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The Vedas are the ancient scriptures or revelation (Shruti) of the Hindu teachings. They manifest the Divine Word in human speech. They reflect into human language the language of the Gods, the Divine powers that have created us and which rule over us.

There are four Vedas, each consisting of four parts. The primary portion is the mantra or hymn section (samhita). To this are appended ritualistic teachings (brahmana) and theological sections (aranyaka). Finally philosophical sections (upanishads) are included. The hymn sections are the oldest. The others were added at a later date and each explains some aspect of the hymns or follows one line of interpreting them.  There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism.

The Vedas were compiled around the time of Krishna (c. 3500 B.C.), and even at that time were hardly understood. Hence they are very ancient and only in recent times has their spiritual import, like that of the other mystery teachings of the ancient world, begun to be rediscovered or appreciated even in India.  Like the Egyptian teachings they are veiled, symbolic and subtle and require a special vision to understand and use properly.

The great compiler of the Veda and Puranas was Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana. He was said to be the twenty-eighth of the Vyasas or compilers of Vedic knowledge. He was somewhat older than the Avatar Krishna and his work continued after the death of Krishna. Perhaps he is symbolic of a whole Vedic school which flourished at that time, as many such Vedic schools were once prominent all over India and in some places beyond.

The main topic of the Upanishads is the ultimate Knowledge: the identity of the Brahman and the jivatman—"Tat tvam asi"—You are That (Chandgogya Upanishad), the quest for unity in diversity «That by which the whole Universe is known» (Mundaka Upanishad). The Upanishads are the first scriptures where the law of Karma first appeared as taught by Yajnavalkya (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad). The main figure in the Upanishads, though not present in many of them, is the sage Yajnavalkya. Most of the great teachings of later Hindu and Buddhist philosophy derive from him. He taught the great doctrine of "neti-neti", the view that truth can be found only through the negation of all thoughts about it. Other important Upanishadic sages are Uddalaka Aruni, Shwetaketu, Shandilya, Aitareya, Pippalada, Sanat Kumara. Many earlier Vedic teachers like Manu, Brihaspati, Ayasya and Narada are also found in the Upanishads.

The characteristics of the Upanishads are their universality and the total absence of any dogmatism. They are the highest philosophy ever conceived by the human mind.

Traditionally, there are 108 Upanishads (major), which are as follows:

Twelve major Upanishads,
Aitareya and the Kauhsitaki which belong to Rg Veda
Chandogya and Kena to Samaveda
Taittiriya, Katha, Shvetashvatara, Brhadaranyaka and Isha to Yajur Veda
Prashna, Mundaka and Mandukya to Atharvaveda.

Upanishads are the work of different authors and, apart the ‘great Upanishads’ belonging to the sruti and which are in prose, we cannot say that they constitute a strictly speaking system of philosophy, some of them being connected to certain particular sects, such as the cult of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Ganesha, Surya, etc.

Sri Shankaracharya and some of his modern followers take Monism or Atmaikya, and Absolutism or nirguNa-brahmavaada to be the central theme of Upanishads. Consequently, Idealism or the world being merely a projection, which is unreal, is also taken to be a tenet of the Upanishads. Thus upaasanaa (worship) and bhakti (devotion) are relegated to a secondary position, being needed only up to a point in the spiritual evolution of the soul. Liberation, the final goal of spiritual development becomes less attractive, as the seeker loses his own identity in his merger with the Absolute. The entire process of Creation delineated with such great care in the Upanishads is reduced to a mere illusion. Texts describing Brahman, the Supreme Being, as sarvaj~na (all knowing), sarva-shaktimaan (All Powerful) are also relegated to be descriptions of Ishwara or the Saguna Brahman, who is also a product of the universal Avidya, while Brahman is actually nirguNa or without any attributes in absolute reality. Some of the richest material in the Upanishads delineating the glory of God, the process of creation, prescribing different methods of upaasanaa, Eschatology, recommending meditation, devotion etc. have to be relegated to a secondary position, as they are essentially dealing with the machinations of the unreal Avidya, which vanishes into "nothing," when the soul is liberated and discovers its identity with the formless and attributeless Brahman. In other words, much of Upanishadic texts are worthless and untrue in the domain of the final reality. On the other hand, a few passages are elevated to decisive importance, as they can be interpreted, in a limited sense, to convey Monism. Anyone who has an acquaintance with the deep and mystical atmosphere conjured up by the Upanishads can not accept this position. The central theme of the Upanishads is not Monism but Monotheism, the concept of an all pervasive, immanent supreme being. He is not nirguNa (attributeless), but is guNaparipuurNa -- full of all possible auspicious qualities. The very word brahma indicates this basic delineation of the Supreme Lord. Such a theme brings all the rest of the passages in the Upanishads into proper focus and makes them fully meaningful and essential for the aspirant. All of them will contribute in one way or the other to the development of this central theme and none of them will look secondary or suprefluous. In the larger context of the Vedanta, as a whole, the Vedas, Brahmana-s, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great Epics which include the other Prasthaana texts -- Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Suutra are woven into a glorious tapestry of the indescribable but realizable, fathomless but understandable glory of the Supreme Person, who has been extolled by great devotees in all Bhakti compositions. The artificial concept of two Brahmans, Saguna and Nirguna simultaneously existing, though totally different in essence, created by Monism to explain away the wealth of texts describing the glory of the Lord is done away with, with a simple explanation of nirguNa being One who completely transcends the three guNa-s -- sattva, rajas and tamas constituting prak.rti, which is responsible for the world as we know it.

