The Vedas

04 Jun 2017, Manish Padhi

The Vedas consider to beapauruṣeya, which means "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless".

Vedas are also calledśruti ("what is heard") literature, distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are calledsmṛti ("what is remembered").

The creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma.

There are four Vedas: the

  • The Rigveda (RV)
  • The Yajurveda (YV)
  • The Samaveda (SV)
  • The Atharvaveda (AV)

Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types:

  1. The Samhitas (mantras and benedictions)
  2. The Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices)
  3. The Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices)
  4. The Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge)

Some scholars add a fifth category – the Upasanas (worship).

Various Hindu traditions dwell on, express and teach similar ideas such as karma (retributive action) and moksha (liberation) in the fourth layer of the Vedas – the Upanishads.

Rigveda :

The text is a collection of 1,028 hymns and 10,600 verses, organized into ten books (Mandalas). The hymns (a song of praise or worship) are dedicated to Rigvedic deities.

Rigveda was composed in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, most likely between c. 1500–1200 BC.

The text is organized in 10 books, known as Mandalas, of varying age and length.


Rishis in the Rigveda

Tradition associates a rishi (the composer) with each ṛc of the Rigveda. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95% of the ṛcs; for each of them the Rigveda includes a lineage-specificāprī hymn (a special sūkta of rigidly formulaic structure, used for rituals.

Angiras 3619 (especially Mandala 6)
Kanva 1315 (especially Mandala 8)
Vasishtha 1276 (Mandala 7)
Vishvamitra 983 (Mandala 3)
Atri 885 (Mandala 5)
Bhrgu 473
Kashyapa 415 (part of Mandala 9)
Grtsamada 401 (Mandala 2)
Agastya 316
Bharata 170


The 30 manuscripts of Rigveda preserved at theBhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune were added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2007.

The 10 Mandalas

  • Mandala 1 comprises 191 hymns. Hymn 1.1 is addressed to Agni, and his name is the first word of theRigveda. The remaining hymns are mainly addressed to Agni and Indra, as well as Varuna, Mitra, the Ashvins, the Maruts, Usas, Surya, Rbhus, Rudra, Vayu, Brhaspati, Visnu, Heaven and Earth, and all the Gods.

  • Mandala 2 comprises 43 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. It is chiefly attributed to the Rishi gṛtsamada śaunahotra.

  • Mandala 3 comprises 62 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra and the Vishvedevas. The verse 3.62.10 has great importance in Hinduism as theGayatri Mantra. Most hymns in this book are attributed toviśvāmitra gāthinaḥ.

  • Mandala 4 comprises 58 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra as well as the Rbhus, Ashvins, Brhaspati, Vayu, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed tovāmadeva gautama.

  • Mandala 5 comprises 87 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, the Visvedevas ("all the gods'), the Maruts, the twin-deityMitra-Varuna and the Asvins. Two hymns each are dedicated to Ushas (the dawn) and to Savitr. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the atriclan.

  • Mandala 6 comprises 75 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, all the gods, Pusan, Ashvin, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed to thebārhaspatya family ofAngirasas.

  • Mandala 7 comprises 104 hymns, to Agni, Indra, the Visvadevas, the Maruts, Mitra-Varuna, the Asvins, Ushas, Indra-Varuna, Varuna, Vayu (the wind), two each to Sarasvati(ancient river/goddess of learning) and Vishnu, and to others. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vasiṣṭha maitravaruṇi.

  • Mandala 8 comprises 103 hymns to various gods. Hymns 8.49 to 8.59 are the apocryphalvālakhilya. Hymns 1–48 and 60–66 are attributed to the kāṇvaclan, the rest to other (Angirasa) poets.

  • Mandala 9 comprises 114 hymns, entirely devoted to Soma Pavamana, the cleansing of the sacred potion of the Vedic religion.

  • Mandala 10comprises additional 191 hymns, frequently in later language, addressed to Agni, Indra and various other deities. It contains the Nadistuti sukta which is in praise of rivers and is important for the reconstruction of the geography of the Vedic civilization and the Purusha sukta which has been important in studies of Vedic sociology.
    It also contains theNasadiya sukta(10.129), probably the most celebrated hymn in the west, which deals with creation.
    The marriage hymns (10.85) and the death hymns(10.10–18) still are of great importance in the performance of the correspondingGrhya rituals.


Rigvedic rivers

Rivers, such as the Sapta Sindhu ("seven rivers") play a prominent part in the hymns of theRigveda, and consequently in early Vedic religion.


Present Day NameAlternate Name
Indus Sindhu (Ancient name); Singi Khamban (Tibetan name)
Jhelum Vitasta (Ancient name); Hydaspes(Greek name)
Chenab Asikini (Ancient name); Chandrabhagha
Ravi Parusni (Ancient name); Airavati
Beas Vipasa (Ancient name); Hyphasis(Greek name)
Sutlej Sutudri (Ancient name); Zarodros (Greek name); Langechen Khambab (Tibetan name)
Brahmaputra Dihang; Tsangpo(Tibetan name)
Krishna Krsnavena, Krsnaveni, Kanhapenna (Ancient names)
Luni Sagarmati
Betwa Vetravati
Chambal Charmanvati

Samaveda :

The Samaveda is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is a liturgical text whose 1,875 verses are primary derived from the Rigveda. Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.

Origin: While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, c. 1200 or 1000 BCE.

The classical Indian music and dance tradition considers the chants and melodies in Samaveda as one of its roots.

It is a fusion of older melodies (sāman) and the Rig verses. 

It has far fewer verses than Rigveda, but Samaveda is textually larger because it lists all the chant- and rituals-related score modifications of the verses.

The Samaveda comprises two major parts.

  1. The first part include four melody collections (gāna)
  2. The second part three verse "books" (ārcika)

A melody in the song books corresponds to a verse in the arcika books.

The purpose of Samaveda was liturgical, and they were the repertoire of the udgātṛ or "singer" priests.

The Samaveda, like other Vedas, contains several layers of text, with Samhita being the oldest and the Upanishads the youngest layer.


Vedic School Brahmana
Kauthuma-Ranayaniya Pancavimsa Sadvimsa
Jaiminiya or Talavakara Jaiminiya
Upanishads Shrauta Sutras
Chandogya Upanishad Latyayana Drahyayana
Kena Upanishad
Jaiminiya Upanishad


Two primary Upanishads of Hinduism are embedded inside the Samaveda.

  1. The Chandogya Upanishad
  2. The Kena Upanishad

The ChandogyaUpanishad belongs to the Tandya school of the Samaveda. Like Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad is an anthology of texts that must have pre-existed as separate texts, and were edited into a larger text by one or more ancient Indian scholars

The Kena Upanishad is embedded inside the last section of theTalavakara Brahmanamrecension of the Samaveda. It is much shorter, but it too delves into philosophical and spiritual questions like the Chandogya Upanishad.

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