Vedic Literature, Ancient Literature of India

Introduction: In the Vedic Literature of Ancient India, Sanskrit became the vehicle of expression of thought. During the Later Vedic age, this language became a language of literature the upper class. It served as a great unifying force in the Indian sub-continent.

The Vedic literature were composed in Sanskrit. To begin with the Vedas were recited and not written. They were taught by oral method. Hence they were called as Sruti (heard) and Smriti (memorized). But later on they were reduced to writing after the invention of scripts.

The major literary and religious works of Vedic Period are the four Vedas and the Upanishads. These works still continue to hold immense authority in the sphere of spiritual and religious literature. The idea and principles of Karma (action) and Moksha (spiritual liberation) are widely accepted by the people belonging to Hindu faith.

Four Vedas: Veda is a sanskrit word. It means “knowledge“. There were four Vedas :

  • The Rig Veda
  • The Sama Veda
  • The Yajur Veda and
  • The Atharva Veda.

Rig Veda: The Rig Veda is the earliest and most important Vedic Literature of Ancient India. The Rig Veda is written in the form of hymns. There are more than thousand hymns, divided into ten mandalas. The hymns are addressed to different gods. The River Hymn and the Hymn of Creation are some of the important hymns of the Rig Veda. We can gather valuable information about the political, social, economic life of the Vedic Aryans from the literature of Rig Veda and the other three Vedas.

Yajur Veda: The Yajur Veda is divided into two parts:

  • The Krishna Veda and
  • The Shukla Veda.

The Yajur Veda of Vedic Literature explains the philosophy and the technicalities of Yajna.

Sama Veda: The Sama Veda is a composition of hymns, mostly collected from the Rig Veda. It was recited at the time of Yajna or sacrifice.

Atharva Veda: The Atharva Veda contains information on politics, social sciences, medicine and also magic.

Next to the four Vedas, we have the various commentaries or Vedanta. The Samhitas deals with thousands of mantras. The Brahamanas deal with rituals and sacrifices.  The Aranyakas deal with philosophical doctrines. The Upanishads treat high and deep philosophical problems. They discuss the problems of Brahman and Atman. The Upanishads are the best creations of Aryan talent and they contain the cream of Aryan thought.

The third part of the Vedic literature of Ancient India contains the Vedangas. Grammar, phonetics, astronomy, medicine, archery, shilpa, etc. are included in them.