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About the Book:

The Puranas are infallible source of information of Indian history of religion, philosophy, culture and civilisation, polity of society, arts and crafts, architecture and iconography besides royal dynasties and period of their rule.

It was long felt that a comprehensive Index of the Puranas was a desideratum. We have an Index to Vedic literature by Macdonell and Keith; we have also one to the Mahabharata by Sorensen; then why not a similar Index to all the eighteen major and an equal number of the minor Puranas which constitute an important branch of Indian literature? Inspired by this idea Prof. V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, an eminent historian of the Madras University, set himself to work initially on five Mahapuranas viz. Vayu, Brahmanda, Matsya, Visnu, and Bhagavata in early fifties and this resulted in the publication by the Madras University of the present work in three parts.

The present work in three parts is reminder to the Indologists of the new generation of the fact that a stupendous task yet remains to be done and that they should come forward and accept the challenge.

About the Author:

V. R. RAMACHANDRA DIKSHITAR (1896-1953) belonged to avant-garde historians who introduced a new methodology into the study of Indian history.

Professor Dikshitar contributed innumerable research papers to scholarly journals in India and abroad. He was General Editor of Madras University Historical Series. His works covering various dimensions of Indian history include original treatises, translations and volumes edited by him.


Some years back I delivered a lecture under the auspices of the University of Madras on the Puranas and it has been published in the Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No.4. Ever since I have been pursuing the study of the subject and the result has been a feeling that a, comprehen- sive index of the Puranas is a desideratum. We have an index of Vedic literature by Prof. Macdonell and A. B. Keith; we have also the index to the Mahabharata by Dr. Sorenson. I felt that the most important branch of Indian literature, viz., the Puranas should similarly have an index for all the eighteen major Mahapuranas. But due to want of time I have confined myself to five of them, viz., the Vayu, the Brahmanda, the Vishnu, the Matsya and the Bhagavata. Though the other Puranas are of equal histori- cal importance and cultural value, I have selected these five because- they are in my opinion the most ancient com- positions among the eighteen Puranas. Their antiquity will be examined in the following pages in the section on the date of the Puranas.

As early as the thirties of the last century Mr. H. H. Wilson did some pioneer work in Purana literature. From the Puranas available to him in print and manuscript he came to the hasty conclusion that they are a special kind of literature' compiled for the evident purpose of promoting the preferential or in some cases the sole worship of Vishnu or Siva'. He was also of the view that Puranas as a class of literature must have come into existence not later than the 10th century A.D. and not earlier than the 7th and 8th centuries of the Christian era, when Saivism and Vaishna- vism had become firmly established in the land. In other words, Wilson took the view that the Puranas were sectarian in character. The erroneous position which Wilson took in regard to the Purana literature did not go unrefuted by his own contemporaries. In this connection the name of Colonel Vans Kennedy may be prominently mentioned. He pro- tested against the views of Wilson in the form of letters to the London Asiatic Journal, (1840-41) and these have been reprinted by the late Editor of Wilson's Vishnu Purana as an appendix to that Purana. He put up an eloquent defence to the effect that the Puranas as a whole were as much a sacred work of the Hindus as the Vedic literature, and that Wilson misunderstood the preferential worship inculcated in this branch of literature as the exclusive worship of a parti- cular deity and the votaries to be sectaries of either Vishnu or Siva. He strongly upheld that the Puranas must be deemed as a class of ancient literature and that there was no proof satisfactory enough to show that the Puranas were late compositions. We have next a set of scholars who took an abiding interest in the study of the Puranas and these were E. Bournouf who has translated and edited the' Bhaga- vat a Purana, Colonel Wilfred, and the compilers of cata- logues of manuscripts like Thomas Aufrecht and Julius Eggeling.

A considerable time elapsed when F. E. Pargiter by his learned publications Ancient Historical Tradition and Dynas- ties of the Kali Age showed to the world what amount of historical material and genuine historical tradition can be gathered from this mass of literature which goes by the name Puranas. His was a real attempt to obtain definite results to reconstruct the dynasties of the Kali age. He also endeavoured to study the chronology and genealogy of well- known Indian sages, seers and kings in pre-historic India. These two works of his evoked a revival of interest in a closer study of Puranic literature by Orientalists. Thus we have from Prof. Winternitz a sound and scholarly chapter on the Puranas in his History of Indian Literature. No less learned is Prof. E. J. Rapson's contribution on Puranas to the first volume of the Cambridge History of India. We must also mention Willibald Kirfel, a German Orientalist who has written the Purana Panchalakshana; it is another successful attempt to prove that the five topics dealt with in a Purana are not born of fictitious imagination but a re- presentation of the evolution of the universe treated earlier in Vedic literature. In this volume (Das Purana Panca- lakshana, 1927) all relevant common passages are collected together.

Among the early Indologists it was Lassen who criti- cally examined the application of the epithet Panchalakshana to the extant Puranas (Indische Alterthumskunde, Vol. I, p. 499). No doubt the five topics of a Purana are not to be found in all the Puranas; but that they deal with these topics in one way or other is a fact beyond dispute. Ancient lexicographers like Amarasimha attribute the five characteristics to a Purana treatise. These five characteris- tics are: (1) Sarga or primary creation, (2) Pratisarga, secondary creation, (3) Vamsa or genealogy of gods and patriarchs, (4) Manvantara or epocs of Manu, (5) Vamsanu- charita, or history of kings of solar and lunar races and their descendants. A close study of Purana literature shows that the Puranas as a whole deal with the evolution of the Universe, recreation of the Universe from the constituent elements, genealogies of gods and seers, groups of great ages included in aeons (Kalpa) and the history of royal families of the Kali age.

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