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The Hinduism Series: Hindu Scriptures and their Overview

This article is part 4 of 6 in the series The Hinduism Series

The foundational works of Hinduism have, for centuries, been transmitted by means of an oral tradition – teachers taught their disciples, who committed every word to memory and then passed it on to their disciples without any variation. Needless to say, many ancient texts have been lost over the years. For ease of understanding, in this article we use the term ‘texts’ instead of ‘works,’ or ‘compositions,’ or ‘treatises,’ but they include both orally composed works and written texts.

While the transmission of knowledge was done orally, ancient India had both orally composed texts as well as written texts. The Vedas were composed orally and strictly transmitted by means of an oral tradition because of the specific accents used in Vedic recitation. The later texts (like Vedangas) that deal with technical details were written down.

So when we say that many texts have been lost, it is not just a physical loss of an ancient manuscript but also the loss of a particular group of people who had learnt a certain text from memory. That said, what remains is a huge repository of knowledge and oftentimes a single lifetime is insufficient to read through all the available treatises – especially given that we have many traditional commentaries on these fundamental scriptures that run into millions of pages.

The foundational works of Hinduism are divided into two groups: shruti and smrti. Shruti (‘that which is heard’) refers to the primary texts, which are Vedas. Smrti (‘that which is remembered’) refers to the five groups of secondary texts: Upaveda, Vedanga, Itihasa, Purana, and Darshana.

​​Vedas

The word veda comes from the root vid which means ‘knowledge,’ ‘enjoyment,’ ‘liberation,’ etc. When the word veda is used in the singular, it is a reference to knowledge, wisdom, and awareness, which is the foundation of our existence. When the word veda is used in plural, it is a reference to the four Vedas – Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda – which are the foremost revealed scriptures in Hinduism.

The traditional view is that the Vedas are apaurusheya (of divine origin, coming from a source beyond humans). Whether or not one agrees with this view, one must concede that the internal awareness of our existence, the inner veda is indeed apaurusheya. The collective consciousness of the rishis (seers, sages, visionaries) of the past – both men and women – makes up the Vedas.

The Vedas themselves proclaim that one has to go beyond mere chanting of the hymns and realize one’s true nature:

ऋचो अक्षरे परमे व्योमन् यस्मिन्देवा अधि विश्वे निषेदुः |
यस्तन्न वेद किंऋचा करिष्यति य इत्तद्विदुस्त इमे समासते ||
– Rigveda Samhita  1.164.39

When the fundamental texts of Hinduism declare thus, what further evidence is needed to show that the tradition aims to transcend dogma and pursue absolute knowledge?

The Upanishads advise us to understand the true nature of the self where texts, traditions, and identities cease to exist:

अत्र पितापिता भवति मातामाता लोका अलोका देवा अदेवा वेदा अवेदाः |
अत्र स्तेनोऽस्तेनो भवति भ्रूणहाभ्रूणहा चाण्ड्यालोऽचण्ड्यालः
पौल्कसोऽपौल्कसः श्रमणोऽश्रमणस् तापसोऽतापसः |
अनन्वागतं पुण्येनानन्वागतं पापेन |
तीर्णो हि तदा सर्वाञ् शोकान् हृदयस्य भवति ||
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.22

Krishna shares a similar thought in the Bhagavad-Gita when he says that once a person attains the highest wisdom, the Vedas are insignificant.

यावानर्थ उदपाने
सर्वतः सम्प्लुतोदके |
तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु
ब्राह्मणस्य विजानतः ||
– Bhagavad-Gita 2.46

Thus, Hindu scriptures do not challenge the universal experience. In fact, it places experience and observation over theory. The proof of the Vedas comes from the non-qualified experiences of the rishis. The contention is that wisdom can be realized by individual experience and not by the text alone. That said, it is possible only for a few people to realize these truths on their own. For the general population, an authoritative source is needed. And what better authority, than a body of knowledge like the Vedas, which agree with universally valid spiritual, rational and human values?

