Vedic Literature

Vedic literature

The scholars have determined that the “Vedas” are the oldest and most comprehensive scriptures known to humanity. The word “Veda” means an ideology whose paramount objective is to weave the entire humanity in to one family and profess the dignity of humanity at large and constantly strive to improve the human values.

According to Indian tradition, God gave the wisdom in the form of Vedas to the four rishis when they were in the deep state of meditation at the inception of humanity. Rishi Agni got the knowledge of Rig Veda, Vaayu rishi of Yajur Veda, Aaditya rishi of saam Veda and Angira rishi of Atharva Veda respectively. These rishis propagated this knowledge further and thus the knowledge was carried on for innumerable generations in the form of oral tradition. That is why Vedas are also called Shruti. The source of Vedic knowledge is God and not human. Therefore the Vedas are called non-human (apurusheya).

The vedas are the source of immense and ultimate knowledge. According to the Vedas, the knowledge is of two types. The para-vidya or the spiritual knowledge and the apara vidya or the knowledge of nature/sciences such as chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy. It seems that in ancient times, this knowledge of sciences was quite developed but got lost somewhere in the course of history. Vedic teachings have stressed on the parallel development and practice of the knowledge of both nature and spirituality. The 9th mantra of 40th chapter of Yajurveda states that those who practice materialism alone are in darkness but those who practice spiritualism alone are in even more darkness. The same Veda further states that there should be a harmony and parallel development and practice of these two disciplines in our lives.

The fundamental message of the Vedas is universal. Vedas teach to promote physical, spiritual and social development of the entire mankind without any discrimination of cast, color, creed, religion, race or sex. The Vedas promote universal brotherhood

“Mitrasya chakshushaa sameekshaamahe” –(Yajurved 36.18)

This means that may we view all with friendly eyes and with love and understanding.

Rig Veda 

This Veda has ten mandals,1028 sukta and total of 10,552 mantras. It contains Physical, spiritual, philosophical and social knowledge. Therefore Rig Veda is also called veda of knowledge or Jyaan kaand.

Yajur Veda

Yajur Veda has 40 chapters and 1,975 mantras. The 40th chapter is essentially the same as Ishopnishad except for some minor differences. This Veda primarily contains the description of various rituals and yajnas.It is therefore called the Veda of action or Karma Kaand.

Saama Veda

This Veda contains 1,875 mantras. Saam Veda is divided into two parts. The first part which is also called Purvaarchik, contains 650 mantras and the second part which is called Uttarraarchik, contains 1,225 mantraas. Saam Veda primarily has the knowledge of music and spiritual practices such as Bhakti. Hence it is also called Upaasna Kanda.

Atharva Veda 

This Veda has 20 kaand, 731 sukta and a total of 5,977 mantras. Atharva Veda has the knowledge of universe, our solar system, the oceans, the continents, politics, aayurveda, naturopathy, treatment with water, celibacy and other subjects dealing with physical sciences.It is, therefore also called the Veda of Sciences or Vijyan Kand.

Vedic knowledge was further expounded by the subsequent rishis in the form of Braahman Granth, Aaranyak Granth, Upnishads, Vedaang, Upveda, Upaang and various other scriptures.Since this vast literature was the creation of the rishis,it is also called the Aarsh Literature. Here is the introduction of that literature by our rishis:

Braahaman Granth

These scriptures explain the Vedic mantras used in various yajnas and also provide details about the practical application of these mantras.The Braahman Granths are ancient and were the first scriptures to be written after the revelation of the holy Vedas. Besides containing the details of Vedic rituals, Braahman Granths also have in depth description of creation and sustenance of the universe,philosophy, knowledge of God,soul and nature and social, political and spiritual subjects. At present, a total of 17 Braahman Granths are available.

Braahman Granths of Rig Veda: These are 1. Etareya, 2. Kausheetaki/Shankhayan

Braahaman Granths of Yajurveda: These are 1. Maadhyandin Shatpath, 2. Tettiriya, and 3. Kaanva Shatpath braahamans

Braahaman Granths of Sam Veda: 1.Taandya/ Panchaavinsh, 2.Shadvinsh, 3. Saamvidhaan, 4. Aarsheya 5. Devatadhyaya, 6. Upanishad (the first 2 prapathaks are also named as mantra Braahaman. The rest 8 prapathaks are also called chhandogyopanishad Brahaman as well. 7. Sanhitopanishad 8. Vansha 9. Jeminiya 10. Jeminiya aarsheya and finally 12. Jeminiyopanishad Braahaman

Braahaman Granth of Atharvaveda is Gopath Braahaman.

