Cultural History from the Vayu Purana (An Old and Rare Book)


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About The Book

The present book attempts to supplement the work of Pargiter on the Cultural plane. Pargiter was concerned with the dynastic records of the Puranic texts while this book aims to interpret "cultural history" from the Vayu Purana.

The work is divided into ten chapters arranged systematically. Chapters I-V deal with Social Organization, Woman and Marriage, Political Institutions, Religion and Systems of Chronology. Chapters VI-X explain Town-planning, Dress and Ornaments, Food and Drink, Music and Dancing, War and Weapon, Flora and Fauna. The first five chapters contain facts of intellectual culture and the last five of material culture. The presentation of the material has involved a great deal of translation and interpretation of the Puranic text.

The work has two appendices and a critical introduction. Appendix A identifies the places and tribes. Appendix B describes the centres of pilgrimage. Introduction surveys the previous research on the Puranas, on the Vayu particularly. It discusses the antiquity of the Vayu, its value for the cultural history and the method followed in the present investigation. It also gives an outline of Political history as found in the Vayu Purana.

In the opinion of Dr. S. M. Katre, this book is valuable not only for Indian Culture, but also for a critical edition of the Vayu, and consequently of other Purana material.



The present volume forms the second Issue in the Dissertation Series inaugurated this year to mark the 125th anniversary of the original foundation of the Institute, and represents the first contribution by the Department of Proto- and Ancient Indian History of the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute. Dr. D. R. PATIL has thus the distinction of not only being one of the first scholars carrying on research in this Department, but also of being the first in contributing his valuable study for inclusion in this Series. Dr. PATIL'S work was accepted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Bombay in 1944, and it is presented here with a few alterations necessitated by further research.

The field of pre-history is confined primarily to archaeology, while that of proto-history is considerably vaster. It may include sources which at a given time cannot be regarded as historical, but the information from which, if gathered objectively, may throw light on the prehistoric and historic periods. The evolution of material culture in India can, therefore, be best understood if both these subjects are studied simultaneously and their results compared and mutually checked. With this object in view the Department of Proto- and Ancient Indian History at the Institute organized its' programme in 1939, and the present work represents one of the earliest fruits of that programme connected with the preparation of regional archaeological studies in conjunction with strictly objective analytical studies of literary sources like the Puranas, the Jaina Agamas and the Epics.

While political or dynastic history has been reconstructed from the Puranic tradition, and a number of works have been published on various aspects of religious or social life in India, this is the first systematic attempt at collecting and interpreting "cultural history" from the rich Puranic sources, and for the purposes of this study, the oldest Purana, according to generally accepted standards, has been subjected to a scientific analysis. The book is valuable not only for Indian Culture, but also for a critical edition of the Vayu, and consequently of other Purana material.



With the publication of PARGITER' S famous works on the Puranic researches an altogether new vision has been presented to the world of scholarship regarding the early history of India. They have 'opened up a possibility that the vast mine of information contained in the traditional lore of the Puranas which was formerly regarded useless for historical purposes-may, to a certain extent, be relied upon for unfolding the hoary Indian past where other sources' fail to guide us. PARGITER, however, concerned himself mainly with the genealogical portion of the Puranic texts which forms but a small part of this whole range of literature. The remaining bulk of the Puranas is really staggering both in its volume and in the difficulty of its interpretation; but in it ( as also in the genealogical lists ) are found the various items of information very valuable for building up the cultural history of our ancient past. The present work represents a modest effort in this direction only in so far as the Vayu an admittedly ancient Purana is concerned. It attempts to supplement the work of PARGITER on the cultural plane taking for granted that his works are a sure basis in the interpretation of the ancient Indian political tradition. How far it has succeeded in doing so it is for the world of scholars to judge.

I must at the outset pay my humble homage to His Highness Sir Jiwajirao Scindia, Alijah Bahadur, Maharaja of Gwalior, the gracious blessings of whose patronage and whose love of India's ancient heritage have enabled me to bring this work to the light of the day.

Like all those students who are first introduced to the world of scholarship by their teachers I am deeply indebted to Dr. H. D. SANKALIA whose valuable guidance and sympathetic attitude have greatly helped me in the completion of this work. I must, however, here express that without the paternal care and help of the Deccan College Research Institute particularly of its Director, Dr. S. M. KATRE, I would not have been able to complete it. I thus owe a great debt to this celebrated Institution. Lastly I must thank Dr. R. G. HARSHE, the Registrar of the Institute, for going through the troublesome task of correcting the proofs and of editing the press-copy especially when I was far removed from the press in Poona.

I have also to thank the University of Bombay for the substantial financial help towards the cost of publication of this work, and the Deccan College Research Institute for including it in its Dissertation Series. Without the active co-operation of Mr. S. R. SARDESAI and his Samarth Bharat Press it would not have been possible to give the present appearance to this work, for which my best thanks are due to them.



The history of Puranic researches ranges over a period of nearly a century. WILSON is generally regarded as a pioneer in the field. His heavy volume containing a lengthy preface and introduction on the Visnu Purana with its translation and learned pores thereon is too well- known to need mention here. He also wrote many essays on Puranas especially on their religious aspects. But to him the Puranas were only pious frauds written in subservience to sectarian imposture. He was not much interested in historical facts lying embedded in them. He greatly underrated the antiquity of the compilation of the extant texts and some of his views are now considered as being only of academic interest. Col. Vans KENNEDY, WILSON'S contemporary, no doubt regarded the Puranas as a Class of ancient literature, but he also did not contribute much from the historian's point of view. There were also minor attempts made by BURNOUF, Col. WILFORD and by the compilers of the catalogues of manuscripts like AUFRECHT and EGGELLING but they too 'did not concern themselves with their historical aspect. This was the condition of Puranic researches upto about the beginning of this century.

