HINDUISM Vedic Classical Sanskrit literature. Itcomprises Vedanga, Shad

HINDUISM and HINDU LITERATUREHinduism is one of the oldest religions with no definite theories of its origin and starting point. Earliestliterary and religio-philosphical works are in form of Vedas and other literature. There are four Vedasand each of them also has – Samahitas, Brahmanas, Upnishadas and Araynakas – as four parts.The Vedic literature is broadly divided into two categories viz.Shruti and Smriti. Shruti is ‘that which has been heard’ and iscanonical, consisting of revelation and unquestionable truth, and isconsidered eternal. Shruti describes the sacred texts comprisingthe central canon of Hinduism viz. Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas,& Upanishads. Smiriti literally means ‘that which is remembered,supplementary and may change over time’. It is authoritative onlyto the extent that it conforms to the bedrock of Shruti and it isentire body of the post Vedic Classical Sanskrit literature. Itcomprises Vedanga, Shad darsana, Puranas, Itihasa, Upveda,Tantras, Agamas, Upangas. There is no distinct division betweenShruti and Smriti. Both Shruti and Smriti can be represented as acontinuum, with some texts more canonical than others. First among Smritis is Manu Smriti.Three older Vedas excluding Atharveda are called as ‘Trey’. Rigveda contains many hymns and GayatriMantra is one of them. In Samaveda, ‘Sama’ means melodyand it contains the Rhythmic compilation of Hymns ofRigveda. ‘Yajus’ means ‘sacrificial formula’ and Yajurveda isthe book of sacrificial and ritual prayers. It contains therituals of the Yajnas. It ranks next in sanctity and importanceto the Rigveda. It contains 1549 hymns which are meant tobe sung at the soma sacrifice by a special class of Brahmans.Atharvaveda contains the magic spells, incorporates muchof early traditions of healing and magic that are paralleled inother Indo-European literatures. It also mentions Dhanvantrias earliest medical person. Atharveda was not written by priestly class unlike other three Vedas.The Samahitas contain hymns. There are two primary versions or Samhitas of the Yajurveda :Shukla(white) and Krishna(black)The Brahmanas are the prose texts which explain the hymns in the Vedas, give explanation andapplications and related stories of their origin. They also have some stories related to the certainpersons related to the Vedic Text.Brahmvaidini were the women duringVedic period who composed many hymnsduring Rig Vedic period. Among suchwomen, some of the prominent were –Lopamudra, Ghosa, Maitreyi. Lopamudrawas the wife of the sage Agastya.Maitreyi, (the wife of Yajnavalkya) isaccredited with about ten hymns in RigVeda.Aranyakas were written in forests and are concluding parts of the Brahmans. Aranyakas don’t lay muchemphasis on rites, ritual and sacrifices but have philosophy and mysticism. So they have moral scienceand philosophy. It also provides the details of the Rishis who lived in jungles. They were studied andtaught by men during their Vanprastha ashrama.Upanishads are also called Vedanta (the end of the Veda) firstly, because they denote the last phase ofthe Vedic period and secondly, because they reveal the final aim of the Veda. They are called Vedantaalso because they were taught at the end to the disciples. The Sanskrit term Upanishad derives from upa- (nearby), ni – (at the proper place, down) and pad (to sit) thus meaning – ‘sitting down near’, implyingsitting near a teacher to receive instruction. The main motto of the Upanishads is ‘Knowledge AwardsSalvation’. More than 200 Upnishads are known, of which the first dozen or so, the oldest and mostimportant, are variously referred to as the principal, main (mukhya) or old Upanishads. Copilation of 108Upnishadas is also called ‘Muktika’. All Upanishads have been passed down in oral tradition. First andthe largest Upnishada is Vrihat Aranyaka which is a discourse between Yajnavalyaka and Gargi onphilosophical aspects of Dharma. ‘Aum’ is contained in Chandyuga Upnishad. Katha Upnishad containsdialogue between Yama and Nachiketa and it is about basic questions regarding Atma and Parmatma.Many of the ideas of the Upanishads were later developed by the famous thinker Shankaracharya.There are four basic components of Hindu philosophy – Karma, Dharma, Soul and Parmatma.Traditional Hindu life was governed by two fundamental principles – Varnavyavastha i.e theory of fourvarnas and Ashramavayavastha i.e. four stages of life and the associated principles. Around the timewhen Jainism and Buddhism were becoming popular, brahmins developed this system of ashramas.Today, Hinduism can be broadly seen in two streams – orthodox and heterodox. Orthodox view believesthat Vedas are the ultimate source of knowledge, failth and morality and they were not written byhumans i.e. they are revealed. This is also known as ‘Sanatan’ view. Heterodox stream is more liberaland includes strands including ancient Lokayatta hilosophy to philosophy of Upnishadas, Sankhya, Yogaand Adwait.VEDIC INDIAN P  


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