Rigvedic literature shruti smriti philosophical schools

The vedic literature is divided in two categories shruti and smriti, 

The Vedic literature is categorized into:

  • The four Vedas: Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva, along with their Samhitas.
  • The Brahmanas
  • The Aranyakas
  • The Upanishads

The term ‘Veda’ originates from the root ‘vid,’ meaning spiritual knowledge/subject of knowledge/means of acquiring knowledge.


Rig Veda:

  • Composed during the Early Vedic Age; the other three Vedas were written in the Later Vedic Age.
  • Contains 1028 hymns classified into 10 mandalas. These hymns deal with deities like Agni, Indra, and are attributed to sage rishis. The ninth mandala is dedicated solely to Soma.
  • Oldest text in any Indo-European language, originating as early as 1700 BC.
  • Composed predominantly by the Angiras (35%) and Kanva (25%) rishi families.
  • Verses from Rig Veda are still used in significant Hindu prayers and rituals.
  • Provides insights into the origin of the world, the importance of Gods, and advice for living a fulfilling life.
  • According to Rig Veda, the Universe emerged from Prajapati, the initial God and principle of creation.
  • Hymns (Suktas) were composed for use in rituals.
  • Chief deity cited in Rig Veda is Indra; other important deities include Varuna, Agni, Surya, and Rudra (who later became Lord Shiva).
  • Lord Vishnu, part of the Hindu Trimurti, is mentioned as a minor deity in Rig Veda.
  • Contains the universally famous Gayatri mantra (Savitri).
Rigvedic literature shruti smriti philosophical schools

Yajur Veda:

  • Meaning ‘Worship Knowledge’, Yajur Veda dates back to 1100-800 BCE, corresponding with Samaveda.
  • Compiles ritual-offering mantras/chants used by priests during rituals like yajna (fire ceremonies).
  • Divided into two types: Krishna (Black/Dark) and Shukla (White/Bright).
  • Krishna Yajurveda has an unarranged collection of verses, while Shukla Yajurveda has arranged and clear verses.
  • The oldest layer of Yajurveda contains 1875 verses, primarily from Rigveda.
  • The middle layer includes the Satapatha Brahmana, a commentary on Shukla Yajurveda.
  • The youngest layer consists of various Upanishads, including Brihadaranyaka, Isha, Taittiriya, Katha, Shvetashvatara, and Maitri Upanishads.
  • Vajasaneyi Samhita is the Samhita of the Shukla Yajurveda.
  • Four surviving recensions of Krishna Yajurveda are Taittiriya, Maitrayani, Katha, and Kapisthala Samhitas.

Sama Veda:

  • Origin of Indian music is attributed to Sama Veda, containing 1549 verses, most from Rigveda.
  • Contains two embedded Upanishads: Chandogya and Kena.
  • Considered the root of Indian classical music and dance, known for melodious chants.
  • Divided into three recensions: Kauthuma, Ranayaniya, and Jaiminiya.
  • Categorized into Part-I (melodies called Gana) and Part-II (three verse books called Archika).
  • Samaveda Samhita is not meant to be read but heard, akin to a musical score sheet.


Atharva Veda:

  • Contains spells and magical formulas.
  • Two surviving recensions: Paippalada and Saunakiya.
  • Known as the Veda of magical formulas, it includes three primary Upanishads: Mundaka, Mandukya, and Prashna Upanishads.
  • Enumerates daily procedures of life.
  • Comprises 730 hymns (suktas), 6000 mantras, and 20 books.
  • The 20 books are arranged according to the length of the hymns they contain.
  • Unlike Samaveda, where hymns are borrowed from Rigveda, most hymns in Atharvaveda are unique, with only a few exceptions.
  • Contains hymns, many of which are charms and magic spells meant to be pronounced by individuals seeking benefits, often recited by a sorcerer on their behalf.
Other Vedic Texts:
  • Brahmanas: Explain the meaning of sacrifices.
  • Upanishads: Also called Vedantas, 108 in number, source of Indian philosophy.
  • Aranyakas: Books of instructions.

The great Indian epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, were also composed during this period.


