TOP                          =======UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM========

Hindu   Scriptures                                    

Table of Vedas and their branches                                  
As set out by Sri V.A.K.Ayer                                        

Vedas Rig Veda Krishna Yajur Veda Sukla Yajur Veda Samaveda Atharva Veda
No.of original
21 85 17 101 9
Available Recensions or Shakas Shakala Taitireeya
Brahmanas Aitaraya, Kaushitiki (or Shankhyayana) Taittireeya (Samhita)
Sathapatha Panchavimsa,
Aranyakas Aitaraya,
Taitttireeya Brahad-
- -
Upanishads Aitaraya,
Shrouta Sutras Aswalayana,
Grihya Sutras Ashwalayana,
Dharma Sutras Vasishtha Apasthamba
----- Gautama ----
Upaveda Ayurveda Dhanurveda Dhanurveda Gandharvaveda Artha-Sastra

Click on underlined words to open paragraph

Hindu Scriptures  Part  1

The Srutis      The Four Vedas And Their Sub Divisions     

The Mantra Samhitas  The Brahmanas and The Aranyakas    

The Upanishads       The Upa-Vedas

The Vedangas   The Smritis 

The Itihasas (history) The Valmiki-Ramayana The Yogavasishtha
The Mahabharata  The Harivamsa

The Puranas   The Agamas    The Six Darsanas

Hindu Scriptures  Part 2 
The Vedas, The Upanishads, Puranas, Nyaya, Vaiseshika,
Mimamsa, Brahma-Sutras, Sankhya, Yoga, Dharma-Sastras,
The Upa-Vedas, The Kalas.


  1. The Valmiki-Ramayana
  2. The Yogavasishtha
  3. The Mahabharata
  4. The Harivamsa


Hindu Scriptures  Part  1                         
By Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Sanskrit Literature

Sanskrit literature can be classified under six orthodox heads
and four secular heads. The six orthodox sections form the
authoritative scriptures of the Hindus. The four secular sections embody the latter developments in classical Sanskrit literature.

The six scriptures are:

  1. Srutis
  2. Smritis
  3. Itihasas
  4. Puranas
  5. Agamas
  6. Darsanas

The four secular writings are:

  1. Subhashitas
  2. Kavyas
  3. Natakas
  4. Alankaras

The Scriptures

The Srutis

The Srutis are called the Vedas, or the Amnaya. The Hindus
have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas.
These are direct intuitional revelations and are held to be
Apaurusheya or entirely superhuman, without any author in
particular. The Veda is the glorious pride of the Hindus, nay,
of the whole world!

The term Veda comes from the root Vid, to know. The word
Veda means knowledge. When it is applied to scripture, it
signifies a book of knowledge. The Vedas are the foundational scriptures of the Hindus. The Veda is the source of the other five sets of scriptures, why, even of the secular and the materialistic. The Veda is the storehouse of Indian wisdom and is a memorable glory which man can never forget till eternity.

Revealed Truth Without Beginning Or End

The Vedas are the eternal truths revealed by God to the great
Rishis of India. The word Rishi means a seer, from DRIS, to
see. The Rishi is the Mantra-Drashta, a seer of Mantra or
thought. The thought was not his own. The Rishis saw the
truths or heard them. Therefore, the Vedas are what are
heard (Sruti). The Rishi did not write. He did not create it out
of his mind. He was the seer of thought which existed already.
He was only the spiritual discoverer of the thought. He is not the inventor of the Veda.

The Vedas represent the spiritual experiences of the Rishis
of yore. The Rishi is only a medium or an agent to transmit to
people the intuitional experiences which he received. The
truths of the Vedas are revelations. All the other religions of
the world claim their authority as being delivered by special
messengers of God to certain persons, but the Vedas do not
owe their authority to any one. They are themselves the
authority as they are eternal, as they are the Knowledge of the

Lord Brahma, the Creator, imparted the divine knowledge to the Rishis or seers. The Rishis disseminated the knowledge. The Vedic Rishis were great realised persons (souls) who had direct intuitive perception of Brahman or the Truth. They were inspired teachers. They built a simple, grand and perfect
system of religion and philosophy from which the founders and teachers of all other religions have drawn their inspiration.

