tanakh, the Bible and the Koran). In fact, too literal interpretation of the mantras is actually discouraged, and even the three layers of commentaries (Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads), which form an intergral part of the shruti literature, actually interpret the seemingly polytheistic, ritualistic and highly complex Samhitas in a philosophical and metaphorical way to explain the "hidden" concepts of God (Ishwara), the Supreme Being (Brahman) and the soul or the self (Atman). Also, many Hindus believe that the very sound of the Vedic mantras is purifying for the environment and human mind.

Religious views

The religion of the Vedic period, particularly at its earliest, was distinct in a number of respects, including reference to females in positions of religious authority (female rishis, or sages), an apparent lack of belief in reincarnation, and a markedly different pantheon, with Indra generally the chief god, and little mention of the later primary gods Vishnu and Shiva, although Brahma does appear quite frequently.

While Hinduism is generally monistic or monotheistic admitting emanating deities, the early Rig Veda (undeveloped early Hinduism) was what Max Müller based his views of henotheism on. In the four Vedas, Müller believed that a striving towards One was being aimed at by the worship of different cosmic principles, such as Agni (fire), Vayu (wind), Indra (rain, thunder, the sky), etc. each of which was variously, by clearly different writers, hailed as supreme in different sections of the books. Indeed, however, what was confusing was an early idea of Rita, or supreme order, that bound all the gods. Other phrases such as Ekam Sat, Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti (Truth is One, though the sages know it as many) led to understandings that the Vedic people admitted to fundamental oneness. From this mix of monism, monotheism and naturalist polytheism Max Müller decided to name the early Vedic religion henotheistic.

However, unprecedented and thitherto unduplicated ideas of pure monism are to be found even in the early Rig Veda Samhita, notwithstanding clearly monist and monotheist movements of Hinduism that developed with the advent of the Upanishads. One such example of early Vedic monism is the Nasadiya hymn of the Rig Veda: "That One breathed by itself without breath, other than it there has been nothing." To collectively term the Vedas henotheistic, and thus further leaning towards polytheism, rather than monotheism, may play down the clearly monist bent of the Vedas that were thoroughly developed as early as 1000 BCE in the first Aranyakas and Upanishads. However, to deny that a form of polytheism is also present may equally be to ignore aspects of the early Vedic texts. Whether the concept of "henotheism" adequately addresses these complexities or simply fudges them is a matter of debate.


The Vedic view of the world and cosmogony sees one true divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, Vaak, 'birthing' the cosmos that we know from 'Hiranyagarbha' or Golden Womb, a primordial sun figure that is equivalent to Surya. The varied gods like Vayu, Indra, Rudra (the Destroyer), Agni (Fire, the sacrifical medium) and the goddess Saraswati (the Divine Word, aka Vaak) are just some examples of the myriad aspects of the one underlying nature of the universe.

See also

  • Pandit
  • Vedic chant


  • Winternitz, Moritz : History of Indian Literature, Vol.1 (Calcutta 1926)l.
Topics in Hinduism
Shruti (that which is heard):Vedas | Upanishads
Smriti (that which is remembered):Itihasa (Ramayana and Mahabharata including Bhagavad Gita) | Puranas | Sutras | Agama (Tantra & Yantra) | Vedanta
Concepts:Avatar | Brahman | Kosas | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Ishta-deva | Murti | Reincarnation | Samsara | Trimurti | Turiya | Guru-shishya tradition
Schools & systems:Schools of Hinduism | Early Hinduism | Hindu philosophy | Samkhya | Nyaya | Vaisheshika | Yoga | Mimamsa | Vedanta | Tantra | Bhakti | Carvakas
Traditional practices:Jyotish | Ayurveda
Rituals:Aarti | Bhajans | Darshan | Diksha | Mantras | Puja | Satsang | Stotras | Wedding | Yajna
Gurus and saints:Shankara | Ramanuja | Madhvacharya | Madhavacharya | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Sree Narayana Guru | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda | Chinmayananda | Sivaya Subramuniyaswami | Swaminarayan | A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada | Lokenath
Denominations:Vaishnavism | Shaivism | Shaktism | Smartism | Agama Hindu Dharma | Contemporary Hindu movements | Survey of Hindu organisations
Hindu deities:List of Hindu deities | Hindu mythology
Yugas:Satya Yuga | Treta Yuga | Dvapara Yuga | Kali Yuga
Castes:Brahmin | Kshatriya | Vaishya | Shudra

Veda Vedaerne Veda Vedas Vedoj Veda 베다 Veda ודות Vēdas Vedos Veda's Védák ヴェーダ Veda Wedy Vedas Ведыsa:वेद Vede Veda-kirjat Veda Vedalar 韦达经

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Vedas". A list of the wikipedia authors can be found here.