Once I debated with someone regarding the superiority of Darshana Sutras vs Puranas. Because of my interest in philosophical scripture, I argued that Mimansa Sutras are written/based on Samhita & Brahmana part of Vedas which are most authoritative but he argued that Puranas are more authoritative than Darshan Sutras. So, I got the idea of asking this question, let me frame it:

We know that Hindu Scriptures are classified as Shruti & Smriti, but more precisely, Scriptures can be classified as follows (related Ashtadash Vidya):

  • Shruti (Including Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyaka & Upanishads)
  • Upaveda (Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharvaveda, Arthashashtra)
  • Vedanga (Shiksha, Vyakaran, Nirukta, Chhand, Jyotish, Kalp)
  • Kalpa Sutra, Grihya Sutra, Srauta Sutra etc. Sutras
  • Darshana Sutras (Shada Darshana Sutras viz. Yoga Sutra, Brahma Sutra etc.)
  • Dharma Sharshtras (i.e Manu Smriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti etc.)
  • Puranas (18 Puranas and Upapuranas)
  • Itihasa (epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc.)
  • Agamas and Tantras
  • Works of Acharyas

We know that Shruti is more authoritative than Smriti, but I want to know the hierarchy of these broadly classified Scriptures.

So, is there any scripture that gives the hierarchy of these scriptures? Or (as these scriptures have been written over yugas e.g Vedas are ancient and Works of Acharyas are comparatively recent) is there any work of any Acharya (may be recent like Vivekananda) discuss it?

Note that I'm not looking for hierarchy in deeper level (i.e between Dharma Shashtras or between Puranas) just want to know the hierarchy of different levels/categories mentioned above or as possible as available.

  • 4
    to me, the last one (works of acharyas) comes first in hierarchy, because that is our first point of contact with all the others.. if we try to understand Vedas directly, we won't get far, or rather, we'll go astray. most of us who claim that 'Vedas are sole authority and everything else must be discarded if it contradicts Vedas' - are not intelligent enough to know how to interpret it, or resolve apparent contradictions. For e.g. we cannot understand Shiva's 14 damru sounds of sanskrit, nor Panini's sutras, without first understanding Patanjali's bhasya.
    – ram
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 13:16
  • I can explain that issue briefly if you are interested to hear how some Vaishnavas understand that. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 15:15
  • 1
    @ram You made very nice point, and I fully agree with that, but for many people it's very difficult to choose which tradition (sampradaya) and acaryas to follow. And we know that acaryas and sampradayas explained Vedic knowledge differently in different sampradayas, and not just differently but many times so much differently that they contradict each other in their conclusions (siddhānta). And many people find that to be a great difficulty in their pursuit for the "true" Vedic wisdom. They don't know what to choose, what to believe in. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 15:53
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    @brahmajijnasa, they will find same problem even when they read Vedas 'directly'.. you think the acharyas used anything other than vedas to found the different sampradayas ? Our work is not to compare the siddhantas. They have done it already. Our work is to follow the acharya that our family/elders show, with full devotion. If after doing that, we still feel difference of opinion, then seek out new acharya. But it is always under their shadow, not on our own. Because those who have tapas of rishis to see vedas directly, they won't be reading these forums anyway.
    – ram
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 18:26
  • "Because those who have tapas of rishis to see vedas directly, they won't be reading these forums anyway" @ram, I like this :-)
    – Prakash K
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 15:43

3 Answers 3


I like this question. The purpose of all Hindu scripture is two-fold:-

  1. document the mysteries of the universe (macrocosm)
  2. provide an authoritative and result-oriented methodology for perfectly understanding the mysteries of the universe.

Now this understanding (of the macrocosm) is achieved through various means including the understanding of the self (microcosm) and its relation to the universe. It is further enhanced by methodically diminishing the distance between the two and experiencing the bramhAnDa in the microcosm. Now until such time that the oneness is achieved, life in its various shapes, forms, colors and flavors goes on. Correspondingly, there is a surfeit of literature that studies life and universe in these intermediary stages and offers guidance for a better life within those intermediary stages as well.

This broad purpose of scripture is organised hierarchically as :-

  1. zruti (vEda including all limbs which in turn have a well-defined hierarchy)
  2. smRti
  3. purANa

All further work is based on and is an exposition and/or a celebration of the above. Expositions are in the form of commentaries, philosophical treatises, sUtras, samhita granthAs etc and celebrations are in the form of itihAsa and stOtra. As an example, Sankaracharya's body of work is primarily classified as bhASya (commentary), prakaraNa (philosophical work) and stOtra.

So primarily, the hierarchy is sruti, smriti and purana. As for hierarchy of scripture that is "in-between" such as darzanas, I do not believe there is one answer just as there is no single answer to "which is superior bhakti, gnyAna or karma yoga?". The answer is "it depends".

If the question is "where do I start", the answer is to start from the bottom and work one's way up. So stotras are a good place to start.

  • 4
    I'm not sure if this answers the question. Op asked scriptures which mention heirarchy or any works of Acharyas. But your answer mentioned none.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:39
  • It appears as The Destroyer stated whether the question is answered. Not only that there appears to be no attempt to answer the question Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 7:18

As far as Vedas (Sruti), Smritis and PurAnas are concerned, the order is known from scriptures. I don't think, however, any scriptures will discuss the authority status of the Darshana Sutras (other than may be they themselves).

For example:

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.

Devi BhAgavatam, Book 11, Chapter 1.

The VyAsa Smriti also confirms the same order:

enter image description here

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 1-4

Other than this, i don't think we can get any thing more specific from the scriptures. May be some AchAryas work can shed some light.

BTW, on a side note, what i have posted clearly proves that the idea " All Hindu scriptures can be classified into Sruti and Smriti" is a myth. Because, PurAnas are PurAnas, neither Sruti nor Smriti. And what are Sruti and Smriti is clearly defined in Manu Smriti as follows:

Srutis tu Vedo Vijneyo DharmashAstram tu vai Smritihi...


By Sruti is meant the Veda, and by Smriti is meant the Dharma ShAstra..

Manu Smriti 2.10.


Vallabhacharya discusses about scriptures in the book Tattvartha Deepa Nibandhana in a chapter named 'The meaning of the scriptures'.

He says that the Vedas, Gita, Vedanta Sutras and Bhagavata purana constitute the four fold testimony. All other scriptures which are not antagonistic to these can be accepted as valid testimony. Whatever is antagonistic should be rejected as invalid.

He says that among these four testimonies, Vedas, Gita, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavata, each succeeding testimony is meant to remove the doubts arising from each preceding testimony.

The translation of the section entitled 'the Meaning of the scriptures' is here.

  • Wow! Thanks, this seems to be a nice book of conclusions.
    – Prakash K
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 15:48

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