Hinduism’s Sacred Texts

Hindu texts are manuscripts and historical literature related to any of the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few texts are shared resources across these traditions and broadly considered as Hindu scriptures. These include the Vedas and the Upanishads. Scholars hesitate in defining the term “Hindu scripture” given the diverse nature of Hinduism, many include Bhagavad Gita and Agamas as Hindu scriptures, while Dominic Goodall includes Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti to the list of Hindu scriptures.

Parts of the Nihsvasatattvasamhita manuscript from Nepal, reproduced in 1912 from a palm-leaf original, linking Shaiva Agama to esoteric Tantra.

Agama in Hinduism

Agama in Hinduism The Agamas (आगम, āgama) are a collection of scriptures of several Hindu devotional schools. The term literally means tradition or “that which has come down”, and the Agama texts describe cosmology, epistemology, philosophical doctrines, precepts on meditation and practices, four kinds of yoga, mantras, temple construction, deity worship...

The Chandogya Upanishad verses 1.1.1-1.1.9 (Sanskrit, Devanagari script)

Smriti

Smriti Smriti (स्मृति, Smṛti), literally “that which is remembered” are a body of Hindu texts usually attributed to an author, traditionally written down, in contrast to Śrutis (the Vedic literature) considered authorless, that were transmitted verbally across the generations and fixed. Smriti is a derivative secondary work and is considered less authoritative than Sruti in Hinduism, except...

A Panchatantra manuscript page

Panchatantra

Panchatantra The Panchatantra (Pañcatantra, पञ्चतन्त्र, “Five Treatises”) is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. The surviving work is dated to roughly 200 BCE, based on older oral tradition. The text’s author is unknown, but has been attributed to Vishnusharma in some recensions and Vasubhaga in others, both...

Rigveda manuscript page, Mandala 1, Hymn 1 (Sukta 1), lines 1.1.1 to 1.1.9 (Sanskrit, Devanagari script)

Shruti

Shruti Shruti or Shruthi (श्रुति, Śruti) in Sanskrit means “that which is heard” and refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts—the Samhitas, the early Upanishads, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas. Śrutis have been variously described as a revelation through anubhava (direct...

Devi sukta, which highlights the goddess tradition of Hinduism is found in Rigveda hymns 10.125. It is cited in Devi Mahatmya and is recited every year during the Durga Puja festival.

Rigveda

Rigveda The Rigveda (ऋग्वेद ṛgveda, from ṛc “praise” and veda “knowledge”) is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas. The text is layered consisting of the Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The Rigveda Samhita is the core text, and is a collection of 10 books (maṇḍalas) with 1,028 hymns (sūktas) in about 10,600...

A tantric form of the Hindu Goddess Kali.

Tantras in Hinduism

Tantras in Hinduism Tantras (“Looms” or “Weavings“) refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The religious culture of the Tantras is essentially Hindu, and Buddhist Tantric material can be shown to have been derived from Hindu sources. And although Hindu and Buddhist...

Rama and the Vanara chiefs

Indian Literature

Indian Literature Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages. The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the oral literature of the Rig Veda a collection of literature dating to the...

Brahmanda - Hindu material universe. Each brahmanda appears after Mahavishnu's breathing out and when Garbhodakashayi Vishnu gives birth to Brahma on a Satyaloka's lotus. Brahma, creator of our universe lives 311,040,000,000,000 human years, and during his lifetimes, 504 000 Manus (Vedic Adams, first men are changing). Brahma creates 14 planetary systems which can be roughly compared to Seven heavens and seven earthes described in Abrahamic scriptures thought Vedic records are earlier to Abrahamic counterpart

List of Numbers in Hindu Scriptures

List of Numbers in Hindu Scriptures The Hindu scriptures contain many numerical descriptions concerning distances, durations and numbers of items in the universe as seen from the perspective of Hindu cosmology. See also: Hinduism List Property Number or measurement Distance from Satyaloka to Vishnuloka (Brahmaloka-sanatana, abode of Brahma) 26,200,000 yojanas (209,600,000 miles) Distance from Dhruvaloka (the pole star)...

Statue of Kapila Maharshi, Nashik

Kapila

Kapila Kapila (कपिल) is a given name of different individuals in ancient and medieval Indian texts, of which the most well-known is the founder of the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. Kapila of Samkhya fame is considered a Vedic sage, estimated to have lived in the 6th-century BCE, or the 7th-century BCE. Rishi Kapila...

