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Hinduism

Texts
By: Sam, Reed, and Jacob

The Vedas
The Vedas are the most ancient and religious texts which define truth for Hindus.
They received their present form between 1200-2000 B.C.E. and were introduced
to India by Aryans.
Hindus believe that scholars received the texts from a divine power.

Contents of Vedas
The Vedas are made up of four compositions arranged chronologically.
The Samhitas: the most ancient part of the Vedas, consisting of hymns of praise to
God.
The Brahmanas: explanations of myth, and instructions on rituals and prayers to
guide the priests in their duties.

Contents of Vedas
The Aranyakas: concerning worship, meditation, and ritual sacrifice.

The Upanishads: consisting of the mystical and philosophical teachings of Hinduism

The Samhitas
The Samhitas are the basic texts containing hymns of prayer and worship of the
Vedic deities who represented natural forces and phenomena. These hymns were
sung at times of worship and Yajna, giving rise to the rites of the early Vedic period.

Yajna- Literally meaning sacrifice, devotion, worship, offering. Refers to all rituals
performed before a sacred fire.

The Four Divisions of the Samhitas


1.
2.
3.
4.

Rig-Veda Samhita (c. 1200 BCE) is the oldest of the four vedas and consists of
1028 hymns praising the ancient gods.
Yajur-Veda Samhita is used as a handbook by priests performing the vedic
sacrifices.
Sama-Veda Samhita consists of chants and tunes for singing at the sacrifices.
Atharva-Veda Samhita (c. 900 BCE) preserves many traditions which pre-date
the Aryan influence and consists of spells, charms and magical formulae.

Aryan-the group who invaded and conquered ancient India from the north and whose
literature, religion, and modes of social organization subsequently shaped the course
of Indian culture, particularly the Vedic religion, that informed and was eventually
superseded by Hinduism.

The Brahmanas
The Brahmanas shows how to recreate the ritual
action of life itself, to portray the cosmic ritual in
a few special actions. It includes chants, the main
power of the rituals, which connect one with the
transformative force of nature.

The Aranyakas (the forest book)


The Aranyaka differs from the
Brahmanas in that it contains secret rites
meant only for certain people to read, so
it is only used by the initiated. It was
intended for pupils instructed by their
masters to study alone in the forest, or
for hermits who were intending to
withdraw from society, away from ritual
sacrifice. The Aranyakas are given over
to secret explanations of the meaning of
rituals and to discussion of the internal,
meditative meaning of sacrifice.

The Upanishads
A body of sacred texts, the Upanishads was composed by mostly unknown philosophers
between the years eight-hundred and four hundred B.C.E. They are spiritual and deepthinking, searching the inner meaning of the sacrificial rites set into the Vedas. The
contemplative values of these texts are all varied forms of essential ideas of philosophical
Hinduism, with one of the main ideas being Brahman, an ultimate reality fusing
everything together.
Upanishad means sitting close to because they were passed down orally from teacher
to pupil, and were only written in the 16th century. There are many Upanishads, they are
speculated to number more than two-hundred, but only thirteen have what is believed as
the central concepts of samsara: reincarnation, karma: action, dharma: duty, and moksha:
liberation.

Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata


The Bhagavad Gita, Song of the Lord, is part of the sixth book of the Mahabharata,
the world's longest poem which has about 1.8 million words. That can be compared
to the entire series of Harry Potter books with only 1 million words. The
Mahabharata is one of the most popular Hindu texts and is known as a smriti text. It
is considered by some to be less important than shruti text, the Vedas. It still holds
an important spot in Hindu tradition.
The Bhagavad Gita tells the story of prince Arjuna who is about to join the war
between branches of the royal family, which means killing many of his friends and
relatives. He wants to withdraw from the war, but his charioteer Krishna points out
that knowledge, work and devotion all lead on the path to salvation and his values
should remain central to God.

The Ramayana
The Ramayana is a well known story in India.The story is composed out of 24,000
couplets. The symbolism of the story has been understood in countless different
ways but it is the simple, widely used story of good overcoming evil. It is about
Prince Rama who was sent into exile in the forest with his brother, Lakshamana and
his wife, Sita. She was stolen by Ravana, a malevolent demon, but was liberated by
Prince Rama with the assistance of the Monkey God, Hanuman. The Ramayana,
although a classic plot, is iconic to Hinduism.

Works Cited

"Samhitas, Collections Of Hymns." India Netzone. Jupiter Infomedia Ltd., n.d.


Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica. "Aryan." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
"Brahmanas." Brahmanas. Dharma Universe, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
"Aranyaka." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web.
27 Mar. 2016.