The Coming of Aryans : Vedic Literature - Part I

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The Vedic literature also consists of the following:

The Upanishads They are the concluding parts of the brahmanas and are also called the Vedanta, which means the summing up of the Veda. The word Upanishads means to sit close to. It suggests that this sacred material was originally secret. The most important ones appeared between 800 and 600 B.C.

Several important Hindu schools of thought, including the sankhya and yoga schools, were founded on the teachings of the Upanishads. They contain information about Indian philosophy, on matter (prakriti), soul (atman) and God (Brahma). The Upanishads criticize rituals and lay stress on the doctrine of karma and the right knowledge. They also deal with the doctrines of Karma (action), mukti (salvation), maya (illusion) and the transmigration of the soul. They have been translated into major languages of the world because of their philosophical content.

The literary works referred to above are believed to contain sacred knowledge or divine revelation. This knowledge had been handed down by oral transmission by the sages to their pupils by word of mouth. This method of oral transmission is called the shruti or 'revelation by hearing'.

The Puranas. Following the two great epics, the texts called Puranas are the next major collection of Hindu lore and religious debate. Purana means that which renews the old or 'ancient lore'. The Puranas use popular legends and mythology to illustrate and expound the philosophical and religious ideas of the Vedas. Together with the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Puranas are the origins of many of the stories and anecdotes of the social, religious, and cultural history of India.

The main Puranas are 18 encyclopedic collections of legend and myth. Among which the Bhagwat Purana and the Vishnu Purana are the most important. The Vishnu Purana helps us to unfold the understanding of the history of the Mauryas. The Puranas describe the origin of the world, birth or origin of Gods and the historical and mythological events of the ancient times.

They were probably compiled between about A.D. 500 and 1000. They develop the ideas of classical Hinduism through stories of gods and heroes set in the sacred plains, mountains, and rivers of India. The main Puranas have five subjects: (1) the creation of the universe, (2) the cyclic process of destruction and re-creation, (3) the different eras or cosmic cycles, (4) the histories of the solar and lunar dynasties of gods and sages, and (5) the genealogies of kings. Each Purana adds other details of religious practice. These Puranas are a meeting point of diverse religious and social beliefs and represent a synthesis of various cultural traditions from the Indian subcontinent.


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