Vedas are the most ancients’scriptures of India. Originally written in Sanskrit, Veda if translated means knowledge. We all know that Hindu religion is greatly influenced by these texts. It is said that Vedas were heard they are not something that was originally created by the human beings. That’s why they are called Sruti. They are considered to be the oldest spiritual teachings that were imparted by the gods to the sages. These sages imparted them to their followers and it went on to become the Vedas. It was much later in 1500 BC during the time of lord Krishna that Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana compiled these knowledge bases and gave it the present form. For ages Vedic knowledge has been the basis for various religious scriptures of the Hindus. It is known as the richest knowledge base in the world. We will know discuss a little more about the Vedas. Actually there are totally four Vedas. The four Vedas are namely the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. The verses in these Vedas are called mantras and are compiled together as Vedic mantras and are still recited in all the pujas and yagyas. They are considered very powerful and auspicious.
Vedas can be dated way back to 1000-500 BCE. The Vedic period lasted from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. The oldest Vedas were written in palm leaves and barks. It is very difficult to find those in today’s world. However, a lot of old manuscripts dating to fourteenth B.C and more can be found in Banaras University and also in Nepal. Upanishads was also very much influenced by the Vedas. The Vedanta is considered to be the end of Veda. In the olden days in the Gurukuls Vedas were taught to the children from a very young age. Max Muller was also greatly influenced by the Vedic traditions. He had once said that perhaps in India the human mind and soul reached the optimum level of spiritual knowledge. He considered Vedas and Hinduism as a very powerful religion that is also very rich in knowledge.
The oldest of all these Vedas is the Rig Veda. It is considered to be the first book ever written. The first Veda that we are going to discuss now is the Rig Veda. It has a lot of mantras and recitations that talk about how the world started. It praises the gods for creating the world and the life. It has ten books in it that are called Mandals. It contains recitations and mantras that need to be chatted during sacrificial rituals. This forms the basis for the other three Vedas. This is exactly why it is considered to be one of the most important Vedas. It gives a detailed account of the social and economic background of the Vedic civilization. This is why it becomes all the more important to understand the social and religious setting of India during those early days.
The next is the Sama Veda. This is also called as the book of songs. It is basically a rhythm that was given to the mantras and the poetic disclosures in the Rig Veda. It is not anything different but just a mere reflection of the Rif Veda. In this the words of the Rig Veda were put into musical form so as to make them more melodic.
The Yajur Veda is called as the book of the rituals. It has a great similarity to the book of the dead from the Egyptian civilization. It basically talks about the exact rituals that need to be performed during the pujas and sacrifices that need to be made along with the recitation of the hymns and the mantras from the Rig Veda. It is again a basic extension of the Rig Veda. These rituals are still followed and are considered to be very important and all the steps must be followed religiously to get the required results. This Veda had six parts namely the Madyandina, Kanva, Taittiriya, Kathaka Maitriyani and the Kapisthala. All the rituals from the birth of a man to marriage and death are found in these texts.
The next in the list of Vedas is the Atharva Veda. It is the youngest of all the Vedas. The language used is simple and the concept is also very different. Many scholars don’t even consider it to be a Veda. It gives a detailed account of the charms and spells that existed during those times to cure people and impart new life. This is quite different from the other three Vedas.
Today these four Vedas have been translated in many languages and you can read them and understand them better. The knowledge that they have in them is immense. These vedas inspire people to do good deeds and follow the path of Karma. They show the path to live a good and spiritual life. The gods mentioned in the Vedas are mostly the forces of nature like earth, water, air, etc. They proclaim that man is made of these elements of nature and will one day get back to these. This is the universal truth that perhaps we all have forgotten.
This is a brief preview about the four Vedas. There is much more to it that we will discuss in the subsequent articles that will be dealing with each Veda separately. It’s not that all Hindus follow these texts. Many have a different way of looking at it. The Iyenger’s in south India consider Tamil divya prabandham as their Veda. Even Jainism and Buddhism followers don’t have much regards for these ancient texts. Sikhism is another very prominent religion in India that too does not give much importance to the Vedic mantras. I hope you have now got a better idea about the Vedas and their meanings. They are an integral part of our culture and will always remain to be so. Whenever there is a mention of Hinduism, Vedas cannot be left. The Vedic mantras are still considered to be very powerful and are used in pujas and other ceremonies. In spite of thousands of years passing by these scriptures are still of the same value.