Episode 3: Ithihaasas more significant than Puraanaas?


In the previous episode we saw how significant are the “Veda-Upabrahmanas” and the reason why Bhagawan created them. In the process we also saw that the Veda-Upabrahmanas consists of two parts – The “Ithihaasaas and the “Puraanaas”. It’s known that the Ithihaasaas are two in number – The Ramayana and the Mahabhaaratha, and the Puraanaas are sixteen in number. Within these two, it is said that the “Ithihaasaas” are much more significant and prominent than the “Puraanaas”. Why do we say so? Let’s see in today’s episode!!

We shall start with the following sloka (verse):


Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam vedam soupabrahmayeth!

Vibheh kalpashrutaa vedaha maamayam pratarshathi!!


This sloka (verse) intends to convey the message that, if a person tries and explores the Vedic texts directly without exploring the Ithihaasaas and the Puraanaas, the “Mother of Vedas” (Veda-Maathaa) gets upset. In other words, Veda-Maathaa gets anxious and worried because, this person might misinterpret and misunderstand the Vedic text, if he/she doesn’t read through the “Ithihaasas” and the “Puraanaas”. Here, we can again understand that the “Ithihaasaas” and the “Puraanaas” are given much more prominence even than the Vedic texts, in our Hindu Literature.

Before we go into exploring further into the above sloka, there’s something important that we need to understand. It might be known that the Sanskrit language comprises of numerous “Vyaakarna Suthras” (Grammatical rules) and it might also be known that Paanini Bhagawan has authored them. In any language, both its grammar and philosophy are equally important. Only if a person gains an expertise in the grammar of that particular language, he/she can “use” that language in a way that would make sense for others to understand.

Now, let’s explore the inner significance of the above sloka. With this basic knowledge about the “Suthras” as mentioned above, it can be inferred from this sloka that there is a “grammatical significance” in it. I shall explain this in detail below:

The sloka starts by saying “Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam”. In Paanini “Suthram”, there’s a grammatical rule called “Alpaachitharam poorvam”. Here comes a question: If we have to use two “Shabdaas” (Phrases) together in a sloka, which phrase should come first and which should come next? For instance we say “Maathaa Pithaa(Mother and Father). Should we say “Maathaa Pithaa” or “Pithaa Maathaa”? For this, the “Alpaachitharam Poorvam” rule says that, the shabdha (Phrase) that has the lesser number of alphabets should come first and the shabdha with more number of alphabets should come next.

In this case, the Shabdha“Puraana” has three alphabets – Pu, Raa and Na, whereas the Shabdha“Ithihaasa” has four alphabets – I, Thi, Haa and Sa. Hence, according to the above-mentioned rule, this sloka should ideally begin as “Puraana Ithihaasaabhyaam…”. But the actual sloka starts as “Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam…” It might make us think for a moment that there’s a grammatical error in the above phrase.

But there is an exception here and this exception is very significant. Paanini Bhagawan continues to mention in this “Suthra”, “Alpaachitharam poorvam… Abhyarhitham”. This means that, the “Shabda” which is more predominant and significant in terms of it’s meaning, maybe used in the beginning and the one with a bit lesser significance maybe used at the end.

Let’s now recall the sloka again. It says, “Ithihaasa Puraanaabhyaam..”. With this above-mentioned “exception” in the grammatical rule, we can infer that the “Ithihaasaas” has a greater significance than the “Puraanaas” in terms of meaning. This is why in the Hindu literature the Ithihaasaas has more prominence than any other text.

However, even within the two Ithihaasaas, the Ramayana is considered to be more significant than the Mahabhaarata. Why do we say that? Let’s find out in the next episode!!


Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Bharatidhasan Institute of Management (BIM) Trichy, India A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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