The Vedas, meaning “knowledge,” are the oldest texts of Hinduism. These are written in Sanskrit but the meaning is not always direct. A symbolic, cryptic & complex style is used to convey the divine knowledge. The meaning of text can only be understood by great scholars & researchers.
To make this knowledge available to the common person in simple knowledge Puranas were written which are often known as the commentary of Vedas. In these holy books written thousands of years ago, the knowledge is conveyed by narration of many stories. There are total 18 puranas on various aspects. Bhavishya Purana is one of them. Its theme is bhavishya or future.
This paper analyses the relevance of Bhavishya Purana in present time.
The Vedas, meaning “knowledge,” are the oldest texts of Hinduism (Wikipedia, 2021). These are written in Sanskrit but the meaning is not always direct. A symbolic, cryptic & complex style is used to convey the divine knowledge. The meaning of text can only be understood by scholars & researchers.
To make this knowledge available to the common person in simple knowledge, Puranas were written which are often known as the commentary of Vedas. In these holy books, written thousands of years ago, the knowledge is conveyed by narration of many stories (Wikipedia, 2021).
There are total 18 puranas on various aspects. Bhavishya purana is one of them. Its theme is bhavishya or future. There are many stories in the book covering a wide variety of subjects. Several aspects of life and social situations of common person are described and suggested ways to deal with these is also woven intelligently in the stories. In a way, it is a guide for a common person for living a satisfied life.
According to Indian culture, the time cycle is divided into four parts or yugs which are known as sat-yug, dwapar-yug, treta-yug & kal-yug. In most of the puranas, there is mention /description of first three yugs but in Bhavishya Purana there is extensive mention & description of kalyug (meaning age of machines) which refers to the present time in which we are living now. Since the text was written thousands of years ago, the time in which we are living now was a ‘future time’ that time. Yet the symbolic description matches so well with reality that it puzzles many readers. It appears that the people who created this text were equipped with some mysterious & powerful technique to visualize & calculate the possible events of a future time.
There are four parts (called parvs) of this book. The first part or ‘brahman parv’ revolves around the Sun and symbolically represent it as a god. It explains many facets or dimensions of the characteristics of the sun and also suggest ways to deal with this powerful entity. All of this is done through symbolic stories to convey the appropriate message for a common person. Apart from the sun, there is also the description of many other powers as god.
The second part or the ‘madhyam parv’ deals with creation of universe. It has got geographical & astrological references. It describes the indications of person who is all set to go to hell, due to his sins and suggest ways to correct these defects. Most of the ways suggested are environmental-friendly practices giving importance to tree plantation, water conservation & animal care specially the cow. The process of popular ‘stayanarayan katha’ is also described.
The third part, ‘pratisarg parv’ describes the stories of various kings/queens of different times. The description of modern time or kalyug is very interesting here. There are many references to the geographical locations/cities like Ajmer, Chitrkoot, Kolkata & Delhi etc.
The fourth part is ‘Uttar parv’. Here the description of ‘Paap & Punya’ (sin & virtue) is explained in detail. Many vrat (vows) and festivals are also explained in this portion. (WordPress, 2011).
Craving for speculation
The future is unknown & uncertain for all of us. Therefore, all of us are inclined to know about it. This was true centuries ago and true now and it appears that it will be true in future also. The craving for knowing the future is perhaps in the DNA of humankind. Nowadays we use computers & mathematical modelling to know the future possibilities. Be it weather forecast, share market, elections, healthcare or sports/games, we deploy heavy resources on prediction of possibilities. The interest level in this activity is so high that many businesses are run on this and governments & other powerful entities design the framework of rules on the basis of complex mathematical, logical & scientific analysis for future.
Dealing with knowledge in present scientific age
We are living in the age of science and technology. Through scientific research, we have invented many wonderful machines which have made our lives very comfortable. With these machines, we have also acquired lot of knowledge on various aspect of nature and using this knowledge in our favour.
The process of handling with knowledge or information is done in three steps-
It is done through sensors & machines of various types like camera, scanners, microscope, web crawlers, telescope, radar etc which are used to collect information generated by people, machines or nature. The captured information is stored in electronic memory which may be a local/device space or cloud space on the internet.
