Indian Scriptures – Dharma Shasthra & Puranas

In this article we will discuss about the sources or scriptures of Indian culture. At first, we will talk about Dharma Shasthra. The meaning of Dharma Shasthra is ‘code of conduct’. Dharma Shasthra has three divisions. The first division is ritual which means something that is done regularly and always in the same way, the second division is performing social responsibilities and third division is atonement of sins (here sin means an offence against God, religious law or moral law) and crimes.

The Dharma Shasthra is same as constitution formulated by the present day government. The only difference is that, Dharma Shasthra does not consist any fundamental or other kind of right. It is more like what to do and what not to do.

According to Dharma Shasthra there are two aspects of life, one is religious and other is social; and both aspects depend on each other. One cannot exist without the other.

Dharma Shasthra is considered as a Smriti. Smriti means that which is in memory. The texts which are called Smriti were found in written form at initial stage itself. Almost all Smritikaras (founders of Smritis) explained in their writings that their work drew support from Vedas. They admitted that their work is nothing more than a clarification of Vedic Sutras. After doing a lot of research we came to know that the age of Smriti had appeared during the last periods of Vedas.

There were many Smritis but history has recorded only a few and among them only three are important and well known. Dharma Shasthra or Smritis were codified by Manu, Yajnyavalkya and Parashara and were named after their names i.e. Manu Smriti, Yajnyavalkya Smriti and Parashara Smriti.

Dharma Shasthra is very rigid in which duties of an individual are explained in a very detailed manner. It divides the society into four classes and further explains an individual’s life into four stages.

Four classes of society are Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishyas and Shudras and four stages of life are Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa according to Dharma Shasthra.

Everything is fixed according to code and nothing can be changed or altered. If someone does not follow this code of conduct and tries to change something then in the last section of Dharma Shasthra i.e. Atonement of sins and crimes deals with the conditions.

Indian tradition has many mythological scriptures too. They mainly deal with theological issues. Mythology is called ‘Purana’ in Sanskrit. Etymologically ‘Purana’ has two different meanings. One is pura (past), ateetam (Lost), anaagatam (about to happen) and the other is pura (past), bhavam (happened). Purana has five componenets as listed below:

  1. Description of nations
  2. History of creation
  3. History of re-creation
  4. Descriptions of dynasties
  5. Story of each Manu

The first (Description of nations) and fourth (Descriptions of dynasties) include elements of history. Considering these components as history can make a dispute because history tries to find as many evidence as possible but Puranas does not have any evidence for any of its claim.

There are 18 Puranas in Indian tradition. They contain different aspects of life and talk about life and death, rebirth, gods, devils, hell, heaven, geography, music etc. But they don’t have any evidence and not so important in study of Philosophy. They contain almost every part of Indian life and have an important role in Indian tradition but don’t have any philosophical value. So there is no need to go deeply into Puranas, even I don’t want to list them here.

More in next article…

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