The Matsya Purana (critical study)

by Kushal Kalita | 2018 | 74,766 words | ISBN-13: 9788171103058

This page relates ‘Conclusion’ of the English study on the Matsya-purana: a Sanskrit text preserving ancient Indian traditions and legends written in over 14,000 metrical verses. In this study, the background and content of the Matsyapurana is outlined against the cultural history of ancient India in terms of religion, politics, geography and architectural aspects. It shows how the encyclopedic character causes the text to deal with almost all the aspects of human civilization.

Chapter 9 - Conclusion

After a detail and careful study of the Matsyapurāṇa, it can be said that this Purāṇa occupies a unique place not only in the Purāṇic literature but also in the whole Indian literature. It delineates so many aspects like religion philosophy, polity, art and architecture, geography, history, etc. that it becomes like one of the torch bearer of Purāṇa literature. From various references made by the Sanskrit scholars, the probable date of the Matsyapurāṇa can be inferred to be spread over from 4th Century B.C. to 1250 A.D. The content of this Purāṇa is so vast that the present thesis, being bound by some limitations, restricts its study to some particular topics only. Here are the outcomes of the research study projected in the following points:

Being a metrical work the Matsyapurāṇa is formed with various literary aspects. The application of the metres is apt here and Anuṣṭup, being used in most of the verses can rightly be assigned as the main metre of this Purāṇa. The application of some other metres like Upajāti, Vasantatilaka, Puṣpitāgrā, Mālinī, Rucirā etc. can also be noticed here. Some irregularities in case of following the general rules of metres are also seen which may be for variation in readings in different editions of the text. Otherwise, it can be said that these irregularities show variations in the metres themselves.

The use of figure of speech in its narration is also marvelous where both śabdālaṃkāra and arthālaṃkāra find their way. The use of Anuprāsa, Yamaka, Upamā, Rūpaka, Ullekha and Arthāntaranyāsa bring a charismatic charm to the Purāṇic narrations. In using particular figure of speech in concerned narrations, the purpose of the poet is seemed to be successful. Though the Matsyapurāṇa has limited scope in using this literary device, still the figurative delineations found in the required narrations make this work a beautiful literary piece.

Study reveals that though in this Purāṇa the description or situation does not make any room for delineation of full-fledged sentiments, yet, from the sentiments used here, the reader can have the rasabodha. No matter what poetical element the Matsyapurāṇa draws theoretically, the way it picturesque an event, the way it expresses grief, agony, it touches the heart of the reader and success lies on that.

This Purāṇa has a vast historical data which includes the genealogies of the kings from different dynasties. The historical data that it bears can be regarded as assets of Indian History. By giving the genealogical data of the kings and princess of many dynasties of the Pre and post Bharata war it has enriched Indian History. It can be said from the study that the data included in this Purāṇa, are partly legendary and partly historical. The traditional history of the Pre-Mahābhārata War period from Manu Vaivasvata to the accession of Parīkṣita embodies the dynastic accounts of both the Solar and Lunar race.

After having critically examined the data available in the Purāṇa text, it is observed that the Purāṇic accounts relating to all the aforesaid aspects or the subject do not appear to be very much systematic in respect of genealogies and chronology. Although there is some confusion on the historical parts of the Matsyapurāṇa, yet, the information it has given cannot be nullified. It bears historical value to a considerable length. The thorough study reveals that most of the names of the rulers of different dynasties are genealogically and chronologically arranged. The historical data contained in the Purāṇa about the evolution of the kingship and state and other relevant topic form very important part of the political theories and institutions in ancient India.

The Matsyapurāṇa is basically included in tāmasika category, still, study reveals that it has put more emphasis on Vaiṣṇavism. However there is also revelation of Śaivism and Śaktism along with Vaiṣṇavism in this Purāṇa. This Purāṇa has established Viṣṇu as supreme being who is the cause of creation, nourishment and destruction of the world. The incarnation theory of Vainavism is fully developed here. Regarding Śiva also the Matsyapurāṇa holds the similar view and whenever occasion arise this Purāṇa describes Śiva also as the Supreme Reality. Even Viṣnu is said to worship him. This may give rise to some confusion. But the fact is that in ancient times, both Vaiṣṇavism and Śaivism occupied equal status in the society, the glimse of which can be gathered here.

Śaktism was also popular at that time which is evident from the descriptions of Mother Goddess and mātṛkās. However it is seen that this cult is not so much developed in this Purāṇa.

The vratas occupy an important place in the Matsyapurāṇa among the religious rites performed by people of that period. It is clear from the description that vratas are the substitute of difficult and reserved Vedic sacrifices which were meant only for the three upper class of people. But vratas found in the Matsyapurāṇa can be performed even by śūdras and women. Therefore the vratas discussed in the Matsyapurāṇa are not just an oblation to gods and goddesses, rather, they are directly related to the social and moral life.

