Viswanath R Swamy

Ancient Books

Names and Groups of ancient Books

The core of this collection is the set of four types of books, namely Rigveda mantra Samhita, Yajurveda mantra Samhita, Sāmaveda mantra Samhita and the Atharvaveda mantra Samhita; each type having one or more recensions. These are all poems, some metrical and some non-metrical. These are the earliest books of the entire humanity. Each verse in these books is called a mantra and they collectively number more than 20,000. These mantrās are the inspired words shruti heard by the sage when they were in a super-conscient state as a result of their askesis. Veda is not man-made in the sense it is not born of human intellect, human imagination or speculation. The mantrās are the perceptions of deep spiritual truths and occult phenomena revealed to these sages. The rişhis number is more than thousand; they include several women also such as vāk ambriņi, apāla, lopamudra, sūryā etc., we will mention more details later.


Associated with each of the four mantra-samhita books, there are brāhmaņa books, āraņyaka books and the Upanishad books. Thus the sixteen types of books are divided into four groups named Rigveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda and Atharvaveda. Rigveda denotes the set of Rigveda Samhita books along with their associated brāhmaņa, āraņyaka and Upanishad books. Yajurveda has two major recensions, Shukla Yajurveda and the Krişhņa Yajurveda. We give below the names of the books in the major or well known recensions of the four Vedās.


Names of The Books

samhita brāhmaņa ārņyaka upanishad


Rig Veda (RV)

shākala aitareya aitareya aitareya
kaushītaki kaushītaki kaushītaki


Sukla Yajur Veda (SYV)

vājasaneyi m. shatapatha
vājasaneyi k bŗhadāraņyaka


m: mādhyandina, k: kāņva


Krishna Yajur Veda (KYV)

taittirīya taittirīya taittirīya taittirīya
maitrāyaņīya maitrāyaņīya
kaţhaka shvetāshvatara


Sama Veda (SV)

jaiminīya talavakāra
rāņāyanīya chhāndogya chhāndogya


Atharva Veda (AV)

pippalāda māndūkya

The listing is not exhaustive. Several other brāhmaņa books have been mentioned in the literature. However the above books are relatively well known.

It should be understood that there was or is no central authority which decreed that the books should be grouped in this way. This method has come down from the tradition which goes back to several millennia ago.

The texts of these books are overlapping. Each Upanishad book, for instance, is the last chapter of a mantra Samhita book or āraņyaka book or brāhmaņa book as the case may be. Shukla Yajurveda has no āraņyaka book; its brāhmaņa is named shatapatha. Its last chapter is the famous and massive bŗhad-āraņyaka Upanishad. Similar Īşha or Īşhāvāsya Upanishad which is made of only 20 verses is the last or fortieth chapter of the Shukla Yajurveda Samhita. Many of the famous mantrās from the Upanishad which are quoted frequently by speakers or in books on vedānta can be found verbatim in the Rigveda Samhita and other mantra Samhitās. These elementary facts should caution us against accepting simplistic statements found in some English books on Upanishads such as, “only the Upanishads are the books of knowledge; all other Vedic books like mantra-Samhitās deal with rituals” etc.

The sixteen types of books given above constitute basic vedic books. There are also auxiliary books known as upaveda and vedānga, limbs of Veda. Upaveda has books such as āyurveda, the science of healing, shulba dealing with geometry and the construction of the fire-altars etc., vedānga is made up of books such as shikşha dealing with the pronunciation, vyākaraņa grammar etc.