Here is a list of traditional Upanishads:

Katha Upanishad
Isa Upanishad
Kena Upanishad
Mundaka Upanishad
Svetasvatara Upanishad
Prasna Upanishad
Mandukya Upanishad
Aitareya Upanishad
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Taittiriya Upanishad
Chhandogya Upanishad


The Puranas are of the same class as the Itihasas (the Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc.). They have five characteristics (Pancha Lakshana), viz., history, cosmology (with various symbolical illustrations of philosophical principles), secondary creation, genealogy of kings, and of Manvantaras (the period of Manu’s rule consisting of 71 celestial Yugas or 308,448,000 years). All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Sammitas, or the Friendly Treatises, while the Vedas are called the Prabhu-Sammitas or the Commanding Treatises with great authority.

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

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 or schools of philosophy 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 the 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. Pundits and Purohits hold Kathas or religious discourses in temples, on banks of rivers and in other important places. Agriculturists, labourers and bazaar people hear the stories.

Eighteen Puranas

· Vishnu Purana
· Naradiya Purana
· Padma Purana
· Garuda Purana
· Varaha Purana
· Bhagavata Purana
· Brahmanda Purana
· Brahmavaivarta Purana
· Markandeya Purana
· Bhavishya Purana
· Vamana Purana
· Brahma Purana
· Matsya Purana
· Kurma Purana
· Linga Purana
· Shiva Purana
· Skanda Purana
· Agni Purana

Ten Avataras And Their Purpose
The Srimad Bhagavata Purana is a chronicle of the various Avataras of Lord Vishnu. There are ten Avataras of Vishnu. The aim of every Avatara is to save the world from some great danger, to destroy the wicked and protect the virtuous. The ten Avataras are: Matsya (The Fish), Kurma (The Tortoise), Varaha (The Boar), Narasimha (The Man-Lion), Vamana (The Dwarf), Parasurama (Rama with the axe, the destroyer of the Kshatriya race), Ramachandra (the hero of the Ramayana—the son of Dasaratha, who destroyed Ravana), Sri Krishna, the teacher of the Gita, Buddha (the prince-ascetic, founder of Buddhism), and Kalki (the hero riding on a white horse, who is to come at the end of the Kali-Yuga).

The object of the Matsya Avatara was to save Vaivasvata Manu from destruction by a deluge. The object of Kurma Avatara was to enable the world to recover some precious things which were lost in the deluge. The Kurma gave its back for keeping the churning rod when the Gods and the Asuras churned the ocean of milk. The purpose of Varaha Avatara was to rescue, from the waters, the earth which had been dragged down by a demon named Hiranyaksha. The purpose of Narasimha Avatara, half-lion and half-man, was to free the world from the oppression of Hiranyakasipu, a demon, the father of Bhakta Prahlada. The object of Vamana Avatara was to restore the power of the gods which had been eclipsed by the penance and devotion of King Bali. The object of Parasurama Avatara was to deliver the country from the oppression of the Kshatriya rulers. Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriya race twenty-one times. The object of Rama Avatara was to destroy the wicked Ravana. The object of Sri Krishna Avatara was to destroy Kamsa and other demons, to deliver His wonderful message of the Gita in the Mahabharata war, and to become the centre of the Bhakti schools of India. The object of Buddha Avatara was to prohibit animal sacrifices and teach piety. The object of the Kalki Avatara is the destruction of the wicked and the re-establishment of virtue.

