Puranas (पुराणानि)

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Puranas (Samskrit : पुराणानि) are a large number of Bharatiya texts, based on the Vedas and Vedangas, which influence the lifestyle of people of Bharatavarsha. References to Puranas and Itihasas in the Vedas and Vedangas show the significance and ancientness of these texts. They are eighteen in number and are associated with the Upapuranas. They describe a wide variety of aspects related to the bharatiya jivana vidhana namely ceremonies, danas, festivals, cultural aspects, history, geographical location, tattvas and siddhantas of Brahman, yajnas, dharmas, lineages of rulers, origin of creation, numerous ancedotes about deities and celestial beings, tirthas, rivers, vratas, medicine, architecture, and even poetry among the many other things and actions associated with Sanatana Dharma.

Talk on The Puranas: An introduction and interpretation

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

The Puranic literature holds a very special place in the life of people following Sanatana Dharma. Many scholars opine that the puranas were the main source of bhagavata katha traditions found in India; the bond that has woven the cultural threads among different peoples across the far corners of our country.

Puranic texts are usually in the form of shlokas as conversation between two or more persons, mostly involving maharshis (Saunaka, Suta, Agasthya) and the deities (Agni, Vishnu, Shiva etc) who describe events and incidents to the other rshis, rajas and devotees. Thus the literature is far popular and widely spread as through the medium of interesting ancedotes easily understood by one and all, they explain valuable virtues and dharmas. They include the stories of personalities from all walks of life; bhaktas, avataras, deities, adharmik people, women, people of different varnas and ashramas, children are all discussed there.

All the Puranas belong to the class of Suhrit-Samhitas, while Vedas are Prabhu-Samhitas. Vyasa is the compiler of the Puranas from age to age; and for this age, he is Krishnadvaipayana, the son of Parasara.[1]

The Puranas popularised the teachings 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, stories, legends, lives of saints, kings and great men, allegories and chronicles of great historical events. Many vratas (vows) have associated kathas (stories) from various Puranas. They also give a description of the regions of the universe not visible to the ordinary physical eye. The ancient seers made use of Puranas to illustrate the eternal principles of dharmas for people of all ashramas. The Puranas were meant, not for the scholars, but for the ordinary people who could not understand deep philosophy and who could not devote time for the study the Vedas.[1]

The Darsanas and shastras are technical in nature understood by a few who pursue to study them. Through Puranas, essential common dharmas are taught in a very easy and interesting way and are heard even to this day, thus they are popular.

Special Aspects about Puranas

This section discusses about the origin, compilation and phalashruti (benefits) of Puranas. Many Puranas mention that they

  • originated from Brahma's recollection
  • organized and compiled by Maharshi Vedavyasa into eighteen mahapuranas
  • were a single unit prior to being compiled and systematized by Vyasa into 18 Puranas in every Yuga cycle.
  • that they existed across Kalpas and Yugas
  • they consist of certain essential characteristics about the subject matter they deal viz., Purana Lakshana (पुराणलक्षणम्)
  • are the means to accomplish Trivarga (त्रिवर्गसाधनं । means to attain Dharma, Artha, Kama) and Punya.


Matsya, Skanda and Padma Puranas mention that the Puranas have been given to the world, after Brahma deliberated on them.

पुराणं सर्वशास्त्राणां प्रथमं ब्रह्मणा स्मृतम् अनन्तरं च वक्त्रेभ्यो वेदास्तस्य विनिर्गताः ३

पुराणमेकमेवासीत्तदा कल्पान्तरेऽनघ त्रिवर्गसाधनं पुण्यं शतकोटिप्रविस्तरम् ४ (Mats. Pura. 53.3 and 4)[2]

पुराणं सर्वशास्त्राणां प्रथमं ब्रह्मणा स्मृतम् ४५ (Padm. Pura. 1.1.45)[3]

Summary : Brahma first (recollected) remembered the Puranas in all shastras, later from him (his four faces) came the Vedas. There was only one (unit) of the Puranas at the beginning of the Kalpa.

पुरा तपश्चचारोग्रममराणां पितामहः । आविर्भूतास्ततो वेदाः सषडंगपदक्रमाः ॥ ३ ॥

ततः पुराणमखिलं सर्वशास्त्रमयं ध्रुवम् ॥ (Skan. Pura. 7.1.23-4)

Skanda Purana (7.2.5)[4] mentions that Puranas were given by Brahma (Pitamaha) who performed a severe tapas and from whom the Vedas along with the Vedangas manifested. After the Vedas all the Puranas consisting of the eternal sounds (of Vedas) extending to a hundred crore slokas manifested from the mouth of Brahma.

