Timeline of Hindu texts

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Hindu scriptures are traditionally classified into two parts: śruti , meaning "what has been heard" (originally transmitted orally) and Smriti , meaning "what has been retained or remembered" (originally written, and attributed to individual authors). The Vedas are classified under śruti.


The following list provides a somewhat common set of reconstructed dates for the terminus ante quem of Hindu texts, by title and genre. It is notable that Hinduism largely followed an oral tradition to pass on knowledge, for which there is no record of historical dates. All dates here given ought to be regarded as roughly approximate, subject to further revision, and generally as relying for their validity on highly inferential methods and standards of evidence.

Samhita, Brahmana layers of the Vedas

The early Upanishads were composed over 900 - 300 BCE. [2] [3]


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<i>Sutra</i> Text in Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism, often a collection of aphorisms

Sutra in Indian literary traditions refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a condensed manual or text. Sutras are a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

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Smriti, literally "that which is remembered" are a body of Hindu texts usually attributed to an author, traditionally written down, in contrast to Śrutis considered authorless, that were transmitted verbally across the generations and fixed. Smriti is a derivative secondary work and is considered less authoritative than Sruti in Hinduism, except in the Mimamsa school of Hindu philosophy. The authority of smriti accepted by orthodox schools, is derived from that of shruti, on which it is based.

Shastra is a Sanskrit word that means "precept, rules, manual, compendium, book or treatise" in a general sense. The word is generally used as a suffix in the Indian literature context, for technical or specialigzed knowledge in a defined area of practice.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vedas</span> Ancient scriptures of Hinduism

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Śrauta</span> Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti"

Śrauta is a Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti", that is, anything based on the Vedas of Hinduism. It is an adjective and prefix for texts, ceremonies or person associated with śruti. The term, for example, refers to Brahmins who specialise in the śruti corpus of texts, and Śrauta Brahmin traditions in modern times can be seen in Kerala and Coastal Andhra.

<i>Smarta</i> tradition Tradition in Hinduism linked to Advaita Vedanta

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The following list consists of notable concepts that are derived from Hindu culture and associated cultures traditions, which are expressed as words in Sanskrit or other Indic languages and Dravidian languages. The main purpose of this list is to disambiguate multiple spellings, to make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, to define the concept in one or two lines, to make it easy for one to find and pin down specific concepts, and to provide a guide to unique concepts of Hinduism all in one place.

<i>Dhyana</i> in Hinduism Term for contemplation and meditation

Dhyana in Hinduism means contemplation and meditation. Dhyana is taken up in Yoga practices, and is a means to samadhi and self-knowledge.

Dvija means "twice-born" in ancient Indian Sanskrit. The concept is premised on the belief that a person is first born physically and at a later date is born for a second time spiritually, usually when he undergoes the ritual of passage that initiates him into a school for Vedic studies. The term also refers to members of the three varnas in the traditional Hindu social system, or social classes — the Brahmins, Kshatriyas (warriors), and Vaishyas — whose Sanskara of Upanayana initiation was regarded as a second or spiritual birth.

<i>Yoga Vasistha</i> Text with a philosophical foundation similar to Advaita Vedanta

Vasishta Yoga Samhita is a historically popular and influential syncretic philosophical text of Hinduism, dated to the 6th CE or 7th CE — 14th CE or 15th CE. It is attributed to Maharishi Valmiki, but the real author is unknown. The complete text contains over 29,000 verses. The short version of the text is called Laghu yogavāsiṣṭham and contains 6,000 verses.

Yoga philosophy is one of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism, though it is only at the end of the first millennium CE that Yoga is mentioned as a separate school of thought in Indian texts, distinct from Samkhya. Ancient, medieval and most modern literature often refers to Yoga-philosophy simply as Yoga. A systematic collection of ideas of Yoga is found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a key text of Yoga which has influenced all other schools of Indian philosophy.

Yoga Upanishads are a group of minor Upanishads of Hinduism related to Yoga. There are twenty Yoga Upanishads in the anthology of 108 Upanishads listed in the Muktika anthology.. The Yoga Upanishads, along with other minor Upanishads, are generally classified separate from the thirteen major Principal Upanishads considered to be more ancient and from the Vedic tradition.

<i>Mahavakya Upanishad</i> Sanskrit text, linked to Atharva Veda

The Mahavakya Upanishad is a Sanskrit text and one of the minor Upanishads of Hinduism. It is attached to the Atharvaveda, and is classified as one of the 20 Yoga Upanishads. The text describes the nature of Atman and Brahman, then asserts that they are identical and liberation is the state of fully understanding this identity.

