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Acharya's Call Part-II
H.H. JAGADGURU’S Madras Discourses
21 Keep the Epics Green
We are indebted to a great extent to the sages Valmiki and Vyasa for the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavatam. The influence of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata had at one time spread even to the Far Eastern islands, like Java, Sumatra and Bali. Though the population of most of these islands is predominantly Muslim now, the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are being enacted on all important festive occasions even to-day. Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada has given us several works for widening our jnana and we are indebted to him also. Besides these, there are the Smritis and the Sutras for our guidance.
The puranic stories which teach us right conduct in thought, words, and action, are regarded by some as mythology or legends. There is a tendency on the part of some of the people to treat them as imaginary tales. It is human nature to regard a thing which we cannot comprehend as false. Yet, in modern days, people are ready to believe such news items appearing in newspapers, as the find of leg bones several feet long, or the birth of child with two heads, or a woman giving birth to a snake. If that were so, why should we disbelieve if a puranic story tells us of a person as tall as a palmyra tree or a man with more than one head?
There is sthalapurana for each temple. The Saivite and the Vaishnavite saints have also sung about many of our temples and places of pilgrimage. This temple literature contains a fund of information which, when understood properly will help us to approach the Puranas with the reverence they deserve. There is need to equip our boys and girls with a certain rudimentary knowledge of Sanskrit and classical Tamil so that they can easily understand when they hear the Ramayana or the Mahabharata recited either in Sanskrit or in Tamil. In the past there was a custom to make boys and girls learn by heart certain easy verses in Sanskrit like the Neetisaara. With the disintegration of village life such wholesome practices have disappeared. The Kamakoti Mutt has prepared books both in Tamil and in Sanskrit containing easy verses which will pave the way for understanding the epics. If this knowledge about the Puranas and other ethical works spreads among our women, they will be in a position to pass on their knowledge to their children and thus ensure a continuity of Puranic knowledge. It is possible to form study groups of women even in Madras.
October 12, 1957