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The Hindu scriptures

Broadly Hindu scriptures are classified into Shruti (“that which is heard”) and Smriti (“that which is remembered”).

Shruti

According to Vishupurana, at one point, the process of creation came to a standstill and as instructed by the Brahman, Lord Brahma created four kumaras or Chatursana.  However they refused his order to procreate and instead devoted themselves to the worship of Vishnu and celibacy.

ScripturesLord Brahma was angry with the Chatursana for disobeying him. His anger was so intense that it was enough to burn the three worlds. From this anger, Rudra originated and was shining like the Sun.  Rudra appeared in half-masculine and half-feminine form. Immediately, after his appearance, Rudra separated his body into 10 male and 1 female Prajapatis. 

Brahma then proceeded to teach the vedas to this Prajapatis.  The eleven Prajapatis are as follows:

Sl. No.

Name of the Rishis

Gender

Consort

Sons and Daughters

1

Marichi

Male

Kala

Kashyapa

2

Atri

Male

Anasuya

Datta, Durvasa, Soma

3

Angirasa

Male

Surupa

Utathya, Samvartana, Brihaspati

4

Pulaha

Male

Kshama

Kardama, Kanakapeetha, Urvarivat and daughter Peevari

5

Pulustya

Male

HavirBhoo

Visravas father of Kubera and Ravana

6

Krathu

Male

Santhati

60000 children included in the Valakhilayas

7

Vashista

Male

Arundhati

 

8

Prachethasa

Male

Manisha

Daksha

9

Bhrigu

Male

Khyati

Dhata, Vidhata and daughter Bhargavi

10

Narada

Male

 

11

Satarupa

Female

Svyambhu Manu

 

Thus the Vedas consisting of around 10,000 verses was heard by the Prajapatis and was forms the corpus of the “Shruti” scriptures

The vedas are structured as follows:

  • Gnana Khanda (Philosophy)
    • Samhitas contains the Mantras and benedictions
    • Upanishads contain the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism
  • Karma Kanda (Rituals)
    • Brahmanas are commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrificies
    • Aranyakas text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices

Smriti

All other scriptures are classified as Smritis (that which is remembered).

The smriti texts consist of (but not limited to):

  • Upaveda is used in traditional literature to designate the subjects of certain technical works
    • Ayurveda – associated with Rigveda – Science of Medicine
    • Dhanurveda – associated with Yajurveda – Science of Archery
    • Gandharvaveda – associated with Samaveda – Music and Dance
    • Stathpatyaveda – associated with Atharvaveda – Architecture
  • Vedangas
    • Siksha – phonetics, phonology, pronunciation – This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
    • Chandas – prosody – This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
    • Vyakarana – grammar and linguistic analysis – This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
    • Nirukta – etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning – This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
    • Kalpa – ritual instructions – This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
    • Jyotisha – Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy – This auxiliary Vedic discipline focused on time keeping.
  • Ithihasa
    • Ramayana
    • Mahabharata
  • Shastras on the four proper goals or aims of human life
    • Dharma: These texts discuss the duties, morals and ethics. Gautama, Apastamba, Baudhayana and Vashista Dharmasutras and Manu, Yagnavalkya, Narada and Vishnu smritis comprise the Dharma Shastras
    • Artha: These texts discuss the policies related to economics, politics and define laws
    • Kama: These texts relate to Arts, emotions, love, erotics, relationships and other sciences in pursuit of pleasures.  The Kamasutra of Vātsyāyana is most well-known. Others texts include Ratirahasya, Jayamangala, Smaradipika, Ratimanjari, Ratiratnapradipika, Ananga Ranga among others.
    • Moksha: These texts develop and debate the nature and process of liberation, freedom and spiritual release. Vivekachudamani, Later Upanishads and Yoga sastras form the corpus of texts.
  • Puranas
    • Sattivic Puranas: Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana
    • Rajasic Puranas: Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana
    • Tamasic Puranas: Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana
  • Kavya or Poetic Literature
  • Bhasyas are reviews and commentaries on Sruti and Smruti texts
  • Sutras and Shastras of the various schools of Hindu Philosophy
  • Nibandhas or digests covering politics, medicine, ethics, culture, arts and society

According to Devi Bhagavatam, Book 11, Chapter 1

Nârada said :– “O Muni! The S’âstras are not one, they are many and they lay down different rules and contradictory opinions, How then Dharma is to be followed? And according what Dharma S’âstra?” Nârâyana said :– S’ruti and Smriti are the two eyes of God; the Purânam is His Heart. Whatever is stated in S’ruti, the Smriti and the Purânams is Dharma; whatever else is written in other S’âstras is not Dharma. Where you will find differences between S’ruti, Smriti and Purânas, accept the words of the S’rutis as final proofs. Wherever Smriti disagrees with the Purânas, know the Smritis more authoritative. And where differences will crop up in the S’rutis themselves, know that Dharma, too, is of two kinds. And where the differences will crop up in the Smritis themselves, consider, then, that different things are aimed at.

The VyAsa Smriti (1-4) also confirms the same order:

In matters of discrepancy between the S’rutis, Smrit’is, and Puranas, the former should be held as decisive, whereas the Smritis should have preference in all topics where there would be a difference of opinion between them and the Puranas.

Not only does Hinduism have a rich corpus of scriptures, but a clearly defined hierarchy of these scriptures.