Vedas By Wiki



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Vedas (Sanskrit वेदाः véda, “knowledge“) are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.[1][2] The Vedas are apauruṣeya (“not of human agency”).[3][4][5] They are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called śruti (“what is heard”),[6][7] distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti (“what is remembered”).

The Vedic texts or śruti are organized around four canonical collections of metrical material known as Saṃhitās, of which the first three are related to the performance of yajna (sacrifice) in historical Vedic religion:

  1. The Rigveda, containing hymns to be recited by the hotṛ;
  2. The Yajurveda, containing formulas to be recited by the adhvaryu or officiating priest;
  3. The Samaveda, containing formulas to be sung by the udgātṛ.
  4. The fourth is the Atharvaveda, a collection of spells and incantations, apotropaic charms and speculative hymns.[8]

The individual verses contained in these compilations are known as mantras. Some selected Vedic mantras are still recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions in contemporary Hinduism.

The various Indian philosophies and sects have taken differing positions on the Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as “orthodox” (āstika). Other traditions, notably Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities are referred to by traditional Hindu texts as “heterodox” or “non-orthodox” (nāstika) schools.[9][10] In addition to Buddhism and Jainism, Sikhism[11][12] and Brahmoism,[13] many non-Brahmin Hindus in South India [14] do not accept the authority of the Vedas. Certain South Indian Brahmin communities such as Iyengars consider the Tamil Divya Prabandham or writing of the Alvar saints as equivalent to the Vedas.[15]

Etymology and usage

The Sanskrit word véda “knowledge, wisdom” is derived from the root vid- “to know”. This is reconstructed as being derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *u̯eid-, meaning “see” or “know”.[16]

As a noun, the word appears only in a single instance in the Rigveda, in RV 8.19.5, translated by Griffith as “ritual lore”:

yáḥ samídhā yá âhutī / yó védena dadâśa márto agnáye / yó námasā svadhvaráḥ

“The mortal who hath ministered to Agni with oblation, fuel, ritual lore, and reverence, skilled in sacrifice.”[17]

The noun is from Proto-Indo-European *u̯eidos, cognate to Greek (ϝ)εἶδος “aspect”, “form” . Not to be confused is the homonymous 1st and 3rd person singular perfect tense véda, cognate to Greek (ϝ)οἶδα (w)oida “I know”. Root cognates are Greek ἰδέα, English wit, etc., Latin video “I see”, etc.[18]

In English, the term Veda is often used loosely to refer to the Samhitas (collection of mantras, or chants) of the four canonical Vedas (Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda).

The Sanskrit term veda as a common noun means “knowledge”, but can also be used to refer to fields of study unrelated to liturgy or ritual, e.g. in agada-veda “medical science”, sasya-veda “science of agriculture” or sarpa-veda “science of snakes” (already found in the early Upanishads); durveda means “with evil knowledge, ignorant”.[19]


The Vedas are among the oldest sacred texts. The Samhitas date to roughly 1500–1000 BCE, and the “circum-Vedic” texts, as well as the redaction of the Samhitas, date to c. 1000-500 BCE, resulting in a Vedic period, spanning the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE, or the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age.[20] The Vedic period reaches its peak only after the composition of the mantra texts, with the establishment of the various shakhas all over Northern India which annotated the mantra samhitas with Brahmana discussions of their meaning, and reaches its end in the age of Buddha and Panini and the rise of the Mahajanapadas (archaeologically, Northern Black Polished Ware). Michael Witzel gives a time span of c. 1500 BCE to c. 500-400 BCE. Witzel makes special reference to the Near Eastern Mitanni material of the 14th c. BCE the only epigraphic record of Indo-Aryan contemporary to the Rigvedic period. He gives 150 BCE (Patañjali) as a terminus ante quem for all Vedic Sanskrit literature, and 1200 BCE (the early Iron Age) as terminus post quem for the Atharvaveda.[21]

Transmission of texts in the Vedic period was by oral tradition alone, preserved with precision with the help of elaborate mnemonic techniques. A literary tradition set in only in post-Vedic times, after the rise of Buddhism in the Maurya period, perhaps earliest in the Kanva recension of the Yajurveda about the 1st century BCE; however oral tradition predominated until c. 1000 CE.[22]

Due to the ephemeral nature of the manuscript material (birch bark or palm leaves), surviving manuscripts rarely surpass an age of a few hundred years.[23] The Benares Sanskrit University has a Rigveda manuscript of the mid-14th century; however, there are a number of older Veda manuscripts in Nepal belonging to the Vajasaneyi tradition that are dated from the 11th century onwards.

Categories of Vedic texts

The term “Vedic texts” is used in two distinct meanings:

  1. Texts composed in Vedic Sanskrit during the Vedic period (Iron Age India)
  2. Any text considered as “connected to the Vedas” or a “corollary of the Vedas”[24]

Vedic Sanskrit corpus

The corpus of Vedic Sanskrit texts includes:

  • The Samhita (Sanskrit saṃhitā, “collection”), are collections of metric texts (“mantras“). There are four “Vedic” Samhitas: the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Veda, and Atharva-Veda, most of which are available in several recensions (śākhā). In some contexts, the term Veda is used to refer to these Samhitas. This is the oldest layer of Vedic texts, apart from the Rigvedic hymns, which were probably essentially complete by 1200 BC, dating to ca. the 12th to 10th centuries BC. The complete corpus of Vedic mantras as collected in Bloomfield‘s Vedic Concordance (1907) consists of some 89,000 padas (metric feet), of which 72,000 occur in the four Samhitas.[25]
  • The Brahmanas are prose texts that discuss, in technical fashion, the solemn sacrificial rituals as well as comment on their meaning and many connected themes. Each of the Brahmanas is associated with one of the Samhitas or its recensions. The Brahmanas may either form separate texts or can be partly integrated into the text of the Samhitas. They may also include the Aranyakas and Upanishads.
  • The Aranyakas, “wilderness texts” or “forest treaties”, were composed by people who meditated in the woods as recluses and are the third part of the Vedas. The texts contain discussions and interpretations of dangerous rituals (to be studied outside the settlement) and various sorts of additional materials. It is frequently read in secondary literature.
  • Some of the older Mukhya Upanishads (Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Chandogya, Kaṭha).[26][27]
  • Certain Sūtra literature, i.e. the Shrautasutras and the Grhyasutras.

The Shrauta Sutras, regarded as belonging to the smriti, are late Vedic in language and content, thus forming part of the Vedic Sanskrit corpus.[27][28] The composition of the Shrauta and Grhya Sutras (ca. 6th century BC) marks the end of the Vedic period, and at the same time the beginning of the flourishing of the “circum-Vedic” scholarship of Vedanga, introducing the early flowering of classical Sanskrit literature in the Mauryan and Gupta periods.

While production of Brahmanas and Aranyakas ceases with the end of the Vedic period, there is a large number of Upanishads composed after the end of the Vedic period. While most of the ten Mukhya Upanishads can be considered to date to the Vedic or Mahajanapada period, most of the 108 Upanishads of the full Muktika canon date to the Common Era.

The Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads often interpret the polytheistic and ritualistic Samhitas in philosophical and metaphorical ways to explore abstract concepts such as the Absolute (Brahman), and the soul or the self (Atman), introducing Vedanta philosophy, one of the major trends of later Hinduism.

The Vedic Sanskrit corpus is the scope of A Vedic Word Concordance (Vaidika-Padānukrama-Koṣa) prepared from 1930 under Vishva Bandhu, and published in five volumes in 1935-1965. Its scope extends to about 400 texts, including the entire Vedic Sanskrit corpus besides some “sub-Vedic” texts.

Volume I: Samhitas

Volume II: Brahmanas and Aranyakas

Volume III: Upanishads

Volume IV: Vedangas

A revised edition, extending to about 1800 pages, was published in 1973-1976.

Shruti literature

The texts considered “Vedic” in the sense of “corollaries of the Vedas” is less clearly defined, and may include numerous post-Vedic texts such as Upanishads or Sutra literature. These texts are by many Hindu sects considered to be shruti (Sanskrit: śruti; “the heard”), divinely revealed like the Vedas themselves. Texts not considered to be shruti are known as smriti (Sanskrit: smṛti; “the remembered”), of human origin. This indigenous system of categorization was adopted by Max Müller and, while it is subject to some debate, it is still widely used. As Axel Michaels explains:

These classifications are often not tenable for linguistic and formal reasons: There is not only one collection at any one time, but rather several handed down in separate Vedic schools; Upanişads … are sometimes not to be distinguished from Āraṇyakas…; Brāhmaṇas contain older strata of language attributed to the Saṃhitās; there are various dialects and locally prominent traditions of the Vedic schools. Nevertheless, it is advisable to stick to the division adopted by Max Müller because it follows the Indian tradition, conveys the historical sequence fairly accurately, and underlies the current editions, translations, and monographs on Vedic literature.”[26]

The Upanishads are largely philosophical works in dialog form. They discuss questions of nature philosophy and the fate of the soul, and contain some mystic and spiritual interpretations of the Vedas. For long, they have been regarded as their putative end and essence, and are thus known as Vedānta (“the end of the Vedas”). Taken together, they are the basis of the Vedanta school.

Vedic schools or recensions

Study of the extensive body of Vedic texts has been organized into a number of different schools or branches (Sanskrit śākhā, literally “branch” or “limb”) each of which specialized in learning certain texts.[29] Multiple recensions are known for each of the Vedas, and each Vedic text may have a number of schools associated with it. Elaborate methods for preserving the text were based on memorizing by heart instead of writing. Specific techniques for parsing and reciting the texts were used to assist in the memorization process. (See also: Vedic chant)

Prodigous energy was expended by ancient Indian culture in ensuring that these texts were transmitted from generation to generation with inordinate fidelity.[30] For example, memorization of the sacred Vedas included up to eleven forms of recitation of the same text. The texts were subsequently “proof-read” by comparing the different recited versions. Forms of recitation included the jaṭā-pāṭha (literally “mesh recitation”) in which every two adjacent words in the text were first recited in their original order, then repeated in the reverse order, and finally repeated again in the original order.[31]

That these methods have been effective, is testified to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian religious text, the Ṛigveda, as redacted into a single text during the Brahmana period, without any variant readings.[31]

The four Vedas


Rigveda (padapatha) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century

The canonical division of the Vedas is fourfold (turīya) viz.,[34]

  1. Rigveda (RV)
  2. Yajurveda (YV, with the main division TS vs. VS)
  3. Sama-Veda (SV)
  4. Atharva-Veda (AV)

Of these, the first three were the principal original division, also called “trayī vidyā“, that is, “the triple sacred science” of reciting hymns (RV), performing sacrifices (YV), and chanting (SV).[35][36] This triplicity is so introduced in the Brahmanas (ShB, ABr and others), but the Rigveda is the older work of the three from which the other two borrow, next to their own independent Yajus, sorcery and speculative mantras.

Thus, the Mantras are properly of three forms: 1. Ric, which are verses of praise in metre, and intended for loud recitation; 2. Yajus, which are in prose, and intended for recitation in lower voice at sacrifices; 3. Sāman, which are in metre, and intended for singing at the Soma ceremonies.

The Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda are independent collections of mantras and hymns intended as manuals for the Adhvaryu, Udgatr and Brahman priests respectively.

The Atharvaveda is the fourth Veda. Its status has occasionally been ambiguous, probably due to its use in sorcery and healing. However, it contains very old materials in early Vedic language. Manusmrti, which often speaks of the three Vedas, calling them trayam-brahma-sanātanam, “the triple eternal Veda”. The Atharvaveda like the Rigveda, is a collection of original incantations, and other materials borrowing relatively little from the Rigveda. It has no direct relation to the solemn Śrauta sacrifices, except for the fact that the mostly silent Brahmán priest observes the procedures and uses Atharvaveda mantras to ‘heal’ it when mistakes have been made. Its recitation also produces long life, cures diseases, or effects the ruin of enemies.

Each of the four Vedas consists of the metrical Mantra or Samhita and the prose Brahmana part, giving discussions and directions for the detail of the ceremonies at which the Mantras were to be used and explanations of the legends connected with the Mantras and rituals. Both these portions are termed shruti (which tradition says to have been heard but not composed or written down by men). Each of the four Vedas seems to have passed to numerous Shakhas or schools, giving rise to various recensions of the text. They each have an Index or Anukramani, the principal work of this kind being the general Index or Sarvānukramaṇī.


The Rigveda Samhita is the oldest extant Indic text.[37] It is a collection of 1,028 Vedic Sanskrit hymns and 10,600 verses in all, organized into ten books (Sanskrit: mandalas).[38] The hymns are dedicated to Rigvedic deities.[39]

The books were composed by poets from different priestly groups over a period of several centuries, commonly dated to the period of roughly the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE (the early Vedic period) in the Punjab (Sapta Sindhu) region of the Indian subcontinent.[40]

There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities between the Rigveda and the early Iranian Avesta, deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the Andronovo culture; the earliest horse-drawn chariots were found at Andronovo sites in the Sintashta-Petrovka cultural area near the Ural Mountains and date to ca. 2000 BCE.[41]

Rig Veda manuscripts have been selected for inscription in UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” Register 2007.[42]


The Yajurveda Samhita consists of archaic prose mantras and also in part of verses borrowed and adapted from the Rigveda. Its purpose was practical, in that each mantra must accompany an action in sacrifice but, unlike the Samaveda, it was compiled to apply to all sacrificial rites, not merely the Somayajna. There are two major groups of recensions of this Veda, known as the “Black” (Krishna) and “White” (Shukla) Yajurveda (Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda respectively). While White Yajurveda separates the Samhita from its Brahmana (the Shatapatha Brahmana), the e Black Yajurveda intersperses the Samhita with Brahmana commentary. Of the Black Yajurveda four major recensions survive (Maitrayani, Katha, Kapisthala-Katha, Taittiriya).


The Samaveda Samhita (from sāman, the term for a melody applied to metrical hymn or song of praise[43]) consists of 1549 stanzas, taken almost entirely (except for 78 stanzas) from the Rigveda.[26] Like the Rigvedic stanzas in the Yajurveda, the Samans have been changed and adapted for use in singing. Some of the Rigvedic verses are repeated more than once. Including repetitions, there are a total of 1875 verses numbered in the Samaveda recension translated by Griffith.[44] Two major recensions remain today, the Kauthuma/Ranayaniya and the Jaiminiya. Its purpose was liturgical, as the repertoire of the udgātṛ or “singer” priests who took part in the sacrifice.


Main article: Atharvaveda

The Artharvaveda Samhita is the text ‘belonging to the Atharvan and Angirasa poets. It has 760 hymns, and about 160 of the hymns are in common with the Rigveda.[45] Most of the verses are metrical, but some sections are in prose.[45] It was compiled around 900 BCE, although some of its material may go back to the time of the Rigveda,[46] and some parts of the Atharva-Veda are older than the Rig-Veda[45] though not in linguistic form.

The Atharvaveda is preserved in two recensions, the Paippalāda and Śaunaka.[45] According to Apte it had nine schools (shakhas).[47] The Paippalada text, which exists in a Kashmir and an Orissa version, is longer than the Saunaka one; it is only partially printed in its two versions and remains largely untranslated.

Unlike the other three Vedas, the Atharvanaveda has less connection with sacrifice.[48][49] Its first part consists chiefly of spells and incantations, concerned with protection against demons and disaster, spells for the healing of diseases, for long life and for various desires or aims in life.[45][50]

The second part of the text contains speculative and philosophical hymns.[51]

The Atharvaveda is a comparatively late extension of the “Three Vedas” connected to priestly sacrifice to a canon of “Four Vedas”. This may be connected to an extension of the sacrificial rite from involving three types of priest to the inclusion of the Brahman overseeing the ritual.[52]

The Atharvaveda is concerned with the material world or world of man and in this respect differs from the other three vedas. Atharvaveda also sanctions the use of force, in particular circumstances and similarly this point is a departure from the three other vedas.


