Veda (Sanskrit veda, knowledge) is a collection of religious texts in Hinduism of the vedic period from about 1500 BC. It based on an oral tradition and was gradually written down since 500 A.D..
The core of the Veda are the texts of the shruti, i. of Rishis (sages) 'heared' texts or revelations in the distinction of other religious texts called smṛti ("recalled"). The origin of the Vedas is regarded as apauruṣeya or nonhuman and they were only passed on to dvijas (reborn or self-realized initiates).
The Vedic texts are also divided into four canonical collections of metric material, known as Saṃhitās, the first three of which are related to the yajna (sacrifice) of the Vedic religion.
- Rigveda, Hymns recited by the chief priest
- Yajurveda (Yajus-Samhita), Formulas that were recited by the adhvaryu or reigning priest
- Samaveda (sāman - 'Melody'), Formulas sung by the udgatar or singing priest
- Atharvaveda, a collection of spells and incantations, healing, magic, Brahma
Each Veda contains four layers of text: :
- The oldest layer are the Samhitas (hymns)
- the Brahmanas (Ritualtexts)
- certain Upanishades and Sutras like Shrautasutra and Grhyasutra.
- the Aranyakas (forest texts) :
- the Aitareya- and the Kaushitaki-Aranyaka (Rig-Veda)
- the Taittiriya-Aranyaka (Black Yayur-Veda)
- the Brihad-Aranyaka (White Yayur-Veda)
Nowdays are no Aranyakas of the Sama- and Atharva Veda preserved.
The six Vedangas listed in the Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.5 are considered indispensable for the study of the Vedas :
- Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): Grammar
- Nirukta (nirukta): Etymology
- Shiksha (śikṣā): P honetics (sandhi)
- Kalpa (kalpa): Ritual
- Chandas (chandas): Mass (Pingala's Chandassastra)
- Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): Prediction of the sun, moon and planetary movements, astronomy (Lagadha's Vedanga Jyotisha)
Regarding the latter four, each Veda has its own texts.
The orally passed Vedas had in the last millennium several commentators. A well-known commentator was Sayanacharya.
== Allegoric meaning ==
The Vedas have like all secret scriptures a secret meaning, which was hidden in a special language.
Sri Aurobindo explained several secret meanings of the Veda in his 'Secret of the Veda' :
The forces and processes of the physical world repeat, as in a symbol, the truths of the supra-physical action which produced it. And since it is by the same forces and the same processes, one in the physical worlds and the supra-physical, that our inner life and its development are governed, the Rishis adopted the phenomena of physical Nature as just symbols for those functionings of the inner life which it was their difficult task to indicate in the concrete language of a sacred poetry that must at the same time serve for the external worship of the Gods as powers of the visible universe.” (On the Veda, pp. 328-29)