Vedas vs Upanishads: Difference and Comparison

Many ancient books and text scripts give knowledge about religions, rituals, etc. They give an idea about the beliefs and cultural values of religion.


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They are often preserved to transfer the beliefs to future generations. Two such text scripts are Vedas and Upanishads, which give much knowledge about Hinduism.

Key Takeaways

  1. Vedas are the oldest and most sacred texts of Hinduism, composed in Sanskrit and containing hymns, rituals, and philosophical teachings.
  2. Upanishads are later texts that form part of the Vedas, containing philosophical and mystical teachings on the nature of reality and the self.
  3. Vedas focus more on ritualistic and ceremonial practices, while Upanishads focus more on spiritual and philosophical concepts.

Vedas vs Upanishads

The Vedas are the oldest scriptures in Hinduism, containing hymns, mantras, and rituals, and are a source of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. The Upanishads are philosophical texts composed between 800 BCE and 500 BCE that explore the nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the relationship between the individual self and the divine.

Vedas vs Upanishads

Also, the Vedas were composed from 1200 to 400 B.C.E., whereas the Upanishads were written from 700 to 400 B.C.E.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonVedasUpanishads
Composition PeriodVedas were composed from 1200 to 400 B.C.E.Upanishads were written over the period of 700 to 400 B.C.E.
Main FocusThe main focus of Vedas is rituals, traditions, and uses.The main focus of the Upanishads is Spiritual Enlightenment.
Meaning of nameVedas means knowledge in Sanskrit.Upanishads mean sitting near the feet of the teacher.
TypesThere are 4 Vedas, namely: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda.There are 14 popular Upanishads: Katha, Kena, Isa, Mundaka, Prasna, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Svetasvatara and Maitrayani.
GeneralThe Vedas are different from each other in their physical form.The Upanishads are a subcategory of Veda and are present in the last section of Veda.

What are the Vedas?

The Vedas are text scripts that give knowledge about Hinduism. The word “Veda”  is derived from a Sanskrit word which means knowledge. Vedas give fundamental knowledge about the cause of existence and one’s response to existence.

Vedas are considered one of the oldest works in the world. They are often referred to as scripture as they contain holy writings about the nature of the Divine.

It is quite different from the scriptures of other religions as it doesn’t focus on the thought of a specific person at a specific time. It always existed and got apprehended by sages at some point.

The Vedas first existed in oral form and were passed down to the students by their masters for generations. The students were expected to memorize the words properly with exact pronunciation to pass them on without any errors.

Later, they started to write these down, and thus Vedas are found in written form. There is a period in which the Vedas were committed to writing, known as the Vedic Period, from 1500 to 500 B.C.E.

The Vedas are divided into 4 types:

  1. Rig Veda: It is the oldest of the works, comprising 10 books, known as mandalas, consisting of 1028 hymns of 10600 verses. These verses talk about religious observance and practice based on the universal observations understood by the sages who heard them first.
  2. Sama Veda: The Sama Veda is a work that consists of liturgical songs, chants, and texts that serve as song lyrics. The content of Sama Veda is very similar to that of the Rig Veda. Some scholars even say that the words of the Rig Veda are the lyrics of the melodies of the Sama Veda. Sama Veda is comprised of 1549 verses, and it is divided into two sections: the gana and the Ericka. The melodies of Sama Veda encourage dance, and its lyrics elevate the soul.
  3. Yajur Veda: The Yajur Veda consists of ritual worship formulas, mantras, and chants used for worship. Yajur Veda’s content is also derived from Rig Veda, but the main focus of its 1,875 verses is the liturgy of religious observances. It has two sections “dark Yajur Veda” and “light Yajur Veda”. The dark Yajur Veda refers to verses that are clear and arranged, whereas dark Yajur Veda refers to those verses which are unclear and poorly arranged.
  4. Atharva Veda: The Atharva Veda is quite different from the other three Vedas as it is more about the magic spells used to curb evil spirits, danger, chants, hymns, prayers, marriage, and funeral ceremonies daily. The name Atharva is derived from the priest Atharvan, a healer and religious innovator.

What are Upanishads?

The Upanishads are philosophical, religious texts about Hinduism. The name Upanishads means “ sit down closely, ” indicating that the student must listen attentively to the teacher. The main basis of the text of the Upanishads is Spiritual Enlightenment.

The Upanishads take care of the ritual observance and an individual’s place in the universe. During this process, one develops the fundamental concepts of the supreme over the soul, God, known as Brahman, and the Atman, whose goal is to unite with Brahman.  

There are 18-200 Upanishads, but the most known ones which contribute to the four Vedas are:

  1. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
  2. Chandogya Upanishad
  3. Taittiriya Upanishad
  4. Aitereya Upanishad
  5. Kausitaki Upanishad
  6. Kena Upanishad
  7. Katha Upanishad
  8. Isha Upanishad
  9. Svetasvatara Upanishad
  10. Mundaka Upanishad
  11. Prashna Upanishad
  12. Maitri Upanishad
  13. Mandukya Upanishad

The origin and composition date of many Upanishads is unknown. In general, it is dated from 800- 500 B.C.E. for the first six that is, Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Aitereya Upanishad, Kausitaki Upanishad, and Kena Upanishad.

Later dates are for the last seven Upanishads. Some are related to a given sage, while others are anonymous.


Main Differences Between Vedas and Upanishads

  1. Vedas were composed between 1200 and 400 B.C.E., whereas Upanishads were written between 700 and 400 B.C.E.
  2. The main focus of the Vedas is rituals, traditions, and uses, whereas the main focus of the Upanishads is Spiritual Enlightenment.
  3. Vedas means knowledge in Sanskrit, whereas Upanishads mean sitting near the feet of the teacher.
  4. There are 4 different Vedas – Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. There are 14 Upanishads which are the most well-known or most important – Katha, Kena, Isa, Mundaka, Prasna, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Svetasvatara, and Maitrayani.
  5. The Vedas are different from each other in their physical form, whereas the Upanishads are a subcategory of the Veda and are present in the last section of the Veda.
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