Each of the four Vedas is further sub-divided into four sections: Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka, and Upanishad. The first three (Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka) are called the कर्मकाण्ड (karma kanda) as they give more importance to the devotional and ritualistic aspects. The last one (Upanishad) is called the ज्ञानकाण्ड (jnana kanda) as it gives more importance on the contemplative and philosophical aspects. In general, the Samhitas deal with bhakti (devotion), the Brahmanas with karma (work, action, ritual), the Aranyakas with dhyana (meditation, contemplation), and the Upanishads with jnana (knowledge, wisdom).

We also see a connection between these divisions of the Vedas and the four stages of human life (चतुराश्रम) according to our tradition – the Samhitas correspond to brahmacarya, the Brahmanas correspond to grhasta, the Aranyakas correspond to vanaprastha, and the Upanishads correspond to sanyasa. However, we must remember that these divisions are not watertight compartments and we find many spillovers in the different sections. The Rigveda Samhita is the oldest known treatise in the world. It forms the basis for all other Vedic texts.

The Vedas largely comprise devotional hymns to various deities and elaborate rituals to invoke them. These gods are seen as a manifestation of the one absolute truth that is beyond space and time, name and form, and attributes of any other kind. The gods themselves take various names and forms and are spread over space and time.

The core of the wisdom of the Vedas, however, lies in its quest for self-realization and thus realizing the ultimate truth. As an aside to the main track of devotion and self-realization, the Vedas deal with many subjects that one would today label as history, sociology, science, psychology, ethics, philosophy, etc.

A remarkable facet about the Vedas is the literary quality of the hymns – almost always set to poetic meter, clever phonetic patterns, lucid structure, and meta-worldly syntax. In some sense, this was inevitable because the knowledge was passed on by means of an oral tradition. Everything had to be committed to memory. This is also perhaps the reason why the Vedas are chanted, recited or sung using certain intonations.

Texts of Vedas

Ṛgveda

Ṛgveda (ṛk + veda) consists of ṛks (verses).

  • Ṛgveda Saṃhitā
  • Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, Kauṣītaki Brāhmaṇa
  • Aitareya Āraṇyaka, Kauṣītaki Āraṇyaka
  • Aitareya Upaniṣad, Kauṣītaki Upaniṣad, and 9 others

Yajurveda

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Yajurveda (yajus + veda) consists of yajus (prose).
Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda

  • Taittirīya Saṃhitā, Maitrayāṇi Saṃhitā, Kaṭha Saṃhitā, Kapisthala Kathā Saṃhitā
  • Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa
  • Taittirīya Āraṇyaka, Maitrayāṇīya Āraṇyaka
  • Taittirīya Upaniṣad, Kaṭha Upaniṣad, Śvetaśvatara Upaniṣad, Maitrayāṇīya Upaniṣad, and 28 others

Śukla Yajurveda

  • Vajasaneyi Saṃhitā (Mādhyandina, Kāṇva)
  • Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (Mādhyandina, Kāṇva)
  • Bṛhat Āraṇyaka
  • Īśa Upaniṣad, Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, and 17 others

Note: Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda, which is largely in prose, is possibly the original Yajurveda. The Śukla Yajurveda largely comprises a remodelling of the former in metrical patterns. In the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda, the Saṃhitā portion also has some Brāhmaṇa passages. In the Śukla Yajurveda, there are no Brāhmaṇa passages in the Saṃhitā portion since all those passages have been absorbed by the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa.

Sāmaveda

Sāmaveda consists of sāmans (songs).

  • Kauthuma Saṃhitā, Jaiminīya Saṃhitā, Raṇayanīya Saṃhitā
  • Pañcaviṃśa Brāhmaṇa, Saḍviṃśa Brāhmaṇa, Sāmavidhāna Brāhmaṇa, Ārśeya
    Brāhmaṇa, Devatādhyāya Brāhmaṇa, Chāndogya Brāhmaṇa, Saṃhitopaniṣad
    Brāhmaṇa, Vaṃśa Brāhmaṇa, Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa, Jaiminīya Ārśeya Brāhmaṇa, Jaiminīya Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa
  • Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Kena Upaniṣad, and 14 others

Atharvaveda

Atharva Veda consists of the teachings of the sage Atharvan.

