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Puranas (/pʊˈrɑːnəz/; singular: Sanskrit: पुराण
purāṇa), are ancient
Hindu texts eulogizing various deities,
primarily the divine
Trimurti God in
Hinduism through divine stories.
Puranas may also be described as a genre of important
texts alongside some
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
Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography. The
Puranas are frequently classified according to the
or the three aspects of the divine). The
Padma Purana classifies
them in accordance with the three gunas or qualities as
Rajas (Dimness and Passion) and Tamas (Darkness and
Ignorance), an apparent means by which to rate the texts based on
Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an
abundance of religious and philosophical concepts. They are usually
written in the form of stories related by one person to another.
3.4 Sthala Puranas
3.5 Kula Puranas
6 Further reading
7 External links
An illustration of
Varaha avatar based on the Bhagavata Purana
Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered
the compiler of the Puranas.
The date of the production of the written texts does not define the
date of origin of the Puranas. They existed in an oral form before
being written down, and were incrementally modified well into the 16th
An early occurrence of the term 'purana' is found in the Chandogya
Upanishad (7.1.2), translated by
Patrick Olivelle as "the corpus of
histories and ancient tales" (The Early Upanisads, 1998, p. 259).
Upanishad refers to purana as the "fifth Veda",
itihāsapurāṇaṃ pañcamaṃ vedānāṃ, reflecting the early
religious importance of these facts, which over time have been
forgotten and presumably then in purely oral form. Importantly, the
most famous form of itihāsapurāṇaṃ is the Mahabharata. The term
also appears in the
Atharvaveda 11.7.24. It is important to
bear in mind that perhaps a thousand years separates the occurrence of
this term in these Upanisads from 'The Puranas' understood as a
unified set of texts (see below), and it is therefore by no means
certain that the term as it occurs in the Upanisads has any direct
relation to what today is identified as 'The Puranas'. As Olivelle
points out in the notes to his translation (p 563), the term 'purana'
is set within a list of other categories of knowledge, including 'the
science of government' (ksatravidya), mathematics, and the science of
demonic beings conceived of as serpents (sarpadevajanavidya).
In the 19th century,
F. E. Pargiter believed the "original Purana" may
date to the time of the final redaction of the Vedas. 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. Wendy Doniger, based on her
study of indologists, assigns approximate dates to the various
Puranas. She dates
Markandeya Purana to c. 250 CE (with one portion
dated to c. 550 CE),
Matsya Purana to c. 250–500 CE,
Vayu Purana to
c. 350 CE,
Vishnu Purana to c. 450 CE, Brahmanda Purana
to c. 350–950 CE,
Vamana Purana to c. 450–900 CE,
Kurma Purana to
c. 550–850 CE, and
Linga Purana to c. 600–1000 CE.
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.
The All India Kashiraj Trust, formed under Vibhuti Narayan Singh, the
Maharaja of Kashi, dedicated itself to publishing editions of the
Part of a series on
Hindu scriptures and texts
Shastras and sutras
According to Matysa Purana, they are said to narrate five
subjects, called Pancha
Lakshana pañcalakṣaṇa ("five
distinguishing marks", though some scholars have suggested that these
are shared by other traditional religious scriptures):
Sarga: the creation of the universe.
Pratisarga: secondary creations, mostly re-creations after
Vamśa: genealogy of the gods and sages.
Manvañtara: the creation of the human race and the first human
beings. The epoch of the Manus' rule, 71 celestial Maha Yugas.
Vamśānucaritam: the histories of the patriarchs of the lunar and
Puranas also lay emphasis on keeping a record of genealogies, as
Vayu Purana says, "to preserve the genealogies of gods, sages and
glorious kings and the traditions of great men." The Puranic
genealogies indicate, for example, that
Sraddhadeva Manu lived 95
generations before the Bharata war.
Of the many texts designated 'Puranas' the most important are the
Mahāpurāṇas. These are said to be eighteen in number, divided into
three groups of six, though they are not always counted in the same
way. Combining the various lists Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van
Buitenen have collated twenty names, totalling 429,000 verses:
Contains details of Vastu
Shastra and Gemology.
Indologist Ludo Rocher considers it to be the most celebrated and
popular of the Puranas, telling of Vishnu's twenty four
Avatars. Its tenth and longest canto narrates the deeds of Krishna,
introducing his childhood exploits, a theme later elaborated by many
Godavari and its tributaries.
Includes Lalita Sahasranamam, a text some Hindus recite as prayer.
Describes ways to worship Devis,
Krishna and Ganesha.
Describes death and its aftermath.
