There is a third means adopted by the Brahmins to make the Smiritis equal if not superior to the Vedas. It is to be found in the Atri Smirti. Atri says that those who do not respect the Smiritis will be subject to curse.Atri’s argument is that Brahmanyam arises only as a result of a joint study of the Sruti and Smiriti and if a person studies the Vedas only but hold the Smriti in contempt he would be immediately condemned to be born as a beast for 21 generations.
Why did the Brahmins adopt such desperate means to place the Smirits on the same footing as the Sruti? What was their purpose? What was their motive?
Prof. Altekar’s argument that the Smiritis were given supremacy over the Vedas because they gave legal justification to customary law which was of later growth, cannot be accepted as adequate. If the case was that, there was law in the Vedic period and custom had grown later on; and if there was a conflict between the two, one could have understood the argument that the Smiritis were given predominance because they set right the conflict recognizing the progressive doctrines of the custom. This is not the case. There was no such thing as law in the Vedas. As Professor Kane points out:
“ All law was customary and there was no necessity to give recognition to the custom because they were recognized by the people. Secondly the smiritis cannot be said to be more progressive than the Vedas. Barring the Chathurvarna doctrine which everybody knows the Vedas except in the matter of forms of worship left society quite free to develop. What the Smiritis have done is, take out the unprogressive element in the Vedas namely the Chaturvarna theory and to propagandize it and hammer it into the heads of the people”
Therefore there must be some other reason why the Brahmins gave supremacy to the Smiritis over the Vedas.
The Brahminis were not content with their first acrobatics. They performed another.
The Smiritis were followed in point of time by the Puranas. There are 18 Puranas and 18 Up-Puranas altogether 36. In one sense the subject matter of the Puranas is the same. They deal with the creation, preservation and destruction of the world. But in the rest of their contents they differ altogether. Some propagate the cult of Brahma, some the cult Shiva. Some the cult of Vishnu, some the cult of Vayu, some the cult of Agni, some the cult of Surya and some the cult of Goddesses and other deities.
As has been noted there was a time when the Puranas were not included in the Shruthi. In later times, however, a striking change seems to have taken place. The Puranas which were considered as too profane to be included in the Shruti were given a superiority over the Vedas.
The Vayu Purana says
“First, of all the Shastras, the Purana was uttered by Brahma. Subsequently the Vedas issued from his mouth”
The Matsya Purana not only claims priority of creation for the Puranas as against the Vedas, but also the qualities of eternity and identity with sound, which was once predicated of the Vedas alone. It Says:
Pitamaha(Brahma ) first of all the immortals, took shape; then the Veda with their Angas and Upangas (appendages and minor appendages) and the various modes of their textual arrangements, were manifested. The Puranas, eternal, formed of sound, pure, extending to the length of a hundred corers of verses, was the first of the Sastras which Brahma uttered; and afterwards the Vedas, issued from his mouth; and also the Mimansa and the Nyaya with its eightfold system of proofs.
The Bhagawat Purana claims equality of authority with the Vedas. It says:
“(Bramharatra) declared the Purana called the Bhagavata, which stands on an equality with the Veda”.
The Brahma-Vaivartta Puranas has the audacity to claim superiority over the Vedas. It says:
“That about which venerable sage, you have inquired, and which you desire, is all known to me the essence of the Puranas, the pre-eminent Brahma- Vaivartta, which refutes the errors of the Puranas and Upa-puranas, and the Vedas”.
This is the second acrobatic performed by the Brahmins in assigning priority, precedence. and authority to their sacred books.
This does not complete the story of the suppression of the Vedas. The worse is yet to come. The Puranas were followed by another class of literature called Tantras. Their number is also quite formidable. Shakaracharya refers to 64 Tantras. There might be many more.
(To be continued)
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings & Speeches, Vol.4, Riddles in Hinduism (p.58-59) 1987, Rs. 35. Maharashtra Govt., Manager, Govt. Central Book Depot, Near Charni Road
Railway Station, Netaji Subhash Road, Bombay - 400 004.