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Hindu Scriptures are broadly classified into Shruti (meaning 'heard'), Smriti (meaning 'remembered') and nyaya (meaning 'logic') based on its origin, not on the mode of transmission. The Shruti scriptures are of divine origin, whose truths were directly revealed to ancient rishis (sages) in their deep meditations. The Smriti scriptures are of human origin and were written to explain the Shruti writings and make them understandable and meaningful to the general population. Shruti scriptures include the four Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda) and the Bhagwad Gita, and constitute the highest religious authority in the Hindu religion. The Vedas are groups of hymns and chants containing religious and spiritual insights of the ancient sages and seers. The Rig Veda (collection of lyrics) is the oldest Vedic text and contains 1028 hymns, divided into ten mandals.

The Samaveda (book of chants) consists of verses directly taken from the Rig Veda. The Yajuveda (book of sacrificial prayers) deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifices. In common terms there are two parts of Yajurveda: Black Yajurveda which contains the mantras (chants) and the White Yajurveda which deals with the prose of worship. Atharvaveda (book of magical formulae) contains charms and spells to ward off evils and diseases.

Each Veda consists of four parts: Samhitas (or Mantras), Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. Samhitas are poetic compositions and hymns of supplication and incantation addressed to the deities, the symbolic representations of the Supreme Lord. The Brahmanas marked the transition from the Vedic to later Brahmanical social order. The Brahmanas deal with rules and regulations for proper performance of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies. The important Brahmanas are: Aitareya and Kaushitaki (Rig Veda), Tanda-maha, Sadvinsa and Jaiminiya (Sama Veda), Satapatha (Yajurveda) and Gopatha Brahmana (Atharva Veda). The Satapatha Brahmana, which speaks at length about the ploughing rituals, is the most exhaustive and most important of all the Brahmanas. The Aranyakas (forest books) provide the symbolic and spiritual basis for the Brahmanas. These are the appendices to the Brahmanas and mark the transition from ritualistic to philosophical thought.

The Upanishads reveal the knowledge about Brahman and are known as Vedanta, meaning "end of the Vedas". They are the concluding portions of the Vedas. There are several interpretations of the word Upanishad. According to some, it is the knowledge derived from the learned while others like Shankara interpret it as a means to destroy ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the Supreme Spirit by cutting off the bonds of worldly existence. The Upanishads form an integral part of the Vedic literature. The Upanishads form the concluding part of the Vedic literature and hence came to be known as Vedanta, the quintessence of Vedic thought, vision and wisdom. They are also called Veda Sirsha, the top ranking in the Vedic lore. Upanishads are more than 200 in number, but the more prominent and authentic among them are 108 as listed by the Muktika Upanishad which also mentions the Vedas to which these Upanishads belong. The later Upanishads do not conform to the norms laid down by ancient scripts, but glorify the various deities with Tantric and Puranic overtones. Of the 108 Upanishads listed in the Muktika, 10 belong to Rigveda, 19 to Yajurveda, 32 to Krishna Yajurveda, 16 to Samaveda and 31 to Atharvaveda. Adi Sankara commented on eleven of them quoting passages from a few other Upanishads. These Upanishads are Aitereya and Kaushitaki (pertains to Rig Veda), Chandogya and Kena (pertains to Sama Veda), Taittiriya, Katha and Svetasvatara (pertains to Yajur Veda), Brihadaranyaka and Isha (pertains to Yajur Veda) and Prasna, Mundaka and Mandukya (pertains to Atharva Veda).

Whereas the Upanishads represent the essence of the Vedas, the Bhagwad Gita, the most popular scripture of Hindus, contains the essence of the Upanishads. The Vedas reflect the dawn of spiritual insight while the Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita contain the full splendour of a spiritual vision.

The Vedangas and Upavedas are texts which augment the Vedas. There are six vedangas namely Siksha (pronunciation), Jyotisha (astrology), Kalpa (religious ceremonies), Nirukti (dictionary of obscure words and phrases), Chandas (prosody and verse) and Vyakarana (grammar). Jyotisha is the most famous among them. Kalpa Vedanga defines public rituals in the Srauta and Sulba sutras, domestic rites in the Grihya Sutras and religious law in the Dharma Sastras. The other Vedangas ensure the purity of mantra recitation, through knowledge of phonetics, grammar, poetry and the way of words.

The five Upavedas expound profound sciences: Arthaveda unfolds statecraft; Ayurveda sets forth medicine and health; Dhanurveda discusses military science; Gandharvaveda illumines music and the arts and the Sthapatyaveda explains the Science of mechanics and architecture. The Ayurveda is derived from the Rig Veda; the Gandharvaveda is derived from the Samaveda, the Dhanurveda originated from Yajurveda and the Sthapatyaveda originated from the Atharvaveda.

Smriti includes Itihasas (epics), Puranas (moral stories) and Agamas (emanated scriptures) while Vedanta-sutras (vedanta aphorisms) are classified as Nyaya. Smriti and Nyaya always agree with shruti. Agamas are rules for the ritual, rites and the worship of Gods. There are five Agamas which deal with the worship of Ganesha, Shakti, Surya, Shiva and Vishnu respectively. The Agamas, too, have ancillary texts, such as the Upagamas and Paddhatis, which elaborate the ancient wisdom. In addition, the Kama Sutras details the erotic pleasures.

