PURANA, literally old, is the naine given to some sacred books of the Hindus. They are eighteen in number, and these have been supplemented by eighteen Upa Puranas or appendices. The eighteen Puranas are— Brahma. Brahma Vaivarta.
Sri Bhagavata. Vamana.
Narada or Naradiya. Kumla.
3Iarkanda or 3Iarkandeya. Matsya.
The names of the Upa Puranas are the Sanat kumara, Nara -sinlia or Nri-siuha, Naradiya or Vrihan (old), Siva, Durvasasa, Kapila, Alanava, Ausanasa, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Saura, Parasara, Aditya, 3Iaheswar, Bhagavata, and Vasislitha. The Puranas are all in Sanskrit verse, and in the form of dialogue between an exponent and an inquirer. The total number of couplets in the entire eighteen is 400,000.
They are all sectarian in their expositions, some of them putting forward the Saiva doctrines, and others advocating the Vaishnava belief.
The Saiva sect claim 10 of the 18 Puranas; but Vishnu holds pre-eminence in the Vishnu, Nara diya, Bliagavata, Garuda, Padma, and Vanilla. Puianas. The Matsya, Kurina, Linga, Siva, Skanda, and Agni Puranas are devoted to Siva; the others, viz. Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma Vaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavishya, and Vamana, chiefly relate to Brahma, though none of these are exclusively devoted to one god.
The Puranas are also classed in three categories, viz. 6 Vaislinava or Sattwa or pure Puranas, are the Vishnu, Naradiya, 13hagavata, Garuda, Padma, and Varaha ; Tamas or Saiva Puranas, in which the quality of gloom or ignorance predominates. are Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Siva, Skauda, and Agni ; 6 in which rajas or passion prevails, Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma Vaivarta, Markan deya, Bhavisliya, and Vamana.
Sectarian bitterness in many of them finds expression. In the last chapter of the Padma or Lotus Purttna is a dialogue, in which it is stated that Siva is licentious, Brahma arrogant, aud Vishnu alone pure and entitled to respect. They indicate the beliefs of the Hindus which followed on those of the Vedas, the Buddhists, and the Jains; but that of Siva has been supposed to be a revival of an ancient deity of Western Asia, and with that of Vishnu, as Krishna, some of the Christian doctrines are supposed to have been amalgamated.
It is believed that none of them arc earlier than the CtIt or 8th century of the Chriatian era, and that they were composed by different autlinra between the Gth and 13th or 1Gth centuriea. Pro fessor \Vitriol' thinks that the Vishnu Purana wss composed about the middle of the Ilth century aftt r Clink, and that the Illutgavata Parana ia later. The Brahma Pitrana, called ' Adi' or the first, haa a reference to the temples of .1nganatli in Orista. No part of the Padma Puma is older than die 12th century, and the last parts; ntay be sui recent rut the 15th or 16th century of the preaent era. The Vaya Purana is the °bleat of them, and may date as far back as the Gth century, and it is clahned by some Saiva authorities as upholding the belief in Siva. The Vishnu is best knot% ; the Markandeya is the least sectarian ; Vishnu and his incarnations occupy the largest space ; and the Bhagavata, which describea the incarna tions of Viahnu, and particularly with Ida form as Krishna, is the inost popular. It ia, however, in the Bliagavata, or 18th of the Puranas or old books, in which Krishna is described in hia com plete apotheosis, and in that he is represented as the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
Colebrooke and Wilson ascribe the authorship of the Srimat Bhagavata to Bop-deva in the 13th century A.D., after the appearance of the Vishnu Purana. The native tradition is strongly against this hypothesis. Babu Rajendralal Mitra, a dis tinguished oriental scholar, in noticing the Mukta pliala, says, ' This work and another lately found by me, in which the same author gives an abstract of the contents of the Bhagavata, afford strong presumptive evidence against the opinion now generally received by oriental scholars, that the I3hagavata was written by Bop-deva.' A much stronger proof, however, is afforded by the Dana sagara of Ballala Sena, king of Bengal. in which the Bhagavata is repeatedly quoted. That work also quoted from the Adi Purana, which Wilson supposed was composed within the last three centuries. Bop-deva, according to Colebrooke and Wilson, flourished in the twelfth turd thirteenth 'centuries ; Ballala lived in the eleventh century.