Purāna means narration; eighteen very old books about the history of the planet and other worlds (there are also eighteen u p a - p u r ā n a s, smaller ones).
- The stories; eighteen very old books or bibles from big, 81.000 verses to small, 9.000 verses, six about V i s h n u, six about S' i v a and six about B r a h m ā, containing (vedic) histories about the relation of mankind with the different forms of God and their worlds. The Vishnu-purāna the S' r ī m a d B h ā g a v a t a m, also called the Bhāgavata Purāna and Paramahamsa Samhitā, is considered the most important (see also 12.7: 23-24, 12.13: 4-9 i t i h ā s a, v e d a).
Creation, secondary creation, de dynasties of the kings, their activities and the reigns of the M a n u s are the five characteristics of each Purāna (Amarkhasa).
The six Vishnu Purānas are:
1. The S'rīmad Bhāgavatam
(18.000 verses) has because of its beautiful presentation style, a high rank in Sanskrit literature. It contains tales related to various incarnations of Lord V i s h n u and mainly deals with the life and plays of Lord K r i s h n a.
2. The Vishnu Purāna
(23.000 verses) also contains five parts. First part narrates about the creation of the universe, p r a l a y a and the churning of the ocean. Second part contains geographical description of earth divided into seven islands. Third part describes the origin of B h u d d h i s m. Fourth part contains a description about the populating of the earth from the beginning. Fifth part is entirely devoted to the life and plays of Lord K r i s h n a (stories of various devotees; a description of v a r n ā s' r a m a; the six a n g a s of the V e d a; a description of the age of Kali; description of Sveta Varāha K a l p a, Vishnu dharmotara. Varāha K a l p a, Vishnu dharmotara).
3. The Nāradiya or Nārada Purāna
(25.000 verses) is a V a i s h n a v a Purāna presented in a style of dialogue between N ā r a d a and S a n a t - k u m ā r a. This Purāna contains detailed description of major places of pilgrimage (a synopsis of everything; it describes Jagannatha Puri, Dvārakā, Badrinatha, etc. ).
4. The Padma Purāna
(55.000 verses) Contains five parts. In the first part, sage P u l a s t y a explains the essence of religion to B h ī s h m a. The second part contains a description of the earth. Third part contains tales of creation as well as geographical description of India. Fourth part describes the life of Lord R ā m a. In the fifth part, essential knowledge of religion has been discussed in dialogue style between Lord S' i v a and P ā r v a t ī (contains the glory of S ' r ī m a d - B h ā g a v a t a m; the stories of R ā m a, J a g a n n a t h a, M a t s y a, E k ā d a s 'ī, B h r i g u, etc.).
5. The Varāha Purāna
(24.000 verses) contains the tale of rescue of the earth by the A v a t ā r V a r ā h a (boar incarnation) of Lord V i s h n u (describes different vratas; Lord V i s h n u 's glories).
6. The Garuda Purāna (19.000 verses) is about Lord V i s h n u preaching his vehicle, G a r u d a about the subtleties of religion and life. Besides, trivial tales related to religion and moral, this Purāna also contains description of diamond like jewels and the ways to identify best kind of jewels. (subject of B h a g a v a d - g ī t ā; reincarnation; vishnu-sahaasra-nama; description of Tarsya K a l p a .)
The six Brahmā Purānas are:
1. The Vāmana Purāna
(10.000 verses) is the Purāna is entirely devoted to V ā m a n a A v a t ā r a (incarnation) of Lord V i s h n u narrated in dialogue style between the sage P u l a s t y a and the devoted N ā r a d a .
2. The Mārkandeya Purāna
(9.000 verses) begins with a question put forth by sage Jaimini. In reply to this question, sage M ā r k a n d e y a narrates what constitutes the subject matter of this Purāna (Stories of R ā m a and K r i s h n a).
3. Brahmā Purāna
(10.000 verses) Contains two parts - Purva Bhāga and Uttar Bhāga. Purva Bhāga contains tales of creation, description of Lord R ā m a and Lord K r i s h n a. Uttar Bhāga contains a detailed description of Purushottama Tīrtha prominent among all the holy places.
