What are the four Vedas?

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The Vedas are considered to be the most ancient Hindu texts in the world. Written in Sanskrit around 3,000 B.C.E., these scriptures are brimming with yogic wisdom. They contain hymns dedicated to Hindu deities, famous mantras such as the Gayatri mantra, various chants and songs of devotion, and even incantations. The four Vedas are known as the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. Let’s explore each one separately.

The first Veda, the Rig Veda, is the oldest scripture written. Scholars deem this one to be the most important, and modern day yoga scholars refer to it more than any of the others. It’s comprised of 10 books, or mandalas, that contain more than 1,000 hymns of devotion to the various Hindu deities. There’s a famous prayer in this Veda called the Purusha Shukta as well as the beloved Gayatri mantra. In essence, the Rig Veda is a holy book of mantras.

The Yajur Veda is more of a guidebook for priests and contains rituals and ceremonial instructions. It’s said to be similar to an ancient Egyptian text called the "Book of the Dead." Priests would use this guidebook in ceremonial sacrifices. This Veda is made up of two parts: the “black” and the “white.” You can think of the Yajur Veda as a book of rituals.

The Sama Veda is essentially a book of chants and songs which were sung during ceremonial sacrifices and various rituals of worship. All the melodies in this particular book actually come from the Rig Veda.

Last we have the Atharva Veda, which includes all the incantations, spells and charms once used. It has a different feel to it than the other three Vedas and is sometimes considered to have its own spirit – making it unique in its own way. The Atharva Veda is said to represent a good picture of what Vedic life was all about long ago.

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