Hindu Holy books
What are the Hindu Holy books?
The most ancient sacred texts of the Hindu religion are written in Sanskrit and called the Vedas.
Hinduism does not just have one sacred book but several scriptures. The Vedas scriptures guide Hindus in their daily life. They also help to preserve the religious dimensions of family and society. Hindus have developed their system of worship and beliefs from the scriptures.

There are two main categories of the Hindu scriptures:

Shruti ("that which is heard") consists of the four Vedas and Upanishads scriptures.

Smriti ("that which is remembered") composed of traditional texts, including the Dharma Shastras (legal and ethical texts), the Puranas, and the folk/historical legends known as the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The Hindu Holy Scriptures is mainly comprised of the following works written in the Sanskrit language:

The Vedas Rg-Veda (Rigveda), Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharva-Veda (see further down )

The Upanisads - These consider the nature of the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman.) One of the Upanishads contains the earliest reference to the reincarnation of the soul in different bodies (transmigration) of the soul. 

The Smrutis - (‘tradition) are the Laws of Manu (250 BC)

Ramayana - Contains the story of Rama and his devoted wife Sita. She is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana but is later freed by Rama with the help of the monkey god Hanuman. The poem is about how good will always triumph over evil and Rama and Sita are held up as role models for the perfect husband and wife.

Mahabharata - An epic poem telling the story of a war between two branches of a family. The Bhagavad-Gita forms part of this and means "The Song of God."

The Puranas - A collection of ancient tales about the different incarnations and the lives of saints.

Holy Books of Hinduism

The religions founded by individuals have one book that summarizes the philosophies of the founder or the same from the disciple's perspective and so on. This religious book defines the boundary of the religion and the followers would be expected to strictly abide by that holy book.

In Hinduism there is not exactly a text that is a must for the follower. Even without reading the sacred texts one can get to the Eternal Bliss and also just reading the holy scriptures alone will not lead to the great liberation, as per Hinduism !

But is there a common scripture that is considered holy by all sections of Hindus ? Yes, the Vedas are the common holy scripture for the Hindus. In fact they gave Hinduism the name vaidika dharma, one of its old names. What are vedas ? vedas, refer to the knowledge. That is the knowledge heard by the sages in their spiritual domain and passed across as it is as mantras. Mantras are the words of super-power, that produce grand effects when chanted. As compared stotras are the scriptures that came out of the thoughts of human beings that hail God. However it cannot be interpreted that the human made stotras are not glorious. In fact the sages associated with the vedas are also attributed to have composed many stotras. 

Vedas have four parts - samhita, brahmana, Aranyaka & upanishat. The samhitas are the core part of vedas. They are full of mantras. brAhmaNas help in the application /interpretation of the vedic samhitas. Aranyakas and upanishats are the philosophical part. upanishats cover a spectrum of analysis of the God and relation to It for the soul. They are the benchmarks (prasthana) in Hindu philosophy. So the philosophers when establishing their concepts proclaim that their theory stands good with the benchmark upanishats. The essence of the upanishats is brought out in brahmasutra composed by vedavyasa, the one who organized the vedas. The four categories of vedas are Rig, yajus, sama, atharva. vedas are the voice of the Divine preserved as it was heard by the sages and hence they are called shRuti. There is another set of scripture are the things remembered from the voice of God. They are called smruti. 

Agamas are the engineering documents, if vedas are considered as science. They describe both on the individual level as well as for the community, how the knowledge has to be implemented to get the ultimate benefits. These are the tantra text that complements the mantra of vedas. These provide guidelines as to in what ways the worship of God can be performed, temples built etc. They have great amount of details on yoga also. They cover the paths in four titles charya, kriya, yoga, Gyana (service, worship, union and wisdom). There are 28 shivAgamas. Each religion in Hinduism has its own set of Agamas. vaishnava has two Agamas, shakta has the tantras and so on.

purana, itihasas are the tales of the ancient times. There are 18 purANas that describe the glorious acts of God, describe the creation, give an elaboration of the geography of the world and some of the lineages of kings are mentioned. In contrast two itihasas (ramayaaa & mahabharata) deal with two lineages of kings (surya & chandra vamsa respectively) and they also talk about the glorious acts of God. Being in the form of stories these are taken to each of the villages and houses of ancient and modern times, by pauranikas or history tellers, that there would be people who do not know about the vedas, but hard to find one who does not know any of the puranic stories. 

Some of the more popular Hindu scriptures are gita, yogasutras and there are scriptures available for each set of philosophical paths in Hinduism like siddhanta shastras, spandha karikas etc. The stotras (hailing)   bring out the excellence of Hindu devotion. The stotra literature is very vast in all the languages of people practicing widely Hinduism. They cover the complete range of the religion from hailing the names of God to putting the essence of a complex philosophy in a simple language of four line verse ! Like the pollen as digested by the bees bring out the honey, the spiritual experience of the saints pour out as the rich stotras for the rest of the world to benefit.