  • Śaunakīya Saṃhitā, Paippalada Saṃhitā
  • Gopatha Brāhmaṇa
  • Praśna Upaniṣad, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, and 28 others

Upavedas

Upavedas are the secondary (upa) bodies of knowledge (veda). The Vedas are spiritual in nature while the Upavedas are secular in the sense of “worldly.” The terms ‘spiritual’ and ‘secular’ are modern constructs but they very closely correspond to the way in which the Vedas and Upavedas are composed. However, like all other foundational works of Hinduism, the ‘secular’ Upavedas too, have at their core, the same spirituality professed by the ‘spiritual’ Vedas. Each Upaveda is said to correspond to a Veda.

The Upavedas and Vedas support the classical concepts of प्रवृत्ति (pravrtti) and निवृत्ति (nivrtti). Pravrtti (practice, action, behaviour, profession, coming forth) is focus on the outer world, where we engage in action that pertains to the material world. Nivrtti (rest, abstinence, cessation, retiring, turning back) is focus on the inner world, where we engage in contemplation and self-awareness. While the Upavedas correspond to pravrtti, the Vedas correspond to nivrtti.

The Upavedas and Vedas also support the classical concept of पुरुषार्थ (puruṣārtha), the four objectives of life: dharma (duty, principle, religion), artha (wealth, cause, motive), kama (desire, pleasure, passion), and moksha (liberation, salvation, release). The Upavedas are largely about artha and kama while the Vedas are largely about dharma and moksha.

This division between Vedas and Upavedas also hints at the wisdom of the ancient people who always managed to bring about a rich synthesis of culture and civilization, where the former is idealistic and the latter is materialistic. The four Upavedas are:

1. Ayurveda [associated with Rigveda]

Ayurveda literally means ‘knowledge of life.’ Modern medicine has largely restricted itself to the treatment of disease. On the other hand, Ayurveda is a holistic science of life that takes into account the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of a person. Accordingly it tries to ensure health of body, mind, and soul. More than the treatment of a disorder, it gives a blueprint for a blissful life.

A person who is keeping well is called ‘healthy’ in English. A similar term in Sanskrit is svastha, which translates into ‘being composed in one’s own self.’ The terms used for wellness itself suggest the divergence in approach. Ayurveda has details about food and its processing, nutrition, suggestions for a healthy lifestyle, and a holistic picture of lifestyle choices. Ayurveda also includes what we term today as pharmacology, pharmacopeia, psychology, hygiene, chemistry, botany, zoology, and metallurgy.

While dealing with the microcosm and macrocosm, it ponders about the aspects of cosmology too. While dealing with healthy habits and the calendar of an overall healthy life, Ayurveda gets into the details of philosophy, ethics, law, environment, meteorology, agriculture, cooking, traditions, and culture. The eight subdivisions (अष्टाङ्ग) of Ayurveda include many aspects of medicine and surgery. Ayurveda is the converging point of many physical and normative sciences.

Texts of Āyurveda

Śuśrūta Saṃhitā (Śuśrūta)
Caraka Saṃhitā (Caraka)
Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya and Saṅgraha (Vāgbhaṭa)
Bhavaprakāśa

2. Arthaveda [associated with Yajurveda]

Arthaveda is the wisdom of means and methods. The word artha has several shades of meaning where (wo)men, materials, methods, management, and money are all included. We will not do justice if we translate arthashastra into ‘economics’ because it includes not only economics but also political science, law, ethics, constitutional studies, defense, management, sociology, trade and commerce, civil and military engineering, etc. (All these terms are modern but they very closely correspond to the contents of the Arthaveda texts.)

