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Hindu Scriptures

Hindu Scriptures

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Published by Moonlightshadow
List of Hindu Scriptures, organized by categories...
List of Hindu Scriptures, organized by categories...

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Published by: Moonlightshadow on Jan 27, 2009
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07/03/2013

 
Hindu ScripturesSanatana Dharma ("Eternal Religion"), a.k.a Hinduism, is withoutany contest the "world champion" of Scriptures, both in its breath(covering 18 fields of knowledge, it has far more scriptures than allthe other world religions put together) and its depth.As the great Indologist Max Muller said,"If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fullydeveloped the choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on thegreatest problems of life, and has found solution of some of themwhich well deserve the attention even of those who have studiedPlato and Kant-I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurturedalmost exclusively on the thought of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which ismost wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, morecomprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life notfor this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life-again I shouldpoint to India." The sheer number of scriptures should not be so surprising, in lightof the fact that Indians have always considered all arts, sciences,and occupations as sacred, i.e. offering the opportunity to perfectone's love for God by carrying out our activities guided by thescriptures and the sages. Hence there are scriptures for meditation,administration, love-making, dancing, grammar, architecture,temple worship, and so on and so forth. The Fourteen Fields of KnowledgeIndian scriptures span fourteen fields of knowledge (
vidya
) and fourcomplements to the Vedas (
upavedas
). The fourteen fields are thefour Vedas (Rik, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), the six
vedangas
(meter,etymology, phonetics, grammar, astrology-astronomy, rituals), andthe four upangas (logic, enquiry, sacred history, code of socialconduct). The four complements to the Vedas are medicine, politics-economics, warfare, and fine arts.(The
Mahabharata
,
Ramayana
, as well as Sankhya, Patañjala,Pashupata and Vaishnava, form part of Dharma Shastras.)
The Six Categories
Another method is to classify all scriptures in six categories:1) scriptures which have been divinely revealed,2) scriptures which have been composed,
 
3) sacred epics,4) sacred legends and history,5) manuals of divine worship, and6) the six philosophical systems. This is the classification that we will examine presently.
I. Shrutis
 
Shruti
means "heard", i.e. divinely revealed scriptures. The
shrutis
are also known as
 prabhu-samhitas
("Commanding Treatises"). Theyrefer to the four Vedas only.All religions trace their scriptures to the revelation given by God toa single chosen messenger... except in Hinduism. The Vedas werenot revealed to a single prophet. They existed in a subtle formbefore creation began, and were gradually revealed to a number of sages or rishis (over 800 of them, according to some calculations)in the depth of their meditation. Each Vedic mantra is dedicated toa particular deity (
devata
), and set in one of 19 possible meters(
chhandas
). The word veda itself come from the Sanskrit root
vid 
, "to know." The four Vedas number all together over 20,500 mantras.
1. Rig Veda
It was revealed to Paila Rishi and dedicated to Agni, the fire god. Itis presided by the planet Guru (Jupiter).It is divided in ten books (
mandalas
), made of 1028 hymns (
suktas
),which comprise 10,552 mantras in total. The Rig Veda originally had twenty-one recensions (
shakhas
), onlyfive of which are still extant. It contains hymns on gods, soul, sociallife.It contains the
 Aitareya
and
Kaushitaki Upanishads
.
2. Yajur Veda
It was revealed to Vaishampayana Rishi and dedicated to Vayu, thewind god. It is presided by the planet Shukra (Venus).It is divided in 40 parts (
skandas
), which comprise 1975 mantras intotal.
 
It is divided in: 1) the Krishna ("Black") Yajur Veda book (the oldest),and 2) the Shukla ("White") Yajur Veda book (a later revelation toSage Yajñavalkya, nephew of Sage Vaishampayana) The Yajur Veda originally had 102 recensions (85 for the Black, 17for the White) only four of the Black and two of the White are stillextant today. It is a manual on rituals and sacrifices. The Black contains the
Taittiriya
and
Katha Upanishads
, while theWhite contains the
Isha
and
Brihadaranyaka Upanishads
.
3. Sama Veda
It was revealed to Jaimini Rishi and dedicated to Aditya, the sungod. It is presided by the planet Mangal (Mars).It is divided in:1) Purvarcika, made of four parts (
skandas
), containing 585mantras.2) Uttararcika, made of 21 parts (
skandas
), containing 964 mantras.Of the total of 1549 mantras, all but 75 of them come from the RigVeda. The Sama Veda originally had 1000 recensions, only three of whichare still extant today. It contains devotional hymns, music, prayersfor peace.It contains the
Chhandogya
and
Kena Upanishads
.Note: in the matter of Vedic sacrifices, the
 prayoga
(operative)mantras are taken from the Rig Veda,
adhwaryu
(priestly) from the Yajurveda and the
audgatra
(singing) from the Samaveda.
4. Atharva Veda
It was revealed to Sumanthu Rishi and dedicated to Aditya, the sungod. It is presided by the planet Budha (Mercury).It comprises:1) Purvadha ("first half"), made of various discourses.2) Uttarardha ("second half"), comprising the critical appreciation of rituals, etc. The
 Atharva Veda
is divided in four books (
 prapathakas
), totalingtwenty chapters (
skandas
) and includes 6,077 mantras.It originally had 9 recensions, of which only two are still extanttoday.It contains hymns to deities, creation stories, mantras to ward off evil and enemies, magic and
tantra
.An astounding total of 93 Upanishads are found in the AtharvaVeda, among which the famous Prashna, Mundaka, and MandukyaUpanishads.
Division of the Vedas

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