The Four Vedas and Their Sub Divisions
The Veda is divided into four great books: the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda
and the Atharva-Veda. The Yajur-Veda is again divided into two parts, the Sukla and the Krishna.
The Krishna or the Taittiriya is the older book and the Sukla or the Vajasaneya is a later revelation
to sage Yajnavalkya from the resplendent Sun-God.
The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the Yajur-Veda into one hundred and
nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections and the Atharva-Veda into fifty sections.
In all, the whole Veda is thus divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty recensions.
Each Veda consists of four parts: the Mantra-Samhitas or hymns, the Brahmanas or
explanations of Mantras or rituals, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The division of the Vedas
into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life.
The Mantra-Samhitas are hymns in praise of the Vedic God for attaining material prosperity
here and happiness hereafter. They are metrical poems comprising prayers, hymns and incantations
addressed to various deities, both subjective and objective. The Mantra portion of the Vedas is
useful for the Brahmacharins.
The Brahmana portions guide people to perform sacrificial rites. They are prose
explanations of the method of using the Mantras in the Yajna or the sacrifice. The Brahmana
portion is suitable for the householders.
The Aranyakas are the forest books, the mystical sylvan texts which give philosophical
interpretations of the rituals. The Aranyakas are intended for the Vanaprasthas or hermits who
prepare themselves for taking Sannyasa.
The Upanishads are the most important portion of the Vedas. The Upanishads contain the
essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The philosophy of the Upanishads is sublime,
profound, lofty and soul-stirring. The Upanishads speak of the identity of the individual soul and
the Supreme Soul. They reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths. The Upanishads are useful
for the Sannyasins.
The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into Karma-Kanda, Upasana-Kanda and
Jnana-Kanda. The Karma-Kanda or Ritualistic Section deals with various sacrifices and rituals.
The Upasana-Kanda or Worship-Section deals with various kinds of worship or meditation. The
Jnana-Kanda or Knowledge-Section deals with the highest knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. The
Mantras and the Brahmanas constitute Karma-Kanda; the Aranyakas Upasana-Kanda; and the