Friday, 30 November 2007

Puranas are historical records

Published in Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age
By Syed Akbar
The Puranas, the ancient Hindu religious texts, are not mythological records but books of genuine historical evidence. A comprehensive research study carried out in the state by a Vedic research organisation shows that the Puranas reflect the development of social and moral ideas of the ancient Indian society, besides being chroniclers of the kings and the dynasties of those times. The Puranas are also prophetic in nature with several forecasts which later became historical truths.
"Puranas are not imaginary but have historical value. In numerous cases what the Puranas formulate, the Jatakas (ancient Buddhist texts) seem to illustrate. The striking agreement between the two accounts proves that they are not works of fiction but based on events," says Vedic researcher and Sanskrit scholar Dr Dhulipala Ramakrishna.
Dr Ramakrishna, who is a lecturer in Sanskrit in Maris Stella College, Vijayawada, argues that the Puranas cannot be trivialised by calling them mythological, or sectarian or religious. "Their theme is the presentation of the history of kings up to the end of the fifth century AD. There is no doubt that the Puranas embody the earliest traditional history," he observes.
The research is carried out under the auspices of Serve, a scientific research organisation on Vedas, and is based on historical and archaeological evidence obtained from various parts of the country including the Nagarjunakonda abutting the Nagarjunasagar lake.
According to Dr Ramakrishna, the Vishnu Purana had forecast the Mauryan dynasty while there is reference of the Guptas in the Vayu Purana. Both of them are prophecies which later turned out to be true. Kings of several dynasties have been listed in many of the Maha Puranas, some of which date back to 2,000 years before the Kaurava-Pandava war of the Mahabharata.
After the Mahabharata war, detailed lists of only three royal families — the Aiksvkus, the Pauravas, and the Magadh rulers — are mentioned in the Puranas down to the time of Adhisimakrsna, who was sixth in descent from Arjun, the hero of Mahabharata.
Dr Ramakrishna said the custom of recording dynastic history ceased with the Guptas, after whom no important dynasty or monarch has been mentioned in the Puranas.
Only intensive and comparative study of the Puranas can help us reconstructing the political history of pre-Buddhist India, Dr Ramakrishna pointed out.
According to the research study, the Puranas also offer a workable hypothesis for a system of ancient Indian chronology. The interval between the death of Parikshit and the coronation of Nanda is 1015 and 1050 years respectively, according to two versions.
The interval between the coronation of Nanda and of the Andhra dynasty is said to of 836 years. Thus the date of the access of Nanda would be 401 BC. Apart from the point of view of political history, the Puranas, "give us a picture of religious, social and economic conditions of India from ancient times up to the Muslim rule in India. They give us great insight."
The study pointed out that with regard to the political institutions in the past, there are valuable chapters in several Puranas, specially in the Matsya Purana. The elective and hereditary character of monarchy, king’s rights and duties and qualifications of councillors and ministers are described in detail. They also inform on construction of forts, rules of warfare, weapons and diplomacy, Dr Ramakrishna said.

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