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Hinduism: Sacred Texts

This is a guide to researching Hinduism using the online catalog, reference works, periodical indexes, bibliographies, concordances, sacred texts, and free web sites. Last updated 06-08-2023

Sacred Texts

This section contains works most commonly studied in English.  The original language of early Hindu sacred books is Sanskrit and they should be appreciated through speech rather than the written word. There are two categories of texts: the revealed texts and the remembered texts.  The revealed texts were supposedly the divine word heard by a primordial sage.  The remembered texts were created later by humans.

The revealed texts constitute the Veda, divided into four sections: the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Atharva Veda.  The Vedas are hymns that are also accompanied in the total Veda by Brahmanas (ritual texts) Aranyakas (“forest” or “wilderness” texts), and Upanishads (philosophical texts).  The Upanishads are also called the Vedanta and come at the end of the total Veda.  Though less studied than later texts, the Veda is the central scripture of Hinduism.

The remembered texts consist of post-Vedic texts.  Among the most important are two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana; the Bhagavad Gita, a text inserted into the Mahabharata that focuses on the god Krishna; and the Dharamasastras; consisting of the manuals concerning dharma and aphorism on dharma. 

Norton Anthology of World Religions, v. 1.  Main BL 74 .N67 2014 v. 1.  This is a good basic anthology of primary sources of Hinduism. See pp. 53-722.

--Revealed Texts--


There is no complete, contemporary English translation.  Use the 19th century translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith.  It is available in the Internet Sacred Text Archive online.

Rigveda, the Earliest Religious Poetry of India, ed. Jamison and Brereton  Main BL 1112.52 .E53 2014 v. 1-3

Rig Veda: a Metrically Restored Text with an Introduction and Notes Main BL 1117.5 1994 and DMC

Rig Veda: an Anthology: One Hundred and Eight Hymns, Selected, Translated and Annotated  Main BL 1112.54 .E5 2005

Upanisads ( Philosophical Texts)

Upanisads Main BL 1124.52 .E5 1996



--Remembered Texts--


The Mahabharata, 3 vols. Main PK 3633 .A2 B8 v. 1,2,3,7; Main BL 1138.24 .E5 2009

Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita Main BL 1138.62 .E5 2008 and 2008b


Ramayana of Valmiki: the Complete English Translation Main BL 1139.22 .E54 2021

Brings together in one volume several decades of work by a consortium of translators of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana Valmiki which was published in seven volumes.  Extensive annotations removed.  41 page introduction provides an orientation to the structure of the narrative, key characters, and the significance and legacy of this powerful story, a tale that is a bedrock of Hinduism and the narrative imagination of many communities in India and elsewhere. 

Valmiki-Ramayana Main PK 3653 .A2 G6 1976 pts. 1-3

Ramayana: a Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic Main PL 4758.9 .K27 R3 N3; Main PL 4758.9.K27 R3 N3 2006



Dharmasutras: the Law Codes of Apastamba, Gautama, Baudhayana, and Vasistha  Business Library KNS 125 .D473 1999; Business Library KNS 125 .D5213 2009

 This section has relied heavily upon an article in RUSQ, v. 52#1  by Kelly Myer Polacek and Wayne Bivens-Tatum titled “Sacred Books in English Translation.”