The Upanishads

8 Nov, 2012 290 Other religions

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Dating from about 700 BC, the Upanishads were passed down through an oral tradition in priestly castes and were not written down until the 6th century AD. They constitute the final part of the Vedas, the collection of texts which form the foundation of the Indian Hindu world, and were originally spoken during sacrificial rituals.

Yet the Upanishads go beyond incantations performed during sacrifices, and ask profound questions about human existence and man’s place in the cosmos. The concepts of Brahman (the universal cosmic power) and Atman (the deeper soul of the individual) are central to the understanding of the Upanishads. Each individual treatise has its own character. Some are poetic; some are scientific; others are dialogues between kings and sages or metaphysical reflections. More than one hundred Upanishads were produced, thirteen of which are regarded as the canonical scriptures of Hinduism.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Jessica Frazier 8 episodes
    Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford
  • Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad 5 episodes
    Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University
  • Simon Brodbeck No other episodes
    Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Cardiff

Reading list

  • The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanishads
    Brian Black (State University of New York Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • Text and Authority in the Older Upanishads
    Signe Cohen (Brill, 2008) Google Books →
  • An Introduction to Hinduism
    Gavin Flood (University of Cambridge, 1996) Google Books →
  • Crises and Knowledge: The Upanishadic Experience and Storytelling
    Yohanan Grinshpon (Oxford University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Upanishads
    Patrick Olivelle (trans.) (Oxford University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • Samnyasa Upanisads
    Patrick Olivelle (Oxford University Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Indian Philosophy
    Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • Principal Upanishads
    Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (HarperCollins, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Upanishads
    Valerie Roebuck (trans.) (Penguin, 2003)
  • Ineffability: Failure of Words in Philosophy and Religion
    Ben-Ami Scharfstein (State University of New York Press, 1993) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 294.5 (Hinduism)

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