The stored information is processed by using relevant computers & software. The calculation is based on designed algorithms and mathematical models. Logical conclusions are drawn after taking appropriate assumptions. Based on the analysis, possible futuristic trends are predicted.
This acquired knowledge is put into use by the society in many forms. Various types of medicines & treatment methods are developed for treatment of unwanted health conditions. Weather forecast is made to help people to take adequate precautions like early warning of natural calamities such as hurricanes, earthquakes & tsunami or solar events etc.
Financial products are designed and contracts are made in markets of various kinds. Games are designed to entertain people. The masterplans are made and products based on futuristic demands are designed. These products may be anything like houses or vehicles or cities or fashionable clothes etc.
The writers mix this acquired knowledge with imagination and this way fiction is written. Even rules for society or common public are devised/designed by the government & agencies with the help of this knowledge.
The whole process of information handling can be understood with the example of corona pandemic. Through constant research by scientific community worldwide, the knowledge gained on this virus was put into effective use by various governments & other agencies to limit the spread of virus & associated damage. Many new products/practices were put into use like wearing of masks, personal hygiene rituals and maintaining social distancing etc and many stories were created around this theme.
Indian lifestyle thousands of years ago
Before discussing about the method of information handling in old age, we will have to keep in mind the prevailing life conditions & mindset of people of that time. Life in general was very slow from today’s standards. People lived in harmony with nature. Hard physical work was required to survive the challenges thrown by nature & natural objects. There were hardly any machines (or very primitive from today’s standards) but the advanced knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, engineering and many other branches of science & arts was prevailing in Indian subcontinent and people around the world used to come to India to acquire knowledge (Pscnotes, 2020). Our rishis were enlightened persons who have composed vedas (Wikipedia, 2021). They stayed away from cities in jungles in pursuit of knowledge to make life of common person smooth & easy. These can be compared to today’s scientists. Our ashrams were the knowledge centres and transfer of knowledge was done through guru chela tradition in these ashrams. (Wikipedia, 2021). The ashrams can be compared with today’s research & development centres/institutions. It is our rishis who invented very effective techniques of Ayurveda (Ranawat,2017) & yoga (Replenishliving, 2018) and given concept of zero on which modern mathematics is based (Firstpost, 2021).
Dealing with knowledge in old Vedic age
It was done observing natural events, behaviour of people & stars etc by rishis. The captured information was initially preserved from generation to generation by shruti (listening) and smriti (remembrance) (Gktoday, 2021). The symbolic texts/mantras were revealed from Guru to chelas and (s)she used to remember it word by word. Thereafter, Efforts were also made to preserve limited knowledge by craving the text & symbols on stones, metal sheets or tree-leaves etc as the printing press & paper was invented much later in fifteenth century.
Analysis of captured information was done by rishis through the processes devised by them. They also used algorithms and mathematical models with appropriate assumptions as they were great mathematicians, astronomers, scientist of their times. They also derived logical conclusions and predicted possible futuristic trends like todays scientists.
Utilization of gained knowledge was done by the kings on the advice of rishis. The rules for the society were written and rituals were devised according. This was done in form of formulating the norms for vrat(vows) including upwas (fasting), utsav (festival), puja (worship) etc. These methods were designed in such a way that if a person will blindly follow these norms, (s)he will minimize most the problems faced by people of that time. The concepts of pap (sin), punya (virtue) and dharma (right way of living) was also implanted in the minds of people to guide them for correct ways of doing things. While suggesting these environmentally friendly solutions/concepts for common persons, the universe was dealt in a holistic way. These solution/guidelines touched many aspects of life which included maintaining physical & mental health, facing the hostile whether conditions & difficult life situations etc. All this effort was done by the rishis of our matured society to put the pure ‘Vedic knowledge’ into effective use by common people. Using their writing skills, the message was mixed with imagination which resulted in creation of symbolic stories of purana and epics like Ramayana & Mahabharata.
