In one of his Bengali writings, published in “Dharma”, No. 17, December, 1909, Sri Aurobindo wrote the following about the significance of the Purāṇas:
The Puranas are the most important among the “Smritis”. The spiritual knowledge contained in the Upanishads has, in the Puranas, been transformed into fiction and metaphors; we find in them much useful information on Indian history, the gradual growth and expression of the Hindu dharma, the condition of the society in ancient times, social customs, religious ceremonies, Yogic methods of discipline and ways of thinking.
Apart from this, the composers of the Puranas are either accomplished yogis or seekers of Truth. The Knowledge and spiritual realisations obtained by their sadhana remain recorded in the respective Puranas. The Vedas and the Upanishads are the fundamental scriptures of the Hindu religion, the Puranas are commentaries on these scriptures. A commentary can never be equal to the original. My commentary may be different from yours but none of us have the right to alter or ignore the fundamental scripture. That which is at variance with the Vedas and the Upanishads cannot be accepted as a limb of the Hindu dharma; but a new idea even if it differs from the Puranas is welcome.
The value of a commentary depends on the intellectual capacity, knowledge and erudition of the commentator. For example, if the Purana written by Vyasa were still existing, then it would be honoured as a “Sruti”. In the absence of this Purana and the one written by Lomaharshana, the eighteen Puranas that still exist cannot all be given the same place of honour; among them, the Vishnu and the Bhagwata Purana composed by accomplished yogis are definitely more precious and we must recognise that the Markandeya Purana written by a sage devoted to spiritual pursuits is more profound in Knowledge than either the Shiva or the Agni Purana.~ CWSA, Vol. 9
For this month’s video lecture, we are happy to share a recorded lecture by Ms. Aditi Banerjee Malakar on ‘Why read the Purāṇas?’ She briefly summarises the significance of Purāṇas in the entire corpus of sacred and dharmic literature in the Hindu knowledge systems. She also clears up some of the misconceptions people have about purāṇas, including that purāṇas are a degradation of the Vedic knowledge or that purāṇas are merely mythological stories.
Watch the lecture:
About the speaker:
Aditi Banerjee is a prolific writer and speaker about Hinduism and the Hindu-American experience with strong social media presence and recognition. Her first novel, “The Curse of Gandhari”, was published by Bloomsbury India in September 2019. She is a practicing attorney at a Fortune 500 financial services company and has also completed an Executive MBA at Columbia University.
Aditi Banerjee co-edited the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America with Rajiv Malhotra, and has authored several essays in reputed publications. Her most recent book is titled – “Hindu Love Stories: Dharmically Ever After.” She is on the Board of Directors of the World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) and has organized and presented at global conferences on matters related to Dharma.
She earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and received a B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University.