Difference Between Vedas and Upanishads (With Table)

There are many ancient books and text scripts which give knowledge about religions, rituals, etc. They give an idea about the beliefs and cultural values of religion of the religion. They are often preserved so that the beliefs can be transferred to future generations as well. Two of such text scripts are Vedas and Upanishads which give much knowledge about Hinduism.

Vedas vs Upanishads

The difference between Vedas and Upanishads is that the Vedas were written to preserve the information about the religious practices, traditions, and philosophical thoughts whereas, Upanishads are written philosophical thoughts of men and women that focus mainly on the enlightenment of spirits.

Also, the Vedas was composed during the period of 1200 to 400 B.C.E. whereas, the Upanishads was written from 700 to 400 B.C.E.

Comparison Table Between Vedas and Upanishads

Parameter of ComparisonVedasUpanishads
Composition PeriodVedas were composed during the period of 1200 to 400 B.C.E.Upanishads were written over the time period of 700 to 400 B.C.E.
Main FocusThe main focus of Vedas are rituals, traditions, and uses.The main focus of the Upanishads is Spiritual Enlightenment.
Meaning of nameVedas means knowledge in Sanskrit.Upanishads means sitting near the feet of the teacher.
TypesThere are 4 Vedas namely: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, 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 the 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 gives 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. In fact, it always existed and got apprehended by sages at some point.

The Vedas firstly 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 so that it can be passed on without any error. Later, they started to write these down and thus Vedas are found in the written form now.

There is a period in which the Vedas were committed to writing, this period is known as the Vedic Period and it was from 1500 to 500 B.C.E.

The Vedas are divided into 4 types:

  1. Rig Veda: It is the oldest of the works which comprise 10 books, known as mandalas which consist of 1028 hymns of 10600 versus. These verses talk about religious observance and practice, based on the universal observations which were 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 which serve as the lyrics of songs. 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 arcika. 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 which are used for worship. Yajur Veda’s content is also derived from Rig Veda but the main focus of its 1,875 verses is on 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 arrange 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 which are used to curb the evil spirits, danger, chants, hymns, prayers, marriage, and funeral ceremonies on daily basis. The name Atharva is derived from the priest Atharvan who was known as a healer and religious innovator.

What are Upanishads?

The Upanishads are the philosophical religious texts about Hinduism. The name Upanishads means “ sit down closely” which indicates that the student must listen to the teacher attentively. 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 and during this process, one develops the fundamental concepts of the supreme over the soul, God which is 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 are 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 of them are related to a given sage while others are anonymous.

Main Differences Between Vedas and Upanishads

  1. Vedas were composed during the period of 1200 to 400 B.C.E whereas, Upanishads were written over the time period of 700 to 400 B.C.E.
  2. The main focus of Vedas are rituals, traditions, and uses whereas, the main focus of the Upanishads is Spiritual Enlightenment.
  3. Vedas means knowledge in Sanskrit whereas, Upanishads means sitting near the feet of the teacher.
  4. There are 4 different Vedas – Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda. There are 14 Upanishads which are 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 the physical form whereas, the Upanishads are a subcategory of Veda and are present in the last section of Veda.

Conclusion

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

The Upanishads are the philosophical religious texts about Hinduism. The name Upanishads means “ sit down closely” which indicates that the student must listen to the teacher attentively.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=0F7XAAAAMAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA313&dq=vedas+and+upanishads&ots=XeUqe_6r60&sig=G6WZju6I41C71eslGQ1dRbECSxA
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=XYepeIGUY0gC&oi=fnd&pg=PA731&dq=vedas+and+upanishads&ots=TLiR0OQi5o&sig=i3nAxo9yppoAcBntvDvfle9fcV8
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