The mystical notions surrounding the concept of the one “Veda” that would flower in Vedantic philosophy have their roots already in Brahmana literature, for example in the Shatapatha Brahmana. The Vedas are identified with Brahman, the universal principle (ŚBM, Vāc “speech” is called the “mother of the Vedas” (ŚBM, The knowledge of the Vedas is endless, compared to them, human knowledge is like mere handfuls of dirt (TB The universe itself was originally encapsulated in the three Vedas (ŚBM has Prajapati reflecting that “truly, all beings are in the triple Veda”).



Veda Vyasa attributed to have compiled the Vedas

While contemporary traditions continued to maintain Vedic ritualism (Śrauta, Mimamsa), Vedanta renounced all ritualism and radically re-interpreted the notion of “Veda” in purely philosophical terms. The association of the three Vedas with the bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ mantra is found in the Aitareya Aranyaka: “Bhūḥ is the Rigveda, bhuvaḥ is the Yajurveda, svaḥ is the Samaveda” (1.3.2). The Upanishads reduce the “essence of the Vedas” further, to the syllable Aum (ॐ). Thus, the Katha Upanishad has:

“The goal, which all Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which humans desire when they live a life of continence, I will tell you briefly it is Aum” (1.2.15)

In post-Vedic literature


Six technical subjects related to the Vedas are traditionally known as vedāṅga “limbs of the Veda”. V. S. Apte defines this group of works as:

“N. of a certain class of works regarded as auxiliary to the Vedas and designed to aid in the correct pronunciation and interpretation of the text and the right employment of the Mantras in ceremonials.”[53]

These subjects are treated in Sūtra literature dating from the end of the Vedic period to Mauryan times, seeing the transition from late Vedic Sanskrit to Classical Sanskrit.

The six subjects of Vedanga are:


Pariśiṣṭa “supplement, appendix” is the term applied to various ancillary works of Vedic literature, dealing mainly with details of ritual and elaborations of the texts logically and chronologically prior to them: the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Sutras. Naturally classified with the Veda to which each pertains, Parisista works exist for each of the four Vedas. However, only the literature associated with the Atharvaveda is extensive.

  • The Āśvalāyana Gṛhya Pariśiṣṭa is a very late text associated with the Rigveda canon.
  • The Gobhila Gṛhya Pariśiṣṭa is a short metrical text of two chapters, with 113 and 95 verses respectively.
  • The Kātiya Pariśiṣṭas, ascribed to Kātyāyana, consist of 18 works enumerated self-referentially in the fifth of the series (the Caraṇavyūha)and the Kātyāyana Śrauta Sūtra Pariśiṣṭa.
  • The Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda has 3 parisistas The Āpastamba Hautra Pariśiṣṭa, which is also found as the second praśna of the Satyasāḍha Śrauta Sūtra’, the Vārāha Śrauta Sūtra Pariśiṣṭa
  • For the Atharvaveda, there are 79 works, collected as 72 distinctly named parisistas.[54]


A traditional view given in the Vishnu Purana (likely dating to the Gupta period[55]) attributes the current arrangement of four Vedas to the mythical sage Vedavyasa.[56] Puranic tradition also postulates a single original Veda that, in varying accounts, was divided into three or four parts. According to the Vishnu Purana (3.2.18, 3.3.4 etc.) the original Veda was divided into four parts, and further fragmented into numerous shakhas, by Lord Vishnu in the form of Vyasa, in the Dvapara Yuga; the Vayu Purana (section 60) recounts a similar division by Vyasa, at the urging of Brahma. The Bhagavata Purana (12.6.37) traces the origin of the primeval Veda to the syllable aum, and says that it was divided into four at the start of Dvapara Yuga, because men had declined in age, virtue and understanding. In a differing account Bhagavata Purana (9.14.43) attributes the division of the primeval veda (aum) into three parts to the monarch Pururavas at the beginning of Treta Yuga. The Mahabharata (santiparva 13,088) also mentions the division of the Veda into three in Treta Yuga.[57]


The term upaveda (“applied knowledge”) is used in traditional literature to designate the subjects of certain technical works.[58][59] Lists of what subjects are included in this class differ among sources. The Charanavyuha mentions four Upavedas:

But Sushruta and Bhavaprakasha mention Ayurveda as an upaveda of the Atharvaveda. Sthapatyaveda (architecture), Shilpa Shastras (arts and crafts) are mentioned as fourth upaveda according to later sources.

Buddhist and Jain views

Buddhism and Jainism do not reject the Vedas, but merely their absolute authority.[citation needed]


In the Buddhist Vinaya Pitaka of the Mahavagga (I.245)[60] section the Buddha declared that the Veda in its true form was declared to the Vedic rishis “Atthako, Vâmako, Vâmadevo, Vessâmitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bhâradvâjo, Vâsettho, Kassapo, and Bhagu[61] but that it was altered by a few Brahmins who introduced animal sacrifices. The Vinaya Pitaka’s section Anguttara Nikaya: Panchaka Nipata says that it was on this alteration of the true Veda that the Buddha refused to pay respect to the Vedas of his time.[62]

Also in the “Brahmana Dhammika Sutta” (II,7)[63] of the Suttanipata section of Vinaya Pitaka[64] there is a story of when the Buddha was in Jetavana village and there were a group of elderly Brahmin ascetics who sat down next to the Buddha and asked him, “Do the present Brahmans follow the same rules, practise the same rites, as those in the more ancient times?” The Buddha replied, “No.” The elderly Brahmins asked the Buddha that if it were not inconvenient for him, that he would tell them of the Brahmana Dharma of the previous generation. The Buddha replied: “There were formerly rishis, men who had subdued all passion by the keeping of the sila precepts and the leading of a pure life…Their riches and possessions consisted in the study of the Veda and their treasure was a life free from all evil…The Brahmans, for a time, continued to do right and received in alms rice, seats, clothes, and oil, though they did not ask for them. The animals that were given they did not kill; but they procured useful medicaments from the cows, regarding the as friends and relatives, whose products give strength, beauty and health.” So in this passage also the Buddha describes when the Brahmins were studying the Veda but the animal sacrifice customs had not yet began.

The Buddha was declared to have been born as a Brahmin who was a knower of the Vedas and its philosophies in a number of his previous lives according to Buddhist scriptures. Other Buddhas too were said to have been born as Brahmins that were trained in the Vedas.

The Mahasupina Jataka[65] and Lohakumbhi Jataka[66] declares that Brahmin Sariputra in a previous life was a Brahmin that prevented animal sacrifice by declaring that animal sacrifice was actually against the Vedas.


A Jain sage intereprets the Vedic sacrifices as metaphorical:

Body is the altar, mind is the fire blazing with the ghee of knowledge and burning the sacrificial sticks of impurities produced from the tree of karma;…[67]

Further, Jain Sage Jinabhadra in his Visesavasyakabhasya cites a numeber of passages from the Vedic Upanishads.[68]

Jain are in conformity with the Vedas in reference to both the Vedas’ and Jainism’ acceptance of the 22 Tirthankaras:

Of Rishabha (1st Tirthankara Rishabha) is written:

But Risabha went on, unperturbed by anything till he became sin-free like a conch that takes no black dot, without obstruction … which is the epithet of the First World-teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies” (Rig Veda X.166)

Of Aristanemi (Tirthankara Neminatha) is written:

So asmakam Aristanemi svaha Arhan vibharsi sayakani dhanvarhanistam yajatam visvarupam arhannidam dayase” (Astak 2, Varga 7, Rig Veda)

“Fifth” and other Vedas

Some post-Vedic texts, including the Mahabharata, the Natyasastra and certain Puranas, refer to themselves as the “fifth Veda“.[69] The earliest reference to such a “fifth Veda” is found in the Chandogya Upanishad. “Dravida Veda” is a term for canonical Tamil Bhakti texts.[citation needed]

Other texts such as the Bhagavad Gita or the Vedanta Sutras are considered shruti or “Vedic” by some Hindu denominations but not universally within Hinduism. The Bhakti movement, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in particular extended the term veda to include the Sanskrit Epics and Vaishnavite devotional texts such as the Pancaratra.[70]

Western Indology

The study of Sanskrit in the West began in the 17th century. In the early 19th century, Arthur Schopenhauer drew attention to Vedic texts, specifically the Upanishads. The importance of Vedic Sanskrit for Indo-European studies was also recognized in the early 19th century. English translations of the Samhitas were published in the later 19th century, in the Sacred Books of the East series edited by Müller between 1879 and 1910.[71] Ralph T. H. Griffith also presented English translations of the four Samhitas, published 1889 to 1899.


1.       ^ see e.g. Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, p. 3; Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 68; MacDonell 2004, pp. 29–39; Sanskrit literature (2003) in Philip’s Encyclopedia. Accessed 2007-08-09

2.       ^ Sanujit Ghose (2011). “Religious Developments in Ancient India” in Ancient History Encyclopedia.

3.       ^ “Sound and Creation”. Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. Retrieved February 10, 2012.

4.       ^ Late., Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. The Vedas. Chennai, India: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai. pp. 3 to 7. ISBN 81-7276-401-4.

5.       ^ Apte, pp. 109f. has “not of the authorship of man, of divine origin”

6.       ^ Apte 1965, p. 887

7.       ^ Müller 1891, pp. 17–18

8.       ^ Bloomfield, M. The Atharvaveda and the Gopatha-Brahmana, (Grundriss der Indo-Arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde II.1.b.) Strassburg 1899; Gonda, J. A history of Indian literature: I.1 Vedic literature (Samhitas and Brahmanas); I.2 The Ritual Sutras. Wiesbaden 1975, 1977

9.       ^ Flood 1996, p. 82

10.    ^ “The brahmin by caste alone, the teacher of the Veda, is (jokingly) etymologized as the ‘non-meditator’ (ajjhāyaka). Brahmins who have memorized the three Vedas (tevijja) really know nothing: it is the process of achieving Enlightenment – what the Buddha is said to have achieved in the three watches of that night – which constitutes the true ‘three knowledges.'” R.F. Gombrich in Paul Williams, ed., “Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies.” Taylor and Francis 2006, page 120.

11.    ^ Chahal, Dr. Devindar Singh (Jan-June 2006), “Is Sikhism a Unique Religion or a Vedantic Religion?“, Understanding Sikhism – the Research Journal 8 (1): 3–5.

12.    ^ Aad Guru Granth Sahib, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar, 1983

13.    ^ “Eclecticism and Modern Hindu Discourse, Brian Hatcher, OUP 1999”

14.    ^ The Dravidian Movement by Gail Omvedt

15.    ^ The Vernacular Veda by Vasudha Narayanan

16.    ^ Monier-Williams 2006, p. 1015; Apte 1965, p. 856

17.    ^ K.F. Geldner. Der Rig-Veda, Harvard Oriental Series 33-37, Cambridge 1951

18.    ^ see e.g. Pokorny’s 1959 Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch s.v. u̯(e)id-²; Rix’ Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, u̯ei̯d-. Old-slavic and old-church slavonic/old bulgarian form Template:Veda “knowledge” and verb Template:Vediti “to know”

19.    ^ Monier-Williams (1899)

20.    ^ Gavin Flood sums up mainstream estimates, according to which the Rigveda was compiled from as early as 1500 BCE over a period of several centuries. Flood 1996, p. 37

21.    ^ Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 68

22.    ^ For the possibility of written texts during the first century BCE see: Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 69; For oral composition and oral transmission for “many hundreds of years” before being written down, see: Avari 2007, p. 76.

23.    ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003), World Religions, Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5

24.    ^ according to ISKCON, Hindu Sacred Texts, “Hindus themselves often use the term to describe anything connected to the Vedas and their corollaries (e.g. Vedic culture)”.

25.    ^ 37,575 are Rigvedic. Of the remaining, 34,857 appear in the other three Samhitas, and 16,405 are known only from Brahmanas, Upanishads or Sutras

26.    ^ a b c Michaels 2004, p. 51.

27.    ^ a b Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 69.

28.    ^ For a table of all Vedic texts see Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, pp. 100–101.

29.    ^ Flood 1996, p. 39.

30.    ^ (Staal 1986)

31.    ^ a b (Filliozat 2004, p. 139)

32.    ^ a b c Nair 2008, pp. 84-227.

33.    ^ a b c Joshi 1994, pp. 91-93.

34.    ^ Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, p. 3; Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 68

35.    ^ MacDonell 2004, pp. 29–39

36.    ^ Witzel, M., “The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu” in Witzel 1997, pp. 257–348

37.    ^ see e.g. Avari 2007, p. 77.

38.    ^ For 1,028 hymns and 10,600 verses and division into ten mandalas, see: Avari 2007, p. 77.

39.    ^ For characterization of content and mentions of deities including Agni, Indra, Varuna, Soma, Surya, etc. see: Avari 2007, p. 77.

40.    ^ see e.g. Avari 2007, p. 77. Max Müller gave 1700–1100 BCE, Michael Witzel gives 1450-1350 BCE as terminus ad quem.

41.    ^ Drews, Robert (2004), Early Riders: The beginnings of mounted warfare in Asia and Europe, New York: Routledge, p. 50

42.    ^

43.    ^ Apte 1965, p. 981.

44.    ^ For 1875 total verses, see numbering given in Ralph T. H. Griffith. Griffith’s introduction mentions the recension history for his text. Repetitions may be found by consulting the cross-index in Griffith pp. 491-99.

45.    ^ a b c d e Michaels 2004, p. 56.

46.    ^ Flood 1996, p. 37.

47.    ^ Apte 1965, p. 37.

48.    ^ Flood 1996, p. 36.

49.    ^ Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 76.

50.    ^ Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, p. 3.

51.    ^ “The latest of the four Vedas, the Atharva-Veda, is, as we have seen, largely composed of magical texts and charms, but here and there we find cosmological hymns which anticipate the Upanishads, — hymns to Skambha, the ‘Support’, who is seen as the first principle which is both the material and efficient cause of the universe, to Prāna, the ‘Breath of Life’, to Vāc, the ‘Word’, and so on.” Zaehner 1966, p. vii.

52.    ^ “There were originally only three priests associated with the first three Saṃhitās, for the Brahman as overseer of the rites does not appear in the Ṛg Veda and is only incorporated later, thereby showing the acceptance of the Atharva Veda, which had been somewhat distinct from the other Saṃhitās and identified with the lower social strata, as being of equal standing with the other texts.”Flood 1996, p. 42.

53.    ^ Apte 1965, p. 387.

54.    ^ BR Modak, The Ancillary Literature of the Atharva-Veda, New Delhi, Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, 1993, ISBN 81-215-0607-7

55.    ^ Flood 1996, p. 111 dates it to the 4th century CE.

56.    ^ Vishnu Purana, translation by Horace Hayman Wilson, 1840, Ch IV,

57.    ^ Muir 1861, pp. 20–31

58.    ^ Monier-Williams 2006, p. 207. [1] Accessed 5 April 2007.

59.    ^ Apte 1965, p. 293.