Same job done in two different environments separated by thousands of years gap
From the details mentioned above, it is evident that the basic modus operandi of handling of information have not changed even after thousands of years. The captured information is processed through logical/mathematical/analytical tools with appropriate assumptions to extract useful knowledge. The findings and support material are stored in form of formulas, hypothesis, theories etc for the scholars & researchers’ community for reference and further work. For the common person, rules/rituals are designed intelligently and the message is conveyed indirectly & symbolically often in form of stories.
Thus, guiding the common people and ensuring their safety is a mix of science and art. It is neither ‘pure science’ which can be calculated precisely nor a ‘pure artwork’ based on total imagination. The aim of this job is to improve the life of coming generations. It is a constant process of evolution which is there since ages.
Let us try to understand the spirit of some key aspects of ‘bhavishya purana’ by comparing its counterparts or ‘revised versions’ used for the same job in modern times-
Brahm parv: Dealing with powerful entities
This part of the book is mainly oriented towards the Sun which is dealt as a god. The properties of Sun are described through symbolic stories and methods are suggested to worship this divine power like ‘surya namaskar’ (Sun salutation) and other specific rituals for pleasing Sun. Many of the suggested rituals are advised to be performed on some specific dates of the year. Apart from Sun, Ganesh, kartikey, Agni & nag are also depicted as gods and rituals are suggested to please these.
Sun was the source of energy in ancient time. It is still so, but we have also invented electricity as a source of energy. Although a trained electrician can work comfortably with jungle of electric wires and electric transformers, a common person is likely to get electric shock by touching at wrong place unknowingly. Therefore, we put warning signs to avoid any dangerous zones with electric carrying wires & equipment. We have specific instructions to deal with electric equipment to be followed as a ritual by a common person to handle the sensitive part of any electric equipment. There are general guidelines to deal with electricity for a common person. This is how we deal with powerful entities like electricity now. Perhaps the rituals mentioned in ‘bhavishya purana’ to please Sun & other gods were the guidelines/ symbolic instructions to deal with powerful entities like Sun, fire, snake etc for the common people presented in simple language hiding the intricacy of logic/calculation behind those acts.
There are rituals mentioned in the Bhavishya purana to deal with various events like vivah (marriage) & Upnayan sanskar etc and also code of conduct to deal with guru, parents, spouse, guest etc.
Nowadays also we formulate rituals/code of conduct for such events and relationship-handling which suits the modern ways of living for the society. When a ritual is instituted in society, most of people perform it/ see others performing many times and this way learn to do it unconsciously.
Madhyam parv: Astrology vs astronomy
According to the description in the text of ‘bhavishya purana’ there is a favourable/suitable date & time of the year for every act. The system of astrology was followed in India thousands of years ago which is different from the present astronomical studies done by NASA and other agencies, although both are based on the movement & properties of other planets of the solar system (Registry, 2021). In astrology, it is believed that the relative position of sun & planets from an object of person affects the events. Since powerful transport systems, mass communication systems and computers etc were not in use at that time, a common person was mostly living her/his life on the mercy of nature. In that context, the astronomy seems a logical system. Its primary aim was not to predict the future (which is uncertain). Rather it was invented to restrict people’s behaviour so that the adverse effect of nature can be minimised whit the use of designed techniques.
In today’s context, we use astronomy for weather/ environmental forecast calculations and do the same job by employing supercomputers. Accordingly, based on the early warning signals we issue travel guidelines or reschedule events so that the damage by natural calamities be minimised.
The habits for narakgami person (person destined to go to hell) and ways to neutralize the adverse effect are suggested in the text of book.
It can be compared with the unhealthy habits identified by medical science today and suggested remedial measures advocated.
There are many rules described in form of Yagy (scarifies, devotion & worship), dan (donation), tap(tenacity), teerth (pilgrimage) & dev-poojan (worship of deity). These are not suggested out of blue, but intelligently designed steps after analysis of information to minimize damage & enforce discipline in the society. When we make some act as a rule of land, most of people do it even if they don’t understand the logic or calculations behind it.
Today also we have rules for various contingencies. For example, when on data analysis of road accidents of two wheelers, it was found that maximum death occurred due to head injuries, wearing helmet was made a rule/ritual to follow (Who,2021). Same goes for using seatbelt for four wheelers.
