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Vedic Concepts

Veda is divided into four major parts viz, Samhitas (prayers), Brahmanas (rituals), Aranyakas ( meditations) and Upanishads (The knowledge of self). The first three (Samhita, Brahmana & Aranyaka) are collectively called as Veda Purva (Starting) and the last one Upanishad is called as Veda Anta (ending) or Vedanta. The Veda Purva is also referred as Karma Kanda (Portion dealing with Rituals & Activities) and Vedanta as Jnana Kanda (Portion dealing with The Knowledge of Supreme Self).

Upa Vedas

Vedas is a set of Holy books that is the most authoritative sacred / religious book for the Hindus.

The term “Upa Veda” literally means Applied Knowledge. The Upa Veda is a mass of literature that contains the technical works of various fields of knowledge. Upa Vedas as applied knowledge derives its resources from the wisdom passed on by the Vedic sages and applies them to the relevant fields.

Upa Vedas are part of what is called as Vidyasthanas or abodes of knowledge. There are eighteen Vidyasthanas in Hindu philosophy.

The Vidyasthanas are four Vedas, six Vedangas or auxiliaries to Vedas, Meemamsa or right interpretation of Vedic texts, Nyaya or logic, Puraṇas or mythology [all Puraṇas contain cosmology among other things], Dharma sastras or code of conduct for proper living and four Upa Vedas.

Here Upa Vedas are treated as appendices to Vedangas.

Four Upa Vedas are

ayur Veda or the science of life,

Artha sastra or the science of politics, governance and economics,

Dhanur Veda or the science of martial arts and weaponry and

Gandharva Veda or fine arts.


The word “Artha” literally means “material well-being or wealth.” So, Arthasastrais a science of wealth or economics.

In the modern world, the term Artha sastra has become synonymous with a popular book written around 300 A.D. by a scholar called Caṇakya or Kautilya dealing with governance and ruler’s duties and privileges.

In the Sanskrit literature, the words Artha sastra, Raja sastra, Danḍa Niti and Niti sastra are used often in the same sense. However, in a technical sense, the word Artha sastra has a wider meaning and includes politics, governance, economics, law and administration of justice. Just like Kama Sutra and allied works place Dharma as a highest goal, all the Artha sastra works set the highest value on Dharma.

Artha sastras, by virtue of this wide ranging denotation and scope, do touch upon the topics of Dharma sastras. Though viewed upon on the same footing as Dharma sastras, the Artha sastra has a narrower scope than the former. Because of this, in case of conflict of views between Dharma sastras and Artha sastra, views of the former will prevail and are more binding. Some attribute Artha sastra as an Upa Veda of Atharva Veda.

There is ample evidence to show that the ancient Hindus were fully aware of the greater part and role that wealth [artha] played in a human life and society. They were also aware of the benefits and threats the prosperous societies and the countries had to face. This knowledge resulted in the earliest views in the world on societies, behavior of the subjects of the society, the ways to accrue wealth and its maintenance, governance & politics and law & administration. The reason for extra emphasis on virtues and duties of the ruler was that unless a strong and virtuous person rules a prosperous society, such a society will disintegrate.

However, Artha sastra’s greater emphasis on artha or wealth has resulted in relentless pursuit of material prosperity. This has resulted, many a times, in direct conflict with both the dictates of Dharma sastras and also what is normally accepted as fairplay or ethical in societies. This also has led later sastrakaras to provide a slew of exemptions to cover possible conflicts and also to spruce up a semblance of level playing fields.

The topics of Artha sastra have been dealt with in a wide ranging manner in the two great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, Puraṇas, Dharma Sūtras, Smṛtis, a treatise on Artha sastra by Brhaspati, son of Angiras, Raja sastras of Sukra, son of Bhrgu and Niti of Usanas and scores of minor literature that existed before the era of Christ.

Though Kautilya Artha sastra is perhaps the most systematic and compelling work on Artha sastra per se, it has also been criticized and rejected by many. The most striking of them was Baṇa’s Kadambari where it is mentioned that Kautilya’s Artha sastra is a most cruel work since it contains all sorts of advises that are wicked. Many others have rejected Kautilya’s works, probably due to the inherent principle of “end justifies means.”

ayur Veda

The word ayur Veda literally means ‘Science of Life.’ It is an ancient and native medicinal system of India, but it is practiced all over the world. It is very difficult to pinpoint when it started. But with the available literary evidence, one can confidently say that it is the most ancient medicinal system in the world.

Starting from the Vedas, we find the terms such as ayuṣ, arogya and oṣadi occur frequently in almost all the available literature. ayur Veda is a holistic system of medicine. Dhanvantari, who is also an incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu, is the presiding deity for medicines and physical & mental well being of people. Rudra is spoken of as the presiding physician of the gods. Aswins have great role in maintaining the physical health and rhythm of life.

The system of ayur Veda depends upon the basic principles of Saṅkhya, namely, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas which have their ayurvedic equivalents, namely, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is the balancing principle as well the driving principle behind the other two. Pitta refers to heat and bile that gives necessary heat and activity to the body. Kapha is a principle of inertia in the form of phlegm.

