Over-view of Ashtaadasa (eighteen) Puranas

Brahma ‘Maanasa Putra’ Maharshi Marichi approached Lord Brahma to describe the ‘beeja’ (seed), ‘lakshana’ (characteristic), ‘pramaana’ (means of knowledge / contents), ‘vakta’         (Acharya) and ‘shrota’ ( the Listener) of the main line Puranas which provide the knowledge of the ‘Charaachara Jagat’ or the moveable and immoveable Universe. Among all the ‘Kalpas’, there actually was stated to be one Single Purana comprising one hundred crore ‘Shlokas’ (stanzas) with the ‘Four Purusharthas’ of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Mokshas as the ‘bijas’; but Bhagavan Vishnu created Vyasa Muni in each Yugas and the latter in turn condensed the Single Purana with only four lakh Shlokas and distributed it among Eighteen Puranas with varied number of Shlokas among these.

In fact, it is stated that the Single Mother Purana continues to be in position in the Deva Lokas. The four-lakh shlokas are sub-divided among the Eighteen Puranas viz. Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, Bhagavat Purana, Narada Purana, Markandya Purana, Agni Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Linga Purana, Varaaha Purana, Skanda Purana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana, Matsya Purana, Garuda Purana and Brahmaanda Purana.

Mahatma Vyas first produced Brahma Purana with the underlying message of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha and ten thousand ‘Shlokas’. This Purana described about the creation of Devatas, Asuras and Prajapatis like Daksha; about the ‘Vamsa’ (clan) of Bhagavan Surya; the incarnation of Lord Vishnu viz. Shri Rama and of the Epic of Ramayana; about Chandra Vamsa and of another incarnation of Vishnu viz. Shri Krishna; description of ‘Sapta Dwipas’ as also of ‘Bhugola’, the higher lokas and of the Lower Lokas of ‘Pataala’; about the activities in ‘Narakas’; Daksha Yagna and Parvati’s wedding with Maha Deva. In the ‘Uttara Bhaaga’ of the Purana, ‘Tirtha Yatras’ were detailed with special reference to Purushotthama Kshetra; ‘Ashrama Dharmas’ were highlighted and Principles of ‘Vaishnava Dharma’, Yoga / Shankhya Siddhanta, and ‘Brahmavaada Digdarshana’ were explained. The Purana’s ‘Vakta’ was Suta Maha Muni and the ‘Shrota’was Shaunaka Muni. Its ‘pramana’ and ‘lakshanas’are of ‘Bhoga’ (Worldly Pulls and Pressures) while the principal objective is ‘Moksha’. Even reading or listening to the ‘Anukramanika’or the Contents of the Purana would result in the control of ‘Indriyas’or physical and internal organs, while its reading or hearing of it on a Vaishakha Purnima by honouring a Brahmana with Bhojan, and charities especiallyof a cow and gold ornament would assure attainment of Brahma loka.
Padma Purana has five ‘khandas’ symbolising ‘Panchendriyas’wherein Maharshi Pulastya delineated to Bhishma the details in ‘Srishti Khanda’of Creation of Brahma as well as  by Brahma of  Eight Vasus, Eleven Rudras, Twelve Adityas, Forty Nine Maruganas, Fourteen Manus, Sapta Rishis and Pitras and so on besides of Pushkara and other Tirthas, Brahma Yagna, Veda paath lakshanas, Pitraas and Shraaddha Vidhana. In ‘Bhumi Khanda’, Pitru Bhakti and the illustration of Shiva Sharma were cited; Vritrraasura vadha; Prudhu / Vena and Sunita’s tales, the interesting examples of Nahuha, Yayati, Chyavana Muni and Parrot Kunjal, Significancre of Tirthas etc. too were covered. ‘Swarga Khanda’, was about Tirtha Yatras especially to the neighbouring places of Narmada, Kurukshetra, Kalindi, and Kashi, In ‘Patalala Khand’, the highlights were of Ramayana and Krishaayana, while Bhagavad Gita Mahatmya and of the rest of Avataaraas of Vishnu were vividly depicted in ‘Uttara Khanda’. Veneration of a Brahmana on a Jyeshtha Purnima with Bhojan and daanaas bestows the fruits of reading, hearing and meditating of Padma Purana.

