Vedic Literature Inddian history notes for opsc exam

Last updated on December 7, 2023

THE VEDIC LITERATURE

➮ The word Veda is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vidi’ meaning, to know or knowledge par excellence.
➮ Vedic texts are divided between Sruti (based on hearing), which is distinct from Smriti (based on memory).
➮ Four Vedas and their Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads form a class of literature known as Sruti.

RIG VEDA

➮ It is divided into 10 Books or Mandalas. Books II to VII is considered the oldest. Book I, VIII, and X seem to be later additions.
➮ A collection of 1028 hymns of a number of priestly families.
➮ Written between 1700-1500 B.C. when Aryans were still in Punjab.
➮ The IX mandala is dedicated exclusively to Soma.
➮ The singer of the Rig Veda is called the Hotra.
➮ The X Mandala contains the famous Purushsukta hymn that explains the origin of the four Varnas.
➮ Gayatri Mantra is the most sacred hymn of Rig Veda. Mentioned in 3rd Mandal, written by Viswamitra.

YAJUR VEDA

➮ A ritualistic Veda. It is divided into Shukla Yajurveda and Krishna Yajurveda. Written in prose, it deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifices and contains rituals as well as hymns. The singer of the Yajur Veda is called Ardhavayu.

SAMA VEDA

➮ Sam Veda derives its roots from Saman, which means a melody. A collection of melodies. A collection of 1603 hymns. Except 99, all others were derived from Rig Veda. It contains the Dhrupada Raga. The singer of Sama Veda is called Udgata.

ATHARVA VEDA

➮ A collection of 711 hymns, it is divided into 20 khandas. It is the latest Veda. Atharva Veda is a book of magical formula medicinal treatises etc. It contains charms and spells to ward off evil and disease. Its content throws light on the practices of non-Aryans. In Atharvaveda, Sabha and Samiti are described as uterine sisters–The two daughters of Prajapati. This Veda is also known as Brahma Veda.

Upanishads
➮ The Upanishads are philosophical texts. They are generally called Vedanta, as they came towards the end of the Veda. There are 108 Upanishads. Vrihadaranyaka is the oldest Upanishada.

Literature of Vedic Tradition (600 BC-600 AD)

➮ Literature of Vedic Tradition (Smriti i.e. remembrance literature) comprises of 6 literary works :
1. Vedangas/Sutras 2. Smritis Dharmashastras 3. Mahakavyas (Epics) 4. Puranas 5. Upvedas 6. Shad Dharshanas.
➮ There are six Vedangas :
(i) Shiksha (Phonetics): Tratishakhya’- the oldest text on phonetics.
(ii) Kalpa Sutras (Rituals) : (a) Shravta Sutras/Shulva Sutra – deal with the sacrifices, (b) Grihya Sutras—deal with family ceremonies, (c) Dharma Sutras—deal with Varnas, Ashramas, etc.
(iii) Vyakarana (Grammar) : ‘Ashtadyayi’ (Panini) — the oldest grammar of the word.
(iv) Nirukta (Etymology) : ‘Nirukta’ (Yask) based on ‘Nighantu’ (Kashyap)— a collection of difficult Vedic words—(‘Nighantu’—the oldest word collection of the world; ‘Nirukta’—the oldest dictionary of the world).
(v) Chhanda (Metrics) : ‘Chhandasutras’ (Pingal)–famous text.
(vi) Jyotisha (Astronomy) ‘’Vedanga Jyotisha’ (Lagadh Muni – the oldest Jyotisha text.
➮ There are six famous smritis :
(i) Manu Smriti (Pre-Gupta Period)— the oldest Smriti text; Commentators: Vishwarupa, Meghatithi, Gobindraj, Kulluk Bhatt.
(ii) Yajnavalkya Smriti (Pre-Gupta Period)— Commentators: Vishwarupa, Vijayaneshwar, Apararka (a king of Shilahar Dynasty)
(iii) Narad Smriti (Gupta period),
(iv) Parashara Smriti (Gupta period)
(v) Brihaspati Smriti Gupta period),
(vi) Katyayana Smriti (Gupta period).

➮ There are mainly two Mahakavyas (Epics) :
(i) The Ramayana (Valmiki) : It is known as ‘Adi Kavya’ (the oldest epic of the world). At present, it consists of 24,000 shlokas i.e. verses (Originally 6,000, Later – 12,000, Finally – 24,000) in 7 Kandas i.e. sections. 1st and 7th Kandas were the latest additions to the Ramayana.

(ii) The Mahabharata (Ved Vyasa): The longest epic in the world. At present, it consists of 1,00,000 shlokas i.e. verses (Originally–8,800- Jay Samhita, Later-24,000–Chaturvinshati Sahastri Samhita/Bharata, Finally-l,00,000-Shatasahastri Samhita/Maha Bharata) in 18 Parvans i.e. chapters, plus the Harivamsa supplement. Bhagavad Gita is extracted from Bihshma Parvan of Mahabharata. Shanti Parvan is the largest parvan (chapter) of the Mahabarata.
➮ The Purana means ‘the old’. There are 18 famous ‘Puranas’. The Matsya Purana is the oldest Puranic text. The other important Puranas are the Bhagavata, the Vishnu, the Vayu and the Brahmanda. They describe the genealogies of various royal dynasties.
➮ The Upavedas (the auxiliary Vedas) were traditionally associated with Vedas :

Upavedas Associated with
1. Ayurveda i.e. Medicine Rig Veda
2. Gandharvaveda i.e. Music Sama Veda
3. Dhanurveda i.e. Archery Yajur Veda
4. Shilpveda/Arthaveda i.e. the science of Atharva Veda craft/wealth (Vishwakarma)
➮ There are 6 schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad-Darshanas

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