Definition - What does Aranyakas mean?

The Aranyakas are a set of texts that form part of the Vedas, which are ancient Indian and yogic philosophical literature. The Aranyakas explain the philosophy behind the ritual sacrifice sections of the Vedas.

The name, Aranyaka, comes from the Sanskrit root word, aranya, meaning “forest.” This is because they were intended as texts to be read and studied by ascetics, or rishis, who had retreated to the solitude of the forest to deepen their contemplation and meditative practices.

Yogapedia explains Aranyakas

For the rishis and ascetics who renounced the life of householders to live in the forest, studying the Aranyakas was one way for them to obtain mental purity through their constant focus, study and discipline.

The Aranyakas represent some of the earliest sections of the Vedas. Other parts of the Vedas include the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. They form the basis of the Rashaya, or the secrets which are mentioned in the Upanishads. Thus, another term for the Aranyakas is Rashaya.

Although the Aranyakas primarily describe rituals from different perspectives, they do include some philosophical speculations. As such, they outline the symbolism of some ritualistic actions. They also discuss concepts such as the creation of the universe, the power of Om and the cycle of death and rebirth. Some consider the Aranyakas to bridge the gap between the ritualistic Brahmanas and the more philosophical Upanishads.

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