Everyone has heard about Vedas! They are ancient religious texts in the Sanskrit language and are the oldest written scriptures of Hinduism and were born in ancient India and culminated in mantras and religious essence notes and writings. The mantras find the relevance of all the written knowledge even today in chanting in religious rituals and ceremonies. Their composition Vedas relates to ten rishis who contributed to curating the central part of the Vedas- including hymns and religious text.
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In addition to religious texts, the Vedas also have significant references to the geographical beauty of India through the Mandalas. For example, some Vedic hymns refer to the seasons and talk about the rivers flowing through the Indus Valley. Additionally, there are also mentions of cures for various diseases, information about valuable weapons and shields in the Vedas.
There are four primary Vedas. Every Veda has four more subdivisions that depict traditions and religiousness.
The Rigveda is a collection of Sanskrit hymns and is the oldest Vedic text. It is the biggest among the four Vedas and the most translated texts in ages. Every feature of classical Sanskrit poetry existing today traces its roots to the Rigveda. The Rigveda is the birth-giver of the religious and philosophical essence of Hinduism. It is excellent written material for anyone who wants to learn more about Indian literature and the country’s spiritual culture. However, the essence of Rigveda isn’t restricted to India but spreads beyond borders as it forms an excellent basis to understand the variety of literature and cultures of the world.
The components of Rigveda can be summarized as follows:
- The Rig Veda is a collection of four primary components- Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aryankas, and Upanishads.
- The Samhitas part contains hymns dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses and are the oldest part of Rig Veda. Brahmanas constitute the commentaries related to the hymns and Aryankas are the revered forest books, and Upanishads include other religious texts.
- The Veda comprises ten Mandalas serving varied purposes. The primary purpose of this is the hymns for the deities. Rigveda also has documentation of tales of several Hindu Gods and Goddesses. This documentation acts as a foundation for Hindu traditions and beliefs.
- The stories featured in the Rig Veda are known as Suktas and are a clear reflection of Hindu philosophies and beliefs. These stories are today narrated in marriage and various other religious ceremonies. Additionally, other exciting texts aim to drive away negativity and illness from life.
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Yajurveda describes the essence and process of religious rituals and ceremonies. It is primarily for Hindu priests who conduct the ceremonies. The priests dictate the mantras of the Yajurveda in rituals like yajna fire in marriages and traditions. The Yajurveda was composed sometime between 1200- 900 BCE.
- The Vedic traditions mention the system of sacrifices relating to different deities. Yajurveda prescribes these sacrifices and rituals, performed with hymn chanting of Samaveda.
- The Yajur Veda comprises two parts- Shukla and Krishna. The Shukla part relates to prayers and instructions meant for holy sacrifices, and the Krishna part relates to sacrificial rituals.
- Yajurveda is the ‘Veda of Rituals.’ The scripture has 1975 verse-mantras mentioned across 40 chapters. In short, it can be said that Yajurveda comprises varying levels of knowledge and wisdom.
- Yajurveda originally had 109 branches of knowledge. However, in the present form, only seven branches exist, of which Vajasaneyi is the most popular branch.
- The Yajurveda comprises instructions or formulas with verses that priests need to chant during religious ceremonies.
- Yajurveda is a culmination of prose and prayers, known as Yajus.
Samaveda is the shortest of all the four existing Vedas and has a close connection with Rigveda. Samhita of Samaveda is an independent collection of verses derived from the 8th and 9th Mandalas of the Rigveda. Samaveda is meant primarily for ritual applications, as the verses are for reciting in Soma-sacrifice ceremonies and rituals. As such, the Samaveda is meant primarily for the Udagatr priest.
As per ancient traditions, Samaveda had over 1000 recensions, of which at present only three exist. These include:
Of them, Kauthuma Shakha is the prominent one. The Samaveda- Samhita of Kauthuma has two primary parts- Archika and Gana.
Samaveda is the ‘Book of Song’ or “Veda of Religious Chants.” The hymns present in Samaveda enable a person to learn and understand universal truths. In short, Samaveda helps one to attain spiritual knowledge through music. Samaveda is the source of Indian Classical Music.