  • Prose texts that explain the hymns in the Vedas.
  • Classify Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda, incorporating myths and legends to instruct Brahmins on performing Vedic rituals.
  • Expound scientific knowledge of the Vedic Period, including observational astronomy and geometry, especially related to altar construction.
  • Some Brahmanas contain mystical and philosophical material, leading to Aranyakas and Upanishads.
  • Each Veda has one or more associated Brahmanas linked to a particular Shakha or Vedic school.
  • Fewer than twenty Brahmanas are currently extant, with many lost or destroyed.
  • Dating of Brahmanas is controversial due to centuries of oral transmission before recording, with the oldest dated to about 900 BCE and the youngest around 700 BCE.


  • Known as Forest Books.
  • Interpret sacrificial rituals in a symbolic and philosophical way.


  • Total of 108 Upanishads, with 13 considered major ones.
  • Explain the concepts of ‘Atman’ and ‘Brahman’.
  • Contain philosophical ideas on various concepts.

 Here's the structured version of the information about the orthodox and unorthodox schools of Indian philosophy:

Orthodox Schools of Indian Philosophy:

  • Originally called sanatana dharma, collectively referred to as Hinduism in modern times.
  • Source and scriptural authority are the ancient Vedas.
  • Consist of six systems of philosophy and theology.

1. Samkhya (Kapila):

  • Oldest orthodox philosophical system.
  • Postulates that everything in reality stems from purusha (self, soul, or mind) and prakriti (matter, creative agency, energy).
  • Purusha is unchangeable, while prakriti brings change to all objects.

2. Yoga (Patanjali):

  • Means the union of two principal entities.
  • Techniques control body, mind, and sense organs to achieve freedom (mukti).
  • Freedom attained through: self-control (yama), observation of rules (niyama), fixed postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), choosing an object (pratyahara), fixing the mind (dharna), concentrating on the object (dhyana), and complete dissolution of self (Samadhi).
  • Admits the existence of God as a teacher and guide.

3. Nyaya (Gautama Muni):

  • States that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience.
  • Considered a technique of logical thinking.
  • Nyaya Sutras: Four means of attaining valid knowledge: perception, inference, comparison, and verbal testimony.

4. Vaisheshika (Kanada):

  • All objects in the universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms; Brahman is the fundamental force causing consciousness.
  • Realistic and objective philosophy of the universe.
  • Reality has many bases or categories: substance, attribute, action, genus, distinct quality, and inference.
  • Objects composed of five elements: earth, water, air, fire, and ether.
  • God is the guiding principle.
  • Law of karma rewards or punishes based on actions of merit and demerit.
  • Merged with Nyaya due to closely related metaphysical theories (Vaisheshika accepted only perception and inference as valid knowledge sources).

5. Purva Mimamsa (Jaimini):

  • Emphasizes valid knowledge and the eternal nature of the Vedas.
  • Religion means fulfilling duties prescribed by the Vedas.
  • Essence of Vedas is dharma, leading to merit and heaven after death.

6. Vedanta (Uttara Mimamsa):

  • Focuses on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads.
  • Six sub-schools, each interpreting texts in its own way:
    • Advaita (Adi Shankara): Atman and Brahman are the same; knowing this causes liberation.
    • Visishtadvaita (Ramanuja): All diversity is subsumed to a unified whole.
    • Dvaita (Madhvacharya): Brahman and Atman are different; Bhakti is the route to salvation.
    • Dvaitadvaita (Nimbarka): Brahman is the highest reality, controller of all.
    • Shuddhadvaita (Vallabhacharya): God and the individual self are the same.
    • Achintya Bheda Abheda (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu): JÄ«vatman is both different and not different from Brahman.

Unorthodox Schools of Indian Philosophy:

  • Do not accept the authority of the Vedas.

1. Charvaka (Brihaspati):

  • Materialistic, skeptical, and atheistic school of thought.
  • Believes there is no other world; death is the end, and pleasure is the ultimate goal.
  • Also known as Lokayata Philosophy.

2. Buddhist Philosophy (Siddhartha Gautama):

  • Non-theistic philosophy, not concerned with the existence of God.
  • Views the world as full of misery; duty to seek liberation from it.
  • Criticizes blind faith in traditional scriptures like the Vedas.

3. Jain Philosophy (Mahavira):

  • Principle of anekantavada: reality is perceived differently from different points of view, and no single view is completely true.
  • Only Kevalins, those with infinite knowledge, can know the true nature of reality.

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