It is found that in almost all the vratas, dāna is recommended in the Matsyapurāṇa, that too to the brāhmaṇas only who are poor and needy. The reason of this may be that as at that time brāhmaṇas were not permitted to do menial works so they had to depend on the donation of others. In this way they were encouraged to remain engrossed in the spread of education which was their main duty. Another noteworthy outcome is that though donation of many costly things like gold, silver, jewels etc. are enjoined here, the Matsyapurāṇa prescribes alternatives to these things for the poor people also. So that people, who are poor financially can also perform desired vratas.

Like all other Purāṇas the Matsyapurāṇa also deals with the cosmology of the Universe. Different cosmological theories are found here. The cosmic egg theory is the dominant cosmological theory. But another theory, i.e., creation theory from Prakṛti, which corresponds to some extent to Sāṃkhya theory of creation is also dealt with in detail. Moreover other aspects of Sāṃkhya philosophy like the concepts of guṇas, Prakṛti, Puruṣa etc. are also discussed here. The only difference is that while in Sāṃkhya philosophy Prakṛti and Puruṣa are independent, in the Matsyapurāṇa they are under the control of God.

Another philosophical school which finds prominence in the Matsyapurāṇa is Yoga philosophy. The word yoga is used here in the sense of joining or connection. It also denotes equanimity of mind. Karmayoga, jñanayoga, bhaktiyoga are also described, among which the path of devotion is stressed. However no detailed discussions on eight fold yogic practices are found here.

According to the Matsyapurāṇa the foremost duty of a king is to protect and serve his subjects, to administer his state with all suitable means and to appoint competent persons as his ministers. A king, according to the Matsyapurāṇa, should make necessary arrangement for winning the hearts of his subjects by doing well for them and for the State also as dissatisfied or unhappy citizens may be the cause of dethronement of the king.

The Matsyapurāṇa advises that the king should select eligible officials for his office so that the functioning of the state administration will not suffer and the state will grow.

This Purāṇa has given stress on punishment for different types of crime. These punishments include fine, physical punishment, death sentence and banishment from the country etc. according to the intensity of the crime. A worth mentioning point is that the Matsyapurāṇa has prescribed severe punishment for one who violates the modesty of woman and the punishment is no less than death penalty. Another noteworthy point is that the Matsyapurāṇa has given more stress on fine than on physical punishment.

The study of art and architecture that found in the Matsyapurāṇa exposes the fact that the people of that age were aware of architecture and its various facets. The Matsyapurāṇa has revealed different measurements for constructing houses based on their position held in society. The measurements of dwelling houses of the king’s officials and those of the people serving the king are different. Again the measurements of the houses of general public are also varied according to their status in the society. This Purāṇa reflects the richness of Indian art and architecture throughout its pages. From the soil testing to construction of durga for the king and his subjects this Purāṇa has given a vast description. Apart from this the building of Maṇḍapa, installing the idols of gods and goddesses with proper measurement etc. also are discussed in this work. Art and architecture that is been reflected in this Purāṇa bear the evidence of our rich civilization. The rules of construction found in this work have relevance in present time also. It has stressed that before starting a construction one should test the soil with proper rule. The bhumipujana, laying of foundation stone etc. which is done prior to the starting of any construction must have connection with the Purāṇic ideas of construction.

To give an overall idea of the ancient geography of the world this Purāṇa has shared valuable data. Although Puraṇas are confused in dealing with the two concepts of bhūvanakoṣa yet the information of geography which is found in this Purāṇa bears great value. One must go through this information to gather proper knowledge on ancient geography.

The Matsyapurāṇa has given accounts on holy rivers and mountains which have the relevance in present time also. It has also given a vast list of the holy places of India. These rivers, mountains holy places have modern day relevance. Many of the places are still known with such Purāṇic names. But the area of such places varies now from the Purāṇic description.

Therefore, in concluding remarks it can be said that this Purāṇa is a work of high value which is not properly evaluated yet. It deserves more importance than it has been given till date. One cannot bind this Purāṇa in criteria of five or ten characteristics as it is a work of encyclopaedic value or a type of dharmaśāstra as has been already termed by the scholar. The religious part which not only reflects the different cults of the Purāṇic age, but also shows the value of the rituals that performed by the common people. Vratas were performed, Dānas were given not only for the satisfaction of mind or to fulfill aspirations. They were done for the welfare of the society, for the equal status of the people in a society also. Along with the historical data this Purāṇa has dealt with the polity. By giving valuable data of polity including the duties of kings, appointment to his ministers and other officials, punishment of different crimes, this Purāṇa has played the role of an arthaśāstra. On the other hand, the architectural data which are found in Matsyapurāṇa are the evidence of richness of Indian society. Beyond this it contributes to the Indian philosophy mainly to the system of Sāṃkhya and Yoga philosophy. With such encumbered knowledge of different aspects, the Matsyapurāṇa shockingly carries the high value as a literary work. The use of literary merits like sentiments, figures of speech, metres, imagery has proven Matsyapurāṇa as a literary work of high value. To observe Matsyapurāṇa through a critical way, which is by taking its different aspects in to account although a hard work yet at the end of the study it can be expected that this study will somehow contribute to our society.

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