Purana

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Purana or Puran or Puranas (पुराण) are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography. [1]

Origin

Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered the compiler of the Puranas.[2] However, the earliest written versions date from the time of the Gupta Empire (third-fifth century CE) and much material may be dated, through historical references and other means, to this period and the succeeding centuries. The texts were probably written all over India.

The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas. [3] On one hand, they existed in some oral form before being written [4] while at the same time, they have been incrementally modified well into the 16th century.[5]

The Mahapuranas

Of the many texts designated 'Puranas' the most important are the Mahāpurāṇas. These are always said to be eighteen in number, divided into three groups of six, though in fact they are not always counted in the same way.

Purana name Verses number Comments
Agni Purana (अग्नि पुराण) 15,400 verses Contains details of Vastu Shastra and Gemology.
Bhagavata Purana (भागवत पुराण) 18,000 verses Indologist Ludo Rocher considers it to be the most celebrated and popular of the Puranas, telling of Vishnu's ten Avatars. Its tenth and longest canto narrates the deeds of Krishna, introducing his childhood exploits, a theme later elaborated by many Bhakti movements.
Bhavishya Purana (भविष्य पुराण) 14,500 verses Contains a record of prophecies. Portions of the extant text are drawn from the law book of Manu.
Brahma Purana (ब्रह्मा पुराण) 10,000 verses Describes the Godavari and its tributaries. It is shortest of the Puranas.
Brahmanda Purana (ब्रह्मानन्द पुराण) 12,000 verses Includes Lalita Sahasranamam, a text some Hindus recite as prayer.
Brahma Vaivarta Purana (ब्रह्मवैवर्त पुराण) 17,000 verses Describes ways to worship Devis, Krishna and Ganesha.
Garuda Purana (गरुड़ पुराण) 19,000 verses Describes death and its aftermaths.
Harivamsha (हरिवंश पुराण) 16,000 verses Is considered to be itihāsa (epic poetry).
Kurma Purana (कूर्म पुराण) 17,000 verses
Linga Purana (लिंग पुराण) 11,000 verses Describes the magnificence of Lingam, symbol of Shiva, and origin of the universe. It also contains many stories of Lingam one of which entails how Agni Lingam solved dispute between Vishnu and Brahma.
Markandeya Purana (मार्कण्डेय पुराण) 9,000 verses The Devi Mahatmya, an important text for the Shaktas, is embedded in it.
Matsya Purana (मत्स्य पुराण) 14,000 verses Narrates the story of Matsya, the first of ten major Avatars of Vishnu. It also contains genealogical details of various dynasties.
Narada Purana (नारद पुराण) 25,000 verses Describes the greatness of Vedas and Vedangas.
Padma Purana (पद्म पुराण) 55,000 verses Describes the greatness of Bhagavad Gita. Hence, it is also known as gītāmāhātmya (lit. the majesty of Gita).
Shiva Purana (शिव पुराण) 24,000 verses Describes the greatness of Shiva, greatness in worshiping Shiva and other stories about him.
Skanda Purana (स्कंद पुराण) 81,100 verses Describes the birth of Skanda (or Karthikeya), second son of Shiva. The longest Purana, it is an extraordinarily meticulous pilgrimage guide, containing geographical locations of pilgrimage centers in India, with related legends, parables, hymns and stories. Many untraced quotes are attributed to this text.
Vamana Purana (वामन पुराण) 10,000 verses Describes areas around Kurukshetra in North India.
Varaha Purana (वराह पुराण) 24,000 verses Describes various forms prayer and devotional observances to Vishnu. Many illustrations also involve Shiva and Durga.
Vayu Purana (वायु पुराण) 24,000 verses
vishnu Purana (विष्णु पुराण) 23,000 verses Describes the many mythic deeds of Vishnu and various ways to worship him.

Classification of Puranas

Puranas are classified according to qualification of persons who can understand them: "Purāṇas are supplementary explanations of the Vedas intended for different types of men. All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Purāṇas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their lost position and get out of the hard struggle for existence.

The Mahapuranas are frequently classified according to the three aspects of the divine Trimurti:

Vaiṣṇava Puranas: Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Nāradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Vāmana Purana, Kūrma Purana, Matsya Purana, Kalki Purana
Brāhma Puranas: Brahma Purana, Brahmānda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Mārkandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana,
Śaiva Puranas: Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Vāyu Purana

References

  1. Puranas at Sacred Texts
  2. The Puranas by Swami Sivananda
  3. Johnson 2009, p. 247
  4. Johnson 2009, p. 247
  5. Singh 1997, p. 2324