Brief note on Four Vedas (Hindu Vedas)


The word ‘Veda’ comes from the root ‘Vid – to know, leading to ‘Vidya’, knowledge which leads further to vision, meaning revelation, self-realization. The Veda is the book of knowledge of Changeless Reality. The four Vedas form a body of religious literature called Shruti. ‘Shruti’ means ‘heard’, experienced and ‘spiritually revealed’. The realized souls, the Rishis, responded to the divine vibrators around them and in their minds and hearts felt and experienced ecstasy. This ecstasy they expressed in the form of Hymns of praise to glory of nature and later prayers to the gods controlling nature.

The Vedas are personal and eternal. Eternal in the sense that the seers intuited pre-existent truths. The knowledge of ‘Self’ that they acquired was there eternally, they discovered – or rediscovered – this eternal treasure of knowledge.

The texts have come down to us orally from generation to generation of priests with perfection in intonation and rhythm, from memory and by rote.

The Vedas are classified into four groups: the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. There are Samhitas, Brahmans, Aranyaks and Upanishads belonging to each of these four Vedas.

Rig Veda

The Rig Veda is the earliest and the most important of all Shruti literature. It consists of 1028 hymns of praise. One of the most important ideas that come out of the Rig Veda is Rta. Rta means cosmic and sacred order, an ultimate and harmonic integrated structure of reality. ‘Rite’ and ‘right’ both come from the word Rta.

The Rig Veda was not composed during any historically determinable, particular period of time. It is the collective output of many sages and visionaries, known as Rishis. They went on adding Mantras, songs and prayers and glorifications of nature, over several centuries. Many of these spontaneous exultation provide inspiring insights into the eternal truths of nature and the universe.

The Vedic poet enunciated the truth by declaring “The Truth is one but the wise call it variously”. “Eakam sat Viprah bahudha vadanti.”

Yajur Veda

Gives directions for the performance of rituals and ceremonies.

Sama Veda

Sets to music hymns from the Rig Veda, to be chanted at appropriate stages with correct modulations and intonations. Our classical music has its roots in this Veda.

Atharva Veda

Deals mostly with ethical principles, and also some branches of science like Ayurveda (the science of health and longevity). It has sections dealing with Tantras (literally threads) and other ritualistic esoteric knowledge.

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