Documents from the Past

Papers,documents and texts

The texts are manuscripts and voluminous historical literature which are related to the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few of these texts are shared across different traditions and they are broadly considered Hindu scriptures.These include the Puranas, itihasa, and Vedas.Scholars define the term Hindu scriptures” given the diverse nature of Hinduism, but many list the Bhagwad Gita and the Agamas as Hindu scriptures.

There are two historic classification of the texts.Shruti- which is heard, and Smriti that which is remembered. The shruti refers to the body of most authoritative ancientreligious texts believed to be eternal knowledge authored neither by human nor the divine agents, but transmitted by sages (rishis).These comprise the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts- the Samhitas, the brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the early Upnishands.The Shrutis, the Upanishads alone are widely influential among Hindus, considered scriptures par excellence ofHinduism and their central ideas have continued to influence its thoughts and traditions.

The Smrititexts are a specific body of Hindu texts attributed to author as a derivative work, they are considered less authoritative than Shruti in Hinduism. The Smriti literature is a vast corpus of diverse texts, but is not limited to with Vedangas, the hindu epics, the Sutras and Shastras, as the text of Hindu philosophies, the Puranas, the kavya, or political literature, the Bhasyas, and numerous Nibandhas (digests) covering politics, ethics, culture, arts and society.

Many ancient and medieval Hindu texts were composed in Sanskrit ,many others in regional Indian languages.Prior to the start of the common erra, the Hindu texts were composed orally, then memorized and transmitted orally, from one generation to the next, for more than a millennia before they were written down into manuscripts.This verbal tradition of preserving and transmitting the text from one generation to next continued in the modern era.

The Hindu scriptures provide the early documented history of arts and science forms in India, such as music, dance, sculptures , architecture, astronomy, science, mathematics, medicine and wellness.Valmiki’sRamayana (500 BCE to 100 BCE) mentioned music and singing by Gandharvas,  dance by Apsaras such as Urvashi, Rambha, Menaka, Tillotama and by Ravana’s wife who excelling in nrityageeta or singing and dancing and nritavidtra or “playing musical instruments.The evidence of earliest dance related texts are in, Natasutras, which were mentioned in the text of Panini, the sage who wrote the classic on Sanskrit grammar, and who's dated to about 500 BCE.This performance art related Sutra text is mentioned in the other late Vedic texts, as are two scholar namesShilalin and Krishashva, who are credited to be pioneers in the studies of ancient drama, singing, dance and Sanskrit composition for these arts. Richmond estimate the Natasutras to have been composed around 600 BCE, whose complete manuscript has not survived in the modern age.

The Vedas are a large body of Hindu texts originating inVedic period in northern India.The Rigveda being composed in 1200 BC,and it's Samhita and Brahmanas complete before, about 800 BCE composed in Vedic Sanskrit hymns, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scripture of Hinduism.Hindus considered the Vedas to be a ‘apauruseya’ which means not of a man,superhuman and impersonal.The knowledge in the Vedas is believed in Hinduism to be eternal,uncreated neither authored by human nor by divine source, but seen, heard and transmitted by sages.The Vedas, for orthodox Indian theologians,are considered revelation some way or other work of the deity. In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata,the  creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma.

There are four Vedas: The Rigveda, the Yajurveda , the samveda and the Atharvaveda.Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types-The Samhitas(mantras and benedictions), the Aranyakas(text on rituals, ceremonies,  sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices),the Brahmanas(commentaries on rituals,ceremonies and sacrifices),and the Upanishads(text discussing meditation, philosophy, and spiritual knowledge).

The Upanishads are collection of the text which contains some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism.The concept of Brahaman (ultimate reality) and Atman(Soul) are the central ideas in all the Upanishads, and know your Atman” their thematic focus.The Upanishads are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought and its diverse traditions.More Then 200 nations are known of which the first dozen or so, the oldest and the most important, and are referred to as the principal or main( mukhya) .The mukhya Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and were, for centuries, memorized by each generation and passed down verbally.


The text that appeared afterwards were called Smriti.Smriti is a literature which include various Shastras and itihasas(epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata)HarivamsaPuranas, Agamas and Darshanas. The Dharma-shastras(law books), derivatives of Dharma-sutras.Other examples were bhautikashastra “physics” the rasayanashastra “ chemistry, jivashastra “ biology”, vastushastra “ architectural science, shilpshastra science and sculpture”, arthashastra“economicsand nitishastra “ political science.It also includes Tantras and Agama literature.The genere of tax include the Sutras and Shastras of the six schools of Hindu philosophy:Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaishishka, Mimansa and Vedanta.


The Purana are avastgenre of Hindu texts and encyclopedically cover a wide range of topics, particularly legends and other traditional lore.Composed primarily in Sanskrit but also in regional languages, several of the texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Goddess Devi.The Puranic literature is encyclopedic and it includes diverse topics such as cosmogony, cosmology,genealogies of god, goddesses, Kings, heroes, sages, folktales, temples, medicine, grammar as well as the theology and philosophy.The content is diverse across the Puranas, and each Purana has survived in numerous manuscripts which are themselves comprehensive and voluminious.The Hindu Puranas are anonymous texts and likely the work of many authors over the centuries,in contrast, most Jaina Puranas can be dated and their authors assigned.There are 18 Maha Puranas(great puranas) and 18 UpaPuranas(minor Puranas) , with over 400,000 versus.The Puranas do not enjoy the authority of a scripture in Hinduism, but are considered a Smriti.TheseHindu texts have been influential in the Hindu culture, inspiring major national and regional festivals of Hinduism. The Bhagwad Purana has been among the most celebrated and popular text in the Puranic Genre.