Timeline of Hindu texts

Hindu scriptures are classified into two parts: Shruti ("śruti": what has been heard) and Smriti ("smṛti": what has been retained, remembered). The Vedas are classified under "śruti". A commonplace opinion in Southern Asian religious discourse suggests that, unlike other religions which claim the authority of their scriptures as being delivered by a personal God or special messengers of God, "Hindus" claim that the Vedas do not owe their authority to anybody; rather, the Vedas themselves are the authority, being identical with the eternal knowledge of God. This view, along with the classificatory schema, is a product of the Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā-darśana, one of the earliest hermeneutical schools in Indian antiquity. There is some evidence, however, that this school was not the only early opinion on the origins of the Veda. cf., the "Aitihāsikas" According to the Mīmāṃsā tradition, the mass of knowledge called the Veda became manifested to historical being via the divine mediation of persons called Rishis, the Seers. This mass of knowledge was eventually recorded in written form, though for the greater part of Indian history, these works were passed from generation to generation by a sophisticated practice of mnemonic heuristics, so that many thousands of hymns were committed to memory in a phonetically conservative form; The written forms of these hymns offer us little outward information about the original dates of discovery or composition. Thus, historians of Vedic texts are frequently left to making highly inferential arguments for the works by various subtle, indirect clues.


The following list provides a somewhat common set of reconstructed dates for the terminus ante quem of Hindu texts, by title or genre. 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.

See also


  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 Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. p. 37. 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. 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. Hanneder, Jürgen; Slaje, Walter. Moksopaya Project: Introduction.
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