Difference between Vedas and Upanishads

Difference between Vedas and Upanishads is explained here in detail.

The Vedas are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

The Upanishads are late Vedic Sanskrit texts of religious teachings and ideas still revered in Hinduism. The Upanishads played an important role in the development of spiritual ideas in ancient India, marking a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions.

Aspirants would find this article relevant while preparing for the Ancient Indian History Section of the IAS Exam.

 Difference between Vedas and Upanishads

The major differences between Vedas and Upanishads are:

Vedas Upanishads
Vedas were composed over a time period ranging from 1200 to 400 B.C.E The Upanishads were written over a time period ranging from 700 to 400 B.C.E
Vedas focused on ritualistic details, uses and traditions. Upanishads focused on Spiritual enlightenment.
Vedas means knowledge in Sanskrit. It is known as “Apauruseya” meaning not of man. Upanishad is derived from the words upa (near) and shad (to sit). It is derived from the concept of sitting near the feet of the teacher.
There are 4 different Vedas – Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda. More than 200 Upanishads have been discovered. Each Upanishad is associated with a certain Veda. There are 13 Upanishads  which are most well known or most important – Katha, Kena, Isa, Mundaka, Prasna, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Svetasvatara and Maitrayani.
All the 4 Vedas are compositions of different texts.  Upanishads are in the last section of any Vedas. Upanishads are a subcategory of a Veda.
Vedas are subclassified into 4 major text types – Samhitas (Mantras), Aranyakas (Texts on rituals, sacrifices, ceremonies), Brahmanas (it gives explanation of sacred knowledge, it also expounds scientific knowledge of Vedic Period) and the 4th type of text is Upanishads. The 3 types of texts dealt with ritualistic aspects of life. Upanishads is one among the 4 major text types of Vedas. Upanishads are texts on spiritual knowledge and philosophy. Upanishads originated from each branch of Vedas. Upanishads deals with the philosophical aspects of life

After learning about the differences between Vedas and Upanishads, visit the below given links to learn more about Different types of Vedas, Vedic Literature, Vedic civilization and other important details. Also refer to the link on Ancient and Medieval Indian History NCERT Notes.

Difference between Vedas and Upanishads – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

FAQ about Vedas and Upanishads


How many Upanishads are related to the four Vedas, and what are they?

There are 13 such Upanishads. They include – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad. Aitereya Upanishad, Kausitaki Upanishad, Kena Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Svetasvatara Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Prashna Upanishad, Maitri Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad

Which is the oldest Veda among the four?

According to scholars and sages, Rig Veda is one of the oldest and perplexing literature ever written.

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