There is no culture or civilization in the world history which has not practiced any religion. When we study the ancient history of the oldest and the earliest civilizations or culture of the world, we do not find exact dates or the traces of the events with accuracy. But with the help of preserved manuscripts, stone inscriptions, artifacts, objects, and archaeological findings, we can find high-level traces of the civilization and its religion. Few of such examples of the very oldest religions of the world are like Taoism in Chinese, Sumerian religion, Zoroastrianism of Iran, etc. Similarly for most of the religions, we find a lot of information about the founders of religion, beginning period, whereabouts, background, etc. And all this has a major role in the religious beliefs, prophecies, transcendental or spiritual elements, practice, its core values, etc.
Taking all this into consideration, if we check the oldest records of Hinduism, it is very different to equate it with all other religions.
In the Indian subcontinent the oldest scriptures, sacred texts of Hinduism were not found in any written form or carved on stones. The scriptures of Hinduism was not recorded in any papyrus material. In Hinduism, we do not find any founder or any beginning dates unlike Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. We do not find any whereabouts of beginning of Hinduism.
What we find about Hinduism is a vast amount of scriptures and texts that were preserved by great seers for many-many centuries and millenniums. These seers/Rishis safeguarded the sacred heritage and vast amount of knowledge from century to century in their memory and heart. It was passed through many generations by the Gurus (teachers) to their pupils without even writing them. Which is almost impossible if we think in the present day, keeping in a notice about the amount of text and the complexity of the language. And it was passed from generation to generation without any slightest alteration and modification in it. This knowledge was later organized by the great seers and scholars and known as Vedas (वेद).
The Vedas are the oldest sacred text available not only in Hinduism but to mankind, as far as known till date. That can be a reason, it is said
‘Anantha vai Vedaah’ (अनंता वै वेदा:)
Means, Vedas are infinite. Vedas are endless and Infinite. The knowledge in Vedas has neither the beginning nor the ending. As this sacred knowledge was deep-rooted thousands of years back. There are no great scriptures than Vedas. There could more interpretations varying on the degree of the scholarly person who must be translating or interpreting it but it is the text of divine knowledge. All other scriptures are derived from the Vedas. Vedas are also called as Anādi (अनादि). Anadi means the thing which always existed even before the time started and will remain forever. Which means it is having no beginning or end. It is eternal.
‘Veda apaurusheya’ (वेद अपौरुषेय)
The Vedas are ultimate truths and not created or composed by a person. They are created by Brahman (Supreme Being). So the origin of Vedas cannot be traced. Since there are some Mantras that are associated with the names of sages, we may inference that they may have been composed of them. But it is not so as a matter of fact. “apaurusheya” means not the work of any man.
Vedas are the most authoritative of all the text in Hinduism. In all other Hinduism texts like Puranas, Bhagwat Gita and epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana also talks about the greatness and essence of Vedas. Bhagwat Gita is one of the most popular texts in Hinduism and also most translated, published scripture in Hinduism. Bhagwat Gita is composed in Sanskrit and it means Song of God. In Bhagwat Geta, Lord Krishna himself says
वेदानां सामवेदोऽस्मि देवानामस्मि वासव: |
इन्द्रियाणां मनश्चास्मि भूतानामस्मि चेतना ||
Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 22
I am the Sāma Veda amongst all the Vedas available, I am Indra amongst all the celestial gods.
What really sad is, we are not much aware of our Vedas. How many among us know Vedas? Most of us do not know anything more than- names of the four Vedas; what else…. it is the oldest scriptures known to mankind; it is written around 1500 BC by Aryans; it is written in Vedic Sanskrit. We know about Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata thanks to all the available sources like- our daily soap televisions, mythology books, stories from our grandparents.
There are some Myths around why people not studying Vedas, few common answers are:
1.) Vedas and Upanishads are difficult to understand and the only great guru, teacher, Sanskrit scholars can only understand it.
2.) Vedas and Upanishads are boring. Mostly it talks about how to praise God, nature or answer of questions like who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc.
But the question comes, have we ever tried to understand the essence of Vedas/Upanishads, the most important fundamental and the authoritative scriptures/element of Hinduism?