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सर्वे जनाः सुखिनो भवन्तु

सत्यं वद । धर्मं चर

Vedas - Introduction

In this chapter  and next chapter  Introduction to vedas, the structure of vedas and the details of the different parts of vedas will be discussed. vedas are apaurusheyas which means that the teachings of vedas are not in written form but were conceived by rushis (during their severe penances/meditation/tapas) spread through oral teachings and are even spread down the line by guru shishya parampara to the common man.

At this point, it may be noted that there is a close relationship between vedas and yoga. By the result of penance great sages could perceive the knowledge of the vedas through darshanas. Thus, the vedas have an important aspect of darshanas and yoga which are essential to be understood by the student along with knowing the aspects of the original samskrut language. 

The Global community of scholars always holds vedic literature in highest regard and respect, both in terms of its antiquity and quality. Research Scholars find the roots of all possible subjects such as religion, philosophy, science arts etc. present in the vedic literature. Therefore, we can say that vedic literature is of the nature of an encyclopedia covering all subject’s knowledge systems of human life and beyond.

Even the European Scholars have accepted that the vedic literature starting with rugveda is the oldest and most ancient as well as most comprehensive repository of knowledge reflecting the civilizational history of humanity comprising all societies both bhaarateeya/Indian and European

For ages the bhaarateeya/Indian society has been holding the vedic literature with highest respect as of divine origin or non-human origin or apaurusheya.

The roots of later knowledge systems can be found in the vedas. The philosophical content of the upanishat literature can be also traced back to the vedas. In addition, the darshana literature also has its roots only from the veda.

In addition, modern day scientific research will find some interesting sources of information and knowledge in the veda. For example, the naasadeeya sookta of the rugveda is the first ever scientific theory of cosmology.

The medical systems like aayurveda can be traced back to the vedas. The yoga system can be traced back to vedic literature. The philosophy of vedaanta can be traced back to the vedas.

vedas are the ancient and most available texts in the world literature. bhaarateeya traditions believe that

vedas are apaurusheyas (not composed by human beings). They are called shrutis that which is

heard. The mantras of vedas were seen during their severe penences/tapas by great sages/rushis and they are called mantradrashtas. They were preserved by oral tradition i.e gurushishya parampara which continued father to son and guru to pupil without any break. The word veda primarily means sacred knowledge and siddhaanta

Kaumudi gives 4 meanings namely:

But aapastamba gives one more meaning by saying that मन्त्र ब्राह्मणयोवेद नामधेयम्mantras and

braahmanas together are called veda.

vedas are referred to as three ruk, yajus and saama as mentioned in purusha sookta.

Later vedavyaasa recategorized into four vedasrugveda, yajurveda, saamaveda and atharvaveda.

These vedas are further divided as samhitas (the veda texts), braahmana (the ritualistic commentary),

aaranyaka (transition from ritual to philosophical thinking) and upanishats (philosophical texts).


There are 6 vedaangasshikshaa, vyaakarana, chandas and nirukta (aimed at protecting the vedas originality from changes) jyotisha and kalpa – These are essential to understand the vedas.

Further there are 4 Upavedas namely

aayus; dhanus; gaandharva; shilpa (sthaapatya)(artha shaatra is also taken as upaveda by some).

Classification of vedas, which includes the basis of classification in to four vedas and further division of each veda into samhita, braahmana, aaranyaka, and upanishat.  It also includes the number of shlokas in each veda and its composition or utility to the understanding of the common man. 

vedas are in nature, ie in the universe present by themselves, believed to be that they first came out of breath of parabrahma. They are received by rushis when they practice deep disciplined meditation/ penance/tapas and coached to their disciples. Those disciples taught orally to their disciples. This process is called teaching by ‘guru shishya parampara’. And those institutions are called gurukulas. These vedas infinite in number and they have eternal presence in the universe in the form of shabda and can be received any time by any rushi who can practice the tapas of that order.