Bhavishya Purana describe the origin of creation and the puranas from the five faces of Brahma in Brahma Parva (सृष्टिवर्णनं पुराणानां ब्रह्मपञ्चमास्यादुत्पत्तिवर्णनञ्च)

Matsya Purana describes the origin and phalashruti of Puranas thus - the learned, those who know, say that the recitation of the list of the Puranas dealing with kalpas (records of prior events from ancient Kalpas) brings fame and longevity.

पुरातनस्य कल्पस्य पुराणानि विदुर्बुधाः धन्यं यशस्यमायुष्यं पुराणानामनुक्रमम् (Mats. Pura. 53.63)[2]

Linga purana clearly states that it was composed by Brahma based on the events that happened in the Ishana Kalpa and originally it contained a crore shlokas among a hundred crore that comprised all the Puranas.

ईशानकल्पवृत्तांतमधिकृत्य महात्मना।। ब्रह्मणा कल्पितं पूर्वं पुराणं लौंगमुत्तमम्।। २.१ ।। (Ling. Pura. 1.2.1)[5]

The above reference amply supports the fact that Puranas are not myths or made up stories but they are layer of antique literature which are coming down since very large periods of time, from across the Kalpas. This fact also explains the variant versions of the same legends as they have variations in different kalpas.

Veda Vyasa Compiled Puranas

Maharshi Veda Vyasa is credited with the organization of the Ashtadasha Mahapuranas or the Eighteen Mahapuranas as per many Puranas themselves. The Vayu Purana cites that Ashtadasha Puranas and Itihasa (Mahabharata) from the beginning to the end is the prasada of Vyasa maharshi.

व्यासप्रसादाधिगतशास्त्रसम्बोधनेन च ।। ४२.१ ।।

अष्टादशपुराणानि सेतिहासानि चानघ। उपक्रमोपसंहार विधिनोक्तानि कृत्स्नशः ।। ४२.२ ।। (Vayu. Pura. 2.42.1-2)[6]

Krishna Dvaipayana (name of Vyasa in the present Vaivasvata Manvantara) composed (has given) the puranas.

कृष्णद्वैपायनेनोक्तं पुराणं ब्रह्मवादिना ।। ४१.५१ ।। (Vayu. Pura. 2.41.51)[7]

In Vedas and Vedangas

In Taittriya Aranyaka (2.10) of Krishna Yajurveda and Shatapatha Brahmana (11.5.6-8) we find a mention of Brahmanas, Itihasas, Puranas, and Narasamshi gathas that are part of svadhyaya.

मध्वाहुतयो ह वा एता देवानाम्। यदनुशासनानि विद्या वाकोवाक्यमितिहासपुराणं गाथा नाराशंस्यः स य एवं विद्वाननुशासनानि विद्या वाकोवाक्यमितिहासपुराणं गाथा नाराशंसीरित्यहरहः स्वाध्यायमधीते.... (Shat. Brah. 11.5.6)[8]

Puranas find a mention in the Atharva veda along with Itihasas in the singular; where it is said that the rks, the samans, the chandas, puranas, yajus originated from the residue (ucchista) of the yajnas.

ऋचः सामानि छन्दांसि पुराणं यजुषा सह । उच्छिष्टाज्जज्ञिरे सर्वे दिवि देवा दिविश्रितः ॥२४॥ (Athar. Veda. 11.9.24)[9]

Brhdaranyanka Upanishad (4.1.2 and 4.5.11) ascribes the origin of the four vedas, Itihas and Puranas, Vidyas, Upanishad shlokas, sutras, their commentaries to the breath of the Mahabhuta (Virat Purusha).

वा अरेऽस्य महतो भूतस्य निःश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्याननीष्टं (Brhd. Upan. 4.5.11)

Gautama Dharmasutras in the context of explaining that the inanimates, animate beings, birds, reptiles, trees - all depend on two classes of people namely the Rajas and Brahmanas who are vedavidvans (बहुश्रुत-ब्राह्मणः), the nature of an educated vedavidvan is described.

