Our literary heritage can be broadly classified into two, namely, Scriptures and Secular writings.
Scriptures can be further classified into Śrutis, Smṛtis, Itihāsas, Āgamas and Darśanas.
Secular writings are classified into Subhaṣitas, Kāvyas, Nāṭakas, Alankāras.
There has been a long tradition of teaching through the oral method. Ṡruti literally means that which is heard. Śrutis are considered to be revealed texts. Many Hindus believe that Śrutis are Anādi and Apauruṣeya- Without beginning and divine (not man- made). Various Ṛṣis then preserved and passed on the Śrutis to students and followers through the oral tradition.
The four Vedas are considered to be Śrutis:
Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda and Atharva Veda
Each Veda has four sections:
Mantra Saṁhitas, Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas and Upaniṣads.
There are four Upavedas:
Āyurveda: The science of life and medicine
Dhanurveda: The science of archery and weaponry
Gāndharvaveda: The art of music and dance
Arthaśāstra. The science of statecraft and economics
Smṛti means that which is remembered. Many Ṛṣis and scholars studied the four Vedas and created Smṛti texts with their interpretations.
Among many, the following 18 Smṛtis are considered the most important.
Manu, Yājñavalkya, Parāśara,
Viṣṇu, Dakṣa, Samvarta,
Vyāsa, Harita, Śātātapa,
Gautama, Devala, Śankha-Likhita,
Uśana, Atri and Śaunaka
ITIHĀSAS OR EPICS
Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata
Yoga Vasiṣṭha and Hari Vaṁśa
Yoga Vasiṣṭha is to Rāma what Bhagavadgita is to Arjuna
Hari Vaṁśa is the story of Kṛṣṇa told by Vyāsa.
There are 18 main Purāṇas and 18 Upapurāṇas (among many) which are most popular. They depict stories of the Trinity – Brahma, Viṣṇu and Maheśwara.
There are three divisions of Āgamas –Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava and Śākta and they contain procedures for temple buildings and details of temple rituals.
DARŚANAS OR PHILOSOPHIES
There was a gradual transition from the ritualistic aspects of the Mantra Saṁhitas to Upaniṣads which are philosophical in nature. Highly sophisticated philosophical theories emerged.
The six different philosophies are as follows:
Purva Mimāmsa and Uttara Mimānsa or Upanishads
Upaniṣads are called Vedānta meaning the end of the Vedas. The word Vedānta has become synonymous with philosophy.
Among many, thirteen Upaniṣads are considered the most important
Praśṇopaniṣad , Muṇḍakopaniṣad
Vyāsa wrote Brahma Sutra distilling the essence of Vedas
Brahma Sūtra, Bhagavad Gita & Upaniṣads are called the
‘Prasthāna Traya’ – the Centrality of Hinduism