The Vedas are the oldest books in the library of man. The truths contained in all religions are derived from the Vedas and are ultimately traceable to the Vedas. The Vedas are the
fountain-head of religion. The Vedas are the ultimate source
to which all religious knowledge can be traced. Religion is of
divine origin. It was revealed by God to man in the earliest times. It is embodied in the Vedas.

The Vedas are eternal. They are without beginning and end.
An ignorant man may say how a book can be without beginning or end. By the Vedas, no books are meant. Vedas came out of the breath of the Lord. They are the words of God. The Vedas are not the utterances of persons. They are not the composition of any human mind. They were never written, never created. They are eternal and impersonal. The date of the Vedas has never been fixed. It can never be fixed. Vedas are eternal spiritual Truths. Vedas are an embodiment of divine knowledge. The books may be destroyed, but the
knowledge cannot be destroyed. Knowledge is eternal. In that
sense, the Vedas are eternal.

The Four Vedas And Their Sub Divisions

The Veda is divided into four great books:

  1. The Rig-Veda

  2. The Yajur-Veda

  3. The Sama-Veda

  4. The Atharva-Veda

The Yajur-Veda is again divided into two parts:

  1. The Sukla Yajur-Veda

  2. The Krishna Yajur-Veda.

The Krishna or the Tattiriya is the older book and the Sukla or
Vajasaneya is a later revelation to Sage Yajnavalkya from the
resplendent Sun-God.

The Rig-Veda is divided into twenty-one sections, the
Yajur-Veda into one hundred and nine sections, the Sama-Veda into one thousand sections and Atharva-Veda into fifty sections. In all, the whole Veda is thus divided into one thousand one hundred and eighty recensions.

Each Veda consists of four parts:

  1. The Mantra-Samhitas or hymns.

  2. The Brahmanas or explanations of Mantras or rituals.

  3. The Aranyakas (philosophical interpretations of the rituals).

  4. The Upanishads (The essence or the knowledge portion
    of the Vedas).

The division of the Vedas into four parts is to suit the four stages in a man’s life.

The Mantra-Samhitas are hymns in praise of the Vedic God
for attaining material prosperity here and happiness hereafter.
They are metrical poems comprising prayers, hymns and
incantations addressed to various deities, both subjective and objective. The Mantra portion of the Vedas is useful for the Brahmacharins (celibate; one who belongs to the first of the four Asramas or orders of life; one who lives in purity and studies the Veda; the first 25 years of life).

The Brahmana portions guide people to perform sacrificial rites. They are prose explanations of the method of using the Mantras in the Yajna or the sacrifice. The Brahmana portion is suitable for the householder (Grihastha; one who belongs to the second of the four Asramas or orders of life; from 25 to 50 years of age).

The Aranyakas are the forest books, the mystical sylvan texts
which give philosophical interpretations of the Rituals. The
Aranyakas are intended for the Vanaprasthas or hermits who
prepare themselves for taking Sannyasa. (Vanaprastha = one
who leads the third stage of life; from 50 to 75 years of age).

The Upanishads are the most important portion of the Vedas.
The Upanishads contain the essence or the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The philosophy of the Upanishads is sublime, profound, lofty an soul-stirring. The Upanishads speak of the identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. They reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths. The Upanishads are useful for the Sannyasins. (Sannyasi or Sannyasin = a monk; one who has embraced the life of complete renunciation ; one belonging to the fourth or the highest stage of life; from 75 to 100 years of age).