Is considered to be a supplement to the
Mahabharata and is sometimes
classified with it as itihāsa instead of a purana.
Is the second of ten major avatars of Lord Vishnu.
Describes the magnificence of the Lingam, symbol of Shiva, and origin
of the universe. It also contains many stories of Lingam, one of which
Lingam solved a dispute between
Vishnu and Brahma.
Devi Mahatmya, an important text for the Shaktas.
Narrates the story of Matsya, the first of ten major Avatars of
Vishnu. It also contains genealogical details of various
Describes the greatness of
Vedas and Vedangas.
Describes the greatness of Bhagavad Gita. Hence, it is also known as
gītāmāhātmya (lit. the majesty of Gita).
Describes the greatness of Shiva, greatness in worshiping Shiva, and
other stories about him.
Describes the birth of Skanda (or Karthikeya), 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.
Describes areas around
Kurukshetra in North India.
Describes various forms prayer and devotional observances to Vishnu.
Many illustrations also involve
Shiva and Durga.
Sometimes confused with the
Shiva Purana, it is considered one of the
oldest examples of the genre.
Describes the many deeds of
Vishnu and various ways to worship
According to Prabhupada, the 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.
Padma Purana classifies the puranas
into three types as sattvik, rajasic and tamasic puranas, each
constitutes of six puranas. 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
The Mahapuranas are frequently classified according to the three
aspects of the divine Trimurti:
Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Nāradeya Purana, Garuda Purana,
Varaha Purana, Vāmana Purana, Kūrma Purana, Matsya
Brahma Purana, Brahmānda Purana,
Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Mārkandeya
Purana, Bhavishya Purana
Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana,
The Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda (236.18-21), itself a Vaishnava
Purana, classifies the
Puranas in accordance with the three gunas or
qualities; truth, passion, and indifference. Notably this system is
highly sectarian and classifies all Śaiva puranas as tamasic, all
Vaiṣṇava puranas as sattvic, and those to
Brahma are all
classified as rajasic:
Sattva ("truth; purity")
Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma
Rajas ("dimness; passion")
Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya
Purana, Vamana Purana,
Tamas ("darkness; ignorance")
Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Linga Purana,
Shiva Purana, Skanda
Main article: Upapurana
The Upapuranas are lesser or ancillary texts: these are sometimes also
said to be eighteen in number, with still less agreement as to the
canonical titles. They include among many: Sanat-kumara, Narasimha,
Brihan-naradiya, Siva-rahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava,
Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha,
Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesha, Mudgala, and Hamsa, with only a few having
been critically edited.
Ganesha and Mudgala
Puranas are devoted to Ganesha. The
Devi-Bhagavata Purana, which extols the goddess Durga, has become
(along with the
Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana) a basic text
This corpus of texts tells of the origins and traditions of particular
Shiva temples or shrines. There are numerous Sthala Puranas,
most written in vernaculars, some with Sanskrit versions as well. The
Shiva Sthalams of the continent have puranas for each, famously
glorified in the
Tamil literature Tevaram. Some appear in Sanskrit
versions in the Mahapuranas or Upapuranas. Some Tamil Sthala Puranas
have been researched by David Dean Shulman.
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. These have been little researched, though they are
documented in the caste section of the British
Census of India Report
and the various Gazetteers.
^ "Purana". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
Puranas at Sacred Texts
^ a b Nair, Shantha N. (2008). Echoes of Ancient Indian Wisdom: The
Hindu Vision and Its Edifice. Delhi: Hindology Books.
p. 266. ISBN 978-81-223-1020-7.
^ As categorized in Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda (236.18-21)
Puranas by Swami Sivananda
^ a b Johnson 2009, p. 247
^ Singh 1997, p. 2324
Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 2.4.10, 4.1.2, 4.5.11. Satapatha Brahmana
(SBE, Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369). Moghe 1997, pp. 160,249
^ a b Pargiter 1962, pp. 30–54
^ Moghe 1997, p. 249 and the Satapatha
Brahmana 220.127.116.11. and
18.104.22.168. SBE Vol. 44, pp. 98, 369
^ a b Flood 1996, p. 359
^ Collins, Charles Dillard (1988). The Iconography and Ritual of Śiva
at Elephanta. SUNY Press. p. 36.
^ Mittal 2004, p. 657
Matsya Purana 53.65
^ Rao 1993, pp. 85–100
^ Johnson 2009, p. 248
Vayu Purana 1. 31-2.
^ Majumdar & Pusalker 1951, p. 273
^ Dimmitt & van Buitenen 1978, p. 373
^ Thompson, Richard L. (2007). The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana
'Mysteries of the Sacred Universe. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
p. 10. ISBN 978-81-208-1919-1.
