Literature of Vedic Tradition (600 BC - 600 AD) - History of India


Literature of Vedic Tradition comprises of 6 literary works. They are:

  • Vedangas/Sutras 
  • Samritis Dharmashastras
  • Mahakavyas (Epics)
  • Puranas
  • Upvedas
  • Shad – Dharshanas

Vedangas (the limbs of the Vedas): There are six Vedangas:

  • Shiksha (Phonetics) - The oldest text on Phonetics is Pratishakhya.
  • Kalpa Sutras (Rituals) - Kalpa Sutra has been categorized’ into three parts.

A)     Shrauta Sutras/ Shulva Sutras - It deals with the sacrifices.
B)      Grihya Sutra - It deals with the family ceremonies.
C)      Dharma Sutras - It deals with the Varnas, Ashrams et al. 
  • Vyakarana (Grammar) – The oldest Grammar of the world is Ashtadhayayi written by Panini.
  • Nirukta/ Etymology (Etymology means study of the history and origin of words and their meanings) – Nirukta is based on ‘Nighantu’ which means a collection of difficult Vedic words. Nighantu is the oldest word collection of the world whereas Nirukta is the oldest dictionary of the world.
  • Chhanda (Metrics) – Famous text in Chhanda is ‘Chhandasutra’ (Pingal).
  • Jyotisha (Astronomy) – The oldest astronomy text is ‘Vedanga Jyotisha’ (Lagadh Muni)


Samritis Dharmashastras: (Samriti means remembrance literature)

There are six famous Samritis:

  • Manu Samriti (oldest Samriti text) - commentators were Gobindraj, Kulluk Bhatt, Vishwarupa, Meghatithi of Pr-Gupta Period
  • Yajnavalkya Samriti – commentators were Vishwarupa, Apararka, and Vijnyaneshwar 
  • Narad Samriti (Gupta Period)
  • Parashara Samriti (Gupta Period)
  • Brihaspati Samriti (Gupta Period)
  • Katyayana Samriti (Gupta Period)


Mahakavyas (Epics): There are mainly two Mahakavyas (Epics):

The Ramayana – It is also known as ‘Adi Kavya’ (the oldest epic of the world) written by ‘Valmiki’ in Sanskrit. It consists of 24000 Shlokas (verses) in 7 Kandas (sections). Tamil and Persian translation of Ramayana is Kamban and Badayuni respectively. It is also known as the Bible of South India. Ramcharitmanas was written by Tulsidas in Awadhi language.

The Mahabharata – It is the longest epic of the world written by ‘Ved Vyasa’. It consists of 100000 shlokas (verses) in 18 Parvanas (chapters). Shanti Parvan is the largest Parvan of the Mahabharata. ‘Bhagvat Gita’ is extracted from Bihshma Parvan of Mahabharata.

The Puranas (Purana means old):

There are 18 famous ‘Puranas’. The oldest Purana is ‘The Matsya Purana’ tells about the Satvahana dynasty. The Puranas which describes the genealogies of various royal dynasties are Bhagvata, The Vishnu, The Vayu and The Brahamnda. The writer of Puranas was Lomharsh, son of Ugrvarsh.

The Upvedas (the auxiliary Vedas):

  • The Upvedas were traditionally associated with Vedas.
  • Ayurveda (Medicine) is associated with Rig Veda
  • Gandharva Veda (Music) is associated with Soma Veda
  • Dhanur Veda (Archery) is associated with Yajur Veda
  • Shilp Veda/ Artha Veda (the science of craft/ wealth - Vishwakarma)
  • associated with Atharva Veda

Shad-Darshan:

There are six schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad-Darshan (Seven Darshan):

  • Sankhya Darshana founded by Kapila
  • Yoga Darshana founded by Patanjali
  • Nyaya Darshana founded by Akshapada Gautama
  • Vaishesika Darshana founded by Uluka Kanada
  • Mimansa/ Purva Mimansa founded by Jamini
  • Vedanta/ Uttara-Mimansa founded by Badarayana
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Author: Karun Bharmoria

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