The Vishnu Purana is an ancient scripture. It was often cited by the Gosvamins of Vrindavan in their commentaries on the tenth canto of the Bhagavata Purana and was held in high regard by Sankaracarya and Ramanujacarya as well.
Like the Purusa-sukta, the Vishnu purana occasionally expounds panthenism: Nature is a form of God. In addition, all the pastime of Krishna are told in breif, yet with amazing details. The fifth canto has a distinct sweetness and is relished by the connoisseurs.
The Vishnu Purana is as authoritative as the Mahabharata. The tenth canto of Bhagavatam follows canto of Vishnu Purana, which is fully translated here. This short and sweet narration of Krishna pastime appeals to readers of all ages.
The Visnu Purana is a highly authoritative scripture. It is very
ancient. The fifth canto therein corresponds to the tenth canto of
Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). In their commentaries on the
tenth canto, the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas, including Sanatana
Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami and Visvanatha Cakravarti, often cited
verses from the fifth canto of Visnu Purana, especially when
Sukadeva skipped some detail in his narration.
The fifth canto of Visnu Purana is the longest of its six cantos, with
thirty-eight chapters. The speaker of Visnu Purana is Paragara
Muni, the father of Vyasa. The Purana is in fact a long conversation
between Parasgara Muni and Maitreya Rsi.
In 2005 in Govardhana, India, His Grace Gopi-parana-dhana
Prabhu opened a Sanskrit school, from which the present writer
graduated. Gopi-parana-dhana Prabhu’s motive was to turn
devotees into translators of Gaudiya Vaisnava scriptures. He
gave classes on Jiva Gosvami’s Sat-sandarbha, specifically on
Tattva-sandarbha and Bhagavat-sandarbha in order to verify his
translations of those, on Bhagavatam, and on the commentaries on
Bhagavatam. Moreover, he taught a translation workshop, where
he would critique the students’ translations of a text (he selected
the Bhagavata-mahatmya of Skanda Purana). And he invited
knowledgeable devotees in the field, such as experienced English
editors, to train the students. Gopi-parana-dhana Prabhu had a
list of Vaisnava titles that he wanted to see translated. One of them was Visnu Purana. He opined that Vaisnavas should have their own
translation of this ancient Vedic text.
This Purana is the blueprint from which the entire Bhagavatam
evolved. The Padma Purana categorizes the Visnu Purana as a
sattvika Purana’ like it categorizes the Bhagavatam. A sattvika
Purana is in the highest mode of thinking, meaning Hari (Visnu,
Krsna), and not Siva or any other god, is glorified.
Like most other Puranas, the Visnu Purana cannot be easily dated.
This is because each Purana consists of material that has grown
by numerous accretions over long periods of time, not to mention
spurious interpolations. For centuries, ancient Vedic scriptures
were communicated verbally before finally being put in writing. Yet
most scholars agree that the Visnu Purana and the Bhagavatam are
free from spurious content.
According to tradition, Krsna pastimes were rendered in
the following scriptures in this chronological order, although
the details vary from one scripture to the next: Mahabharata,
Visnu Purana, Hari-vamsa (an appendix of Mahabharata), and
Bhagavatam. The language in Bhagavatam is much more refined
and involves elaborate meters, whereas most of the text in the other
scriptures is in the anustup meter. Further, it is interesting to note
the differences between the fifth canto of Visnu Purana and the
text of Bhagavatam both from the viewpoint of lila (variation in a
pastime, and the sequence of pastimes) and from the standpoint of
siddhanta (philosophy) (especially regarding Krsna’s disappearance,
in chapter 38).
The contrast between these two similar scriptures is also perceivable from the perspective of grammar: In Visnu Purana, the genitive
absolute is often used in the sense of the locative absolute, whereas
in Bhagavatam this usage is very rare (6.17.26; 8.4.5; 12.6.13: etc.).
In other words, the genitive absolute is used although disregard,
ordained by rule,’ is not implied. This usage of the genitive absolute
is not covered by Panini’s grammar (450 BCE), not to mention
subsequent grammars, and is almost never seen outside of these
two Puranas. This suggests that the Bhagavatam was composed in
the light of Visnu Purana and that the author or authors of Visnu
Purana preferred the usage in a different system of grammar, one
older than Panini’s school, such as the Aindra school, the archetype
of Katantra grammar (50 CE).
In India, the most authoritative scholars held the Visnu Purana
in high esteem. In his commentaries on Prasthana-traya (Gita,
Veddnta-sitra, and Upanisads), Sankaracarya cited Visnu Purana
(Bhagavad-gita-Bhasya 3.37, etc.), but never quoted the Bhdgavatam.
In Sri-Bhdsya (4.1.2), Ramanuja Acarya quoted Visnu Purana, but
never cited a verse from the Bhagavatam. Sridhara Svami wrote a
commentary on Visnu Purana before writing one on Bhdgavatam.
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