स एव बहुश्रुतो भवति ॥ 4 ॥ लोकवेदवेदाङ्गवित् ॥ 5 ॥ वाकोवाक्येतिहासपुराणकुशलः ॥ 6 ॥ (Gaut. Dhar. Sutr. 1.8.4-6)[10]

Bahusthruta Brahmana is that person who has jnana in the four vedas, the six vedangas and is a learned in veda-shastra related tarka or arguments, itihasa and puranas. He not only has faith in them but also actively performs the acharas in accordance with them.[10]

Gautama Dharmasutras (2.2.19) maintain that the main instruments of conduct of activities (vyavahara) for a Raja (ruler) include Vedas, Dharmashastras, Vedangas, Upavedas, and Puranas.

One may notice the importance of Puranas and their role in the lives of people of India in more than one ways. Manusmrti (3.232) further emphasizes that during shraddha rites svadhyaya (study of vedas) has to be rendered in the honour of the forefathers, and thus Vedas, Dharmashastras, Akhyayanas (legends) Itihasa (Ramayana and Mahabharata), Puranas and Khilas have to be recited (to the guests).

स्वाध्यायं श्रावयेत्पित्र्ये धर्मशास्त्राणि चैव हि । आख्यानानीतिहासांश्च पुराणानि खिलानि च । । ३.२३२ (Manu. Smrt. 3.232)[11]

Thus along with Vedic recitation the age old practice of rendering Puranas during Shraddha persists in the Bharatiya tradition.


According to a few scholars[12] the explanation of how Puranas get an equal place as Vedas, forming the Panchamaveda is given in the following way. In the Vratyakanda of Atharvaveda we find the following mantras

तमितिहासश्च पुराणं च गाथाश्च नाराशंसीश्चानुव्यचलन् । [११] इतिहासस्य च वै स पुराणस्य च गाथानां च नाराशंसीनां च प्रियं धाम भवति य एवं वेद।। (Athar. Veda. 15.6.11-12)[13]

In Vratyakanda (15th Kanda of Atharvaveda) mantras we find the explanation that Vratyas (also called Kesins (Rig Veda 10.136.1-7) - a group of wandering ascetic people following Vrata) were a preraka (inducers) for prajapati also. Vratyas worshipped elements of nature and Rudra is said to be Vratyapati as described by the Shatarudriya of Yajurveda. We find in the present context that the Vratyas spread to different directions and along with the devatas, pitrs etc who go along with them. In the fifth and sixth suktas of the Vratyakanda it is mentioned that the four vedas, Itihasa, Puranas, Gathas including the Narasamshi, spread with them. Here it suffices to mention that Itihasa and Puranas have the same significance along with the four vedas and thus they form the Fifth Vedas. More details of Vratyas is dealt with separately.

Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2 and 4), Skanda Purana ([14] and Bhagavata Purana (1.4.20)[15] mention that Puranas are the texts collectively as Panchamaveda.

Classification of Puranas

Classification of 18 Mahapuranas

Puranas have been classified based on the three gunas, Satvika, Rajasa and Tamasa. Matsya and Skanda purana (Skan. Pura. 7.2.57-58)[4] slokas clearly mention the classification of Puranas as mentioned below.

सात्त्विकेषु पुराणेषु माहात्म्यमधिकं हरेः राजसेषु च माहात्म्यमधिकं ब्रह्मणो विदुः ६८

तद्वदग्नेश्च माहात्म्यं तामसेषु शिवस्य च संकीर्णेषु सरस्वत्याः पितॄणां च निगद्यते ६९ (Mats. Pura. 53.68-69)[2]

Summary : Know that in satvika puranas the glory of Shri Hari is largely mentioned while rajasa puranas greatly mention Brahma's glory. Similarly tamasa puranas there is a mention about the glory of Agni and Shiva. In all the three types of puranas, the glory of Sarasvati and the pitrs (forefathers) have been described.

अष्टादशमहापुराणानि ॥ Eighteen Mahapuranas

Devi Bhagavata enumerates the eighteen Mahapuranas in a nutshell in the following sloka taking their initial letter.

मद्वयं भद्वयं चैव व्रत्रयं वचतुष्टयम् । अनाप-लिंग-कूस्कानि पुराणानि पृथक्पृथक् ॥ २ ॥ (Devi. Bhag. 1.3.2)[16]

  • मद्वयं refers to the two Puranas, the names of which begin with म(Ma). They are Markandeya and Matsya Puranas.
  • भद्वयं refers to the two Puranas, the names of which begin with भ (Bha). They are Bhagavata and Bhavishya.
  • व्रत्रयं refers to the three Puranas, the names of which begin with ब्र (Bra). They are Brahma, Brahmanda and Brahmavaivarta Puranas.
  • वचतुष्टयम् refers to the four Puranas, the names of which begin with व (Va). They are Vishnu, Vamana, Vayu and Varaha Puranas.
  • अनाप-लिं-ग-कूस्कानि refers to Agni (अ), Naaradiya (ना) Padma (प) Linga (लिं) Garuda (ग) Kurma (कू) Skanda (स्का) Puranas.