60.    ^ P. 494 The Pali-English dictionary By Thomas William Rhys Davids, William Stede

61.    ^ P. 245 The Vinaya piṭakaṃ: one of the principle Buddhist holy scriptures …, Volume 1 edited by Hermann Oldenberg

62.    ^ P. 44 The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science By Robert Spence Hardy

63.    ^ P. 94 A history of Indian literature, Volume 2 by Moriz Winternitz

64.    ^ P. 45-46 The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science By Robert Spence Hardy

65.    ^ P. 577 Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: Pali-English By G.P. Malalasekera

66.    ^ P. 30 The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births By E. B. Cowell

67.    ^ P. 92 Studies in Jain literature by Vaman Mahadeo Kulkarni, Śreshṭhī Kastūrabhāī Lālabhāī Smāraka Nidhi

68.    ^ P. 93 Studies in Jain literature by Vaman Mahadeo Kulkarni, Śreshṭhī Kastūrabhāī Lālabhāī Smāraka Nidhi

69.    ^ Sullivan 1994, p. 385

70.    ^ Goswami, Satsvarupa (1976), Readings in Vedic Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself, S.l.: Assoc Publishing Group, pp. 240 pages, ISBN 0912776889

71.    ^ Müller, Friedrich Max (author) & Stone, Jon R. (author, editor) (2002). The essential Max Müller: on language, mythology, and religion. Illustrated edition. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0312293097, 9780312293093. Source: [2] (accessed: Friday May 7, 2010), p.44

Puranas By Wiki


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Goddess Ambika or Durga Leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from Devi Mahatmya, Markandeya Purana.

The Puranas (Sanskrit: पुराण purāṇa, “of ancient times”) are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.[1]

Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts. They are usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another. The Puranas are available in vernacular translations and are disseminated by Brahmin scholars, who read from them and tell their stories, usually in Katha sessions (in which a traveling Brahmin settles for a few weeks in a temple and narrates parts of a Purana, usually with a Bhakti perspective).



An illustration of Varaha avatar based on the Bhagavata Purana

Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered the compiler of the Puranas.[2] However, the earliest written versions date from the time of the Gupta Empire (third-fifth century CE) and much material may be dated, through historical references and other means, to this period and the succeeding centuries. The texts were probably written all over India.

The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas.[3] On one hand, they existed in some oral form before being written[3] while at the same time, they have been incrementally modified well into the 16th century[3][4] and perhaps down to the present day.

An early reference is found in the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2). (circa 500 BCE). The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad refers to purana as the “fifth Veda”,[5]itihāsapurāṇaṃ pañcamaṃ vedānāṃ, reflecting the early religious importance of these myths, presumably then in purely oral form. Importantly, the most famous form of itihāsapurāṇaṃ is the Mahabharata. The term also appears in the Atharvaveda 11.7.24.[6][7]

According to Pargiter,[6] the “original Purana” may date to the time of the final redaction of the Vedas. Gavin Flood connects the rise of the written Purana historically with the rise of devotional cults centring upon a particular deity in the Gupta era: the Puranic corpus is a complex body of materials that advance the views of various competing cults.[8]

Common ideas are found throughout the corpus but it is not possible to trace the lines of influence of one Purana upon another so the corpus is best viewed as a synchronous whole.[8]

The All India Kashiraj Trust, formed under Vibhuti Narayan Singh, the Maharaja of Kashi, dedicated itself to publishing editions of the Puranas.[9]


According to Matysa Purana,[10] they are said to narrate five subjects, called Pancha Lakshana pañcalakṣaṇa(Sanskrit:Template:Sanskrit) (“five distinguishing marks”, though some scholars have suggested that these are shared by other traditional religious scriptures):[11][12]

  1. Sarga: the creation of the universe.
  2. Pratisarga: secondary creations, mostly recreations after dissolution.
  3. Vamśa: genealogy of the gods and sages.
  4. Manvañtara: the creation of the human race and the first human beings. The epoch of the Manus‘ rule, 71 celestial Yugas or 308,448,000 years.
  5. Vamśānucaritam: the histories of the patriarchs of the lunar and solar dynasties.

The Puranas also lay emphasis on keeping a record of genealogies, as the Vayu Purana says, “to preserve the genealogies of gods, sages and glorious kings and the traditions of great men.”[13] The Puranic genealogies indicate, for example, that Sraddhadeva Manu lived 95 generations before the Bharata war.[14] In Arrian‘s Indica, Megasthenes is quoted as stating that the Indians counted from “Dionysos” (Shiva) to “Sandracottus” (Chandragupta Maurya) “a hundred and fifty-three kings over six thousand and forty-three years.”[15] The list of kings in Kalhana‘s Rajatarangini goes back to the 19th century BCE.[16]

Pargiter has argued that the Puranic Krta Yuga—in the Vayu Purana the four Yugas are divided into 4800, 3600, 2400, and 1200 years—”ended with the destruction of the Haihayas [by Rama Jamadagnya]; the Treta began approximately with Sagara and ended with Rama Dasarathi’s destruction of the Raksasas; and the Dvapara began with his reinstatement at Ayodhya and ended with the Bharata battle”.[17][18]


The Mahapuranas

Of the many texts designated ‘Puranas’ the most important are the Mahāpurāṇas. These are always said to be eighteen in number, divided into three groups of six, though in fact they are not always counted in the same way. Combining the various lists Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen have collated twenty names:[19]

Purana name

Verses number



15,400 verses

Contains details of Vastu Shastra and Gemology


18,000 verses

The most celebrated and popular of the Puranas,[20] telling of Vishnu’s ten Avatars. Its tenth and longest canto narrates the deeds of Krishna, introducing his childhood exploits, a theme later elaborated by many Bhakti movements.[21]


14,500 verses


10,000 verses

Describes about Godavari and its tributaries.Shortest among Puranas.


12,000 verses

includes Lalita Sahasranamam, a text some Hindus recite as prayer


17,000 verses

Describes Worshipping protocols of Devis,Krishna and Ganesha


19,000 verses

Most hallowed Purana regarding the death and its aftermaths.


16,000 verses

more often considered itihāsa


17,000 verses


11,000 verses

Staunch Shaiva Theological Purana


09,000 verses

The Devi Mahatmya, an important text for the Shaktas is embedded in it


14,000 verses


25,000 verses

Describe the greatness of Veda and Vedangas.


55,000 verses

Describe the greatness of Bhagavad Gita. Also known as Geetha mathmya.


24,000 verses


81,100 verses

The longest Purana, it is an extraordinarily meticulous pilgrimage guide, containing geographical locations of pilgrimage centers in India, with related legends, parables, hymns and stories. Many untraced quotes are attributed to this text.[22]


10,000 verses

Mostly describes about North India and areas around Kurukshetra.


24,000 verses


24,000 verses


23,000 verses


Puranas are classified according to qualification of persons who can understand them: “Purāṇas are supplementary explanations of the Vedas intended for different types of men. All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Purāṇas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their lost position and get out of the hard struggle for existence.”[23]

The Mahapuranas are frequently classified according the three aspects of the divine Trimurti[24]:

Vaiṣṇava Puranas:

Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Nāradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Vāmana Purana, Kūrma Purana, Matsya Purana, Kalki Purana

Brāhma Puranas:

Brahma Purana, Brahmānda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Mārkandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana,

Śaiva Puranas:

Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Vāyu Purana


According to the Padma Purana,[26] the texts may be classified in accordance with the three gunas or qualities; truth, passion, and indifference:

Sattva (“truth; purity”)

Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana

Rajas (“dimness; passion”)

Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana

Tamas (“darkness; ignorance”)

Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana

The Upapuranas

The Upapurāṇas are lesser or ancillary texts: these are sometimes also said to be eighteen in number, with still less agreement as to the canonical titles. Few have been critically edited. They include: Sanat-kumara, Narasimha, Brihan-naradiya, Siva-rahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesha, Mudgala, and Hamsa.[27]

The Ganesha and Mudgala Puranas are devoted to Ganesha.[28][29] The Devi-Bhagavata Purana, which extols the goddess Durga, has become (along with the Devi Mahatmya of the Mārkandeya Purana) a basic text for Devi worshipers.[30]

There are many others all over the Indian subcontinent.[31]

Sthala Puranas

This corpus of texts tells of the origins and traditions of particular Tamil Shiva temples or shrines. There are numerous Sthala Puranas, most written in vernaculars, some with Sanskrit versions as well. The 275 Shiva Sthalams of the continent have puranas for each, famously glorified in the Tamil literature Tevaram. Some appear in Sanskrit versions in the Mahapuranas or Upapuranas. Some Tamil Sthala Puranas have been researched by David Dean Shulman.[32]

Kula Puranas

These Puranas deal with a caste’s origin myth, stories, and legends (the word kula means “family” or “tribe” in Sanskrit). They are important sources for caste identity though usually contested by rival castes. This subgenre is usually in the vernacular and may at times remain oral.[33] These have been little researched, though they are documented in the caste section of the British Census of India Report and the various Gazetteers.[34]

Jain and Buddhist Puranas

Jain Puranas deal with Jain myths, history and legends and form a major part of early Kannada literature.[35] [36] The best known is the Mahapurana of Acharya Jinasena. Among Buddhist Puranas, Swayambhu Purana narrates the mythological history of Nepal and describes Buddhist pilgrimage sites inside the Kathmandu Valley.


1.       ^ Puranas at Sacred Texts

2.       ^ The Puranas by Swami Sivananda

3.       ^ a b c Johnson 2009, p. 247

4.       ^ Singh 1997, p. 2324

5.       ^ Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 2.4.10, 4.1.2, 4.5.11. Satapatha Brahmana (SBE, Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369). Moghe 1997, pp. 160,249

6.       ^ a b Pargiter 1962, pp. 30–54

7.       ^ Moghe 1997, p. 249 and the Satapatha Brahmana and SBE Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369

8.       ^ a b Flood 1996, p. 359

9.       ^ Mittal 2004, p. 657

10.    ^ Matsya Purana 53.65

11.    ^ Rao 1993, pp. 85–100

12.    ^ Johnson 2009, p. 248

13.    ^ Vayu Purana 1. 31-2.

14.    ^ Majumdar & Pusalker 1951, p. 273

15.    ^ Pliny: Naturalis Historia 6:59; Arrian: Indica 9:9

16.    ^ Elst 1999, with reference to Bernard Sergent

17.    ^ Pargiter 1922, p. 177

18.    ^ P.L. Bhargava 1971, India in the Vedic Age, Lucknow: Upper India Publishing; Talageri 1993, 2000; Subhash Kak, 1994, The astronomical code of the Rgveda

19.    ^ Dimmitt & van Buitenen 1978, p. 373

20.    ^ Monier-Williams 1899, p. 752, column 3, under the entry Bhagavata.

21.    ^ Hardy 2001

22.    ^ Doniger 1993, pp. 59–83

23.    ^ Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.4 All the Vedic literatures and the Purāṇas are meant for conquering the darkest region of material existence. The living being is in the state of forgetfulness of his relation with God due to his being overly attracted to material sense gratification from time immemorial. His struggle for existence in the material world is perpetual, and it is not possible for him to get out of it by making plans. If he at all wants to conquer this perpetual struggle for existence, he must reestablish his eternal relation with God. And one who wants to adopt such remedial measures must take shelter of literatures such as the Vedas and the Purāṇas. Some people say that the Purāṇas have no connection with the Vedas. However, the Purāṇas are supplementary explanations of the Vedas intended for different types of men. All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Purāṇas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their lost position and get out of the hard struggle for existence.

24.    ^ Nair, Shantha N. (2008). Echoes of Ancient Indian Wisdom: The Universal Hindu Vision and Its Edifice. Delhi: Hindology Books. p. 266. ISBN 978-81-223-1020-7.

25.    ^ The Puranic Encyclopedia

26.    ^ Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda, 236.18–21

27.    ^ R. C. Hazra, Studies in the Upapuranas, vol. I, Calcutta, Sanskrit College, 1958. Studies in the Upapuranas, vol. II, Calcutta, Sanskrit College, 1979. Studies in Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs, Delhi, Banarsidass, 1975. Ludo Rocher, The Puranas – A History of Indian Literature Vol. II, fasc. 3, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1986.

28.    ^ Thapan 1997, p. 304

29.    ^ Purana at Gurjari

30.    ^ Mackenzie 1990

31.    ^ `Verbal Narratives: Performance and Gender of the Padma Purana, by T.N. Sankaranarayana in Kaushal 2001, pp. 225–234

32.    ^ Shulman 1980

33.    ^ Handoo 1998, pp. 125–142

34.    ^ See for example Castes and Tribes of Southern India vol. I–V, Thurston Edgar. Cosmo Publication, Delhi.

35.    ^ Jaini, Padmanabh S. (1993). “Jaina Puranas: A Puranic Counter Tradition.” in Doniger 1993, pp. 207–249

36.    ^ Cort, John E. (1993). “An Overview of the Jaina Puranas”. in Doniger 1993, pp. 185–206


Upanishads By Wiki


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a good article. Click here for more information.


The Upanishads (Sanskrit: उपनिषद्, IAST: Upaniṣad, IPA: [upəniʂəd]) are philosophical texts considered to be an early source of Hindu religion. They are also called Vedanta, the end of Vedas. In purest sense, they are not Sruti( of heard). Upanishads expain the essence of vedas. The Upanishads are found mostly the concluding part of the Brahmanas and in the Aranyakas.[1] All Upanishads have been passed down in oral tradition.

More than 200 are known, of which the first dozen or so, the oldest and most important, are variously referred to as the principal, main (mukhya) or old Upanishads. With the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra (known collectively as the Prasthanatrayi),[2] the mukhya Upanishads provide a foundation for several later schools of Indian philosophy (vedanta), among them, two influential monistic schools of Hinduism.[note 1][note 2][note 3]

Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period[6][7] to the early centuries BC[7] though minor Upanishads were still being composed in the medieval and early modern period.[8] However, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads. The Upanishads were collectively considered amongst the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by the British poet Martin Seymour-Smith.[9] Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Kant, Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, among others.[10][11]


The Sanskrit term Upaniṣad derives from upa- (nearby), ni- (at the proper place, down) and ṣad (to sit) thus: “sitting down near”), implying sitting near a teacher to receive instruction[12] or, alternatively, “sitting at the foot of ..(teacher)”, or “laying siege” to the teacher.[13] Monier-Williams‘ late 19th century dictionary adds that, “according to native authorities Upanishad means ‘setting to rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit.'”[14] A gloss of the term Upanishad based on Shankara‘s commentary on the Kaṭha and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad equates it with Ātmavidyā, that is, “knowledge of the Self“, or Brahmavidyā “knowledge of Brahma”. Other dictionary meanings include “esoteric doctrine” and “secret doctrine”.[15]


There are more than 200 known Upanishads, one of which, the Muktikā, gives a list of 108 Upanishads – this number corresponding to the holy Hindu number of beads on a mala or Hindu rosary. Modern scholars recognize the first 10, 11, 12 or 13 Upanishads as principal or Mukhya Upanishads and the remainder as derived from this ancient canon. If a Upanishad has been commented upon or quoted by revered thinkers like Shankara, it is a Mukhya Upanishad,[1] accepted as shruti by most Hindus.

The new Upanishads recorded in the Muktikā probably originated in southern India,[16] and are grouped according to their subject as (Sāmānya) Vedānta (philosophical), Yoga, Sanyasa (of the life of renunciation), Vaishnava (dedicated to the god Vishnu), Shaiva (dedicated to Shiva) and Shakti (dedicated to the goddess).[17] New Upaniṣads are often sectarian since sects have sought to legitimize their texts by claiming for them the status of Śruti.[18]

Another way of classifying the Upanishads is to associate them with the respective Brahmanas. Of nearly the same age are the Aitareya, Kauṣītaki and Taittirīya Upaniṣads, while the remnant date from the time of transition from Vedic to Classical Sanskrit.[19]

Mukhya Upanishads

The Mukhya Upanishads can themselves be stratified into periods. Of the early periods are the Brihadaranyaka, Jaiminiya Upanisadbrahmana and the Chandogya, the most important and the oldest, of which the two former are the older of the two,[20] though some parts were composed after the Chandogya.[note 4]

It is alleged that the Aitareya, Taittiriya, Kausitaki, Mundaka, Prasna, and Kathaka Upanishads show Buddha’s influence, and must have been composed after the 5th century BC, but it could just as easily have been the other way around. It is also alleged that in the first two centuries A.D., they were followed by the Kena, Mandukya and Isa Upanishads.[22] Not much is known about the authors except for those, like Yajnavalkayva and Uddalaka, mentioned in the texts.[1] A few women discussants, such as Gargi and Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalkayva,[23] also feature occasionally.

