Smriti (Sanskrit स्मृति, "that which is remembered") refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture. Smriti also denotes non-Shruti texts generally, seen as secondary in authority to Shruti.
The literature which comprises the Smriti was composed after the Vedas around 500 BCE.
Classifying the Smriti has been a contentious issue, even the names of proposed categories are debated. One such taxonomy follows:
- Dharmasastra or the laws. This is represented by 18 books. Each book corresponds to an age of time.
- Itihasa or the histories. This is by 4 books. It includes the Mahakavyas, or Epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
- Purana or the writings. This is represented by 18 books. They are secondary scriptures that mainly focus on Vishnu or Shiva as the preferred supreme Deity.
- Vedanga. This is represented by 6 categories of documents: the Shiksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyotisha, & Kalpa.
- Agama or the doctrines. There are three major divisions by doctrine: the Vaisnava, Saiva, and Sakta. Another way of grouping them is by Mantra, Tantra, and Yantra.
- Darsana (aka Dyasana) or philosophies. This is represented by 6 schools of thought: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, & Uttara Mimamsa (aka Vedanta).
Styles of Memorization
Prodigous energy was expended by ancient Indian culture in ensuring that these texts were transmitted from generation to generation with inordinate fidelity. For example, memorization of the sacred Vedas included up to eleven forms of recitation of the same text. The texts were subsequently "proof-read" by comparing the different recited versions. Forms of recitation included the (literally "mesh recitation") in which every two adjacent words in the text were first recited in their original order, then repeated in the reverse order, and finally repeated again in the original order. The recitation thus proceeded as:
word1word2, word2word1, word1word2; word2word3, word3word2, word2word3; ...
In another form of recitation, (literally "flag recitation") a sequence of N
words were recited (and memorized) by pairing the first two and last two words and then proceeding as:
word1word2, word(N-1)wordN; word2word3, word(N-3)word(N-2); ...; word(N-1)wordN, word1word2;
The most complex form of recitation, (literally "dense recitation"), according to , took the form:
word1word2, word2word1, word1word2word3, word3word2word1, word1word2word3; word2word3, word3word2, word2word3word4, word4word3word2, word2word3word4; ...
That these methods have been effective, is testified to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian religious text, the
1500 BCE), as a single text, without any variant readings. Similar methods were used for memorizing mathematical texts, whose transmission remained exclusively oral until the end of the Vedic period
(ca. 500 BCE).