Vedas (Hinduism)The Vedas - Hinduism is one of the oldest surviving religions in the world and the Vedas are the oldest texts considered sacred to Hindus. As mentioned earlier on this time-line, they are written in ancient Sanskrit (or Vedic Sanskrit), but are said to be eternal (nitya) by believers. That is, they are called apaurusheya which means "not of human origin". However, from an historical perspective, they were written down over a period of time starting in the latter half of the second millennium; but likely existed in oral form well before then. Veda means "knowledge" and the total body of knowledge (canon) consists of four works known as the samhitas or "collections".


The oldest of the four is the Rig-Veda, meaning "knowledge of praise". The most widely accepted date of its writing is ca. 1400 B.C.. It is divided into ten books, called Mandalas, which are an anthology of poems, some of which recount the origin of the world, and contain over a thousand hymns. These hymns are addressed to the various deities of the Hindu religion, chief among them are Indra, god of rain and thunderstorms, Agni, god of fire and Varuna, god of sky. The other Vedas, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda were all written at a later date and could be considered extensions of the Rig-Veda. The Yajur-Veda is largely a work of prose and meant to provide dedications and prayers to accompany the Rig-Veda as a devotional. The Sama-Veda is a collection of chants and meant to be used by the priests at the Soma sacrifices (Soma being a plant). And the Atharva-Veda is a collection of spells, incantations, blessings and curses intended to deal with the many states of human emotion.