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The Four Vedas

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Perhaps the earliest written records of Indian civilization are contained in the holy Vedas. The Vedas are considered to be the literary records of the entire Aryan race.

The Hindu Vedas are divided into four major groups:

ऋग्वेद

Rig-Veda

The Rig-Veda, or "Divine Hymns", is the oldest and most important of the Vedas. Over a thousand hymns are set into ten mandalas, or circles. The general themes of this work are the praising of the gods, and requests for benefits such as: wealth, health, longevity, protection, contentment, courage, devotion, energy, compassion, peace, offspring, intelligence, purification, virtue, victory, knowledge and enlightenment.

The Rig-Veda comprises prayers for occasions like: housewarming, weddings ceremony and alike. Indra and Agni feature as particular favorites in the hymns, but other gods are also mentioned. Its priest is called Hotri (one that denotes oblation).

सामवेद

Sama-Veda

The word Sama-Veda is also a compound word where sound "Sama" stands for holy songs and "Veda" symbolizes the knowledge.
This is the second out of four Vedas, it contains numerous hymns. The Sama-Veda sets to melodious music, the mantras of the Rig-Veda. All such mantras of the Rig-Veda which are useful to the udgaatr-priest have been brought together in this work. This Veda defines the seven swaras (notes).

Sama Veda forms the basis of the Bharatiya classical music; hence the origin of Indian classical music lies in the Samaveda. For that reason, there has been a fervent regard for maintaining the purity in Sama-Veda singing to avoid misuse or modification over many years. Since written texts were not in use, the priests memorized the chants with the aid of accents and melodies, and passed this tradition down orally from one generation to the next for over three thousand years.

यजुर्वेद

Yajurveda

The Yajur-Veda compound of yajus "sacrifice" and Veda "knowledge" is one of the four Hindu Vedas and also known as Karma-Veda. Why it’s referred as Karma-Veda, because the fundamental nature of the Yayur-Veda lies in the mantras (incantations) that motivate human being to take action. The Yajur-Veda Samhita describes the common religious rituals and sacrifices (Yagya) during the Vedic period, and all the details of these rituals were elaborated in Brahmana and Kalpas. The Yajur-Veda Samhita is mostly in prose and is meant to be used by the Adhvaryu, the Yajur-Vedic priest, for superfluous explanations of the rites in sacrifices, supplementing the Rig-Vedic Mantras.

अथर्ववेद

Atharva-Veda

The Atharva-Veda is the most recent among the Vedas and named after a sage Atharvan. It contains the magical remedies and chants for curing illness. It also has a small number of incantations for cursing enemies, to bring disease and pestilence to them.

These four Vedas contain a priceless treasure of knowledge. This Vedic literature is aimed at not just sacred rituals, but also at attaining higher levels of understanding about survival, life and death. The word Veda is derived from the word "Vid" which literally means, "Root". Thus, Vedas basically contain root knowledge about the essentials of life.

The oldest of the four Vedas is the Rig Veda that contains sacred hymns that represent the ancient Hindu thoughts and philosophies, dating back to a period around 1700-1100 B.C. The Rig Veda is a storehouse of knowledge about self, attaining Moksha, the theory of self-sacrifice, etc. The Yajur Veda has information regarding the various methods of performing sacred rituals and rites. It is a manual of performing these sacred ceremonies to attain the maximum benefit of the ceremony.

The Sama Veda consists of most hymns from the Rig Veda that are supposed to be sung instead of just being recited. The last and the fourth of all the Vedas, the Atharva Veda is a collection of hymns that speak of a different aspect of human society. The diverse hymns contained in the Atharva Veda speak about the dark side of science and other religious practices. The Upanishads also are a part of the Holy Scriptures, though not a part of Vedas. The Upanishads contain teachings of ancient sages and mystics. You shall find information on these topics in our related sections.