Texts of Arthaveda

Arthaśāstra (Kauṭilya)
Pañcatantra (Viṣṇuśarma)
Yuktikalpataru (Bhojarāja)
Nītikalpataru (Kṣemendra)
Nītisāra (Kamaṇḍaka)
Hitopadeśa (Nārāyaṇa)
Nītisūtra (Somadeva)
Nītivākyāmṛta (Somadevasūri)
Nītisāra (Śukra)
Vyāvahāramayukha (Nīlakaṇṭha)
Rājanītimayukha (Nīlakaṇṭha)
Rājanītiratnākara (Caṇḍeśvara)

[According to some sources, Dhanurveda, the science of archery, is counted among the Upavedas. However, we have preferred Arthaveda since it is far more wide-reaching and substantial. Further, there are no primary texts specifically under Dhanurveda.]

3. Gandharvaveda [associated with Samaveda]

Gandharvaveda is the wisdom of enjoyment through arts and crafts. Gandharvas are a group of divine artistes and musicians and hence the name. In almost all the Vedas we find references to arts, crafts, artistes, and artisans. The Yajurveda mentions twenty-eight types of arts and crafts. The number of arts and crafts increased over time and later literature mentions the famous sixty-four arts (चतुर्षष्टि कला). Gandharvaveda includes not just the fundamental arts like poetry, music, dance, theater, painting, and sculpture but also secondary arts like flower arrangement, magic, juggling, carpentry, riddle-solving, storytelling, etc.

Texts of Gāndharvaveda

Kāmasūtra (Vātsyāyana)
Nāṭyaśāstra (Bharata)
Kāvyālankāra (Bhamaha)
Kāvyadarṣa (Daṇḍin)
Dhvanyāloka (Ānandavardhana)
Śṛṅgāraprakāśa (Bhoja)
Sarasvatikaṇṭhābharana (Bhoja)
Vakrokti Jīvita (Kuntaka)
Vyakti Viveka (Mahimabhaṭṭa)
Kāvyaprakāśa (Mammata)

Kāmasūtra (written by sage Vātsyāyana in the period between 400 BCE and 200 CE) methodically discusses love and love-making with an overall awareness towards a person’s life and society. Apart from the obvious erotic content, it is a great treatise on sociology, aesthetics, ethics, medicine, anthropology, and psychology.

Nāṭyaśāstra (written by sage Bharata in the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE) is a comprehensive encyclopaedia of all performing arts as well as literature and architecture. It deals with the emotions, sentiments, and moods of theatrical communication which include the physical, verbal, emotional, and material (costumes, stage props, etc.) modes; regional and national approaches; realistic and idealistic methods of presentation; local and universal preferences of creativity; vocal music, instrumental (string, percussion, and wind) music, and lyrics; grammar, figures of speech, stylistics, and prosody; stage construction, building sets, and architecture; costumes, jewelry, and make-up (colour codes, production of colours, and painting); and education of the actors, dancers, and connoisseurs. Even today the Nāṭyaśāstra serves the cultural ethos in general and theatre in particular not just in India but also Asia.

4. Sthapatyaveda [associated with Atharvaveda]

Sthapatyaveda is the wisdom of engineering. The word स्थापति (sthapati) was used to designate a master engineer who always stood behind the creation of any engineering marvel. Under him were sutradharas (design engineers), shilpis (sculptors), karukas (artisans), takshas (carpenters), karmaras (blacksmiths), kaladas (goldsmiths, silversmiths), kulalas (potters), tantuvayas (weavers), etc.

Sthapatyaveda includes the basic disciplines such as physics, mathematics, and chemistry. Their applied forms like mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, hydraulics, mechanics, dynamics, etc. are also a part of it. Sthapatyaveda is a holistic representation of both physical sciences and their technologies.

Texts of Sthāpatyaveda

vedas The Hinduism Series: Hindu Scriptures and their Overview sculpture-300x191

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Mānasāra Mayamatam
Viśvarūpam
Aparājitapṛccha
Samaraṅganasūtradhāra
Rūpavastumandana

Vedanga

Vedāṅgas are the limbs (angas) of knowledge (veda). They are the six auxiliary disciplines which are essential to study and understand the Vedas – phonetics, grammar, prosody, etymology, astrology/astronomy, and liturgy.