In fact, the whole concept of dharma (lawful conduct) & pap/punya (what is accepted behaviour & what is not) is just a guideline or ‘how to do’. It is presented to the common persons by the elite intellectuals /governing bodies in form of rules/rituals for different contingencies which changes with time and social or local conditions. Today also each country dynamically defines a lawful behaviour for its citizens.
Pratisarg parv: Characters
This part describes many stories about kings & queens and other characters of different times. Many characters of the stories of kalyug described in this resembles to the actual persons of our age. Some characters in the stories resembles to Pratviraj Chohan, Jaichand, Tulsidas, Surdas and even Jesus Christ & Queen Victoria. It may be a coincident also. Whatever be the case, the canvas of stories is very big and variety of characters is astonishing. There is a hidden message in each story & character. Specially the stories told by ‘Baital to king Vikramaditya’ are very educative and interesting.
This is the way even today that a message is pushed into the minds of common people by creating interesting audio-visual presentations of stories carrying hidden messages, be it a film, ‘TV show’ or social media narration. In place of a complex main theme, a symbolic message or point for common people is conveyed through narrations and chain of stories.
Uttar parv: Vrat
The procedures for many Vrat are explained in this part of ‘bhavishya purana’. Vrat means taking a vow. The procedures to achieve the desired vow of different types are intelligently designed so that a common person who is ignorant of scientific calculations behind those methods can achieve his/her vow by following those rituals blindly.
Today also we find many step-by-step procedures/solutions on internet/media to achieve our desired objectives. A person without having any technical knowledge can blindly follow the steps described in ‘latter & spirit’ to achieve the desired objective.
The importance of dan (donation) of various types is also explained with linked stories. Today also we find many NGOs/ Agencies promote their cause and motivate people for donations of various kind.
The rituals for celebrating various utsav (festivals) are also suggested accordingly to benefit the common person of that time. Most of these are related to harvesting or solar events. The festivals for entertainment were aligned to agriculture which was the main occupation and astrology which was a logical science that time
Nowadays we also create guidelines to arrange party for specific occasions, which is similar to old practices of entertainment.
Bhavishya purana is great work of art & science to be understood in proper context. It was written thousands of years ago for common people by a matured civilization to guide them to live a happy and healthy life. The secrets of this symbolic text are often misunderstood.
The messages given in bhavishya purana warrants more research to be done with the perspective of people’s mindset & lifestyle thousands of years ago rather than dismissing as old, irrelevant work of imagination.
Wikipedia. (2021, February 6). Vedas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedas
Wikipedia. (2021, February 27). Puranas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puranas
WordPress. (2011). Vedpuran. https://vedpuran.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/bavishya-puran.pdf
Wikipedia. (2021, February 17). Rishi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi
Gktoday. (2021). shruti-smriti. https://www.gktoday.in/gk/shruti-smriti/
Registry. (2021). astronomy-vs-astrology-what-is-the-difference. https://star-name-registry.com/blog/item/astronomy-vs-astrology-what-is-the-difference
Pscnotes. (2020). science-and-technology-in-ancient-period.https://andhrapradesh..com/physical-geography/science-and-technology-in-ancient-period-mathematics-astronomy-physics-chemistry-botany-zoology-physiology-and-medicine-including-surgery-ship-building-mining-and-metallurgy-engineering-a/
Wikipedia. (2021, February 26). Guru_shishya_tradition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guru%E2%80%93shishya_tradition
Who. (2021). 1_why. https://www.who.int/roadsafety/projects/manuals/helmet_manual/1-Why.pdf
Ranawat, Arpit Kumar. (2017). A-brief-review-about-Ayurveda. https://medcraveonline.com/IJCAM/a-brief-review-about-ayurveda.html
Replenishliving. (2018, Jul 12). A short history of yoga in India. https://www.replenishliving.com/a-short-history-of-yoga-in-india .
Firstpost. (2021). India and the origins of zero.
This paper was presented as a part of a Conference on Puranas and Indic Knowledge Systems, organized by Indic Academy on 26th and 27th March 2021.
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. Indic Today is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.