Those received vedas prior to vyaasa maharshi, were used to be recited by innumerable number of rushis. They were not in a particular order. They were out of reach for the understanding of the common man to be expressed in grantha (book) form. So maharshi krishna dvaiyapaayana, who has been known later as vedavyaasa, sectionalized these innumerable number of vedashabdas as four vedas. Each veda is further sectionalized into branches or shaakhaas. They are as follows:

Each shaakhaa was being practiced by one rushi in his gurukulam and by his shishyas. That was how the vedashabda was protected in letter and pronunciation. In order to protect the pronunciation and letters this learning method is followed even today in 11 different types, ie samhita, paada, krama, jata, maalaa, shikhaa, rekhaa, dhvajaa, dandaa, rathaa, and ghana, so that any wrong pronunciation will be checked and scope of deformation over period of time is also, checked automatically, as any wrong pronunciation will automatically prevent the person, who pronounces wrongly, to proceed further.

These vedas consisted of 1131 shaakhaas even at the time of mahaa bhaashyakaara patanjali who wrote bhaashyam for panini’s vyaakarana ie ashtaadhyaayee. Later at the time of aadi shankara too, this number of shaakhaas were known to be 1131. From that time to now due to various reasons the present available shaakhaas are only around 13. Out of these 13, only 7 are being taught in the vedic schools in the system of guru shishya parampara.

Even these 7 shaakhaas contain wealth of knowledge which needs to be explored afresh and to be passed on to the future generations.

Each veda shaakhaa further sub divided in to samhita, braahmana, aaranyaka and upanishats. It appears that this subdivision is based on four aashrama dharmas.

Brahmaacharyaashrama: Living in gurukula– Learns vedas and follows samhita portions of vedas.

 Grihastaashrama: Leading the saamasaarika life, performing the yajna, yaaga, kratavas following the portions of braahmanas of vedas.

vaanaprasthaashrama: Relinquishing all saamsaarika jeevan, one does lead life with wife, in forests and does karmas following the portions of aaranyakas of vedas.

Sanyaasaashrama: realising the reality of parabrahma and rejecting all worldly pleasures leads the life of mendicant and does saadhana, in quest of moksha following the upanishat portions of vedas.

That is how the vedas are the guiding principles for leading life in this mundane world in dharmic way, the righteous path.

There is another type of categorization of vedas. That is the first three sections, samhitas, braahmanas and aaranyakas are called karma kaandas and upanishats are called jnaana kaandas.

Some of the major principles/ guiding sootras given to humanity in short as sample are the following:

rugveda, yajurveda, saamaveda, atharvanaveda, itihaasa/puraana/, vyaakarana. shraarddha kalpa(pitrooyam), ganita(raashi), utpaatajnaanam (daivam), nidhishaastra(nidhi), tarkashaastra(vaakovaakyam), neetishaastra(Moral science), nirukta (Etymology), shikshaa, kalpa, chandas, bhootatantra(bhootavidyaa), dhanurvedam(dhanurvidyaa), jyotisham(nakshtravidyaa), garuda vidyaa(sarpa vasheekarana vidyaa) and sangeeta, saahitya, shilpavidyaa(devajanavidyaa) are the various knowledge centers that were being studied in vedic times as told by naarada maharshi that he studied, as told to his guru, brahmamaanasaputra sanatkumara; as given in the following shloka.(chaandogyopanishat-7-1-2)

ऋग्वेदं भगवोध्येमि यजुर्वेदं सामवेदमाथर्वणं

चतुर्थमितिहासपुराणं पञ्चमं वेदानां वेदं पित्र्यं

राशिं दैवं निधिं वाकोवाक्यमेकायनं देवविद्यां ब्रह्मविद्यां

भूतविद्यां क्षत्रविद्यां नक्षत्रविद्यां सर्पदेवजनविद्यामेतद्भगवोध्येमि ॥ (छान्दोग्योपनिषत्..).


        rugvedam bhagavodhyemi yajurvedam saamavedamaatharvanam |

chaturthamitihaasapuraanam  pannchamam vedaanaam vedam pitryam |

raashim daivam nidhim vaakovaakyamekaayanam daivavidyaam brahmavidyaam |

bhootavidyaam kshatravidyaam sarpadevajanavidyaametadbhgavodhyemi ||(chaandogyopanishat7-1-2)

Since vedas are heard they are also called shrutis.  For correct interpretation and for protection of vedashabda, rushis had written; shikshaa, vyaakarana, chandas, nirukta, jyotisha and kalpa, called shadangas/vedaangas. These are explained in more detail in subsequent chapters.

 Note:The above is prepared based on the grantha samskruta vaanjmaya charitra” written br. acharya A Ramulu, Samskruta Professor and HOD, OU, in Telugu.

Reference Material