Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Vyasa divided the Vedas to make them easier for people to learn. It was
to help mankind similarly that he composed the "astadasa Puranas" (the
I regard Vyasa as the first journalist, the ideal for all newspapermen
today. He composed the Puranas and made a gift of that great treasure to
humanity. How have they (the Puranas) benefited us? They encompass
stories, history, geography, philosphy, dharma, the arts. Vyasa's
holds the interest not only of intellectuals but of ordinary people,
the unlettered. Is this not the aim of journalists, holding the interest
the general reader? However, most of them stop with this, exciting the
interest of people or pandering to their taste. But Vyasa had a loftier
purpose: he made the Puranas engrossing with the Purpose of taking the
reader (or listener) to the goal of dharma and the Supreme Being. If
holding the interest of people somehow is their sole objective, the
are likely to propagate subjects or views that are contrary to the
dharma. If journalists keep Vyasa as their forerunner and ideal, their
writing will assume a noble character and contribute to the good of the
Vyasa composed the Puranas in 400, 000 "granthas". A grantha is a stanza
consisting of 32 syllables. Of these the Skanda Purana alone accounts
100, 000. It is perhaps the world's biggest literary work. The remaining
Puranas add up to 300, 000 granthas. Apart from them Vyasa composed
the Mahabharata, also nearly 100, 000 granthas.
Each Purana is devoted to a particular deity. There are Saiva, Vaisnava
and Sakta Puranas. The 18 Puranas: Brahma Purana (Brahma), Padma
Purana (Padma), Narada Purana (Naradiya), Markandeya Purana, Visnu
Purana (Vaisnava), Siva Purana(Saiva), Bhagvata Purana, Agni Purana
(Agneya), Bhavisya Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana,
Varaha Purana (Varaha), Skanda Mahapurana, Vamana Purana, Kurma
Purana (Kaurma), Matsya Purana (Matsya), Garuda Purana (Garuda) and
Our Acarya in his commentry on the "Visnu-Sahasranama" cites many
passages from the Visnu Purana. This Purana, composed by Vyasa's father
Parasara, is an important source of Ramanuja's Visistadavita (qualified
One of the precursors of qualified non-dualism was Alavandar. Ramanuja
wanted to meet him but as he arrived at his place he saw him lying dead.
Alavandar had wanted to entrust Ramanuja with three important tasks.
When he passed away three fingers of his right hand were seen bent in.
Ramanuja understood the meaning of this phenomenon, that he had
three tasks to perform. When he spoke out what they were, the three
fingers unbent. One of the three tasks was to write a commentry on
Brahmasutra from the standpoint of qualified non-dualism. The second
was to do a commentry on the Tiruvaymozhi and the third to perpetuate
the memory of Parasara and Vyasa. As the author of the Visnu Purana,
Parasara occupied a high position. It was with this in mind that
named the two sons of his chief disciple, Kurattazhvar, Parasarabhatta
and Vedavyasabhatta. The first grew up to be an important teacher of
Though Parasara was the original author of the Visnu Purana it was Vyasa
who wrote it in the present form. The sage who had divided the Vedas
now composed the Puranas so that the truths embedded in the Vedas
would make a deep impression on the minds of the common people.
There was also another reason. Not all people have the right to learn
Vedas. It is believed that Vyasa composed the Puranas to enlighten such
people (as have no access to the Vedas) on the scriptural truths.
If Vyasa's father was the author of the original Visnu Purana, his son
Sukracaraya it was who instructed King Pariksit in the Bhagavata. There
a difference of opinion about the Bhagavata, whether the term should
refer to Visnu-Bhagavata or Devi-Bhagavata. The former is devoted to the
incarnations of Visnu, particularly Krsna, while the latter deals with
divine sport of Amba. We need both and both are great works. In the
systems propagated by Caitanya, Nimbarka and Vallabhacarya, the Visnu-
Bhagavata has a place no less important than that of the Vedas. At the
same time, non-dualists who are opposed to their ideas also treat this
Bhagavata with the utmost respect.
Though there is a seperate Siva Purana, three-fourths of the Skanda
Purana is devoted to Siva. It also includes the story Skanda or Muruga.
Kacciyappa Sivacariyar of Kancipuram has written a Kanda Puranam in
Tamil: it is devoted [as the name itself suggests] mainly to Subramanya
Skanda. "Durga-Saptasati" is a part of the markandeya Purana.
in which oblations are made to the goddess Candi, is performed
with the recitation of the 700 stanzas of this hymnal work: each stanza
regarded as a mantra.
"Bhavisya" means the future. The Bhavisya Purana contains many matters
including the evil doings of the age of Kali. In the Puranas, apart from
story of the Mauryas and others rulers, there is also a reference to the
advent of the white man. Critics discount such accounts believing that
they could not have written by Vyasa at the begining of the Kali yuga.
"Somebody must have written them recently. “They argue, “And put the
name of Vyasa to them.” Admittedly, there must be interpolations here
and there in the Puranas but it is not correct to say that the Puranas
all recently written. Men with yogic power can see past, present and
future. Sitting in one spot they can see happenings all over the world.
not easy for people to write works like the Puranas and ascribe their
authorship to the great men of an earlier era.
The Garuda Purana deals with the world of the fathers and related
matters. It is customory to read it during the sraddha ceremony.
"Lalitopakhyana", the story of Lalitambika, occurs in the Brahmanda
Purana, so also the "Lalita-Sahasranama" (The one thousand Names of
Lalita). The reading of the 18 Puranas is to be concluded with this
which contains a description of the coronation of Rajarajesvari.
of the goddess take special pride in this fact.
The Puranas contain many hymns, hymns that include the one hundred
and eight or the one thousand names of various deities. But the "Visnu
Sahasranama" (The one thousand names of Visnu) and the "Siva-
Sahasranama" (The one Thousand Names of Siva) are part of the
Mahabharata. The "Pradosa-stotra" is in the Skanda Purana.