:"For other meanings, see Purana (disambiguation)."The Puranas (Sanskrit: _sa. पुराण "IAST|purāṇa", "of ancient times") are a group of important Hindu (or Jain and Buddhist) religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the Universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of the kings, heroes, sages and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy and geography. [ [http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/index.htm#puranas Puranas at Sacred Texts] ] Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity and most use an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts. They are usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another.

Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered the compiler of the Puranas. [ [http://www.dlshq.org/religions/puranas.htm The Puranas by Swami Sivananda] ] 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versions date from the time of the Gupta Empire (third-fifth century CE) and much material may be dated, through historical references and other means, to this period and the succeeding centuries.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. Common ideas are found throughout the corpus but it is not possible to trace the lines of influence of one Purana upon another so the corpus is best viewed as a synchronous whole. cite book
last = Flood
first = Gavin
authorlink = http://www.slcr.stir.ac.uk/staff-expertise/g-flood_000.php
title = An Introduction to Hinduism
format = Book
year = 1996
publisher = Cambridge University Press
isbn = 0521433045
pages = 359

The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas, for on one hand they unquestionably existed, in some oral form, a millennium before while on the other hand they have been incrementally modified well into medieval times [Nagendra Kumar Singh (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, (1997) ISBN 8174881689, p. 2324] and perhaps down to the present day.


An early reference is found in the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2). (circa 500BCE.) The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad refers to purana as the "fifth Veda" [Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 2.4.10, 4.1.2, 4.5.11. Satapatha Brahmana (SBE, Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369). Moghe 1997:160,249] , "IAST|itihāsapurāṇaṃ pañcamaṃ vedānāṃ", reflecting the early religious importance of these myths, presumably then in purely oral form. The term also appears in the Atharvaveda 11.7.24cite book
last = Pargiter
first = F E
authorlink =
title = Ancient Indian historical tradition
others = Original publisher Oxford University Press, London
publisher = Motilal Banarasidass
origdate = 1922
year = 1962
format = Book
location = Delhi
pages = 30-54
url =
oclc = 1068416
] ; Moghe 1997:249 and the Satapatha Brahmana and SBE Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369] . According to Matysa Purana, [ "Matsya Purana" 53.65] they are said to narrate five subjects, called Pancha Lakshana "IAST|pañcalakṣaṇa" ("five distinguishing marks"):
# Sarga - The creation of the universe.
# Pratisarga - Secondary creations, mostly re-creations after dissolution.
# Vamśa - Genealogy of gods and sages.
# Manvañtara - The creation of the human race and the first human beings. The epoch of the Manus' rule, 71 celestial Yugas or 308,448,000 years.
# Vamśānucaritam - Dynastic histories.

Some scholars have suggested that these 'distinguishing marks' are shared by other traditional religious scriptures.cite book
last = Rao
first = Velcheru Narayana
title = Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts
chapter = Purana as Brahminic Ideology
pages = 85-100
isbn = 0-7914-1381-0
editor = Doniger Wendy
origyear =
format = Book
accessdate = 2007-07-25
year = 1993
publisher = State University of New York Press
location = Albany
] The Puranas also lay emphasis on keeping a record of genealogies. The Vayu Purana says: "in ancient times the suta's duty was to preserve the genealogies of gods, rsis and glorious kings and the traditions of great men." [Vayu Purana 1. 31-2.] The Puranic genealogies indicate that Manu Vaivasvata lived 95 generations before the Bharata War. [R. C. Majumdar and A. D. Pusalker (editors): The history and culture of the Indian people. Volume I, The Vedic age. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1951, p.273]

