It is imagined that Maharshi Vyas wrote and created some important Puranas, which provokes thoughtfulness among the common people through the stories narrated in them. These stories were primarily religion based. Vyas is well known and famous author with tremendous inspirational power and a knowledgeable person of the highest order. Vyas had a blackish complexion, therefore he was Krishna and was born in Dweep (Island) therefore was known as Dwaipayan. Vyas was responsible for dividing the Vedas into four. He developed Vedas through the medium of ‘Puranas’ therefore the Puranas are also known to be ‘VedaVyas’
Ancientness of the Puranas
The word ‘PURAN’ signifies the ancientness. It is this word that clarifies the meaning. Whatever is very very old… ancient… that is PURAN. It is imagined that these Puranas must have been created before ‘VedaVyas’. The Upanishadas like Mund, Chhandagya, Bruhadaranyak make mention of the Puranas. In the book “Shatpath Brahman” it is written as “Puranved” thus attaching the importance to the Puranas at par with the Vedas. The traditional old stories, fictions, facts, Dharma Vichar (about religion) actual behavior (Aachar), all these must have been collected in the Puranas. At the time of Yadnyas, there used to be give and listening action of history and the Puranas, in old days. Purana is considered as the one Veda only. The PURANA is also honored by the name of Veda, ‘Lokveda’. In the Aadoparva of Maharashtra, there is a reference of many stories, about families of Kings and Rishis who were the intellectuals of high order. The creation (Nirmiti) of the Puranas, Manusmruti, Saangveda and science of diagnosis (Chiktisa Shashtra) is on the directive (Agnya) of the Ishwar (God) as is convincingly told by those who wrote the Mahabharat. There is also a reference of the Puranas in Ramayana and the Manusmruti.
Ancient factual stories, Kingly families, Science, Vratas and Religious rites, Pilgrimage, the importance of months, philosophy nature, Papa Punya (Good and Evil doings) and nature, all these different subjects have been tackled in the Puranas, in the form of tales and functions. Most of our religious rites end with the words “Shruti Smruti Puranakta“. Any an all the communities can avail of the knowledge from the Puranas. There is no command distinction. The path of the Puranas to attain the divineness and absorption into the Ishwar (God) has been shown by these Puranas, as is said in the Padmapuran. The stories, the Kirtanas, the Vratas, festivals, festive occasions, customs and traditions are some of the inspirations for the common man to keep alive the spirit of religion and culture, through the Puranas.
There are 18 known Puranas as ascertained by the scholars on the subject, however their sequence is different at different times. There are 18 secondary Puranas (Upa-Puranas) which are known as Maheshwar, Aditya, Kalika, Kapil, Narasinha, Manava, Saur, Varun and others. Kartava Mudgal, Pashupati, Ganesh, Surya, Bhargava Chandi Garg and some others are known to be ‘Aati Puranas’ and are also 18 in number. There are Eighteen Maha Puranas, which are generally known and about which we have detailed information. These Puranas have further tried to achieve proper coordination or traditions and are learning sources (i.e. Vidyas). These are enlisted below in relation to the number of Shlokas of which they are made of…
1. Brahma Puran 2. Padma Puran 3. Vishnu Puran 4. Shiva Puran
5. Bhagwat Puran 6. Narad Puran 7. Markandeya Puran 8. Agni Puran
9. Bhavishya Puran 10. Bhahmaivart Puran 11. Linga Puran 12. Varah Puran
13. Skanda Puran 14. Wama Puran 15. Koorma Puran 16. Matsya Puran
17. Garud Puran 18. Brahmand Puran
We can easily realize the magnitude and volume of this Puran literature from the above list.
1. Brahma Puran
This Purana, consisting of 10000 Shlokas, primarily describes the life sketch of Lord Shri Krishna. The apologues (Aakhyanas) in the Vedic books called Sankhyayan Brahmin, Aaitareya Brahmin, Brudhdevta etc have been further elaborated in this Purana. This Purana further includes the apologues of Anant Vasudeo of Orissa, Purushottam Mandir of Puri, Surya Mandir of Konark, Bhuvaneshwar Kshetra, Ekambar Kshetra, Viraj Kshetra, Godavari, Krutikateertha, Chakrateertha, Putroteertha, Urvashi, Vrushakapi, Aatreya - Atreyar, etc and has become almost of a treasure among the ancient literary work. In all 32 chapters been allotted to Shrikrishna’s life sketch. Vashishtha Rishi, is described as explaining the philosophy of Sankhya (Science of numbers - Statistics) to KARALJANAKA. Based on the concepts of Paap Punya (Good & Evil Deeds) the subject like, abode of Atma after death, Yamalok, Swarg – Narak (Heaven - Hell) Shraddhakarpa, Good nature, etc are also touched in this Purana. This gives more importance to the worship of Sun.
