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Jun 1

Written by: Jayanthi
Monday, June 01, 2009

by Padmini Natarajan


The Puranas (of ancient times) are narratives of the history of the Universe. They are perhaps the most important or commonly used scriptural texts of the Hindus and are even today used as guide books for the whole of life and society.

It records stories from creation to destruction, genealogies of the kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.

Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered to be the compiler of the Puranas. The material of the Puranas was passed on as an oral tradition since the time of Lord Krishna (c. 1500 B.C.).

The earliest written versions date from the time of the Gupta Empire—3rd to 5th century AD.

Most of the material can be dated through historical references and other means, to this period and the succeeding centuries.

  • There are eighteen major Puranas and a few minor ones.
  • Each is a long book consisting of various stories of the Gods and Goddesses, hymns, an outline of ancient history, cosmology, rules of life, rituals, instructions and spiritual knowledge.
  • The Puranas are like encyclopaedias of religion and culture.
  • It contains material that is aimed at different levels and degrees of learning.


Axial of the Wheel

The most important Puranas are:



MARKENDEYA PURANA (to the Goddess).


The BHAGAVATA PURANA is important to the worshippers of Krishna.


Other Puranas are the Vayu, Agni, Skanda, Kalki, Linga.


Which is the most ancient Purana?

Vishnu Purana is the most ancient of all the Puranas.

It is also called Puranaratna (gem of Puranas).

The narration is in the form Sage Parasara teaching his disciple Maitreya.


Who is the person who is instructed in the  Brahma Purana? What is the speciality of this purana?

The Brahma Purana, also called the Adi Purana is in the form of teachings by Brahma to Daksa. 

There is a special treatise in this book on Orissa, an ancient holy region of Bharat. Brahma Purana talks about a suryakshetra (sun-temple) situated in a place called Konarka near the holy place of Puri, installed there in the year 1241 A.D.


Which Purana is similar to Varaha purana What is the speciality of this purana?

There is a great similarity between the contents of Vamana Purana and Varaha purana.

Vamana Purana is venerated and is placed fourteenth among the eighteen Puranas.

Although the book is smaller in size it contains all the constituents of other Puranas.

All the incarnations of Vishnu from Vamana onwards are described in this Purana. 

This Purana contains 10,000 verses depicting the teachings of Vishnu`s incarnation on earth. The scene of Shiva marrying Parvati is illustrated with detail description in this book. It also contains the story of Lord Trivikrama.

The Vamana Purana states that it is considered uttama (best) to gift this book in the autumn season or at the time of Visu to a Brahmin.


What is the speciality of Markandeya purana?

Markandeya Purana is one of the ancient Puranas. Many stories regarding Indra, Surya and Agni and the story of Rama and Krishna is found in this purana.

This purana includes a division called Devimahatmyam containing praises about the goddess Durga.


What is the Brahma Vaivarta Purana?

The Brahma-vaivarta purana is one of the major eighteen Puranas. It was recited by Suta to the sages in the forest of Naimisharanya. The text is divided into four parts. 

  1. The first part, Brahma Khanda, describes the creation of the universe and all beings. It tells the story of Brahma and his sons, especially Narada.
  2. The second part, Prakriti Khanda, deals with the goddesses or Shaktis who are manifestations of Prakriti.
  3. The third part, Ganesha Khanda, is mostly devoted to the life and deeds of Ganesha
  4. The last part called Krsna Janma Khanda, details the birth, life and deeds of Krishna.


Which other Purana deals with the creation of the universe in addition to Brahmavaivarta Purana ? What is the speciality of Brahmaanda Purana?

The Brahmanda Purana also 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 the Adhyatma Ramayana, references to Radha and Krishna and the incarnation of Parasurama are included in this purana.


What is the speciality of Garuda Purana?

The Garuda Purana is in the form of instructions to Garuda by Vishnu.

This purana deals with astronomy, medicine, grammar, and with the structure and qualities of diamonds.

The latter half of this Purana deals with life after death 

The Hindus of north-India generally read Garuda Purana while cremating the bodies of the dead. This has given great importance to the origin of Garuda.


Which purana contain the story of Shakunthala?

The Padma Purana has six Khandas

The Uttarakhanda describes the importance of all months and of the lotus, the seat of Brahma. 

This contains the stories of Shakuntala and Sri Rama which was the source for Kalidasa for his works Shakuntala and Raghuvamsa. So some scholars believe that this Purana was written after Kalidasa.

Related Posts/Sites:  Read More of Padmini's Articles here.
Photo in this article is of the Sun Temple, Orissa. (Used with permission.)See Ajoy's photo journal of this temple.

Recommended Resources:

Thank you for spending your time on Alaivani.com!




Copyright ©2009 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar


2 comments so far...

Re: The Puranas

A quote from Puranic Cosmology Updated: 'It is not through a repetition of rituals, as inspiring as they may be, or by the chanting of mantras that the connection with the Veda is maintained; rather, only the thread of Knowledge can be the direct link between India today and of the Vedic Age, precisely as the word implies – veda, knowledge. That this potent word lies at the root of the civilisation surely indicates a unique destiny. /One important aspect of the Knowledge has resulted from this exercise: it is the need to return to the Vedic system of computation for the calendar of temple observances and horoscopy. This is the first step along the way to re-forging a dynamic link with the Vedic Age.' from http://puraniccosmologyupdated.blogspot.com/

By Lori Tompkins on   Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Re: The Puranas

Thanks for your brief and good introduction to the topic.

I always wanted to know more about Bavishta Purana. I have heard it is like the Nostrodomus treatise specifically dealing about India. If anybody knows more about the subject I wish they could share.

Also I would like to add something to the Bhagavata Purana.

It is said that sage Vyaasa even after compiling all the Vedas and writing the Puranas and the Mahabharatha felt some emptiness in his mind.

He asked sage Naradha about this.

Sage Naradha replied in all the Puranas, Vedas and the Mahabharatha you have not touched elaborately about the auspicious qualities of Lord Krishna.

You write about the auspicious qualities of Lord Krishan and your mind will calm down.

Then sage Vyaasa wrote the Bhagavatha Purana.

It is therefore said that if the Bhagavata is placed in one of the scales and the Vedas, Upanishads and Puraanas along with the Ithihasaas are placed in the other scale the scale bearing the Bhagavata will dip down.

If anybody reads Bhagavata he or she will experience a rare calmness.

By Mahesh on   Saturday, April 24, 2010

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