Hinduism's Scriptures

Scriptures The Rig Veda is one of the oldest religious texts. This Rig Veda manuscript is in DevanagariHinduism is based on "the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times". The scriptures were transmitted orally in verse form to aid memorization, for many centuries before they were written down. Over many centuries, sages refined the teachings and expanded the canon. In post-Vedic and current Hindu belief, most Hindu scriptures are not typically interpreted literally. More importance is attached to the ethics and metaphorical meanings derived from them. Most sacred texts are in Sanskrit. The texts are classified into two classes: Shruti and Smriti.

Shruti primarily refers to the Vedas, which form the earliest record of the Hindu scriptures. Some devotees do not associate the creation of the Vedas with a god or person. They are thought of as the laws of the spiritual world, which would still exist even if they were not revealed to the sages. Hindus believe that because the spiritual truths of the Vedas are eternal, they continue to be expressed in new ways.
There are four Vedas called Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. The Rigveda is the first and most important Veda. Each Veda is divided into four parts: the primary one, the Veda proper, being the Samhita, which contains sacred mantras. The other three parts form a three-tier ensemble of commentaries, usually in prose and are believed to be slightly later in age than the Samhita. These are: the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads. While the Vedas focus on rituals, the Upanishads focus on spiritual insight and philosophical teachings, and discuss Brahman and reincarnation.

Hindu texts other than the Shrutis are collectively called the Smritis i.e.memory. The most notable of the smritis are the epics, which consist of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita is an integral part of the Mahabharata and one of the most popular sacred texts of Hinduism. It contains philosophical teachings from Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, told to the prince Arjuna on the eve of a great war. The Bhagavad Gita, spoken by Krishna, is described as the essence of the Vedas.

The Smritis also include the Puranas, which illustrate Hindu ideas through vivid narratives. There is another controversial text, the Manusmriti, is a prescriptive lawbook which epitomizes the societal codes of the caste system.

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