Puraan | Introduction-1
In every Chatur-Yug (four Yug period), in Dwaapar Yug Vishnu incarnates and divides Ved in the same way as He had divided in the past so He is called Ved Vyaas, means who divides Ved. In this Chatur-Yug, the 28th Chatur-Yug, in Dwaapar Yug He incarnated as Krishn Dwaipaayan - as Maharshi Paraashar and Satyavatee's son, and divided Ved in four parts and compiled Puraan also. Brahmaand Puraan, 1:4:21 says that the histories and Puraan are the fifth Ved.
Puraan literally means (1) puraa bhavam (ancient narratives), and (2) puraa api navam (that which is new eventhough old). The words Puraan and Itihaas occur in ancient Atharv Ved and Shatapath Braahman and in Upanishad like Brihadaaranyak and Chhaandogya Upanishad too. It may also be possible that Puraan are as old as Ved themselves. Sometimes they are referred to as Puraan Sanhitaa. Though traditionally their authorship is attributed to Ved Vyaas Jee, it might be possible that he might have compiled only the then existing tales, anecdotes, metrical songs into a comprehensive Sanhitaa. Later his disciples and their disciples might have composed more detailed works to bring them to the present form. First these Puraan were really transmitted to lower generations. Vyaas Jee imparted these Puraan to his disciple Soot Romharshan or Lomharshan. He was the main authority to deliver their matter to people. He then taught them to Kaashyap, Saavarni and Shaamasapaayan. In those times there was no writing, so this tradition of listening and telling continued in this way only. Since people listened only these Puraan, when they told to other people, some things got omitted while some were added to it. Now it is impossible to make difference between what is the original and what is interpolated. Finally and gradually, the number of Puraan got fixed at number 18 Mahaa Puraan (or main Puraan), also called Mahaa Puraan.
Number of Puraan and Shlok Therein
Romharshan, the chief disciple of Ved Vyaas, says in Padm Puraan that all Puraan contain about 1 trillion (100 Crore) Shlok, but seeing impossible to read or to listen to them in later times Vishnu, incarnated as Krishn Dwaipaayan Ved Vyaas, divided it among 18 books and limited them to 400,000 (4 Lac) Shlok. Only this abridged edition of Puraan is now available on Prithvi, but it is believed that its original form is available in Dev Lok even today. As it is the belief that Ved Vyaas Jee has composed all the Mahaa Puraan, but there is no such general belief regarding the Up-Puraan.
All Puraan are written in dialog form and have certain characteristics common to all. It is written in Padm Puraan, Srishti Khand that all Ved must be understood and explained in the context of Itihaas (history) and Puraan, otherwise an ignorant may understand Ved wrongly.
These 18 Puraan are, in fact, main, but about 108 Puraan (List of 108 Puraan) are said to exist. Besides the 18 Mahaa Puraan, there are 18 Upa Puraan also. Among these 18 Upa Puraan, Devee Puraan has its own importance.
The Puraan are uniformly stated to be 18 in number. It is said that there are also 18 Upa-puraan, or minor Puraan; but the names of only a few of these are specified in the least exceptionable authorities, and the greater number of the works is not procurable. With regard to the 18 Puraan, there is a peculiarity in their specification, which is proof of an interference with the integrity of the text, in some of them at least; for each of them specifies the names of the whole eighteen. Now the list could not have been complete whilst the work that gives it was unfinished, and in one only therefore, the last of the series, have we a right to look for it. As however there are more last words than one, it is evident that the names must have been inserted in all except one after the whole were completed: which of the eighteen is the exception, and truly the last, there is no clue to discover, and the specification is probably an interpolation in most, if not in all.
The names that are specified are commonly the same, and are as follows: (1) Brahm Puraan, (2) Padm Puraan, (3) Vishnu, (4) Shiv Puraan, (5) Bhaagvat Puraan, (6) Naarad Puraan, (7) Maarkandeya Puraan, (8) Agni Puraan, (9) Bhavishya Puraan, (10) Brahm Vaivart Puraan, (11) Ling Puraan, (12) Varaah Puraan, (13) Skand Puraan, (14) Vaaman Puraan, (15) Koorm Puraan, (16) Matsya Puraan, (17) Garud Puraan, (18) Brahmaand Puraan. This information is from the 12th Skandh of the Bhaagvat Puraan, and is the same as occurs in the Vishnu Puraan too.
