Keeping in mind the syllabus of History subject, the subject 'Vedas' is important for IAS Exam. Questions can be asked from any type of Vedas in Prelims or Mains stage. Hence, this article will mention the relevant facts about the four Vedas for the Civil Services Examination.
What is Vedas?
The Vedas are a major addition to the religious texts that originated in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the Granth is the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest texts of Hinduism. Hindus regard the Vedas as apaurusheya, meaning "not of man, superhuman" and "impersonal, possessive," revelations of sacred sounds and texts heard by ancient sages after intense meditation.
They are considered the oldest, if not the oldest, religious works in the world. They are commonly referred to as "scriptures", which is precise enough that they can be defined as sacred writs concerning the divine nature. Unlike the scriptures of other religions, however, the Vedas are not thought to have appeared at a specific historical moment for a specific person or persons; They are believed to have always existed.
Meaning of Vedas-
The Vedas are the religious texts that form the Dharma of Hinduism (also known as Sanatana Dharma, meaning "Eternal Order" or "Eternal Way"). The word Veda means "knowledge", in which they are believed to contain fundamental knowledge concerning the underlying cause, action and individual response of existence.
Origin of Vedas-
In Hinduism, the Vedas were originated by Brahma ji because the knowledge of the Vedas was given to Lord Brahma by Mahadev i.e. Shiva, the God of Gods, and Brahmaji gave this knowledge to the four sages by whom the Vedas were composed. These four sages were part of Brahmaji and their sons were Agni, Vayu, Aditya and Angira. These four sages influenced Brahma ji by doing penance, after which Brahma ji had obtained the knowledge of the Vedas and the mention of these four sages is also found in Shatapatha Brahmana and Manusmriti.
It is told in the Shatapatha Brahmana and Manusmriti that Agni, Vayu and Aditya were composed by Yajurveda, Samveda and Rigveda respectively whereas Atharvaveda is related to Angira. Atharvaveda was composed by Angira. It is said that these Vedas were composed before Manushok came to earth, but some sects believe that these four Vedas were one but Ved Vyas composed all the four Vedas from this one Veda but this is not true because It has been told in the Mastsya Purana that these four Vedas were different from the beginning, the names of the four sages are also associated with these Vedas.
The Vedic period (c. 1500 - c. 500 BCE) is the era in which the Vedas were committed to writing, but it has nothing to do with the age of concepts or oral traditions. The designation "Vedic period" is a modern construction, relying on evidence of an Indo-Aryan migration, which, as noted, is not universally accepted. Nevertheless, this theory is the most accurately accepted historically based on the available evidence.
The Vedas in the form of branches derived from the four main Vedas (Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda) of Hinduism are called Upaveda. There are different opinions of various historians and scholars about the classification of Upvedas, but the most appropriate are as follows- Upveda is also four- Ayurveda- from Rigveda (but Sushruta considers it to be derived from Atharvaveda); Dhanurveda - from Yajurveda; Gandharvaveda - from Samaveda, and Shilpveda - from Atharvaveda.
Types of Vedas:
There are four types of Vedas – Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. One of the best sources of ancient Indian history is Vedic literature. The Vedas have formed the Indian scripture. The ideas and practices of Vedic religion are codified by the Vedas and also form the basis of classical Hinduism.
|Name of veda||Salient Features of Vedas|
|Rigveda||This is the oldest form of Veda|
|Samaveda||Earliest reference to singing|
|Yajurveda||It is also called book of prayers|
|Atharvaveda||Book of magic and charm|
Vedas in detail - That oldest Veda is Rigveda. It has 1028 hymns, called 'suktas' and a collection of 10 books, called 'mandalas'. The features of Rigveda are given in the table below:
The oldest Veda is Rigveda. It has 1028 hymns, called 'suktas' and a collection of 10 books, called 'mandalas'. The features of Rigveda are given in the table below:
Features of Rigveda -
- It is the oldest form of the Veda and the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text (1800 - 1100 BCE).
