The Vishnu Purana is often considered to be the most important of all the eighteen Puranas and is given the name Puranaratna (gem of Puranas).Presented as a dialogue between Parashara with his disciple Maitreya. It is divided into six parts. The major topics discussed include creation myths, stories of battles fought between Asuras and Devas, the avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu and genealogy and stories of legendary kings.
The book starts with detailed stories of creation and introduces the concept of four yugas. The tale of Rudra, an elaborate story of the Samudra Manthana, or the churning of the ocean, the Story of Dhruva, an ardent devotee of Vishnu, and stories of ancient kings Vena and Prithu are also discussed in the first section. Tales of Prithu's descendants, the Prachetas, the famous story of Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada, some topological details of the known world with mentions of lands, tribes, mountains and rivers, concepts of the universe, and the stories of the many births of Jadabharata are the major topics discussed in the next book. The third section discusses the stories of Manvantara (cycles of creation and destruction), the sages Vyasa and Yajnavalkya, Surya (the sun god),Yama (the god of the dead), devotees Shatadhanu and Shaivya, the four classes (varnas) and the four stages of life(ashramas) and details of many rituals. The fourth section gives a detailed account of all the famous Kings from the solar and lunar dynasties of ancient India, and also lists the names of kings who 'would appear' in the age of Kali. The second list contains the name of historical kings of Magadha, including kings from the Shishunaga, Nanda and Maurya dynasties. The next section deals in details the different events in the life of Lord Krishna, starting from his birth, through his childhood and up to his death and the destruction of the entire Yadava clan. The sixth and last section mainly discusses the impending age of Kali, the concepts of universal destruction that would eventually follow and explains the importance of the Puranas in general.
The Vishnudharmottara Purana, a separate text dedicated to the arts, is a Supplement or Appendix to the Vishnu Purana.
Chpters from Vishnu Purana
- Book IV:Chapter I
- Book IV:Chapter XIX - Descendants of Puru
- Book IV:Chapter XX - Descendants of Kuru
- Book IV:Chapter XXIV
- Wilson (2006), p. xii.
- Flood (1996), p. 111.