Monday, 2 July 2012

History of India: Puranas are real; they are books of historical records, says Vedic scholar

It is only the intensive and comparative study of the Puranas based on highly critical editions which can help us to some extent in reconstructing the political history of pre-Buddhist India, Dr Ramakrishna points out.

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Puranas, the ancient Hindu religious texts, are not 
mythological records but books of historical evidence.
A comprehensive research study carried out in the State by a Vedic 
research organisation shows that 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 of yore," 
says Vedic researcher and Sanskrit scholar Dr Dhulipala Ramakrishna.
A comparative study of the Vedic version and the Puranic version of a 
legend reflects also the development of social and moral ideas of the 
ancient Indian society. In fact Purana is a kind of method of instruction 
by which a large number of people are educated simultaneously.
Dr Ramakrishna, who is also a lecturer in Sanskrit in Maris Stella 
College, Vijayawada, argues that the value of the Puranas cannot be 
minimised by calling them mythological, or sectarian or religious. 
"Their vowed theme is the presentation of the history of kings up to the 
end of the fifth century Christian era. There is no doubt that the 
Puranas embody the earliest traditional history and that much of their 
material is old and valuable," he observes.
The research study 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 Nagarjunasagar reservoir.  
According to Ramakrishna, the Vishnu Puran had forecast the Mauryan 
dynasty while there's reference to early Guptas in the Vayu Puran. Both 
of them are prophecies which later turned out to be true. Long list of 
kings of several dynasties have been given in many of the Maha 
Puranas, some of which date back to at least 2,000 years before the 
Kaurava-Pandava war of the Mahabharata.
After the Mahabharata war, detailed dynastic lists of three royal 
families only, namely, the Aiksvkus, the Pauravas, and the kings of 
Magadha, continue to be given in the Puranas down to the time of 
Adhisimakrsna, who was sixth in descent from Arjuna, the hero of the 
great Mahabharata war.
He said the custom of recording dynastic history ceased with the 
Guptas, after whom no important dynasty or monarch of India has been 
described or mentioned in the Puranas. This proves that from the Gupta 
period the Puranic tradition took into practice.
It is only the intensive and comparative study of the Puranas based on 
highly critical editions which can help us to some extent in 
reconstructing the political history of pre-Buddhist India, Dr 
Ramakrishna pointed out.
According to the research study, the Purnanas 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 greater insight into all aspects".
The study also pointed out that with regard to the political institutions 
in the past, there are valuable chapters in several Puranas, specially in 
the Matsya. The elective and hereditary character of monarchy, king’s 
rights and duties the qualifications of councillors and ministers are 
described well in detail. They also furnish information for the 
construction of fort, about the rules of warfare, weapons and methods 
of war and diplomacy, Dr Ramakrishna said.

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