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It is believed that certain Hindu Scriptures (specially portions of some of the Puranas) were interpolated on a date much after its original creation.

Such interpolated texts are often used by small groups of sectarians for spreading disharmony, differences & hatred among the Hindus.

Questions:

  1. Are there some foolproof methods of differentiating the originals from the interpolated texts in such cases? If yes, what are those?

  2. Are those methods mentioned in Hindu Scriptures themselves?

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    Actually people misinterpret them. Names in Sanskrit Hindu Scriptures shouldn't be seen as proper nouns but rather should be seen as attributes of Brahman. So, each attribute is described as supreme but many scriptures were interpolated mainly Puranas. BTW, Good question :) – The Destroyer Dec 6 '16 at 15:53
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Are there some foolproof methods of differentiating the originals from the interpolated texts in such cases? If yes, what are those?

There are some accepted methods explained further below but they are not perfect.

Are those methods mentioned in Hindu scriptures themselves?

For how the integrity of the Vedas is preserved, see this answer. I'm not aware of any such technique to preserve Purāṇas, Itihāsas and other Smṛtis.


If you read the report titled Interpolations In The Mahabharata by Prof. M. A. Mehendale of BORI you will get an idea, how scholars, in general, identity and remove spurious material from Purāṇas and Itihāsas.

Although the report is more focused on The Mahābhārata, which is an itihāsa, I'll quote below some lines from the report which are applicable to Purāṇas as well. Mehendale is saying that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot get the scripture to its original form. So even if see read the words "critical edition" in the title of a book, read it with a grain of salt!

The critical edition of the text now lays bare all spurious matter which could be easily set aside on the objective evidence of the manuscripts. The guiding principle that was adopted for this initial task of sifting was not to admit any passage, short or long, in the constituted text if that was not uniformly documented in all the versions of the Northern and the Southern recension.

...

The task of removing the spurious matter that still remains in the critically constituted text and bringing it as close as possible to the oldest version of the Mbh. has been left by them to future students of the text.

For, arriving at the truly "original" text of Vyasa is well nigh impossible.

Below, he lists the 3 different types of interpolations.

What I propose to do this evening is to give some examples of different kinds of interpolations in the Mahābhārata.

  1. Those revealed by manuscript evidence and set aside by the editors,
  2. those that are not revealed by manuscript evidence and hence form part of the constituted text but are quite obvious due to contradictions in consecutive stanzas, and
  3. those revealed either by contradictions that are not so obvious because they are not found in consecutive passages but are found in the text as a whole, or by the criterion of intrinsic probability.

Following all the above three methods, one would assume the critical edition minus all the interpolations will give us the perfect text everyone can read. But unfortunately there maybe some cases where certain text is purposely omitted or deleted from the manuscripts and in those cases it's difficult to reconstruct the true account of a story from bits and pieces of information from other parts of the manuscript.


Examples of Interpolations

From The Mahābhārata:

One such example is related to the svayaṁvara of Draupadi. It is popularly believed that when Karṇa lifted the bow and was about to shoot the arrow to hit the target. Draupadi loudly declared that she would not choose a sūta for her husband: drstvā tam draupadi vākyam uccair jagāda nāham varayāmi sūtam (1.1827, p.725). On hearing it, Karṇa threw down the bow and, downcast, retired from the contest.

This stanza does not occur at all in the entire Southern recension, and among the versions of the Northern recension, it does not occur in the Kashmiri, Maithili and Bengali versions. It is found only in four Devanagari mss. (out of a total fourteen used for the critical edition), and one (out of three) Nepali ms. It is therefore clearly a very late addition to the text.

I discuss the above interpolation in my answer to Do scriptures indicate that Draupadi regretted not allowing Karna to participate in her svayaṁvara?

Here's one from Uttarakāṇḍa of Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa:

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  • People differ on Varnasrama Dharma. Some say it is only based on Guna while some believe it is based on birth. The above Draupadi and Karna story also shows change in Varnasrama Dharma from "Guna and Karma" to "birth". So, this could be later interpolation when birth based caste system was popular. – The Destroyer Dec 7 '16 at 5:36
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One method had been used by Aacharyas is to prepare and check Anukramani.

For protecting the Vedas, and keeping the tradition of mantras well-organized, ancient Rishis has made sorted indices or index according to the topic/subject.

In these index Suktas, Padas, Seear of each and every mantra, Chhand (meter) of richa (hymns) and Devatas of Samhitas are orderly well indexed and made catalogue. There are different markings regarding to the subject of compilation.

For e.g Anuvakanukramani has compilation of each and every Anuvak in sorted form, Arshanukramani has compilation of Rishi and it's tradition, Chhandonukramani has compilation of Chhanda, Mantranukramani etc. and so on.

These type of making index and catalogues not only helps in searching topics/subject but also serve the purpose: Protecting the original form of Mantra and saving the chants of Mantra from being corrupted or fallen.

Anukramani which includes all type of description in one place (for every topics Sukta, Chhanda,.. as mentioned above) is called Sarvanukramani .Maharshi Katyayana and Shaunaka are well known for making Sarvanukramani for popular Shakhas of Vedas.

So, by indexing or making catalogue of description to no. of contents in the scripture e.g. no. of mantras, suktas according to Aadhyaya etc., The originality of scripture can be saved. The current version can be cross-checked or compared with the help of such Anukramani of/to the authentic and original.

For more information on Anukramani, visit अनुक्रमणी, सर्वानुक्रमणी and Anukramaṇī or Anukramaṇi.

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    Actually my focus was more on the Puranas..How can one determine if certain portions of them are interpolated?Or are there any such methods at all? – Rickross Dec 6 '16 at 16:33
  • @Rickross sorry, I don't know more about it. – Paṇḍyā Dec 7 '16 at 8:01

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