Epics interpret Vedas

The Vedas are timeless, with no specific author. The Vedas are profound, and cannot be easily understood. The help of a learned preceptor is needed to help one comprehend the full implication of any Vedic passage. There is a famous sloka, which says itihasa puranabhyam vedam samupabrmhayet. That means that one must study the Itihasas and Puranas, in addition to the Vedas. The reason is to enable a correct interpretation of the Vedas, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse.

Of the two, Itihasas are given more importance, which is why they are mentioned first. Actually, there is a Paninian sutra, which says that when two words are being enunciated, the one with fewer letters must come first. In the case of Itihasa and Purana, the word ‘Purana’ has fewer letters. And yet Itihasa is used first. It may seem as if the Paninian rule is being flouted here, but it is not so. Panini maharishi also said that when two things are being spoken of, that which is superior must come first. So, when viewed in terms of this rule, it is only proper that Itihasa should precede Purana in a sloka.

But why are Itihasas superior to Puranas? Itihasa simply means that what happened was being reported. It is an account of something that took place at the very time when it took place. Itihasa means “This is what happened.” So, the chance of interpolations or additions are not there in the case of Itihasas. We have two Itihasas in Sanskrit — Ramayana and Mahabharata. Purana is the narration of something that happened long ago, and so the chance of some inaccuracies in presentation is possible. Puraa means “long back.” Purana means an account of long past events, which, however, seem to the listener or reader as if they are something relevant in the present.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 10:24:04 PM |

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