Each of the principal Upanishads can be associated with one of the schools of exegesis of the four Vedas (shakhas).[24] Many Shakhas are said to have existed, of which only a few remain. The new Upanishads often have little relation to the Vedic corpus and have not been cited or commented upon by any great Vedanta philosopher: their language differs from that of the classic Upanishads, being less subtle and more formalized. As a result, they are not difficult to comprehend for the modern reader.[25]


An early 19th century manuscript of the Rigveda


Veda-Shakha-Upanishad association




Principal Upanishad

Rig Veda

Only one recension



Sama Veda

Only one recension






Yajur Veda

Krishna Yajur Veda




Taittirīya and Śvetāśvatara



Hiranyakeshi (Kapishthala)


Shukla Yajur Veda

Vajasaneyi Madhyandina

Isha and Bṛhadāraṇyaka

Kanva Shakha


Two recension


Māṇḍūkya and Muṇḍaka


Prashna Upanishad

The Kauśītāki and Maitrāyaṇi Upanishads are sometimes added to the list of the mukhya Upanishads.

New Upanishads

There is no fixed list of the Upanishads as newer ones have continued to be composed.[26] On many occasions, when older Upanishads have not suited the founders of new sects, they have composed new ones of their own.[27] 1908 marked the discovery of four new Upanishads, named Bashkala, Chhagaleya, Arsheya and Saunaka, by Dr. Friedrich O. Schrader,[28] who attributed them to the first prose period of the Upanishads.[29] The text of three, the Chhagaleya, Arsheya and Saunaka, was reportedly corrupt and neglected but possibly re-constructable with the help of their Perso-Latin translations. Texts called “Upanishads” continued to appear up to the end of British rule in 1947.

The main Shakta Upanishads mostly discuss doctrinal and interpretative differences between the two principal sects of a major Tantric form of Shaktism called Shri Vidya upasana. The many extant lists of authentic Shakta Upaniṣads vary, reflecting the sect of their compilers, so that they yield no evidence of their “location” in Tantric tradition, impeding correct interpretation. The Tantra content of these texts also weaken its identity as an Upaniṣad for non-Tantrikas and therefore, its status as shruti and thus its authority.[30]

The text composed by Vaishnava saint Namalvar (Satkopa) is also known as the Dravidopanisatsangati.



Impact of a drop of water, a common analogy for Brahman and the Ātman

Two words that are of paramount importance in grasping the Upanishads are Brahman and Atman.[31] The Brahman is the universal spirit and the Atman is the individual Self.[32] Differing opinions exist amongst scholars regarding the etymology of these words. Brahman probably comes from the root brh which means “The Biggest ~ The Greatest ~ The ALL”. Brahman is “the infinite Spirit Source and fabric and core and destiny of all existence, both manifested and unmanifested and the formless infinite substratum and from whom the universe has grown”. Brahman is the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or shall be. The word Atman means the immortal perfect Spirit of any living creature, being, including trees etc. The idea put forth by the Upanishadic seers that Atman and Brahman are One and the same is one of the greatest contributions made to the thought of the world.[33][34][35][36]

The Brihadaranyaka and the Chandogya are the most important of the mukhya Upanishads. They represent two main schools of thought within the Upanishads. The Brihadaranyaka deals with acosmic or nis-prapancha, whereas the Chandogya deals with the cosmic or sa-prapancha.[1] Between the two, the Brihadaranyaka is considered more original.[37]

The Upanishads also contain the first and most definitive explications of the divine syllable Aum, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence. The mantra Aum Shānti Shānti Shānti, translated as “the soundless sound, peace, peace, peace”, is often found in the Upanishads. The path of bhakti or “Devotion to God” is foreshadowed in Upanishadic literature, and was later realized by texts such as the Bhagavad Gita.[38]

Some of the Mahāvākyas (Great Sayings) from the Upanishads

Sanskrit quote

English meaning


Prajñānam brahma

“Consciousness is Brahman”

Aitareya Upanishad[39]

Aham brahmāsmi

“I am Brahman”


Tat tvam asi

“That Thou art”


Ayamātmā brahmā

“This Atman is Brahman”


Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan notes that the Upanishads are primarily presented as conversations between two persons or animals rather than expository statements of philosophy or ideology. He contends that the frog’s metaphorical speech the Mandukya Upanishad (manduka means frog in Sanskrit) is a common source of confusion.[43]


The three main approaches in arriving at the solution to the problem of the Ultimate Reality have traditionally been the theological, the cosmological and the psychological approaches.[44] The cosmological approach involves looking outward, to the world; the psychological approach meaning looking inside or to the Self; and the theological approach is looking upward or to God. Descartes takes the first and starts with the argument that the Self is the primary reality, self-consciousness the primary fact of existence, and introspection the start of the real philosophical process.[45] According to him, we can arrive at the conception of God only through the Self because it is God who is the cause of the Self and thus, we should regard God as more perfect than the Self. Spinoza on the other hand, believed that God is the be-all and the end-all of all things, the alpha and the omega of existence. From God philosophy starts, and in God philosophy ends. The manner of approach of the Upanishadic philosophers to the problem of ultimate reality was neither the Cartesian nor Spinozistic. The Upanishadic philosophers regarded the Self as the ultimate existence and subordinated the world and God to the Self. The Self to them, is more real than either the world or God. It is only ultimately that they identify the Self with God, and thus bridge over the gulf that exists between the theological and psychological approaches to reality. They take the cosmological approach to start with, but they find that this cannot give them the solution of the ultimate reality. So, Upanishadic thinkers go back and start over by taking the psychological approach and here again, they cannot find the solution to the ultimate reality. They therefore perform yet another experiment by taking the theological approach. They find that this too is lacking in finding the solution. They give yet another try to the psychological approach, and come up with the solution to the problem of the ultimate reality. Thus, the Upanishadic thinkers follow a cosmo-theo-psychological approach.[45] A study of the mukhya Upanishads show that the Upanishadic thinkers progressively build on each others’ ideas. They go back and forth and refute improbable approaches before arriving at the solution of the ultimate reality.[46]

Schools of Vedānta


Adi Shankara Bhagavadpada, expounder of Advaita Vedanta and commentator (bhashya) on the Upanishads

The source for all schools of Vedānta are the three texts – the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutras.[47] Two different types of the non-dual Brahman-Atman are presented in the Upanishads:[48]

  • The one in which the non-dual Brahman-Atman is the all inclusive ground of the universe and
  • The one in which all reality in the universe is but an illusion

The later theistic (Dvaita and Visistadvaita) and absolutist (Advaita) schools of Vendanta are made possible because of the difference between these two views. The three main schools of Vedanta are Advaita, Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita. Other schools of Vedanta made possible by the Upanishads include Nimbarka’s Dvaitadvaita, Vallabha’s Suddhadvaita and Chaitanya’s Acintya Bhedabheda.[49] The philosopher Adi Sankara has provided commentaries on 11 mukhya Upanishads.[50]

Advaita is considered the most influential sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy,[51] though whether it represents the mainstream Hindu position has been debated.[52] Gaudapada was the first person to expound the basic principles of the Advaita philosophy in a commentary on the apparently conflicting statements of the Upanishads.[53] Advaita literally means non-duality, and it is a monistic system of thought.[51] It deals with the non-dual nature of Brahman and Atman. The Advaita school is said to have been consolidated by Shankara. He was a pupil of Gaudapada’s pupil. Radhakrishnan believed that Shankara’s views of Advaita are straightforward developments of the Upanishads and the Brahmasutra and he offered no innovations to these,[54] while other scholars found sharp differences between Shankara’s writings and the Brahmasutra,[55][56] and that there are many ideas in the Upanishads at odds with those of Shankara.[57] Gaudapada lived in a time when Buddhism was widely prevalent in India, and he was at times conscious of the similarity between his system to some phases of Buddhist thought.[53] His main work is infused with philosophical terminology of Buddhism, and uses Buddhist arguments and analogies.[58] Towards the end of his commentary on the topic, he clearly said, “This was not spoken by Buddha”. Although there are a wide variety of philosophical positions propounded in the Upanishads, commentators since Adi Shankara have usually followed him in seeing idealist monism as the dominant force.[note 5][note 6][note 7][note 8][note 9]

The Dvaita school was founded by Madhvacharya. Born in 1138 near Udipi,[63] Dvaita is regarded as the best philosophic exposition of theism.[64] Sharma points out that Dvaita, a term commonly used to designate Madhava’s system of philosophy, translates as “dualism” in English. The Western understanding of dualism equates to two independent and mutually irreducible substances. The Indian equivalent of that definition would be Samkya Dvaita.[65] Madhva’s Dvaita differs from the Western definition of dualism in that while he agrees to two mutually irreducible substances that constitute reality, he regards only one – God, as being independent.[65]

The third school of Vedanta is the Vishishtadvaita, which was founded by Ramanuja. Traditional dates of his birth and death are given as 1017 and 1137, though a shorter life span somewhere between these two dates has been suggested. Modern scholars conclude that on the whole, Ramanuja’s theistic views may be closer to those of the Upanishads than are Shankara’s, and Ramanuja’s interpretations are in fact representative of the general trend of Hindu thought. Ramanuja strenuously refuted Shankara’s works.[52] Visistadvaita is a synthetic philosophy of love that tries to reconcile the extremes of the other two monistic and theistic systems of vedanta.[64] It is called Sri-Vaisanavism in its religious aspect. Chari claims that has been misunderstood by its followers as well as its critics. Many, including leading modern proponents of this system, forget that jiva is a substance as well as an attribute and call this system “qualified non-dualism” or the adjectival monism. While the Dvaita insists on the difference between the Brahman and the Jiva, Visistadvaita states that God is their inner-Self as well as transcendent.[64]


Number of Upanishads

New Upanishads were still composed in the medieval and early modern period: discoveries of newer Upanishads were being reported as late as 1926.[8] One, the Muktikā Upanishad, predates 1656[66] and contains a list of 108 canonical Upanishads,[67] including itself as the last. However, several texts under the title of “Upanishads” originated right up to the first half of the 20th century, some of which did not deal with subjects of Vedic philosophy.[68] The newer Upanishads are known to be imitations of the mukhya Upanishads.

Dara Shikoh, son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, translated 50 Upanishads into Persian in 1657. The first written English translation came in 1805 from Colebrooke,[69] who was aware of 170 Upanishads. Sadhale’s catalog from 1985, the Upaniṣad-vākya-mahā-kośa lists 223 Upanishads.[70]


The Upanishads have been attributed to several authors: Yajnavalkya and Uddalaka Aruni feature prominently in the early Upanishads.[71] Other important writers include Shvetaketu, Shandilya, Aitareya, Pippalada and Sanatkumara. Important women discussants include Yajnavalkya’s wife Maitreyi, and Gargi.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan considers authorship claims in the text to be unreliable, believing the supposed authors to be fictional characters. An example is Shvetaketu from Chāndogya Upaniṣad for whom there are no sources or books which mention him nor any other works attributed to him.[72]

Chronology and geography

Scholars disagree about the exact dates of the composition of the Upanishads. Different researchers have provided different dates for the Vedic and Upanashic eras. Some authors believe the oldest of these, the Brihadaranyaka, Jaiminiya Upanisadbrahmana and the Chandogya Upanishads, were composed during the pre-Buddhist era of India,[6][7][note 10] while the Taittiriya, Aitareya and Kausitaki, which show Buddhist influence, must have been composed after the 5th century BCE.[7] The remainder of the mukhya Upanishads are dated to the last few centuries BC.[7]

Ranade criticizes Deussen for assuming that the oldest Upanishads were written in prose, followed by those that were written in verse and the last few again in prose. He proposes a separate chronology based on a battery of six tests.[75] The tables below summarize some of the prominent work:[76]

Dates proposed by scholars for the Vedic and/or Upanishadic era


Start (BC)

End (BC)

Method employed

Tilak (Winternitz expresses agreement)




B. V. Kameshwara Aiyar




Max Muller







Linguistic, ideological development, etc.




Ideological development

Dates and chronology of the Principal Upanishads

Deussen (1000 or 800 – 500 BC)

Ranade (1200 – 600 BC)

Radhakrishnan (800 – 600 BC)

Ancient prose Upanishads: Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Kena
Poetic Upanishads: Kena, Katha, Isa, Svetasvatara, Mundaka
Later prose: Prasna, Maitri, Mandukya

Group I: Brihadaranyaka, Chāndogya
Group II: Isa, Kena
Group III: Aitareya, Taittiriya, Kaushitaki
Group IV: Katha, Mundaka, Svetasvatara
Group V: Prasna, Mandukya, Maitrayani

Pre-Buddhist, prose: Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Taittiriya, Chāndogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kena
Transitional phase: Kena (1–3), Brihadaranyaka (IV 8–21), Katha, Mandukya
Elements of Samkhya and Yoga: Maitri, Svetasvatara


The Mahajanapadas were the sixteen most powerful kingdoms and republics of the era, located mainly across the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, however there were a number of smaller kingdoms stretching the length and breadth of Ancient India.


Map of northern India showing kingdoms in which the oldest Upanishads – the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya were composed. River Indus is shown by its Sanskrit name Sindhu

The general area of the composition of the early Upanishads was northern India, the region bounded on the west by the Indus valley, on the east by lower Ganges river, on the north by the Himalayan foothills, and on the south by the Vindhya mountain range. There is confidence about the early Upanishads being the product of the geographical center of ancient Brahmanism, comprising the regions of Kuru-Panchala and Kosala-Videha together with the areas immediately to the south and west of these.[77]

While significant attempts have been made recently to identify the exact locations of the individual Upanishads, the results are tentative. Witzel identifies the center of activity in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as the area of Videha, whose king, Janaka, features prominently in the Upanishad. Yajnavalkya is another individual who features prominently, almost as the personal theologian of Janaka.[78] Brahmins of the central region of Kuru-Panchala rightly considered their land as the place of the best theological and literary activities, since this was the heartland of Brahmanism of the late Vedic period. The setting of the third and the fourth chapters of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads were probably intended to show that Yajnavalkya of Videha defeated all the best theologians of the Kuru Panchala, thereby demonstrating the rise of Videha as a center of learning. The Chandogya Upanishad was probably composed in a more Western than an Eastern location, possibly somewhere in the western region of the Kuru-Panchala country.[79] The great Kuru-Panchala theologian Uddalaka Aruni who was vilified in the Brihadaranyaka features prominently in the Chandogya Upanishad. Compared to the Principal Upanishads, the new Upanishads recorded in the Muktikā belong to an entirely different region, probably southern India, and are considerably relatively recent.[16]

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan claims that most of the Upanishads were kept secret for centuries, only passed on to others orally in the form of Shloka, and that it difficult to determine how much the current texts have changed from the original.[80]

Development of thought

While the hymns of the Vedas emphasize rituals and the Brahmanas serve as a liturgical manual for those Vedic rituals, the spirit of the Upanishads is inherently opposed to ritual.[81] The older Upanishads launch attacks of increasing intensity on the ritual. Anyone who worships a divinity other than the Self is called a domestic animal of the gods in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Chāndogya Upanishad parodies those who indulge in the acts of sacrifice by comparing them with a procession of dogs chanting Om! Let’s eat. Om! Let’s drink. The Mundaka launches the most scathing attack on the ritual by comparing those who value sacrifice with an unsafe boat that is endlessly overtaken by old age and death.[81]