Aaranyak Granths

These scriptures were written by those rishis who lived in the forests.It is for this reason that these scriptures are called Aaranyak ( jangal ). The knowledge contained in these scriptures is similar to the one in Braahman Granths.They describe the philosophical and spiritual aspects of various yajyas similar to the Braahman Granths.In addition, the other subjects detailed are vital breath,time,seasons,space,God,soul and devta ( the one who gives ) etc. At present,the following Aaranyak Granths are available:

Aaranyak Granths of Rig Veda: These are 1.Etareya 2. Shakhaayan

Aaranyak Granths of Yajur Veda: 1. Taitiriya 2.Brihdaaranyak

Aaranyak Granths of Saam Veda: 1.Talavkkaar 2.Chhandogya

There is no Aaranyak of the Atharva Veda

The Upanishads

The word Upanishad means “to sit near”.In ancient times,the seeker student used to sit near the intellectual teachers and understand the depth of spiritual knowledge contained in the Vedas.So those scriptures which contain that spiritual knowledge are called the Upanishads.Sometimes the Upanishads are also called the Vedanta because these scriptures essentially detail and summarize the essence of Vedic spiritual knowledge. To clarify the deep secrets of the Vedic knowledge, ancient sages took the help of Vedic rituals in the Braahman Granths. Aaranyak scriptures on the other hand, primarily contain the spiritual and philosophical explanation of the Vedic rituals. In the Upanishads, the spiritual and philosophical practice of Vedic knowledge has been considered more important for the attainment of salvation or moksha as compared to the yajna rituals.

The Summary of the teachings of Upanishads is that God is the master of all the physical means of this universe. Therefore we should enjoy the nature with the feeling of renunciation. We should not have the greed to get what is not ours. There should be a desire to live for one hundred years while performing our duties to the best of our ability for a happy and satisfied life. Materialism and spiritualism should be balanced. Neither materialism nor spirituality can alone fulfill our lives. The same Lord prevails in the hearts of all. So we should love all. The ultimate goal of humanity at large is to know the self and God and attain salvation or moksha. Without experiencing God, there can be no complete freedom from unhappiness. By practice of yoga one can experience God in the depth of his/her own heart.

God is all knowing, all pervading, all powerful, formless, immortal, without any beginning, unborn and has many other qualities. The principal name of God is Aum. The soul never takes birth or dies. When body gets old, the soul gets into the new body based on its sanchit karma ( past deeds ). God gives the fruits of action in the form of happiness or unhappiness depending on his/her actions in present or past lives. The selfless actions result in moksha.

The Upanishads are 218 in numbers, but only 11 Upanishads have been universally accepted as the authentic Aarsh Literature which are as follows:

Upanishads of Rig Veda is Aitreyopnishad

Upanishad of Yajurveda are 1.Ishopnishad 2.Kathopnishad 3.Taittiriopnishad 4.Brihdaaranyakopnishad 5 .Shwetaashvtaropnishad

Upanishads of Samveda are 1.Kenopnishad 2. Chhandogyopnishad

Upanishads of Atharva Veda are 1.Prashnopnishad 2.Mundkopnishad 3.Maandookyopnishad

Vedaang : After the creation of Upanishads,Vedaangs were created to understand, study and protect the Vedas further. Vedaang include shiksha,kalpa,vyaakaran,nirukta,chhand and jyotish.These six Vedaangs are not the names of a particular scripture. Our rishis have written valuable treatise on these subjects.A great number of them have been lost but some of these are available.Here is the brief introduction of Vedaangs which are available.


After the creation of Upanishads,Vedaangs were created to understand, study and protect the Vedas further. Vedaang include shiksha,kalpa,vyaakaran,nirukta,chhand and jyotish.These six Vedaangs are not the names of a particular scripture. Our rishis have written valuable treatise on these subjects.A great number of them have been lost but some of these are available.Here is the brief introduction of Vedaangs which are available.


The main purpose of this Vedang is proper knowledge and pronunciation of Sanskrit alphabets.This Vedaang is available in two forms – Praatishaakhya Granth and Shiksha Granth. Each Veda has its own Praatishaakhya with well-defined rules to study that particular Veda .Shiksha Granth on the other hand,narrates the main principles to study all the Vedas. The following Praatishaakhya are currently available —

1.Rigvedic Pratishaakhya – Rig Veda Pratishaakhya, Shaunak

2.Yajurvedic Pratishaakhya – Taittiriye Pratishaakhya, Vaajsneyi Pratishaakhya, Kaatyaayan

3.Saamvedic Pratishaakhya – Rick Tantra , Audvraji & Shaaktaayan

4.Atharvavedic Pratishaakhayan – Shaunkiya Chaturdhyaayika , Kauts, Atharva Pratishaakhya

At present 65 Shiksha Granths are available and out of these Panini Shiksha Granth is the most important.


