Puranas

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Puranas

(po͝orä`nə): see Sanskrit literatureSanskrit literature,
literary works written in Sanskrit constituting the main body of the classical literature of India. Introduction

The literature is divided into two main periods—the Vedic (c.1500–c.200 B.C.
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Puranas

 

canonical texts of Hinduism.

The oldest puranas date from the middle of the first millennium B.C., but the basic texts that have come down to us appeared chiefly in the second half of the first millennium. The most valuable, by literary and historical considerations, are the Markandeya Purana, Vayu Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, and Matsya Purana. Depending on which god the purana is dedicated to, there are Vishnuite, Saiva, and Brahmanic puranas, but, as a whole, they express the basic religious, social, and ethical principles of Hinduism.

In content and form, the puranas resemble ancient Indian epic poetry. They present cosmogonic legends, myths about the origins of all creatures, and the genealogy of the gods, divine sages, and legendary dynasties. The ethical and metaphysical ideas of the puranas influenced most of the philosophers of medieval India. Poets and dramatists also used the myths of the puranas in their works. The Bhagavata Purana, in which the cult of ecstatic love for god (bhakti) is preached and legends about the life of Krishna are retold, has especially influenced religious and literary traditions in the modern Indian languages.

SOURCES

Bhagavata Purana, vols. 1–5. Translated and published by E. Burnouf et al. Paris, 1840–98.
Vayu Purana, vols. 1–2. Calcutta, 1880–88.
Matsya Purana. Poona, 1907.
Markandeya Purana. Bombay, 1924.
Vishnu-Purana, vols. 1–5, 3rd ed. Translated by H. H. Wilson. Calcutta, 1972.
In Russian translation:
Lallu Ji Lal. Prem Sagar. Translated from Hindi with introduction and notes by A. P. Barannikov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.

REFERENCES

Wilson, H. H. Puranas or an Account of Their Contents and Nature. Calcutta, 1911.
Pusalker, A. D. Studies in the Epics and Puranas. Bombay, 1955.
An Anthology of the Epics and Puranas. Edited by S. K. De and R. C. Hazra. New Delhi, 1959.

P. A. GRINTSER

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