Vishnu Purana comprising twenty three thousand ‘Shlokas’ is considered as a demolisher of past and present sins. The naarator of the Purana was Shakti Nandan Muni Parashara and the ‘Shrota’ was Maharshi Maitraya. In the ‘Poorva Bhaaga’, six major ‘Amshas’ or aspects were covered of which the First Amsha concerned with ‘Adi karana Sarga (Primary Creation), ‘Devotpatthi’, ‘Samudra Madhana’, narratives of Dhruva, Pruthu, Praachatesa, and Prahlada. The Second ‘Amsha’ described the account of Priyavrata who demarcated the Earth into Sapta Dwipas; depiction of the under-sea worlds of Pataala etc. as also of Seven Swargas; the movements of ‘Grahas’Planets), ‘Bharata charitra’, ‘Mukti Marga Nidarshana’ etc. The third Amsha referred to Manvantyaras, importance of Karma kanda, Shraddhas etc. Portrayal of Surya vamsha and Chandra Vamsha Kings was attempted in the fourth Amsha. In the Fifth Amsha, vivid accounts were given on Shri Krishna’s childhood ‘leelaas’, youthful acts of ‘Dushta Sikshana’ and ‘Sishta Rakshana’, his weddings, overnight transfer of the residents of Mathura to Dwarakaa etc. A picture of Kali Yuga, four kinds of Pralayas and Gyanopadesha of Brahma Tatwa were the underscores of the Sixth Amsha. In the ‘Uttara Bhaga’ of Vishnu Purana, Suta Maha Muni gave narrations to Shounaka Muni concerning various chronicles on Dharma titled ‘Vishnu Dharmottaraas’such as Punya Vratas, Yama-Niyamas, Dharma Shastra, Artha Shastra, Vedanta, Jyotisha, Vamsha Varna Prakarana, Stotras, Mantras and all other ‘Sadhanas’(means). This Vishnu Purana tries to cover all significant ‘Siddhantas’ of Shastras which Veda Vyasa considered fit for attaining Moksha. Those who read or hear the Vishnu Purana with reverence and earnestness would both secure the ‘Ihika’ or Worldly and ‘Amushmika’ or Other Worldy desires most certainly. If a devotee would write down or get it transcribed by others and donate a cow to a Vishnu Bhakta Brahmana on a Purnima of Ashadha Month would be readily qualified for Vishnu Loka after the end of his/her life!Even a mere perusal of the Contents of Vishnu Purana would help with encouraging results.

With twenty four thousand Shlokas scripted into it by Vayu Deva himself, the Vayu Purana yields the fruits of propitiousness by its reading, or having it read. Comprising two parts of ‘Poorva’ and ‘Uttara’, the Purana gives an effective delineation of the means of obtaining Salvation. In the Poorva Bhagaa, the features of Sarga (Creation) are vividly expressed, besides the descriptions of the different ‘Manvantaras’ and Kingships especially of Gayasura and of his extermination. The significance of ‘Masaas’ has been discussed, declaring that the month of ‘Maagha’ as the best. ‘Daana Dharmas’ and ‘Raja Dharmas’ have been dilated at length. Also, narrations about Prithvi, Pataal, Dishas and Aakaash have been made in some detail in the Poorva Bhaaga.The Uttara Bhaaga of the Vayu Purana contains ‘Shiva Samhita’ and is fully depictive of the Sacred River of Narmada and surroundings. It is stated that this River was materialised from Bhagavan Shiva’s Body and was the confluence of Brahma and Vishnu too. It is further stated that the northern bank of Narmada comprised the devotees of Rudra and the southern bank of the River by Vishnu Bhakas. From the famed Omkareshwara Kshetra towards the west leading to the Sea, there are as many as thirty five ‘Sangamas’ of which  eleven are positioned on the nothern bank and twenty three on the southern bank; the thirtyfifth sangam is said to be at the Maha Sangam of Narmada and the Sea. In fact, there are as many as four hundred Tirthas on either side of the banks including those at the Sangamas, although there really were stated to have existed sixty crore and odd dotting along the River lines! Those who write the Vayu Purana in full and donate a cow alongwith jaggery on Sravana Purnima to a Vedic Brahmana and his family would reside in Rudra Loka during the ensuing fourteen Indratvas.

