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Scriptures in Hinduism

Hinduism has a vast and diverse collection of sacred texts that are collectively known as “scriptures” or “shastras.” These texts are classified into two main categories: Shruti and Smriti.

  1. Shruti (Heard or Revealed Texts):
  • Vedas: The Vedas are the oldest and most authoritative scriptures in Hinduism. There are four Vedas: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. Each Veda consists of four parts: Samhitas (hymns), Brahmanas (rituals and ceremonies), Aranyakas (meditations), and Upanishads (philosophical teachings).
  • Upanishads: These philosophical texts are considered the culmination of Vedic thought. Upanishads explore the nature of reality, the self (Atman), and the ultimate reality (Brahman). They form the basis for Vedanta, a major school of Hindu philosophy.
  1. Smriti (Remembered Texts):
  • Itihasas: These are epic narratives that include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Ramayana, attributed to the sage Valmiki, narrates the story of Lord Rama, while the Mahabharata, attributed to Vyasa, includes the Bhagavad Gita and recounts the Kurukshetra War and the teachings of Krishna.
  • Puranas: The Puranas are a genre of mythological and historical texts that contain stories about gods, goddesses, creation, cosmology, and genealogies. Major Puranas include the Vishnu Purana, Shiva Purana, and Devi Bhagavata Purana.
  • Dharma Shastras: These texts provide guidelines for ethical and moral living. Manusmriti (Laws of Manu) is a well-known Dharma Shastra, offering principles for social and personal conduct.
  • Agamas and Tantras: These are texts that provide instructions for temple rituals, worship, and spiritual practices. They are particularly significant in certain sects of Hinduism, such as Shaivism and Shaktism.
  • Sutras: These are concise aphorisms that encapsulate philosophical teachings and practices. Examples include the Brahma Sutras, which summarize Vedanta philosophy, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which outline the principles of yoga.
  1. Other Texts:
  • Arthashastra: Attributed to Chanakya (Kautilya), this ancient text focuses on statecraft, economics, and political strategy.
  • Darshanas: These are philosophical treatises that systematize different schools of thought. Six orthodox schools include Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.

It’s important to note that Hinduism is not a monolithic tradition, and different sects and communities may prioritize different scriptures. The scriptures collectively guide religious practices, philosophical exploration, and ethical conduct within the diverse tapestry of Hinduism.

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