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Exploring the significance of the Puranas in Bengali traditions

Purana, which literally translates to "ancient, old," is a massive collection of Indian literature that covers a broad variety of subjects, most notably fables as well as other traditional folk tales. The Puranas are famous for the elaborate folds of symbolic meaning illustrated in their stories. Many of these texts, which were originally written in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, assume the titles of prominent Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, and Shakti. Puranic literature can be seen in both Hindu and Jain traditions. The Puranas consist of Eighteen Mukhya Puranas (Main Puranas) and Eighteen Upa Puranas (Secondary/Minor Puranas) 

Some of the Puranas that are extensively discussed in Bengali literature are: 

  • Padma Purana - It is a vast collection of varied subjects that explain concepts such as cosmology, the universe, and the reality of life through the eyes of Lord Vishnu, festivals, various folk tales, and much more. Some other topics explored in these ancient texts are the numerous Avatars of Vishnu and his partnership with Shiva, and a Rama-Sita narrative that differs from the Hindu epic Ramayana. 

  • Vishnu Purana - It is among the most researched and widely disseminated Puranas, and it also includes ancestral information from numerous empires.  Some chapters were most likely written in the South Asian regions of Kashmir and Punjab. 

  • Shiva Purana - As the name suggests, the Shiva Purana revolves around the Hindu deity Shiva and his wife, Goddess Parvati. However, it speaks of other Hindu deities as well. It forms an integral portion of Shaivism literature.

  • Linga Purana - It describes the Lingam, Shiva's emblem, and the source of the universe according to Shaivism. It also includes many Lingam tales, one of which describes how Agni Lingam settled a conflict between Vishnu and Brahma.

  • Skanda Purana - This Purana discusses the conception of Shiva's son Skanda (or Karthikeya). It is the lengthiest Purana and is an extremely thorough pilgrimage guide, comprising the geographic regions of pilgrimage centers in India, as well as connected legends, folk tales, choruses, and stories. 

  • Kalika Purana - The Kalika Purana belongs to the subdivision of the Minor Puranas. It is also known by the names Kali Purana, Sati Purana, and Kalika Tantra. It belongs to Hinduism's Shaktism tradition.


Q1. Among the various Puranas, which is the earliest known Purana? 

According to Hindu traditions, the oldest Puran is the Matsya Purana. Belonging to the Maha Puranas, it is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Puranic texts in Sanskrit literature. 

Q2. Which is older, the Puranas or the Vedas? 

The Vedas are older than the Puranas. The Vedas are known as the main spiritual text of Hinduism. While the Puranas are spiritual texts, they are not given as much reverence as compared to that of the Vedas. 

Q3. Which Purana is ideal for beginners? 

The Bhagavat Purana is ideal for first-time readers of Puranic literature. With tales of Lord Krishna, the Bhagavat Purana forms the perfect starting point as it captivates the mind and speaks of the first steps in one’s journey with God.