Hindu - Scriptures

Vedas

Rigved Samhita
This is the oldest scripture,containing a total of 1,028 hymns,addressed to various deities.It's period is from about 1,200 B.C.E. to 900 B.C.E. This veda is divided into ten books,called Mandalas.

The important deity is the warrior God Indra(c. 250 hymns)who finished the demon Vritra,for obstructing the source of potable water.God Agni(c. 200 hymns),the god of fire.The nineth book is addressed to Som, the God of the intoxicating drink ,Som.

Samaved Samhita

This is a handbook of chants,derived from the eight and nineth book of the Rigved.This was used by one of the Brahman priests who presided at the sacrificial rituals.

Yajurved Samhita

This emphases the mechanics of the sacrifice. Although animal sacrifice was known, especially the hugely elaborate Ashvamedha or horse sacrifice, and the purushamedha or human sacrifice is referred to, sacrifice is usually of vegetable offerings and soma.

Atharvaved Samhita

(named for a priestly family, the Atharvans) a later compilation of complete hymns and spells which are less directly attached to the domestic sacrificial rituals.

Sutras

These are the short texts ascribed to particular sages during the period from 7th to 2nd century B.C.E. These are given in concise form so as to be easily memorable. They consist of ethical, ritual and legal teachings.

There are three sections-

The Shrauta-expounded on the Vedas,
The Grihya-Domestic ceremonies,
The Dharmasutras-The righteousness.

Yogasutra of Patanjali

This is a text,containing 194 aphorisms on yoga of about 2nd century CE.This expounds the eight "limbs" of yoga, known as the "Royal" yoga.This has an influence on the yoga practiced by most of the Hindu Sadhus.

Eight Limbs

1. Yama

Means restraint (Yogasutra 2.30-31).
The restraints are honesty,nonviolence, celibacy, truthfulness and no temptations.

2. Niyama

Means Conduct (Yogasutra 2.32).
This is the observance of purity,ascetic practice,satisfaction and dedication to Yogeshsvara,the lord of Yoga.

3. Asana

Means Posture (Yogasutra 2.46).
The right ways of postures.

4. Pranayama

Means Breath control (Yogasutra 2.49).

The right system of controlled breathing.

5. Dharana

Means Concentration (Yogasutra 2.52-53/3.1).
Concentrating on single object with a stable mind.

6. Dhyan

Means Meditation (Yogasutra 3.2).
Getting absoebed in to the God.

7. Pratyahara

Means Withdrawal of the senses (Yogasutra 2.54).
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the sense organs from their objects.

8. Samadhi

Means trance (Yogasutra 2.45).
Samadhi is accomplished through dedication to the Lord of Yoga",Lord Krishna.

Epics

The most popular epics are Ramayan and Mahabharat.In the Indian tradition,the great Sanskrit epic poems are probably the most influential pieces of literature which are also sometimes refered to as the Fifth Veda.

The Mahabharat was compiled from about 500 BCE to the first century CE. It describes the great war between two royal families, the Pandavas and Kauravas.The divine Bhagavadgita,which the Hidu sacred book is a section of this epic. The Ramayana describes the legend of the King Dashrath's son,prince Rama, who was exiled for 14 yearsThe demon king Ravana had kidnapped Sita,the wife of Rama.

Puranas

These are the tales of the very ancient days of the Gods,between 300 and 1,000 C.E.There are eighteen major Puranas classifed by the three ancient qualities-Satva (Purity),concerning Lord Vishnu

Rajas (Passion),concerning Lord Brahma and Tamas (Darkness),concerning Lord Shiva. Most of their content was established during the Gupta era (c. 320 - 500 CE).