[Note: Although the division of the Vedas into four parts is to
suit the four stages in a man’s life, the study of the four Vedas
is done by Brahmacharins or celibate students and the
knowledge thus acquired serves as the basis of the goal of
life through all the four stages of life. The studies of the Vedas
continue throughout one’s life. (Refer also to Dharma, Artha,
Kama & Moksha). Thus the knowledge of the Upanishads is
not to be confined to the last stage of life. The mind of the
Sannyasin is intensely focussed upon the teachings of the

The subject matter of the whole Veda is divided into

  1. Karma-Kanda
  2. Upasana-Kanda
  3. Jnana-Kanda.

The Karma-Kanda or Ritualistic Section
deals with various sacrifices and rituals.

The Upasana-Kanda or Worship-Section deals
with various kinds of worship or meditation.

The Jana-Kanda or Knowledge-Section deals with the
highest knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. (Nirguna = without
attributes or forms. Brahman = the Supreme Reality).

The Mantras and the Brahmanas
constitute Karma-Kanda (rituals).

The Aranyakas constitute Upasana-Kanda (worship).

The Upanishads constitute Jnana-Kanda (knowledge).

(Hindu Scriptures continued below)

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(Hindu Scriptures   - Continued)

The Mantra Samhitas

The Rig-Veda Samhita is the grandest book of the Hindus, the
oldest and the best. It is the great Indian scripture, which no
Hindu would forget to adore from the core of his heart. Its style,
the language and the tone are most beautiful and mysterious.
Its immortal Mantras embody the greatest truths of existence,
and it is perhaps the greatest treasure in all the scriptural
literature of the world. Its priest is called the Hotri.

The Yajur-Veda Samhita is mostly in prose and is meant to be
used by the Adhvaryu, the Yajur-Vedic priest, for superfluous
explanations of the rites in sacrifices, supplementing the
Rig-Vedic Mantras.

The Sama-Veda Samhita is mostly borrowed from the
Rig-Vedic Samhita, and is meant to be sung by the Udgatri,
the Sama- Vedic priest, in sacrifice.

The Atharva-Veda Samhita is meant to be used by the Brahma, the Atharva-Vedic priest, to correct the mispronunciations and wrong performances that may accidentally be committed by the other three priests of the sacrifice.

The Brahmanas and The Aranyakas

There are two Brahmanas to the Rig-Veda:

  1. The Aitareya
  2. The Sankhayana

The Satapatha Brahmana belongs to the Sukla Yajur-Veda.

The Krishna Yajur-Veda has the Taittiriya
and the Maitrayana Brahmanas.

The Tandya or Panchavimsa, the Shadvimsa, t
he Chhandogya, the Adbhuta, the Arsheya and the
Upanishad Brahmanas belong to the Sama-Veda.

The Brahmana of the Atharva-Veda is called the Gopatha.

Each of the Brahmana has got an Aranyaka.

The Upanishads

The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas or
the end of the Vedas. The teaching based on them is called
Vedanta. The Upanishads are the gist and the goal of the
Vedas. They form the very foundation of Hinduism.

There are as many Upanishads to each Veda as there are
Sakhas, branches or recensions, i.e., 21, 109, 1000 and 50
respectively to the four Vedas (The Rig-Veda, The Yajur-Veda, The Sama-Veda and the Atharva-Veda).

The different philosophers of India belonging to different
schools such as Monism, Qualified Monism, Dualism, Pure
Monism, Difference-cum non-difference, etc., have
acknowledged the supreme authority of the Upanishads.
They have given their own interpretations, but they have
obeyed the authority. They have built their philosophy on the
foundation of the Upanishads.

Even the Western scholars have paid their tribute to the seers
of the Upanishads. At a time when Westerners were clad in
barks and were sunk in deep ignorance, the Upanishadic
seers were enjoying the eternal bliss of the Absolute (God),
and had the highest culture and civilisation.

The most important Upanishads are :

Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya,
Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaushitaki, and
Svetasvatara and Maitrayani. These are supremely authoritative.

May the fundamental truths of the Vedas be revealed unto you
all, like the Amalaka fruit in the palm of your hand. May Gayatri, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, impart to you the milk of Knowledge, the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads.

