What is Veda? What are the various forms of Veda?

Veda is a Sanskrit word from the root, vid, meaning “to know.” Thus, veda means “knowledge” or “wisdom.”

The Vedas are the most ancient Hindu and yogic texts. Written in Sanskrit, they are considered to have no author. Rather, it is believed that the texts were revealed to the ancient sages who passed them on orally for many years until they were written down on palm leaves around 500 BCE. Because of this supposed link with the Divine, the Vedas are also called sruti in Sanskrit, which means “what is heard” (as opposed to smrti, meaning “what is remembered”). Some sources state that Brahma is the creator of the Vedas.

The ideas, teachings and practices described in the Vedas formed the basis for the six major schools of Hindu philosophy, one of which is yoga.

  • The Veda refers to a collection of vedic mantras in vedic Sanskrit.
  • Vedas are eternal in nature and hence self evidence.
  • Veda mantra is not manmade, hence has no scope for error.
  • Mantras are deep spiritual truths and occurred phenomena revealed by the Devatas to the rishis.
  • Only about 5000 years ago, they were committed to writing by Vyasa.
  • There are 3 types of Mantras Rk Manta, Yajus Manta, and saman Manta.
  • Vedas are categorised into Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.
  • There were around 1131 Shakas, out which handful of them are existing today.
  • Rg Veda – Shaakala Shakha, Bhaskala Shakha (existing) out of 21 Shakhas
  • Yajur Veda – Kanva Shakha(Shukla), Vajasaneyi Shakha(Shukla), Taittirya Shakha (Krishna) (existing) out of 101 Shakhas
  • Sama Veda – Kaushtuma Shakha, Jayminiya Shakha (existing) out of 1000 Shakhas
  • Atharva Veda – Shaunaka Shakha, Pippalada Shakha (existing) out of 9 Shakhas

Rg Veda

Main Purpose : Mantras to invoke Vedic Gods.
Rgveda has 21Shakhas. Rg veda has a total of 10 mandalas, rather the whole text is divided in to 10 mandalas. Each mandala has several suktas. The no may be from 40 to 191. Every sukta has several mantras. So the total no of suktas in rgveda is 1017, and the no of mantras is 10512, all of which are metrical verses or rks. Each sukta was assigned a title containing the name of the rishi, to whome the various mantras were reveled, the names of the meters of the verses and the deity to whom the mantras were addressed.

Yajur Veda

Main Purpose : Mantras to perform Yajnas.
Yajurveda has 2 major shaka or re-cension with the names of shukla yajurveda, and the Krishna yajurveda. Each have their own additional shakas or re-censions. And Totally YajurVeda has 101Shakhas. It has both yajus mantras and rk mantras. It has in all 4700 mantras, of which one third of them are rk mantras. Note that Krishna yajurveda is also a overlap of 50% with the shukla yajurveda shakha.

Sama Veda

Main Purpose : Mantras for Chanting.
Sama veda has 1000 Shakhas. Sama veda has about 2000 sama mantras. Most of the text is as same as rg veda, it has to be chanted as saman.

Atharva Veda

Mai Purpose : Mantras for Administration of Vedic Yajna.
Atharva Veda is a collection of 20 kandas or books. In rg veda we call them mandala here we call them kanda. There are total 730 suktas or hymns, the total of 6000 mantras most of them are metrical. They all reveled to the descendents or disciples of the seers atharvan and angeerasa. There are about 20% overlap between rg veda and atharva veda.

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