Hinduism is based on the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. The scriptures were transmitted orally in verse form to aid memorization, for many centuries before they were written down. Over many centuries, sages refined the teachings and expanded the tresure.
In post-Vedic and current Hindu belief, most Hindu scriptures are not typically interpreted literally. More importance is attached to the ethics and metaphorical meanings derived from them. Most sacred texts are in Sanskrit Language. The texts are classified into two classes: Shruti and Smriti. Shruti means that which is heard, refers to theVedas which form the earliest record of the Hindu scriptures. There are four Vedas called Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva). The Rigveda is the first and most important Veda.
Hindu texts other than the Shrutis are collectively called the Smritis (memory). The most notable of the smritis are the itihasa (epics). The word itihasa splits as iti-ha-asa and means thus-verily-happened. Therefore itihasa means history as it truly happened. It consists of the two great epics: The Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Mahabharata contains the sacred Bhagawad Gita.
The Ramayana of Valmiki has 24000 Slokas (versus) and the Mahabharata of Vyasa has 100,000. A Sloka in Sanskrit generally means a verse with certain stipulated rhythm in terms of short and long syllables, with 32 syllables in all. Valmiki is known as the earliest poet (Adi-kavi) since he was the first author in Sanskrit who produced Slokas, which was the style adopted by Vyasa later and all writers after Vyasa. Before Valmiki's time there were only the mantras of the vedas, which were terse and difficult to understand. While the vedas are cryptic, sophisticated and abstract, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata form a popular veda and provide the simplest and most graphic introduction to Hindu thought, culture and philosophy.