Lilas of Lord Siva
Lord Siva incarnated himself in the form of Dakshinamurti to impart knowledge to the four Kumaras. He took human form to initiate Sambandhar, Manikkavasagar, Pattinathar. He appeared in flesh and blood to help his devotees and relieve their sufferings. The divine Lilas or sports of Lord Siva are recorded in the Tamil Puranas like Siva Purana, Periya Purana, Siva Parakramam and Tiruvilayadal Purana.

The eighteen Upa-Puranas are: Sanatkumara, Narasimha, Brihannaradiya, Sivarahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesa and Hamsa.

Study of the Puranas, listening to sacred recitals of scriptures, describing and expounding of the transcendent Lilas of the Blessed Lord—these form an important part of Sadhana of the Lord’s devotees. It is most pleasing to the Lord. Sravana is a part of Navavidha-Bhakti. Kathas and Upanyasas open the springs of devotion in the hearts of hearers and develop Prema-Bhakti which confers immortality on the Jiva.

The language of the Vedas is archaic, and the subtle philosophy of Vedanta and the Upanishads is extremely difficult to grasp and assimilate. Hence, the Puranas are of special value as they present philosophical truths and precious teachings in an easier manner. They give ready access to the mysteries of life and the key to bliss. Imbibe their teachings. Start a new life of Dharma-Nishtha and Adhyatmic Sadhana from this very day, and attain Immortality.

The Ramayana of Valmiki is perhaps the most ancient and glorious epic in the world. It is known as the Adikavyam,—the first poem. Ramayana exercises a great moulding power on the life of man. It contains object lessons for husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies.


In Bala-Kanda the Incarnation of Sri Rama and his childhood life are described. Rama helps Visvamitra by guarding his sacrifice. He slays ogress Tataka and Subahu. He frees Ahalya from her curse. He breaks the bow of Siva and marries Janaki and annihilates the pride of Parasurama.

In Ayodhya-Kanda preparations are made for installing Rama as heir-apparent. His step-mother Kaikeyi stands in the way and sends him in exile for fourteen years. Rama's brother Lakshmana and wife Sita follow him. Raja Dasaratha (father) becomes very much afflicted at heart on account of his separation from Rama and dies due to grief. Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita are entertained by Guha, a hunter-chief. They cross the Ganga and meet Rishi Bharadvaja. They go to Chitrakuta on the advice of the Rishi. They build a cottage made up of grass and leaves (Parna Kutir) there. Then Bharata (another devoted brother) goes to the forest and insists Rama to return to the country and finally takes Rama's sandals alone. He places the sandals on the throne and rules the kingdom in the name of Sri Rama. Bharata himself lives at Nandigrama.

In Aranya-Kanda, Viradha, a giant, attacks Rama and Lakshmana in the Dandaka forest. Rama kills him. Thereafter, they pay a visit to the Rishis Sarabhanga, Sutikshna, and Atri. Anasuya, wife of Atri, gives an inspiring discourse on the duties of a wife to Sita. Then they meet Rishi Agastya. Rama receives celestial weapons from him. They encounter the giantess Surpanakha in the Panchavati forest. She is disfigured by Lakshmana. Lakshmana cuts her nose and ears. Khara and Trisiras (along with fourteen thousand giants), brothers of Surpanakha, are very much enraged. They fight against Rama. They are slain in the battle.

Surpanakha goes to Lanka and complains to her brother Ravana. Under Ravana's plan, Maricha, uncle of Ravana, assumes the form of a golden deer and appears before Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. Sita requests Rama to get the deer for her. Rama proceeds to catch the deer and kills it. In the mean time, Ravana carries away Sita in the absence of Rama and Lakshmana. Jatayu, the king of vultures, challenges Ravana, but he is mortally wounded. Rama obtains all information about Sita from the dying Jatayu. He is very much afflicted at heart. Subsequently, Rama and Lakshmana kill Kabandha near the lake Pampa. Then they meet the pious Sabari. She offers them roots and fruits with great devotion.

In Kishkindha-Kanda Rama meets Hanuman on the banks of Pampa. They proceed to Mount Rishyamuka and make an alliance with Sugriva. Sugriva kills Vali with the help of Rama. Sugriva is crowned as the king of Kishkindha. Rama consoles Tara, wife of Vali. Thereupon, Hanuman with a party of monkeys proceeds in search of Sita. He takes with him the ring of Rama as token. He makes a vigorous search and is not able to find out Sita. Jambavan (chief of bears) finds out Sampati, brother of Jatayu, in a cave, who gives out facts. Hanuman climbs up the top of a hill by his direction and from there he leaps across the ocean to Lanka.