^ Monier-Williams 1899, p. 752, column 3, under the entry
^ Hardy 2001
^ Dalal, Roshen (2011). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books
India. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
^ Doniger 1993, pp. 59–83
^ Wilson, Horace H. (1864), Works: ¬Vol. ¬6 : ¬The Vishṅu
Purāṅa: a system of
Hindu mythology and tradition ; 1,
Trübner, p. LXXI
^ Lochtefeld, James G. (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Hinduism: N-Z, The Rosen Publishing Group, p. 760,
^ Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.4 All the Vedic literatures and the
Purāṇas are meant for conquering the darkest region of material
existence. The living being is in the state of forgetfulness of his
relation with God due to his being overly attracted to material sense
gratification from time immemorial. His struggle for existence in the
material world is perpetual, and it is not possible for him to get out
of it by making plans. If he at all wants to conquer this perpetual
struggle for existence, he must reestablish his eternal relation with
God. And one who wants to adopt such remedial measures must take
shelter of literatures such as the
Vedas and the Purāṇas. Some
people say that the Purāṇas have no connection with the Vedas.
However, the 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.
^ Wilson, H. H. (1840). The
Vishnu Purana: A system of
and tradition. Oriental Translation Fund. p. 12.
^ 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,
^ `Verbal Narratives: Performance and Gender of the Padma Purana, by
T.N. Sankaranarayana in Kaushal 2001, pp. 225–234
^ Thapan 1997, p. 304
^ Purana at Gurjari
^ Mackenzie 1990
^ Shulman 1980
^ Handoo 1998, pp. 125–142
^ See for example Castes and Tribes of Southern India vol. I–V,
Thurston Edgar. Cosmo Publication, Delhi.
Bhargava, P.L. 1971. India in the Vedic Age. Lucknow: Upper India
Dimmitt, Cornelia; van Buitenen, J. A. B. (1978). Classical Hindu
Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press. ISBN 81-7030-596-9.
Doniger, Wendy (editor) (1993). Purāṇa Perennis: Reciprocity and
Hindu and Jaina Texts. Albany, New York: State
University of New York. ISBN 0-7914-1382-9. CS1 maint: Extra
text: authors list (link)
Handoo, Jawaharlal (editor) (1998). Folklore in Modern India.
ISBN 81-7342-055-6. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Hardy, Friedhelm (2001). Viraha-
Bhakti - The Early History of Krsna
Devotion in South India. ISBN 0-19-564916-8.
Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 0-521-43304-5.
Johnson, W.J. (2009). A Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University
Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861025-0.
Kaushal, Molly (editor) (2001). Chanted Narratives - The Katha Vachana
Tradition. ISBN 81-246-0182-8. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
Majumdar, R. C.; Pusalker, A. D. (1951). The History and Culture of
the Indian People. 1: The Vedic age. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya
Mackenzie, Brwon (1990). The Triumph of the Goddess - The Canonical
Models and Theological Visions of the DevI-BhAgavata PuraNa. State
University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0363-7.
Mittal, Sushil (2004). The
Hindu World. Routledge.
Moghe, S. G. (editor) (1997). Professor Kane's contribution to
Dharmasastra literature. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd.
ISBN 81-246-0075-9. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Monier-Williams, Monier (1899). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford
Pargiter, F.E. (1922). Ancient Indian Historical Tradition. London:
Oxford University Press.
Pargiter, F. E. (1962) . Ancient Indian historical tradition.
Original publisher Oxford University Press, London. Delhi: Motilal
Banarasidass. OCLC 1068416.
Rao, Velcheru Narayana (1993). "Purana as Brahminic Ideology". In
Doniger Wendy. Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in
Hindu and Jaina Texts. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Shulman, David Dean (1980). Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine
Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition.
Singh, Nagendra Kumar (1997). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism.
Thapan, Anita Raina (1997). Understanding Gaṇapati: Insights into
the Dynamics of a Cult. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers.
Thurston, Edgar. Castes and Tribes of Southern India (Vols I-V). Cosmo
Quotations related to
Puranas at Wikiquote
Puranas in Devnagari, typed, PDF files
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Full text of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, with the
original Sanskrit, word-for-word meanings, translation, and commentary
by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Vishnu Purana Full text of the H.H. Wilson translation at
Contents of 18
Puranas and a list of Upapuranas (lesser Puranas) (a
Extensive synopsis of several Maha Puranas
Puranas at Urday.com
Agni Purana - A synopsis
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