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Puraan are an important religious books of Hindu religion. Literally "stories of ancient times",

Puraan are about the three major deities - Brahmaa, Vishnu and Shiv. Although some of the stories may relate back to real events that occurred as early as 1500 BC, they were not compiled until the Gupt period in the 5th century AD. During the destruction of the world at the end of the age, Hayagreev is said to have saved the Puraan. A summary of the original work is now preserved in Heaven. The stories are often the only source of information about the period immediately following the early Ved. Each Puraan was intended to deal with five themes - (1) Sarg - the creation of the world; (2) Pratisarg - its destruction and recreation; (3) Vansh - the genealogy of gods and patriarchs, (4) Manvantar - the reigns and periods of the Manu, and (5) Vanshaanucharit - the history of the solar and lunar dynasties. The tradition of writing in Sanskrit language in the courts continued until Muslims replaced it with Persian (from the first three decades of 10th century, just before the Norman conquest of England, when the Turk Mahamood of Gazanee carried Muslim power across Panjaab into India until the 18th century)
(India Handbook, 1996, p 131)

While Bhaagvat Puraan describes its characteristics of Puraan as 10, see "Characteristics of Puraan" below

Puraan are also called Shruti, because all of them are presented in a dialog form - so there is one teller and one listener. There are said to be 108 Puraan, but 18 Puraan are most common and popularly read. Their complete list is given here below in alphabetical order.

1. Agni Puraan (15,400 verses)
2. Bhaagvat Puraan (18,000 verses) - gives the story of Krishn Avataar.
3. Bhavishya Puraan (14,500 verses)
4. Brahm Puraan (24,000 verses)
5. Brahmaand Puraan (12,000 verses) - includes Lalitaa Sahastra Naam,
6. Brahm Vaivart Puraan (18,000 verses)
7. Garud Puraan (19,000 verses) - gives the description of the other world and afterlife.
*8. Harivansh Puraan (16,000 verses) - more often considered Itihaas
9. Koorm Puraan (17,000 verses) - gives the story of Koorm Avataar.
*10. Ling Puraan (11,000 verses)
11. Maarkandeya Puraan (9,000 verses) - names of the places where 51 pieces of Satee fell; "Durgaa Saptshatee" in 13 chapters;
12. Matsya Puraan (14,000 verses) - gives the story of Matsya Avataar.
13. Naarad Puraan (25,000 verses)
14. Padm Puraan (55,000 verses)
15. Shiv Puraan (24,000 verses) - mentions the story of Satee
16. Skand Puraan (81,100 verses) - gives the story of Skand (Kaartikeya)
*17. Sthal Puraan - about Arjun's Tap to please Shiv Jee;
18. Vaaman Puraan (10,000 verses) - mentions the story of Vaaman Avataar.
19. Varaah Puraan (10,000 verses) - gives the story of Varaah Avataar
20. Vaayu Puraan (24,000 verses)
21. Vishnu Puraan (23,000 verses)

Except the starred ones Harivansh, Ling, and Sthal Puraan, the other 18 Puraan are the most established Puraan or commonly known as mahaa Puraan. Among these 18 Puraan, six are Saattwik Puraan glorifying Vishnu (Bhaagvat, Vishnu, Padm, Matsya, Varaah, Vaaman); six are Raajsaik glorifying Brahmaa Jee and the rest six are Taamasik glorifying Shiv (Shiv, Maarkandeya, Skand).

A set of 18 books written over a period 2,800 years. Originally around 1100 BC. One Puraan was written based on oral tradition which eventually expanded to 18 voluminous books. The original Puraan contains 5 topics - (1) The process of creation - this is described as consisting 7 stages - the 7th and the last one gives rise to human beings. (2) The process of dissolution. (3) The measurement of time and how the cycle of creation and dissolution occurs, specifically the Puraan claimed that after every Kalp the Universe is completely destroyed and is again created for the next Kalp. Each Kalp consists of 14 Manvantar. At the end of each Manvantar, the human race is destroyed. The present Manvantar is the 7th Manvantar. At the beginning of each Manvantar a new Manu is born who starts the human race. (4) The genealogies of kings and Rishi. (5) And the biological sketches of famous kings and Rishi.

