Dissecting The Vedas — What Are These 4 Sacred Texts?


Contrary to popular belief, The Vedas were not an invention of Hinduism. Rather, they were a precursor of (and an inspiration for) the Hindu religion, birthed from a much earlier religious group.

The basis of these sacred texts is astonishingly primeval and mysterious — with an unknowable origin and unknowable authors. Yet, they have had an immense influence on major world religions of today, primarily Hinduism.

Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me. In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of the sectarianism. It is of ages, climes, and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I am at it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night.

— Henry David Thoreau

So, where did these sacred texts come from, and why are they so fundamental?

The Origin Of The Vedas


The Vedas are some of the world’s earliest recorded texts. They were orally formed by Aryan nomads (referred to as the “noble ones”) during the Vedic Period (1,500 – 500 BCE) in ancient India, but not officially recorded (in a physical text) until centuries later.

The word “Veda” in Sanskrit means sacred wisdom, knowledge, or vision. This sacred wisdom is transcribed in the Vedas as a collection of poetry and prose, containing many hymns, mantras, chants, prayers, spells, and commentaries.

But who is the author of this sacred wisdom?

According to the ancients, there is no acclaimed human author. Rather, the information was channeled by the risis (the seers, the sages) from the very breath of “Source.” They referred to this “Source” as Paramātman: the “Primordial Self,” the “Self Beyond,” or the “Absolute Atman.”

The sages saw the Vedas, but they did not compose them.

For this, the Vedas are the most sacred text of Hinduism; the “language of the Gods.” They are the very basis of not only Hindu religious practices, but their social, legal, and domestic obligations, as well.

The Vedas are the very source of every Hindu tradition and sect. 

As shared by spiritual teacher, author of Mindvalley’s Be a Modern Master Program Deborah King:

Sacred study [of the Vedas] reveals the practice, and practice helps you implement the powerful spiritual truths that can transform your life.

The 4 Sacred Texts

Hindu sacred texts

The Vedas are split into 4 separate sacred texts (a separate book for mantras, songs, rituals, and spells), but are often compiled into a book referred to as the Chathurveda Samhitha.

Chathurveda Samhitha is made up of three words — Chathur: four, Veda: knowledge, and Samhitha: collection.

The Rig Veda: The Book of Mantra

The Rigveda is the oldest and most prominent of the Vedas. It contributes, richly, to the other Vedas and is looked at as the main source of information on the ancient Hindus.

In Sanskrit, the word “Rigveda” means The Knowledge of the Verses.

The Rigveda is comprised of 1,028 important hymns (sūktas), including the popular Purusha Sukta and Creation Hymns. These hymns are organized into 10 different books, commonly referred to as “circles” or “mandalas.”

The older books contain hymns that are more focused on the praise of deities (gods and goddesses). The younger books are more concerned with philosophical questions, the virtue of dāna (generosity, charity) in society, and other metaphysical issues.

The Sama Veda: The Book of Song

The Samaveda is the second most important Veda, and is a liturgical collection of songs or melodies.

The hymns in the Samaveda are simply a musical version of the informative hymns contained in the Rigveda. For this, the Samaveda is oftentimes referred to as a condensed, musical version of the Rigveda — the Rigveda is the word, and the Samaveda is the colorful meaning.

The Yajur Veda: The Book of Ritual

The Yajurveda is the book of prose mantras. It is a collection of ritual offering formulas and serves as a sort of “guidebook” for priests who carry out sacrificial acts. It is said to be similar in value to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

The Yajurveda is organized into two separate books — the “Black” (Krishna) and the “White” (Shukla)…

The Black Yajurveda is categorized as the unorganized, unclear collection of verses, while the White Yajurveda is categorized as the well organized, clear, and easier understood collection of verses.

The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell

The Atharvaveda is the most recent of the 4 sacred texts. In fact, for a long time, it wasn’t even considered a Veda.

The Atharva Veda is written in a much simpler language and is important in regard to Vedic history and sociology. Mostly, however, it contains a series of magical spells, charms, and incantations to assist in everything from protecting against disease to attracting lovers.

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Which of the Vedas do you see most expressed in Hindu culture? Share it with us in a comment below!

Natasha Wanderly

Natasha is a happy no-mad with a love for living lucidly, dancing with fire, and talking to strangers. From living with Shamans in the Amazon to studying hieroglyphs in Egypt, she is always on some type of adventure. Every day, she wakes up with two goals: 1.) Be here 2.) Be love.

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