1. Siksha (phonetics, phonology)

Siksha is the study of pronunciation. Language, in its basic form, is spoken. And speech, which is a complete form of expression, needs proper pronunciation. Without this, the intended meaning may not be conveyed. Apart from the general rules of pronunciation, Siksha reveals the sophistication of the Sanskrit language and of the Vedas. Modern phonetics owes much to this ancient branch of learning.

Texts on Sikṣa

Ṛgveda Pratiśākya (Śakala Śākhā)
Śukla Yajurveda-Pratiśākhya
Taittirīya (Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda) Pratiśākya
Atharvaveda-Pratiśākya (Śaunakīya Śākhā)
Śaunakīya Caturādhyāyika (Śaunakīya Śākhā)
Yājñavalkyasikṣa
Nāradasikṣa
Māṇḍūkisikṣa
Pāṇiṇīyasikṣa
Sikṣāsaṅgraha

2. Vyakarana

Vyakarana is the study of grammar. Sanskrit grammar, especially the system of Panini, is universally known for its perfection, richness, depth, brevity, and beauty. Vyakarana is not limited to a description of syntactical aspects but elevates the study to the level of philosophy. Since the late 19th century, the Sanskrit grammatical tradition has greatly influenced global linguistic studies.

Texts on Vyākaraṇa

Aṣṭādhyāyī (Pāṇini)
Vārtika (Vararuci)
Mahābhāṣya (Pantañjali)
Vākyapadīya (Bhartṛhari)
Mādhavīyadhātuvṛtti (Sāyaṇa)
Siddhāntakaumuḍi (Bhaṭṭojidīkṣita)

3. Chandas

Chandas is the study of prosody and poetical metre. Sanskrit has a rich variety of poetic metres both in quality and quantity. Often the metrical pattern of a poem is aligned with the meaning and context of the content. The study of Chandas is also essential to understand the verbal utterances of hymns from the Veda.

Texts on Chandas

Chandas Śāstra (Piṅgala)
Vṛtta Ratnākara (Kedārabhaṭṭa)
Chandonuśāsana (Hemacandra)
Chandonuśāsana (Jayakīrti)

4. Nirukta

Nirukta is the study of etymology. Every word in Sanskrit can be decoded through deconstruction, thus leading to its meaning. This study of etymology is auxiliary to the study of grammar. Grammar tries to develop a word while etymology tries to analyze it.

Texts on Nirukta

Nighaṇṭu (Yāska)
Nirukta (Yāska)
Amarakośa (Amarasiṃha)
Trikāṇḍaśeṣa
Vaijayanti kośa (Yādavaprakāṣa)

5. Jyotisha

Jyotisha includes astronomy and astrology. The former is the factual description of celestial bodies and their behaviours while the latter is the interpretation of their influences on humans. Jyotisha heavily relies on mathematics, which was well-developed in ancient India. A calendar is essential for our day-to-day life and so also is our understanding of time and space. At least for this basic purpose, Jyotisha is very valuable. Astrology is a probabilistic system that developed by empirical means and has its own place in the scheme of things. Four sections that come under this Vedanga are: Jyotisha, Ganita, Siddhanta, and Hora.

Texts on Jyotiṣa

Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa (Raladha)
BṛhadSaṃhitā (Varāhamihira)
Bṛhadjātaka (Varāhamihira)
Āryabhaṭīyam (Āryabhaṭṭa)
Sūryasiddhānta (Bhāskara)
Siddhānta Śiromaṇi (Bhāskara)

6. Kalpa

Kalpa is the study of rituals and liturgy but it covers a vast expanse of knowledge. It includes the study of ethics, sociology, polity, traditions, and worship, among others. Kalpa has four main groups of texts:

  • Dharmasutras – rituals, duties, and responsibilities at a societal level
  • Grhyasutras – household rituals and duties
  • Shrautasutras – rituals and worships of the Vedas
  • Shulbasutras – details of the construction of the altar for yajna (Vedic fire ritual)

Smrti
A consolidation of the Gṛhya and Dharma sections of Kalpa and their further expansion are a group of eighteen primary texts called Smrtis and eighteen secondary texts called Upasmrtis.

