The Vedas are the oldest and most sacred texts of Hinduism, believed to be divinely revealed to ancient sages called Rishis. These texts form the foundation of Hindu philosophy, rituals, and beliefs. The Vedas consist of four primary collections:
- Rigveda: The Rigveda is the oldest and most important of the Vedas, containing over 1,000 hymns and prayers dedicated to various gods and goddesses, including Indra, Agni, and Varuna. These hymns are composed in an ancient form of Sanskrit and are organized into ten books called Mandalas.
- Samaveda: The Samaveda is a collection of melodies and chants that are derived primarily from the Rigveda. These chants were sung by priests during rituals and ceremonies. The Samaveda is significant for its musical and poetic qualities, and it forms the basis for the art of Indian classical music.
- Yajurveda: The Yajurveda focuses on ritual procedures and the proper conduct of sacrifices. It is divided into two main sections: the Shukla (White) Yajurveda and the Krishna (Black) Yajurveda. The Yajurveda contains both prose and verse, providing instructions for priests to perform sacrificial rites, along with associated prayers and mantras.
- Atharvaveda: The Atharvaveda is a collection of hymns, spells, and incantations that address various aspects of daily life, such as health, marriage, and protection from enemies. It is also known for its philosophical and speculative content. The Atharvaveda differs from the other Vedas in its focus on practical matters and worldly wisdom, rather than purely religious or ritualistic concerns.
Together, the Vedas encompass a vast body of knowledge, providing insights into ancient Indian society, culture, and religious practices. They continue to hold great significance for Hindus today, shaping their beliefs, rituals, and understanding of the divine.