Vedas: The Foundation of Hinduism

6 Vedas: The Foundation of Hinduism


          The most ancient scriptures of the Hindu religion, the Vedas, are recognized as the earliest documented literature of mankind. It is affirmed that the Vedas are the very first Hindu scriptures, but the flow of the written word would never stop in Hindu philosophy. The Vedas are regarded as literature immortal. The word Veda originates from the root vid, which means “to know.” The Veda scriptures are considered to be the divine knowledge perceived by the ancient sages, Rishis. Regarded as the great truths and passed on by word of mouth from one generation to another, these scriptures attained supreme authority, which remains unchanged even today. Subtle transitions and modifications, however, soon became acceptable in Hindu tradition.

The Upanishads, which are the culmination of the Vedas, show abundant evidence of this attribute of ingenious change in the Hindu scriptures. The worship of the nature gods or deities, which occupied the prime place in the Aryan culture, was almost replaced by worship of one Supreme God, who was formless and transcendental. So, too, were the many lengthy and complicated rituals discarded and discouraged in the Upanishads.

Although there is evidence of significant religious activity in the prehistoric period of the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization, it would be correct to say that the real foundation of Hinduism was laid in the Vedic era. Most authorities consider that the first of these Vedas, the Rig Veda, was revealed around 1500 BCE. It is also considered the earliest scripture in human history. It is believed, however, that these psalms of wisdom were disclosed over many centuries, memorized, and orally conveyed from generation to generation within priestly families, then finally written down in the Vedic Sanskrit language, Brahmi, about a thousand years later. This would afterward develop into the classic Sanskrit in the earlier part of first millennium.20




In Hindu theology, the older scriptures and their teachings were never defied or contradicted. Albeit subtly modified, they were always revered. Never totally discarded, the old scriptures continued to remain in synergy with the new ones, as considered suitable. In this transition from the old to the new, violence remained absent and was discouraged in all forms. This gentle evolutionary change besides sowed the seeds of utmost respect for the elderly in the Hindu family culture-a trait that has become a unique feature in Hindu society.