According to Pargiter 1922), the "original Purana" may date to the time of the final redaction of the Vedas. and Pargiter (1979) Pargiter 1979 ] P.L. Bhargava 1971, India in the Vedic Age, Lucknow: Upper India Publishing; Talageri 1993, 2000; Subhash Kak, 1994, The astronomical code of the Rgveda] Pargiter has argued that the Puranic Krta Yuga - in the Vayu Purana the four Yugas are divided into 4800, 3600, 2400 and 1200 years - "ended with the destruction of the Haihayas [by Rama Jamadagnya] ; the Treta began approximately with Sagara and ended with Rama Dasarathi's destruction of the Raksasas; and the Dvapara began with his reinstatement at Ayodhya and ended with the Bharata battle". [Pargiter 1922:177] In Arrian's Indica, Megasthenes is quoted as stating that the Indians counted from Shiva (Dionysos) to Chandragupta Maurya (Sandracottus) "a hundred and fifty-three kings over six thousand and forty-three years." [Pliny: Naturalis Historia 6:59; Arrian: Indica 9:9] The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (4.6.), ca. 8th century BCE, mentions 57 links in the Guru-Parampara ("succession of teachers"). This would mean that this Guru-Parampara would go back about 1400 years, although the accuracy of this list is disputed. [(see Klaus Klostermaier 1989 and Arvind Sharma 1995)] The list of kings in Kalhana's Rajatarangini goes back to the 19th century BCE. [Elst 1999, with reference to Bernard Sergent]

Nevertheless Gavin Flood connects the rise of the written Purana historically with the rise of devotional cults centring upon a particular deity in the Gupta era: the Puranic corpus is a complex body of materials that advance the views of various competing cults;

"Although these texts are related to each other, and material in one is found in another, they nevertheless each present a view of ordering of the world from a particular perspective. They must not be seen as random collections of old tales, but as highly selective and crafted expositions and presentations of worldviews and soteriologies, compiled by particular groups of Brahmins to propagate a particular vision, whether it be focused on IAST|Viṣṇu, IAST|Śiva, or IAST|Devī, or, indeed, any number of deities."

The Puranas are available in vernacular translations and are disseminated by Brahmin scholars, who read from them and tell their stories, usually in Katha sessions (in which a travelling brahmin settles for a few weeks in a temple and narrates parts of a Purana, usually with a Bhakti perspective).


The Mahapuranas

Of the many texts designated 'Puranas' the most important are the "IAST|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. Combining the various lists Dimmitt and van Buitenen cite book
last = Dimmitt
first = Cornelia
authorlink =
coauthors = J. A. B. van Buitenen
title = Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskirt Puranas
publisher = Temple University Press
year = 1978
location = Philadelphia
pages = 373
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =8170305969
] have collated twenty names:
# Agni (15,400 verses)
# Bhagavata (18,000 verses). The most celebrated and popular of the "Puranas," ["A Sanskrit-English Dictionary." Sir Monier Monier-Williams. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1899. Page 752, column 3, under the entry "Bhagavata."] 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. [ "Viraha-Bhakti - The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India" - Friedhelm Hardy. ISBN 0-19-564916-8 ]
# Bhavishya (14,500 verses)
# Brahma (24,000 verses)
# Brahmanda (12,000 verses; includes Lalita Sahasranamam, a text some Hindus recite as prayer)
# Brahmavaivarta (18,000 verses)
# Garuda (19,000 verses)
# Harivamsa (16,000 verses; more often considered "itihāsa")
# Kurma (17,000 verses)
# Linga (11,000 verses)
# Markandeya (9,000 verses; includes Devi Mahatmyam, an important text for Shaktas)
# Matsya (14,000 verses)
# Narada (25,000 verses)
# Padma (55,000 verses)
# Shiva (24,000 verses)
# Skanda (81,100 verses), the longest Purana, containing parables, legends and stories, with multiple versions and recensions. Many untraced quotes are attributed to this text.cite book
last =
first =
title = Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts
chapter = The Scrapbook of Undeserved Salvation: The Kedara Khanda of the Skanda Purana
pages = 59-83
isbn = 0-7914-1381-0
editor = Doniger Wendy
origyear =
format = Book
accessdate = 2007-07-25
year = 1993
publisher = State University of New York Press
location = Albany
# Vamana (10,000 verses)
# Varaha (10,000 verses)
# Vayu (24,000 verses)
# Vishnu (23,000 verses)

