About the Book
The Puranas are among the mass of ancient Indian literature of poetic creativity. These have served as a perennial source of ideas relevant in their own way throughout the ages. They along with the epics are traditionally known to be supplementary to the Vedas. While on one hand these reflect the socio-religious conditions of the contemporary societies, on the other hand serve as the guiding pillars for the future generations. The vastness of this literature and its extent of influence over vast areas of our country have secured a very important place in the life of our people. These are considered the light house of Indian culture. In this monograph the author has dealt with origin, antiquity and importance of the Maha Purunas. In the 2nd chapter the brief description of all Maha Purunas is given. And last of all the Puranic ethics and the peculiarities have been highlighted. The present study will encourage and stimulate explore further this treasure house of knowledge.
About the Author
Professor Pushpendra Kumar, presently Head of the Deptt. of Sanskrit, Delhi University, Professor Incharge of Sanskrit Dept., South Campus, University of Delhi-88-94.
1. First class first and gold Medalist in M.A. (Sanskrit), Delhi University-1958. Shastri Punjab University.
2. Ph.D. on 'Sakti Cult in the Puranas' (Published) Delhi University, 1967.
3. Common-Wealth Scholar and Post doctoral fellow, London University- London, 1970-72.
4. Visited many European countries viz. France, Germany,Austria, Holland, Switzerland and Greece for higher studies and lectures.
5. Principal, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, New Delhi, 1972-74.
6. Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Iralans since 1971.
7. Author of fifteen books and more than thirty articles.
8. General edition: Cultural Heritage from Puranas: Cultural Heritage from Puranas: (a ten volume project of the Purana-Vidya Series).
9. Chief Investigator – U.G.C.'S Major Research project – A Inscriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit Inscriptions'.
10. Specialisation in the Puranas, Tantras, Buddhism, Indian Art, Sanskrit Literature, Epigraphy and Grammar.
I have great pleasure to present this volume of Silver Jubilee Publication Series of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan to our esteemed readers. The Volume verily represents the goodwill and cooperation, the Sanskrit has all along been receiving from the distinguished all over the country.
The Sansthan was established in October, 1970 as an autonomous apex body under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India with a view of promoting, preserving and propagating Sanskrit learning in all its aspects, with special reference to the in-depth shastraic learning. Apart from conducting the regular course of studies at the various constituent Vidyapeethas, it has been bringing out invaluable publications representing dissemination of knowledge contained in the ancient Shastras.
Thanks to the continued help, encouragement and support from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India that the Sansthan has grown by leaps and bounds and has been able to render its services to promotion of Sanskrit learning at national and international levels and is now completing its 25th year. It is quite in the fitness of things that the Sansthan decided to bring out 25 scholarly monographs in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee year of the Sansthan.
The Present volume 'The Introduction to Puranas' gives an overview of the Puranas. The Puranas are among the ancient Indian literature of poetic creativity. The vastness of this literature and it extent of influence over vast areas of our country have secured a very important place in the life of our people. The work introduces the Puranas as a light house of Indian Culture.
I Express my sincere thanks to the learned author Prof. Pushpendra Kumar Shastri, Head of the Department of Sanskrit, University of Delhi, who has specialized in the study of the Puranas and has very kindly contributed a scholarly work on the auspicious occasion in the form of the present book.
In it my duty mention the services rendered by my colleagues specially Dr. Savita Pathak and Dr. R. Devana than for organising the various academic programmes particularly the publication of the Silver Jubilee Series. My thanks are due to M/s Nag Publishers, who have worked hard to bring out the monographs in time and enabled us to release the same on the Valedictory function of the Silver Jubilee celebrations.
India's cultural heritage is not only one of the most ancient, but it is also one of the most extensive and varied. To it have contributed, throughout the ages, many races and peoples, who have come into contact with India or settled within her borders, joining the ranks of her people and helping to evolve a distinctive Indian Culture, the kepnote of which, is synthesis on the basis of eternal values. The foundations of the two great ideals of India - synthesis of cultures and spiritual Regeneration of Man, have been truly laid in the early phases of Indian history.
