Yet another sought-after topic amongst our Samyak fraternity and the yoga community; the Sanskrit word Vedas literally means “knowledge” and is one of the oldest sacred Hindu texts containing yogic teachings that originated in ancient India.
Vedas began as an oral tradition passed down from one generation to the other, eventually written in Vedic Sanskrit over 2500 years ago by Saptarishis (7 Sages) Vedas are a melting pot of Yogic wisdom.
Vedic literature comprises of four Vedas that contain hymns, mantras, poems, prayers & the underlying philosophy that an individual is not an independent entity but a part of the Universal Conscious.
Let’s explore each of the four Vedas:
The Rig Veda
Rig Veda is the oldest & most important Sanskrit scripture. It is further divided into ten books called Mandala.
These scriptures comprise 1028 hymns praising various Vedic deities, including Agni, the God of Fire, Indra; the God of heavens and war, Surya the Sun God, Vayu The Wind God and Prithivi the Goddess of the Earth.
It also contains the Gayatri mantra and the prayer called Purusha Sukta (The story of Primal Man).
According to the hymns of the Rig Veda, the most important deities are Agni, the God of Fire, Indra, the God of Heavens and War, Surya, the Sun God, Vayu, the God of Wind; and Prithvi, the Goddess of Earth.
Yajurveda is also known as the book of prayers & worship, Yajur Veda is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yajus’ meaning “worship” or “sacrifice”,
Yajur Veda comprises of priestly scriptures for use during Yajnas (sacrifices).
The texts describe how religious rituals and sacred ceremonies should be performed and are intended mostly for Hindu priests. The mantras within Yajur Veda are used predominantly during religious ceremonies before the yajna fire and are mostly recited by priests.
The Yajur Veda is divided into two parts – 'White' represents “pure” Yajur Veda, known as Shukla, which comprises prayers for devotional sacrifices.
The black or “dark” denotes Yajur Veda, known as Krishna, which comprises sacrificial rituals.
3. The Sama Veda
Sama Veda is Known as the Veda of melodies & chants and is related to public worship, it is a collection of 1900 melodies, hymns and chants and is referred to as the “Book of Songs”.
Simply put, it is the words of the "Rig Veda" put into music and meant to be sung.
Sama Veda comprises two parts, the first part includes four collections of melodies and the second part has verse books.
Much like the Rig Veda, the early sections of Samaveda begin with Agni and Indra hymns, and the later sections are derived from the Rig Veda and translated into songs.
Shortest of the four Vedas the Samaveda is exclusively for rituals. Its verses are meant to be chanted at sacrifice and intended for priests.
Sama Veda is the foundation for kirtans, also known as devotional chanting.
Atharva Veda is the oldest literature of Indian medicine and has a collection of 20 books. It is believed to be the origin of Ayurveda, the Indian science of medicine.
The hymns in the Atharvaveda are primarily dedicated to addressing a disease-free life.
This Veda is a treasure trove of cures for healing illnesses and forging fruitful relationships & marriages.
A series of dedicated mantras are related to curing various physical and mental diseases.
Another class of hymns includes prayers for protection from snake bites & dispel demons. The earliest mention and application of medicines and medicinal herbs are featured in the Atharvaveda.
This feature distinguishes the Atharvaveda from the other Vedas as it represents what Vedic life was all about. This Veda contains the earliest reference to the practice of yoga and breathing techniques.
This blog is a foundation for various other topics on Yoga philosophy that we will elaborate in the coming months. We genuinely hope this blog post serves as a platform to acquaint yourself with the fundamental essence of the Vedas.