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Atharva Veda is the fourth Veda and refers to “a knowledge powerhouse of the atharvāṇas, or the procedures of a regular life”. It is a culmination of 730 hymns written in 20 books. Since its inception, there have been nine branches of Atharvaveda. However, only two of them are more prominent:
The Atharvaveda Samhita covers eight essential topics:
- Bhaisajya- Illnesses and cures
- Āyusya: Long life
- Pustaka: Worldly welfare
- Ābhicārika: Destruction of enemies
- Prāyascitta: Expiatory rites
- Rājakarma: Political systems
- Brahmana: The Absolute
Influence of the Vedas
The Vedas have a significant influence in India as well as the world. The Vedas portray the importance of religion and also promote goodwill in society. Also, many modern-day inventions and discoveries, and theories are broadly based on the Vedas. Several scientists across the world, too, have explored Vedic literature for an in-depth knowledge of the scientific, spiritual, and psychological behavior of the world. The Vedas have been honored over time due to its multi-dimensional teachings and the values it promotes. Some of the essential qualities that Vedas promote:
- Leadership qualities
- Management strategies
- Problem-solving methods
- Understanding capabilities
- Intellectual and mindful sharpness
- Ego management
- Soul spirituality
- Environment management
Contributions of the Vedas to the World
In addition to the teachings and values, the Vedas also contributed a lot to mathematics, technology, medicine, and logic.
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One of the significant contributions of the Vedas to the world is Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the oldest school of medicine and treatment and originated 2500 years back. The treatment method the treatment of ailments and rejuvenation of the body through herbal medicine and treatments. Ayurveda is one of the most popular treatment methods and has gained extensive prominence in today’s world. Millions of people across the world resort to Ayurveda and its treatments for well-being. Surgeries can into being during the Vedic period. It is one of the most significant contributions of Vedas to the field of medicine and science.
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Vedas gave birth to the number system. India is the birth-giver of the number system that the world follows. The Arabic numerals originated in the Vedas around 100 BC and were passed onto Arabs. That is why the numeral system is also known as the ‘Hindu-Arabic numeral system.’ In addition to this, many mathematical theories like Pythagorean Theorem, Algebra, Calculus, and Trigonometry originated in India.
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Vedas gave birth to Sanskrit. It is the language of the Vedas itself and the mother of all languages. Many languages have words that originated from Sanskrit.
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Yoga finds its roots in Rigveda and collaborates with physical and spiritual discipline methods to bring harmony to mind and the body. It is the ancient method of promoting healthy living and includes postures that bring physical and mental harmony in the body. Yoga, in short, means ‘spiritual discipline’ and gains more mention as a profound meditation process and practice to attain Moksha, spirituality, or self-realization in Vedic tradition. In the present world, Yoga is more about attaining physical and mental fitness.
Invention of Zero
Aryabhatta invented Zero! And the word ‘zero’ originated from the Sanskrit language and means’ nothing.’ The origin of Zero was one of the significant contributions of Vedas to the world.
Vedic art is a representation of creativity, conveying divine truths and principles. It is more than just the artist’s imagination! The Vedic art forms- sculpting or paintings, convey the bigger purpose of humankind’s existence and awareness. As such, Vedic art is sacred and popular. The Vedic paintings and symbols are one-of-a-kind and give spiritual energy. In short, Vedic art is the window to the spiritual world.
Jyotish or Vedic astrology is an ancient science that is popular across the world. It aims to help a person gain a better insight into their lives and find a way to betterment. Vedic astrology also helps a person gain a better personality develop good qualities to shape a professional career and personality.
Vaastu Shastra is the science of architectural development and home arrangement. The Vaastu Shastra of Vedic culture traveled through the Orient and developed to Feng Shui. Vaastu, in its way, works inefficient energy flow through a structure or building to give optimum benefits and development to its residents. It is not only about making the house decorative and good-looking but is also about promoting good energy flow for development. However, much of it depends on the optimized direction of the house and the room face.
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The Vedas and Vedic culture have made a significant contribution to the development of humankind and the world. Gaining knowledge of the Vedas is an enriching and fulfilling experience anyone could have!