Sanskrit literature is our primary source of information regarding the vedic society and culture of ancient India. It can be classified into two categories—Shruthi and smriti. Both categories have many religious and philosophical literatures
Vedas are the main religious literature of this period. The word “Veda” means knowledge. According to Hindus the Vedas are believed to contain the divine knowledge. There are four vedas. They are
- Rig Veda
- Sama Veda
- Yajur Veda and
- Atharva Veda.
Rig Veda: It was the first and most important scripture of the Aryans and probably the oldest book of the world. The word Rig means praise. It comprises hymns (Mantras) of praising their “God”, symbolised by various forces of Nature like fire (Agni) and the Sun, clouds and rain, earth and mountain, animals and plants, sea and the river that sustained their lives. The famous “Gayathri Mantra” forms a part of Rig Veda.
Sama Veda: The word Sama means melody. It contains hymns to be sung at the time of prayers and sacrifices to the scared fire (Yajna). They are addressed primarily three deities Agni, Indra and Soma, and through them to the others.
Yajur Veda: It is the “book of sacrificial prayers”. It lay down procedures for performance of numerous categories of Yajnas, to suit the various occasions.
Atharva Veda: It is collections of hymns dealing with magical charms. It prescribe the rituals and sacrifices to be performed to attain our desires. Nevertheless, from the scientific and historical points of view this book is very valuable. It is a treasure house of our knowledge about the development of industrial arts and technology, mathematics, astronomy and other physical sciences.
The religious book of Aryans, the Brahmanas, are the commentaries or explanatory note on the Vedas. It gave birth to a specific class of Vedic scholars and men of faith to undertake this noble task and they became known as Brahmanas.
Aranyakas or the forest books are originally formed appendices of the various Brahmanas. They attempt to explain the spiritual base and the undercurrents of the ritualistic contents of respective vedas.
The puranas: The Puranas are basically the religious books of the Hindus but they are not treated as scriptures and scared writtings. Instead they fall in the category of traditional literature of vedic age. They are 18 in number. From the religious and cultural view they form the basis of modern Hinduism.
The Upanishadhas: The Upanishad has are the treasure of philosophy or Vedanta, especially in monistic form. The upanishd has are 108 in number out of which 12 are very famous. Some of the upanishadas are in form of prose and consists of series of discourses in question and answer form to unravel the mysteries about the creation of the universe, life and matter, God and soul(Atma) and their mutual relationship.
Darshan sasthras or the Six Schools of Indian Philosophy: The Sanskrit word Dhaarshana means the Science of spiritual knowledge. The Darshanas gave full-fledged expression to the Indian Philosophical thoughts and led to the foundation of six schools of philosophy. They are
- Purva Mimamsa
- Sankhya Sasthra
- Yoga Sasthra
- Nyaya Sasthra
- Vaisheshika Sastra and
- Uttar Mimamsa.
Vedic literatures are not only the oldest literatures of the world but these are the proud of our culture. They also provide information regarding political and social condition of Ancient India.