Brahma Deva informed Maricha Maha Muni about the excellence of Shrimad Bhagavata Purana which had eighteen thousand Shlokas and assured that it was like a ‘Kalpa Vriksha’ with twelve branches represented by each ‘Skanda’or Chapter. Veda Vyasa was the author of the Purana and ‘shrotas’ or listeners were several. The Opening Skanda, as reported by Suta Maha Muni to a congregation headed by Shounaka Muni, dealt with King Parithkshit’s request to Suka Muni, the illustrious son of Veda Vyasa, to preach as much knowledge of Dharma and awareness of the Supreme Power as possible within a week’s time since the King was cursed by Samika Rishi’s son that Parikshit would die within a week due to snake bite; the King did the indescretion of hanging a dead serpent around the neck of the Muni who was in Tapasya.The second Skanda explained the concept of the Gross and Minute manifestations of Paramatma, the analysis of ‘Maha Tatwas’- the Causes of ‘Srishti’(Creation). The third Skanda described the dialogues between Vidura of Maha Bharata fame and Maharshi Maitreya about the procedure of Creation by Brahma as well as of Kapila Maharshi’s narrative of Sankhya Yoga. The fourth Skanda depicted the process of ‘Visarga’(Secondary Creation) and referred to the Stories of Devi Sati and Daksha Yagna, of Dhruva, King Prutha all in the context of Manus and Prajapatis and happenings during these time-frames. The fifth Skanda covered the history of Prajapati Priyavrata and progeny, demarcation of Sapta Dwipas, description of Planets and Narakas etc.The sixth Skanda covered the Story of the illustrious Brahmana called Ajamila, Daksha Prajapati’s creation, the termination of Vritrasura and creation of Marudganas. Prahlada charitra and varnashrama dharma as also the’dos’ and don’t’s by way of ‘Karma’ were discussed in the seventh Skanda. Gajendra Moksha, Samudra mathana, King Bali and his control through Vishnu’s Avatara as Vamana and Matsyavatara were described in the Ashtama Skanda. The Ninth Skanda dealt with Surya vamsha and Chandra vamsha Kings. The Tenth and Eleventh Skandas depicted the totality of Krishna’s Avatar covering the Bala Leelas, escapades of Youth, extermination of Adharma and revival of Dharma, Happenings at Dwaraka, his extraordinary role on Bharata Battle, Prabhasa Kshetra, Udbhava Geeta and the end of Yadu Vamsha. The final and the Twelfth Skanda described the accounts of subsequent Kings, the end of Parikshit, Markandeya Tapasya, the magnificence of Surya Deva and winding up by Suta Maha Muni by the aspects of Moksha prapti. Those desirous of higher achievements of Bhakti would do well by organising Maha Bhagavata ‘Pathana’/ ‘Pravachana’ and ‘Shravana’ by a virtuous Brahmana on Bhadrapada Purnima and perform ‘Puja’to the Vakta along with Suvarna Daana/ Vastra daana.

Narada Purana comprised twenty five thousand Shlokas based on Brihad Kalpa Katha. Narrated by Suta Maha Muni to Shounaka Muni, the Purana was basically conceived by Brahmarshi Narada himself but preached by Sanaka Brothers to Narada. The earlier part of the Purana dealt with ‘Pravritti Dharma’ and the second part was devoted to ‘Moksha Dharma’. Sanandana described at length the Six Vedangaas as Moksha Sadhanas and about the illustration of Suka Deva in this context. The Third Part gave ‘Upadeshas’ to Narada by Sanat Kumara about ‘Pashu paasha vimoksha’ and Mantras concerning major Deities, Diksha, Puja procedures, Stotras etc. The fourth Part provided details of tithi-wise and Maasa-wise Vratas as also an Index of ‘Ashtadasha Puranas’. The ‘Uttara Bhaga’ of the Purana gave details of Ekadasha Vratas, Vasishtha-Mandhata Samvada, King Rukmanga and Mohini, curse to Mohini, her revival and her exposure to Tirtha Yatras. Sincere study and ‘shravana’ of the Purana on Ashwin Purnima followed by Puja to a Brahmana with daanas of seven cows, clothing and so on would surely pave the way to Salvation.

