Hindu Sacred Texts


The sacred literature of Hinduism can be divided up into two distinct categories: sruti and smriti . Shruti , that which is heard or divinely revealed, consist of the Vedas , the most ancient of the scriptures, the Upanishads , the Brahmanas , and the Aranyakas . Shrutis refer to the manifestation of the divine in the world, and more specifically, the truths revealed by the dieties to the early sages or rishis . There are four collections which comprise the Veda , the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda , and Atharva Veda . The Veda contain accounts of creation, information on ritual sacrifices, and prayers to the dieties. The Upanishads are considered to be the most important of the remaining three scriptures of shruti literature. It is believed that these texts were secret scriptures taught by a sage to a disciple.

The other type of Hindu literature, smriti , that which is remembered or handed down. These texts are also considered to be based upon revealed truths, however, theyare of human composition as opposed to that of the divine. The Epics, the Sutras and the Puranas comprise the bulk of the Smriti literature. The earliest of these epics are the Mahabarata , which includes the Bhagavad Gita , and the Ramayana . These sacred texts are lenghty poems which narrate episodes in the lives of the great warriors. Krishna appeared in the first, and Rama had a central role in the second of these great epics. The Sutras contain a number of important texts concerning subjects such as dharma, yoga and Vedanta. The most important of these texts was the Manusmriti or Laws of Manu, which dealt with Hindu law and conduct.The Puranas are mythological texts which often told the stories of the gods and goddesses.

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