The opposition to the ritual is not explicit all the time. On several occasions the Upanishads extend the task of the Aranyakas by making the ritual allegorical and giving it a philosophical meaning. For example, the Brihadaranyaka interprets the practice of horse-sacrifice or ashvamedha allegorically. It states that the over-lordship of the earth may be acquired by sacrificing a horse. It then goes on to say that spiritual autonomy can only be achieved by renouncing the universe which is conceived in the image of a horse.[81]

In similar fashion, the pattern of reducing the number of gods in the Vedas becomes more emphatic in the Upanishads. When Yajnavalkaya is asked how many gods exist, he decrements the number successively by answering thirty-three, six, three, two, one and a half and finally one. Vedic gods such as the Rudras, Visnu, Brahma are gradually subordinated to the supreme, immortal and incorporeal Brahman of the Upanishads. In fact Indra and the supreme deity of the Brahamanas, Prajapati, are made door keepers to the Brahman’s residence in the Kausitaki Upanishad.[81]

In short, the one reality or ekam sat of the Vedas becomes the ekam eva a-dvitiyam or “the one and only and sans a second” in the Upanishads.[81]

Worldwide transmission


The Upanishads impressed Schopenhauer. He called them “the production of the highest human wisdom”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan claims that translation often requires difficult research and subjective choices because most of the Upanishads were written in an old Sanskrit (comparable to Old Latin), which is no longer spoken and has a complicated sentence structure.[82]

However, the Upanishads have still influenced world culture in part through later Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, which Radhakrishnan says conveyed a “message based on the ancient wisdom, prajñā purāņī, of the Upaniṣads.”[83]:13 The Gītā Dhyānam, a 9-verse poetic invocation that is often published with the Gītā,[84] celebrates the purported Upanishadic influence in a famous verse stating that “The Upaniṣads are the cows… and the nectar-like gitā is the excellent milk.”[83]:13

Given that Indian Brahmin seers are reputed to have visited Greece, it may be that the Upanishadic sages influenced Ancient Greek philosophy.[85] Many ideas in Plato’s Dialogues, particularly, have Indian analogues – several concepts in the Platonic psychology of reason bear resemblance to the gunas of Indian philosophy. Professor Edward Johns Urwick conjectures that The Republic owes several central concepts to Indian influence.[85][86] Garb and West have also concluded that this was due to Indian influence.[87][88]

A. R. Wadia dissents in that Plato’s metaphysics were rooted in this life,[85] the primary aim being an ideal state. He later proposed a state less ordered but more practicable and conducive to human happiness. As for the Upanishadic thinkers, their goal was not an ideal state or society, but moksha or deliverance from the endless cycle of birth and death. Wadia concludes that there was no exchange of information and ideas between Plato and the Upanishadic thinkers: Plato remains Greek and the Indian sages remain Indian.[85]

The Upanishads were a part of an oral tradition. Their study was confined to the higher castes of Indian society.[89] Sudras and women were not given access to them soon after their composition. The Upanishads have been translated in to various languages including Persian, Italian, Urdu, French, Latin, German, English, Dutch, Polish, Japanese and Russian.[90] The Moghul Emperor Akbar’s reign (1556–1586) saw the first translations of the Upanishads into Persian,[91][92] and his great-grandson, Dara Shikoh, produced a collection called Sirr-e-Akbar (The Greatest Mysteries) in 1657, with the help of Sanskrit Pandits of Varansi. Its introduction stated that the Upanishads constitute the Qur’an‘s “Kitab al-maknun” or hidden book.[93][94] But Akbar’s and Sikoh’s translations remained unnoticed in the Western world until 1775.[91]

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron, a French Orientalist who had lived in India between 1755 and 1761, received a manuscript of the Upanishads in 1775 from M. Gentil, and translated it into French and Latin, publishing the Latin translation in two volumes in 1802–1804 as Oupneck’hat.[95] The French translation was never published.[96] The first German translation appeared in 1832 and Roer’s English version appeared in 1853. However, Max Mueller’s 1879 and 1884 editions were the first systematic English treatment to include the 12 Principal Upanishads.[90] After this, the Upanishads were rapidly translated into Dutch, Polish, Japanese and Russian.[97]

Global scholarship and praise

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer read the Latin translation and praised the Upanishads in his main work, The World as Will and Representation (1819), as well as in his Parerga and Paralipomena (1851).[98] He found his own philosophy was in accord with the Upanishads, which taught that the individual is a manifestation of the one basis of reality. For Schopenhauer, that fundamentally real underlying unity is what we know in ourselves as “will”. Schopenhauer used to keep a copy of the Latin Oupnekhet by his side and is said to have commented, “It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death”.[99] Another German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, praised the mystical and spiritual aspects of the Upanishads.[100] Schelling and other philosophers associated with German idealism were dissatisfied with Christianity as propagated by churches. They were fascinated with the Vedas and the Upanishads.[100] In the United States, the group known as the Transcendentalists were influenced by the German idealists. These Americans, such as Emerson and Thoreau, were not satisfied with traditional Christian mythology and therefore embraced Schelling’s interpretation of Kant‘s Transcendental idealism, as well as his celebration of the romantic, exotic, mystical aspect of the Upanishads. As a result of the influence of these writers, the Upanishads gained renown in Western countries.[101] Erwin Schrödinger, the great quantum physicist said, “The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong prejudices stand in the West.”[102] Eknath Easwaran, in translating the Upanishads, articulates how they “form snapshots of towering peaks of consciousness taken at various times by different observers and dispatched with just the barest kind of explanation”.[103]


The Brihadaranyaka gives an unorthodox explanation of the origin of the caste-system. It says that a similar four-tier caste system existed in heaven which is now replicated on earth.[104] This has been criticized by the Dalit leader Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He studied the philosophy of the Upanishads pragmatically and concluded that they were most ineffective and inconsequential piece of speculation and that they had no effect on the moral and social order of the Hindus.[105] Ambedkar implies that the voluminous Upanishads are a useless work because of their inability to effect any change in the caste-biased, inherently unequal Hindu society. He dismisses the Upanishads by quoting Huxley in saying that Upanishadic philosophy can be reduced to very few words. Ambedkar agrees with Huxley:

In supposing the existence of a permanent reality, or “substance”, beneath the shifting series of phenomena, whether of matter or of mind. The substance of the cosmos was “Brahma”, that of the individual man “Atman”; and the latter was separated from the former only, if I may so speak, by its phenomenal envelope, by the casing of sensations, thoughts and desires, pleasures and pains, which make up the illusive phantasmagoria of life. This the ignorant, take for reality; their “Atman” therefore remains eternally imprisoned in delusions, bound by the fetters of desire and scourged by the whip of misery.

—Thomas Huxley[106]

John Murray Mitchell, a Western writer, asserts that by suggesting that all appearance is an illusion, the Upanishads are potentially overturning ethical distinctions.[107] Dr. A.E. Gough, an early European orientalist, remarked that the Upanishads were “the work of a rude age, a deteriorated race, and a barbarous and unprogressive community.”[108] About the Indian Philosophy in general, Dr. A.E. Gough continued to say, “In treating of Indian Philosophy a writer has to deal with thoughts of lower order than the thoughts of the every day life of Europe. The great difficulty lies in this, that a low order of ideas has to be expressed in a high order of terms, and that the English words suggest a wealth of analysis and association altogether foreign to thoughts that are to be reproduced. The effort is nothing less than an endeavour to revert to a ruder type of mental culture and to become for the time being barbarous.”[108] According to another writer, David Kalupahana, the Upanishadic thinkers came to consider change as a mere illusion, because it could not be reconciled with a permanent and homogeneous reality. They were therefore led to a complete denial of plurality.[109] He states that philosophy suffered a setback because of the transcendentalism resulting from the search of the essential unity of things.[110] Kalupahana explains further that reality was simply considered to be beyond space, time, change, and causality. This caused change to be a mere matter of words, nothing but a name and due to this, metaphysical speculation took the upper hand. As a result, the Upanishads fail to give any rational explanation of the experience of things.[110] Paul Deussen criticized the idea of unity in the Upanishads as it excluded all plurality, and therefore, all proximity in space, all succession in time, all interdependence as cause and effect, and all opposition as subject and object.[111]

Association with Vedas

All Upanishads are associated with one of the five Vedas—Rigveda, Samaveda, Shukla Yajurveda, Krishna Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. The Muktikā Upanishad’s list of 108 Upanishads groups the first 10 as mukhya, 21 as Sāmānya Vedānta, 23 as Sannyāsa, nine as Shākta, 13 as Vaishnava, 14 as Shaiva and 17 as Yoga.[112] The 108 Upanishads as recorded in the Muktikā are shown in the table below.[113][114] The mukhya Upanishads are highlighted.

Veda-Upanishad association











Kauśītāki, Ātmabodha, Mudgala


Tripura, Saubhāgya, Bahvṛca

Akṣamālika (Mālika)



Chāndogya, Kena

Vajrasūchi, Mahad, Sāvitrī

Āruṇeya, Maitrāyaṇi, Maitreyi, Sannyāsa, Kuṇḍika

Vāsudeva, Avyakta

Rudrākṣa, Jābāla

Yogachūḍāmaṇi, Darśana

Krishna Yajurveda

Taittirīya, Śvetāśvatara, Kaṭha

Sarvasāra, Śukarahasya, Skanda (Tripāḍvibhūṭi), Śārīraka, Ekākṣara, Akṣi, Prāṇāgnihotra

Brahma, Śvetāśvatara, Garbha, Tejobindu, Avadhūta, Kaṭharudra, Varāha


Nārāyaṇa (Mahānārāyaṇa), Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa (Kali)

Kaivalya, Kālāgnirudra, Dakṣiṇāmūrti, Rudrahṛdaya, Pañcabrahma

Amṛtabindu, Amṛtanāda, Kṣurika, Dhyānabindu, Brahmavidyā, Yogatattva, Yogaśikhā, Yogakuṇḍalini

Shukla Yajurveda

Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Īśa

Subāla, Mantrikā, Nirālamba, Paiṅgala, Adhyātmā, Muktikā

Jābāla, Paramahaṃsa, Advayatāraka, Bhikṣu, Turīyātīta, Yājñavalkya, Śāṭyāyani


Haṃsa, Triśikhi, Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa


Muṇḍaka, Māṇḍūkya, Praśna

Sūrya, Ātmā

Parivrāt (Nāradaparivrājaka), Paramahaṃsaparivrājaka, Parabrahma

Sītā, Annapūrṇa, Devī, Tripurātapani, Bhāvana

Nṛsiṃhatāpanī, Mahānārāyaṇa (Tripādvibhuti), Rāmarahasya, Rāmatāpaṇi, Gopālatāpani, Kṛṣṇa, Hayagrīva, Dattātreya, Gāruḍa

Śira, Atharvaśikha, Bṛhajjābāla, Śarabha, Bhasma, Gaṇapati

Śāṇḍilya, Pāśupata, Mahāvākya


1.       ^ Advaita Vedanta, summarized by Shankara (788–820), advances a non-dualistic (a-dvaita) interpretation of the Upanishads.”[3]

2.       ^ “These Upanishadic ideas are developed into Advaita monism. Brahman’s unity comes to be taken to mean that appearances of individualities.[4]

3.       ^ “The doctrine of advaita (non dualism) has is origin in the Upanishads.”[5]

4.       ^ These are believed to pre-date Gautam Buddha (c. 500 BC)[21]

5.       ^ The breakdown of the Vedic cults is more obscured by retrospective ideology than any other period in Indian history. It is commonly assumed that the dominant philosophy now became an idealist monism, the identification of atman (self) and Brahman (Spirit), and that this mysticism was believed to provide a way to transcend rebirths on the wheel of karma. This is far from an accurate picture of what we read in the Upanishads. It has become traditional to view the Upanishads through the lens of Shankara’s Advaita interpretation. This imposes the philosophical revolution of about 700 C.E. upon a very different situation 1,000 to 1,500 years earlier. Shankara picked out monist and idealist themes from a much wider philosophical lineup.[57]

6.       ^ In this Introduction I have avoided speaking of ‘the philosophy of the upanishads’, a common feature of most introductions to their translations. These documents were composed over several centuries and in various regions, and it is futile to try to discover a single doctrine or philosophy in them.[59]

7.       ^ The Upanishadic age was also characterized by a pluralism of worldviews. While some Upanishads have been deemed ‘monistic’, others, including the Katha Upanishad, are dualistic.[60]

8.       ^ The Maitri is one of the Upanishads that inclines more toward dualism, thus grounding classical Samkhya and Yoga, in contrast to the non-dualistic Upanishads eventuating in Vedanta.[61]

9.       ^ For instances of Platonic pluralism in the early Upanishads see Randall.[62]

10.    ^ The date of the Buddha’s birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BC to 483 BC,[73] but more recent opinion dates his death to between to between 486 and 483 BC or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BC.[74]


1.       ^ a b c d Mahadevan 1956, p. 56.

2.       ^ Ranade 1926, p. 205.

3.       ^ Cornille 1992, p. 12.

4.       ^ Phillips 1995, p. 10.

5.       ^ Marbaniang 2010, p. 91.

6.       ^ a b Olivelle 1998, p. xxxvi.

7.       ^ a b c d e King & Ācārya 1995, p. 52.

8.       ^ a b Ranade 1926, p. 12.

9.       ^ Seymour-Smith, Martin (1998). The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today, Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ, 1998, ISBN 0806520000

10.    ^ Deussen, P., Geden, A. (2010). The Philosophy of the Upanishads. p. 42. Cosimo, Inc. ISBN 1616402393, 9781616402396.

11.    ^ Hebbar, N. Influence of Upanishads in the West. Retrieved on: 2012-03-02.

12.    ^ Macdonell 2004, p. 53.

13.    ^ Schayer 1925, pp. 57–67.

14.    ^ Monier-Williams, p. 201.

15.    ^ Müller 1900, p. lxxxiii.

16.    ^ a b Deussen 1908, pp. 35–36.

17.    ^ Varghese 2008, p. 131.

18.    ^ Holdrege 1995, pp. 426.

19.    ^ Sharma 1985, pp. 3, 10–22, 145.

20.    ^ M. Fujii, On the formation and transmission of the JUB, Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora 2, 1997

21.    ^ Olivelle 1998, pp. 3–4.

22.    ^ King 1995, p. 52.

23.    ^ Ranade 1926, p. 61.

24.    ^ Joshi 1994, pp. 90–92.

25.    ^ Heehs 2002, p. 85.

26.    ^ Rinehart 2004, p. 17.

27.    ^ Mueller 1859, p. 317.

28.    ^ Singh 2002, pp. 3–4.

29.    ^ Schrader & Adyar Library 1908, p. v.

30.    ^ Brooks 1990, pp. 13–14.

31.    ^ Mahadevan 1956, p. 59.

32.    ^ Smith 1995, p. 10.

33.    ^ Lanman 1897, p. 790.

34.    ^ Brown 1922, p. 266.

35.    ^ Slater 1897, p. 32.

36.    ^ Varghese 2008, p. 132.

37.    ^ Parmeshwaranand 2000, p. 458.

38.    ^ Robinson 1992, p. 51..

39.    ^ Panikkar 2001, p. 669.

40.    ^ Panikkar 2001, pp. 725–727.

41.    ^ Panikkar 2001, pp. 747–750.

42.    ^ Panikkar 2001, pp. 697–701.

43.    ^ Radhakrishnan, Dr. Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanishads. Indus / Harper Collins India; 5th edition (1994). ISBN 8172231245, 978-8172231248.

44.    ^ Ranade 1926, p. 247.

45.    ^ a b Ranade 1926, p. 248.

46.    ^ Ranade 1926, pp. 249–278.

47.    ^ Radhakrishnan 1956, p. 272.