Markandeya Purana has nine thousand Shlokas and the various ‘Dharma Sandehas’ or doubts related to the practice of Virtue-oriented Principles raised by the Sage Jaimini to Mahatma Markandeya were referred by the latter to Holy Birds, who were the sons of Sage Vipulaswan viz. Sukrish and Thumbaru in their past life; the Muni cursed the sons to turn as birds as they refused his instruction to be eaten by Indra who appeared as a bird and demanded human flesh at the Muni’s Yagna. Sage Jaimini’s doubts were cleared by the Holy Birds as to why Devi Draupadi consented to marry all the Pandava brothers, why Bala Rama had to atone for the sin of ‘Brahmahatya’and why were the defenceless sons of Draupadi killed by Ashvatthaama, the learned son of Dronaacharya. Having been satisfied by the replies of the Birds, Sage Jaimini sought to be enlightened by several other topics related to the exemplary Harischandra who stood firm to follow Dharma and Satya; the rivalry of Sages Vasishtha and Vishwamitra resulting in mutual curses to become birds; the story of the better enlightened ‘Jatismara’ Sumati with the knowledge of previous birth than his father Mahamati and the son’s ‘pravachana’or teachings about the aftermath of life, its recyclings, classification of hells and their experiences; retributions and rewards of human deeds; the great examples of Kaushiki and Anasuya as Pativratas; the Story of Dattatreya and Kartaveeryarjuna; King Alarka and Queen Mother Madalasa, Yoga Siddhis, the Accounts of Fourteen Manus; Devi Mahatmya and Surya Deva Mahatmya/ Surya Vamsha headlights. Those who read, hear and annotate the Purana and pay reverences to a virtuous Brahmana on a Kartika Purnami day by gifting a golden ‘Pratima’ with an enbossed elephant would qualify  Shiva Loka.

Agni Purana was addressed by Agni Deva himself to Sage Vasishta through fifteen thousand Shlokas describing Ishaana-Kalpa. It provided an account of ‘Dashavataras’at length followed by Agni Karyas, Mantras, DikshaVidhanas and Abhishekas. Then the details of Mandala Lakshanas, Devalaya vidhi, Shalagrama puja, Deva Pratishtha, Bhugola and Khagola Varnana, Shatkarmas, Yantra, Mantra, Shat prakara Nyasa, Koti homa vidhi, shraaddha vidhi, Griha Yagnas, Shrouta Smaarta Karmas; Maasa-Tithi- Vaara-Nakhatra Vratas; Sandhya / Gayatri Vandana; Rajyabhisheka vidhi; Swapna/ Shakuna phalas; various Shant Mantras and Procedures; Dhanur vidya, Ayurveda, Yoga and  Vedangas like Vyakarana, Chhandas, Sahitya, Jyotisha etc. Agni Purana Vachana, Pathana, Manana and Lekhana-hearing, reading, cogitating, and writing- on Margasirsha Purnima and daana of ‘pratimaas’/ idols of golden lotus and cow with tilas would yield the ‘Punya’to secure fulfillment of desires in ‘Iham’ or the on-going life and ‘Param’ / Swarga Prapti thereafter.
Bhavishya Purana which contained fourteen thousand Shlokas was originally recited by Brahma to Narada to Veda Vyasa to his disciple Sage Sumantu. The Purana is divided into five Parts viz. ‘Brahma Parva’, ‘Vaishnava Parva’, ‘Shaiva Parva’, ‘Soura Parva’and ‘Prati Sarga Parva’.The highlights of the Purana are Sacred Rites, Varnashrama Dharmas, Vratas including Ganesh Chaturthi, Naga Panchami, Skanda Shashthi, Ratha Saptami, Suryoraadhana, Agni Homa vidhi, over-view of Yugas, Satya Narayana Vrata; the advent of Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad, Revival efforts of Hindu Dharma, Shankara and Ramanuja Acharyas, Mughal Empire, Victoria and  British Rule and finally various Vratas in prevalence. Veneration to the Purana is best done by reading, writing and Pravachana on Pousha Purnima and paying respects to learned Brahmanas along with daanas of gold ornaments, clothing and bhojan.

Brahma Vaivarta Purana scripted by Veda Vyasa consisted of eighteen thousand Shlokas and divided into four ‘Khandaas’ viz. Brahma Khanda, Prakriti Khanda, Ganesha Khanda and Shri Krishna Khanda; it underlined the identity of Shiva and Vishnu. In fact Narada prayed to Bhagavan Saavarni and the fact of one-ness of Shiva and Vishnu was over-emphasised. Addressing the congregation of Munis, Suta Maha Muni commenced with ‘Srishti Varnana’, Origin of Vishnu from the body of Shri Krishna, background of Radha, Gopas and Gopikas, and Creation of animate and inanimate beings. In Prakriti Khanda, the Mahatmyas of Devis Durga, Radha, Lakshmi and Sarasvati were given; besides narrations of and Savitri Satyavan, Surabhi, Swaha and Sudha, Surata, Ganga Mahatmya, Ramayana and worship of Lakshmi. In Ganesha Khanda, the supremacy of Ganesha was extolled at length, besides covering the accounts of Jamadagni, Parashurama, and Kartaveeryarjuna. Shri Krishna Khanda was totally devoted to Krishna’s childhood leelaas, his youth and romantic accounts, his adventures in destroying evil forces and saving the virtuous, his key role on the context of Maha Bharata etc. This Sacred Purana is highly worthy of reading, concising, writing and worshipping especially on Magha Puranami. Charity to a Vidwan by way of Pratyaksha Godaan would grant the donor with Brahmaloka praapti and cotentment as long as one lived on Earth.