This Vedaang has 4 parts – Shraut Sutra,Griha Sutra,Dharma Sutra and Shulva Sutra.The Shraut Sutra contains the description of Vedic yajna.Griha Sutra contains the yajna and ceremonies performed by a householder.Dharma Sutra details the personal and social code of conduct and the social set up.The examples of these set up include the rules of yajna,social classes(varna dharma),stages of life(aashram dharma),duties of women (stri dharma ),the rule of governance (raaj dharma),penal code,justice system and personal and social code of conduct.Shulva Sutra contains the science of artitecture engineering and designing/construction of the alters/buildings housing them.

List of Kalpa Vedang of all the 4 Vedas
Name of Veda Shraut Sutra Grihya Sutra Dharma Sutra Shulva Sutra
Rigvedic Kalp 1. Aashvalaayan 1. Aashvalaayan 1. Vasishtha-
2. Shaankhaayan 2. Shaankhaayan-
3. Kaushitaki
Yajurvedic Kalp 1. Kaatyaayan 1. Paaraskar 1. Aapasthamba 1. Aapasthamba
2. Baudhaayan 2. Baudhaayan 2. Baudhaayan 2. Baudhaayan
3. Bhaaradwaaj 3. Bhaaradwaaj 3. Hiranyakeshi 3. Hiranyakeshi
4. Aapstamb 4. Aapstamb 4. Vishnu 4. Maanav
5. Satyaashaadha, 5. Hiranyakeshi 5. Vaikhaanas 5. Kaatyaayan
6. Vaikhaanas 6. Vaikhaanas 6. Maitraayaneeya
7. Vaadhool 7. Aagnivaishya 7. Vaaraaha
8. Maanav 8. Vaadhool 8. Vaadhoola
9. Vaaraaha 9. Maanav
  10. Vaaraaha
  11. Kaathak,Laugaakshi
Saamvedic Kalp 1. Aarsheya 1.Gobhil 1.Gautam
2. Laatyaayan 2. Khaadir 
3. Draahyaayan 3. Jaminiya
4. Jaminiya 4. Kaushik
Atharvavedic Kalp 1. Vaitaan 1. Kaushik


Purpose of this Vedaang is the proper pronunciation,protection and analysis of the words of Vedas.The first aachaarya of Vyaakaran was Brahmma.He taught this shaastra to Brihaspati who propogated it further to Indra and Bhaardwaaj .Bhaardwaaj gave this knowledge to the subsequent rishis who then handed it down to the braahmans.In ancient times several vyaakaran granths were available.Presently only the Ashthaadhyaai of rishi Paanini is available which was created approximately 5,000 years ago.The Ashthaadhyaai has been explained further by maharshi paatanjali in Vyaakaran Mahabhaashya which was created about 2,200 years ago.The Ashthaadhyaai has scientifically described the rules of vyaakaran in the form of sutras.This granth has 8 chapters.Each chapter is further divided into four paad.Therefore there are thirty two paad in this scripture.


This Vedang contains the Etymological explanation of Difficult Vedic words.The only Nirukta available at present is of sage Yask whose time period predates that of sage Paanini.It has 14 chapters.


God revealed the Vedic knowledge in the form of chhand.That is why ancient rishis deliberated upon this Vedaang first in Praatishaakhya and Shraut Sutra.Subsequently,maharshi Pingala,who was contemporary to maharshi Paanini,wrote Chhand Shaastra in which he subsequently explained the chhand. This scripture has eight chapters.From 2nd to 4th chapters explain the rules of Vedic chhand and 5th to 8th explain the rules of laukik chhand. 1st chapter is common.


The purpose of this Vedaang is the calculation of time. Lagadh wrote the first Jyotish Vedaang 1200 BCE. Jyotish has been sufficiently analyized in Braahman and Kalp Vedaang.

Upaanga(Darshan Shaashtras) 

