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Sacred books of Hinduism. The word Veda means "knowledge" or wisdom, and the Vedas are called ruti (that which has been heard) to signify that they were "revealed." Hindus regard them as "eternal" and not the work of man. They were originally handed down by word of mouth, and it is impossible to say when they took their present form. It is probable that the earliest collection of hymns, known as the Rig Veda, was completed by 900 b.c. A collection of verses from these hymns, arranged for chanting at the sacrifice, was added and was known as the Sāma Veda, and another collection containing prose formulas to be used in the ritual of sacrifice was added later and was known as the Yajur Veda. Finally at a much later date a further collection, known as the Atharva Veda, was made. It contained magic spells and incantations, chiefly derived from the cults of the non-Aryan population. To the original books of the Vedas there were added first the Brāhmaas, a kind of prose commentary explaining the significance of the rites, and then the Ārayakas (forest-books) and the Upanishads, in which a mystical interpretation of the rites was developed into profound and original philosophical speculation. Thus each Veda now consists of a Mantra (hymn), a Brāhmaa, an Ārayaka, and a Upanishad, and these together form the corpus of sacred scripture or ruti.

See Also: hinduism.

[b. griffiths]

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