Click below on underlined words
(Pages featuring extracts from Upanishads)

Chhandogya Upanishad
Katha Upanishad
Mandukya Upanishad

Mundaka Upanishad
Wisdom versus knowledge

Mundaka Upanishad
Svetasvatara Upanishad

The Upa-Vedas

There are four Upa-Vedas or subsidiary Vedas:

  1. The Ayurveda (science of life and health)
  2. The Dhanurveda (science of war)
  3. The Gandharva Veda (science of music)
  4. The Arthasastra (science of polity)

The Vedangas

There are six Angas or explanatory limbs, to the Vedas:

  1. The Siksha of Maharshi Panini (Phonetics)
  2. Vyakarana of Maharshi Panini (Sanskrit Grammar)
  3. The Chhandas of Pingalacharya (Prosody metre)
  4. The Nirukta of Yaska (Philosophy or etymology)
  5. The Jyotisha of Garga (Astronomy and astrology)
  6. The Kalpas (Srauta, Grihya, Dharma and Sulba)
    belonging to the authorship of various Rishis.

Siksha is the knowledge of phonetics. Siksha deals with
pronunciation and accent. The text of the Vedas is arranged in
various forms or Pathas. The Pada-patha gives each word its
separate form. The Krama-patha connects the word in pairs.

Vyakarana is Sanskrit Grammar. Panini’s books are most
famous. Without knowledge of Vyakarana, you cannot
understand the Vedas.

Chhandas is metre dealing with prosody.

Nirukta is philosophy or etymology.

Jyotisha is astronomy and astrology. It deals with the movements of the heavenly bodies, planets, etc., and their influence on human affairs.

Kalpa is the method or ritual. The Srauta Sutras which explain the ritual of sacrifices belong to Kalpa. The Sulba, which treat of the measurements which are necessary for laying out the sacrificial area, also belong to Kalpa. The Grihya Sutras which concern domestic life, and the Dharma Sutras which deal with ethics, customs and laws, also belong to Kalpa.

The Pratishakhyas, Padapathas, Kramapathas, Upalekhas, Anukramanis, Daivatsamhitas, Parisishtas, Prayogas, Paddhatis, Karikas, Khilas, and Vyuhas are further elaborations in the rituals of the Kalpa Sutras.

Among the Kalpa Sutras, the Asvalayana, Sankhayana and the Sambhavya belong to the Rig-Veda. The Mashaka, Latyayana, Drahyayana, Gobhila and Khadira belong to the Sama-Veda. The Katyayana and Paraskara belong to the Sukla Yajur Veda. The Apastamba, Hiranyakesi, Bodhayana, Bharadvaja, Manava, Vaikhanasa and the Kathaka belong to the Krishna Yajur-Veda. The Vaitana and the Kaushika belong to the Atharva-Veda.

(Hindu Scriptures continued below)

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(Hindu Scriptures continued)

The Smritis

Next in importance to the Sruti are the Smritis or secondary scriptures. These are the ancient sacred law-codes of the Hindus dealing with the Sanatana-Varnasrama-Dharma. They supplement and explain the ritualistic injunctions called Vidhis in the Vedas. The Smriti or Dharma Sastra is founded on the Sruti. The Smritis are based on the teachings of the Vedas. The Smriti stands next in authority to the Sruti (Vedas). It explains and develops Dharma. It lays down the laws which regulate Hindu national, social, family and individual obligations.

The works that are expressly called Smritis are the law books, Dharma Sastras. Smriti, in a broader sense, covers all Hindu Sastras (scriptures) save the Vedas.

The laws for regulating Hindu society from time to time are codified in the Smritis. The Smritis have laid down definite rules and laws to guide the individuals and communities in their daily conduct and to regulate their manners and customs. The Smritis have given detailed instructions, according to the conditions of the time, to all classes of men regarding their duties in life.

The Hindu learns how he has to spend his whole life from these Smritis. The duties of Varnasramas (the four stages of life) are clearly given in these books. The Smritis describe certain acts and prohibit some others for a Hindu, according to his birth and stage of life. The object of the Smritis is to purify the heart of man and take him gradually to the supreme abode of immortality and make him perfect and free.

