Saturday, April 4, 2009

18 puranas of hinduisim

The Puranas are of the same class as the Itihasas (the Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc.). They have five characteristics (Pancha Lakshana), viz., history, cosmology (with various symbolical illustrations of philosophical principles), secondary creation, genealogy of kings, and of Manvantaras (the period of Manu’s rule consisting of 71 celestial Yugas or 308,448,000 years). All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Sammitas, or the Friendly Treatises, while the Vedas are called the Prabhu-Sammitas or the Commanding Treatises with great authority.
Vyasa is the compiler of the Puranas from age to age; and for this age, he is Krishna-Dvaipayana, the son of Parasara.
The Puranas were written to popularise the religion of the Vedas. They contain the essence of the Vedas. The aim of the Puranas is to impress on the minds of the masses the teachings of the Vedas and to generate in them devotion to God, through concrete examples, myths, stories, legends, lives of saints, kings and great men, allegories and chronicles of great historical events. The sages made use of these things to illustrate the eternal principles of religion. The Puranas were meant, not for the scholars, but for the ordinary people who could not understand high philosophy and who could not study the Vedas.
The Darsanas or schools of philosophy are very stiff. They are meant only for the learned few. The Puranas are meant for the masses with inferior intellect. Religion is taught in a very easy and interesting way through the Puranas. Even to this day, the Puranas are popular. The Puranas contain the history of remote times. They also give a description of the regions of the universe not visible to the ordinary physical eye. They are very interesting to read and are full of information of all kinds. Children hear the stories from their grandmothers. Pundits and Purohits hold Kathas or religious discourses in temples, on banks of rivers and in other important places. Agriculturists, labourers and bazaar people hear the stories.
Eighteen Puranas
There are eighteen main Puranas and an equal number of subsidiary Puranas or Upa-Puranas. The main Puranas are: Vishnu Purana, Naradiya Purana, Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Garuda (Suparna) Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Siva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana. Of these, six are Sattvic Puranas and glorify Vishnu; six are Rajasic and glorify Brahma; six are Tamasic and they glorify Siva.
Neophytes or beginners in the spiritual path are puzzled when they go through Siva Purana and Vishnu Purana. In Siva Purana, Lord Siva is highly eulogised and an inferior position is given to Lord Vishnu. Sometimes Vishnu is belittled. In Vishnu Purana, Lord Hari is highly eulogised and an inferior status is given to Lord Siva. Sometimes Lord Siva is belittled. This is only to increase the faith of the devotees in their particular Ishta-Devata. Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are one.
The best among the Puranas are the Srimad Bhagavata and the Vishnu Purana. The most popular is the Srimad Bhagavata Purana. Next comes Vishnu Purana. A portion of the Markandeya Purana is well known to all Hindus as Chandi, or Devimahatmya. Worship of God as the Divine Mother is its theme. Chandi is read widely by the Hindus on sacred days and Navaratri (Durga Puja) days.
Ten Avataras And Their Purpose
The Srimad Bhagavata Purana is a chronicle of the various Avataras of Lord Vishnu. There are ten Avataras of Vishnu. The aim of every Avatara is to save the world from some great danger, to destroy the wicked and protect the virtuous. The ten Avataras are: Matsya (The Fish), Kurma (The Tortoise), Varaha (The Boar), Narasimha (The Man-Lion), Vamana (The Dwarf), Parasurama (Rama with the axe, the destroyer of the Kshatriya race), Ramachandra (the hero of the Ramayana—the son of Dasaratha, who destroyed Ravana), Sri Krishna, the teacher of the Gita, Buddha (the prince-ascetic, founder of Buddhism), and Kalki (the hero riding on a white horse, who is to come at the end of the Kali-Yuga).
The object of the Matsya Avatara was to save Vaivasvata Manu from destruction by a deluge. The object of Kurma Avatara was to enable the world to recover some precious things which were lost in the deluge. The Kurma gave its back for keeping the churning rod when the Gods and the Asuras churned the ocean of milk. The purpose of Varaha Avatara was to rescue, from the waters, the earth which had been dragged down by a demon named Hiranyaksha. The purpose of Narasimha Avatara, half-lion and half-man, was to free the world from the oppression of Hiranyakasipu, a demon, the father of Bhakta Prahlada. The object of Vamana Avatara was to restore the power of the gods which had been eclipsed by the penance and devotion of King Bali. The object of Parasurama Avatara was to deliver the country from the oppression of the Kshatriya rulers. Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriya race twenty-one times. The object of Rama Avatara was to destroy the wicked Ravana. The object of Sri Krishna Avatara was to destroy Kamsa and other demons, to deliver His wonderful message of the Gita in the Mahabharata war, and to become the centre of the Bhakti schools of India. The object of Buddha Avatara was to prohibit animal sacrifices and teach piety. The object of the Kalki Avatara is the destruction of the wicked and the re-establishment of virtue.
