Origin and Growth of the Puranic Text Corpus "With Special Reference to the Skandapurana"


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About the Book

The historical examination of Purana literature along the lines of textual criticism was long thought to be an impervious field. In recent years, however, this kind of investigation has received a boost from the publication of several critical editions of Purana texts, among them that of the original Skandapuranaa. The Purana panel of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference held in Helsinki in July of 2003 was envisaged to explore these new departures and to discuss the provisional results. The papers collected in this volume are the outcome of that panel. They focus on the original Skandapurana, which lends itself well to a study of the origins and growth of the Purana texts and the religious developments that they reflect. This is due to exceptional circumstances: in addition to the earlier available text corpus of Khandas that have been published under the common title of Skandapurana (or assigned to this work), it is now possible to study this Purana in three different recessions. The oldest recession is attested in three 9th-century manuscripts from Nepal. The first exploration of these sources led to the preliminary observations published in 1998 in the Prolegomena to the edition of Adhyayas 1 to 25 of the original Skandapurana. The contents of the present volume may be seen as a continuation of that work.

About the Author

Hans T. Bekker holds the Gonda chair of “Hinduism in the Sanskrit Tradition and Indian Philosophy” at the University of Groningen. Among his earlier publication are Ayodhya (1986), The Väkatakas (1997) and the Skandapurana Vol.I (1998). He is the editor of the Groningen Oriental Studies and co-editor of Indo-Iranian Journal.

Petteri Koskikallio and Asko Parpola, Secretary General and President, respectively, of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference, are Finnish Indologists. Asko Parpola is Professor of South Asian and Indo-European Studies at the University of Helsinki.


The publication of the critical editions of three Puranas in four consecutive years, 1996—98, 1997—99 and 1998, ushered in a new phase in the research of Puräna literature. In addition to the well-known editions prepared by the All-India Kashiraj Trust, critical editions are now available of the Bhägavatapurana (1996—98), the Visnupurana (1997—99), and the Skandapurana (Adhyayas 1—25, 1998). A field that was long thought to be impervious to textual historical investigation was—unexpectedly as it may have been—provided with means to enhance such an endeavour. The Purana panel of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference, of which the present volume is the outcome, was envisaged to explore these new departures and to discuss their (preliminary) results. This scheme proved to he too ambitious. For various reasons, it appeared only practicable to report on the progress made in the research of one of the three texts mentioned, the Skandapurana. Fortunately, though, this text lends itself well to an investigation into the origin and growth of a Puranic text and the religious developments that these reflect. This is due to exceptional circumstances that allow us to study this Purana in three different recessions—the oldest is attested in three 9th-century manuscripts—in addition to the text corpus that is made up of khandas that are generally assigned to and have been published under the common title of Skandapurana. A first exploration of this field has led to preparatory observations, which were laid down in Prolegomena that preceded the edition of adhydyas I to 25 of the original Skandapurana (Groningen 1998). The contributions to the present volume may be seen as a continuation of that work. They report the research done on this Purana during the last four years. Part of this work has been carried out in the context of the Skandapurana Project at the Institute of Indian Studies of the University of Groningen, but cooperation has extended to the Universities of Philadelphia, Kyoto, Lille and Hamilton (Ont.). Regular contacts between the authors and exchange of information have significantly contributed to the research of each of them and have provided a common database to all. Working papers have been discussed before and after the panel took place and this has given some homogeneity to the present book. This is not to say, however, that the reader will not encounter inconsistencies or divergent views on important issues. One such an issue is, for instance, the time up to which the original Skandapurana remained accessible to Dharmanibandha authors, and, connected to this, the degree to which the composition-in-transmission went on beyond the major redactions that created new recessions. Future research has to clarify these matters, which are of central importance for our understanding of the origin and growth of the Purana text corpus.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the organisers of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference in Helsinki for providing us with the opportunity to presenting our work on the Puranas in a coherent way to an international forum of scholars, that is, in the form of a panel that was allowed to fill an afternoon session of the conference programme. Thanks are in particular due to Asko Parpola and Petteri Koskikalio for not only organising one of the best World Sanskrit Conferences ever, but also for giving due attention to the publication of its proceedings. As the editor of the present fascicle in a series that will collect the conference papers I have been constantly supported by the organisers in Helsinki on the one hand and the authors of this volume on the other. Without their enthusiasm and professional help in all matters that the production of a book like this requires, it would not have come into being.

Finally a word needs to be said about the organisation of this volume. The sequence of articles is not fully arbitrary, although each one of them can be read in itself. The first part of my own contribution may be seen as a kind of introduction to the subject; the second part deals with a section of the text in which the differentiation into recessions does not make much difference. The contributions of Törzsok and Harimoto focus on the transmission of the Purana and its development into different recessions. Bisschop deals with one adhyaya, which illustrates the importance of distinguishing between the recensions. Yokochi collates the passages that our text has in common with the Avantyakhanda and other (later) puranas and Granoff places the saiva mythology found in our text within the within the broader perspective of the development of early forms of Hinduism. An appendix made by Harimoto presents the contents of all three recensions by means of a detailed listing of the adyaya colophons in the various manuscripts. We have decided in order to avoid redundancy to abstain from separate bibliographies a common list of references and Index conclude this volume.


Preface V
Sigla referring to the Skandapurana XI
The structure of the Varanasimahatmya in Skandapurana 26-31 1
Thee Chapters of Saiva material added to the earliest known recension of the Skandapurana 17
Some observation on the Reva-and the Ambikakhanda recensions of the Skandapurana 41
Siva's Ayatanas in the various recensions of Skandapurana 65
The relation between the skandapurana and the Avantyakhanda 79
Saving the saviour: Siva and the Vaisnava Avataras in the early Skandapurana 111
Appendix 139
Sigla referring to the Skandapurana 191
References 193
Index 203