Nitisara or the Nitisara of Kamandaki, is an ancient Indian treatise on politics and statecraft. It was authored by Kamandaka, also known as Kamandaki or Kamandakiya, who was a disciple of Chanakya. It is traditionally dated to the 4th-3rd century BCE, though modern scholarship variously dates it to between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE between Gupta and Harsha period and its in fact a recension based on Sukra Nitisara of 4th century BCE. It contains 19 sections. The work has been dedicated to Chandragupta of Pataliputra. Scholars presume that the work was modelled after the Hitopadesha.

In Hinduism, Śāstra pramāṇam refers to the authority of the scriptures with regard to puruṣārtha, the objects of human pursuit, namely dharma, artha, kāma (pleasure) and mokṣa (liberation). Together with smṛti, ācāra, and ātmatuṣṭi, it provides pramana and sources of dharma, as expressed in Classical Hindu law, philosophy, rituals and customs.


  1. Oberlies, Thomas (Die Religion des Rgveda, Wien, 1998, p. 155) gives an estimate of 1100 BCE for the youngest hymns in book 10. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158) based on 'cumulative evidence' sets wide range of 1700–1100
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. pp.  37-39. ISBN   0521438780.
  3. Sharma, Shubhra (1985), Life in the Upanishads, Abhinav Publications, ISBN   978-81-7017-202-4, pp. 17–19.
  4. 1 2 Molloy, Michael (2008). Experiencing the World's Religions. p.  87. ISBN   9780073535647.
  5. 1 2 Brockington, J. (1998). The Sanskrit Epics , Leiden. p. 26
  6. Van Buitenen; The Mahabharata Vol. 1; The Book of the Beginning. Introduction (Authorship and Date).
  7. Narayan, R.K. The Ramayana. Penguin Group, 2006, page xxiii: "The Indian epic, the Ramayana, dates back to 1500 BCE according to certain early scholars. Recent studies have brought it down to about the fourth century BCE."
  8. Chaurasia, Radhey Shyam. History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D. . p. 38:"the Kernel of the Ramayana was composed before 500 B.C. while the more recent portion were not probably added till the 2nd century B.C. and later."
  9. Hiriyanna, M. (1995). The Essentials of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 130. ISBN   81-208-1330-8.
  10. Trautmann 1971:185 "If the Kautilīya Arthaśāstra in its present form is not so old as it pretends, the śāstra itself is certainly old, predating the dharma smritis."
    Mabbett 1964 "The content of the text is consistent with authorship in about the third century, C.E., and raises some questions which must be answered if it is to be assigned to the fourth B.C.E. Against this must be set the verses naming and characterising Kautilya, and the references in later literature. What emerges is that there is no necessary incompatibility between the essential claims that Chanakya was responsible for the doctrines of the Arthaśāstra, and that the text we know is a product of the later time. These do not conflict. The work could have been written late on the basis of earlier teachings and writings. Sanskrit literature being so full of derivative, traditional and stratified material, this possibility is a priori strong. Those who favour the early date usually admit the probability of interpolations....Those who favour a later date usually admit the probability that the work draws on traditional material. The controversy is therefore spurious. It is entirely possible that the Mauryan Kautilya wrote an arthaśāstra and that a later editor rewrote his work, or compressed it, or compiled a text from the teachings of his school."
  11. B. K. Matilal "Perception. An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge" (Oxford University Press, 1986), p. xiv.
  12. Oliver Leaman, Key Concepts in Eastern Philosophy. Routledge, 1999 , page 269.
  13. Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.  96. ISBN   0-521-43878-0.
  14. James Lochtefeld, Brahman, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN   978-0823931798, page 746
  15. Andrew J. Nicholson (2013). Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History. Columbia University Press. p. 26. ISBN   978-0-231-14987-7.
  16. Collins, Charles Dillard (1988). The Iconography and Ritual of Śiva at Elephanta. SUNY Press. p. 36. ISBN   978-0-88706-773-0.
  17. Chapple, Christopher (1984). "Introduction". The Concise Yoga Vāsiṣṭha. Translated by Venkatesananda, Swami. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. ix-x with footnote 3. ISBN   0-87395-955-8. OCLC   11044869.
  18. Hanneder, Jürgen; Slaje, Walter. Moksopaya Project: Introduction Archived 2005-12-28 at the Wayback Machine .