In the religion of the Hindu, Vedas occupy the foremost position, as they are revelations free from defects. Then come the Smrtis, switch are products of human recollection of Vedic revelation. Next come the Puranas, which are narratives which substantiate the truth of the first two, i.e., Sruti and Smrtis.
Five Characteristics of Puranas
The five important characteristic of Puranas have been state in the couplet:
They are primary creation of the world (Sarga), dissolution and recreation of the world (Pratisarga) genealogical descent of the gods, racial progenitors and sage (vamsa), Periods of the Manus who preside over dissolution and recreations (Manvantara), history of royal dynasties, past, present and future (Vamsa nuchararita), Most of the Mahapuranas as current now, do not confine themselves only to the treatment of the above five topics. Quite often, the topics are dealt with in a general manner and several other secondary matter related to religious worship are included. And then there are Puranas which narrate the glory and detail about deities. Thus, Svapurana describers the incarnation and matter connected with Siva, Visnu Purana descirbes those of Visnu. Similarly, Devi Bhagavata gives the details regarding Devi. Devi Bhagavata is stated to be a Mahapurana.
Among the eighteen Puranas-
Devi Bhagavata is the most supreme. It bestows Dharma, desires, wealth and liberation to the readers.
Like Srimad Bhagavata, this is also very holy and fulfil all desires of the devotees. The glory of Devi Bhagavata is given in Manasa Khanda of Skanda Purana. It is not an ordinary Purana. It is a very holy one. Like Srimad Bhagavata, Ramayana etc., the reading of Devi Bhagavata is also done frequently at many places, for the fulfillment of desires.
For those who hear Devi Bhagavata story, success is not away. It should be always read by men for the fulfillment of their desire.
Reading of Devi Bhagavata in a period of nine days is called navaha yajna. (sacrifice which is completed in nine-days) It is considered to be very holy and wish-yielding.
The Purana literature is very ancient. The name Purana occurs in Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, Gopatha Brahmana, Tattiriya Aranyaka, Chandogya Upanisad, Satapatha Brahman etc. but most of the existing Puranas, though containing much old material seem to be late compilations. It appears, Purana must have been recast after the second or third century after Christ. The line occurs in Taittitriya Aranyaka. So, there is no doubt about the fact that Puranas have been in existence since yore.
The Bhavisyat Purana is mentioned in Apastamba Dharma Sutra (Chapter III). Apastamba is earlier than the 3rd century B.C. According to F.E. Pargiter (Ancient Indian Historical tradition, Chapter IV), the Bhagavata Purana cannot be placed rater than the early part of 3rd century B.C. and even possibly earlier still by 150-200 years. Later on many interpolations were made and the Bhavisyat Purana which is available in print mentions even Akbar, Humayun etc. similarly it is clear that most of the Puranas were revised from time to time.
Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Pargiter says that the Bhagavata Purana was composed about the ninth century A.D. But it contains much old material. Sri Sankaracarya has not quoted this Bhagavata Purana is his Bhasyas. He has quoted Visnu Purana, Mahabharata etc. but not Srimad Bhagawata. So, it is possible, that Bhagavata was completed around the ninth century. It mentions Alwar saints of South India, vaguely, and they belonged to seventh, eighths centuries of A.D.
R.C. Hazra a great scholar on Puranas holds that the existing Puranas were compiled between 3rd century A.D. and 12th Century A.D.
Note : For Further details see Studies in Puranas by R.C. Hazra, and History of Dharmasastra by P.V. Kane.
Devi Bhagavata also seems to be a late work. As it contains details given in Saptasati part of Markadaya Purana, it must be placed after the sixth century A.D. But this great work also contains much old material and its importance is in no way small.
Both Bhagavata and Devi Bhagavata contain 18,000 slokas each. Some hold that Bhagavata is the Mahapurana and Devi Bhagavata is, an upapurana. But Sankta do not agree to this, they hold that Devi Bhagavata is the Mahapurana. Both Bhagavatas are important for us because reading them is considered as holy equal to performing a Yajna through which all desires can be fulfilled.
Note : Which is the Mahapurana, Bhagavata or Devi Bhagavata? Many research papers have appeared in this regard. For a brief account see P.V. Kane's History of Dharma Sastra (section on Purana).
Devi Bhagavata mentions Minaksi of Madura, Kanchi, Chidambara, tulajapura, Kolhapura etc. of south India.
The world Bhagavata can be interpreted and derived in two ways. That which pertains to Bhagavata, i.e. Lord Visnu and in this way it will mean Visnu Bhagavata. We can interpret the world also as that which belongs to the goddess and in this way the world Bhagavata will mean Devi Bhagavata. Both contain 18000 slokas and are divided into 12 Skandhas.
In the Purana literature Bhagavata occupies the 5th place. The narrator of this Devi Bhagavata is Veda Vyasa and Janamejaya is the hearer. This Janamejaya is the son of Parksit, to whom suka narrated (Visnu) Srimad Bhagavata at Gangadwar.
By a study of Devi Bhagavata, it become clear that Devi (mother goddess) is the supreme god. She is the qualitless eternal and omnipresent, Para Brahman. She is Saguna Brahman also by her Maya Sakti. She is extremely benevolent and kind. She is attainable through yoga and Bhakti. She has three powers Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika They appear as Lakshmi, Sarasvati and Kali, Through her Rajasika power; she creates, through Sattvika, power, she protects. And by her Tamasika power she destroys.
All the Puranas speak about the one supreme Brahman. In Visnu Purana, Visnu is the Supreme Brahman. In Siva Purana, Linga Purana etc. Siva is the supreme Brahman. According to Devi Bhagavata, Devi is the supreme Brahman Sakti is the Paramatman. Paramatman is the Sakti. Three is no difference between them.
Bhagavata: The criterion for a Purana to be called Bhagavata is as follows:
The Purana in which Dharma is told in detail, based on Gayatri and the killing Vrtrasura is also described, is called, Bhagavata.
Devi Bhagavata satisfies this condition. Details regarding Gayatri are given in the eleventh and twelfths Skandhas. Vrtrasuravadha is also described in it.
Date of Devi Bhagavata
as told earlier, Devi Bhagavata contains much old material. But it mentions names of Mauryas, Hunas, Mlecchas and Yavanas. clearly So, it must be a late Purana compiled between 600 A.D. to 1000 A.D.
As Bengal influence is seen, some say it might have been written in Bengal. In Bengali Sakti worship was very much prevalent. The glory of Mangala Candi, a form of goddess worshipped in medieval Bengal is found in Devi Bhagavata. Others hold that it was written outside Bengal probably in Benaras very much. Morever, the main goddess described is a very benevolent, kind, from of Devi is Bhuvaneswari.
Commentary : This was commented upon by Nilakantha in the 18th century. There might have existed earlier commentaries too. The great Sakta Acarya, Bhaskara Raya, is said to have popularised Devi Bhagavata in south India.
Content of Devi Bhagavata The Devi Bhagavata contains 12 Skandhas, and 318 Chapters.