Highlighting Bhagavan Shiva’s extraordinary magnificence, Linga Purana was written by Veda Vyasa but as conceived by Maha Deva Himself with some eleven thousand ‘shlokas’. At the commencement of the Purana, Creation of Universe was depicted followed by ‘yogaakhyaan’ and ‘kalpaakyaan’. ‘Linga pradurbhaav’ (emergence of Linga) and procedure of worship was explained later on. Subsequently, the Story of Muni Dadhichi, exposition of ‘Yuga Dharma’, description of ‘Bhuvana kosha’ or the World, as also details of Surya Vamsha and Chandra Vamsha were scripted. This was followed by the depiction of ‘Linga Pratishtha’or formal set-up of Linga with Mantras as also the discussion of ‘Pashu-paasha vimokshana’ or salvation of human bondage. The topics of Shiva Vrata, ‘Sadaachara’, ‘prayaschitta’and ‘Shrishaila’ Temple visit were also covered. The destruction Andhakasura and Jalandhara were described as also the ‘Avataras’ of Vishnu as Varaha and Nrisimha. The devastation of ‘Daksha Yajna’, the blazing of Manmadha and the wedding of Shiva and Parvati were covered. The sacred ‘Shiva Sahasrtanaamaas’were rendered, besides description of Ganesha Mahatmya and Shiva Tandava. In the Uttariya Bhaga, the Vishnu and Shiva Mahatmyas were given. Then followed the coverages of Snaana, Yaaga, daana, Shraaddha and Shiva Puja ‘Mahimas’. Pratishthaapana mantras, Aghora kirtana, Vajresdwara Maha Vidya, Gayatri Mahima, Triambika Mahatmya and such other topics too got extensive coverage.Those Shiva Bhaktas who would read, reproduce, reflect and render the most auspicious Linga Purana on any day but most certainly on Phalguna Purnima day would certainly yield considerable returns. If these deeds are accompanied by charity of ‘tila dhenu’ (cow) either as a Pratima or better still in a live form would definetely accomplish ‘Shiva Sayujya’.

Varaha Purana scripted by Veda Vyasa with twenty four thousand stanzas divided into two Parts and was dominated by high Vishnu-consciousness. Initiated with a conversation between Bhagavan Varaha and Devi Prithvi, the Purana covered the exemplary devotion displayed by Kings Priyavrata, Ashwasira, and Vasuas well as Sages like Raibhya and Gomukh. After ‘Shraddha’ Kalpa, accounts of concerned Deities governing specified days were described for instance Agni on Pratipada, Aswini Kumars on Dwitiya, Devi Gauri on Triteeya, Ganesha on Chaturthi, Naga Devatas on Panchami, Kartikeya on Shashthi, Surya Deva on Saptami, Ashta Matrikas on Ashtami, Durga on Navami, ‘Dasa Dishas’ on Dashami, Dwadasi on Vishnu and ten incarnations, Dharma Purusha on Trayodasi, Chaturdasi on Rudra Deva, Amavasya on Pitaras, and Moon on Purnima. Then various ‘Vratas’, ‘Daanas’, and Tirtha Yatras/ Punya Khestras were discussed in the Purana. The portrayal of Bhu Devi’s rescue from the clutches of demon Hiranyaksha by Varaha Murti, which indeed was the main Subject matter of the Purana, was described very effectively.The Purana was indeed the Kalpa Vriksha of Vratas and Tirtha Yatras aside from ‘Daana Mahimas’. Its veneration on Chaitra Purnima with its reading, writing, and memorising contents, along with ‘daana’ of a golden ‘Garuda’ should help secure Vaikuntha to Bhaktas.

