Four Vedas - Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda & Atharva Veda


The Rig Veda: Also called “The Book of Mantra”

The Rig Veda is a collection of inspired songs or hymns.

It is one of the oldest book in any Indo-European language. It contains the earliest form of all Sanskrit mantras that date back to 1500 B.C. - 1000 B.C. 

There are some scholars who feel that the Rig Veda dates back as early as 12000 BC - 4000 B.C.

The Rig-Vedic collection (samhita) of mantras consists of 1,017 hymns (suktas), covering about 10,600 stanzas, divided into eight ‘astakas’ each having eight chapters (adhayayas), which are sub-divided into 
various groups.

The hymns are the work of great seers called ‘rishis’. There are seven primary seers identified:
1. Atri
2. Kanwa
3. Vashistha
4. Vishwamitra
5. Jamadagni
6. Gotama and
7. Bharadwaja

It is a primary source of information on the Rig Vedic civilization. The Rig Veda accounts of the Rig-Vedic civilization’s social, religious, political and economic background in detail. Even though monotheism characterizes some of the hymns of Rig Veda, naturalistic polytheism and monism can be discerned in the religion of the hymns of Rig Veda.

The Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda were compiled after the age of the Rig Veda and are ascribed to the Vedic period.


The Sama Veda: The Book of Song

The Sama Veda is purely a liturgical collection of melodies (‘saman’). It can also be described as the simplified summary of the Rig Veda.

The hymns in the Sama Veda, used as musical notes, were almost completely drawn from the Rig Veda and have no distinctive lessons of their own. Hence, its text is a reduced version or reckoner of the Rig Veda. As Vedic Scholar David Frawley puts it, if the Rig Veda is the word, Sama Veda is the song or the meaning, if 

Rig Veda is the knowledge, Sama Veda is its realization, if Rig Veda is the wife, the Sama Veda is her husband.


The Yajur Veda: The Book of Ritual

The Yajur Veda is also a liturgical collection and was made to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion. The Yajur Veda practically served as a guidebook for the priests who execute sacrificial acts muttering simultaneously the prose, prayers and the sacrificial formulae (‘yajus’). 
It is similar to ancient Egypt’s “Book of the Dead”. There are no less than six complete recessions of Yajur Veda -
1. Madyandina
2. Kanva
3. Taittiriya
4. Kathaka
5. Maitrayani and
6. Kapishthala. 



The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell

The last of the Vedas, this is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to Rig-Veda with regard to history and sociology. Atharva Veda was more simplified and diverse and sheds more light on the Vedic civilization.

A different spirit pervades this Veda. Its hymns are of a more diverse character than the Rig Veda and are also simpler in language. Although not counted as a part of four vedas by many scholars due to its dissimilarity, it still finds its place amongst the four vedas. The Atharva Veda consists of spells and charms prevalent at its time, and portrays a clearer picture of the Vedic society.