Shhadarshana are six systems of Indian philosophy, which were composed between the 6th and 3rd century BC. These Darsanas are in the form of sutras (aphorisms), which are short, definite and free from doubts. They are Jaimini's Purva Mimansa, Patanjali's Yoga, Medhatithi Gautama's Nyaya, Kanada's Vaisheshika, Vyasa's Uttar Mimansa and Kapila's Sankhya. All the six systems are written in aphorisms (sutras). Though each sutra is just a few lines, huge commentaries have been written on each one of them. The Sankhya is the oldest system and finds a mention in the Bhagwad Gita. This does not believe in God and teaches that the miseries of the world are due to the union of Purusha (man) with Prakriti (world attributes).

The Nyaya School was founded by Gautama and is similar to the Greek philosophy of Aristotle. The Vaiseshika philosophy believes that the world is created from the atoms of earth, water, fire and air. The Yoga system aims at attaining Kaivalya by controlling the mind by following the 'Astanga Yoga'. The Purvamimamsa philosophy deals with the Samhitas and Brahmanas.

The Sutras comprises of a manual of instructions that was created between the 7th and 2nd century. It encompasses the Vedangas, Nirkuta of Yaksha, Asthadhyayi of Panani (a book of grammar), Srauta Sutra (details of ceremonies to be practised by priests), Griha Sutra (domestic sacrifices and rites) and Dharma Sutra (customary law and practices).

The Itihasas comprises of the two epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are the stories of the two incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Rama and Krishna respectively. These are by far the well read and most popular among the Hindus. Ramayana was first written by Valmiki while Mahabharata was written by Sage Vyasa. The Bhagwad Gita is the epitome of the Hindu philosophy and is found in the Mahabharata. Due to its content, Bhagwad Gita is sometimes considered to be a Gito-Upanishhad. Vyasa also wrote the eighteen Puranas and eighteen sub-puranas. All Puranas emphasize on morals and is usually a story about a Hindu deity fighting for upholding these morals. There are also Kaavyas which are based on stories derived from the Itihasas and Puranas. Among them, Raghuvamsa, Meghaduta and Shakuntala are very famous. Kautilya's Arthashastra is another important book of the period.

There are also Prakarana Granthas which are considered to be primers or an introduction for spiritual studies. Among them are Atma Bodha and Bhaja Govindam (also known as Moha Mudhgara). Besides the scriptures, there are stotras and bhajans (devotional songs and hymns) Among the numerous stotras, Sahasranamams (1008 names of each deity) are very famous.

The Dharmashastras include Manu Smriti, Yajanavalkya, Narada, Brahaspati and Vishnu Smritis. The Manu Smriti deals with the concept of civil laws and administrative justice. It also discusses the concepts of stages and regulations of life, which is divided into four stages: Brahmacharya, Grihasharam, Vanashram and Sanyas. The Manu Smriti provides a valuable insight into the then social life. The Narada Smriti added a few modifications to the Manu Smriti regarding remarriage of women, regulation of gambling and explanation about the law of inheritance. Yajanavalkya Smriti systematizes the concept of law and all through refers to the Vedasm Vedangas and fourteen Vidayas.


SRUTI (Primary Scriptures)
Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur & Atharva) Include religion, philosophy, art, medicine, science, technology, language, music, etc.
Bhagwad Gita A spiritual discourse between Lord Krishna and warrior Arjuna; summary of the Upanishads.
SMRITI (Secondary Scriptures)
Dharma Shastras (Law Codes)
Manu Smriti Includes laws for individual happiness and social stability; social philosophy
Artha Shastra Includes guidelines for ruling the country.
Kama Shastra An ancient manual of love and pleasure.
Itihasas (Epics)
Ramayana Describes the life story of Lord Rama; a most popular instrument of religious teaching.
Mahabharata Includes the story of the Mahabharata war. The Bhagwad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata.
Puranas There are 18 major Puranas: six devoted to worship of Lord Shiva, six to Lord Vishnu and six to Lord Brahma
Agamas & Tantras Sectarian Scriptures.
Scriptures of the three major theological traditions: Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism
Darshanas (Manuals of Philosophy)
Brahma Sutra Vedanta Philosophy of Sage Vyasa
Mimamsa Sutra Philosophy of rites and rituals of Sage Jaimini
Nyaya Sutra Logical analysis of Sage Gautama (not Buddha)
Vaisheshika Sutra Atomic school of philosophy of Sage Kanada
Sankhya Sutras Sankhya philosophy of Sage Kapila
Yoga Sutras Yoga philosophy of Sage Patanjali

||Hindu Doctrines|| || Hindu Philosophies|| ||Hindu Scriptures|| ||Evolution of Hindu Dharma|| ||Hindu Renaissance|| ||Caste Movements||
||Hinduism|| ||Jainism|| ||Buddhism || ||Sikhism|| ||Islam|| ||Christianity|| ||Zoroastrianism|| ||Judaism || ||Bahai Faith|| ||Other Faiths|| ||Pilgrimages|| ||Famous Religious Personalities||