These Smritis have varied from time to time. The injunctions and prohibitions of the Smritis are related to the particular social surroundings. As these surroundings and essential conditions of the Hindu society changed from time to time, new Smritis had to be compiled by the sages of different ages and different parts of India.

The Celebrated Hindu Law-Givers

From time to time, a great lawgiver would take his birth. He would codify the existing laws and remove those that had become obsolete. He would make some alterations, adaptations, readjustments, additions and subtractions, to suit the needs of the time and see that the way of living of the people would be in accordance with the teachings of the Veda. Of such law-givers, Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara are the most celebrated persons. Hindu society is founded on, and governed by, the laws made by these three great sages. The Smritis are named after them. We have Manu Smriti or Manava Dharma-Sastra (Laws of Manu or the Institutes of Manu), Yajnavalkya Smriti and Parsara Smriti. Manu is the greatest law-giver of the race. He is the oldest lawgiver as well. The Yajnavalkya Smriti follows the same general lines as the Manu Smriti and is next in importance to it. Manu Smriti and Yajnavalkya Smriti are universally accepted at the present time as authoritative works all over India. Yajnavalkya Smriti is chiefly consulted in all matters of Hindu Law. Even the present day Government of India is applying some of these laws.

There are eighteen main Smritis or Dharma Sastras. The most important are those of Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara. The other fifteen are those of Vishnu, Daksha, Samvarta, Vyasa, Harita, Satatapa, Vasishtha, Yama, Apastamba, Gautama, Devala, Sankha-Likhita, Usana, Atri and Saunaka.

The Laws of Manu are intended for the Satya Yuga; those of Yajnavalkya are for the Treta Yuga; those of Sankha and Likhita are for the Dvapara Yuga; and those of Parasara are for the Kali Yuga.

The laws and rules which are based entirely upon our social positions, time and clime, must change with the changes in society and changing conditions of time and clime. Then only the progress of the Hindu society can be ensured.

Need For A New Law-Code

(By Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh)

It is not possible to follow some of the laws of Manu at present time. We can follow their spirit and not the letter. Society is advancing. When it advances, it outgrows certain laws which were valid and helpful at a particular stage of its growth. Many new things which were not thought out by the old law-givers have come into existence now. It is no use insisting people to follow now those old laws which have become obsolete.

Our present day society has changed considerably. A new Smriti to suit the requirements of this age is very necessary. Another sage will place before the Hindus of our days a new suitable code of laws. Time is ripe for a new Smriti. Cordial greetings to this age.

The Inner Voice Of Dharma

He who is endowed with a pure heart through protracted Tapas (austerity), Japa, Kirtana, meditation and service of Guru and who has a very clear conscience, can be guided by the inner voice in matters of Dharma or duty or moral action. The inner voice that proceeds from a clean heart filled with Sattva is, indeed, the voice of God or Soul or Antaryamin or Inner Ruler. This voice is more than Smriti. It is Smriti of Smritis. Purify your heart and train yourself to hear this inner voice. Keep your ear in tune with the ‘voice’.

The Sruti And The Smriti

The Sruti and the Smriti are the two authoritative sources of Hinduism. Sruti literally means what is heard, and Smriti means what is remembered. Sruti is revelation and Smriti is tradition. Upanishad is a Sruti. Bhagavad-Gita is a Smriti. (Bhagavad-Gita forms part of The Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva, Sections XIII – XLII (also known as Bhagavad-Gita Parva).

Sruti is direct experience. Great Rishis heard the eternal truths of religion and left a record of them for the benefit of posterity. These records constitute the Vedas. Hence, Sruti is primary authority. Smriti is a recollection of that experience. Hence, it is secondary authority. The Smritis or Dharma Sastras also are books written by sages, but they are not the final authority. If there is anything in a Smriti which contradicts the Sruti, the Smriti is to be rejected.

