Faith

Itihasas come first

When we talk of traditional texts, we say that the Itihasas and Puranas are important. But if one had to decide which of these is more important, then the answer would be the Itihasas.

There are many reasons for this, elaborated M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse. Panini, in his grammar work Ashtadhyayi, says that when two words are to be used together, the word that has fewer letters must come first. If that rule were to be followed, then we should not say Itihasa Puranas, because Purana has three letters and Itihasa has four letters.

But Panini himself gives yet another rule, where he says that when two words are to be used together, the one that refers to a more respected matter must come first. So, the reason for Itihasa coming before Purana is because Itihasas take precedence over Puranas.

And why is it so? An Itihasa is a record of something that happened, written by someone who was witness to the events. There are two Itihasas, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and in both these cases the authors were also characters in their chronicles. We find Valmiki right at the beginning, and when Rama tells Lakshmana to take Sita to the forest, He tells him to leave Her near Valmiki’s ashram, because Valmiki had been a friend of Dasaratha. In the Mahabharata, Vyasa features significantly.

The Puranas were narrations of Brahma, which were later put together. So, these were not first-hand reports as the Itihasas were. This is not to belittle the Puranas, but to point out that the Itihasas take precedence over the Puranas.

When a report is written soon after an incident, it is likely to be more accurate, and the Itihasas have this advantage. That is why they have more authority than the Puranas.

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 10:12:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/itihasas-come-first/article21861056.ece

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