Vedas


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Vedas

 

the most ancient memorials of Indian literature, created in the period from the end of the second millennium to the first half of the first millennium B.C. in the ancient Indian language of Vedic.

The Vedas, or Vedic literature, include several categories of memorials, chronologically succeeding each other: the Vedas proper, or samhitas, which are four compilations of hymns, songs, and sacrificial formulas (the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Veda, and Atharva-Veda); brahmanas, which are theological tracts explaining the priestly ritual; and Aranyakas and Upanishads, which are philosophical writings in verse and prose, among which the 12 to 14 early Upanishads stand apart for their significance and literary merits. Serving as the sacred texts of Brahmanism. adepts consider the Vedas to be divine revelation-shruii literaly, “that which was heard”); in religious functions the Vedas were transmitted orally, by memory. In content, the Vedas are syncretic: they combine ritual instructions with an exposition of philosophic, moral, and social theories; elements of magic are combined with the rudiments of scientific conceptions; based on primitive folklore and mythology, they include the elements of literary genres. As a whole, the Vedas reflect the transitional stage of the Indian tribes from a primitive-communal social structure to class society; they are very valuable sources, frequently the only ones, for the social-economic and cultural history of ancient India. The Vedanga (literally, parts of the Vedas) tracts are connected to the Vedas but are not part of divine revelation. Instead, these tracts on phonetics, grammar, etymology, metrics, astronomy, and ritual are auxiliary disciplines essential for the correct interpretation of Vedic texts.

REFERENCES

Ovsianiko-Kulikovskii, D. N. “Religiia indusov v epokhu ved.” In the collection Izbr. Moscow, 1962.
The History and Culture of the Indian People. Vol. 1: The Vedic Age, London [1957].
Winternitz, M. A History of Indian Literature, vol. 1, part 1. [Calcutta] 1959. (Translated from German.)
Dandekar, R. N. Vedic Bibliography, vols. 1-2. Bombay-Poona, 1946-61.

P. A. GRINTSER and A. M. OSIPOV

Vedas

(dreams)

One of the traditional criteria for being considered an orthodox Hindu is that one must acknowledge the authority of the four Vedas. These ancient religious texts (three thousand to four thousand years old, although Hindus regard them as being much older) often express ideas and values at odds with later Hinduism, much as the first five books of the Old Testament express a religious ideology at variance from that of current Christianity. Because of the authority and sacredness of the Vedas, many subsequent religious movements claimed to be Vedic, and certain texts of later Hinduism—texts closer to the worldview of contemporaneous Hindus—were referred to as Vedas. The strand of Indian spirituality represented by the Hare Krishna movement, for example, refers to certain Puranic texts—which are sacred texts dated later than the Vedas—as Vedas.

Among the original four Vedas, the Artharva Veda contains a fair amount of material on dreams. Various dream omens are discussed (e.g., riding on an elephant in a dream is considered auspicious, whereas riding on a donkey is inauspicious). The effects of inauspicious dreams can be counteracted by certain purificatory rites. The Artharva Veda also contains the unique assertion that the impact from an omen dream will take place sooner or later depending on whether it occurred at the beginning of the evening (later) or just prior to awakening (sooner).

Vedas,

the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. [Hinduism: NCE, 2870]
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