During the later Vedic period definite ideas and philosophies about the true nature of soul and the cosmic principle or Brahman, who represented the ultimate reality, were developed. These Vedic philosophical concepts later on gave rise to six different schools of philosophies called ‘Shada-darshana’ –
I. Samkhya System
– It talks of ‘Dukha’ and its remedy in Karma and Discipline. The founder of this philosophy was Kapila, who wrote the ‘Samkhya-sutra’. It does not recognize god. According to it, liberation is possible only through real knowledge and knowledge can be acquired through observation, inferences and words. According to it, the world is a production of natural forces.
– Yoga literally means the union of the two principal entities. The origin of yoga is found in the ‘Yogasutra’ of Patanjali believed to have been written in the 1000 BC. Yogic
techniques control the body, mind and sense organs. Freedom could be attained by practicing self-control (yama), observation of rules (niyama), fixed postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), choosing an object (pratyahara) and fixing the mind (dharna), concentrating on the chosen object (dhyana) and complete dissolution of self, merging the mind and the object (samadhi). Yoga admits the existence of God as a teacher and guide.
– Nyaya is considered as a technique of logical thinking. According to Nyaya, valid knowledge is defined as the real knowledge, that is, one knows about the object as it exists. Gautama is said to be the author of the ‘Nyaya-sutras’.
– Vaisheshika system is considered as the realistic and objective philosophy of universe. Vaisheshika thinkers believe that all objects of the universe are composed of five basic atomic elements – earth, water, air, fire and ether. Kanada wrote the basic text of Vaisheshika philosophy and he got this name as he was always interested into the smallest of particles ‘Kana’.
V. Purva Mimamsa or Mimansa
– Mimamsa philosophy is basically the analysis of interpretation, application and the use of the text of the Samhita and Brahmana portions of the Veda. According to Mimamsa philosophy Vedas are eternal and possess all knowledge, and religion means the fulfillment of duties prescribed by the Vedas. It was given by Jaimini.
VI. Uttar Mimamsa or Vedantic Philosophy
– It deals with Vedanta or it implies the philosophy of the Upanishad, the concluding portion of the Vedas. It rejected the rituals and propounded the philosophy of atma-parmatma monism. It was given by Badrayana, but popularized by Adi Shankaracharya who wrote the commentaries on the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad Gita. This philosophy largely shaped contemporary Indian culture.
Manu Smriti is officially called Manav Dharam Shastra. It is a metrical (one that is written in poetic verses) text, which presents a discourse given by the Prajapati Manu – the legendary first man and lawgiver, to a congregation of seers after a Mahapralaya (great Floods) in ancient India. In its present form it dates from the 1st century BC. It prescribes the dharma of each Hindu, stating the obligations attached to his or her social class and stage of life. According to Hindu tradition, the Manusmriti records the words of Brahma. It contains the source of law, origin of universe and most importantly division of society into four subtypes or varnas. Brahmanas are given the highest place. It is the most authoritative of the books of the Hindu law code (Dharma-shastra) covering a wide range of topics such as creation of the world, sacraments like ‘Upanayana’ (wearing of sacred thread by upper castes) and marriage; duties of men and women placed in different strata of society and stages of life; penitential rites for violation of codes of conduct; and so on.
Purushartha is a doctrine in Hinduism which is derived from – Purush or Human and Artha or aim or meaning. It lays down four aims for all – Dharma, Artha or wealth, Kama and Moksha. Dharma is to be followed duwing Brahmcharya ashram, Arth and Kaama are to be followed during Grihastha ashram and Moksha during Sanyas.
Yajnayallaka Smriti is another one. It is important for its two commentaries – Mitakshara by Vijneshwara in 12th century AD and Dayabhaga of Jimutvahana. Mitakshra for the first time talked about the rights of women in property and inheritance. Jimuntavahana was an Indian Sanskrit scholar and writer of legal and religious treatises of early medieval period. He was the earliest writer on smriti (law) from Bengal. Dayabhaga has dealt with the laws of inheritance. This treatise differs in some aspects from Mitakshara (another treatise on law), which was prevalent in other parts of India. The right of a widow without any male issue to inherit the properties of her deceased husband is recognized in Dayabhaga.
Puranas and upvedas
Apart from these scriptures and philosophies, there are also puranas and upvedas.
Purana literally mean old. Purans are late descriptions of ancient legends and consist of history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy and geography. The Puranas were written in simple Sanskrit verse, and were meant to be heard by everybody, including women and shudras, who were not allowed to study the Vedas. They were probably recited in temples by priests, and people came to listen to them. Mythologically, both the Puranas and the Mahabharata are supposed to have been compiled by Vyasa. Earliest puranas were composed during Gupta period. They are colored with superstitions and also represent a corrupt form of Hindu Philosophy. They promoted avtarvaad or re-incarnations and it also promoted polytheism in Hinduism. They proclaimed that even Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu (Bhagwat Purana, 9th century AD) and similarly, Rishabh Deva, first Jain teerthankara, was also termed as an incarnation of Vishnu. There are 18 major Puranas and, they today shape the dominant Hindu culture.
Upaveda means applied knowledge and are traditional literatures which contain the subjects of certain technical works. They are as follows –
I. Ayurveda deals in Medicine and associated with the Rigveda
II. Dhanurveda deals in Archery and associated with the Yajurveda
III. Gandharvaveda deals with Music and Dance and associated with the Samaveda
IV. Shastrashastra deals with military technology and associated with the Atharvaveda