Lilas of Lord Siva
Lord Siva incarnated himself in the form of Dakshinamurti to impart knowledge to the four Kumaras. He took human form to initiate Sambandhar, Manikkavasagar, Pattinathar. He appeared in flesh and blood to help his devotees and relieve their sufferings. The divine Lilas or sports of Lord Siva are recorded in the Tamil Puranas like Siva Purana, Periya Purana, Siva Parakramam and Tiruvilayadal Purana.
The eighteen Upa-Puranas are: Sanatkumara, Narasimha, Brihannaradiya, Sivarahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesa and Hamsa.
Study of the Puranas, listening to sacred recitals of scriptures, describing and expounding of the transcendent Lilas of the Blessed Lord—these form an important part of Sadhana of the Lord’s devotees. It is most pleasing to the Lord. Sravana is a part of Navavidha-Bhakti. Kathas and Upanyasas open the springs of devotion in the hearts of hearers and develop Prema-Bhakti which confers immortality on the Jiva.
The language of the Vedas is archaic, and the subtle philosophy of Vedanta and the Upanishads is extremely difficult to grasp and assimilate. Hence, the Puranas are of special value as they present philosophical truths and precious teachings in an easier manner. They give ready access to the mysteries of life and the key to bliss. Imbibe their teachings. Start a new life of Dharma-Nishtha and Adhyatmic Sadhana from this very day, and attain Immortality.
- Swami Sivananda
List of the 18 Puranas with short description
The 18 Puranas are:
Vishnu Purana
(i) Vishnu Purana. This is one of the most important of all the Puranas. This contains the five technical divisions of the Puranas. This is divided into six adisas. This deals with the events of Varahakalpa and contains twenty-three thousand slokas. The theme is the ten incarnations of MahaVishnu. Vishnu Purana is the most ancient of all the Puranas and has got the name Puranaratna (gem of Puranas).
If a man gives as gift a book of Vishnu Purana on the full moon day in the month of asadha (July) with Jaladhenu he will attain Vishnupada.
Stories of various devotees; a description of varnasrama; the six angas of the Veda; a description of the age of Kali; description of Sveta-Varaha Kalpa, Vishnu dharmotara.23,000 verses.
Naradiya Purana
(ii) Naradiya Purana. This is in the form of a narration by Narada to Sanatkumara. In this book of twenty-five thousand verses Narada teaches the dharmas of Brhatkalpa. If this is given as gift on the full-moon day in the month of Asvina there will be great prosperity.
This Purana contains a synopsis of everything; it describes Jagannatha Puri, Dwaraka, Badrinatha, etc.25,000 verses.
Padma Purana
(iii) Padma Purana. This book is divided into six Khandas comprising fifty-five thousand verses. The six Khandas are Srstikhanda, Bhumikhanda, Svargakhanda, Patalakhanda, Uttarakhanda and Kriyayogasara. The Uttarakhanda describes the importance of all months and also the lotus, the seat of Brahma. This contains the stories of Sakuntala and Sri Rama as described by Kalidasa in his works f;akuntala and Raghuvamsa which has made some believe that this Purana was written after Kalidasa. If this Purana is given as gift with a cow in the month of Jyestha (June) it brings prosperity.
Contains the glory of Srimad-Bhagavatam; the stories of Rama, Jagannatha, Matsya, Ekadasi, Bhrgu, etc.55,000 verses.
Garuda Purana
(iv) Garuda Purana. This is in the form of instructions to Garuda by Vishnu. This deals with astronomy, medicine, grammar, and with the structure and qualities of diamonds. This Purana is dear to Vaishnavites. The latter half of this Purana deals with life after death. The Hindus of north-India generally read this Purana while cremating the bodies of the dead. This has given great importance to the origin of Garuda. There are eight thousand verses in this book. This book should be given as gift along with an image in gold of a swan to get prosperity.
Subject of Bhagavad-gita; reincarnation; vishnu-sahasranama; description of Tarsya Kalpa.
19,000 verses.
Varaha Purana
(v) Varaha Purana. The mode of narration is in the form of narrating the story by Varaha, the third incarnation of Vishnu. The theme is about holy places and mantras. It states that the goddess of earth prayed to Mahavishnu and that prayer took the form of a goddess. This book contains fourteen thousand verses. If one copies down this Purana and gives it as gift along with a golden image of Garuda on the full-moon day in the month of Caitra (April) one will attain Vishnuloka.
Describes different vratas; Lord Vishnu’s glories.
24,000 verses.