48.    ^ Mahadevan 1956, p. 62.

49.    ^ Ranade 1926, pp. 179–182.

50.    ^ Mahadevan 1956, p. 63.

51.    ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica.

52.    ^ a b Klostermaier 2007, pp. 361–363.

53.    ^ a b Radhakrishnan 1956, p. 273.

54.    ^ Radhakrishnan 1956, p. 284.

55.    ^ King 1999, p. 221.

56.    ^ Nakamura 2004, p. 31.

57.    ^ a b Collins 2000, p. 195.

58.    ^ King 1999, p. 219.

59.    ^ Olivelle 1998, p. 4.

60.    ^ Glucklich 2008, p. 70.

61.    ^ Fields 2001, p. 26.

62.    ^ Collins 2000, pp. 197–198.

63.    ^ Raghavendrachar 1956, p. 322.

64.    ^ a b c Chari 1956, p. 305.

65.    ^ a b Sharma 2000, pp. 1–2.

66.    ^ Verma 2009.

67.    ^ Sen 1937, p. 19.

68.    ^ Varghese 2008, p. 101.

69.    ^ See Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1858), Essays on the religion and philosophy of the Hindus. London: Williams and Norgate. In this volume, see chapter 1 (pp. 1–69), On the Vedas, or Sacred Writings of the Hindus, reprinted from Colebrooke’s Asiatic Researches, Calcutta: 1805, Vol 8, pp. 369–476. A translation of the Aitareya Upanishad appears in pages 26–30 of this chapter.

70.    ^ Sadhale 1987.

71.    ^ Mahadevan 1956, pp. 59-60.

72.    ^ Radhakrishnan, Dr. Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanishads. Indus / Harper Collins India; 5th edition (1994). ISBN 8172231245, 978-8172231248.

73.    ^ Cousins 1996, pp. 57–63.

74.    ^ Narain 2003.

75.    ^ Ranade 1926, pp. 13–14.

76.    ^ Sharma 1985, pp. 17–19.

77.    ^ Olivelle 1998, p. xxxvii.

78.    ^ Olivelle 1998, p. xxxviii.

79.    ^ Olivelle 1998, p. xxxix.

80.    ^ Radhakrishnan, Dr. Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanishads. Indus / Harper Collins India; 5th edition (1994). ISBN 8172231245, 978-8172231248.

81.    ^ a b c d e Mahadevan 1956, p. 57.

82.    ^ Radhakrishnan, Dr. Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanishads. Indus / Harper Collins India; 5th edition (1994). ISBN 8172231245, 978-8172231248.

83.    ^ a b Radhakrishnan, S. (1993). The Bhagavadgita: With an introductory essay, Sanskrit text, English translation, and notes. New Delhi: HarperCollins. ISBN 8172230877.

84.    ^ Nataraja Guru states that the Gītā Dhyānam “is found prefixed to most Indian editions of the Gita.”: page 7 in Guru, Nataraja (1973). The Bhagavad gita: A sublime hymn of dialectics composed by the antique sage-bard vyasa. Asia Publishing House.

85.    ^ a b c d Wadia 1956, p. 64-65.

86.    ^ Ranade 1925, p. xix.

87.    ^ Chousalkar, p. 130.

88.    ^ Urwick 1920, p. 14.

89.    ^ Sharma 1985, p. 19.

90.    ^ a b Sharma 1985, p. 20.

91.    ^ a b Müller 1900, p. lvii.

92.    ^ Muller 1899, p. 204.

93.    ^ Mohammada 2007, p. 54.

94.    ^ Engineer 2006, p. 20.

95.    ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1911.

96.    ^ Müller 1900, p. lviii.

97.    ^ Sharma 1985, p. 19-20.

98.    ^ Schopenhauer & Payne 2000, p. 395.

99.    ^ Schopenhauer & Payne 2000, p. 397.

100.^ a b Singh 1999, p. 456-461.

101.^ Versluis 1993, pp. 69, 76, 95. 106–110.

102.^ Schrödinger 1992, p. 129.

103.^ Easwaran 2007, p. 9.

104.^ Ranade 1926, p. 59-60.

105.^ Singh 2000, pp. 97.

106.^ Singh 2000, pp. 96–97.

107.^ Murray Mitchell, John. Hinduism past and present: with an account of recent Hindu reformers and a brief comparison between Hinduism and Christianity. Asian Educational Services, 2000. ISBN 8120603389, 9788120603387.

108.^ a b John George, Sir Woodroffe. Is India Civilized? Essays on Indian Culture. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009. p. 154. ISBN 1113433655, 9781113433657.

109.^ Kalupahana 1975, p. 14.

110.^ a b Kalupahana 1975, p. 15.

111.^ Deussen 1908, pp. 156.

112.^ Sri Aurbindo Kapali Sastr Institute of Vedic Culture.

113.^ Farquhar 1920, p. 364.

114.^ Parmeshwaranand 2000, pp. 404–406.


Hinduism Sacred Texts By Wiki


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Literature regarded as central to the Vedic and Hindu literary tradition was originally predominantly composed in Sanskrit. Indeed, much of the morphology inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and other early texts.

OmVedic literature is divided by tradition into two categories: Shruti – that which is heard (traditionally understood as revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (stemming from human authors, not revelation). The Vedas constituting the former category are considered sacred texts or scripture by many followers of Hindu religion. The post-Vedic scriptures form the latter category: the various shastras and the itihaasas, or histories in epic Sanskrit verse. Holding an ambigu ous position between the Upanishads of the Vedas and the epics, the Bhagavad Gita is considered to be revered scripture by most Hindus today.

The Vedas

Main article: Vedas

Further information: Brahmanas

The Vedas form the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature[1] and the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism.[2]

According to the Rigveda itself, the Vedic Mantras were composed by various seers who had ‘seen’ (dṛś) them in deep concentration (dhī). However, to post-Vedic tradition, the Vedas are apauruṣeya “not human compositions”,[3] being supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called śruti (“what is heard”).[4][5] A number of Vedic mantras are recited as Hindu prayers, at religious functions and other auspicious occasions.

The philosophies and religious sects that developed in the Indian subcontinent have taken various positions on the Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as “orthodox” (āstika). Other Indian philosophies, such as Buddhism, Jainism and materialism, did not accept the authority of the Vedas and the former two evolved into separate religions. In Indian philosophy these groups are referred to as “heterodox” or “non-Vedic” (nāstika) schools.[6]

The central focus of all four Vedas is Vedic sacrifice (yajña), officiated by four main priests, each using materials from one of the four Vedas. Ritual is mediated by the fire-god Agni, through whom can the priests and thus the rest of society gain access to the Devas.

The four Vedas are the Ṛig-, Yajur-, Sāma- and Atharva Vedas. They are transmitted in various shākhās, or branches of knowledge. Depending on the branch, various early different commentaries (Brahmanas) and instructions (Sutras) are associated with each Veda.

  1. The Ṛigveda contains hymns (mantras) addressed to the gods that contain much of the mythology and ancient-most Vedic ritual practice;
  2. The Sāmaveda consists almost exclusively of mantras from the Rig Veda, arranged in an order that was used for singing at the Soma sacrifice;
  3. The Yajurveda contains prose mantras and verses extracted from the Rigveda used in ritual,in addition to detailed prose ‘commentaries’ (brāhmaṇa sections) on the sacrifices; and
  4. The Atharvaveda comprises magical spells against enemies, sorcerers, diseases and mistakes made during the sacrificial ritual, as well as hymns dealing wĀith household and royal rites, and in the speculative books (8-12) some spiritual content.[7]

Each of the four Veda has traditionally been divided into several sections:

  1. The Mantra portion, also called the Saṃhitā (संहिता), is a collection of hymns and prose mantras to be used in Vedic sacrifices.
  2. The Brāhmaṇas portion (ब्राह्मण) (not to be confused with Brahman, or the brahmin caste), contains the explanation of some of the mantras as well as prose commentaries explaining the meaning of the mantras and rituals.

The Brāhmaṇas style texts, commenting on the procedure and purpose of the Saṃhitās, are further divided:

  1. the Āraṇyakas (आरण्यक), which conclude the Brahmanas, are composed along a blurry line between
  2. the Upaniṣhads (उपनिषद्), which mainly contain early philosophical and metaphysical texts about the nature of macrocosm (the gods and the universe),ritual (yajña) and microcosm (humans) as well as the relationship between the soul (ātman) and the universal Brahman. The Upanishads are often referred to collectively as Vedanta (“the end of the Vedas”), not only because they appear physically in the concluding sections of each Veda, but also because their teachings are traditionally seen as the culmination of all other Vedic knowledge.[8]

The Upanishads

Main article: Upanishad

While the Upanishads are part of the “Vedas”, their actual importance to Hindu philosophy has exceeded that of Hindu scriptures; indirectly, it resulted in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a self-proclaimed yoga upanishad. As such, they are different from the Samhitas and Brahmanas and are the basis of Vedantic thought.

The Upanishads (“Sittings near, laying siege to [a Teacher]”) are part of the Shruti and primarily discuss early philosophy; they also contain accounts of various debates between contemporary priests and sages. There are more than 200 texts counted as Upanishads; however, only 13 are generally accepted as primary.

The Upanishads have been acknowledged by scholars and philosophers from both East and West, from Schrödinger, Thoreau and Emerson and Schopenhauer to Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghosh.

Total number of Upanishads almost 1008, from them 108 are main, and from 108, mainly accepted as actual 11. This 11 nos. of Upanashads are main (1) Esha, (2) Ken, (3) Katho, (4) Mundaka, (5) Mandukkya, (6) Taitariya, (7) Oaitariya, (8) Prashna, (9) Shetaswatar, (10) Chandyagya, (11) Brihadaranayaka.

Post-Vedic Hindu scriptures

The new texts that appeared afterwards were called Smriti. Smriti literature includes Itihasas (epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata), Harivamsa Puranas, Agamas and Darshanas.

The Dharmashastras (law books), though derivatives of earlier Vedic texts such as the Dharmasutras, are traditionally considered as part of the Smrti. From time to time great law-givers (e.g. Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parashara) emerged, who collected existing customs and laws and to ensure that the then way of life was consistent with both the Vedic spirit and the changing times. However, Dharmashastras have been disregarded by many groups of Hindus, namely those following Vedanta, Bhakti, bhakti and Tantra streams of Hinduism, even if they practically speaking still follow the samskaras from birth to death.

One aspect of the philosophy reflected in the epics is the concept of Avatar (appearance of God on the Earth). The two main avataras of Vishnu that appear in the epics are Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, and Krishna, the protagonist in the Mahabharata. Unlike some of the deities of the Vedic Samhitas and the all-pervading and formless Brahman of the Upanishads, the avataras have more developed personalities, as loving and righteous descents of the Supreme Being among mortals.

The Bhagavad Gita

Main article: Bhagavad Gita

Many followers of Hindu religion or Sanatana Dharma opine that the most succinct and powerful abbreviation of the overwhelmingly diverse realm of Vedic thought is to be found in the Bhagavad Gita (also known simply “The Gita”). Essentially, it is a microcosm of Vedanta- Bhakti, Yogic, and Karmic aspects of Sanatan Dharma, or Vedic religion. Bhagavad Gita (literally: Song of the Lord) is a revered part of the epic poems of the Mahabharata, book 6. It speaks not only to Vaishnavas but to all people of all faiths, and it is accepted by the members of most Hindus as a seminal text. The “tag line” of each chapter of the Bhagavad Gita refers to the book as the “Gita Upanishad” and as a “yoga text,” as Lord Krishna speaks the truths of yoga and the Upanishads for all.

What holds the devotee’s mind foremost is Krishna’s repeated injunction to abandon the mortal self to the infinite love of the Lord. He not only speaks to the mind and to the Atman, individual spirit’s innate sense of Dharma, but calls for overwhelming love. By loving God one also loves the immortal Self, finds harmony in oneself, and finds oneself at peace with the entire cosmos. The Gita speaks of cultivating the intellect, properly using the body, and always remaining equipoised in relation to the greater Self. The Bhagavad Gita truly presents itself as a liberation text universal in its message. In the Bhagavadgita Krishna stresses “nishkam karma” (means self-less or desire-less action; an action performed without any expectation of fruits or results).

The Puranas

Main article: Puranas

The Puranas are a vast medieval literature of stories and allegory. Eighteen are considered to be Mahapuranas, or Great Puranas, and thus authoritative references on the Gods and Goddesses, religious rites and holy places (most of which are in the Indian subcontinent, known as Bharat).

Eighteen (18)are considered main purans called “Mahapuranas”, and another Eighteen (18) are “Upapuranas”. That means total number of Puranas in Hindu Literature are 36. Maharapuranas (18) – (1) Brahma (2) Padma (3) Vaishnav (4) Shaiva (5) Bhagvat (6) Naradiya (7) Markendeya (8) Agneya (9) Bhaibishya (10) Brhamabaibarta (11) Linga (12) Baraha (13) Skanda (14) Baman (15) Kourma (16) Matsa (17) Garud (18) Brahmanda

Upapuranas (18) – (1) Aadi (2) Nrisingha (3) Bayu (4) Shiva (5) Dharma (6) Durbasa (7) Narad (8) Nandikeshwar (9) Ushana (10) Kapil (11) Barun (12) Shamba (13) Kalika (14) Maheswar (15) Devi (16) Padma (17) Parasar (18) Marichi

one Upparana also available (19) Bhaskar

Total 37 Hindu Puranas available, 18 Mahapuranas, and 19 Upapuranas

The Tevaram Saivite hymns

The Tevaram is a body of remarkable hymns exuding Bhakti composed more than 1400–1200 years ago in the classical Tamil language by three Saivite composers. They are credited with igniting the Bhakti movement in the whole of India.

Divya Prabandha Vaishnavite hymns

The Nalayira Divya Prabandha (or Nalayira (4000) Divya Prabhamdham) is a divine collection of 4,000 verses (Naalayira in Tamil means ‘four thousand’) composed before 8th century AD[1], by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centuries. The work is the beginning of the canonization of the twelve Vaishnava poet saints, and these hymns are still sung extensively today. The works were lost before they were collected and organized in the form of an anthology by Nathamunigal. The Prabandha sings the praise of Sriman Narayana (or Vishnu) and his many forms. The Alvars sung these songs at various sacred shrines. These shrines are known as the Divya Desams.

In South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the Divya Prabhandha is considered as equal to the Vedas, hence the epithet Dravida Veda. In many temples, Srirangam, for example, the chanting of the Divya Prabhandham forms a major part of the daily service. Prominent among the 4,000 verses are the 1,100+ verses known as the Thiru Vaaymozhi, composed by Nammalvar (Kaaril Maaran Sadagopan) of Thiruk Kurugoor.

Other Hindu texts

Other famous texts of Hinduism include those of the bhakti yoga school (loving devotion to God) such as the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas (an epic poem based on the Ramayana), the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva (a religious song of the divine love of Krishna and his consort Radha), Adi Shankara’s commentaries and other works, Ramanujacharya’s nine books including “Sri Bhasya”, Madhvacharya’s commentaries and the Devi Mahatmya (the tales of Devi, the mother goddess, in her many forms as Shakti, Durga, Parvati, etc.).