A page of Isha Upanishad manuscript

Upanishads – The Secret Wisdom

Upanishads – The Secret Wisdom A history of pantheism and scientific pantheism by Paul Harrison. Thou art the dark-blue bird and the green parrot with red eyes, Thou hast the lightning as thy child. Thou art the seasons and the seas. [Svetasvatara 4.2.4] The Upanishads are a collection of Indian...

Body, Mind and Spirit

Upanishads and Yoga

Upanishads and Yoga The wise soul is not born nor does it die. This one has not come from anywhere nor has it become anyone. Unborn, eternal, constant, primal, this one is not killed when the body is killed. If the killer thinks to kill, if the killed thinks oneself...

Krishna teaching Arjuna, from Bhagavata Gita, House decoration in Bishnupur, West Bengal, India.

Bhagavad Gita Passages

Bhagavad Gita Passages The undisciplined person eats too much, or doesn’t eat enough. The undisciplined person sleeps too much, or doesn’t sleep enough… The spiritual discipline that destroys suffering goes to the person who eats the proper amount of food, does the proper amount of exercise, performs the proper amount...

A Sanskrit manuscript page of Lotus Sutra (Buddhism) from South Turkestan in Brahmi script

Sutra

What is Sutra? Sutra (sūtra सूत्र “string” or “thread”. sutta) in Indian literary traditions refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a condensed manual or text. Sutras are a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism....

c. 1700 watercolour from Mewar depicts the Pandava and Kaurava armies arrayed against each other.

Itihasa

What is Itihasa? Itihasa, meaning history in Sanskrit, consists of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana (sometimes the Puranas too, are included). The Mahabharata includes the story of the Kurukshetra War and also preserves the traditions of the Lunar dynasty in the form of embedded tales. The Puranas narrate the universal history as...

The Battle at Lanka, Ramyana by Sahibdin. It depicts the monkey army of the protagonist Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting Ravana—the demon-king of the Lanka—to save Ram's kidnapped wife, Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the three-headed demon general Trishira, in bottom left. Trishira is beheaded by Hanuman, the monkey-companion of Rama.

Ramayana

What is Ramayana? Ramayana (रामायणम्, Rāmāyaṇam) is an ancient Indian epic poem which narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. Along with the Mahabharata, it forms the Hindu Itihasa. The epic, traditionally ascribed to the Hindu Valmiki, narrates the life of Rama, the legendary prince...

A 17th-century Devimahatmya manuscript.

Sanskrit Literature

Sanskrit Literature Sanskrit literature refers to texts composed in Sanskrit language since the 2nd-millennium BCE. Many of the prominent texts are associated with Indian religions, i.e., Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and were composed in ancient India. However, others were composed central, East or Southeast Asia and the canon includes works...

The Pandavas and Krishna in an act of the Javanese wayang wong performance

Mahabharata

What is Mahabharata? The Mahabharata or Mahābhārata (महाभारतम्, Mahābhāratam) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. The title may be translated as “the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty”. The Mahābhārata is an epic legendary narrative of the Kurukṣetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the...

List of Hindu Texts

List of Hindu Texts Hinduism is an ancient religion with diverse traditions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and others. Each tradition has a long list of Hindu texts, with subgenre based on syncretization of ideas from Samkhya, Nyaya, Yoga, Vedanta and other schools of Hindu philosophy. Of these some called Sruti are broadly considered...

Two folios from a palm leaf manuscript of the Kamasutra text (Sanskrit, Devanagari script).

Kama Sutra

What is Kama Sutra? The Kama sutra (कामसूत्र, Kāmasūtra) is an ancient Indian Sanskrit text on sexuality, eroticism and emotional fulfillment in life. Attributed to Vātsyāyana, the Kama Sutra is neither exclusively nor predominantly a sex manual on sex positions, but written as a guide to the “art-of-living” well, the nature of love, finding...

A page from the Taittiriya Samhita, a layer of text within the Yajurveda

Shastra

What is Shastra? Shastra (शास्त्र) is a Sanskrit word that means “precept, rules, manual, compendium, book or treatise” in a general sense. The word is generally used as a suffix in the Indian literature context, for technical or specialized knowledge in a defined area of practice. Shastra has a similar meaning to English -logy, e.g. ecology, psychology,...

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