The Vedas are among the oldest sacred texts in Sanskrit that represent the largest body of ancient and medieval literature in the world which includes poems, prayers, mythological accounts, and formulas. The Vedic texts were first recited orally and then passed down to generations before they were formally written down, as it was considered an ‘unholy act’ to write them down. Vedas are revised at the Maha-Kumbh Mela in Haridwar every 12 years as recommended by Sankaracharya over 1200 years ago. The Vedas are in Sanskrit, an ancestor of most of the modern languages in South Asia.
The Vedas are a treasure of the best knowledge of all the Dharmic scriptures and secular knowledge (family, money management, morality, etc.) into one unified scripture. The act of modifications and updating the Vedas every 12-year creates a system that incorporates knowledge and wisdom according to current times, which can be the reason for the Vedas to be the oldest spiritual tradition that is still followed.
The Vedas were first composed sometime around 1500-1000 BCE in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent and northwest India. In Vedic tradition, the focus is more on the ideas rather than on who wrote them, which allows one to look at the message without being influenced by the messenger. Vedic literature is non-secular in nature and tends to mirror the worldview, spiritual preoccupations, and social attitudes of the priestly class of ancient India.
The basic Vedic texts are the Samhita “Collections” of the four Vedas:
● Rig-Veda “The book of Mantras” for recitation.
● Sama-Veda “The book of Chant”
● Yajur-Veda “Knowledge of the Sacrificial formulas”, for rituals.
● Atharva-Veda “Knowledge of the Magic formulas”, for spells.
The Rig-Veda is the largest and most important text of the Vedic collection, divided into ten books called mandalas which include 1028 hymns. The Sama-Veda has verses that are mostly from the Rig-Veda but arranged in a different way since they are meant for chanting. The Yajur-Veda is divided into the White and Black Yajur-Veda and contains explanatory prose on how to perform religious rituals and sacrifices. The Atharva-Veda contains charms and magical incantations in a folkloristic style.