In Hindu Dharma the Vedas,Upanishads,6 Vedangas,Smritis(or the Dharma Shastras),Puranas and the Itihasas(Ramayana and Mahabhartha) are usually together called the Shastras or Scriptures.

Among them, the Vedas(Srutis) ,of course,are considered as having the supreme authority.

The Smritis or the Dharma Shastras teach us what is right(Dharma) or wrong(Adharma) in a given context.They contain the rules of righteous living.

There are eighteen main Smritis or Dharma Sastras. The most important are those of Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara. The other fifteen are those of Vishnu, Daksha, Samvarta, Vyasa, Harita, Satatapa, Vasishtha, Yama, Apastamba, Gautama, Devala, Sankha-Likhita, Usana, Atri and Saunaka.

The laws of Manu are intended for the Satya Yuga, those of Yajnavalkya are for the Treta Yuga; those of Sankha and Likhita are for the Dvapara Yuga; and those of Parasara are for the Kali Yuga

Likewise,the principle Puranas are also 18 in number.They contain "old" stories that happened in earlier Kalpas and Yugas.They also contain principles of right conduct.

Now,it is a well known principle that whenever there occur a conflict/disagreement on a topic between the Vedas and Smritis then the views of Vedas are to be accepted & those of the Smritis are to be rejected.

But what about similar situations when disagreement appear between the Smritis and the Puranas?

Which view is to be accepted in those cases and which one should be rejected?

In other words,Among the Smritis and the Puranas which one is more authoritative?


3 Answers 3


Here is my answer which is based on the Devi Bhagavatam & the Vyasa Smriti.

The Devi Bhagavatam states that in such situations the views of the Puranas are to be rejected .In other words,the Smritis are more authoritative.

From Book 11,Chapter 1,Devi Bhagavatam:

Nârada said :– “O Muni! The S’âstras are not one, they are many and they lay down different rules and contradictory opinions, How then Dharma is to be followed? And according what Dharma S’âstra?” Nârâyana said :– S’ruti and Smriti are the two eyes of God; the Purânam is His Heart. Whatever is stated in S’ruti, the Smriti and the Purânams is Dharma; whatever else is written in other S’âstras is not Dharma. Where you will find differences between S’ruti, Smriti and Purânas, accept the words of the S’rutis as final proofs. Wherever Smriti disagrees with the Purânas, know the Smritis more authoritative.

And where differences will crop up in the S’rutis themselves, know that Dharma, too, is of two kinds. And where the differences will crop up in the Smritis themselves, consider, then, that different things are aimed at

Note that, here Narayana refers to Rishi Narayana and not Lord Vishnu.Narada ,of course, is Deva Rishi Narada.

EDIT-In his speech here (which is a part of the book named "Hindu Dharma") Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji also hints that as far as authority is concerned Sruti-Smriti-Purana is the usual order.So,Smritis are indeed considered as more authoritative than the Puranas.

But of course what he is actually trying to convey is that all the three has to be treated with equal importance as having same authority.

Those who composed the Smritis and laid down the performance of such rites must have been fully aware of the spirit of the Vedas. It is not proper to think that the Smritis are inferior to the Vedas or that the Puranas are inferior to the Smritis. We must learn to take an integrated view of all of them

The Vyasa Smriti also repeats the same thing which is said in the Devi Bhagavatam :

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In matters of discrepancy between the S'rutis, Smrit'is, and Puranas, the former should be held as decisive, whereas the Smritis should have preference in all topics where there would be a difference of opinion between them and the Puranas.

Vyasa Smriti,Chapter 1,Verse 4.

So,the Smritis are indeed more authoritative than the Puranas.

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    It is interesting that a Purana is givnng more importance to a Smriti. I suspect interpolation. Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 15:31
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    I am arguing from general principles. I can understand the author of a Purana accepting the preeminence of Sruti. He has no choice. I see no particular reason why he should accept the preeminence of a Smriti? Do you think it reasonable that an author should say that his writings are less authoritative than other authors? What would be the point of reading such an author since he has already admitted that we are better of reading other authors? Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 16:50
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    The Dharma Shastra Smritis are mere books written by humans. So they can be investigated by human reason. These Smriti/Purana authors may not be striving for supremacy but why should read anyone read an author who has already admitted truthfully that his writings are less authoritative than other authors? The case of Sruti and Smriti are different. One is forced to read Smritis because they explain the very difficult to understand Sruti. There is no choice in the matter. Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 17:07
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    @TheDestroyer I consider Srimad Bhagavatam as one of the best Hindu scriptures. I am suggesting that this is a case of an interpolation. One must not blindly give precedence to Dharma Shastra Smritis over Puranas when they differ. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 6:13
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    @Rickross you have to understand the context. You have to treat the text as a mere book if you come across something that is clearly wrong. If you treat it as a sacred scripture then you will just blindly accept a wrong thing since sacred scripture is supposed to be infallible. In that context you have to treat even sacred scripture as a mere book and its author a mere human. Even the Gita (18.63) has no problem with such a stand. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 6:49

I am writing this answer to clarify my position. I have already stated that I find it strange that the author of Devi Bhagavatam would have given precedence to Smritis over the Puranas. I also have deeper reasons to reject what Devi Bhagavatam is stating. Among the Smritis and the Puranas which one is more authoritative? -- It depends and can only be judged case by case. Scripture itself says that 'scripture is no scripture if it cannot stand the test of reason'.

'Even the words heard from an ignorant person, if in themselves they be fraught with sense, come to be regarded as pious and wise. In days of old, Usanas said unto the Daityas this truth, which should remove all doubts, that scriptures are no scriptures if they cannot stand the test of reason.'