Agama
A consolidation of the Shrauta and Shulba sections of Kalpa and their further expansion are a group of texts called Agamas. They include numerous and voluminous texts dealing with the temple tradition. Agamas deal with the construction of temples, their art and architecture, the iconography of the images and their aesthetics, as well as the daily, fortnightly, monthly, and annual rituals and festivals observed in the temples. Above all, they discuss the underlying philosophy of the entire system. The Agama literature is divided into शैव (pertaining to the god Shiva), वैष्णव (pertaining to the god Vishnu) and शाक्त (pertaining to the goddess Shakti). The Bauddha and Jaina Agamas may be included under this heading since they have their roots in the same ancient tradition.

Texts on Kalpa

Dharmasūtras

  • Vasiṣṭha (associated with Ṛgveda)
  • Āpastamba (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Baudhāyana (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Viṣṇu (associated with Śukla Yajurveda)
  • Gautama (associated with Sāmaveda)

Gṛhyasūtras

  • Aśvalāyāna (associated with Ṛgveda)
  • Kauṣītaki (RV)
  • Sāṅkhāyana (RV)
  • Gobhila (associated with Sāmaveda)
  • Khadira (SV)
  • Jaiminīya (SV)
  • Kauthuma (SV)
  • Baudhāyana (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Hiranyakeśi (KYV)
  • Mānava (KYV)
  • Bhāradvāja (KYV)
  • Āpastamba (KYV)
  • Vādhula (KYV)
  • Kapisthala Kathā (KYV)
  • Pāraskara (associated with Śukla Yajurveda)
  • Kātyāyana (SYV)
  • Kauṣika (associated with Atharvaveda)

Śrautasūtras

  • Aśvalāyāna (associated with Rigveda)
  • Sāṅkhāyana (RV)
  • Lāṭyāyana (associated with Sāmaveda)
  • Drahyāyana (SV)
  • Jaiminīya (SV)
  • Baudhāyana (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Hiranyakeśi (KYV)
  • Bhāradvāja (KYV)
  • Āpastamba (KYV)
  • Kātyāyana (associated with Śukla Yajurveda)
  • Vaitana (associated with Artharvaveda)

Śulbasūtras

  • Baudhāyana (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Mānava (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Āpastamba (associated with Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
  • Kātyāyana (associated with Śukla Yajurveda)

Smṛtis
Manu
Yājñavalkya
Parāśara
Viṣṇu
Vyāsa
Dakṣa
Likhita
Atri
and others

Āgamas

  • Śaiva: Raurava, Mukuṭa, Kārmika, Vātūla
  • Vaiṣṇava: Pāñcarātra Āgamas (Sāttvata Saṃhitā, Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitā, Lakṣmī Tantra), Vaikhānasa Āgamas
  • Śākta: Śāradātilaka, Tripurārahasya, Varivasyārahasya
  • Jaina
  • Bauddha

Itihasa

The word इतिहास (itihasa) literally translates into ‘it happened thus’ and can be loosely translated into English as ‘history.’ The Itihasa literature consists of the two great epics from India – the Ramayana (composed by sage Valmiki) and the Mahabharata (composed by sage Vyasa). The Ramayana, with 24,000 verses, tells the story of the great warrior and king, Rama. The Mahabharata, with around a hundred thousand verses, primarily deals with the lives of Pandavas, with their cousin Krishna playing a crucial part in the unfolding of the story.

