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
"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, kings
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.