The dawn of this century heralded an era of awakening in India in all aspects of her national life. There has been an unprecedented interest in her ancient history and culture. Researches on Indian history have been growing apace both in their volume and quality. Naturally the Puranas received some attention as "Sources" of ancient Indian history. But the old prejudice that these works are mainly mythological had not died down all of a sudden. Historians generally treated their evidence with indifference and cold formality and that too only for the purposes of 'corroboration'. It was, however, PARGITER who put the Puranic studies on a sound basis and the credit of rescuing the Puranas from the morass of mythology and of convincing the learned world of their historical value must essentially go to him. His two works The Purana Text of the Dynasties of the Kali Age and Ancient Indian Historical Tradition are epoch-making in the history of Puranic researches. He began with a tirade against those scholars who attempted to reconstruct India's most ancient past from the evidence of the Vedic literature. He called such attempts as absurd when there already existed the more, reliable evidence of the Puranic and Epic traditions. But PARGITER was concerned more with political history. There is another important work of S. N. PRADHAN, viz., Chronology of Ancient India, on, the subject which too makes considerable use of the Puranic material, RAYCHAUDHARI in his Political History of Ancient India has also taken into account the evidence furnished by the Puranic tradition. DIKSHITAR, too, has contributed much to the field of Puranic researches especially by his works on individual Puranas as such as the Matsya and the Vayu and has, to a certain extent, dealt with the cultural aspect of their evidence. There is another important work of HAZRA which has traced the Smrti material in the Puranas and has attempted to fix the chronology of the Puranic chapters containing that material. Recently ALTEKAR in his presidential address to the Indian History Congress, 1939, has tried to show how the pre-Bharata-war history of India can be reconstructed from the evidence of Puranas and Epics with the help of the Vedic evidence. But in this second phase of Puranic studies much attention is devoted to the genealogies and their political history with the exception of DIKSHITAR and HAZRA.

The old idea of history mainly signifying political history is now no longer accepted by historians all over the civilised world. The scope of history has been considerably widened by the newly born sciences of archaeology and anthropology. In their synthesis of reconstitution historians have adopted two very different attitudes: that of political history arid that of cultural history. To the idea that the state plays a preponderant role in the life of peoples, that the acts of governments, the facts of internal policy, of diplomacy and of war constitute the core of history, there has been opposed the thesis that the object of history is civilization, that is, a collection of facts on very different planes among which material and intellectual facts are of prime importance. History tends to embrace life in the entirety of its aspect, or to quote Henri PIRENNE, "the object of the study of history is the development of human societies in space and time." Due to this opposing thesis political history which is orientated towards political action has lost some of its prestige in the West, though the old claims of political history have not still lost their held on the promoters of historical researches in India. Cultural history as such has not received due attention from scholars of ancient Indian history," The present work attempts to fill in this want so far as it concerns the Vayu Purana. Thus it is obvious that only the Kulturgeschichte as can be gleaned from that Purana has been the subject of this investigation, political history being relegated to a subsidiary position.

Originally the idea was to take up the Vayu, Visnu, Markandeya and Matsya Puranas for the purposes of this investigation as these Puranas are generally considered by scholars to be the "ancient" Puranas. But it was soon evident that the work could not have been completed within the stipulated period and consequently the Vayu was selected for reasons which are stated below:

Out of the four Puranas mentioned the Visnu and the Markandeya Puranas have been translated into English by WILSON and PARGITER respectively and the geographical material of the' latter has been considerably made use of by B.C. LAW in his articles pertaining to geography," The Matsya too is generally referred to by scholars occasionally and there exists a study of the Matsya Purana by DIKSHITAR which, as compared with his earlier work on the Vayu Purana, is more exhaustive; Thus the selection of the Vayu Purana was made not only because it is perhaps the earliest of the Puranas, as is often assumed, but also because it has not still received that attention which it really deserves.




  Foreword vii
  Preface viii
  Bibliography ix
  Abbreviations xiv
  Introduction 1-18
    Part I – II
1 Social Organisation  
  Social Theory 19 : 121
  The Brahmins 20 : 125
  The Ksatriyas 31 : 139
  The Vaisyas 37 : 149
  The Sudras 37 : 149
  The Dasyus or Dasas 39 : 150
2 Woman and Marriage  
  Woman 40 : 152
  Marriage 44 : 156
3 Political Institutions  
  Kingship 47 : 161
  Popular Institutions 51 : 171
4 Religion  
  Saivism 55 : 177
  Vaisnavism and the other Sects 64 : 188
5 Yugas and the System of Chronology  
  Kalpas 69 : 195
6 Towns, Villages and Dwellings  
  Towns and Villages 78 : 201
  Houses and Dwellings 82 : 204
7 Dress and Ornaments, Food and Drink  
  Dress and Ornaments 85 : 206
  Food and Drink 90 : 211
8 Music and Dancing  
  On Music in General 96 : 216
9 War and Weapons  
  Of War in General 100 : 222
10 Flora and Fauna  
  Plants 107 : 230
  Animals 113 : 237
  Appendix A 241-262
  Appendix B 333-336

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