Puranas (book)

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The Puranas (devanāgarī: पुराण purāṇa, literally "ancient, old") is a vast genre of Indian literature about a wide range of topics, particularly myths, legends and other traditional lore. Composed primarily in Sanskrit, but also in regional languages, several of these texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. The Puranas genre of literature is found in both Hinduism and Jainism.

There are 18 Maha Puranas (Great Puranas) and 18 Upa Puranas (Minor Puranas), the most studied and circulated being the Bhagavata and the Vishnu Puranas.

Several Puranas list five main topics (called the Pancha Lakshana (pañcalakṣaṇa) that are covered by the Puranas, which are:

  • Sarga: cosmogony
  • Pratisarga: cosmogony and cosmology
  • Vamśa: genealogy of the gods, sages and kings
  • Manvañtara: cosmic cycles, history of the world during the time of one patriarch
  • Vamśānucaritam: legends during the times of various kings.

A few Puranas, such as the most popular Bhagavata Purana, add five more characteristics to expand this list to ten:

  • Utaya: karmic links between the deities, sages, kings and the various living beings
  • Ishanukatha: tales about a god
  • Nirodha: finale, cessation
  • Mukti: moksha, spiritual liberation
  • Ashraya: refuge

Additional resources