The list of Puranas and Upapuranas is given in many puranas such as Padmapurana, Vishnupurana (3.6), Skanda purana, Agni Purana (10.8.3), however, they differ widely in names of the puranas (पुराणसंख्यान्तरम्) included and the number of slokas mentioned.

List of Maha Puranas in various puranas
Purana Name List of Mahapuranas
Skanda Purana (Khanda-7 Prabhasa, Prabhasa Kshetra Mahatmya, Adhyaya 2, Shlokas 5-8)[4] Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavata, Bhavishya, Naradiya, Markandeya, Agneya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda, Vayu Puranas
Vishnu Purana (Amsha 3 Adhyaya 6, Slokas 20-24)[17],

Padma Purana (Khanda-6, Adhyaya 236, Shlokas 14-17)[18],

Varaha Purana (Adhyaya 112, Shlokas 74-77)[19]

Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavata, Narada, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmanda Puranas
Garuda Purana (Khanda-1 Acharakhanda, Adhyaya 223, Shlokas 15-16)[20]

Kurma Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 1, Shlokas 13-15)[21]

Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavata, Narada, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Vayu

Shivamahapuranam 5.5.15

The main Puranas are:

The widely studied among the Puranas are the Srimad Bhagavata, Vishnu Purana, Shiva Purana, Devi Mahatmya of Markandeya Purana among others. Garuda Purana is prescribed to be read during the ten days after the death of a person.

A portion of the Markandeya Purana is well known to all Hindus as Chandi or Devi Mahatmya. Its theme is worship of God as the Divine Mother. Chandi is read widely by the Hindus on sacred days and Navaratri (Durga Puja) days.[1]

अष्टादश-उपपुराणानि ॥ The Eighteen Upa-Puranas

The eighteen Upa-Puranas according to Garuda Purana are

अन्यान्युपपुराणानि मुनिभिः कथितानि तु । आद्यं सनत्कुमारोक्तं नारसिंहमथापरम् ॥ १,२२३.१७ ॥

तृतीयं स्कान्दमुद्दिष्टं कुमारेण तु भाषितम् । चतुर्थं शिवधर्माख्यं स्यान्नन्दीश्वरभाषितम् ॥ १,२२३.१८ ॥

दुर्वाससोक्तमाश्चर्यं नारदोक्तमतः परम् । कापिलं वामनञ्चैव तथैवोशनसेरितम् ॥ १,२२३.१९ ॥

ब्रह्माण्डं वारुणञ्चाथ कालिकाह्वयमेव च । माहेश्वरं तथा साम्बमेवं सर्वार्थसञ्चयम् ।

पराशरोक्तमपरं मारीचं भार्गवाह्वयम् ॥ १,२२३.२० ॥ (Garu. Pura. 1.223.18-20)[20]

Sanatkumara, Narasimha, Brihannaradiya, Sivarahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesa and Hamsa.

Content of Puranas

Given below are the number of shlokas in each purana according to Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 12)

