The sacred Vedas, especially the Upanishad's which are part of them are for those who profess their faith in Sanathana Dharma, Pramanas or Irrefutable authoritative texts. They have come down to us encapsulated in Sanskrit language, the Paripoorna bhasha(Complete language).
However, in the form in which they have come down to us, orally and in written language, they are couched in such a complex form that even great scholars have found it necessary to write commentaries on them. These commentaries are explanations and interpretations. Scholars and intellectuals amongst us however find a need to have even the commentaries explained in order to comprehend and assimilate the wisdom enshrined in them. How difficult it is for people understand them can be seen from the fact that even the great Acharyas(Guru's) or premier teachers differ among themselves in the way each interprets the sacred texts. Thus we have Advaita, Dwaita, Visishtadvaita and so on. There are sharp differences among the interpretations.
The ancient seers who cognised, comprehended, realised and bequeathed what they found to the generations that followed, were well aware of the fact that most of the wisdom would remain beyond the powers of comprehension of the masses. They therefore created or composed the Purana's - The term Purana means Ancient. The Rishi's wove stories and through the characters in them they helped the masses to grasp the wisdom of the Veda's and guided them to follow the examples of the characters and learn what they should do and should not do to remain within the safe folds of Sanatana Dharma. Apart from the allegorical form of teaching, the encyclopaedic realm of the Puranas cover such varied academic topics as history, georaphy as also social customs and traditions. These puranic themes, harmonised in various ways, probably prompted Maj. Gen Charles Stuart (1758-1828) to observe on HIndu Mythology. Whenever i look around me in the vast region of Hindu mythology, I discover piety in the garb of allegory and I see morality, at every turn, blended with every tale , and, as far as I can rely on my own judgement, it appears the most complete and ample system of Moral allegory that the world has ever produced".
The profound significance and beauty of what the puranas convey in an easily understandable and assimilable form is by projecting fundamental facts through the actions of characters in the puranas. The puranas convey in unmistakable terms the fact that no matter how exalted a person may be, any swerving away from their moral moorings and the righteous path or conduct can bring to naught all their noble achievements and glory. The descend can occur if one succumbs to kama or Lust, Krodha or Anger, Lobha or Greed, Moha or Emotional attachement, Mada or Ahamkara, Pride and Arrogance and Matsarya, Envy or Jealousy.
Vedas are for intellectuals and initiated. Puranas are there for all of us. both contain the same fundamental values of life and teach us the Art of Living !
What the Vedas and Puranas convey between them is the value of virtues and how they can turn out to be futile and ineffective when we even momentarily swerve away and become adrift from the path of virtuous conduct and behaviour.
Sunderlal G Mehta
BVB, 30, 2013