In Sundara-Kanda Hanuman's exploits are described. During his aerial journey, Mainaka, an island peak, invites Hanuman to rest on its top at the request of the ocean. Afterwards, Simhika, a monstress living in the ocean, drags him down by catching his shadow. Hanuman kills her. Then he gets a distant view of Lanka and enters the city at night. He finds out Sita in the Asoka grove. He gives her Rama's token and message. Hanuman destroys the Asoka grove. The Rakshasas imprison Hanuman. Hanuman frees himself and sets fire to Lanka. He returns back to the place where Rama is staying and gives Sita's gem to Rama. Rama is highly delighted when he receives Sita's token and her message.

In Yuddha-Kanda, Nala (one of the monkey-chiefs) builds a bridge across the ocean by the advice of the ocean. The heroes with a large army of monkeys cross the ocean and reach Lanka. Vibhishana (brother of Ravana) joins them and tells them how to destroy Ravana and his army. Kumbhakarna, Indrajit, and Ravana are killed in battle. During the battle, both the parties of Rama and Ravana use Astras or weapons charged with Mantras. Rama sends an Astra on Ravana's' party. All Rakshasas appear as Rama. They kill one another. Ravana discharges on Rama, Nagastra (arrow that becomes serpents full of poison). The arrows have their mouths like serpents and vomit forth fire all around. The Rama discharges Garudastra. The arrows becomes Garudas and cut off the serpent arrows on all sides. Garudas are the enemies of serpents. Rama uses Brahmastra to kill Ravana. Sita is rescued. Sita's honour is tested in the fire. She comes out more glorious and effulgent than ever. Vibhishana is then crowned as king in Lanka. Sri Rama with his party returns to Ayodhya in the flying car called Pushpaka. Rama is crowned as Emperor. The people of his kingdom feel extremely happy.

In Uttara-Kanda, Sri Rama's reign is described as Rama-Rajya. There is righteousness everywhere. Everywhere there are plenty and prosperity. There is neither disease nor sorrow. There are neither dacoits nor thieves. Life and prosperity are quite safe. The four Varnas duly observe their Dharmas. Sri Rama goes back to His Supreme Abode (Saketa-Puri or Dhama) after a long and prosperous rule.

The esoteric meaning of Ramayana is this: Ravana represents Ahankara or egoism. His ten heads represent the ten senses. The city of Lanka is the nine-gated city of the physical body. Vibhishana corresponds to the intellect. Sita is peace. Rama is Jnana (wisdom). To kill the ten-headed Ravana is to kill the egoism and curb the senses. To recover Sita is to attain the peace which the Jiva (individual) has lost on account of desires. To attain Jnana is to have Darsana of Rama or the Supreme Self.

He who crosses this ocean of Moha and destroys the Rakshasas,—Raga and Dvesha (likes and dislikes),—is a Yogin who is united with Santi or Peace, ever rests in Atman, and enjoys the eternal bliss. Sri Rama stands for the 'Good' (Sattva); Ravana for the 'Evil'. Sri Rama and Ravana fought with each other. Eventually Sri Rama became victorious. The positive always overcomes the negative. Good always overcomes evil.

MAHABHARATA—the very mention of the name gives a thrill of holy ideas. This is a great epic heroic poem. It contains one hundred thousand verses. It contains the essence of all scriptures. It is an encyclopaedia of ethics, knowledge, politics, religion, philosophy and Dharma. If you cannot find anything here, you cannot find it anywhere else.

It contains eighteen Parvas or sections viz., Adi Parva, Sabha Parva, Vana Parva, Virata Parva, Udyoga Parva, Bhishma Parva, Drona Parva, Karna Parva, Shalya Parva, Sauptika Parva, Stree Parva, Shanti Parva, Anushasana Parva, Asvamedha Parva, Ashramavasika Parva, Mausala Parva, Mahaprasthanika Parva and Swargarohanika Parva. Each Parva contains many sub-Parvas or subsections.