The Mahapuranas are frequently classified according the three aspects of the divine Trimurti,
* Brahma Puranas: Brahma Purana, Brahmānda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Mārkandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana,
* Vishnu Puranas: Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Nāradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana,Vāmana Purana,Kūrma Purana, Matsya Purana, Kalki Purana
* Shiva Puranas: Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Vāyu Purana [ [http://www.puranas.org/ The Puranic Encyclopedia] ]

According to the "Padma Purana," [ "Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda," 236.18-21] the texts may be classified in accordance with "the three gunas or qualities"; truth, passion and ignorance:

*Sattva ("truth; purity"): Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana
*Rajas ("dimness; passion"): Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana
*Tamas ("darkness; ignorance"): Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana

The Upapuranas

The "IAST|Upapurāṇas" are lesser or ancillary texts: these are sometimes also said to be eighteen in number, with still less agreement as to the canonical titles. Few have been critically edited. They include: Sanat-kumara, Narasimha, Brihan-naradiya, Siva-rahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata,
Ganesha, Mudgala, and Hamsa. [R. C. Hazra, "Studies in the Upapuranas, vol. I", Calcutta, Sanskrit College, 1958. "Studies in the Upapuranas, vol. II", Calcutta, Sanskrit College, 1979. "Studies in Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs", Delhi, Banarsidass, 1975. Ludo Rocher, "The Puranas - A History of Indian Literature Vol. II", fasc. 3, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1986.]

The Ganesha and Mudgala Puranas are devoted to Ganesha. cite book
last = Thapan
first = Anita Raina
coauthors =
title = Understanding IAST|Gaṇapati: Insights into the dynamics of a cult
publisher = Manohar Publishers
date = 1997
pages = 304
month =
isbn = 81-7304-195-4
] [ [http://www.gurjari.net/ico/Mystica/html/purana.htm Purana at Gurjari] ] The Devi-Bhagavata Purana, which extols the goddess Durga, has become (along with the Devi Mahatmya of the Mārkandeya Purana) a basic text for Devi worshipers. ["The Triumph of the Goddess - The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the DevI-BhAgavata PuraNa," Brwon Mackenzie. ISBN 0-7914-0363-7 ]

There are many others all over the Indian subcontinent [ `Verbal Narratives: Performance and Gender of the Padma Purana', by T.N. Sankaranarayana in "Chanted Narratives" - The Katha Vachana Tradition, Edited by Molly Kaushal, p. 225-234. ISBN 81-246-0182-8 ] : most (such as the "Padma Purana" of Bengal and Assam, narrating the story of the goddess Manasā), written in vernacular languages rather than Sanskrit.Fact|date=October 2008

thala Puranas

This corpus of texts tells of the origins and traditions of particular temples or shrines - the word 'Sthala' means 'Place' in Sanskrit. There are numerous Sthala Puranas, most written in vernaculars, some with Sanskrit versions as well. Some appear in Sanskrit versions in the Mahapuranas or Upapuranas. Some Tamil Sthala Puranas have been researched by David Dean Shulman. [ "Tamil Temple Myths" - Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition - David Dean Shulman. ISBN 0-691-06415-6 ]

Kula Puranas

These Puranas deal with a caste's origin myth, stories and legends (the word 'Kula' means 'Family' or 'Tribe' in Sanskrit). They are important sources for caste identity though usually contested by rival castes. This subgenre is usually in the vernacular and may at times remain oral. [ 'Kulapuranas' - Pulikonda Subbachary in "Folklore in Modern India," edited by Jawaharlal Handoo, p. 125-142. ISBN 81-7342-055-6 ] These have been little researched, though they are documented in the caste section of the British Census of India Report and the various Gazetteers. [ See for example "Castes and Tribes of Southern India" Vols I-V, Thurston Edgar. Cosmo Publication, Delhi. ]