In addition to these three principles which are operative, ayur Veda recognizes sapta dhatus or seven constituents of the body like bone marrow, fat, blood, etc. ayur Veda also recognizes five main praṇas and also five upa-praṇas [praṇa is a vital current which acts as a stimulant in any area of action].

A balance of the three guṇas Pitta, Vata and Kapha which guide the sapta dhatus aided by normal flow of the ten vital currents gives rise to normal health and cheer to the individual. Any disturbance leading to disequilibrium among these three doṣas initiates disturbance in the flow of neural currents thereby changing the functions of the body.

According to ayur Veda, mental balance has a great role in maintaining the health of the individual. The term ‘Vyadhi’ itself refers to a ‘disturbed mind’ which leads to disturbance in the various organs. ayurvedic cure essentially consists of removing the obstacles or blocks that stay in the body in the form of toxins. There are various techniques, developed over the period of two thousand years, to remove these toxins.

Ancient Indian medicinal systems are not merely concerned with the treatment of human illness alone. They also deal with the treatment of animals, birds and trees. ayur Veda as a body of knowledge consists of eight parts, namely,

1) salya or Surgery and midwifery,

2) salakya or treatment concerning eyes, ears and other parts of the head,

3) Kaya Cikitsa or treating the bodily ailments with medicines,

4) Bhūta Vidya or Psychotherapy,

5) Kumara Bhṛtya or Pediatrics and rearing children,

6) Agadam or use of Antidotes,

7) Rasayana Tantram or use of elixirs and

8) Vajeekaraṇam or Rejuvenation.

Charaka, Susruta, Vagbhatta, Vrdha Jeevaka, Patanjali and Nagarjuna are some of the premier exponents of ayur Veda system of medicine.

Dhanur Veda

The term Dhanur Veda is derived from two words ‘Dhanus’ meaning bow and ‘Veda’ meaning knowledge. Literally it means knowledge or science of archery only. The term has been used more or less in this sense in almost the entire Puraṇic literature. Later the word Dhanur Veda also came to include, surprisingly, martial arts in general.

Alongside Dhanur Veda there is also a body of knowledge called as sastra Vidya [sastra meaning sword or weapon, Vidya meaning knowledge or learning, leading to a literal meaning of knowledge of the sword]. Together Dhanur Veda and sastra Vidya refer to a field of knowledge pertaining to the Ancient Indian Martial Arts and Weaponry systems. This field of knowledge is referred to here as Dhanur Veda.

It may be surprising to the modern mind that while Vedasare all for peace and nobility, Upa Vedas should contain Dhanur Veda as part of the Vidyasthanas. It has to be borne in mind that learning of martial arts and weapons is not merely to go on a war on some nation, but mainly to defend one self and fellow citizen from the hostile creatures and inimical countries. Martial arts and weaponry need constant training and practice. Further, from the very ancient times, in India, the bows, swords and other weapons were used so frequently and training in weaponry inevitably became a part of a person’s education.

From the available literature, it is clear that there was a mass of literature on weapons of various types and their usage existed long before the birth of Christ. However, none of them are available now.

Martial arts are of two kinds, viz. one with weapons and another without weapons. There are numerous martial arts systems in India, but they can be broadly classified into the Northern and Southern Systems. In addition to these systems, wrestling has always been in vogue in almost whole of India.

Dhanur Veda, in a broad sense, contains not only the training on how to use weapons, but also making of various weapons, meditation, various techniques of mental conditioning and learning of atmaVidya. For only a stable and calm mind can make and use weapons for peaceful purposes and also be able to contain emotionally charged up personnel.

Gandharva Veda

The origin and development of the concept of ‘Gandharva Veda’ is unclear and dates uncertain.

In the Hindu mythology, a certain class of beings called as Gandharvas, Apsaras, Vidyadharas, Kinnaras, etc. are mentioned. Gandharvas are supposed to be the masters of music, Vidyadharas – the masters of knowledge, etc.

Gandharva Veda might have been developed from there. Some attribute the origin to Sage Bharata who wrote a masterpiece on classical Indian dance called ‘Natya sastra.’ It might have developed only as a Science of Music. In that form, it included Music, Dance and Drama since these three are inextricably inter-related.

Probably at a later stage, when these three areas started affecting other fields of knowledge and certain aspects of music and dance were used in ayur Veda Medicine and certain martial arts that Kavya or Poetry and Kama sastra or Erotics were added as a part of this system and this body of literature and knowledge as we know today as Gandharva Veda was born. Or maybe it might have existed in some crude and minor form earlier.

Probably, at a later stage, these three areas might have started affecting other fields of knowledge and certain aspects of music and dance were used in ayur Veda Medicine and certain martial arts. At that time, Kavya or Poetry and Kama sastra or Erotics might have got added as a part of this system and this body of literature and knowledge as we know today as Gandharva Veda would have been born. Or maybe it might have existed in some crude and minor form earlier.

The extant Gandharva Veda comprises Sangeetam or Music, Natya or Dance, Nataka or Drama, Kavya or Poetry and Kama sastra or erotics.