S. No Purana Name Number of Shlokas (श्लोकसंख्यानि) Contents
1 Agni 15,400 shlokas Contains encyclopedic information. Includes geography of Mithila (Bihar and neighboring states in India), cultural history, politics, education system, iconography, taxation theories, organization of army, theories on proper causes for war, diplomacy, local laws, building public projects, water distribution methods, trees and plants, medicine, Vastu Shastra (architecture), gemology, grammar, metrics, poetry, food, rituals and numerous other topics.
2 Bhagavata 18,000 shlokas The most studied and popular of the Puranas,[22][23] telling of Vishnu's Avatars Dasha Avataras (दशावताराः), and of Vaishnavism. It contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties.[24] Numerous inconsistent versions of this text and historical manuscripts exist, in many Indian languages.[25] Influential and elaborated during Bhakti movement.[26]
3 Brahma 10,000 shlokas Sometimes also called Adi Purana, because many Mahapuranas lists put it first of 18.[27] The text has 245 chapters, shares many passages with Vishnu, Vayu, Markendeya Puranas, and with the Mahabharata. Includes mythology, theory of war, art work in temples, and other cultural topics. Describes holy places in Odisha, and weaves themes of Vishnu and Shiva, but hardly any mention of deity Brahma despite the title.[27]
4 Brahmanda 12,000 shlokas One of the earliest composed Puranas, it contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties.[24] Includes Lalita Sahasranamam, law codes, system of governance, administration, diplomacy, trade, ethics. Old manuscripts of Brahmanda Purana have been found in the Hindu literature collections of Bali, Indonesia.[28][29]
5 Brahmavaivarta 18,000 shlokas Discusses Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Devis, Vishnu, Krishna and Radha. Primarily mythology, love and seduction stories of gods and goddesses.[30] Mentions geography and rivers such as Ganga to Kaveri.
6 Bhavishya* 14,500 shlokas
6 Garuda 19,000 shlokas An encyclopedia of diverse topics.[29] Primarily about Vishnu, but praises all gods. Describes how Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma collaborate. Many chapters are a dialogue between Vishnu and the bird-vehicle Garuda. Cosmology, Describes cosmology, relationship between gods. Discusses ethics, what are crimes, good verses evil, various schools of Hindu philosophies, the theory of Yoga, the theory of "heaven and hell" with "karma and rebirth", includes Upanishadic discussion of self-knowledge as a means of moksha.[31] Includes chapters on rivers, geography of Bharat (India) and other nations on earth, types of minerals and stones, testing methods for stones for their quality, various diseases and their symptoms, various medicines, aphrodisiacs, prophylactics, Hindu calendar and its basis, astronomy, moon, planets, astrology, architecture, building home, essential features of a temple, rites of passage, virtues such as compassion, charity and gift making, economy, thrift, duties of a king, politics, state officials and their roles and how to appointment them, genre of literature, rules of grammar, and other topics.[31] The final chapters discuss how to practice Yoga (Samkhya and Advaita types), personal development and the benefits of self-knowledge.[31]
7 Kurma 17,000 shlokas Is the second of ten major avatars of Lord Vishnu.
8 Linga 11,000 shlokas Discusses Lingam, symbol of Shiva, and origin of the universe. It also contains many stories of Lingam, one of which entails how Agni Lingam solved a dispute between Vishnu and Brahma.
9 Markandeya 9,000 shlokas Describes Vindhya Range and western India. Probably composed in the valleys of Narmada and Tapti rivers, in Maharashtra and Gujarat.[32] Named after sage Markandeya, a student of Brahma. Contains chapters on dharma and on Hindu epic Mahabharata.[33] The Purana includes Devi Mahatmyam of Shaktism.
10 Matsya 14,000 shlokas An encyclopedia of diverse topics.[29] Narrates the story of Matsya, the first of ten major Avatars of Vishnu. Likely composed in west India, by people aware of geographical details of the Narmada river. Includes legends about Brahma and Saraswati.[34] It also contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties.[24]
11 Narada 25,000 shlokas Also called Naradiya Purana. Discusses the four Vedas and the six Vedangas. Dedicates one chapter each, from Chapters 92 to 109, to summarize the other 17 Maha Puranas and itself. Lists major rivers of India and places of pilgrimage, and a short tour guide for each. Includes discussion of various philosophies, soteriology, planets, astronomy, myths and characteristics of major deities including Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi and others.[35]
12 Padma 55,000 shlokas A large compilation of diverse topics. The north Indian manuscripts of Padma Purana are very different than south Indian versions, and the various recensions in both groups in different languages (Devanagari and Bengali, for example) show major inconsistencies.[36] Describes cosmology, the world and nature of life from the perspective of Vishnu. Discusses festivals, numerous legends, geography of rivers and regions from northwest India to Bengal to the kingdom of Tripura, major sages of India, various Avatars of Vishnu and his cooperation with Shiva, the story of Rama-Sita that is different than the Hindu epic Ramayana.[37] Like Skanda Purana, it is a detailed treatise on travel and pilgrimage centers in India.[37][38]
13 Shiva 24,000 shlokas Discusses Shiva, and stories about him.
14 Skanda 81,100 shlokas Describes the birth of Skanda (or Karthikeya), son of Shiva. The longest Purana, it is an extraordinarily meticulous pilgrimage guide, containing geographical locations of pilgrimage centers in India, with related legends, parables, hymns and stories. Many untraced quotes are attributed to this text.[39]
15 Vamana 10,000 shlokas Describes North India, particularly Himalayan foothills region.
16 Varaha 24,000 shlokas Primarily Vishnu-related worship manual, with large Mahatmya sections or travel guide to Mathura and Nepal.[40] Presentation focuses on Varaha as incarnation of Narayana, but rarely uses the terms Krishna or Vasudeva.[40] Many illustrations also involve Shiva and Durga.[41]
17 Vayu 24,000 verses Possibly the oldest of all Maha Puranas. Some medieval Indian texts call it Vayaviya Purana. Mentioned and studied by Al Biruni, the 11th century Persian visitor to India. Praises Shiva. Discusses rituals, family life, and life stages of a human being. The content in Vayu Purana is also found in Markandeya Purana. Describes south India, particularly modern Telangana and Andhra Pradesh regions. It contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties.[24]
18 Vishnu 23,000 shlokas One of the most studied and circulated Puranas, it also contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties.[24] Better preserved after the 17th century, but exists in inconsistent versions, more ancient pre-15th century versions are very different from modern versions, with some versions discussing Buddhism and Jainism. Some chapters likely composed in Kashmir and Punjab region of South Asia. A Vaishnavism text, focussed on Vishnu.[42]