2. Padma Purana
This is one Purana, with the significance of Vaishav Purana and hence given importance. It extends to be extent of 55000 Shlokas, almost next to Skanda Purana. This Purana is further classified into 5 Khandas (Sections), such as Shrushti Khand, Shoomi Khanda, Pataal Khanda and Uttar Khanda. In its Shrushti Khand, there are many analogues and stories of greatness covered. Shrushti Kathan (telling about Shrusthi – Nature), Manwantare, Pralaya (Havoc) Varah Katha, origin of four Varnas (Caste system). Dialogue between Vishnu – Bramha, Daksha Yadnya, Vidvansa (Destruction), the origin of Jatayu, Pruthu, Aditya, Ikshavak, Purarava, Kartveerya, Bhrugu, Agastya, Veer bhandra, waman, Tarakasur etc are the topics and subjects covered in Shrushti Khanda. In Bhoomi Khand, the analogues of Shivsharma, Savrata, Marut, Sukar, Yayati, Ashok Sundari ate included. In Swargakhanda, there are the biographies of Dushyant, Varun, Ravana, Kubera, Sagar, Ganga Divodas, Harischandra, Mandhata are there, so also the vivid descriptions of Apsaralok, Suryalok, Maharlok, are covered. The critical discussion about Ashramdharma, Bhakshyabhaksha, Rajdharma, also appears here. In Patal Khand, one finds Ramehatritra Kamakshi Charitra, Yavatakhyan, Nilgiriyatra, Gandaki Mahatmya, Veravati Mahatmya, Sabarmati Mahatmya, Purushottam Stotra, Subahu Charitra, Satyavan Katha, Karmavipak, Krishna Katha, Vrindavan, Mahatmya, Shivling Pooja Vidhi, Mahapurana ect covered.
In the fifth Uttara Khand, the importance (Mahatmya) of Badrikashram, Jalandharakhyan, Shail Haridwar, Ganga Yamuna, Tulsi Prayag, Annadana Ekadashi etc has been narrated. Similarly the subjects like Danprashamsa, Chaturmas Vrata, Analogue of Mudgas Rishi, Vishnu Schasranam Stotra, Ram Raksha, Dharma Prashamsa, Vetravati – Mahatmya, Geeta – Mahatmya, Markandeya Katha, Sundopsund Katha, Kundal Vikundal Katha, Dashavatar are discussed in detail.
3. Vishnu Puran
This is one more purana, pertaining to Lord Vishnu, which attaches importance to the pooja and worship of Lord Vishnu. There are many other stories about the Gods and Goddesses. The origin of Shrushti, nature of Kal, the analogues about Dhruva – Pruthu – Pralhad, the story of Pralhad, are different topics, covering the first portion of this Purana. There is some more elaborate information about nine segments (Khand) of the earth, Sapta Swarg (Seven Heavens), Sapta Pataal, Bharat Vansh, Griha, Nakshatre analogue of Jad Bharat, Manvantare, Vedbibhag (Section), Yamageeta, the fruits of Vishnu Pooja, the duties of Caste System, the Kings of Surya (Sun) and Chandra (Moon) family, Gangavataran, Taraharan, so also the information Jain and Bauddha cult. Many important Vratas and its scientific performance are given in this Purana, such as Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna) Chaturmasa, Ajeet Ekadashi, Bijaya Dwadashi & so on.
4. Shiv Purana
The importance and dominance of Lord Shiva has been highlighted in this Purana, with seven cotes (Samhita) and the total number of Shlokas numbering 24000. Devotion to Lord Shiva, their superiority, the pilgrim places of Lord Shiva, Yadnya, Good Behavior, Parthiva Pooja, Panchakshar Mantra, Bhasma Prakar, Bilva, Rudradsha, are some of the topics covered with same analogues & stories. These have so to say enhanced the importance of this Purana. There are many other subjects such Naurada garvaharan, Marriage of Shiva Parvati, Kamadahan, Birth of Kartikeya, Assassination of Jarakasura, Birth of Ganesh, Jalandharakhyan five Incarnations, Twelve Jyotilingas, their importance, so also the importance of Pashupatinath, Trimbakashwar, origin of Godavri, Shivratri Vrata etc. are critically discussed in this Purana.
5. Bhagwat Purana
This Purana in the list of 18 Puranas, circles round two questions, whether to recognize it as Vaishnav Bhagwat? Or Devi Bhagwat? Yet we have been convinced about calling it as Vaishnav Bhagwat. Bhagwat Purana has done great job, in giving all the Prakrut Language Poets, the guidance and support of Bhakti (devotion) cult, with the aid of many beautiful analogues (Aakhyanas). It has taken out so to say, an extract of different aspects of the devotion – Bhakti of Lord Krishna. Vyas wrote this Purana to attain mental peace for himself, then narrated to his son Shuka. Shuka further telling it to King Parkshit. This Purana with 12 big chapters (Skandhas) and 18000 Shlokas had been well utilized by the poets to arrange many tales and anecdotes.
This Purana has become more interesting and readable with the coverage of topics like Narada Charitra (life sketch) Birth of Parkshit, description of Dwaraka. The origin of this world …its present status, Yoga, Dashavatar story and many others.
6. Narada Purana
Sanatkumar narrated 25000 Shlokas to narada in this Purana. It has I part and II part. Gangavatarana, Tithivrate, Daam Mahima, Repentances, Naam Mahatmya, Shrushti Nirupane, Dhyan Yoga, Moksha Dharma are the subjects included in this Purana. One can find an exhaustive list of 18 Puranas in the 92 to 109 chapters of this Purana.