Jain and Buddhist Puranas

Jain Puranas deal with Jain myths, history and legends and form a major part of early Kannada literature. cite book
last = Jaini
first = Padmanabh S.
title = Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts
chapter = Jaina Puranas: A Puranic Counter Tradition
pages =207-249
isbn = 0-7914-1381-0
editor = Doniger Wendy
origyear =
format = Book
accessdate = 2007-07-25
year = 1993
publisher = State University of New York Press
location = Albany
] cite book
last = Cort
first = John E.
title = Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts
chapter = An Overview of the Jaina Puranas
publisher =
date =
location =
pages = 185-206
isbn = 0-7914-1381-0
editor = Doniger Wendy
origyear =
format = Book
accessdate = 2007-07-25
year = 1993
publisher = State University of New York Press
location = Albany
] The best known is the Mahapurana of Acharya Jinasena. Studies and English translations of this particular genre are meagre.Fact|date=September 2008

Swayambhu Purana, a Buddhist Purana, is major source of the history of the Kathmandu valley.Fact|date=September 2008


Further reading

*Bhargava, P.L. 1971. "India in the Vedic Age". Lucknow: Upper India Publishing.

*Dimmitt, Cornelia, and J.A.B. van Buitenen. "Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas". Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978. Pages 4 to 5.

*cite book |last=Doniger |first=Wendy (editor) |authorlink=Wendy Doniger |coauthors= |title=IAST|Purāṇa Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts |year=1993 |publisher=State University of New York |location=Albany, New York |isbn= 0-7914-1382-9

*cite book |last=Flood |first=Gavin |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=An Introduction to Hinduism |year=1996 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |isbn= 0-521-43878-0

*Handoo, Jawaharlal (editor). "Folklore in Modern India". ISBN 81-7342-055-6

*Hardy, Friedhelm. "Viraha-Bhakti - The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India". ISBN 0-19-564916-8

*Kaushal, Molly (editor). "Chanted Narratives - The Katha Vachana Tradition". ISBN 81-246-0182-8

*Mackenzie, Brwon. "The Triumph of the Goddess - The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the DevI-BhAgavata PuraNa". ISBN 0-7914-0363-7 .Sri Satguru Publications.Delhi.India

*Majumdar, R. C. and Pusalker, A. D. (editors): "The history and culture of the Indian people. Volume I, The Vedic age". Bombay : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1951 (esp. ch. XIV - XV by A. D. Pusalker)

*Moghe, S. G. (editor). "Professor Kane's contribution to Dharmasastra literature". 1997, New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd. ISBN 81-246-0075-9

*cite book |last=Monier-Williams |first=Monier|authorlink=Monier Monier-Williams |coauthors= |title=A Sanskrit-English Dictionary |year= |publisher=Motilal Banarsidass Publishers |location=Delhi |isbn= .Sri Satguru Publications.Delhi

*Pargiter, F.E. 1922. "Ancient Indian Historical Tradition". London. Oxford University Press.

*Shulman, David Dean. "Tamil Temple Myths - Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition". ISBN 0-691-06415-6

*cite book |last=Thapan |first=Anita Raina |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Understanding Gaņapati: Insights into the Dynamics of a Cult |year=1997 |publisher=Manohar Publishers |location=New Delhi |isbn=81-7304-195-4

*Thurston Edgar. "Castes and Tribes of Southern India" (Vols I-V). Cosmo Publication, Delhi.

External links

* [http://www.bharatadesam.com/scriptures/puranas.php The Puranas] (bharatadesam.com)


* [http://is1.mum.edu/vedicreserve/puran.htm Puranas in Devnagari, scanned, PDF files]
* [http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil.htm#Pur GRETIL] (uni-goettingen.de)


* [http://vedabase.net/sb/en Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam] Full text of the "IAST|Bhāgavata Purāṇa", with the original Sanskrit, word-for-word meanings, translation, and commentary.
* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/vp/index.htm The Vishnu Purana] Full text of the H.H. Wilson translation at sacred-texts.com


* [http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/encyclopedia/puranas.htm Contents of 18 Puranas and a list of Upapuranas (lesser Puranas)] (a Java applet)
* [http://www.dharmakshetra.com/literature/puranas/puranas.html Extensive synopsis of several Maha Puranas]
* [http://www.urday.com/puranas.htm Synopsis of Puranas at Urday.com]
* [http://www.bharatadesam.com/spiritual/agni_purana.php Agni Purana - A synopsis]

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