4. Brahma Vaivarta Purāna
(18.000 verses) This Purāna contains four parts. First part contains the tale of creation. Second part contains tales related to goddesses. Third part contains tales related to Lord G a n e s h a. In the fourth part, tales related to the life and plays of Lord K r i s h n a have been given. (Contains the glories and pastimes of R ā d h ā and K r i s h n a).
5. Brahmānda Purāna
(12.000 verses) It is the last of the eighteen Purānas. Presently it is available in different pieces and no connection seems to exist between them. Once, it had contained Aadhyatma Ramāyana. (Describes the v e d a n g a s and the Adi K a l p a).
6. Bhavishya Purāna (14.500 verses): This Purāna contains five parvas (parts). The first part contains description of creation. Second, third and fourth parts contain detailed description of lord S' i v a, Lord V i s h n u and S ū r y a respectively. In the fifth part, description of heaven has been given (Contains the glories of devotional service; prediction of Lord C a i t a n y a). '
The six S'iva Purānas are:
1. Skanda Purāna
(81.100 verses) It is the largest purāna. It is mainly devoted to K ā r t i k e y a (S k a n d a) the son of lord S' i v a and P ā r v a t ī. Besides, it contains a lot of tales related to lord S' i v a and many holy places of pilgrimage devoted prominently to S' i v a.
2. S'iva Mahāpurāna
(24.000 verses) It is also a huge compilation of tales devoted primarily to the life and plays of lord S' i v a. It is divided into seven s a m h i t ā s, which together contain more than twenty-four thousand stanzas.
3. Kūrma Purāna
(17.000 verses) Lord Himself has narrated this Purāna in Kūrma (tortoise) incarnation to N ā r a d a. N ā r a d a narrated it to Sutaji who in his term narrated it to an assembly of great sages (Contains the conversation between K r i s h n a and the Sun-god (mentioned in B h a g a v a d - g ī t ā); D h a n v a n t a r i ; describes the L a k s h m ī K a l p a ).
4. The Matsya Purāna
(14.000 verses) is about the Lord's fish incarnation and the preservation of M a n u and the seeds of all life during the destruction (p r a l a y a) by the M a t s y a a v a t ā r a (Temple construction; describes V ā m a n a and V a r ā h a K a l p a s).
5. The Linga Purāna
(11.000 verses): Preaching about the glory of lord S' i v a en L i n g a worship is the main objective of this purāna. In two parts, this purāna contains tales related to the creation of the universe, origin of the l i n g a, of the V e d a's, lord B r a h m ā, Lord V i s h n u etc. from this l i n g a (Contains the glory of Lord N r i s i m h a d e v a; J a n ā r d h a n a; the story of A m b a r ī s h a M a h ā r ā j a; the glories of G ā y a t r ī).
6. The Agni Purāna (15.400 verses) is devoted to A g n i. It is presented in preaching style by A g n i to sage V a s i s h t h h a. It contains the description of various incarnations of God, Lord R ā m a and K r i s h n a as well as of the earth and stars (Contains the description of Salagrama; describes the Isana K a l p a).'
(see also the site urday.com and alt.hindu).
There are ten characteristics of a Purāna:
- The creation (of this universe, sarga),
- the subsequent creation (of different worlds and beings, visarga),
- the maintenance (the sustenance, the vritti or sthāna),
- and protection (the rakshā or poshana of the living beings),
- the reigns (the m a n v a n t a r a s of the various M a n u s),
- the dynasties (vams'as),
- the narrations about them (vams'a-anucaritam),
- the annihilation (of different kinds, p r a l a y a or samsthā),
- the motivation (of individuality or hetu),
- and the supreme shelter (of the Fortunate One or apās'raya), (see 2.10: 1 and 12.7: 9-10).
- S' r ī l a J ī v a G o s v ā m ī has explained to this that the ten principal topics of S'rīmad-Bhāgavatam are found within each of the twelve c a n t o s. One should not try to assign each of the ten topics to a particular c a n t o. Nor should the S'rīmad-Bhāgavatam be artificially interpreted to show that it deals with the topics successively. The simple fact is that all aspects of knowledge important to human beings, summarized in the ten categories mentioned above, are described with various degrees of emphasis and analysis throughout the S'rīmad-Bhāgavatam (pp. 12.7: 9-10).
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