The Vedas (Sanskrit vda, "knowledge") are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.
The Vedas are said to be apaurueya ("not of human agency").They are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called ruti ("what is heard"), distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smti ("what is remembered").
The Vedic texts or ruti are organized around four canonical collections of metrical material known as Sahits, of which the first three are related to the performance of yajna (sacrifice) in historical Vedic religion:
1) The Rigveda, or Rig Veda contain hymns to be recited by the hotar, or presiding priest;
2) The Yajurveda, or Yajur Veda contains the liturgy (mantras) needed to perform the sacrifices of the Veda, and the added Brahmana and Shrautasutra add information on the interpretation and on the details of their performance.
There are two primary versions or Samhitas of the Yajurveda: Shukla (white) and Krishna (black). Both contain the verses necessary for rituals, but the Krishna Yajurveda includes the Brahmana prose discussions mixed within the Samhita, while the Shukla Yajurveda has separately a Brahmana text, the Shatapatha Brahmana.
3) The Sama Veda, Samveda, or Samaveda (Sanskrit: , smaveda, from sman "melody" and veda "knowledge"), is a collection (samhita) of hymns, portions of hymns, and detached verses, all but 75 taken from the Sakala Sakha of the Rigveda, the other 75 belong to the Bashkala Sakha, to be sung, using specifically indicated melodies called Samagana, by Udgatar priests at sacrifices in which the juice of the Soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients, is offered in libation to various deities.
4) The fourth is the Atharvaveda, a collection of spells and incantations, apotropaic charms and speculative hymns.
The individual verses contained in these compilations are known as mantras. Some selected vedic mantras are still recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions in contemporary Hinduism.
The various Indian philosophies and sects have taken differing positions on the vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as "orthodox" (stika).
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