The Vedas are the most celebrated possessions of the mankind. The Rigveda is the oldest literary work in the history of the world.The Vedas are the exquisite expressions of the Divinity. They are the first significant utterances on the lips of man.The ancient Indian literature is the glorious gift of the Indian civilization to the world. It comprises of the illustrious scriptures.
There are four Vedas -
Each Veda has four subdivisions
- Samhitas (mantras and benedictions),
- Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices),
- Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices),
- Upanishads (texts discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge).
Some scholars add a fifth category the Upasanas (worship).
The Rig Veda is a collection of inspired songs or hymns and is a main source of information on the Rig Vedic civilization. It is the oldest book in any Indo-European language and contains the earliest form of all Sanskrit mantras, dating back to 1500 BCE- 1000 BCE. Some scholars date the Rig Veda as early as 12000 BCE - 4000 BCE.
The Rig-Vedic samhita or collection of mantras consists of 1,017 hymns or suktas, covering about 10,600 stanzas, divided into eight astakas, each having eight adhayayas or chapters, which are sub-divided into various groups. The hymns are the work of many authors, or seers, called rishis. There are seven primary seers identified: Atri, Kanwa, Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Gotama and Bharadwaja. The rig Veda accounts in detail the social, religious, political and economic background of the Rig-Vedic civilization. Even though monotheism characterizes some of the hymns of Rig Veda, naturalistic polytheism and monism can be discerned in the religion of the hymns of the Rig Veda.
The Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda were compiled after the age of the Rig Veda and are ascribed to the Vedic period.
The Samaveda Samhita consists of 1549 stanzas, taken almost entirely (except for 75 mantras) from the Rigveda.While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, between c. 1200 and 1000 BCE or "slightly later," roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.
The Samaveda samhita has two major parts. The first part includes four melody collections (gna, ) and the second part three verse books A melody in the song books corresponds to a verse in the arcika books. Just as in the Rigveda, the early sections of Samaveda typically begin with hymns to Agni and Indra but shift to the abstract. Their meters shift also in a descending order. The songs in the later sections of the Samaveda have the least deviation from the hymns derived from the Rigveda.
The Yajur Veda is also a liturgical collection and was made to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion. The Yajur Veda served as a practical guidebook for the priests who execute sacrificial acts while muttering simultaneously the prose prayers and the sacrificial formulae (yajus). It is similar to ancient Egypts Book of the Dead.There are no less than six complete recessions of Yajur Veda--Madyandina, Kanva, Taittiriya, Kathaka, Maitrayani and Kapishthala.
The last of the Vedas, this is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to the Rig Veda with regard to history and sociology. A different spirit pervades this Veda. Its hymns are of a more diverse character than the Rig Veda and are also simpler in language. In fact, many scholars do not consider it part of the Vedas at all. The Atharva Veda consists of spells and charms prevalent at its time and portrays a clearer picture of the Vedic society.
The term upaveda (applied knowledge) is used in traditional literature to designate the subjects of certain technical works. Lists of what subjects are included in this class differ among sources. As per the Caraavyuha, they are:-
1. Ayurveda (Medicine), associated with the gveda
2. Dhanurveda (Archery), associated with the Yajurveda
3. Gndharvaveda (Music and sacred dance), associated with the Samaveda, and
4. Arthastra (Economics), associated with the Atharvaveda
The Vedangas are the last treatises of the Vedic Literature. Paniniya Shiksha (41-42) narrates two verses on the importance of the Vedangas which describe Veda as a Purusha having six limbs as six Vedangas: Chandas are His two feet, Kalpa are His two arms, Jyotisha are His eyes, Nirukta is His ears, Shiksha is His nose and Vyakarana is His mouth.The oldest record of their names occurs in the Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.5) where they are named as:
Shiksha or phonetics or pronunciation , Kalpa or ritual, Vyakarana or grammar, Nirukta or etymology, Chandas or meter, Jyotisha or astronomy.