1.       ^ see e.g. MacDonell 2004, pp. 29–39; Sanskrit literature (2003) in Philip’s Encyclopedia. Accessed 2007-08-09

2.       ^ see e.g. Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, p. 3; Witzel, Michael, “Vedas and Upaniṣads”, in: Flood 2003, p. 68

3.       ^ Apte, pp. 109f. has “not of the authorship of man, of divine origin”

4.       ^ Apte 1965, p. 887

5.       ^ Muller 1891, pp. 17–18

6.       ^ Flood 1996, p. 82

7.       ^ Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol.I, at 3-4 (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9

8.       ^ Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A New Translation Vol.I, at 3-7 (5th Ed. 1990) ISBN 0-911206-15-9


Bhagavad Gita By Wiki

Bhagavad Gita

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, 18th–19th century painting

The Bhagavad Gita (pronounced: [ˈbʱəɡəʋəd̪ ɡiːˈt̪aː], also referred to as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Due to its presence in the epic, it is classified as a Smṛiti text. However, those branches of Hinduism that give it the status of an Upanishad also consider it a Śruti or “revealed text”.[1][2] As it is taken to represent a summary of the Upanishadic teachings, it is also called “the Upanishad of the Upanishads.”[3]

The context of the Gita is a conversation between Krishna and the Pandava prince Arjuna taking place in the middle of the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra War with armies on both sides ready to battle. Responding to Arjuna’s confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins who command a tyranny imposed on a disputed empire, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, and elaborates on yoga, Samkhya, reincarnation, moksha, karma yoga and jnana yoga among other topics.[4]

Date and text


Bhagavad Gita, a 19th-century manuscript

Scholars roughly date the Bhagavad Gita to the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the Gita having been influenced by the soteriologies of Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya and Yoga.[5] Though the Bhagavad Gita, as a smrti, has no independent authority from the Upanishads (sruti), the Gita is in many respects unalike to the Upanishads in format and content.[6]

The Bhagavad Gita occurs in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata and comprises 18 chapters from the 25th through 42nd and consists of 700 verses.[7] Its authorship is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa, the compiler of the Mahabharata.[8] Because of differences in recensions, the verses of the Gita may be numbered in the full text of the Mahabharata as chapters 6.25–42 or as chapters 6.23–40.[9] According to the recension of the Gita commented on by Adi Shankara, the number of verses is 700, but there is evidence to show that old manuscripts had 745 verses.[10] The verses themselves, using the range and style of Sanskrit Anustup meter (chhandas) with similes and metaphors, are written in a poetic form that is traditionally chanted.[11]


A manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra, fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahābhārata.



Bronze statue representing the discourse of Krishna and Arjuna, in Kurukshetra

The Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic Kurukshetra war, with the Pandava prince Arjuna becoming filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice.

War as allegory

There are many who regard the story of the Gita as an allegory; Swami Nikhilananda, for example, takes Arjuna as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna’s chariot as the body, etc.[12]

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in his commentary on the Gita,[13] interpreted the battle as “an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man’s higher impulses struggling against evil.”[14] Swami Vivekananda also said that the first discourse in the Gita related to war can be taken allegorically.[15] Vivekananda further remarked, “this Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil.”[8]

In Sri Aurobindo‘s view, Krishna was a historical figure, but his significance in the Gita is as a “symbol of the divine dealings with humanity”,[16] while Arjuna typifies a “struggling human soul.”[17] However, Aurobindo rejects the interpretation that the Gita, and the Mahabharata by extension, is “an allegory of the inner life, and has nothing to do with our outward human life and actions”:[17]

…That is a view which the general character and the actual language of the epic does not justify and, if pressed, would turn the straightforward philosophical language of the Gita into a constant, laborious and somewhat puerile mystification….the Gita is written in plain terms and professes to solve the great ethical and spiritual difficulties which the life of man raises, and it will not do to go behind this plain language and thought and wrest them to the service of our fancy. But there is this much of truth in the view, that the setting of the doctrine though not symbolical, is certainly typical…

Overview of chapters


Krishna displays his Vishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

The Gita consists of eighteen chapters[18] in total:

Gita Dhyana: (contains 10 verses) This chapter is not a part of main Gita, but, Gita Dhyan is also included with Gita. In these ten verses Krishna has been praised and worshipped as God. It is common practice to recite Dhyana slokas before reading chapter(s) of Gita.[19]

  1. Arjuna-Visada Yoga: (contains 47 verses) Arjuna requests Krishna to move his chariot between the two armies. When Arjuna sees his relatives on the opposing army side of the Kurus, he loses morale and decides not to fight.
  2. Sankhya Yoga:: (contains 72 verses) After asking Krishna for help, Arjuna is instructed that only the body may be killed, as he was worried if it would become a sin to kill people (including his gurus and relatives), while the eternal self is immortal. Krishna appeals to Arjuna that, as a warrior, he has a duty to uphold the path of dharma through warfare. Krishna told Arjuna the three principles dharma, Atman and the Sharira (body).
  3. Karma Yoga: (contains 43 verses) Arjuna asks why he should engage in fighting if knowledge is more important than action. Krishna stresses to Arjuna that performing his duties for the greater good, but without attachment to results, is the appropriate course of action.
  4. Jnana-Karma-Sanyasa Yoga: (contains 42 verses) Krishna reveals that he has lived through many births, always teaching Yoga for the protection of the pious and the destruction of the impious and stresses the importance of accepting a guru.
  5. Karma-Sanyasa Yoga: (contains 29 verses) Arjuna asks Krishna if it is better to forgo action or to act (“renunciation or discipline of action”[20]). Krishna answers that both ways may be beneficent, but that acting in Karma Yoga is superior.
  6. Dhyan Yoga or Atmasanyam Yoga: (contains 46 verses) Krishna describes the correct posture for meditation and the process of how to achieve Samādhi.
  7. Jnana-Vijnana Yoga: (contains 30 verses) Krishna teaches the path of knowledge (Jnana Yoga).
  8. Aksara-Brahma Yoga: (contains 28 verses) Krishna defines the terms brahman, adhyatma, karma, atman, adhibhuta and adhidaiva and explains how one can remember him at the time of death and attain his supreme abode.
  9. Raja-Vidya-Raja-Guhya Yoga: (contains 34 verses) Krishna explains panentheism, “all beings are in me” as a way of remembering him in all circumstances.
  10. Vibhuti-Vistara-Yoga: (contains 42 verses) Krishna describes how he is the ultimate source of all material and spiritual worlds. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Being, quoting great sages who have also done so.
  11. Visvarupa-Darsana Yoga: (contains 55 verses) On Arjuna’s request, Krishna displays his “universal form” (Viśvarūpa), a theophany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all other beings and material in existence.
  12. Bhakti Yoga: (contains 20 verses) In this chapter Krishna extols the glory of devotion to God. Krishna describes the process of devotional service (Bhakti Yoga). He also explains different forms of spirtual disciplines.
  13. Ksetra-Ksetrajna Vibhaga Yoga: (contains 34 verses) In this chapter Krishna describes the (human) body as Kshetra, and tells one who knows this fact is a Ksetrajna. Krishna describes nature (prakrti), the enjoyer (purusha) and consciousness.
  14. Gunatraya-Vibhaga Yoga: (contains 27 verses) Krishna explains the three modes (gunas) of material nature.
  15. Purusottama Yoga: (contains 20 verses) Krishna describes a symbolic tree (representing material existence), its roots in the heavens and its foliage on earth. Krishna explains that this tree should be felled with the “axe of detachment”, after which one can go beyond to his supreme abode.
  16. Daivasura-Sampad-Vibhaga Yoga: (contains 24 verses) Krishna tells of the human traits of the divine and the demonic natures. He counsels that to attain the supreme destination one must give up lust, anger and greed, discern between right and wrong action by discernment through Buddhi and evidence from scripture and thus act correctly.
  17. Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga Yoga: (contains 28 verses) Krishna tells of three divisions of faith and the thoughts, deeds and even eating habits corresponding to the three gunas.
  18. Moksha-Sanyasa Yoga: (contains 78 verses) In conclusion, Krishna asks Arjuna to abandon all forms of dharma and simply surrender unto him. He describes this as the ultimate perfection of life.

As a scripture of yoga


Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra war field.

Major themes of yoga

The influential commentator Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita’s eighteen chapters into three sections, each of six chapters. According to his method of division, the first six chapters deal with Karma yoga, which is the means to the final goal, and the last six deal with the goal itself, which he says is Knowledge (Jnana). The middle six deal with bhakti.[21] Swami Gambhirananda characterizes Madhusudana Sarasvati’s system as a successive approach in which Karma yoga leads to Bhakti yoga, which in turn leads to Jnana yoga.[22]

Karma yoga

Karma Yoga is essentially Acting, or doing one’s duties in life as per his/her dharma, or duty, without attachment to results – a sort of constant sacrifice of action to the Supreme. It is action done without thought of gain. In a more modern interpretation, it can be viewed as duty bound deeds done without letting the nature of the result affect one’s actions. Krishna advocates Nishkam Karma (Selfless Action) as the ideal path to realize the Truth. The very important theme of Karma Yoga is not focused on renouncing the work, but again and again Krishna focuses on what should be the purpose of activity. Krishna mentions in following verses that actions must be performed to please the Supreme otherwise these actions become the cause of material bondage and cause repetition of birth and death in this material world. These concepts are described in the following verses:

“Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.”[23]

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction”(2.47)[24]

“Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga”(2.48)[25]

“With the body, with the mind, with the intellect, even merely with the senses, the Yogis perform action toward self-purification, having abandoned attachment. He who is disciplined in Yoga, having abandoned the fruit of action, attains steady peace…”[26]

In order to achieve true liberation, it is important to control all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy sense pleasures. The following verses illustrate this:[27]

“When a man dwells in his mind on the object of sense, attachment to them is produced. From attachment springs desire and from desire comes anger.”(2.62)[27]

“From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from loss of memory, the destruction of intelligence and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes”(2.63)[27]

Bhakti yoga

According to Catherine Cornille, Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, “The text [of the Gita] offers a survey of the different possible disciplines for attaining liberation through knowledge (jnana), action (karma) and loving devotion to God (bhakti), focusing on the latter as both the easiest and the highest path to salvation.”[28]

In the introduction to Chapter Seven of the Gita, bhakti is summed up as a mode of worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God. As M. R. Sampatkumaran explains in his overview of Ramanuja’s commentary on the Gita, “The point is that mere knowledge of the scriptures cannot lead to final release. Devotion, meditation and worship are essential.”[29]

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:

  • “And of all yogins, he who full of faith worships Me, with his inner self abiding in Me, him, I hold to be the most attuned (to me in Yoga).”(6.47) [30]
  • “After attaining Me, the great souls do not incur rebirth in this miserable transitory world, because they have attained the highest perfection.(8.15)”[31]
  • “… those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me… For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter.(12.6)”[32]
  • “And he who serves Me with the yoga of unswerving devotion, transcending these qualities [binary opposites, like good and evil, pain and pleasure] is ready for liberation in Brahman.” (14.26) [33]
  • “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are My very dear friend.”[34]
  • “Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not fear.”(18.66)[35]

Jnana yoga

Jnana Yoga is a process of learning to discriminate between what is real and what is not, what is eternal and what is not.

“When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception.”[36]

“Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.”[37]

Eighteen yogas

In Sanskrit editions of the Gita, the Sanskrit text includes a traditional chapter title naming each chapter as a particular form of yoga. These chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata.[38] Since there are eighteen chapters, there are therefore eighteen yogas mentioned, as explained in this quotation from Swami Chidbhavananda:

All the eighteen chapters in the Gita are designated, each as a type of yoga. The function of the yoga is to train the body and the mind…. The first chapter in the Gita is designated as system of yoga. It is called Arjuna Vishada Yogam – Yoga of Arjuna’s Dejection.[39]

In Sanskrit editions, these eighteen chapter titles all use the word yoga, but in English translations the word yoga may not appear. For example, the Sanskrit title of Chapter 1 as given in Swami Sivananda’s bilingual edition is arjunaviṣādayogaḥ which he translates as “The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna”.[40] Swami Tapasyananda‘s bilingual edition gives the same Sanskrit title, but translates it as “Arjuna’s Spiritual Conversion Through Sorrow”.[41] The English-only translation by Radhakrishnan gives no Sanskrit, but the chapter title is translated as “The Hesitation and Despondency of Arjuna”.[42] Other English translations, such as that by Zaehner, omit these chapter titles entirely.[43]

Swami Sivananda’s commentary says that the eighteen chapters have a progressive order to their teachings, by which Krishna “pushed Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another.”[44] As Winthrop Sargeant explains, “In the model presented by the Bhagavad Gītā, every aspect of life is in fact a way of salvation.”[45]

Message of the Gita

Advaita Vedanta uses the Bhagavad Gita in conjunction with the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras to arrive at its message.[46]

Some commentators have attempted to resolve the apparent conflict between the proscription of violence and ahimsa by allegorical readings. Gandhi, for example, took the position that the text is not concerned with actual warfare so much as with the “battle that goes on within each individual heart”. Such allegorical or metaphorical readings are derived from the Theosophical interpretations of Subba Row, William Q. Judge and Annie Besant. Stephen Mitchell has attempted to refute such allegorical readings.[47]

Scholar Radhakrishnan writes that the verse 11.55 is “the essence of bhakti” and the “substance of the whole teaching of the Gita”:[48]

He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me, free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me, O Pandava.

Ramakrishna said that the essential message of the Gita can be obtained by repeating the word several times,[49] “‘Gita, Gita, Gita’, you begin, but then find yourself saying ‘ta-Gi, ta-Gi, ta-Gi’. Tagi means one who has renounced everything for God.”

According to Swami Vivekananda, “If one reads this one Shloka — one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita.[50]

क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते । क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परंतप॥
Translation: Do not yield to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ. It does not become you. Shake off this base faint-heartnedness and arise, O scorcher of enemies! (2.3)

Swami Chinmayananda writes, “Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can re-organise our inner ways of thinking, feeling and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us.” [51]

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi writes, “The object of the Gita appears to me to be that of showing the most excellent way to attain self-realization” and this can be achieved by selfless action, “By desireless action; by renouncing fruits of action; by dedicating all activities to God, i.e., by surrendering oneself to Him body and soul.” Gandhi called Gita, The Gospel of Selfless Action.[52]

Eknath Easwaran writes that the Gita’s subject is “the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious”,[53] and “The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow”.[54]


It has been highly praised not only by prominent Indians such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but also by Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer,[55] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, and Herman Hesse.[3][56]

The Bhagavad Gita’s emphasis on selfless service was a prime source of inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi.[52] Mahatma Gandhi told, “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.”[57]

  • Albert Einstein told- “When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.” [57]
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India commented on Gita, “The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.” [57]
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Upon witnessing the world’s first nuclear test in 1945, he later said he had thought of the quotation “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, verse 32 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita.[58][59]
  • A 2006 report suggests that the Gita is replacing the influence of The Art of War (ascendant in the 1980s and ’90s) in the Western business community.[60]

Commentaries and translations

Classical commentaries

Traditionally the commentators belong to spiritual traditions or schools (sampradaya) and Guru lineages (parampara), which claim to preserve teaching stemming either directly from Krishna himself or from other sources, each claiming to be faithful to the original message. In the words of Mysore Hiriyanna, “[The Gita] is one of the hardest books to interpret, which accounts for the numerous commentaries on it – each differing from the rest in an essential point or the other.”[61]

Different translators and commentators have widely differing views on what multi-layered Sanskrit words and passages signify, and their presentation in English depending on the sampradaya they are affiliated to. The oldest and most influential medieval commentary was that of the founder of the Vedanta school[62] of extreme ‘non-dualism”, Shankara (788–820 A. D.),[63] also known as Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: Śaṅkarācārya).[64] Shankara’s commentary was based on a recension of the Gita containing 700 verses, and that recension has been widely adopted by others.[65] Ramanujacharya’s commentary chiefly seeks to show that the discipline of devotion to God (Bhakti yoga) is the way of salvation.[66] The commentary by Madhva, whose dates are given either as (b. 1199 – d. 1276)[67] or as (b. 1238 – d. 1317),[45] also known as Madhvacharya (Sanskrit: Madhvācārya), exemplifies thinking of the “dualist” school.[64] Madhva’s school of dualism asserts that there is, in a quotation provided by Winthrop Sargeant, “an eternal and complete distinction between the Supreme, the many souls, and matter and its divisions.”[45] Madhva is also considered to be one of the great commentators reflecting the viewpoint of the Vedanta school.[68] Madhva has written two commentaries on Bhagavadgita : Bhāshya and Tātparya. They have been explained further by many ancient pontiffs of Dvaita School like Padmanabha Tirtha, Jayatirtha and Raghavendra Tirtha.