This wonderful book was composed by Sri Vyasa (Krishna Dvaipayana) who was the grandfather of the heroes of the epic. He taught this epic to his son Suka and his disciples Vaisampayana and others. King Janamejaya, son of Parikshit, the grandson of the heroes of the epic, performed a great sacrifice. The epic was recited by Vaisampayana to Janamejaya at the command of Vyasa. Later on, Suta recited the Mahabharata as was done by Vaisampayana to Janamejaya, to Saunaka and others, during a sacrifice performed by Saunaka in Naimisaranya, which is near Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh.

It is very interesting to remember the opening and closing lines of this great epic. It begins with: "Vyasa sang of the ineffable greatness and splendour of Lord Vasudeva, who is the source and support for everything, who is eternal, unchanging, self-luminous, who is the Indweller in all beings, and the truthfulness and righteousness of the Pandavas." It ends with: "With raised hands, I shout at the top of my voice; but alas, no one hears my words which can give them Supreme Peace, Joy and Eternal Bliss. One can attain wealth and all objects of desire through Dharma (righteousness). Why do not people practise Dharma? One should not abandon Dharma at any cost, even at the risk of his life. One should not relinquish Dharma out of passion or fear or covetousness or for the sake of preserving one’s life. This is the Bharata Gayatri. Meditate on this daily, O man! when you retire to sleep and when you rise from your bed every morning. You will attain everything. You will attain fame, prosperity, long life, eternal bliss, everlasting peace and immortality."

The Epic in a Nutshell

The Mahabharata is the history of the Great War of India between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The two brothers Dhritarashtra and Pandu were born through sage Vyasa after the death of Vichitravirya. Dhritarashtra being blind, Pandu succeeded to the throne but he entrusted the kingdom to his elder brother and himself proceeded to forest where his five sons Yudhishthira, etc., were born and were called the "Pandavas." Dhritarashtra also had one hundred children in Duryodhana and others, who were called the "Kauravas." Pandu died during the infancy of his sons and Dhritarashtra continued to rule the kingdom with the help of their granduncle Bhishma, who had pledged himself to lifelong celibacy. The Pandava and Kaurava princes were brought up together and also educated and trained alike through Dronacharya. Both sets of princes considered themselves entitled to the kingdom and looked upon the other with hostility and their feelings and relations grew strained from day to day. On account of persecution by the Kauravas, the Pandavas left their home and suffered much hardship and pain, but on their marriage with the daughter of Drupada, king Dhritarashtra sent for the Pandavas and made over half the kingdom to them. The Pandavas improved their country and established their capital at Indraprastha and then performed the horse-sacrifice with great pomp. The Kauravas were also invited there but on seeing the good fortune of the Pandavas and being offended by jokes made at them, they were overcome with jealousy and resentment and returned home with feelings of enmity and revenge. They then conspired against the Pandavas and invited them to gamble and thereby they won all their wealth, kingdom and their person and also insulted and ill-treated their wife, Draupadi, in the presence of all. In the end, it was settled that the Pandavas should go out in exile to the forest for twelve years and pass another year in secrecy and on return from the exile be entitled to get back their lost kingdom. The Pandavas did all this but on their return the Kauravas refused to return the kingdom. This gave rise to the great family war in which all the Kauravas and the two armies were annihilated and the Pandavas alone survived and got the victory.

The Pandavas were assisted by Sri Krishna and other relations, Drupada, Virata, etc., and their forces numbered seven battalions (Akshauhinis). The Kauravas were also assisted by their relations and friends and their forces numbered eleven battalions. The Pandavas were successful on account of their righteous cause and divine grace.

The blind Dhritarashtra represents Avidya or ignorance; Yudhishthira represents Dharma; Duryodhana Adharma; Draupadi Maya; Bhishma dispassion; Dussasana evil quality; Sakuni jealousy and treachery; Arjuna the individual soul; and Lord Krishna the Supreme Soul. Antahkarana is the Kurukshetra.

The Bhagavad Gita, more commonly known as the Gita, is part of the Itihaas scriputre Mahabharata.  It is an extremely popular scripture.
If the Upanishads can be compared to the cow, the Gita is their milk. It is in the form of a dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and the mighty Pandava warrior Arjuna.

The battlefield of Kurukshetra is its place of origin. Its central message is that one should discharge one's duty however hard and unpleasant it be - bravely and with selfless dedication.

Everyone of us has to perform his or her duty designated as Svadharma to please God, to serve the world and to repay one's debt to the society. Svadharma implies ambition commensurate with one's capacity and the necessary inclination as also the drive to achieve it. Our well being lies in performing our Svadharma. Paradharma, duty suitable for others  but not for us, will positively harm us if chosen by us.


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