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The Aranyakas ( Sanskrit , n., आरण्यक, āraṇyaka , "forest text ", from forest, wilderness) are texts of early Hinduism that are similar in nature to the Brāhmanas . These were ritual texts for the Orthodox Brahmins who had withdrawn into the forest. These forest dwellers took the first step towards the world renunciation Sanyāsa . This became a growing trend in Indian society in the centuries that followed.

Most of the Āranyakas' texts have been lost; but the following are still preserved:

  • the Aitareya and the Kaushitaki Āranyaka ( belonging to the Rig Veda )
  • the Taittiriya-Āranyaka (belonging to the Black Yayur-Veda)
  • the Brihad-Āranyaka (belonging to the White Yajurveda)
  • (There are no more Āranyaka for the Sama and Atharva Veda.)

Āranyaka originally means forest, wilderness and was used as a text name because these teachings were not imparted in the village, but in the lonely forest with a teacher. Traditionally, the Āranyakas are associated with the third stage of life of Vanaprastha ( those who live in the forest). After fulfilling the family and social duties as grihastha (housekeeper; more often: housefather), Hinduism provides two further stages ( āśrama ), which serve religious education and spiritual development. The Vanaprastha lives in the forest to continue his religious studies, the Samnyāsīn breaks all ties to family and society.

The Āranyakas paved the way for the esoteric philosophy of the Upanishads and for the subsequent ascetic form of the yoga tradition.

Āranyakas and Veda

The Veda and thus also the Āranyakas belong to the Shruti ( Sanskrit , f., श्रुति, śruti , literally: “what is heard”), which is revealed by “what is heard”, these are the revelation texts, to which the Samhitās, Brāhmanas , Āranyakas and ultimately the Upanishads count.

At the center of the Vedic religion are the religious hymns presented in the Veda , such as sacrificial rituals in favor of the deities Indra , Agni and Vayu etc.


  1. The Yoga Tradition, Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Verlags GmbH, Wiggensbach 2009, page 224
  2. as opposed to or in connection with the Smriti ( Sanskrit , f., स्मृति, smṛti , “what is remembered”), in a sense “the written canon ” in the narrower sense.
  3. Eckard Wolz-Gottwald: Yoga-Philosophy-Atlas. Via Nova, Petersberg 2006, ISBN 3-936486-04-2 , p. 52 f