Towards the end of the Vedic period, the production of principal Upanishad took place. The study of Upanishads deals with concise, technical and usually aphrodisiac texts that include the timely performance of the sacrificial rituals. These are basically the accessories of study to the Vedas, also known as Vedangas.
Shruti and Smriti
The basic verses of the Vedas are called Samhita. The Vedic literature from Ancient India is categorised into two categories.
Shruti: It is a description of the sacred texts of the scriptures in Hinduism. It is a concept of words and verses that are recited over a certain period of time. Some of the examples of shruti texts are Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.
Smriti: It literally means the texts that need to be remembered. It comprises Vedanga, puranas, Upveda, etc. It also includes epic literature like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Smriti meaning in Sanskrit literally relates to remembering verses and hymns.
Smriti: The Dharma Shastras
The Dharma Shastras include the laws of Hinduism as a religion. The main points that the Dharma Shastras deal with are codes of conduct, civil and criminal law, punishment and atonement.
Manu Smriti is one of the dharma shastra that deals with Indian Law. The writer of the scripture is sage Manu, who is also known as the administrative demigod who is the first lawgiver. The Manu Smriti contains around 2700 verses divided into twelve chapters. The rest of the important dharma texts are written by Yajnavalkya, Parashara and Narada.
Manu Smriti explains the Hindu way of life. It outlines the duties of the four varnas and four ashramas. The texts also deal with the rules of inheritance and adoption of the law and science of government. Manu smriti is closely related to Artha Shastra and thus, it discusses the science of acquiring wealth and power.
Related Values Discussed in the Dharmashastra
- Crimes and the punishment for the same
- Morality, Rights and responsibilities
- Righteous wars and chivalry
- Equal opportunity for all
Smriti: The Mahabharata
The history of greater India, Mahabharata was originally composed by the sage Vyasa. Written around a thousand years ago, the Mahabharata is a compilation of 1,10,000 verses which makes it the longest poem in the world. The plot of the story is a gripping script with twists and turns intertwined with subplots. The Scripture focuses on the political tension between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Due to certain political discourses, the battle of Kurukshetra takes place where the Bhagavad Gita is recited by Lord Krishna to Arjuna where he explains to him the importance of his duty as a Kshatriya.
The Mahabharata is a conductor of art and drama. The story explores forms and details of dharma, especially for the warrior community and priestly class of individuals. The plot of the Mahabharata smriti is interlaced with intrigue, romance, fighting and chivalry.
Relates Values and Principles discussed in the Mahabharata
- Choosing Good Over evil and claiming justice
- The legitimate and true use of violence
- Duty and personal inconvenience
- The qualities of a real leader
- To stand up against the abuse of women
Apart from the main Mahabharat, the Bhagavad Gita is a scripture in itself that was conveyed by Lord Krishna during the battle of Kurukshetra. The Bhagavad Gita is a smriti scripture as well. Let us discuss it in detail.
Smriti : The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is the song of god. It is the most well known Hindu scripture of ancient India. It is a special song in the form of verses dictated by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as they sat on a chariot between the two armies of Pandavas and Kauravas during the war of Kurukshetra.
In the first six chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains the importance of the real self and how it is different from the body and can be elevated to self-realisation through different types of yoga and devotion. The middle six chapters explain the supreme lord, his services and devotees. And at the end of six chapters, Krishna explains how the soul is entangled with the three Gunas and how it can be liberated from the same.
During the beginning of the war, Arjuna puts his bow down and refuses to fight against his own family members and teacher. But, after listening to Lord Krishna, he picks up this bow and shows up with his determination to fight. The whole Bhagavad Gita is composed of around 700 verses. There are many versions of the book and universally translated into many languages with extensive commentary on the text.
Smriti: The Puranas
The Puranas are an important source of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to ancient Hindu scriptures. They are considered more important than the Vedas themselves. The scholar considers them as more recent, dealing with various deities like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
There are around eighteen Maha Puranas. There are also eighteen Upa-Puranas. Hindus believe that each Purana is influenced by the corresponding gunas namely, goodness, passion and ignorance. The Puranas deal with the creation, genealogies of deities and patriarchs. They even discuss the rule of living, descriptions of goodness, passion and ignorance. The Puranas explain the creation and genealogies of deities. They explained details about lifestyle, birth and death of deities on earth and description of various worlds. They also describe various verses and poems about popular myths and beliefs.
Smriti: The Ramayana
The Ramayana is the journey of Lord Ramas’s life on the earth. It is recited and written by Sage Valmiki. Though the academics consider Ramayan as a mythical story, Hindus consider Lord Rama as a historical figure who was one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The Scriptures tell us how Lord Rama was deceived of his throne and banished to the forest with his wife Sita. His Brother Lakshmanas chose to go with him. Despite the hardships in the forest, they actually enjoyed the forest life and thus, kept their company with various sages and rishis. However, during the end of the 14th year of banishment Ravana, the demon king abducts Sita. Rama with Lakshmana and an army of Vanaras travels to Lanka and fights Ravana to reunite with Suta. In the end, they return to Ayodhya and thus resume their reign over Ayodhya.
The triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana and thus, coming back to Ayodhya is celebrated as the festival of lights, Diwali.
Related Values and Life Lessons from the Ramayana
- Duty always stands above desires.
- Fight for good against the evil
Smriti is the class of Hindu scriptures of Ancient India based on the human memory, as distinct as Vedas, They are the product of divine revelation. Smriti indeed elaborated, interprets and codifies Vedic literature and its thought through word and verses. It is considered less authoritative than Shruti literature. As we have discussed in the above text, the important manuals are the compilation of ancient myth, legend and history of the Puranas, Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In modern terms, Smriti came to be preferably related to the law and social conduct, such as the Manu smriti which is the part of Dharma Shastra.
The smriti texts are considered to provide a great influence on Hindu families. Even the shastras are a part of Smriti literature. It explains the religious merit of gifts to Brahman, The brahman was encouraged to devote themselves towards the study of Vedas and various ancillary studies associated with them. Thus, they developed the science of the period, such as medicine, astronomy and mathematics.
In conclusion to the above texts, we can say that smriti scripture provides an outlining and gives a picture of how to live life and thus, fulfil the purpose of it. It devotes you to understand how a life that’s to be lived is a meaningful life.