Shruti- The Vedas (Part 3)
In comparison with the Mantras, the Brahmanas are concerned with practical everyday things, with elaborate details for the proper conduct of sacrificial rites and with specific duties and rules for the conduct of ceremonies. They also explain the purpose of these rites. The Brahmanas are mainly prose texts and also contain myths, old legends and verses celebrating the exploits of kings famed in the priestly tradition.
These are forest-treatises; books of instruction to be given in the forest, or writings meant for wood-dwellers. Although considered part of the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas are for all purposes, quite independent of the Brahmanas. They may simply be regarded as a supplement and a corrective to the Brahmanas.
The Aranyakas resemble the Brahmanas in language, style and even content. Like the Brahmanas, they deal with rites and ceremonies, but unlike the Brahmanas, they do not rest in them. They are more concerned with the significance of the rites and of the mystic meaning of the Samhitas. They regard as essential the truths that the rites symbolise and that therefore the grand performances are not ends in themselves.
In occupying themselves less with the outward symbol and more with the inner reality, they come close to the chief and central glory of all Vedas – the universally admired Upanishads. The bulk of the Aranyaka literature is old, though not nearly as old as the Mantras, but certain portions may belong to a period later than 1000 BC. Much of the Aranyakas have been lost in the passage of time, and in most cases, only the Upanishad portions of these marvellous books remain.