Saundarya Lahari- A Deeper insight into Devi Tatva The Vedas- The roots of Hindutva A long time ago

Saundarya Lahari- A Deeper insight into Devi Tatva
The Vedas- The roots of Hindutva
A long time ago, The Saptarishis or The Seven Sages had written a countless number of Upanishads, Slokas and Tattvas which provided the base for Hindutva or Hinduism. However, these were scattered about in various forms and in various places. It was the great sage Vyasa who ordered and categorized these Upanishads and Tattvas into Vedas. On doing so, he earned the name ‘Veda Vyasa’.
The Vedas were grouped into four:
The Rig Veda
The Saama Veda
The Yajur Veda
The Atharva Veda

The Adhyayas (Chapters) of the Vedas too were grouped into four:
The Samhitas, which state about Dharma (rules and laws).
The Brahmanas, which state about the ways of practising Dharma.
The Aranyakas, which involves theories regarding ascetic life in the forests.
The Upanishads, which is the Vedanta or the end of the Vedas. These summarize everything stated in the previous three Adhyayas.

The Rig Veda

The Rig Veda is the oldest Veda in existence. The Rig Veda consists of Slokas, prayers and praises to the Almighty. The Sookthas included in this Veda are still of great importance to today’s priests in Pourohitya Karma (Temple pujas and rituals). The poet Vallathol was the first to translate this into Malayalam and Max Muller was the first to do the same in English.

The Rig Veda is divided into 10 mandalas (portions) which contain 1028 Sookthas. Eg: The Purusha SookthaÛ is a part of the 10th Mandala.

ÛThe Purusha Sooktha refers to the four categories of people (The Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras) formed on the basis of the various body parts of Lord Brahma, the creator. It is an important part of the Rig Veda.

The Yajur Veda

The Yajur Veda encompasses the worship of the Almighty through Yajna and other such great rituals.

The Yajur Veda was split into two- The Krishna Yajur Veda and the Shukla Yajur Veda and there is a story which explains the reason behind this splitting.

Sage Vaishampayana, a teacher of the Vedas and his student Yaajnavalkya broke into an argument in between Vaishampayana’s classes. Enraged, Vaishampayana asked Yaajnavalkya to return whatever he had learnt from the Yajur Veda. Yaajnavalkya vomited whatever he had learnt in the form of digested food. The other students of Vaishampayana assumed the form of ‘Tittiri Birds’ (partridges) and ate the vomit. They did so as the digested form of the Yajur Veda was free of complications and could be taken in and understood easily. Hence, this portion of the Yajur Veda got the name ‘Tittiriya Yajur Veda’. Being a vomited substance, it also got the name ‘Krishna Yajur Veda’ or the ‘Black Yajur Veda’.

With the incidents that happened, Yaajnavalkya decided that he would no more accept a human Guru. Hence, he stated meditating upon Surya, the Sun God. Surya, pleased with Yaajnavalkya’s penance asked him what he wanted, to which Yaajnavalkya replied that Surya had to teach him new portions of the Yajur Veda which were unknown to even Vaishampayana. Surya granted this wish by assuming the form of a horse and teaching Yaajnavalkya. This new portion was called ‘Vajasaneya Yajur Veda’ or ‘Shukla Yajur Veda’.

The Saama Veda

The Saama Veda comprises of Slokas and hymns taken from the Rig Veda. It is more of a musical and poetic version of the Rig Veda. These are mostly chanted during Yajnas.

The Atharva Veda

The Atharva Veda is a collection of mantras relating to black magic. It is used for curing diseases and for protection from wild beasts and demons. Ayurveda originates from the Atharva Veda. It contains instructions to cure diseases using medicines, spells and charms.

The Upanishads- 108 Instruction Manuals for Life
The Upanishads are parts of the Vedas and are said to be 108 in number. They form the Vedanta or the end of the Vedas. They are also known as ‘Paraavidya’. The Upanishads tell us about Dharma and the way of practising it in life.
Adi Shankaracharya has elucidated 10 Upanishads due to which they gained fame.
These 108 Upanishads have been categorized into six:
Samanya Vedanta

Among these, the Upanishads which regard Shakti or Shree Devi as the Supreme one and have Slokas praising Devi are called the Shaakteya Upanishads.

There are 8 Shaakteya Upanishads. These are:
Sita Upanishad
Tripurataapini Upanishad
Devi Upanishad
Tripura Upanishad
Bhavana Upanishad
Saubhagyalakshmi Upanishad
Saraswatirahasyam Upanishad
Bahubracha Upanishad

The Shaakteya path of Devotion- Belief in the Supremacy of Devi

The Shaakteya path of devotion sees Shakti or Devi as the Supreme force. Just like the Shaiva* and Vaishnava** paths of devotion, Shaakteya too gained acceptance by the people in ancient India and became hugely popular.

There are many ways of practising Shaakteya. The most important and most accepted way was Shree Vidya Upaasana. This way was used to realize Shakti and understand her and slowly evoke her essence is one’s own self.

*Path which sees Shiva as the Supreme force.
**Path seeing Vishnu as the Supreme force.