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(1) Four Vedas (2) ( Eighteen ) Puranas (3) All the Upanishads (4) Ramayana (5) Mahabharata (6) Gita (7) Virtuous Philosophic Systems ( Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Purva-Mimansa and Uttara-Mimansa or Vedanta )



The Vedas are the oldest literature of the world and are the source of all religion, philosophy, culture, learning and science. There are four Vedas &emdash; Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Vedas are considered to be words that are heard or revealed through the utterances of the preceptors ( guru ) which are listened to by the disciples ( sisya ). Besides there is a strong tradition of the spoken words of the Vedas to be remembered and reproduced orally. Because of this earliest oral tradition continuing even now when the Vedas are available in the written form, the Vedas are still known to be Sruti - ' that which is heard '. The fourfold division of the Vedas is based on the division of work in Yajnas on the part of the four main functions performed by the four functionaries { Rtvija ) :


The collection of the Mantras which are used for invocating and praising the gods in the Yajna by the Hota, on the part of the Yajamana who performs the Yajna himself or gets it performed by a proxy ( Purohita ), constitutes Rgveda

The collection of Mantras used in Yajna by the expert of its technique &emdash; known as Adhvaryu &emdash; for the ( technically ) proper performance of the Yajna makes the Yajurveda

The collection of singable Mantras ( having musical quality ) sung loudly by the Udgata in the Yajna constitutes Samaveda

Such extra Mantras which are not used in the three Vedas mentioned, which must nevertheless be known to the presiding priest who is known as Brahma, have been kept separately and the collection of all such Mantras is known as the Atharvaveda

The Vedas contain, on the whole, the praises of the various gods. The portion of mantras containing praises which are chanted as hymns, their collection is known as Samhita. Rgveda contains Richas ( mantras those are called Rca ) which are bound in poetic metres. In Yajurveda there are both poetic and prose passages and particularly latter are indicative of instructions about the yajna. They are mantras connected with the yajnas - yajus. Samaveda contains such mantras which are sung melodiously, and in the Atharvaveda there are mantras of various kinds which are connnected with various sciences and leamings of various sorts. Mantras have along with each one of them attached the name of its Rishi, god ( Devata ) and the particular metre ( Chanda ). Rishi is one who realized the mantra in his Samadhi or wisdom ( Prajna ). Devata of the mantra is one whose praise is found in the mantra. The main purpose of the Vedas is to accomplish the performance of Yajnas.


The works, which give details about the performance of Yajna, are known as the Brahmana Grantha(s). This is the portion of the Vedas which is connected with ritual activity ( Karma Kanda ). Two other portions of the Vedas are connected with Upasana Kanda ( devotion ) and Jnana Kanda ( enlightened perception or philosophy ) and are known as Aranyaka ( forest works ) and Upanisad representing Vedanta ( that is the end or the purpose-containing portion ). Six studies auxiliary to the study of the Vedas are :


Siksa ( linguistics )

Kalpa ( geometry of Vedi-construction and rules and regulations of Yajna )

Vyakarana ( grammar )

Nirukta ( etymology )

Chanda ( prosody )

Jyotisa ( astrology and astronomy )

They are called as the Vedanga(s) ( Organs of the Vedas ).



The works ( books ) of the Vedic tradition which contain accounts of creation, gods, demons, men, kings, great beings ( Mahatmas ), sages and seers of yore written are known as Purana. They deal with the five main subjects :


Creation ( sarga )

Development and Annihilation ( Pratisarga )

Dynasties of kings such as those of the Sun-clan ( Surya Vamsa ) and of the Moon-clan ( Chandra Vamsa )

Changing leaders of human beings and their times ( Manvantara ) and the characterisations of them through succession ( Vamsanucarita )

We find an emphasis on the worship of Brahma ( Creator God ), Visnu ( The God that preserves ), Siva ( The God responsible for destruction ), Surya ( Sun ), Ganesa ( The elephant headed god known to be the remover of obstructions ), and Sakti ( The goddess ) in the Puranas. It is well known that there are 18 Puranas : Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Visnu Purana, Vayu Purana or Siva Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Narada Purana, Markandeya Purana, Agni Purana, Bhavisya Purana, Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana, Varaha Purana, Skanda Purana, Vamana Purana, Kama Purana, Matsya Purana, Garuda Purana and Brahmanda Purana.


Vyasa, the son of Rishi Parasara, is said to be the author of them all. Vyasa trained his disciple Romaharshana ( or Lomaharshana ), belonging to the Suta class, in the narration and explanation of the Purana who distinguished himself as Purana-Kathavacaka ( History teller ) Suta Ji. This expertise of the Puranas and their narration was learnt from him by his son Ugrasrava. Both, the father ( Sutaji ) and his son ( Ugrashrava ) made a narration of all the 18 Puranas to an assembly of thousands of Rishis like Shaunaka etc. gathered together in the jungle named Naimisaranya on the occasion of the incidence of a grand Yajna. The six disciples of Lomaharshana and many of the disciples of those disciples carried forward the tradition of propagation of the Puranas. The Puranas available to us in the present form might have been edited and re-written in the course of time, as their editions ( and explanation ) available now have variations depending on the influence of the Saiva, Sakta and Vaisnava sects on them.



