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Shastras, scriptures,  are written by human hands.  They may be inspired by the Divine, but, they are always written by human hands. 

Vedas are different to Vedangas which are different to early puranas which are totally different to later puranas.  These are again totally different to works of saints, sages, and philosophers of later times. (Hindu Scriptures)

Curiously, each and every iteration of the “divine word” by religious leaders, claims to hark back to the original and presumes they are speaking on behalf of GOD !!  Indeed, some shastras and their authors claim to be God themselves !t problems and how best to address them.  At best, they give an idea of how to deal with the situations we face in our lives in the "here and now".  The way spiritual and secular issues are dealt with differ in different times.  Example, the way people “see” the divine has changed in our society over time.  Hence Gods who were seen only in the fiery flames of yagnas in the Vedic times, later took on human attributes and features by the Puranic times.  In the modern times, those very Gods have become increasingly caucasian and have the look and feel of “divine super heroes” in modern calendar art of India.  The way we perceived God of the Vedas is very different to the way we saw Gods in the Puranic times.  The way we interact with Gods has also shifted over time.  

Society of Vedic times was very different to the society of today.  Everything from costume and customs to food and social order is different.  Gone are the dhotis and sarees of yester-years.  People ate meat without shame in those days.  Indeed, meat and marrow from the bones of the dead animals was an important offering in the yagnas.  Influenced by Jain ideology of ahinsa, Hindus no longer sacrifice animals to their gods and when they do, they now feel they have to justify their actions.

Socially, in those horary days of Vedic age, men and women used to choose their life partners themselves - eg Aditi chose Kashyap and informed her parents; Savitri chose her husband and despite dire warnings about his life span, chose to marry him above all others.  Polyandry and Polygamy were both common - eg Dashrath had three principle wives, Pitrus, and Pandavas married and shared their wife amongst several brothers.  Having several wives was a common Hindu practice across India.  Rama was an “apavada” – an exception, in that he is the only monogamist hero of our ancient past.  How strange that our government has made Rama – the exception to the rule – as the ideal for our society and enshrined monogomy in our "common Hindu law".

Widows were allowed to re-marry in those days.  For example, Nala and Damayanti's story is a telling point in that the queen is perceived to have become a widow by the long absence of the king.  Her parents are prevailed upon to remarry her and she arranges another swayamvar !!  Nala comes back in a dynamic fashion to reclaim his love, but the very fact that this 2nd swayamvar was arranged and participated in by others, shows it had the sanction of shruti and smruti at that time.  Over the centuries, our social mores have changed and re-marriage of women who have been abandoned, divorced or widowed is seen as a taboo.  Sadly, the same rules do not apply to men who seek a second marriage.

There are lots of "smruti" shastras besides Manu's famous one.  Most of these regulate the “majority” middle class of the society.  Upper class (not caste) always find ways to navigate themselves around the strictures of society as the "samartha" have no "dosha" – “the great can do no wrong”.  The lower class (not caste) are so poor and so desperate to enjoy any modicum of pleasure in life, they don't care about the strictures of any society and do as they please.  Society looks down its nose at these wretches and lets them be.  Hence at any time, the strictures of scriptures and society only snare the middle class.

Plethora of our Shruti and Smruti scriptures provide us with ideal role models we can emulate, especially in times of difficulties, confusion and emergency.  It is a regrettable fact that our religious leaders selectively pick what they want from shruti and smruti to suit their needs.  The only way to get around this is for us – the long suffering, silent majority called “us” – to know what our scriptures, shruti and smruti, say so that we can’t be taken for a ride by others.  With the advent of internet, this has become exceedingly easy and now there is no excuse for anyone to remain ignorant about their own religion.

Know your scriptures to understand your religion.  This is your duty and no one else's.




© Bhagwat Shahah   
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