Vedas form a important part of Hinduism and there are different Vedas like starting with the Rig Veda which is the oldest and the Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda in that order. There is still scientific study being conducted and whatever the pieces which have been lost during the course of time are trying to be retrieved and documented and archived. Here being discussed in general are different aspects of the Vedas and the role they have played in the ancient time and their role in today’s Hindu society.
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Hindu religion and society which has many streams and has a multi diverse nature has evolved and has undergone lot of changes over the period of time as per the demands of each particular century and requirements of the people. Vedas were generally taught orally from one generation to the next. India being a diverse, cultural, multi ethnic community since ancient has been generally accommodative towards other cultures which have come and assimilated in the country.
Sometimes this accommodative nature is being considered as a weakness by others and onslaughts have be launched on the Hindus from time to time. But despite the religion which is almost more than 7000 years old has remained alive and is continuing to grow in the modern era too. Many of the Hindus have adapted well to the technology and have played a important role in making the nation strong and safe. Let us discuss about the Vedas in brief now.
Rig Veda – The oldest of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda, comprises of about 1000 odd hyms that give the earliest known details of Vedic Gods and sacrifices. It has a little historical significance as it also mentions the struggle between the Aryans and the locals they called Dasas. The hyms in the Rig Veda are contained in ten parts called the Mandalas. Of these, the second and the seventh are considered to be the oldest and the tenth, the most recent.
The first Mandala contains one hundred and ninety one hyms in honor of Agni the God of Fire and Indra the King of Devas. The first hymn is in praise of Agni. Some hymns are also in praise of Vishnu the providor and one of the pantheon of the trinity, a God who came into pre-eminence in the later Vedic period. The second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth Mandalas have hymns in praise of Agni and Indra again, but the third Mandala contains the Gayatri Mantra, the most famous mantra among the many famous mantras for Hindus. The seventh and eighth Mandalas have hyms in praise of many Gods and the ninth one is dedicated to plant Soma which is used in most sacrifices. The tenth Mandala has hyms which recount the creation of the universe by the Para Brahma or the Supreme God.
Yajur Veda – A precursor to the Karma ethic of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yajur Veda also emphasises on the importance of Karma which means work. It is also a treatise on rituals and sacrifices and the procedure to perform them and also explained what are the religious duties of people. The Yajur Veda also contains mathematical notions and it includes numbers and the concept of infinity also started. The Veda enjoins people to follow the path of good and perform action without any thought or expectations for reward. Rituals linked to the horse and the Ashwamedha Yagna are explained in great detail in this Veda and mantras to be sacrificed during the sacrifice are also listed in detail too. To be performed by the kings only, the horse signified power and kings had the same. Ashvamedha was the ceremony that heralded the power of the particular king who was performing it.
Sama Veda – The Sama Veda is a collection of hyms that are used for religious ceremonies. In these sacrifices the juice of the holy Soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients was ritually offered in libation. The Sama Veda is divided into three portions, Purvachik, Mahanamnyarchik and the Uttararchik. There are one thousand eight hundred and seventy five mantras in the Sama Veda and the majority of these mantras roughly about one thousand two hundred are contained in the Uttararchik portion. The Sama Veda has many details about the classical music and is considered to be the basic treatise that helped the evolution of music. These mantras can be sung in different styles to the meter.
The Atharva Veda contains details remaining to the Vedas which is not found in the above three Vedas. It covers a wide variety of details about how to have confidence, control and many such qualities on oneself and on others for the benefit of the society and the world. Whoever knew the Vedas had the ultimate knowledge and had the capacity if practiced the right way to reach a high state of enlightenment. If one would want to know more about the intricate details they would have to go through the Vedas themselves.
It generally takes around eight to twelve and half years depending on the person who wants to learn the Vedas to reach some level of perfection. So ones lifetime today would not be sufficient to properly study, understand and practice the principles to the level it was being done earlier. Hope readers found the information useful as many who are having some interest would have heard about the term Vedas but would not have been able to read the same due to different restrictions like time and not getting a proper Guru etc.