ISKCON Bangalore hosted a national conference on the Message of MahaPurāṇas from June 23 to June 27, 2015 at its Multi-Vision Theatre.
This unique five-day conference was organized by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru as a sequel to their previous conferences Veda Samvada (an eight-day conference which gave an introduction to the various aspects of Vedas and their relevance in the modern society) and Upanishad Sandesha (a six-day conference which presented the message of Upanishads and discussed their relevance in modern day life.)
The present conference is the result of an overwhelming response from the participants of the previous events which inspired Bhavan to spread the message of the Mahapurāṇas to the coming generations.
This event was co-sponsored by Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam, Karnataka Sangeetha Nritya Academy, Karnataka Natak Academy, Embassy Group and Mantri Developers Pvt. Ltd.
A Brief Note on Purāṇas
The Purāṇas are supplementary to the Vedas and thus they are counted among the Vedic literatures. The common misconception about the Purāṇas is that they are mythological or imaginary stories created for the purpose of explaining the difficult subject of philosophy to the common people. So, many people doubt the authority of Purāṇas. But incidents mentioned in the Purāṇas are factual historical records. Srila Prabhupada confirmed that there is no difference also between the Vedic mantras and what is explained in the Purāṇas and Itihasa.
Sri Vyasadeva, the compiler of the original Vedic scriptures, divided one Veda into four and further he explained his teachings through the simple narrations in the Purāṇas. The Vedic mantras are too difficult for an ordinary man to understand. Therefore the Purāṇas were compiled so as to make the truths of the Vedas easily comprehensible to the general mass of people.
In the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.4), the Purāṇas are mentioned as the fifth Veda. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.4.20) also states:
ṛg-yajuḥ-sāmātharvākhyā vedāś catvāra uddhṛtāḥ
itihāsa-purāṇaṁ ca pañcamo veda ucyate
The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge [the Vedas] were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Purāṇas are called the fifth Veda.
There are 18 major Purāṇas: Brahma Purāṇa, Padma Purāṇa, Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Śiva Purāṇa, Liṅga Purāṇa, Garuḍa Purāṇa, Nārada Purāṇa, Bhāgavata, Agni Purāṇa, Skanda Purāṇa, Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa, Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa, Vāmana Purāṇa, Varāha Purāṇa, Matsya Purāṇa, Kūrma Purāṇa and Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.
According to Srimad Bhagavatam (SB 12.7.9), these Purāṇas explain ten subject matters:
sargo ‘syātha visargaś ca vṛtti-rakṣāntarāṇi ca
vaṁśo vaṁśānucarītaṁ saṁsthā hetur apāśrayaḥ
- sargaḥ: the creation of this universe;
- visargaḥ / pratisargaḥ: the secondary creation;
- vṛtti: maintenance
- rakṣā: protection by sustenance;
- manvantara: the reigns of the Manus;
- vaṁśaḥ: the dynasties of great kings
- vaṁśa-anucaritam: the narrations of their activities;
- saṁsthā: the annihilation;
- hetuḥ: the motivation (for the living entities’ involvement in material activities)
- apāśrayaḥ: the supreme shelter
The Mahapurāṇas deal with these ten topics, while lesser Purāṇas may deal with five (sarga, visarga, manvantara, vaṁśa, vaṁśa-anucaritam)
Purāṇas are especially relevant in this age as they help us to understand the message of the Vedas through great historical incidents and to apply their teachings in our lives. Through concrete examples of the lives of saints, kings and great men, allegories and chronicles of great historical events they impress upon us the teachings of the Vedas and generate devotion to God.
Inauguration (June 23, 2015)
The conference started with the recitation of the verses from various Purāṇas by the students of Sandipani Gurukula. Prof. Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri, Chairman of Nationa Sanskrit Commission, New Delhi, inaugurated the event.
Sri Sri Sri Jayendra Puri Mahaswamiji, Sri Kailash Ashram Mahasamsthana, Rajarajeshwarinagar, Bengaluru graced the occasion by addressing the gathering and talking about Shrutis and Smrtis. He said that the ultimate authority of all the shastras is the Vedas and admitted that the Vedas cannot be understood without the help of the Purāṇas.
Prof. Ved Kumari Ghai from Jammu and Sri Murali Manohar Patak from Gorakhpur were felicitated on this occasion. They also presented their papers on the second day of the event.
- Impact of Stutis in Bhagavat on Indian Languages (Prof. Murli Manohar Patak, Gorakhpur)
- Cultural History of Kashmir with reference to Neelima Purāṇa (Prof. Ved Kumari Ghai, Jammu)
The Inauguration Ceremony was presided by Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa, President of ISKCON Bangalore who talked about the importance of Bhagavata Purana. He said, “Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Movement is entirely based on Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavata Purana was the last composed work of Vyasadeva and it is supposed to contain his mature spiritual realization. In fact, Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered to be the natural commentary on Vedanta.”
He stressed the need to present the Purāṇas in a scientific way. “Today, the Indian youth think Purāṇas are mythology. So if the Purāṇas have to attract the intellectual youth of this country, they have to be presented in a rational and scientific way.”
Topics at the Conference
Over 60 scholars from different parts of the country presented their papers in the conference and enlightened the audience on the various aspects of the Purāṇas. The sessions in the conference covered a rich diversity of topics based on the Purāṇas.
