Rig Veda: ‘Rik’ means praise. Rig Veda contains praises for the deities like Indra, Agni, Rudra, and the two Ashwini gods, Varuna, Maruts, Savitru and Surya. Tapping the energies of the Nature is given high importance in Rig Veda. It contains 1017 hymns (poems) praising the gods. These hymns are composed of different metres. A metre comprises of 25 syllables to 104 syllables which are to be recited at a stretch.
Yajur Veda: ‘Yajush’ means rituals. Yajur Veda contains different rituals and sacrifices to be conducted to pacify gods. When a mantra is recited and its power is felt, then to make the mantra useful, a certain type of offerings should be done to the concerned god. Yajur Veda explains about these offerings to be made to gods through Agni (fire).
Yajur Veda is divided into ‘Krishna (Dark) Yajur Veda’ and ‘Shukla (Bright) Yajur Veda’. Bright Yajur Veda contains mantras used in the rituals while explanations exist in a separate ‘Brahamana’ work. The Dark Yajur Veda incorporates such explanations in the work itself, often immediately following the mantras. There are 101 branches for the Dark Yajur Veda and 17 for Bright Yajur Veda.
Sama Veda: ‘Sama’ means song. Sama Veda contains verses to be sung. These verses are built in their root form using the 7 notes: Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni which are the basis of the classical music now existing in India. These notes aid the liberation of soul by stimulating the energy centers (chakras) in the human body.
Most of the verses in Sama Veda are taken from Rig Veda. There are several new verses added. Also, some verses are repeated. In all, it consists 1875 verses. These verses are addressed to Agni (fire), Indra (lord of gods) and Soma (moon). The verses of Sama Veda should be sung and not to be chanted. Singing these verses is called ‘Saamagaana’.
Atharvana Veda: Atharvana Veda contains useful rituals to attain worldly happiness. It contains description of diseases, how to cure them, sins and how to remove their effects and means of acquiring wealth. Atharvana Veda is more applicable to modern society since it deals with different subjects like Science, Medicine, Mathematics, Engineering, Technology etc. Atharvana Veda contains about 6000 verses forming 731 hymns.
Further each of the vedas can also be viewed as a composition of the following parts
1. Mantra Samhitas: They are hymns, poems and prayers to various gods.
2. Brahmanas: They explain how to perform sacrifices and offerings to gods.
3. Aranyakas: They give philosophical interpretations of the rituals.
4. Upanishats: They are considered most important because they contain the gist of entire knowledge of all Vedas. The most important Upanishats are: Isopanishat, Kenopanishat, Kathopanishat, Prasnopanishat, Mundakopanishat, Maandukyopanishat, Aitareyopanishat, Taittireeyopanishat, Chhandogyopanishat, Brihadaranyakopanishat and Svetaasvataropanishat.