The Itihasas (history)

The Friendly Treatises And the Commanding Treatises

There are four books under this heading:

  1. The Valmiki-Ramayana

  2. The Yogavasishtha

  3. The Mahabharata

  4. The Harivamsa

These embody all that is in the Vedas, but only in a simpler manner. These are called the Suhrit-Samhitas or the Friendly Treatises, while the Vedas are called the Prabhu-Samhitas or the Commanding Treatises with great authority. These works explain the great universal truths in the form of historical narratives, stories and dialogues. These are very interesting volumes and are liked by all, from the inquisitive child to the intellectual scholar.

The Itihasas give us beautiful stories of absorbing interest and importance, through which all the fundamental teachings of Hinduism are indelibly impressed on one’s mind. The laws of Smritis and the principles of the Vedas are stamped firmly on the minds of the Hindus through the noble and marvelous deeds of their great national heroes. We get a clear idea of Hinduism from these sublime stories.

The common man cannot comprehend the high abstract philosophy of the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. Hence, the compassionate sages Valmiki and Vyasa wrote the Itihasas for the benefit of common people. The same philosophy is presented with analogies and parables in a tasteful form to the common run of mankind.

The well known Itihasas (histories) are the epics (Mahakavyas), Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are two very popular and useful Sastras of the Hindus. The Ramayana was written by the Sage Valmiki, and the Mahabharata by Sage Vyasa.

The Ramayana

The Ramayana, the Adi-Kavya or the first epic poem, relates the story of Sri Rama. The ideal man. It is the history of the family of the Solar race descended from Ikshvaku, in which was born Sri Ramachandra, the Avatara of Lord Vishnu, and his three brothers. The ideal characters like Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata and Sri Hanuman that we find in Ramayana firmly established Hindu Dharma in our minds. The story of the birth of Rama and his brothers, their education and marriages, the exile of Sri Rama, the carrying off and recovery of Sita, his wife, the destruction of Ravana, the Rakshasa King of Lanka, and the reign of Sri Rama, are described in detail in Ramayana. How a man should behave towards his superiors, equals, and inferiors, how a king ought to rule his kingdom, how a man should lead his life in this world, how he can obtain his release, freedom, and perfection, may be learnt from this excellent epic. The Ramayana gives a vivid picture of Indian life. Even today our domestic, social, and national ideals are copied from the noble characters in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The great national heroes stand even today as beacon-lights to guide and inspire the people of the whole world. The lives of Rama, Bharata and Lakshmana provide a model of fraternal affection and mutual service. Sri Hanuman stands as an ideal unique Karma Yogi. The life of Sita is regarded as the most perfect example of womanly fidelity, chastity and sweetness. The Ramayana is written in twenty-four thousand verses, by Sage Valmiki.

The Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is the history of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It gives a description of the great war, the Battle of Kurukshetra, which broke out between the Kauravas and the Pandavas who were cousins and descendants of the Lunar race. The Mahabharata is an encyclopedia of Hindu Dharma. It is rightly called the fifth Veda. There is really no theme in religion, philosophy, mysticism and polity which this great epic does not touch and expound. It contains very noble moral teachings, useful lessons of all kinds, many beautiful stories and episodes, discourses, sermons, parables and dialogues which set forth the principles of morals and metaphysics. The Pandavas obtained victory through the grace of Lord Krishna. The Mahabharata is written in one hundred thousand verses by Sage Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa

The Bhagavad-Gita

The most important part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita. It is a marvelous dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield, before the commencement of the great war. Bhagavan Sri Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna. Sri krishna explained the essentials of Hindu religion to Arjuna. Just as the Upanishads contain the cream of the Vedas, so does the Gita contain the cream of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the cows. Lord Krishna is the cowherd. Arjuna is the calf. The Gita is the milk. The wise men are those who drink the milk of Gita.

The Gita is the most precious jewel of Hindu literature. It is a universal gospel. The Gita teaches the Yoga of Synthesis. It ranks high in the religious literature of the world.

