Definition - What does Samhitas mean?
The Samhitas are the most ancient part of the Vedas, which are the most ancient Hindu and yogic texts. The Samhitas contain mantras, prayers, litanies and hymns to God. Hindus believe that the texts were received direct from God by scholars, and that they were then passed on orally for thousands of years. As such, they are sometimes referred to as shruti, meaning “that which is heard.”
From Sanskrit, sam means “correct” and “proper,” and hita means “arranged” or “wholesome.” Thus, samhita may be interpreted as meaning “to arrange together in union” or “a structured combination of verses or texts.”
Yogapedia explains Samhitas
Each of the four Vedas is arranged into four chronological parts of which the Samhitas are the first. The other three are:
- The Brahmanas - guides to rituals and prayers for priests
- The Aranyakas - principles of worship and meditation
- The Upanishads - teachings of the mystical and philosophical elements of Hinduism
Some scholars categorize the Samhitas and the Brahmanas together as the Karma-Kanda part of the Vedas because they contain information relevant to rituals and ceremonies.
The four Samhitas are:
- Rig-Veda Samhita - the oldest veda, containing 1,028 hymns devoted to ancient gods.
- Yajur-Veda Samhita - a handbook for priests performing sacrifices.
- Sama-Veda Samhita - chants and songs to sing during sacrifices.
- Atharva-Veda Samhita - ancient spells and magical charms that pre-date the Aryan influence.
It is believed that having been orally transmitted for so many years, the Samhitas were brought to India by the Aryans and took their present form sometime between 1200 to 200 B.C.E.