The largest and one of the most popular of Puranas which was dominated by Bhagavan Shiva viz. the Skanda Purana also called as Kartika Purana has eighty one thousand Shlokas, divided by Veda Vyasa into Seven ‘Khandas’viz. Maheswara Khanda, Vishnu Khanda, Brahma Khanda, Kasi Khanda, Avantya Khanda, Nagara Khanda and Prabhasa Khanda. A bird’s eye-view of the entire Purana includes Kedara Mahatmya, Daksha Yagna, Shiva Linga Puja, Samudra Mathana, Shiva-Parvati’s wedding, birth of Skandha, carnage of Tarakasura, Panchalinga Sthapana, Appearance of Maha Kaal, significance of various Tirthas like Arunaachala, Venkataachala, Purushottama Kshetra, Badari Kshetra; of the months of Kartika, Margashira and Vaishakha; and of the Mahatmya of Ayodhya, Rameswara, and Dharmaranya, Kashi, Avanti, Prabhhasa and Dwaraka; Shiva Mantra-Shiva Ratri-Shiva Pradosha and Shiva Kavacha etc. Perhaps the best coverage of Tirthas all over Bharat was attempted in Skanda Purana. Those who reproduce the entire Skanda Purana as scripted by Veda Vyasa and gift it to a deserving Vedic Pandita along a golden ‘Trishul’(Trident) on a Magha Purnima day should indeed be blessed with ‘Shivaloka prapti’.

Containing ten thousand ‘Shlokas’Vamana Purana was originally conceived by Maharshi Pulasthya and advised Narada about it and the latter passed it on to Veda Vyasa, while Vyasa imparted it to his disciple Romaharshana with the instruction of reciting it at the congregation of Munis at Naimisharanya headed by Maha Muni Shaunaka. This Purana has two Parts; the former Part opened with the coverage of slitting Brahma’s fifth head, Kapala mochana and destruction of Daksha Yagna. The subsequent contents included ‘Madana Dahana’, Prahlada-Narayana battle, the big conflict of Devas and Danavas, the Story of Sukeshi and Surya, Kaamya Vrata, Durga Charitra, Tapati Charitra, Kurukshetra, the birth of Parvati, the wedding of Tapati, the Stories of Gauri, Kaushiki, Kumara, and Jabala; Siva’s battle with and killing of Andhakasura and former’s request to Shiva to provide him with full-fledged Ganatwa; birth of Marudganaas; the tales of King Bali, Lakshmi, Trivikrama etc. In the ‘Uttara Bhaaga’, there are four ‘Samhitas’ pertaining to Maaheswari, Bhagavati, Souri, and Jnaneswari. In the MaaheswariSamhita, there was a vivid description of Shri Krishna and his devotees. In the Bhagavati Samhita, Jagadamba’s delineation was provided, while in the Souri Samhita, Bhagavan Surya’s Mahatmya was explained from the view point of destruction of sins. In the Ganeswari Samhita, there were the significant explanations about the extraordinary powers of Ganesha and Bhagavan Shankara. Reproduction of the text of Vamana Purana during ‘Sharat kaala’ and perform ‘ghrita dhenu’daana would redeem ‘Pitras’from ‘narakas’to Swarga and the devotee himself would reach ‘Vishnupada’after his end of life.

Kurma Purana with seventeen thousand ‘Shlokas’divided into four Samhitas was essentially a Vishnu dominated ‘Grandha’ of great significance. Brahma introduced this Purana to Maharshi Marichi about several Principles of Virtue targetting the attainment of the Four Purusharthas of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. In the ‘Poorva Bhaaga’of the Purana there were covrages of Bhagavan Kurma and Maharshi’s conversation, Varnaashrama Principles, Creation of Universe, outline of the method of ‘Kaala Sankhya, Shankara Charitra, Parvati Sahasra naama, Yoga, Bhrigu Vamsha, Creation of Swayamshu Manu and lineage, Dahsha Yagna and its destruction, Daksha Srishti, Muni Kashyapa and progeny, Atri Vamsha, Shri Krishna-Markandeya Samvad (conversation), Vyasa-Pandava Samvad, Yuga dharmas, Mahatmya of Kasi and Prayaga, and the effectiveness of ‘Vaidika Shaakhaa’ or the Following of Veda practioners.In the ‘Uttara Bhaaga’of the Purana, there were the Ishwariya Gita and Vyasa-Gita, and Instructions on Dharmic Principles. This was followed by ‘Brahma Samhita’ covering ‘Prati Sarga’or Universal Destuction and Renewal. In ‘Bhagavati Samhita’, there are five Parts, the first four Parts being devoted to the four Varnas of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras and their respective duties; the fifth Varna viz. of ‘sankara’ or mixed origin was also prescribed of duties by following so that the persons concerned might be shifted to higher levels in future births. The third Samhita called ‘Souri Samhita’ which teaches ‘Shat-karma bodha’ and the Fourth one entitled ‘Vaishnavi Samhita’ is a Guide to accomplishing ‘Moksha’. This Purana is an excellent exposition of the established Principles of Dharma and a comprehensive Guide to the pure and devout Hindus seeking ‘Uttama Gati’ or the most appropriate Route to Salvation. This Sacred Purana is best read, heard and written on a day of Solar Movement from Southern direction to Northern (Uttaraayana day) or vice versa called Dakshinaayana and give away charity of a golden ‘Kurma’ to a Vedic Brahmana.