Bhagavata Purana
(vi) Bhagavata Purana. This is the most popular and widely circulated of all the Puranas. It is dear to Visnu-devotees. Divided into twelve Skandhas this contains eighteen thousand shlokas. All the incarnations of Visnu are described in this. The most interesting Skandha is the tenth Skandha in which the author has described the life and activities of Sri Krishna. There was once a belief that it was Baladeva who lived in the thirteenth century A.D. that had composed this Purana. But this belief was smashed when it was found that Valialasena of Bengal who lived in the eleventh century A.D. had made references to this Purana in some of his works. Bhagavata accepts Kapila and Buddha as incarnations of Vishnu. The Bhagavatam has been translated into all Indian languages. This book has to be given as gift on the fullmoon day in the month of Prosthapada (September). Agni Purana instructs that this book is to be given along with a golden image of a lion.
18,000 verses.
Brahmanda Purana
(vii) Brahmanda Purana. This deals with the origin of the universe as told by Brahma. In the beginning there was a golden egg and the prapanca (universe with its activities) was formed out of it. Portions of Adhyatma Ramayana, references to Radha and Krsna and the incarnation of Parasurama are included in this. This book contains twelve thousand verses and it is believed to be uttama (best) to give this book as a gift to a brahmin.
Describes the vedangas; describes the Adi Kalpa.
12,000 verses.
Brahmavaivarta purana
(Viii) Brahmavaivarta Purana. This was instructed to Savarnika by Narada. The theme is the story of Rathantara. There are four kandas in this Purana called Brahma-kanda, Prakrtikanda, Ganesa-kanda and Krsnajanma-kanda. This deals with Prapancasrsti (creation of the universe). It says that Prapanca is nothing but the Vaivarta (transformation) of Brahman. It is considered to be holy to give this book containing eighteen thousand verses as a gift on the full-moon day in the month of Magha (February).
Contains the glories and pastimes of Radha and Krishna.
18,000 verses.
Markandeya Purana
(ix) Markandeya Purana. This is one of the ancient Puranas. There are many stories regarding Indra, Surya and Agni in this. This includes a division called Devimahatmya containing praises about the goddess Durga. This contains nine thousand verses and it is considered as uttama (best) to give this book as a gift to a brahmin on a full-moon day in the month of Karttika (November).
Stories of Rama and Krishna.
9,000 verses.
Bhavishya Purana
(x) Bhavishya Purana. This is what is told to Manu by Surya (Sun). This contains statements about future events. The book praises the worship of Surya (Sun), Agni (fire) and Naga (serpent). There is an annexure dealing with the several holy places of Bharata and the rights of pilgrims. The book contains fourteen thousand verses and it is considered to be uttama (best) to give this book along with treacle as a gift to a brahmin on the full-moon day in the month of Pausha (January).
Contains the glories of devotional service; prediction of Lord Chaitanya.
14,500 verses.
Vamana Purana
(xi) Vamana Purana. There is a great similarity between the contents of this Purana and that of Varaha Purana. All the incarnations of Vishnu from Vamana downwards are described in this Purana. The scene of Shiva marrying Parvati is vividly described in this book. This Purana contains ten thousand verses and it is considered to be uttama (best) to give this book as a gift in the autumn season or at the time of Visuva to a Brahmin.
Contains the story of Lord Trivikrama.
10,000 verses.
Brahma Purana
(xii) Brahma Purana. This is in the form of teachings by Brahma to Daksa. This contains twenty-five thousand verses. This is called Adi Purana also. There is a special treatise in this book on Orissa, an ancient holy region of Bharata. There is in this a special annexure explaining the intimacy between Shiva and Surya which is a deviation from other Puranas. Brahma Purana states about a suryakshetra (sun-temple) situated at a place called Konarka near the holy place of Puri, installed there in the year 1241 A.D. If this Purana along with Jaladhenu is given as a gift on the full-moon day in the month of Vais akha (May) the donor will attain heaven.
10,000 verses.
Matsya Purana
(xiii) Matsya Purana. This Purana was taught to Manu by Matsya, the incarnation of Vishnu, The incarnation of Matsya is dealt in this. Several subjects like Jainamata (religion of Jainism), Buddhamata (Buddhism), Natyasastra (histrionics) and Andhraraja-vamsa (kingdom and Kings of Andhra) are discussed in this book. The book contains thirteen thousand verses and this is to be given as gift along with a golden image of a fish at the time of Visuva.
Temple construction; describes Vamana and Varaha Kalpas.
14,000 verses.
Kurma Purana
(xiv) Kurma Purana. This Purana is taught by Kurmamurti (incarnation of Visnu as Kurma (tortoise) while narrating the story of Indradyumna at Patala. All the seven islands and seven oceans are described in this book. Bharata is situated in the centre of all these and is called Jambudvipa. Though it is believed that there were four samhitas for this, only the Brahma-samhita is available now. It includes L varagita and Vyasagita.
