According to the Vishnu Purana the original Veda was divided into four parts, and further fragmented into numerous shakhas, by Vishnu in the form of Vyasa, in the Dvapara Yuga; the Vayu Purana recounts a similar division by Vyasa, at the urging of Brahma. The Bhagavata Purana traces the origin of the primeval Veda to the syllable aum, and says that it was divided into four at the start of Dvapara Yuga, because men had declined in age, virtue and understanding.

However, if we consider the order of evolution of Vedas, Mahabharata, Srimad Ramayana, etc, we can understand that Vedas were followed by Srimad Ramayana. And, after a long period Mahabharata came into existence.

So if we go by these stories, the Vedas should have been remained undivided in the Ramayana era. If we read Srimad Ramayana carefully, we will find that Vedas were already divided into 3 parts by the time Sri Rama came into existence.

1) Sri Hanuma approaches, at the behest of Sugreeva, Sri Rama and Lakshmana to know the intentions of those two by their conduct, by their semblance, and by their conversation.

      After listening to him, Sri Rama expresses his opinion on Sri Hanuma to Lakshmana as follows:

न अन् ऋग्वेद विनीतस्य न अ--यजुर्वेद धारिणः | न अ--साम वेद विदुषः शक्यम् एवम् विभाषितुम् ||

(Kishkinda Kanda 3rd Sarga 28th Sloka)

"Nay...the non-knower of Rig Veda, or the non-rememberer of Yajur Veda, or the non-scholar of Saama Veda... can possibly, or truly speak this way..."

Here, Sri Rama was saying that Sri Hanuma was well versed in Rig, Yajur, Saama Vedas. So by that time Vedas might have already been divided into 3 parts only but not 4 parts.

2) While describing the characteristics and bodily signs of Sri Rama to Sita, Sri Hanuma says as follows:

यजुः वेद विनीतः च वेदविद्भिः सुपूजितः | धनुः वेदे च वेदे च वेद अन्गेषु च निष्ठितः || (Sundara Kanda 35th Sarga 14th Sloka)

"He got trained in Yajurveda, the sacrificial Veda. He is highly honoured by those well-versed in Vedas. He is skilled in Dhanurveda, the science of archery, other Vedas and the six limbs of Vedangas."

Sri Rama was trained in Yajurveda. So Vedas were divided in Srimad Ramayana era itself.

Then why this division of Vedas was attributed to Sage Vyasa?

  • Do you want a mythological answer as the one currently posted or a historical one? If latter, suggest you remove the 'mythology' tag from the question and instead add the 'history' tag. – sv. Jul 15 '19 at 21:25
  • I have deleted the Mythology tag. @sv. – srimannarayana k v Jul 16 '19 at 0:25

It's because there is more than one Vyasa. Most people only know "Vyasa" as the name of the sage Krishnadvaipayana Vedavyasa, the son of Parashara and Satyavati who, in the most recent Dwapara Yuga, compiled and divided the body of the Vedic mantras into the four books we call the Vedic Samhitas. (Technically he only compiled the first Rig, Yajur, and Sama Veda; the Atharvana Veda was an independent effort by the sages Atharva and Angiras.) But as I discuss in this answer, he is not the only one who has done this.

Vyasa is actually a title, and in each Dwapara Yuga a new Vyasa does the job of compiling and dividing the Vedas. In this chapter of the Vishnu Purana, the current Vyasa's father Parashara lists the previous Vyasas of the Vaivasvata Manvantara:

Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the great Rishis in the Vaivaswata Manwantara in the Dwápara age, and consequently eight and twenty Vyásas have passed away; by whom, in their respective periods, the Veda has been divided into four. In the first Dwápara age the distribution was made by Swayambhu (Brahmá) himself; in the second, the arranger of the Veda (Veda-vyása) was Prajápati (or Manu); in the third, Uśanas; in the fourth, Vrihaspati; in the fifth, Savitri; in the sixth, Mrityu (Death, or Yama); in the seventh, Indra; in the eighth, Vaśisht́ha; in the ninth, Sáraswata; in the tenth, Tridháman; in the eleventh, Trivrishan; in the twelfth, Bharadwája; in the thirteenth, Antaríksha; in the fourteenth, Vapra; in the fifteenth, Trayyáruńa; in the sixteenth, Dhananjaya; in the seventeenth, Kritanjaya; in the eighteenth, Rińa; in the nineteenth, Bharadwája; in the twentieth, Gotama; in the twenty-first, Uttama, also called Haryátmá; in the twenty-second, Veńa, who is likewise named Rájaśravas; in the twenty-third, Somaśushmápańa, also Trińavindu; in the twenty-fourth, Riksha, the descendant of Bhrigu, who is known also by the name Válmíki; in the twenty-fifth, my father Śakti was the Vyása; I was the Vyása of the twenty-sixth Dwápara, and was succeeded by Jaratkáru; the Vyása of the twenty-eighth, who followed him, was Krishńa Dwaipáyana. These are the twenty-eight elder Vyásas, by whom, in the preceding Dwápara ages, the Veda has been divided into four. In the next Dwápara, Drauńi (the son of Drońa) will be the Vyása, when my son, the Muni Krishńa Dwaipáyana, who is the actual Vyása, shall cease to be (in that character).

Now the Vyasa of the twenty-fourth Dwapara Yuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara was the sage Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana. The reason I single him out is that Rama was born in the twenty-fourth Mahayuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara, as I discuss in my answer here. The Ramayana took place in the transition between the Treta Yuga and the Dwapara Yuga of that Mahayuga.

So to sum up, it is the sage Valmiki's edition of the Vedas, not Krishnadwaipayana Veda Vyasa's division, that Rama and Hanuman are referring to.

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    @srimannarayanakv Well, the thing is that detailed accounts of what events happened in what Yuga and Manvantara are what Puranas or histories are for. Now I could easily give you quotes from the Mahabharata which say that Parashara's son Vyasa compiled the Vedas. And I could give you a Mahabharata quote that talks about Ashwatthama's plans to study under the current Vyasa, which is how he'll become the next Vyasa. But for lists of previous Vyasas we have to turn to the Puranas, just as we have to turn to the Puranas for lists of previous Indras. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 6 '15 at 14:44
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    @srimannarayanakv The 8800 verses are known as the Jaya, and they constitute the dialogue between Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra. Then Vyasa composed the 100,000 verse Mahabharata to provide the larger context for the Jaya. In any case, like I said I fully agree with you that the Puranas have some interpolations. But we should take a passage from the Puranas as Sabda Pramana until we have good reason to doubt that particular passage. In any case, do you want me to give you the Mahabharata quotes I was referring to? – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 6 '15 at 16:50
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    OK chapter 60 of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata says "And the illustrious one developed by his will alone his body as soon as he was born, and mastered the Vedas with their branches, and all the histories. And he readily obtained that which no one could obtain by asceticism, by the study of the Vedas, by vows, by fasts, by progeny, and by sacrifice. And the first of Veda-knowing ones, he divided the Vedas into four parts." And Adi Parva chapter 105 says "That illustrious Rishi having by his ascetic power divided the Vedas into four parts hath come to be called on earth by the name of Vyasa" – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 6 '15 at 17:13
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    @srimannarayanakv The 8800 verses of the Jaya begin in the Bhishma Parva and end in the Sauptika Parva - they constitute Sanjaya's narration to Dhritarashtra based on the divine vision he was given by Vyasa. The rest of the Mahabharata is based on Vyasa's own divine vision. Now as to whether it's possible that the quotes I gave could be later insertions into the text, it's possible that all of Hindu scripture is just later insertions! But when examining our sacred scriptures, the best approach to take is "innocent until proven guilty" - assume it's authentic until you have reason to doubt it. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 6 '15 at 17:36
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    @srimannarayanakv Vyasa did not "bring out" the 8800 verses of the Jaya. The Jaya is just Sanjaya's narration of the war to Dhritarashtra, it's not meant to be a free-standing work. Vyasa used Sanjaya's account of the war as a starting point for a 24,000-verse poem about the life stories of the Pandavas and Kauravas, called the Bharata. Then to provide additional context, he composed a larger poem called the Mahabharata by adding Upakhyanas or episodes unconnected to the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Yudhishthira-Bhishma dialogues are not part of an Upakhyana, so they were part of the Bharata. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 7 '15 at 4:37

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