Itihāsa Texts

Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki
Mahābhārata of Vyāsa

Purana

Puranas consist of old episodes and stories mainly meant for the education of the laity. They deal with lofty theories and fantastic stories that deal with the creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the cosmos; the lineage of gods, sages, and kings; numerous anecdotes of great people; the innumerable religious and secular practices that are good for individuals and society; details about pilgrimages and festivals; tit-bits about sciences and arts; etc. They also deal with geography, local traditions, history, and folklore of India with great spiritual insight. To use a modern example, Puranas was the Wikipedia of those times. Unlike the Vedas, the Puranas were being constantly revised and updated. There are eighteen Mahapuranas (further divided into brahma, vaishnava, and shaiva,), eighteen Upapuranas, and eighteen Upopapuranas.

Apart from this, the Purana literature also includes Sthalapuranas that pertains to local traditions in different places, taking elements from the local folklore and from traditional stories of the Puranas. Needless to say, Sthalapuranas are disorganized groups of stories often restricted to the region of their origin. However, it is noteworthy that the Indian tradition does not merely tolerate local values and customs but embraces them.

Purāṇa Texts

Mahapurāṇas

  • Brāhma Purāṇas: Brahma, Brahmāṇḍa, Brahma Vaivarta, Mārkāṇḍeya, Bhaviṣya
  • Vaiṣṇava Purāṇas: Viṣṇu, Bhāgavata, Nāradeya, Garuḍa, Padma, Varāha, Vāmana, Kūrma, Matsya
  • Śaiva Purāṇas: Śiva, Liṅga, Skanda, Agni

18 Upapurāṇas
18 Upopapurāṇas

Darshana

While English uses the word ‘philosophy,’ Sanskrit uses the word दर्शन (darshana), ‘point of view.’ There are six classical schools of Indian philosophy (षड्दर्शन) but the three atheistic schools (Jaina, Bauddha, Lokayata/Charvaka) are also usually included in the list. Of the shaddarshana, the Nyaya (epistemology) and Vaisheshika (ontology) systems largely deal with the physical level; the Sankhya (method of reasoning) and Yoga (union of body, mind, and soul) systems largely deal with the spiritual level; the system of Purva Mimamsa deals with the preparation for philosophical pursuits and explains the philosophy of rituals; and the system of Uttara Mimamsa deals with philosophical pursuit and gives a means for transcending rituals. Purva Mimamsa is prescriptive and more oriented towards karma (action) while Uttara Mimamsa is introspective and more oriented towards jnana (knowledge).

Darśana Texts

Āstika

  • Sāṅkhya
    • Sāṅkhyapravacana Sūtras (Kapila)
    • Sāṅkhyakārika (Īśvarakṛṣṇa)
  • Yoga
    • Yoga Sūtras (Patañjali)
  • Nyāya
    • Nyāya Sūtras (Gautama)
  • Vaiśeṣika
    • Vaiśeṣika Sūtras (Kāṇaḍa)
    • Tarkasaṅgraha (Annaṃbhaṭṭa)
    • Tarkabhāṣa
    • Tattvacintāmaṇi (Raghunātha Śiromaṇi)
  • Pūrva Mīmāṃsa
    • Mīmāṃsa Sūtras (Jaimini)
    • Ślokavartika (Kumarilabhaṭṭa)
    • Bhāṣyasbṛhati (Prabhākarmata)
    • Bhaṭṭadīpika (Khaṇḍadiva)
  • Uttara Mīmāṃsa
    • Brahma Sūtras (Bādarāyaṇa)

Nāstika

  • Jaina
  • Bauddha
  • Lokāyāta/Cārvāka

These six groups of texts – Veda, Upaveda, Vedanga, Itihasa, Purana, and Darshana – lay the foundation for the knowledge and the wisdom of our heritage; it covers the concrete and the abstract, the secular and the spiritual.

Co-written by Hari Ravikumar.

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Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh vedas The Hinduism Series: Hindu Scriptures and their Overview r ganesh

Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh

Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.
Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh vedas The Hinduism Series: Hindu Scriptures and their Overview r ganesh