As the Puraan grew in size and number, less emphasis was placed on genealogies and more on describing the live incarnations of God. These 18 Puraan are (1) Agni, (2) Bhaagvat, (3) Bhavishya, (4) Brahm, (5) Brahmaand, (6) Brahmvaivart, (7) Garud, (8) Koorm, (9) Ling, (10) Maarkandeya, (11) Matsya, (12) Naarad, (13) Padm, (14) Skand, (15) Vaaman, (16) Varaah, (17) Vaayu, and (18) Vishnu.

Shiv Puraan which was perhaps added after 1600 AD and which assumed great importance, is considered one of the minor 18 Puraan. The interpolators and writers of these 18 Puraan inserted matter in all of these at all times, this is the reason everyone of these Puraan mentions all other Puraan. And because the interpolator did not care what other interpolators added, there are lots of duplicate stories and matter, contradictions and historical differences. It seems that caliber of these writers was very low, that is why much of the materials of these Puraan is of poor quality in its contents. Some of the material is definitely obscene and even blasphemous.

It was during this period that Ganapati and Shiv, the two formless gods, were transformed into elephant-headed Ganesh and human Shiv who married and had children.

The approximate dates of some of the Puraan are as follows :-

Brahm Puraan - 350 AD
Matsya and Vaayu Puraan - 500 AD
Brahmaand Puraan - 600 AD
Agni and Padm Puraan - 700 AD
Vishnu and Garud Puraan - 750 AD
Koorm and Ling Puraan - 800 AD
Bhaagvat and Maarkandeya Puraan - 850 AD
Vaaman and Brahmvaivart Puraan - 900 AD
Naarad, Varaah, and Skand Puraan - 1000 AD
Bhavishya Puraan - 1100 AD.

And Shiv Puraan was perhaps produced around 1600 AD.
[Aangiras, p. 224-225]

Characteristics of a Puraan
Taken from Bhaagvat Puraan, 12/3

Maharshi have told ten characteristics of a Puraan according to Ved and Shaastra. According to them the followings should be in a Puraan to call it a Puraan, they are - Vishwa Sarg, Visarg, Vritti, Rakshaa, Manvantar, Vansh, Vanshaanucharit, Sansthaa (Pralaya), Hetu (Ooti), and Apaashraya. some tell only five but both are correct, because Mahaa-Puraan (large Puraan) have all the ten, while the short ones have only five. Now you listen to those ten characteristics -

(1) When Gun get Kshobh in Mool Prakriti, then Mahat-Tattwa appears and from that appear three types of Ahankaar - Sat, Raj and Tam; and from these three Ahankaar appear Panch-Tanmaatraa, Indriyaan and pleasures. This creation is called Sarg.
(2) By the grace of Parameshwar, Mahat Tattwa attain the power of creation and create this world in its physical form according to their previous actions is called Visarg.
(3) Moving living beings live on non-moving things including the milk of moving living beings. Among them some have been prescribed by Shaastra and some have been decided by the living beings themselves. This is called Vritti.
(4) Bhagavaan takes Avataar in various forms to do Leelaa to protect the world, that is why it is called Rakshaa.
(5) In whatever time there are these six things - Manu, Devta, Manu's sons, Indra, Sapt Rishi and Bhagavaan's Ansh Avataar, that duration of period is called Manvantar.
(6) Whoever kings are born from Brahmaa Jee, the description of those kings and their descendents, is called Vansh.
(7) The description of those people's lives, is called Vanshaanucharit.
(8) This Brahmaand ends in Pralaya, and Pralaya is of four types - Naimittik, Praakritik, Nitya and Aatyantik, they are called Sansthaa.
(9) This Jeev is Hetu [cause = Kaaran] because this is the cause of Sarg and Visarg. Under the influence of A-Vidyaa (ignorance) he has involved himself in Karm.
(10) Jeev's Vritti (nature) is of three types - conscious, sub-conscious, and unconscious. Whosoever is beyond this Vritti, he becomes free from Karm Pravritti and is called Brahm or Apaashraya.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 01/26/12