Penned down by the Great Sage, the incarnation of Vishnu, Vyasa, the Puranas are accounts of various legends and several traditional lores. They are well-known for the very important symbolisms that each of the stories in them have. As there are multiple types of Puranas, there are five telltale signs that every Purana has-
The answer to how the entire universe was created. It is often explained through the Hindu lore that says that the universe is repeatedly destroyed by evil forces and then rebuilt after all the chaos and destruction, by the Devas.
The repeated building of the Universe.
The story of various Gods and Goddesses, and a deep dive into their family- their parents, how they were brought to the mortal plain, etc.
The story of the first human beings in the world, and their plight.
The story of the lunar and solar dynasties.
Major groupings of Puranas
Of the numerous texts recognized as 'Puranas' the most significant are the Mahāpurāṇas. These are supposed to be 18 in number. Some of the major ones are-
Agni Purana: The Agni Purana celebrates the greatness of Fire Lord, Agni, who is highly revered and extensively written about in the Vedas. The major Purana text talks about gemology, cosmology, ayurveda, iconography, philosophy, economics, pilgrimage guides, diplomacy, architecture, and ancient geography.
Bhagavata Purana: The Bhagavata Purana is a highly respected Vaishnavism text. The message within the text presents a type of religion (dharma) that rivals that of the Vedas, wherein bhakti eventually prompts self-knowledge, freedom (moksha) and ecstasy. A frequently cited stanza is utilized by some Vaishnava sects to affirm that the actual text is actually Krishna in scholarly form.
Brahma Purana: The Purana text extensively talks about various holy sites like the Godavari river region, certain holy places around modern day Orissa, Chambal River in Rajasthan etc. It also discusses certain important Puranic spiritual topics like cosmology, genealogy, mythology,cosmic time cycles, etc.
Brahmanda Purana: The Puranic text is remarkable for the Adhyatma-ramayana, the main implanted set of sections in the text, which rationally endeavors to accommodate Bhakti in god Rama and Shaktism with Advaita Vedanta. It covers major topics like cosmogony, Sanskara (transitional experience), folklore, sections on morals and obligations (Dharma), genealogy, Yoga, great governance, geology, and also acts as travel guide to the holy places of Cuttack, Kanchipuram and Kashmir. The Brahmanda Purana also mentions the Lalita Sahasranamam (a stotra lauding Goddess as the preeminent being known to man), and is also one of the early Hindu texts tracked down in Bali, Indonesia, likewise called the Javanese-Brahmanda.
Brahma Vaivarta Purana: This Puranic text is a very important Vaishnavism literature, that extensively talks about the beloved Hindu deities, Radha and Krishna and their story. The surviving renditions of Brahma Vaivarta Purana are a class apart as it talks about Goddess Radha, about whom we hear absolutely nothing in the other Puranic texts. Further, this text includes conversation of morals, dharma, four phases of life and celebrations presented as a feature of the plot. The text incorporates Smriti parts that were probably embedded into the text after the sixteenth century.
Garuda Purana: The Puranic text comprises cosmology, folklore, connection between divine beings, morals, the war between good and evil, different schools of Hindu ways of thinking, the hypothesis of Yoga, the hypothesis of "paradise and hell" with "karma and resurrection", familial customs and soteriology, waterways and geology, different varieties of minerals and stones, testing techniques for jewels for their quality, a list of plants and spices, different illnesses and their side effects, different drugs, aphrodisiacs, prophylactics, astrology, moon, planets, engineering, fundamental elements of a Hindu temples, soul changing experiences, economy, obligations of a ruler, legislative issues, state authorities and their jobs and how to arrange them, classification of writing, rules of syntax, etc. The last few chapters of the Puranic text comprises the rules of practicing Yoga properly.
Q1. Why were the Puranas written?
Puranas were composed to inform common people about the Vedic teachings, and to help them in establishing faith in the Almighty Power.
Q2. Which is the Last Purana?
The last Purana written by Vyasa was the Maha Bhagavata Purana.
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