The Vedas are the ancient scriptures or revelation (Shruti) of the Hindu teachings. They manifest the Divine Word in human speech. They reflect into human language the language of the Gods, the Divine powers that have created us and which rule over us.
The Vedas ("knowledge") are a large body of texts originating in Ancient India. They form the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism.
According to Hindu tradition, the Vedas are apauruseya ("not of human agency"), are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called shruti ("what is heard"). Vedic mantras are recited at Hindu prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions.
The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism. They also had a vast influence on Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The Vedas contain hymns, incantations, and rituals from ancient India. They are among the most ancient religious texts still in existence. Besides their spiritual value, they also give a unique view of everyday life in India four thousand years ago.
The Vedas were compiled around the time of Krishna (c. 3500 B.C.), and even at that time were hardly understood. Scholars have determined that the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, was composed about 1500 B.C., and codified about 600 B.C. It is unknown when it was finally committed to writing, but this probably was at some point after 300 B.C.
There are four Vedas:
The Rig-Veda:- The Rig-Veda Samhita is the oldest significant existent Indian text. It is a collection of 1,028 Vedic Sanskrit hymns and 10,600 verses in all, organized into ten books (Sanskrit: mandalas). The hymns are dedicated to Rigvedic deities. The hymns are dedicated to thirty-three different gods; these gods were, quite expectedly, nature gods. The most often addressed gods are Indra (rain god; king of heavens), Agni (fire god) and Rudra (storm god; the 'howler'). A sizeable chunk of the verses are also dedicated to Soma (the draught of immortality), which was a cool alcoholic brew made from the leaves of the soma plant and was drunk during sacrifices.
The Sama-Veda:- The Sama-Veda is the "Veda of melodies" or "Knowledge of melodies". The Sama-Veda or the wisdom of chants is basically a collection of samans or chants, derived from the eighth and ninth books of the 'original Veda', the Rig-Veda. These were meant for the priests who officiated at the rituals of the soma ceremonies – in full sway there could have as many as seventeen full rituals.
It is not surprising that the Sama-Veda is better known for the precise meter of its poetry than for its literary content. There are also painstaking instructions in Sama-Veda about how particular hymns must be sung; this is perhaps because great emphasis was put upon sounds of the words of the mantras and the effect they could have on the environment and the person who pronounced them.
The Yajur-Veda:- The Yajur-Veda or the wisdom of sacrifices lays down various sacred invocations (yajurs) which were chanted by a particular sect of priests called adhvaryu. They performed the sacrificial rites. This is very much a ritual based Veda for although there are a few hymns to various Gods the main stress is on the theory of the ritual. The Veda also outlines various chants which should be sung to pray and pay respects to the various instruments which are involved in the sacrifice.
The Atharva-Veda:- The Atharva-Veda Saṃhita has 760 hymns, and about 160 of the hymns are in common with the Rig-Veda. The Atharva-Veda (the wisdom of the Atharvans) is called so because the families of the atharvan sect of the Brahmins have traditionally been credited with the composition of the Vedas. It is a compilation of hymns but lacks the awesome grandeur which makes the Rig-Veda such a breathtaking spiritual experience. It is roughly equivalent to the western magic spells and has incantations for everything – from success in love to the realization of otherworldly ambitions.