The book is to be given as gift along with a golden image of tortoise.
Contains the conversation between Krishna and the Sun-god (mentioned in Bhagavad-gita); Danvantari; Describes the Lakshmi Kalpa.
17,000 verses.
Linga Purana
Linga Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text, is divided into two parts. These parts contain the description regarding the origin of universe, origin of the linga, and emergence of Brahma and Vishnu, and all the Vedas from the Linga. In this Purana, Shiva directly tells sometimes the importance of worship of Linga and the correct rituals to be followed during the puja of the linga.
* First part of this Purana describes the origin of the Linga, and details the process of its worship. It has also sections on the creation of the cosmos; immolation of Kama; marriage of Shiva; description of Surya and Soma; and description of Varaha and Narshimha avatars of Vishnu.* Next part describes the prominence of Lord Vishnu, and the emergence of Brahma as the creator of the cosmos. It has several other accounts, including various aspects of Shiva* Part three of the Linga Purana contains the description of the seven islands, Mount Meru and other prominent mountains. It also has an account of Brahma assigning divinities to various deities, including the radiance of the Surya.* The next part has several accounts, including the account of Dhruva as the supreme devotee; origin of different deities; details of dynasties of Aaditya and Yadu; Andhak?s ascendancy to the position the lord of Ganas; annihilation of the demon Jalandhar; and the origin of Ganesh.* The contents of the last part include the story of Upamanyu; significance of certain mantras; importance of gurus; different types of yoga; and procedure for installation of linga.
“The distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of someone is called a linga.” (Shiva Purana)
“Shiva is signless (sexless), without color, taste or smell, beyond word and touch, without quality, changeless, motionless.” (Linga Purana)
This unmanifest being can be perceived only through his creation, which is his sign or linga. The existence of the unqualified substratum is known and worshiped only through this sign. The linga, the giver of life is one of the shapes which represents the nature of the shapeless.
“Shiva as the undivided causal principle is worshiped in the linga. His more manifest aspects are represented in anthropomorphic images. All other deities are part of a multiplicity and are thus worshiped as images.” (Karapatri, “Shri Shiva Tattva”, Siddhanta).
“The symbol of the Supreme Man (purusha), the formless, the changeless, the all-seeing eye, the linga. The symbol of the power that is Nature, generatrix of all that exists is the yoni.” (Karapatri, “Lingopasana-rahasya”, Siddhanta)
“Because she is the source of development, Nature (prakriti) is compared to a womb. The womb is Nature, basis of all. He is the giver of enjoyment. There is no other giver.” (Shiva Purana)
The linga is the universal fecundator and as such is fundamentally one. But for each form of existence there is a different womb to be fecundated. Thus the different species are spoken of as yonis. The Puranas speak of 8,400,000 different kinds of beings or yonis.
There can be no creation without the relationship of the opposites. There could be no creation from Shiva alone, or from Nature alone. The union of a perceiver and a perceived, an enjoyer and the enjoyed, of a passive and active principle, is essential for creation to take place.
Transcendent manhood is the immanent cause of creation; transcendent womanhood is the efficient cause. There cannot be procreation without such union and there cannot be divine manifestation without their cosmic equivalent. It is only through understanding the symbolism of the linga and yoni that we can begin to apprehend the mysteries of creation.
Shiva Purana
(xvi) Shiva Purana. This contains instructions of Shiva on Dharma sitting in the form of linga (Phallus). The twenty-eight different forms of Siva are described in this. This contains twelve thousand verses and if this book is given as a gift to a brahmin with tiladhenu on the full-moon day in the month of Phalguna (March) the donor will attain Shivasayujya.
Contains the glory of Lord Nrismhadeva; Janardhana; the story of Ambarisha; the glories of Gayatri.
10,000 verses.
Skanda Purana
(xvii) Skanda Purana. This Purana is narrated by Skanda. The theme is the slaughter of the demon Tarakdsura by Skanda (Subrahmanya). There is a great similarity between this Purana and the Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa. There are eighty-four thousand verses in this Purana and giving this book as a gift is thought to be good.
81,000 verses.
Agni Purana
(xviii) Agni Purana. This Purana was instructed to the sage Vasishtha by Agnideva. There are several references in this to Shivalinga and Durgadevi. The incarnations of Rama and Krishna are also dealt with in this. Distinct from other Puranas this book deals with arts and science like Kavyalankaranatakas (Poems, dramas, figures of speech), Jyotish shastra (Astronomy) and Shilpakala (architecture). This Purana is capable of imparting knowledge on all arts and sciences.
15,400 verses.

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