Puranas form the backbone of Indian culture and is the platform on which Sanatan Dharm which is popularly known as Hinduism was built upon. If you ask Indians the source behind their religious beliefs, customs and practices most of them will be linked back to the Puranas.
Puranas cover a wide range of topics including origin and creation of the universe, creation of gods, demi-gods, humans & demons. It includes guidelines for ritual practices to appease the gods and has many references to mythological stories related to the different gods under the pantheon of Hinduism.
Purana literally translates to old or ancient and it is difficult to identify during which time period were they created. Most literary researchers estimate the Puranas to be created about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.
How are Puranas linked to the Vedas?
Vedas are classified as Shruti category of scriptures which basically means that they do not have a defined author and were said to have been passed from the gods to humans. Puranas on the other hand belong to Smriti category of scriptures which means they were created by humans and passed on from generation to generation. Smriti means memory in Sanskrit and it reflects that when Puranas were created written script did not exist and these texts were passed on across generations by memory.
Vedas were considered to be too intricate and complex to be understood by majority of the people. To facilitate sharing of knowledge contained in the Vedas the Puranas were created so more people can benefit by this divine knowledge.
Who Created the Puranas?
Veda Vyasa who is famous for creating the epic Mahabharata is said to have created the Puranas. He had originally created a single consolidated Purana which was called Puranasamhita.
How Many Puranas are There?
The original Puranasamhita created by Vyas was divided into 18 separate Puranas which are Agni, Bhagavata, Brahma Brahmanda, Brahmavaivarta, Garuda Kurma, Linga, Markandeya, Matsya, Narada, Padma, Shiva, Skanda, Vamana, Varaha, Vayu, Vishnu.
These Puranas can be classified as per the main god which they are focused upon:
Brahma Purana, Padma Purana
Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Vayu Purana,
Varaha Purana, Matsya Purana, Bhavishya Purana
Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Varaha Purana, Vamana Purana,
Kurma Purana, Markandeya Purana, Brahmanda Purana
Brahma Vaivarta Purana
These Puranas can vary in size from 9,000 to over 81,000 verses and include diverse range of topics including mythological tales about the gods and deities, astronomy & astrology, geography of India, temples & pilgrimage sites, ethics & code of conduct, procedure for conducting ritual rites and general philosophy.
I will be creating separate posts to cover these Puranas in more details and share some interesting stories in them which I found really memorable.
Om Namah Shivay!