In other authorities there are a few variations. The list of the Koorm Puraan omits the Agni Puraan, and substitutes the Vaayu Puraan. The Agni Puraan leaves out the Shiv Puraan, and inserts the Vaayu Puraan. The Varaah Puraan omits the Garud Puraan and Brahmaand Puraan, and inserts the Vaayu and Narasinh Puraan: in this last it is singular. The Maarkandeya Puraan agrees with the Vishnu and Bhaagvat Puraan in omitting the Vaayu Puraan. The Matsya Puraan, like the Agni Puraan, leaves out the Shiv Puraan.
Some of the Puraan, as the Agni, Matsya, Bhaagvat, and Padm, also particularize the number of stanzas which each of the 18 contains. In one or two instances they disagree, but in general they concur. The aggregate is stated at 400,000 Shlok, or 1,600,000 lines. These are fabled to be but an abridgment, the whole amount being a Crore, or ten millions of stanzas, or even a thousand millions. If all the fragmentary portions claiming in various parts of India to belong to the Puraan were admitted, their extent would much exceed the lesser, though it would not reach the larger enumeration. The former is, however, a quantity that an individual European scholar could scarcely expect to peruse with due care and attention, unless his whole time were devoted exclusively for many years to the task. Yet without some such labor being achieved, it was clear, from the crudity and inexactness of all that had been hitherto published on the subject, with one exception, that sound views on the subject of Hindoo mythology and tradition were not to be expected.
In general the enumeration of the Puraan is a simple nomenclature, with the addition in some cases of the number of verses; but to these the Matsya Puraan joins the mention of one or two circumstances peculiar to each, which, although scanty, are of value, as offering means of identifying the copies of the Puraan now found with those to which the Matsya Puraan refers to, or of discovering a difference between the present and the past. With regard at least to the Brahma, Vishnu, Vaayu, Matsya, Padm, Bhaagvat, and Koorm Puraan, the same works, in all essential respects, are generally current under the same appellations.
It is very important to note that the simplicity of the presentation and language of these Puraan have helped a lot in preserving, spreading of Hindu Philosophy and Dharm over a long period because they are easily accessible, to people. Although there are some ambiguities and conflicts with Shruti and Smriti, but still Shruti are final, not the Puraan and Smriti.
Types of Puraan
It is said in the Uttar Khand of the Padm Puraan, that the Puraan, as well as other works, are divided into three classes, according to their qualities - Saatwik, Raajas and Taamas.
(1) Saattwik Puraan - Thus the Vishnu, Naarad, Bhaagvat, Garud, Padm, and
Varaah Puraan, are called Saattwik Puraan, or pure, from the predominance
in them of the Sattwa quality, or that of goodness and purity. They are
called Vaishnav Puraan too.
The Matsya Puraan does not comment on which Puraan come under the above mentioned categories, but remarks that those in which the Mahaatmya of Hari or Vishnu are described are Saattwik; those in which the legends of Agni or Shiv are described are Taamas; and those which dwell most on the stories of Brahm are Raajas. Normally Raajas Puraan lean on the Shakti worshippers. They contain Durgaa Mahaatmya, or celebrated legends on which the worship of Durgaa or Kaalee is especially founded such as Maarkandeya Puraan.
The Brahm-Vaivart Puraan devotes the greatest portion of its chapters to the celebration of Raadhaa and other female divinities. Col. Vans Kennedy, however, objects to the application of the term Shaakt to this last division of the Puraan, the worship of Shakti being the especial object of a different class of works, the Tantra, and no such form of worship being particularly inculcated in the Brahm Puraan. This last argument is of weight in regard to the particular instance specified, and the designation of Shakti may not be correctly applicable to the whole class, although it is to some of the series; for there is no incompatibility in the advocacy of a Taantrik modification of the Hindoo religion by any Puraan, and it has unquestionably been practiced in works known as Upa-puraan.
The proper appropriation of the third class of the Puraan, according to the Padm Puraan, appears to be to the worship of Krishna, not in the character in which he is represented in the Vishnu and Bhaagvat Puraan, in which the incidents of his boyhood are only a portion of his biography, and in which the human character largely participates, at least in his riper years, but as the infant Krishn, Govind, Baal Gopaal, the sojourner in Vrindaa Van, the companion of the cowherds and milkmaids, the lover of Raadhaa, or as the juvenile master of the Universe, Jagannaath. The term Rajas, implying the animation of passion, and enjoyment of sensual delights, is applicable, not only to the character of the youthful divinity, but to those with whom his adoration in these forms seems to have originated, the Gosaaeen of Gokul and Bangaal, the followers and descendants of Vallabh and Chaitanya, the priests and proprietors of Jagannaath and Shree Naath Dwaar, who lead a life of affluence and indulgence, and vindicate, both by precept and practice, the reasonableness of the Rajas property, and the congruity of temporal enjoyment with the duties of religion.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/01/13