Matsya Purana again scripted by Veda Vyasa over fourteen thousand ‘Shlokas’ commenced with the discussion between Matsya Deva and Manu, and continued with description of Brahmanda (Universe), Creation of Brahma, Devas, Asuras; emergence of Marud Ganaas, Manvantaras, King Pruthu, Creation of Surya and Vaivaswata Muni, Pitru Vamsha, Shraadhha kaal, creation of Soma and his vamsha, King Yayati, Kaartaveeryaarjuna, Bhrigu’s curse, Vishnu’s ten incarnations, Praise of Puru Vamsha, Hutaashana Vamsha, Nakshatra Vrata, Purusha Vrata, Martandashayana Vrata, Kishnaashtami Vrata, Ananata Triteeya Vrata etc. besides Graha Shanti, Shiva Chaturdahi, Sarva Phala tyaaga, Sankrasti Snaan, Shashthi Vrata Mahatmya, Snaana Vidhi, Antariksha gamana, Dhruva Mahima,  Shreshtha Pitara Mahima, Shiva-Parvati wedding, Kartika’s birth, Tarakaasura’s extermination, the Story of Nrisimha, Vaaranasi / Narmada Mahatmya, Vaastu Vidya, Deva Mandira Nirmaana, future Kings etc. This highly virtuous Purana is conducive to excellent health, extension of life, securing fame and name, and fulfillment of wishes. Pathana, Shravana, Lekhana, Manana and Kirtana of this Purana as well as daana of a golden Pratima of Matsya to an erudite Brahmana also with Go-daana at ‘Vishuva Yoga’ would result in ‘Vishnu dhaama praati’.

Garuda Purana was Vishnu Deva’s sermon to Mahatma Garuda, as conveyed by Brahma to Maharshi Marichi and it contained nineteen thousand ‘Shlokas’. At the beginning of the Purana in the ‘Purva Bhaaga’, there was brief introduction of ‘Srishti’and was followed by the Puja of Surya Deva and other Deities, Diksha Vidhi or procedure of assuming Diksha or disciplined way of life; Shraadda Puja, Nava Vyuha Puja, Vaishnava Panjara, Yogaadhyaaya, Vishnu Sahasra naama kirtana, Vishnu Dhyaana, Surya Puja, Mrityunjaya Puja, Maalaa Mantra, Gopala Puja, Trailokya mohana Shridhara Puja, Vishnu-Archa, Pancha Tatwaarcha, Deva Puja, Sandhyopaasana, Durgaarchana, Maheswara Puja, Sarva Deva Pratishtha, Ashtaanga Yoga, Daanadharma, Praayaschitta vidhi, Naraka varnana, Jyotisha, Saamudrika Shastra, Swara Jnaana, Nutana Ratna pariksha, Tirtha Mahaatmya, Gaya Mahatmya, Pitaropaakhyaana, Varna Dharma, Ashrama, Preta shuddhi, Niti Shastra, Vratha katha (story), Surya/Chandra Vamsha, Shrihari Avataara katha, Ramayana, Hari Vamsa, Bhaaraataakhyana, Ayurveda, Chikitsa, Dravyaguna, Roga naashakaVishnu Kavacha, Garuda Kavacha, Traipura Mantra, Prashna chudaamani, Vyakarana, Chhanda, Tarpana, Bali Vaishva Deva, Sandhya, Paarvana Karma, Nitya Shaaddha, Sapindana, Dharmasaara, Praayaschittha (atonement of sins), karma phala, Yogashastra, Vishnu Bhakti, Nrisimha Stotra,  Vishnvarchana stotra, Vedanta / Saankhya siddhanta, Brahma Gyana, Atmaananda, and Geetaasaara. The Uttara Khanda starts off with Preta Kalpa varnana. Asked about Dharma, Bhagavan Vishnu explained about the route to ‘Urthwa lokas’ or the higher destinations and the performance well defined acts of Virtue including Shodasa Shraaddhas, ‘daanaas’etc. Then were scripted the route to Yamaloka, the wretched experiences on way, ‘Preta’s’ features, ‘sapindikarana’, ‘pretatwa mukti’, the erstwhile deeds of help rescuing the Preta from various torments, Yama loka varnana, determination of sins or good deeds, effectiveness of follow-up deeds by progeny performing the rites after the death under reference, Madhya shodasda shraaddha, proactive deeds to enable ‘swarga prapti’ of the deceased, ‘sutaka dina sankhya’or the number of ‘Asuchi’ depending on the relationship to the deceased, Narayana bali karma, Vrishotsarga Mahatmya, Nishidha karma tyaga, criteria for Swarga Prapti, etc. The Purana also gives accounts of the seven under worlds, five upper worlds as also of Brahmanda Charitra, Pralayas, ever-repetitive cycles of birth and deaths etc. Reading, writing, hearing, thinking and imagining of post-life experiences of the contents of Purana during ‘Vishuva’ Yoga time along with charity of a golden swan to a Brahmana would help reduce the severity of sins.