The meaning of upanisad ( upa + ni + sat ) is to go near the Real and to know it. Those almost end portions of the Vedas, Brahmana granthas and Aranyakas in which there is discussion and demonstration on the topics such as soul, God, salvation and the like and thereby the spiritual matters are philosophically explained are known as Upanisad(s). Out of a total of 108 or even more Upanishads, the principal and authentic ones are: Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka, Svetasvatara, and Kausitaki. Out of these Isopanisad is the fortieth chapter of the Yajurveda and the others also are parts of one or the other Vedas through connection and medium of one or the other Brahmanagrantha and Aranyaka. Kena and Chandogya belong to the Samaveda; Katha, Taittiriya, Brhadaranyaka and Svetasvatara pertain to Yajurveda; Prasna, Mundaka and Mandukya are connected with the Atharvaveda and Aitareya and Kausitaki fall in the tradition of Rgveda. In the Upanishads is a mention of a distinction between transcendental or spiritual knowledge ( Para Vidya ) and mundane or materialistic knowledge ( Apara Vidya ) and the knowledge with which every Upanisad, in the main, deals is the spiritual knowledge.



India has its two grand epic poems : Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are known to be historical books. In the epic Ramayana composed by Muni Valmiki in Sanskrit language there is a complete description of the story of Sri Rama. There, through the character of the excellent human being Sri Rama and the characters of the persons of his family and those who came in contact with them, a beautiful and grand spectacle of the high values upheld by the Indian culture have been depicted. For the other languages of India, Ramayana has served as an essential subsistence. The story of Rama described by Valmiki in Ramayana has been presented by Tulsidas, by writing Rama Charitamanasa, in the Avadhi language and that way made it available to most ordinary persons at their homes. Krttivasa Ramayana in Bengali language, MadhavaKandali Ramayana in Assamese, Kamba Ramayana in Tamil are the very few which are being mentioned here. In other languages too, various versions of Ramayana have been produced from time to time. Adhyatma Ramayana and a Ramayana by Guru Govind Singh too are famous. Even in tribal languages also, with local variations, story of Sri Rama is prevalent. Every corner of India is replete with Rama. Rama's story is woven in the folk songs as well.


Bharata ( Mahabharata )

It is the grand epic poem composed by Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa in which through the story of the struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas and that of the victory of Pandavas as a medium of narration, the eternal message of the establishment of righteousness ( Dharma ) and the downfall or the defeat of Adharma has been conveyed. Apart from Srimadbhagavad Gita &emdash; the very famous dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna &emdash; as its small part, Mahabharata is a great store house of life's hundreds of stories of all sorts, and based on the incidents, characters and narrations of it innumerable works of literature in many languages of India have been created and composed. Apart from the main story of the Kauravas and Pandavas, through hundreds of its substories uncounted aspects of human life and related with them inumerable situations, problems and their solutions, arguments and principles have all been interwoven, as if, on a very very big canvas by a very competent painter. We have a saying put at the very beginning of the Mahabharata ' what is not in Bharata that is not anywhere else ' ( Yanna Bharate tannaabharate ). Comparing Ramayana and Mahabharata it can be said that the former is a simple, understandable, clear and neat story and Mahabharata is very complex and involved intermixture of life-stories that make it quite complicated, as it shows all the ups and downs of life in all their aspects; yet both these epic poems &emdash; the excellent varieties of literature as they are &emdash; they both propound the same ideals of higher life as upheld by the culture of India.



In the battle-field of Kurukshetra, in Mahabharata,the precept which was advanced towards the infatuated Arjuna by Krishna is found recorded in Srlmadbhagavadgita. It is part of the Bhisma Parva of Mahabharata. In this the immortality of soul and the principle of disinterested action ( Niskama Karma ) have been propounded. In it has been effected a beautiful harmonization of the Karmayoga ( meditative unattached way of action ), Bhaktiyoga ( Yoga of devotion ). Raja Yoga or Dhyana Yoga ( Yoga of concentration ) and Jnana Yoga ( Yoga of Truth-realization ). Gita is divided into 18 chapters and contains 700 verses ( shloka ). Vedanta Philosophy which is based on the studies of the Vedas and Upanishads alongwith Brahmasutra regards Gita as the third source of its study, making thereby Gita as one of the Prasthanatrayi ( Three basic points of departure ). The connection of the Upanishads and Gita is so close that it is said that the Upanishads are the cows, Gita is the milk which Krishna milches from them for Arjuna.


Saddarshana ( True Philosophy )

Darsana Sastra ( Philosophy ) is the discipline of intellectual and spiritual endeavor undertaken for teh realisation of truth. Philosophy ( Darsana ), in the words of Sankaracarya, is ' self-realization ( Atmasvarupa Saksatkara ) as the absolute reality ( Parama Sat ) through listening or studying ( sravana ), reasoning ( manana ) and contemplation ( nididhyasana ).' In the works of Darsana Sastra there is an understanding of the mundane and super mundane nature of Nature, Soul and God and the deciding of the goal of life accordingly. The goal of life according to eight philosophical schools is Moksa or ' self-realization ' which is interpreted though differently in accordance with each one's special viewpoint. Six of them fall into the Vedic tradition and they are : Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mmamsa and Uttara Mimarnsa or Vedanta. The remaining two are Jain and Buddhist philosophies which also are inspired basically by the same Bharatiya philosophic tradition and value system.





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