The Mahapuranas have also been classified based on a specific deity, although the texts are mixed and revere all gods and goddesses:

Brāhma:[36] Brahma Purana, Padma Purana
Surya:[36] Brahma Vaivarta Purana
Agni:[36] Agni Purana
Śaiva:[36] Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Varaha Purana, Vāmana Purana, Kūrma Purana, Matsya Purana, Mārkandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Brahmānda Purana
Vaiṣṇava:[36] Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Nāradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Vayu Purana, Varaha Purana

The Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda (236.18-21),[43] itself a Vaishnava Purana, classifies the Puranas in accordance with the three gunas or qualities; truth, passion, and ignorance.

Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana
Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana
Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana

All major Puranas contain sections on Devi (goddesses) and Tantra, but of these the six most significant ones are: Markandeya Purana, Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Agni Purana and Padma Purana.[44]


Om Prakash states the Puranas served as efficient medium for cultural exchange and popular education in ancient and medieval India.[45] These texts adopted, explained and integrated regional deities such as Pashupata in Vayu Purana, Sattva in Vishnu Purana, Dattatreya in Markendeya Purana, Bhojakas in Bhavishya Purana.[45] Further, states Prakash, they dedicated chapters to "secular subjects such as poetics, dramaturgy, grammar, lexicography, astronomy, war, politics, architecture, geography and medicine as in Agni Purana, perfumery and lapidary arts in Garuda Purana, painting, sculpture and other arts in Vishnudharmottara Purana".[45]

Indian Arts

The cultural influence of the Puranas extended to Indian classical arts, such as songs, dance culture such as Bharata Natyam in south India[46] and Rasa Lila in northeast India,[47] plays and recitations.[48]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 41-45
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Matsya Purana (Adhyaya 53)
  3. Padma Puranam (Khanda 1 Srustikhandam)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Skanda Purana (Prabhasa Khanda, Prabhasa Kshetra Mahatmya, Adhyaya 2)
  5. Linga Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 2) in sa.wikisource.org
  6. Vayu Purana (Uttarardham Adhyaya 42)
  7. Vayu Purana (Uttarardham Adhyaya 41)
  8. Shatapatha Brahmana (Kanda 11, Adhyaya 5, Brahmana 6)
  9. Atharva Veda (Kanda 11, Sukta 9)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Dr. Umesh Chandra Pandey. (1966) Gautama Dharmasutra with Mitakshari Sanskrit Commentary of Haradatta. Varanasi : Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office (See Prashna 1, Adhyaya 8)
  11. Manusmrti (Adhyaya 3)
  12. Pt. Giridhar Sharma Chaturvedi (1998) Purana Parishilan (Hindi). Patna : Bihar Rashtrabhasha Parishad. (Pages 2-3)
  13. Atharva Veda (Kanda 15, Sukta 6)
  14. Skanda Puranam (Reva Khanda)
  15. Shrimad Bhagavata Puranam (Skanda 1 Adhyaya 4)
  16. Devi Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 1 Adhyaya 3)
  17. Vishnupurana (Amsha 3 Adhyaya 6)
  18. Padma Purana (Khanda 6 (Uttara Khanda) Adhyaya 236) in sa.wikisource.org
  19. Varaha Purana (Adhyaya 112) in sa.wikisource.org
  20. 20.0 20.1 Garuda Purana (Acharakhanda, Adhyaya 223) in sa.wikisource.org
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  23. Monier-Williams 1899, p. 752, column 3, under the entry Bhagavata.
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