7. Markandeya Purana:
This Purana is a rich purana with 9000 Shlokas and full of ancient stories and analogues. Harishchandra Katha, origin of creatures, Incarnation of Dattatraya, Madalasa, Ritudhwaj, etc are some of the important analogues. There are life sketches of Manu.Manvantare, Shrikrishna, Markandeya.It also covers origin of shrushti, geography of Bharat (India), the transformation of soul after death, different hells (Narak) different sins, the repentance for these sins, etc. There are beautiful stotras on the goddesses like Parvati, Katyayani, and the gods like sun, Agni (fire), which distinguishes this from other Puranas.
8. Agni Purana
Agni (fire) parted with the knowledge to Vashishtha Rishi, which is given in this Purana spread over in 15000 Shlokas. The knowledge (Vidya) of PARA and APARA has been vividly described in lyrical style Avatarjatha, Rajvamsha, Practical knowledge, origin of shrushti, ethics etc are the subjects along with the stories about Rama in the Ranayana have been briefly narrated. How was the battle fought between Rama and Ravana? This was the question, and the answer was “just like rama and Ravana! “ This is the decorative piece of language used in this Purana. In the chapter no 25 to 45, the Indian science of Architecture has been thoroughly described. The construction of temples, Idols of the Gods, the installation of idols, renovation of temple, are various subjects like saptadweepe, Sapta sagar, Rajdharma, Dharmashashtra, Jyotish, Alankar shashtra, Chhandashashtra, Grammar (Vyakrana), Ashtangyog, Geetasaar, Kalpavidya, Mahinividya etc. which were considered very important.
9. Bhavisya Purana
In this Purana consisting of 15000 shlokas, we find the indication of the happenings in future and of the personalities to appear. It gives more importance to the worship of sun (Surya).
10. Brahmavaivarta Purana.
In this important Purana, of 18000 Shlokas, the story of Shrikrishna and his fun-play with the Gopis is vividly described. Shrikrishna is known as Vikas (Progress) of this Brahma (Vaivarta) and therefore he is glorified in this Purana. This is the crux of all the other Puranas as is believed by the scholars.
11. Ling Purana
In this Purana of 11000 shlokas, the origin of Ling in the form of this Brahmand (whole world) is described. Similarly the extract of Ling - Aling is also explained.
12. Varah Purana
This Purana, tells the many stories of the worship of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, in the form of varah (pig) told this Purana to the earth (Prithivi). Certain norms of the Pooja like Dnynakarma –Sammuchhaya, Shrusti Prakar (Types), Shraddhanu thana, Dwadashi Vishnu pooja,…….and some others.
13. Skanda Purana
This is the most voluminous of all the 18 Puranas with 81000 shlokas, which tells the importance of Shiva. Sanatkumar, Soot , Shankar, Vaishnav, Brahma, Saur are different sections based on the codes (Samhitas). The impact everywhere is of the importance of Shiva Mahima, Hathayoga, Shivshakti Royashya, Brahimageeta Vedarth Viichar, Vedanat Nirupana …..as is seen in this Purana.
14. Waman Puran.
This Purana with 10000 Shlokas elevates the Shiva and Shav cults and glorifies them. Shiv Parvati Charitra (Life sketch), the origin of male female, Veerbhadra katha, Harihar dialogue, Madan Dahan, Adhakasur Katha, Sukeshi Charitra, Story of Uma, Story of Bali and many other subjects form part of this Purana.
15. Koorma Purana
The Purana with 17000 Shlokas tells many stories of the incarnations of Vishnu. When the churning of sea was in progress, it was told in Vishnus Kooormavatar. It gives place to subjects like Himvan parbat, Parvati, Devsaharanam, Shankar Mahatmya and incarnations of Shankar.
16. Matsya Puran
Bhagvan Vishnu told this Purana to Vaivastava Manu, disguised as Matsya (Fish). It has approximately 15000 Shlokas. The important topics like description of Manvantra, expansion of Pitru Vansha, Shraddhakalpa, Life Sketch of Yayati, Prayag Mahatmya, different Vratas, Kashi -Mahatmya, etc are included in this Purana.
17. Garud Purana.
This Vaishnava Purana contains 19000 Shlokas and glorifies Vishnu and Shiva simultaneously .It gives a list of all heads of Sun and Moon Parivar (Vansha). The stories in Ramayana of Mahabharat appear in brief. The science of medicine, literature and grammar is discussed.
Pretakalpa means a religious rite associated with the dead body, is one important aspect of this Purana. Stories of the incarnations of Bhagwant, Origin of Saptarshi, origin of Daksha and his wife, Story of Sati are some of the stories, forming part of this Purana.
18. Brahaend Purana
It has 12000 Shlokas, narrating the origin of this universe (i.e. Brahmand). It gives the geographical details also Islands, Rivers, Mountains, People, their life styles, disciples of Vyas, Rajvansha, Parashuram Katha, Gangavataran, Vedic and Tantrik Mantras etc are the main subjects of this Purana.