The word darshan means the true knowledge. So the scriptures which lead to a true knowledge are called Darshan Shaashtras (philosophy). The root source of Philosophical literature/knowledge is Vedas themselves and therefore these are also called Upaanga. According to the philosophical literature, the main reason for all the miseries in life is the false knowledge. Only the true knowledge can remove the misunderstandings or false knowledge. The sole purpose of the philosophical literature is to remove the ignorance and impart proper knowledge of God Soul and nature leading to a proper understanding of these 3 entities leading to permanent peace and happiness resulting in salvation. The books of philosophy are six in number. These are 1. Nyaya, Vaisheshik, 3. Sankhya, 4. Yoga, 5. Meemaansa and 6. Vedaanta darshans. From the analytical perspective, nyaya and vaisheshik, saankhya and yoga, meemaansa and vedaanta are closely related to each other. There seems to be no difference or disagreement in the philosophical perspective of these different books of philosophy. In each book of philosophy the Vedas have been considered the final proof and authority. Vedas can be proven authentic by the Vedas themselves (vedas are self proof). All the above 6 books of philosophy are aastik darshans because they confirm to the Vedic teachings. The knowledge which has been given in the seed Forum in vedas, has been detailed and discussed in depth in a particular book of philosophy based on what the subject of that book of philosophy is. There seems to be no contradiction in the subject matter among different books of philosophy, because each book of philosophy merely deals with a different subject. This is almost saying that you’re going to a specialty store rather than a departmental store where everything is available. Swami Dayanand Saraswati in his famous book “Satyarth Prakash”, in chapter 8, makes the following statement about the Books of Philosophy. There are a total of six books of philosophy. The first one, Meemaansa, says, “nothing in this world can be produced without proper application.” The Vaisheshika says, “nothing can be done or made without the expenditure of time.” The Nyaya says, “nothing can be produced with the material cause alone.” The Yoga says, “nothing can be made without the requisite skill, knowledge, and thought.” The Sankhya says, “nothing can be made without the definite combination of atoms.” The Vedanta says, “nothing can be made without a maker.” This shows that the creation of the universe requires six different causes which have been described separately, one in each separate book of philosophy. There is no contradiction in these descriptions. The six Shastras together serve to explain the phenomena of the creation in the same way as the six men would help each other to put a thatch on the roof of the house.

There is yet another reference by respected Swami Ji in the same book, Satyarth Prakash, proving harmony between different schools of philosophy about the creation. Many different materials and personnel are needed in making a pot; these are: application, time, clay, intellect, labor and potter. In a bigger sense, the creation of the universe also needed many things. These have been described separately in different books of philosophy. The application has been described in Meemaansa, time in Vaishashik , material cause in Nyaya, divine activity in Yoga, the order of utilization of all twenty four elements needed in the creation in Sankhya darshan and the details about the efficient cause of creation, the almighty God in the Vedantic book of philosophy. It is, therefore, clear that there is no contradiction in the different philosophy books about creation. Medical sciences, including pathology, medicine, surgery, etc. all deal with different subjects, but the ultimate aim of all these fields is to heal the same human being, proving that no contradiction exists between different branches of medicine.

God in Sankhya Darshan

Some modern philosophers mistakenly believe that the Sankhya Darshan does not believe in God. As a matter of fact, in the third chapter of Sankhya book of philosophy, it is clear that God is all powerful, all knowing and all pervading, and is the creator of this entire universe. Se hi sarv vit sarv karta, thatha idrasheshwarsiddhi siddha [Sankhya Darshan 3.56-57 drashtavya vidyodayabhashyam. In the same way, in the fifth chapter in the 45-51 sutras, the Vedas have been accepted as the creation of God and self-evidence. It is clear, therefore, that Sankhya Darshan accepts and glorifies the existence of God. Some philosophers also quote the first chapter, “eeshwarasiddhye” [1.57] and claim that this sutra refutes the existence of God. Rather, this is a misinterpretation. The true meaning of this sutra is that God is not the material cause of this universe, but is actually the efficient cause. The material cause is the nature itself.


Keeping in mind the welfare of the humanity at large our sages have created 4 Upveda, namely aayurveda, dhanurveda, gandharva veda and arthveda. Upaveda is not the name of any particular scripture. From time to time, sages have created various treatises on these 4 subjects. Some of these are available today and the others have been lost. Each Veda has its own Upveda.Their details are as follows.

Aayur Veda

This is the Upveda of Rigveda and contains knowledge of medicine i.e. healing.Out of many such scriptures available Charak and Sushrut Samhita are the oldest.It appears that they were written 6th century BCE.

Dhanur Veda

This is the Upveda of Yajurveda.It describes the knowledge of archery,other arsenal and warfare.The material about this subject is adequately available in veda,Braahman Granth,Smriti Granth, Kautilya Arthshaastra,Ramayan, Mahabhaarat and many other scriptures.However a separate treatise dealing with this subject is not available. Reference of 2 books are available, one by the name of Dhanush Pradeep containing 7,000 shlokas written by Dronachaarya and the other book by name of Dhanush Chandrodaya containing 60,000 shlokas written by Parashuraam.

Gandharva Veda

This is the upveda of Saam Veda and it deals with the art and science of music. Music was quite popular in Vedic times, especially at the time of yajna. At present no specific scripture dealing with this subject is available.The Natya Shaastra written by Bharat Muni can be included in this category.

Arth Veda

This is the Upveda of Atharva Veda. The main topics covered in this Upaveda are political science and architectural/sculpture engineering(shilpa shashtra).At present,the best available book on this subject is Kautilya Arthashaastra which was written by Kautilya(Chaanakya) who was the chief minister of Chander Gupta Maurya in the 4th century BCE.

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