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Vedic Literature for UPSC,PPSC, SSC

The Vedic literature is broadly divided into two categories viz. Shruti and Smriti.
➢ Shruti means “that which has been heard”. It describes the sacred texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism viz. Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, & Upanishads.
➢ Smiriti literally means “that which is remembered,” and it is entire body of the post Vedic Classical Sanskrit literature. It comprises Vedanga, Shad darsana, Puranas, Itihasa, Upveda, Upangs.
➢ There is another post Vedic class of Sanskrit literature called Epics which includes Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Vedic Literature

The term Vedic literature means the four Vedas in their Samhita and the allied literature based on or derived from the Vedas. We classify the Vedic literature into the following categories:
I. The four Vedas i.e. the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva and their Samhitas.
II. The Brahmanas attached to each Samhita.
III. The Aranyakas
IV. The Upanishads

➢ The word 'veda' comes from the root 'vidi', signifying knowledge.

○ Composed during the Early Vedic Age.
○ The oldest religious text in the world.
○ Contains 1028 hymns organised into 10 mandalas.
○ II to VII are the earliest mandalas, each of which is ascribed to a particular family of rishis. I and X are considered the later additions.
○ The X mandala contains the famous Purushsukta which explains that the 4 varnas (Brahmans, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) were born from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of the creator, Brahma.

○ “Yajus” means "sacrificial formula" and Yajurveda is the book of sacrificial prayers. It contains the rituals of the Yajnas.
○ There are two main texts: White Yajurveda (or Shukla Yajurveda) and Black Yajurveda (or Krishna/Shyama Yajurveda).
○ Shyama is older than Shukla and has no separate Brahman. Shukla is newer and has three Brahmanas attached to it .
○ Dhanurveda is Upaveda of Yajurveda.

○ Derived from the root 'Saman', i.e., 'melody'.
○ It has 1603 verses but except 99 all the rest have been borrowed from Rig Veda.
○ Contains 'Dhrupada Raga'.
○ Gandharveveda is Samveda’s Upveda

○ Atharvaveda is chronologically the latest Veda.
○ It describes the popular beliefs, magic spells and superstitions of the humble folk.
○ Divided into 20 kandas (books) and has 711 hymns - mostly dealing with magic (along with personal problems of people).
○ For a very long time it was not included in the category of the Vedas.

➢ Explain the hymns of the Vedas.
➢ Each veda has several Brahmanas attached to it.
○ Rigveda : Kaushetki and Aitreya.
○ Yajurveda : Kathaka, Taittiriya and Shatapatha Brahmana
○ Samveda : Panchavisha, Shadvisha and Jaiminiya
○ Atharvaveda : Gopath.

➢ The Aranyakas were written in Forests and are concluding parts of the Brahmans.
➢ There are no Aranyaka appended to Atharvaveda.

➢ “Upa” means nearby and “sada” means sit. So Upanishads contain the knowledge imparted by the gurus to their disciples.
➢ They specify philosophical knowledge and spiritual learning and their main motto is “Knowledge Awards Salvation”.
➢ Upanishads are called Vedanta (the end of the Veda) because
○ They denote the last phase of the Vedic period and
○ They reveal the final aim of the Veda.
➢ There are 108 Upanishads. 11 are predominant and they are called “Mukhya Upanishads”
➢ The Oldest Upanishads are Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads
➢ Latest Upanishad is Muktikā Upnishad recorded by Dara Shikoh in 1656.
➢ Dara Shikoh, the unlucky son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is known to have translated fifty Upanishads into Persian.

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