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The Upanishads as a Sacred Text of Bengali Traditions explained

Bengali Bangla is a land mass in the Indian subcontinent's north-eastern region. This geographical name refers to Bengali speakers in India and Bangladesh, which includes West Bengal. They are of Indo-Aryan ancestry. West Bengal's citizens are mostly Hindus, with the majority belonging to the Kalikula tradition, which is reigned by the Shaktism philosophy. However, a small number of Bengali Hindus practice Vaishnavism. The deities Kali, Chandi, Bheema, and Durga are worshiped by the Kalikula sect. Furthermore, the region's deities are revered: Bishahari, Manasa, Shasthi, Shitala, and Uma. Since Hinduism is the main religious practice of this region, the sacred texts of this region are the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas. 


Dating back to the last Vedic era, The Upanishads can be described as Hindu philosophical texts that played an influential role in the Hindu philosophy that exists today. They are the latest section of Hinduism's longest surviving scriptures, and they comprise themes around meditation, metaphysics, conscious experience, and epistemological knowledge; early sections of the Vedas speak of mantras, sacramentals, ritualistic practices, ceremonies, and ultimate sacrifice. The Upanishads are considered one of the most significant works in the history of Indian religions and society. They record a wide range of "rites, incarnations, and esoteric knowledge" that deviate from Vedic ritualism and are construed in different ways in today’s religious traditions. 


The Categorization of the Upanishads

Since the Upanishads are one of the most important spiritual texts in Hindu traditions, they have been translated and compiled in various languages, including Bengali. The different divisions of the Upanishads have been translated and kept in reverence in Bengali traditions. These divisions are: 


  • Muktika Canon (The Major and Minor Upanishads) 

Over 200 recognized Upanishads have been recorded in recent history, which is further categorized based on the themes these texts deal with. These include

Shaktism (goddess Shakti), Sannyasa (renunciation, monastic life), Shaivism (god Shiva), Vaishnavism (god Vishnu), Yoga, and Samanya (often referred to as Samanya-Vedanta). 


Principal Upanishads

The Principal Upanishads, otherwise called the Mukhya Upanishads are divided based on the timeframes they were composed in. Brihadaranyaka and the Chandogya have been recorded as the earliest periods of the Principal Upanishads. Every one of the major Upanishads is affiliated with one of the four Vedic exegesis schools (shakhas). Over the years, the emergence of many Shakhas has been noticed, however only a few still remain. The Principal Upanishads comprise Aitareya, Chandogya, Kena, Katha, Taittiriya, Isha, Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Mandukya, Mundaka, and Prashna Upanishad. The Principal Upanishads discuss atman, religion, karma, and rebirth. They also give the term ‘Upanishad’ its meaning. 


  • New Upanishads

Apart from the 108 texts in the Muktika scriptures, new Upanishads proceeded to be produced throughout the early modern and modern eras, often interacting with subjects unrelated to the Vedas. The translations of these texts also gained recognition from Western audiences. 


The Upanishadic period was distinguished by a diversity of worldviews. While some Upanishads are considered "monistic," others, such as the Katha Upanishad, are considered "dualistic." 


FAQs: 


Q1. What are the main philosophies behind the Upanishads? 


The Upanishads depict an interrelated universe with a solitary, unifying principle underpinning the evident diversity of the cosmos, any expression of which is referred to as Brahman. The Upanishads speak of that brahman dwells in the atman, the enduring core of the human individual, in this sense.


Q2. Why are the Upanishads also called the Vedanta? 


In Sanskrit, Vedanta refers to the "conclusion" (anta) of the Vedas, India's oldest consecrated literature. It pertains to the Upanishads, which were extrapolations of the Vedas, as well as the school that arose from the study of the Upanishads (Mimamsa).