- The meaning of the word 'Rigveda' is praise knowledge
- It has 10600 verses.
- Of the 10 books or mandalas, book numbers 1 and 10 are the youngest, as they were written later than books 2 to 9.
- Rigvedic Books 2-9 deals with cosmology and gods.
- Rigvedic Books 1 and 10 deal with philosophical questions and talk about various virtues including a charity in society.
- Rigvedic Books 2-7 are the oldest and the youngest which are also called family books.
- Rigvedic books 1 and 10 are the shortest and longest.
- The 1028 hymns deal with deities including Agni, Indra and are dedicated and devoted to a sage sage.
- The ninth Rigvedic book / Mandala is entirely devoted to Soma.
- The meters used to compose the hymns are Gayatri, Anushubhuta, Trishabat and Jagati (Trishbat and Gayatri being the most important)
Known as the Veda of melodies and mantras, the Samaveda dates back to 1200-800 BCE. This Veda is related to folk worship. The main features of Samaveda are given in the table below:
Characteristics of Samaveda-
- There are 1549 verses (except 75 verses, all are taken from Rigveda)
- Two Upanishads are embodied in Samaveda - Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad.
- Samaveda is considered to be the origin of Indian classical music and dance.
- It is considered a storehouse of melodious mantras.
- Although it has fewer verses than the Rigveda, its texts are larger.
- The text of Samaveda has three texts - Kautuma, Rauyanya and Zamaniya.
- The Samaveda is classified into two parts - Part-I consists of melodies called Gana and Part-II consists of a three-verse book called Archika.
- The Samaveda Samhita is not meant to be read as a text, it is more like a musical score sheet that must be heard.
It compiles ritual-offering mantras/mantras. These mantras were offered by the priest to a person who performed a ritual (in most cases yajna fire.) The salient features of Yajurveda are given below:
Features of Yajurveda-
- It has two types - Krishna (black / black) and Shukla (white / bright)
The Krishna Yajurveda contains a systematic, unambiguous, persuasive collection of verses.
- The Shukla Yajurveda has arranged and clarified the verses.
- The oldest layer of the Yajurveda contains 1875 verses, mostly taken from the Rigveda.
- In the middle layer of the Veda is the Shatapatha Brahmana which is the commentary of the Shukla Yajurveda.
- The smallest layer of Yajurveda consists of various Upanishads – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Shvetasvatara Upanishad and Maitri Upanishad.
- The Vajasaneyi Samhita is the Samhita in the Shukla Yajurveda.
- The four surviving words of the Krishna Yajurveda are Taittiriya Samhita, Maitrayani Samhita, Kauha Samhita, and Kapistala Samhita.
A Tatpurusha compound of Atharva, ancient sage and meaning knowledge (Atharvana + knowledge), it dates back to 1000–800 BCE. The main features of Atharvaveda are given below.
Features of Atharvaveda-
- The daily processes of life are very well known in this Veda.
- It has 730 hymns/suktas, 6000 mantras and 20 books.
- Payappalada and Saunkiya are the two surviving texts of the Atharvaveda.
- Called a Veda of magical formulas, it consists of three primary Upanishads - the Mundaka Upanishad, the Manduka Upanishad, and the Prana Upanishad.
- The 20 books are arranged by the length of his hymn.
- Unlike the Samaveda where hymns are borrowed from the Rigveda, the hymns of the Atharvaveda are unique except for a few.
- This Veda contains many hymns, containing spells of charm and magic, which are recited by a person who seeks some benefit, or more often by a magician who utters it on his behalf.
What was the contribution of Veda Vyasa to the Vedas and how did he get his name from Krishnadvaipayana Vyasa as Veda Vyasa.
It has been told in mythology that for a time there was a famine of hundred years in which many texts were disorganized, then Ved Vyas again organized these Vedas and Puranas together when Ved Vyas was organizing these Vedas. So he divided them into parts to make them easier, like poetry was divided into samvita and mandala.