The scholars discussed the relevance of the Purāṇas to modern days and analysed various disciplines like sociology, politics, ecology, science, religion, education, astrology, management, music, yoga, poetry, grammar, metaphysics etc. in the light of Purāṇas.
- Ecology in Purāṇas (Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh, Bengaluru)
- Managerial Aspects in Purāṇas (Dr. Mahadevan, IIM, Bangalore)
- Science in Purāṇas (Dr. Vydehi, Bengaluru)
- Yoga in Purāṇas (Sri S.P. Savithru Sharma, Bengaluru)
- Grammar in Purāṇas (Sri. Gangadhara Bhode, Bengaluru)
- Poetry of Purāṇas (Prof. V.R. Tripura, Bengaluru)
- Political Thought in Garuda Purāṇa (Dr. Sujatha M.N., Dharwad)
- Social Concepts in Matsya Purāṇa (Dr. Kumudavalli, Bengaluru)
- Society Reflected in Vishnu Dharmottara (Dr. Chakravarthy Ranganathan, Tirupati)
- Relevance of Padma Purāṇa to Modern Days (Sri. G.S. Natesh, Bengaluru)
- Moral Elements in Garuda Purāṇa (Dr. G.N. Bhat, Mangalore)
- They also discussed various metaphysical concepts based on the Purāṇas.
- Creation according to Vayu Purāṇa (Sri. G. Ganapaiah Holla, Kumta)
- Tantric Elements in Purāṇas (Dr. Icharam Dwivedi, New Delhi)
- Shastric Elements in Purāṇas (Prof. Madhusudan Sastry)
- Yoga Concepts in Purāṇas (Dr. Jyothi, Tirupathi)
- Purāṇas and Āgamas (Prof. K. E. Devanathan, Tirupati)
- Impact of Purāṇas on Ayurveda (Dr. Ahalya, Bengaluru)
- Astrology and Purāṇas (Dr. S. Krishna Kumar, Bengaluru)
Sri Stoka Krishna Dasa, Vice President, ISKCON Bangalore presented a paper titled Poetic descriptions of Autumn in Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Sri Bharatarshabha Dasa, Head of Public Relations Department at ISKCON gave a talk on Bhāgavata Purāṇa, the essence of all Vedic literature.
The conference also featured a dance drama on Krishna Leela presented by Surya Kalavidaru, Bengaluru and a drama Sambhavami Yuge Yuge presented by Kalavidara Balaga.
The other topics discussed are:
- Shaiva Purāṇas (Vid. Ganapathi Hegde, Bengaluru)
- Vaishanava Purāṇas (Vid. Surya Narayana, Bengaluru)
- Jaina Maha Purāṇas (Dr. Hampa Nagarajaiah, Bengaluru)
- Harivamsha Purāṇa (Sri. M.N. Chandrashekar, Bengaluru)
- Vishnu Purāṇa (Sri. S. Sundararajan, Bhuvaneshwar)
- Padma Purāṇa – a Study (Dr. Sridhar Hegde, Bengaluru)
- Vayu Purāṇa (Sri Narayana Bhatta, Bengaluru)
- Advaita in Vishnu Purāṇa (Sri Anantha Sharma Bhuvanagiri, Bengaluru)
- Shuddadvaita of Sri Vallabhacharya (Dr. Shantha Kumari, Pondicherry)
- Commentaries on Purāṇas (Vid. Ramprasad, Bengaluru)
- Structure and Texture of Purāṇas (Prof. K.G. Krishnamurthy, Bengaluru)
- Impact of Purāṇas on Telugu Literature (Dr. K. Rajagopalan, Tirupati)
- Impact of Purāṇas on Hindi Literature (Dr. Pranav Sharma Shastry, Pilibhit, UP)
- Kannada Works based on Purāṇas (Prof. G. Ashwathnarayan, Bengaluru)
- Purāṇas and Dravida Veda (Smt. Goda Gopal, Bengaluru)
- Sahasranamas in Purāṇas (Sri. E. Mahabala Bhatta, Belthangadi)
- Gitas in Purāṇas (Sri Shankar Bhatta, Bengaluru)
- Migrations of Aryans according to Purāṇas (Dr. S. Ranganath, Bengaluru)
- Subhashitas in Purāṇas (Dr. Ganesh Kamath, Bengaluru)
- Symbolism in Purāṇas (Dr. Mahadev N. Joshi, Dharwad)
- Jainism in Purāṇas (Dr. G. B. Harisha, Bengaluru)
- Sun Worship in Purāṇas (Dr. K. B. Sudarshan, Bengaluru)
- Festivals in Skanda Purāṇa (Dr. H. S. Nagabhushan Bhat, Bengaluru)
- Periya Purāṇa (Dr. G.T. Narasimhachar, Bengaluru)
- Popular Stories in Purāṇas (Dr. Sheela Kumari, Mysore)
The conference was concluded on June 27, 2015 with the valedictory address of Prof. K.T. Pandurangi, a well-known scholar who reaffirmed that the Purāṇas are as old as the Vedas and Smritis. He said, “Purāṇas are encyclopedia to understand Indian culture, religion and society.”