Imagine you’re at your local library. The knowledge of the world is at your fingertips. Essentially, you have walked into an Encyclopedia of Everything — categorized by topic, stored in sequential order, and run by the wisest of women and men.
You ask your astute librarian, “Where can I find the encyclopedia of Christianity and Islam?”
She whispers, “In the religion section, under Holy Bible and Holy Quran.”
“And how about the Hindu holy book? The Holy Book of Hinduism?”
“It does not exist,” she knowingly states. “There is no single Hinduism holy book. You can go to the Hinduism isle and scan all the Hindu texts from there… Just to warn you, though, there are many.”
What Is the Main Holy Book of Hinduism?
As your wise librarian told you, there is no single book on Hinduism. But the most important holy books of Hinduism are the Vedas.
How many holy books are there in Hinduism?
There’s more of a library of Hinduism holy books than a single book.
First off, let’s start with the Vedas:
- The Rig Veda: The Book of Mantra
- The Sama Veda: The Book of Song
- The Yajur Veda: The Book of Ritual
- The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell
Now, every Veda is divided into 4 parts:
- Sūktas or mantras
There are also many books on the social sciences, including:
- Nīti śāstra
- Jātaka Mālā
Who started the Hinduism religion?
No single person started Hinduism. Instead, it grew over time as a group of beliefs.
But according to tradition, Hinduism was started by the saptarishi or “seven sages.”
These rishes (sages) are recognized as the mind-born sons of Brahma – the Supreme Being or the Creator.
Categories of Hindu Texts
So, as we’ve already explored, there is no one Hinduism sacred text.
Instead, there are thousands of Hindu scriptures that make up an array of different sacred texts. And each Hinduism holy book describes a unique aspect of Hinduism.
Thankfully, these Hindu texts are organized into two categories:
“That which has been heard.”
These texts (including the Hindu Vedas) contain unquestionable truths that the foundation of Hinduism is based on — they are the “bedrock” texts. And these texts remain unchanged.
They were channeled from Source by the risis, (the seers, the sages), who recorded and shared them. And there is no acclaimed human author of these texts.
“That which has been remembered.”
These texts were inspired by the Shruti texts.
Smriti texts provide information that helps Hindus better understand the Shruti texts.
Foundational Hindu Texts
While a general distinction exists between Smriti and Shruti, there isn’t always a clear divide. In fact, it’s easier to think of these categories as scale or spectrum, with Smriti at one end, and Shruti at the other.
Different sects of Hinduism place importance on different texts. However, there are at least 7 main, universally recognized Hindu texts.
3 main Shruti texts
The Vedas are the oldest of the Hindu scriptures and form the very foundation of Hinduism.
The 108 Upanishads (Muktika)
The Upanishads are the last chapter of the Vedas.
They are written in the form of dialogue from the Hindu god Rama and cover the most important aspects of the four Vedas, meditation, philosophy, and spirituality.
The Vedanta Sutra (Brahma Sutra)
The Vedanta Sutra is a summary of the Upanishads.
Whether the Vedanta Sutra is a true Hinduism holy book is still hotly debated. And that’s because it was written over 2,500 years ago by an Indian philosopher and contains an interpretation of the Upanishads.
4 main Smriti texts
The Itihasas are the history books of Hinduism, the Mahabharata and Ramayana being the two most important books.
They record an incredibly ancient history, spanning back hundreds of thousands of years (through the cycles of time, called Yugas). The Itihasas are epics of the histories of the gods, their wars, and the emergence of humanity.
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata. It profoundly describes the order of the Universe (dharma). It’s written as a dialogue between prince Arjuna and the God Krishna. In it, Arjuna asks Krishna for moral advice and Krishna instructs him accordingly.
The Puranas are ancient stories written on a variety of topics. And these stories contain a great deal of knowledge. In fact, they cover nearly every aspect of daily life — from love and war to science and myth, to medicine and humor.
The Dharma Shastra
The Dharma Shastra can be thought of as the Hindu Law Book. It contains commentary on the responsibilities and ethics of individuals, families, and communities.