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXLII

Let me use a simple example to make my point. Let us assume that a Purana states that Sun is a hot object while a Smriti says that Sun is a cold object. How do decide which statement is correct? The first step will be to check if there is any Sruiti statement that would resolve this discrepancy. If there is one than obviously we choose that statement that is in agreement with Sruti. What happens if there is no Sruti statement on this issue? Then we need to use reason and our experience to resolve the discrepancy. Blindly applying the Devi Bhagavatam or any other scriptural statement would lead to disastrous consequences.

One objection to the position sketched above would be to argue that one has to accept whatever is stated in a Purana or Smriti simply because they are sacred scriptures. Such a position, blind acceptance of scripture, is not recommended by Hindu scriptures itself.

...Reflecting on this entire teaching, do as you think fit.

Gita 18.63

However, discard the desire (kama) and material wealth (artha) if contrary to Dharma; as also, any usage or custom or rules regarded as source of Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness or arouse people's indignation.

(Manu Smriti 4.176)

Hinduism is not a vanilla belief system in the Abrahamic sense. A Hindu is asked to search for truth.

What is the spirit of Hinduism? What are the essential principles? The spirit of science is not dogmatic certainty but the disinterested pursuit of truth, and Hinduism is infused by the same spirit. Fixed intellectual beliefs mark off one religion from another, but Hinduism sets itself no such limits. It is comprehensive and synthetic, seeking unity not in a common creed but in a common quest for truth. Hinduism is more a way of life than a form of thought. It insists not on religious conformity but on a spiritual and ethical outlook in life. It is fellowship of all who accept the law of right and earnestly seek for the truth.

History of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under British rule by L.S.S. O’Malley quoted in British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance Part II edited by R. C. Majumdar

Let us not devalue this splendid bequest from the ancients by turning Hinduism into a blind belief system.

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    For questions like this one we can expect precise answers..And,this is not even an answer i'm afraid..It wud be an interesting exercise to find out which other Puranas discus the issue on hand..
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 6:11
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    Delete answer..... Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 22:34
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    Someone flagged your answer as low-quality. I think you should add a line at the beginning along these lines: 'Among the Smritis and the Puranas which one is more authoritative? -- It depends and can only be judged case by case...' Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 20:21
  • Done. Thanks @sv. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:14

DEFINITELY PURANAS because they are FIFTH VEDA and divine scriptures as per Vedas themselves. VEDAS DO NOT CONSIDER SMRITIS AS DIVINE SCRIPTURES! The supreme Puranas like Shiv Puran, Kalika Puran and Srimad Bhagvat Puran are considered on par with Vedic and Tantrik shrutis themselves as per many followers. I will answer as per Vedas only:

Chandogya Upanishad 7.1.2-4 'I know the Rig-veda, Sir, the Yagur-veda, the Sâma-veda, as the fourth the Âtharvana, as the fifth the Itihâsa-purâna (the Bhârata) ..... 'A name is the Rig-veda, Yagur-veda, Sâma-veda, and as the fourth the Âtharvana, as the fifth the Itihâsa-purâna

Gopatha Brahman purva 2:10 "In this way all the Vedas are manifested along with the kalpas,rahasyas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Itihas, anvakhyatas and the puranas."

"Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 2.4.10 "As clouds of smoke proceed by themselves out of a lighted fire kindled with damp fuel, thus, verily, O Maitreyî, has been breathed forth from this great Being what we have as Rig-veda, Yagur-veda, Sama-veda, Atharvâṅgirasas, Itihâsa (legends), Purâna (cosmogonies), Vidyâ (knowledge), the Upanishads.... From him alone all these were breathed forth.

In the above you can see smritis were not breathed forth by the lord and Itihas-Puran is mentioned even before Upanishads! In Chandogya Upanishad there is no mention of Upanishads or Brahmanas but Puranas are mentioned as 5th Veda.

Itihas & Purans themselves confirm they are 5th Veda. There is one exception (Devi Bhagwat) but smritis are nowhere near levels of sacred Purans.

Srimad Bhagwat Puran 1.4.20 The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge [the Vedas] were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Purāṇas are called the fifth Veda.

Skanda Purana 5.3.1 This is the command of Brahmā that Purāṇa is (to be taken as) the fifth Veda. He who does not know the Purāṇa does not understand anything here, whether it is a holy rite or piety or an item of knowledge of any sort or anything else worthwhile. What is there that is not found in the Purāṇa? The Vedas have been well-ensconced formerly in the Purāṇa. There is no doubt about it. The Veda is terribly worried about one with incomplete mastery of the Vedas apprehending, “He will distort me.” This is the conclusion arrived at earlier by Itihāsas and Purāṇas that the Purāṇa constitutes the soul of the Vedas

NOWHERE are Smritis kept on same level as Vedas.

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    I wonder what the fifth Veda's real name is. hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/50151/21895 Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 23:11
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    Well, nowhere other than Manu's testimony it appears. Weird for the guy responsible for the Vedas are the ultimate source of morality claim. Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 23:13
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    I'm guessing Bhagavant based on that being the name of the self-declared best Purana. Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 23:15
  • @AupakaranaAbhibhaa Interesting, thanks for this! Fifth Veda is itihas-puran which literally just means old history scriptures. One Vaishnav Puran says (Shiv) Ling Puran is best... Shiv and Kali's Purans are also declared among best so actually a few are totally unblemished.
    – R. Kaushik
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 5:09

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