Hindu texts

Hindu texts are manuscripts and voluminous historical literature related to any of the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few texts are shared resources across these traditions and broadly considered as Hindu scriptures.[1][2] These include the Puranas, Itihasa and Vedas. Scholars hesitate in defining the term "Hindu scriptures" given the diverse nature of Hinduism,[2][3] but many list the Bhagavad Gita and the Agamas as Hindu scriptures,[2][3][4] and Dominic Goodall includes Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti in the list of Hindu scriptures as well.[2]

There are two historic classifications of Hindu texts: Shruti – that which is heard,[5] and Smriti – that which is remembered.[6] The Shruti refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts, believed to be eternal knowledge authored neither by human nor divine agent but transmitted by sages (rishis). These comprise the central canon of Hinduism.[5][7] Of the Shrutis (Vedic corpus), the Upanishads alone are widely influential among Hindus, considered scriptures par excellence of Hinduism, and their central ideas have continued to influence its thoughts and traditions.[8][9]

The Smriti texts are a specific body of Hindu texts attributed to an author,[10] as a derivative work they are considered less authoritative than Shruti in Hinduism.[6] The Smriti literature is a vast corpus of diverse texts, and includes but is not limited to the Puranas , the Hindu epics, the Sutras, the texts of Hindu philosophies, the Kāvya or poetical literature, the Bhasyas, and numerous Nibandhas (digests) covering politics, ethics, culture, arts and society.[11][12]

Many ancient and medieval Hindu texts were composed in Sanskrit, many others in regional Indian languages. In modern times, most ancient texts have been translated into other Indian languages and some in non-Indian languages.[2] Prior to the start of the common era, the Hindu texts were composed orally, then memorized and transmitted orally, from one generation to next, for more than a millennia before they were written down into manuscripts.[13][14] This verbal tradition of preserving and transmitting Hindu texts, from one generation to next, continued into the modern era.

The texts that appeared afterwards were called smriti. Smriti is a literature which includes various Shastras and Itihasas (epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata), Harivamsa Puranas, Agamas and Darshanas.

The Sutras and Shastras texts were compilations of technical or specialized knowledge in a defined area. The earliest are dated to later half of the 1st millennium BCE. The Dharma-shastras (law books), derivatives of the Dharma-sutras. Other examples were bhautikashastra "physics", rasayanashastra "chemistry", jīvashastra "biology", vastushastra "architectural science", shilpashastra "science of sculpture", arthashastra "economics" and nītishastra "political science".[15] It also includes Tantras and Agama literature.[16]

This genre of texts includes the Sutras and Shastras of the six schools of Hindu philosophy.[17][18]

The Puranas are a vast genre of Hindu texts that encyclopedically cover a wide range of topics, particularly legends and other traditional lore.[19] Composed primarily in Sanskrit, but also in regional languages,[20][21] several of these texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Goddess Devi.[22][23]

The Puranic literature is encyclopedic,[24] and it includes diverse topics such as cosmogony, cosmology, genealogies of gods, goddesses, kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, folk tales, pilgrimages, temples, medicine, astronomy, grammar, mineralogy, humor, love stories, as well as theology and philosophy.[19][21][22] The content is diverse across the Puranas, and each Purana has survived in numerous manuscripts which are themselves voluminous and comprehensive. 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.[20]

There are 18 Maha Puranas (Great Puranas) and 18 Upa Puranas (Minor Puranas),[25] with over 400,000 verses.[19] The Puranas do not enjoy the authority of a scripture in Hinduism,[25] but are considered a Smriti.[26] These Hindu texts have been influential in the Hindu culture, inspiring major national and regional annual festivals of Hinduism.[27] The Bhagavata Purana has been among the most celebrated and popular text in the Puranic genre.[28][29]

The Tevaram is a body of remarkable hymns exuding Bhakti composed more than 1400–1200 years ago in the classical Tamil language by three Saivite composers. They are credited with igniting the Bhakti movement in the whole of India.

The Nalayira Divya Prabandha (or Nalayira (4000) Divya Prabhamdham) is a divine collection of 4,000 verses (Naalayira in Tamil means 'four thousand') composed before 8th century AD [1], by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centuries. The Alvars sung these songs at various sacred shrines. These shrines are known as the Divya Desams.[citation needed]

In South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the Divya Prabhandha is considered as equal to the Vedas, hence the epithet Dravida Veda. In many temples, Srirangam, for example, the chanting of the Divya Prabhandham forms a major part of the daily service. Prominent among the 4,000 verses are the 1,100+ verses known as the Thiru Vaaymozhi, composed by Nammalvar (Kaaril Maaran Sadagopan) of Thiruk Kurugoor.[citation needed]

Hindu texts for specific fields, in Sanskrit and other regional languages, have been reviewed as follows,

The Hindu scriptures provide the early documented history and origin of arts and sciences forms in India such as music, dance, sculptures, architecture, astronomy, science, mathematics, medicine and wellness. Valmiki's Ramayana (500 BCE to 100 BCE) mentions music and singing by Gandharvas, dance by Apsaras such as Urvashi, Rambha, Menaka, Tilottama Panchāpsaras, and by Ravana's wives who excelling in nrityageeta or "singing and dancing" and nritavaditra or "playing musical instruments").[30] The evidence of earliest dance related texts are in Natasutras, which are mentioned in the text of Panini, the sage who wrote the classic on Sanskrit grammar, and who is dated to about 500 BCE.[31][32] This performance arts related Sutra text is mentioned in other late Vedic texts, as are two scholars names Shilalin (IAST: Śilālin) and Krishashva (Kṛśaśva), credited to be pioneers in the studies of ancient drama, singing, dance and Sanskrit compositions for these arts.[31][33] Richmond et al. estimate the Natasutras to have been composed around 600 BCE, whose complete manuscript has not survived into the modern age.[32][31]