Arjuna saw before him his dear relatives and teachers in the battlefield. He fainted and refused to fight against them. Then Lord Krishna imparted knowledge of the Self to Arjuna and convinced him that it was his duty to fight regardless of the consequences. Afterwards Arjuna gave up his Moha, or delusion. All his doubts were cleared. He fought against the Kauravas and achieved victory.

Knowledge Of Ancient Indian History and Culture

The Mahabharata contains also immortal discourse of Bhishma on Dharma, which he gave to Yudhishthira, when he was lying on the bed of arrows. The whole Mahabharata forms an encyclopedia of history, morals and religion unsurpassed by any other epic in the world.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata speak to us clearly about ancient India, about her people, her customs, her ways of living, her arts, her civilisation and culture, her manufactures, etc. If you read these two books, you will come to know how great India once was, and you will be inspired to make her great once more. No other country has produced so many great men, great teachers, great Yogis, great seers, great Rishis, great prophets, great Acharyas, great kings, great heroes, great statesmen, great patriots and great benefactors, as India. The more you know of India and Hinduism, the more you will honour and love it and the more thankful to the Lord you will be that you were born in India as a Hindu. Glory to India! Glory to Hinduism! Glory to the seers of the Upanishads! Glory, glory to Lord Krishna, the author of the Song Divine (Bhagavad-Gita).

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(Hindu Scriptures continued)

The Puranas

The Puranas are of the same class as the Itihasas. They have five characteristics (Panch-Lakshana):

  1. History

  2. Cosmology ( with various symbolical illustrations of philosophical principles)

  3. Secondary creation

  4. Genealogy of kings

  5. Manavantaras

All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Samhitas.

Vyasa is the compiler of the Puranas from age to age; and for this age, he is Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, the son of Parsara.

The Puranas were written to popularise the religion of the Vedas. They contain the essence of the Vedas. The aim of the Puranas is to impress on the minds of the masses the teachings of the Vedas and to generate in them devotion to God, through concrete examples, myths, stories, legends, lives of saints, kings and great men, allegories and chronicles of great historical events. The sages made use of these things to illustrate the eternal principles of religion. The Puranas were meant, not for the scholars, but for the ordinary people who could not understand high philosophy and who could not study the Vedas.

The Darsanas are very stiff. They are meant only for the learned few. The Puranas are meant for the masses with inferior intellect. Religion is taught in a very easy and interesting way through these Puranas. Even to this day, the Puranas are popular. The Puranas contain the history of remote times. They also give a description of the regions of the universe not visible to the ordinary physical eye. They are very interesting to read and are full of information of all kinds. Children hear the stories from their grandmothers, Pandits and Purohits (priests) hold Kathas in temples, on banks of rivers and in other important places. Agriculturalists, labourers and bazaar people (common masses) hear the stories.

The Eighteen Puranas

There are eighteen main Puranas and an equal number of subsidiary Puranas or Upa-Puranas. The main Puranas are:

1.Vishnu Purana, 2.Naradiya Purana, 3.Srimad Bhagavata Purana,

4.Garuda (Suparna) Purana, 5.Padma Purana, 6.Varah Purana, 7.Brahma Purana,

8.Brahmanda Purana, 9.Brahma Vaivarta Purana, 10.Markandeya Purana, 11.Bhavishya Purana, 12.Vamana Purana, 13.Matsya Purana, 14.Kurma Purana,

15.Linga Purana, 16.Siva Purana, 17.Skanda Purana and 18.Agni Purana.

Of these, six are Sattvic Puranas and glorify Vishnu; Six are Rajasic Puranas and glorify Brahma; six are Tamasic Puranas and glorify Siva.

Neophytes or beginners in the spiritual path are puzzled when they go through Siva Purana and Vishnu Purana. In Siva Purana, Lord Siva is highly eulogised and an inferior position is given to Lord Vishnu. Sometimes Vishnu is belittled. In Vishnu Purana, Lord Hari (Vishnu) is highly eulogised and the inferior status is given to Lord Siva. Sometimes Lord Siva is belittled. This is only to increase the faith of the devotees in their particular Ishta-Devata (favourit