The Ancient Indian Literature
The ancient literature is the crowning glory of the Indian civilization. No other part of the world has produced such voluminous literature of knowledge and wisdom.
The Vedas are the most celebrated possessions of the mankind. The Rig Veda is the oldest literary work in the history of the world.
The Vedas are the exquisite expressions of the Divinity. They are the first significant utterances on the lips of man.
The ancient Indian literature is the glorious gift of the Indian civilization to the world. It comprises of the illustrious scriptures. The Indian scriptures can be broadly classified into two categories:
(1) The Shruti literature (2) The Smriti literature.
Shruti is concerned with ‘the heard’ or ‘the revealed’. Smriti is concerned with ‘the remembered.’
The Vedas and the Upanishads are considered as the Shruti literature. The Sanskrit root ‘shrut’ means ‘to hear’. In ancient times, while doing their tapasya and sadhana, the great sages ‘heard’ the divine truths. Whatever was ‘heard’ was presented in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Thus they came to be known as the Shruti literature.
Smriti literature is concerned with ‘that what is remembered’. The literature which was based on the knowledge acquired through the experience or the tradition was the Smriti literature.
Generally, the Smriti literature is based on the Shruti. The famous Manu-Smriti and other smritis and shastras constitute the Smriti literature. The guidelines for ethics, moral obligations, social codes, customs etc. are found in the Smriti literature. The great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana also belong to the Smriti literature.
While the Shruti literature is veritable and inviolable, the Smriti literature may get modified under the influence of time and place.