Brahmanda Purana with twelve thousand ‘Shlokas’ has four Parts titled ‘Prakriya paada’, ‘Anushanga paada’, ‘Upodghata paada, and ‘Upa samhaara paada’. The first two Paadaas are considered as ‘Purvi Bhaga’ and the latter two as ‘Uttari Paada’. The Prakriya paada narrrates Instructions on Duties, description of ‘Naimisha’or the popular Forest Place of the Congregation of Rishis, Creation of Hiranyagarbha, formation of Lokas, etc.The Second Part gives a picture of Kalpas and Manvantaras, Lokagyana, Creation of human beings, Creation by Rudra, Rishi Sarga, Agni Vijaya, Kaala sadbhaava, Priyavrata’s vamsha, Prithvi’s length and breadh, Bharata Varsha, Sapta Dwipas, the under-world of seven regions like Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Patala etc; Bhurbhuvah like upper Lokas, details of Grahas (Planets) and their features, Adityavyuha’s description, Devagraha anukeertana, the incident of how Shiva became ‘Neela Kantha’, Amavasya varnana, Yuga tatwa, Yana pravartana, features of human beings as per Yugas, Rishi pravara varnan, Swayambhu Manu’s details, the chronicle of the rest of Manus, etc. In the ‘Upodghaata Paada’, there are the detyails of Sapta Rishis, Prajapatis, Marudganaas, Kashyapa’s progeny, Rishi Vamsha, Pitru Kalpa, Shraadha Kalpa, emergence of Vaiwaswata Muni, the lineage of Manus, Ikshvaku Vamsha, Atri Vamsha, Amaavasu Vamsha, the tale of Yayati, Yadu Vamsa, Kaartaveerya, Parashu Rama, Vrishni Vamsha, Sagara charitra, Krishnaavataara, Bali Vamsha, and depiction of future Kings on the Earth. In the Uttara Bhaaga of the Brahmaanda Purana, there are descriptions of Upasamhaara Paada including ‘Pralaya’ (The Great Dissolution), Time measurements, account of Fourteen ‘Bhuvanas’/ worlds, sins and the resultant hells, practice of virtue and attainment of ‘Shiva dhaam’.

Who should read Puranas! Lord Brahma told Maharshi Marichi that basically Bhagavan Vishnu bestowed a Single Purana to him which was of the volume of crores of Shlokas; Brahma passed on to Vasishtha Maharshi who in turn gave away to Parasara Muni and the latter pronounced it aloud and Vayu Deva carried it to Veda Vyasa. Vyasa selected only four lakh stanzas and disrtibuted these among Eighteen Puranas. These were sketched for ‘Loka Kalyan’ and even these highly abridged versions are apparently tough to digest. It is believed that a person who could read, hear, reproduce, annotate and assimilate all the Eighteen Puranas in full as written by Veda Vyas should have no rebirth into this ‘Samsara’once again. Besides, this kind of ideal person, should practise the Sacred Principles enunciated among them. In any case, the contents of any or all Puranas should not be preached to a ‘daambhik’ (vainglorious), ‘Paapaachari’ (sinful), unbearable of Devas, Gurus and the Virtuous and to ‘shath’ (stubborn) persons. Only those who are self-controlled, matured, good-featured and God-fearing should be specially invited and inspired to inculcate interest in the Puranas and their contents.

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