Tales From the Puranas

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Foreword

If there is one country in the entire world which is rich in myths, symbols and ancient tales it is surely India. No other country, not even Greece, has anything comparable to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata or, for that matter, the Vedas and the Upanishads. We have, besides, the Puranas, or ancient tales, handed down from father to son for centuries and which have stood the text of time. We do not know how they originated or who constructed them in the first place. The authorship of the Ramayana is known and so is the authorship of the Mahabharata even though it is claimed that some of the kathas and upakathas came to be added as the centuries rolled down. Even so, credit must be given to those who thought up new ideas and new formats. The ideas, surely, was not just to entertain but to illustrate a moral. Recounting the Puranas must have been one way to strengthen the basic structure society.

Whoever first conceived the Pauranic stories surely must have been very imaginative. It couldn't have been just one person – like, for example Aesop, the Greek writer of fables. One can imagine a group of students sitting in a forest ashram. Listening to their guru tell them a story. It is evening; the day's work is over. The sun has set. The children are seated round a fire for warmth. They have to be kept engaged. Could it be that the guru then decided to tell them tales to while away the darkening night, tales as the children later grown into manhood re-told their children, generation after generation?

One can only guess. Myths just do not drop from the skies. They must have a beginning and inevitably would be rooted in the ethos of the times. What kind of society was it that could conjure up a Dhruva or a Kamadeva, a Brahma, and a Gayatri? Or a Revati, a Bhanumati and Nahusha? The mind reels at the very thought.

A 'myth' says the dictionary, is a "traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some superhuman being or some alleged person or event, whether without or with a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation". A myth can also be just "an invented story". No matter how we define myth, there is something magical about it, something eternal and heart-warming. It is that, surely, which explains their everlasting value.

Subash Mazumdar has rendered a signal service to the great Indian community in collating stories from different Puranas and putting them together in one volume. And the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan deserves to be especially congratulated for making this storehouse of wisdom available to readers, especially its Indian readers. In this age of the TV set it is easy for the young mind to be drawn elsewhere than from the rich heritage of India. Gone are the days when grandmas told their grand-children stories from the epics to put them to sleep. One suspects that today's grandmas need to be as much educated in Indian folklore as their progeny.

This is where Subash Mazumdar comes in. may his Tales From the Puranas bring joy and wisdom to countless homes and may it help in binding Indian society into one enlightened whole tomorrow and for ever.

General Editor's Preface

The Puranas constitute an important source of the cultural history not only of India but the entire world. They occupy an intermediate position between the earliest age and the present age. They have been influencing life of the human being throughout centuries. The main source of information for the history of the earliest period i.e. even before the sixth century B.C. is the Tales from Puranas. Thus the Puranas and isolated references in other literary works have proved to be very important historical data of our ancient period.

In the domain of myth and legend, thousands of stories from Puranas have emerged. The stories of the creation of the world from a fish as the first incarnation of Vishnu, the tortoise incarnation, the Nagas as serpent spirits of the waters and the underworld and many more are among them. All these have been more or less distorted in the Sanskrit Puranas.

Our Puranas in its present recension can hardly be placed earlier than the Gupta period. It means the Puranas received its final form more than 2000 years after the earliest events related by them. Besides this distance in time, the traditional account contained in the Puranas is vitiated by exaggeration, mythological details pronounced religious bias and the divergences in the texts of the different Puranas.

The epics and Puranas of India have always upheld the practice of righteousness both in individual and social life. It has enabled us to maintain unimpaired the sense of unity and continuity of our cultural life from age to age. Compossed at different times, the Puranas not only contain valuable historical materials but also canons relating to several spheres of art and life.

In all, there are eighteen Puranas. The legendary author of all of them is believed to be Veda Vyasa. This book is a collection about 120 stories from these Puranas. These stories were serialized in the Bhavan's Journal and they have now been collected together.

Story telling is an art by itself. In order to keep interest alive and for the sake of continuity, a system is developed where a story with a built-in story which in turn contain yet another story with a built-in story and so on. Many of the tales from Puranas are popular throughout the country. These stories were so famous, people visiting India from far lands carried them and these stories have been adopted by these people with a local colouring.

The compiler Shri Subash Mazumdar delighted in reading aloud India's immortal epics and Puranas to his daughters. Out of this stimulating experience grew his interest in and appreciation for the various characters in these Puranas and their sense of values.

Subash Mazumdar lived outside India for 35 years working for the United Nations and the World Bank in USA, Africa and the Near East and the Far East. During these years he maintained close links with India, its people, literature and culture. After returning to India in 1984 and settling down in Pune, he wrote his first book Who is Who in the Mahabharata and it was published by the Bhavan in 1988. His second work Mahabharata is Believable was also published by the Bhavan in 1998. This is his third work. We are sure this book will also be received by the readers wholeheartedly.

Back of the Book

Shri Subash Mazumdar worked for the United Nations and the World Bank for some 34 years living in diverse capitals such as Washington, Rome, Addis Ababa, Accra, Beirut and Colombo and had travelled extensively through various developing countries.

His first book Who is Who in the Mahabharata was published by the Bhavan in 1988. This was followed by Mahabharata is believable in 1996 Presently he lives in Pune with his wife Anjani.

This book brings together, in a concise and easily readable from, various tales contained in different Puranas dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is ideal for the youth of today's fast changing world and for reading aloud to their children so as to preserve our unique cultural heritage.

Contents

Foreword vii
General Editor's Preface ix
Introduction xiii
1 Parvati's daughter (Padma) 1
2 An apsara is reborn as a bird (Markandeya) 4
3 Sati sacrifices her life (Shiva) 7
4 Mahishasura vanquished (Devi Bhagavata)

Item Code: IDK685
Cover: Paperback
Edition: 2005
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
ISBN: 8172763581
Size: 8.4" X 5.4"
Pages: 392
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