Literary Sources of Ancient Indian History

History is derived from the word historia, meaning “inquiry,ie knowledge acquired by investigation”. Herodotus is known as the ‘Father of History’ because he was the first of the classical writers to organise his writings in a logical order and also attempted to verify the veracity of what he was writing.The ancient Indians knew their country as Bharatavarsha (the land of Bharata). It was said to be a part of a larger unit called Jambu-dvipa (the continent of the Jambu tree )

Among the literary sources of Ancient Indian history, the foremost are the four Vedas, namely Rig Veda, Sama Veda,Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

The term Veda was derived from the Sanskrit word vid,which means ‘to know’.

Vedas are also called Apaurusheya (not made by man)and Nitya (eternal).

Besides, the Vedas are also known as Shruti, meaning“to hear”. These have been passed on from onegeneration to another through oral transmission.

Vedas are basically hymns and prayers offered to God by different groups of people.

They are also called Samhitas.

 It is a collection of hymns.

It is the oldest of all the Vedas.

It contains 1017 Suktas.

It contains 11 Balakhilya, thus making the total no. of Suktas 1028.

It contains 10 Mandalas.

The oldest Mandalas II, III, IV, V, VI and VII are known as family books on account of their composition being described to various families of sages.

Mandala IX is completely devoted to the Vedic God Soma.

Mandala IX contains the famous Purushsukta hymns that explain the origin of the four Varnas (Chaturvarna theory — Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra)

.Gayatri mantra is the most sacred hymn of the Rig Veda.

It is mentioned in the third Mandala and is written by Viswamitra. This mantra is addressed to the Sun.

Famous Upanishads of the Rig Veda
 Aitareya Upanishad
 Kaushitaki Upanishad

The hymns of the Rig Veda were recited by the priest known as Hotri.

It is a collection of rituals for performing different sacrifices.

It has been divided into two parts Krishna (Black) Yajur
Veda (commentary in prose) and Shukla (White) Yajur
Veda (sacrificial formulae and rituals).

Famous Upanishads of Yajur Veda

  • Brihdaranyaka Upanishad
  • Katha Upanishad

Taittiriya Brahmana — Related with Krishna Yajur Veda.

The hymns of the Yajur Veda were recited by the priest known as Aahwariyu.

The science of music originated from the Sama Veda.

It was sung by a particular type of priests known as Udgatari.

It is known as the Book of Chants.

fmous Upanishad of the Sama Veda  1.  Chhandogya Upanishad (describes Lord Krishna)  2.  Kena Upanishad

It is a collection of charms, magic and spells.

The term Atharva means magical formula.

No Brahmanas belong to the Atharva Veda.

Upanishad of the Atharva Veda
The hymns of the Atharva Veda are meant for warding off evils and demons, winning over friends and gaining material success.

Mundaka Upanishad, wherein Satyamev Jayate has been mentioned.

They are elaborate prose texts.

Contain explanation of the hymns, prayers, charms andsacrificial formulae.

Satapatha Brahmana is the most famous Brahmana.

The literal meaning of Aranyaka is forest.

They are also known as forest books.

They deal with mysticism, moral values and philosophical doctrines.

The most famous Aranyaka is Vrihadaranyaka.

The term Upanishad literally means “to sit down near someone to learn”.

They are also known as Vedanta, meaning “the end of the Vedas”, for they denote the last phase of the Vedic period and reveal the ultimate aim of the Vedas.

They are 108 in number.

Upanishads deal mainly with Atma, Paramatma and salvation.

The Vedangas were considered important for understanding the Vedas but they are not included in Vedic literature.
They are six in number:
i) Siksha Pronunciation
ii) Chhandas Metre (Pingal wrote Chhanda shastra)
iii) Vyakarana Grammar (Panini wrote Astadhyayi)
iv) Nirukta Etymology (Yaksha wrote Nirukta)
v) Jyotisha Astronomy
vi) Kalpa Sacrificial rituals