In the Shaiva tradition,[69] the renowned philosopher Abhinavagupta (10–11th century CE) has written a commentary on a slightly variant recension called Gitartha-Samgraha.

Other classical commentators include Nimbarka (1162 CE), Vidyadhiraja Tirtha, Vallabha(1479 CE)., Madhusudana Saraswati, Raghavendra Tirtha, Vanamali Mishra, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 CE),[70] while Dnyaneshwar (1275–1296 CE) translated and commented on the Gita in Marathi, in his book Dnyaneshwari.

Modern Commentaries

Swami Chinmayananda Wrote a highly acclaimed commentary in which the Gita is presented as a universe text of spiritual guidance for humanity. Written for a modern intellectual, He gives an in-depth view of the Gita in the light of science and rationality without ignoring the original intent of the text and the traditional commentaries of the great Vedantin Adi Shankaracharya. In his effortlessly polished English, Swami Chinmayananda brings the message of Gita alive to the modern reader. [71]

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote a two-volume translation of and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita named – “God Talks with Arjuna: Bhagavad Gita”, offering a comprehensive examination of the science and philosophy of yoga. He outlines the Gita’s balanced path of meditation and right activity, and shows how we can create a life of spiritual integrity and joy. “Wherever one is on the way back to God, the Gita will shed its light on that segment of the journey… It is at once a profound scripture on the science of yoga, union with God, and a textbook for everyday living.” – Paramahansa Yogananda The book offers a translation and commentary of wide scope and vision. Exploring the psychological, spiritual and metaphysical depths of the Bhagavad Gita – from the subtle springs of human action to the grand design of the cosmic order.[72]

Independence movement

In modern times, notable commentaries were written by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, who used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement.[73][74] Tilak wrote his commentary while in jail during the period 1910–1911 serving a six-year sentence imposed by the British colonial government in India for sedition.[75] While noting that the Gita teaches possible paths to liberation, his commentary places most emphasis on Karma yoga.[76] No book was more central to Gandhi’s life and thought than the Bhagavadgita, which he referred to as his “spiritual dictionary”.[77] During his stay in Yeravda jail in 1929,[78] Gandhi wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in Gujarati. The Gujarati manuscript was translated into English by Mahadev Desai, who provided an additional introduction and commentary. It was published with a foreword by Gandhi in 1946.[79][80] Mahatma Gandhi expressed his love for the Gita in these words: “I find a solace in the Bhagavadgītā that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavadgītā. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies – and my life has been full of external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavadgītā.”[81]

Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hindu movements


Three translations: Bhagavad Gita As It Is, a Gujarati translation by Gita Press, and another English one published by Barnes & Noble.

Other notable modern commentators include Sri Aurobindo, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda, and Swami Chinmayananda who took a syncretistic approach to the text.[82][83]

Swami Vivekananda, the follower of Sri Ramakrishna, was known for his commentaries on the four Yogas – Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Raja Yoga. He drew from his knowledge of the Gita to expound on these Yogas. Swami Sivananda advises the aspiring Yogi to read verses from the Bhagavad Gita every day. Swami Chinmayananda viewed the Gita as a universal Scripture to turn a person from a state of agitation and confusion to a state of complete vision, inner contentment and dynamic action. Paramahamsa Yogananda, writer of the famous Autobiography of a Yogi, viewed the Bhagavad Gita as one of the world’s most divine scriptures. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, wrote Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, a commentary on the Gita from one of many perspectives of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Scholarly translations

The first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was done by Charles Wilkins in 1785.[84][85] In 1981, Larson listed more than 40 English translations of the Gita, stating that “A complete listing of Gita translations and a related secondary bibliography would be nearly endless” (p. 514[86]). He stated that “Overall… there is a massive translational tradition in English, pioneered by the British, solidly grounded philologically by the French and Germans, provided with its indigenous roots by a rich heritage of modern Indian comment and reflection, extended into various disciplinary areas by Americans, and having generated in our time a broadly based cross-cultural awareness of the importance of the Bhagavad Gita both as an expression of a specifically Indian spirituality and as one of the great religious “classics” of all time.” (p. 518[86])

The Gita has also been translated into other European languages. In 1808, passages from the Gita were part of the first direct translation of Sanskrit into German, appearing in a book through which Friedrich Schlegel became known as the founder of Indian philology in Germany.[87] Swami Rambhadracharya released the first Braille version of the scripture, with the original Sanskrit text and a Hindi commentary, on 30 November 2007.[88]


Philip Glass retold the story of Gandhi’s early development as an activist in South Africa through the text of the Gita in the opera Satyagraha (1979). The entire libretto of the opera consists of sayings from the Gita sung in the original Sanskrit.[89] In Douglas Cuomo’s Arjuna’s dilemma, the philosophical dilemma faced by Arjuna is dramatized in operatic form with a blend of Indian and Western music styles.[90] The 1993 Sanskrit film, Bhagavad Gita, directed by G. V. Iyer won the 1993 National Film Award for Best Film.[91][92]


1.       ^ Coburn, Thomas B. (1984). “‘Scripture’ in India: Towards a Typology of the Word in Hindu Life”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 52 (3): 435–459. JSTOR 1464202.

2.       ^ Tapasyananda, p. 1.

3.       ^ a b Pandit, Bansi, Explore Hinduism, p. 27

4.       ^ Deutsch, Eliot. Dalvi, Rohit. 2004. The Essential Vedanta. Bloomington: World Wisdom. pg. 59-61.

5.       ^ Deutsch, Eliot. Dalvi, Rohit. 2004. The Essential Vedanta. Bloomington: World Wisdom. pg. 61. “The Gita can be placed roughly about the beginning of the Christian era, within a margin of two centuries, and the authors must have seen the appeal of the soteriologies both of the “heterodox” traditions of Buddhism and Jainism and of the more “orthodox” ones of Samkhya and Yoga.”

6.       ^ Deutsch, Eliot. Dalvi, Rohit. 2004. The Essential Vedanta. Bloomington: World Wisdom. pg. 59-60.

7.       ^ Swarupananda, Swami (1909), “FOREWORD”, Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita,

8.       ^ a b Vivekananda, Swami, “Lectures and Discourses ~ Thoughts on the Gita”, The Complete works of Swami Vivekananda, 4,

9.       ^ The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) electronic edition. Electronic text (C) Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India, 1999.

10.    ^ Gambhiranda (1997), p. xvii.

11.    ^ “The Bhagavad-Gita : Questions and Answers”. Retrieved 11 April 2012.

12.    ^ “Arjuna represents the individual soul, and Sri Krishna the Supreme Soul dwelling in every heart. Arjuna’s chariot is the body. The blind king Dhritarashtra is the mind under the spell of ignorance, and his hundred sons are man’s numerous evil tendencies. The battle, a perennial one, is between the power of good and the power of evil. The warrior who listens to the advice of the Lord speaking from within will triumph in this battle and attain the Highest Good.”Nikhilananda, Swami (1944), “Introduction”, The Bhagavad Gita, p. 2

13.    ^ Gandhi, Mohandas K., The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi Berkeley Hills Books, Berkeley 2000

14.    ^ Fischer, Louis: Gandhi: His Life and Message to the World Mentor, New York 1954, pp. 15–16

15.    ^ Vivekananda, Swami, “Sayings and Utterances”, The Complete works of Swami Vivekananda, 5, p. 416

16.    ^ Aurobindo, Sri (1995), “The divine teacher”, Essays on the Gita, Lotus Press, p. 15, ISBN 0914955187

17.    ^ a b Aurobindo, Sri (1995), “The human disciple”, Essays on the Gita, Lotus Press, pp. 17–18, ISBN 0914955187

18.    ^ “Gita Introduction”. Retrieved 2 October 2011.

19.    ^ “Gita Dhyana Slokas”. Retrieved 10 April 2012.

20.    ^ Miller, Barbara Stoler (2004), “The Fifth Teaching: Renunciation of Action”, The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, Random House, Inc., p. 59, ISBN 0553213652

21.    ^ Gambhirananda (1998), p. 16.

22.    ^ Gambhiranda (1997), p. xx.

23.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 3.9”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2010-09-23.

24.    ^ Radhakrishnan 1993, p. 119

25.    ^ Radhakrishnan 1993, p. 120

26.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 5.11”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

27.    ^ a b c Radhakrishnan 1993, pp. 125–126

28.    ^ Cornille, Catherine, ed., 2006. Song Divine: Christian Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita.” Leuven: Peeters. p. 2.

29.    ^ For quotation and summarizing bhakti as “a mode of worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God” see: Sampatkumaran, p. xxiii.

30.    ^ Radhakrishan(1970), ninth edition, Blackie and son India Ltd., p.211, Verse 6.47

31.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 8.15”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

32.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 12.6”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

33.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 14.26”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

34.    ^ (18.65)A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 18.65”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

35.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 18.66”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

36.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 13.31”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

37.    ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Verse 13.35”. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network (ISKCON). Retrieved 2008-01-14.

38.    ^ For example, the first line of the Bhagavad Gita is dhṛtarāşţra uvāca, which occurs immediately after the last line of the preceding chapter in the full Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata: | 6.23.1 dhṛtarāşţra uvāca | 6.23.1a dharmakşetre kurukṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ || Source: Electronic text (C) Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India, 1999. Electronic edition downloaded from: [1].

39.    ^ Chidbhavananda, p. 33.

40.    ^ Sivananda, p. 3.

41.    ^ Tapasyananda, p. 13

42.    ^ Radhakrishnan, p. 79.

43.    ^ Zaehner, passim.

44.    ^ Sivananda, p. xvii.

45.    ^ a b c Sargeant, p. xix.

46.    ^ Deutsch, Eliot. Dalvi, Rohit. 2004. The Essential Vedanta. Bloomington: World Wisdom. pg. 97.

47.    ^ Steven J. Rosen, Krishna’s Song (2007), ISBN 9780313345531, pp. 22f.

48.    ^ Radhakrishnan, S (1974), “XI. The Lord’s Transfiguration”, The Bhagavad Gita, HarperCollins, p. 289

49.    ^ Isherwood, Christopher (1964), “The Story Begins”, Ramakrishna and his Disciples, p. 9

50.    ^ Vivekananda, Swami, “Thoughts on the Gita”, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 4, Advaita Ashrama,

51.    ^ Swami Chinmayananda, “the Art of Man-making,” chapter 3 – The Geeta, Her special charm.” (1978) Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.

52.    ^ a b Gandhi, M.K. (1933), “Introduction”, The Gita According to Gandhi,

53.    ^ Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita (2007), ISBN 978-1586380199 p. 15.

54.    ^ Eknath Easwaran, The End of Sorrow: The Bahagavad Gita for Daily Living (vol 1) (1993), ISBN 978-0915132171 p. 24.

55.    ^ [2] “The Gita of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by JAMES A. HIJIYA, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (PDF file)

56.    ^ Hume, Robert Ernest (1959), The world’s living religions, p. 29

57.    ^ a b c Subhamoy Das. “In Praise of the Bhagavad Gita Great Comments by Great People” (in English). Retrieved 6 March 2012.

58.    ^ James A. Hijiya, “The Gita of Robert Oppenheimer” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 144, no. 2 (Retrieved on 27 February 2011). [3]

59.    ^ See Robert_Oppenheimer#Trinity for other refs

60.    ^ “Karma Capitalism”. Business Week. The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2008-01-12.

61.    ^ Singh pp.54–55

62.    ^ For Shankara’s commentary falling within the Vedanta school of tradition, see: Flood (1996), p. 124.

63.    ^ Dating for Shankara as 788–820 CE is from: Sargeant, p. xix.

64.    ^ a b Zaehner, p. 3.

65.    ^ Gambhirananda (1997), p. xviii.

66.    ^ Sampatkumaran, p. xx.

67.    ^ Dating of 1199–1276 for Madhva is from: Gambhirananda (1997), p. xix.

68.    ^ For classification of Madhva’s commentary as within the Vedanta school see: Flood (1996), p. 124.

69.    ^ For classification of Abhinavagupta’s commentary on the Gita as within the Shaiva tradition see: Flood (1996), p. 124.

70.    ^ Singh p.55

71.    ^ Welcome to official website of Central Chinmaya Mission Trust

72.    ^ God Talks with Arjuna: Bhagavad Gita (paperback) by Paramahansa Yogananda at Vedic Books

73.    ^ For B. G. Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi as notable commentators see: Gambhiranda (1997), p. xix.

74.    ^ For notability of the commentaries by B. G. Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi and their use to inspire the independence movement see: Sargeant, p. xix.

75.    ^ Stevenson, Robert W., “Tilak and the Bhagavadgita’s Doctrine of Karmayoga”, in: Minor, p. 44.

76.    ^ Stevenson, Robert W., “Tilak and the Bhagavadgita’s Doctrine of Karmayoga”, in: Minor, p. 49.

77.    ^ Jordens, J. T. F., “Gandhi and the Bhagavadgita”, in: Minor, p. 88.

78.    ^ For composition during stay in Yeravda jail in 1929, see: Jordens, J. T. F., “Gandhi and the Bhagavadgita”, in: Minor, p. 88.

79.    ^ Desai, Mahadev. The Gospel of Selfless Action, or, The Gita According To Gandhi. (Navajivan Publishing House: Ahmedabad: First Edition 1946). Other editions: 1948, 1951, 1956.

80.    ^ A shorter edition, omitting the bulk of Desai’s additional commentary, has been published as: Anasaktiyoga: The Gospel of Selfless Action. Jim Rankin, editor. The author is listed as M.K. Gandhi; Mahadev Desai, translator. (Dry Bones Press, San Francisco, 1998) ISBN 1-883938-47-3.

81.    ^ Quotation from M. K. Gandhi. Young India. (1925), pp. 1078–1079, is cited from Radhakrishnan, front matter.

82.    ^ For Sri Aurobindo, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan,Swami Vivekananda and Swami Chinmayananda as notable commentators see: Sargeant, p. xix.

83.    ^ For Sri Aurobindo as notable commentators, see: Gambhiranda (1997), p. xix.

84.    ^ Clarke, John James (1997), Oriental enlightenment, Routledge, pp. 58–59, ISBN 9780415133753,

85.    ^ Winternitz, Volume 1, p. 11.

86.    ^ a b Gerald James Larson (1981), “The Song Celestial: Two centuries of the Bhagavad Gita in English”, Philosophy East and West: A Quarterly of Comparative Philosophy (University of Hawai’i Press) 31 (4): 513–540, doi:10.2307/1398797, JSTOR 1398797.

87.    ^ What had previously been known of Indian literature in Germany had been translated from the English. Winternitz, Volume 1, p. 15.

88.    ^ “Bhagavad Gita in Braille Language”. Zee News. 3 December 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2011.

89.    ^ Tommasini, Anthony (April 14, 2008). “Fanciful Visions on the Mahatma’s Road to Truth and Simplicity”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-16.

90.    ^ Tommasini, Anthony (November 7, 2008). “Warrior Prince From India Wrestles With Destiny”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-16.

91.    ^ “40th National Film Awards”. India International Film Festival. Retrieved March 02, 2012.

92.    ^ “40th National Film Awards (PDF)”. Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved March 02, 2012.