Episode # 2 – Key difference between the “Ithihaasas” and “Puraanas”!!!

In the previous episode, we had commenced our next mega project on “Shri Vishnu Puraana”, and in that, we had witnessed an introduction to the same. We had witnessed the classification of “Puraanas” into 18 different ones, categorized into three different sets. Six “Sathvika Puraanas”, six “Raajasa Puraanas” and six “Taamasa Puraanas”. Under these eighteen, Shri Vishnu Puraana occupies the prime place as the first of the six “Sathvika Puraanas”. This text, along with Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana which we had finished in the previous project, form an integral part of our Sanaatana Dharma literature. We’ve also witnessed in the previous episode, the family lineage of great Maharishis, starting from Bhagawan Brahma to Sage Vasishta to Sage Shakti to Sage Paraashara to Sage Veda Vyaasa to Sage Sukhaachaarya, etc. it is to be remembered by readers that Sage Sukhaachaarya gifted us with the important Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana text and his father, Sage Paraashara gifted and blessed us with this text called Shri Vishnu Puraana. 

Most of us already know that our Sanaatana Dharma literature comprises of two major classifications of texts – the “Ithihaasas” and the “Puraanas”. Just like how we saw that the Puraanas are eighteen in number, the “Ithihaasas” are two, namely Shrimad Ramayana and Mahabharata. As we move on further, we should understand the key difference between the “Ithihaasas” and the “Puraanas”. The “Ithihaasas” were written when Bhagawan Rama and Bhagawan Krishna were living in this world. Shrimad Ramayana was authored by Valmiki Maharshi when Bhagawan Rama was very much alive. He had finished His fourteen-year stint in the forest, killed Ravana, crowned Vibhishana to the throne of Lanka, returned back to Ayodhya and crowned Himself as the 35’th King of Ayodhya. As Bhagawan Rama was ruling Ayodhya and as the “Rama-Rajya” was in progression, Valmiki Maharishi authored the Shrimad Ramayana text. We’ve witnessed the sequence of events that followed in our earlier Ramayana project and readers can go back to refer to the same for more clarity and understanding. Similarly, Sage Veda Vyaasa authored the Mahabharata text when Bhagawan Krishna was ruling Dwaraka, after the Kurukshetra war was over. 

However, the “Puraanas” were authored by various Sages after Bhagawan Rama and Krishna had left for Vaikunta. For instance, the Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana was born only after Bhagawan Krishna had ascended to Vaikunta. We had witnessed that this happened after the advent of the Kali Yuga, wherein King Parikshit was cursed by a Sage that he would meet his death on the seventh day from that time, with a snake bite. This is where Sage Sukhaachaarya arrives and blesses him with the Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana text. Similarly, we can see the same approach in this “Shri Vishnu Puraana” text as well. Thus, the point here  is that, the “Ithihaasas” were authored when Bhagawan’s incarnation was taking place in the world, and the “Puraanas” were authored after Bhagawan’s incarnations were over. 

Now as we move on further with this understanding, we shall witness the structure of this Shri Vishnu Puraana text. Just like how we know that the Valmiki Ramayana has six different “Kaandas”, Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana has twelve different “Skandhas”, Shri Vishnu Puraana has six different “Amsaas”.  Under each “Amsa”, we have various “Adhyaayas”. Each “Adhyaaya” would contain several slokas. Hence, we’ve to remember this structure very clearly. Now, what is Sage Paraashara trying to explain in all these six “Amsas” and “Adhyaayas” within them? We’ve already witnessed that the Puraanas are texts that add more value and explanation to the high-level “Vedantic” messages in our Sanaatana Dharma. Of course, the contents of “Vedanta” are extremely complex in nature and are difficult for normal people like us to understand and decipher. It is for this reason, the “Puraanas” were born, wherein the same contents of “Vedanta” and explained, elaborated and illustrated in a much simpler form. This is where we would find several storylines, several characters, several instances, events, etc. which would outline a very interesting accord, but as we analyze them in-depth, we would be able to unearth important contents of the “Vedanta”. Just like how we’ve dig the soil, excavate, and unearth precious metals like gold, iron, etc. from the earth surface, we’ve to excavate, dig through and unearth the Vedanta content from the Puraanas. Of course, the storyline would be very interesting in all these texts, but we shouldn’t stop ourselves with only these storylines. We should excavate deeper to find the inner Vedanta behind each of the story and that is the primary aim behind every project that we’re doing, as part of this blog. 

So for today, let us understand these important points, and as we move on, we shall witness the themes that are outlined in each of the “Amsa” in the Shri Vishnu Puraana text. We shall wait till the next episode to continue further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

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 International School of Business & Media, Pune, 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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