Itihasa (history) consists of two great epics. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata. While the Vedas are cryptic, and some times very sophisticated, prosaic and abstract, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata form a popular ' Veda ' and provide the simplest and most graphic introduction to Hindu thought, culture and philosophy. Ramayana the story of Rama was composed by Valmiki. Nowhere else would you find an example of an obviously literary work like the Ramayana, composed for personal aesthetic satisfaction, permeating the life and culture of a whole nation in the course of a few centuries - to such an extent that it becomes a religious authority as important as the Vedas themselves. The Mahabharata is eight times longer than the longest piece of European literature, namely, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey put together. It is mainly the story of the Pandava princes, but there are hundreds of other major stories linked with that main story. The famous Bagavad Gita the most popular exposition of Hindu philosophy, religion and way of life is part of Mahabharata. The Puranas are chronicles and long narratives that popularize the content of the Vedas by appealing to the reader's imagination. There are eighteen Puranas and eighteen Upa Puranas. Each Purana is distinctly in favour of a particular Deity, whose exploits form its subject matter, and that Deity is considered in that Purana as the Supreme Reality. Hundreds of special vratas and specialized forms of worship that are practised in different parts of India derive from one or other of these Puranas. The longest Purana is the Skandha Purana (only slightly shorter than the Mahabharata), a Purana dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya or Skandha.
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