Rabindra Nath Tagore, in one of his great poems, Bharata - TIrtha (India as the great Holy Spot), has expressed in beautiful language, how different peoples came into India from pre-historic times right down to recent centuries, and have co-operated in• building up a great culture, which does not seek to exclude anything, but is all - inclusive, and does not take up an attitude, which would deny to any people its right of self-expression. As a matter of fact, the great culture of India is fundamentally a synthesis - a synthesis of not only blood and race, but also of speech and ways of thinking as well as of cultures - material, intellectual and spiritual; which gi.ve ideologies and determine man's attitude and actions.
No culture or civilization has come into being in any century, and at any age, in a completed and a perfected form. There has always been an evolution in the development of man and his surroundings. Man is for ever-becoming, his affairs are always in a state of flux and change.
The Indian civilization is inspired by the spiritual insight of our sages and is marked by a certain moral integrity, a fundamental loyalty, a fine balance of individual desires and social demands and these are responsible for its vitality and continuity. Spiritual life is the true genius of India. Those who make the greatest appeal to the Indian mind are not the military conquerors, not the rich merchants, not the great diplomats, but the holy sages, the Rsis, who embody spirituality at its finest and purest. India's pride is that almost in every generation, and in every part of the country, from the time of her recorded history, she has produced these holy sages, who embody for her, all that the country holds most dear and sacred, though they generally remain away from the main-stream of society. Kings and commoners pay reverent homage to them and take their advice in the problems of their personal lives as well as in public affairs. They teach us that pride and power, wealth and glory, are nothing in comparison with the power of spirit..
Man, when he had become a civilized being and made life possible, secure and comfortable, began to think seriously about the problems connected with life, particularly about the great guiding forces of life and being. It was arrived by the deeper and the finer consciousness of man, when he had advanced in civilization. It was not merely the promptings of fear and wonder which lay at the root of early religions. He made this discovery for himself that behind life and existence there is a great force, a great presence, which has been viewed differently by various groups of people, conditioned as they were by their economic and cultural background. They discovered, as in India, the Ekam Sat -'The one single Existence that is'; and the Indian sages also said that the wise men, described it in a manifold way.
In Hinduism the descriptions of the Supreme are many-sided and comprehensive. A catholic religion expresses itself in a variety of forms and comprehends all the relations, which exist between man and God. Some of the great religions of the world, select one or the other of the relations; exalt it to the highest rank, make it the centre and relate all else to it. They become so intolerant as to ignore the other relations and insist on one's own point of view. But Hinduism provides enough freedom for a man to go forward and develop along his own lines. Our conception of God answers to the level ' of our mind and interests. Hinduism admits that religion cannot be compressed within any juridical system or reduced to one single doctrine.
But as a matter of fact, religion cannot escape from symbolism, from icons and crucifixes, from rites and dogmas. These forms are employed by religion to focus its faith, but later on they become more important than the faith itself. A symbol does not subject the Infinite to the finite, but renders the finite transparent. it helps us to see the Infinite through it. When we confuse the symbol with the reality, exalt the relative into the Absolute, difficulties arise and an unjustified idolatry develops and stands in the way of religious fellowship and understanding.
Every dogmatic religion overlooks the spiritual facts and worships the theological opinions. It is more anxious for the spread of its dogmas than for the spiritual education of mankind. If we realize the true place of symbolism, then we have not to bother about how men reach the knowledge of spiritual Reality. The different religious groups bound within themselves by means of rites and ceremonies, militate against the formation of a human society. Intuitive religion on the contrary, rebels against these dogmas, rites, confident in the strength of the one spirit, whose presence works and illumines the whole of mankind.
The extensive plains of the Sindhu and the Canga were the principal seats of early Indian civilization, while the mountain fastnesses lying to their south and the numerous valleys and deltas in the southern peninsula harboured more ancient though regional civilizations, which added powerful and important new strains and thus enriched the totality which is known as Indian civilization. The North has been the centre of great Empires like those of the Mauryas and the Guptas; and it has also been the region from which some of the major cultural influences have radiated in various directions. In later centuries, the South too, developed fairly big and powerful empires, overcoming geographical factors. The South was less open to invasions than the North; and it not only maintained the continuity of Indian Culture, but also protected and nurtured it when it faced danger in the North.
The Maha Puranas
The Contents and brief description of the Puranas
The main tenets and the ethics of the Puranas