The Yuga Purana


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About the Book:

The Yuga-Purana is unique in being the only Indian text that refers in any detail to Indo-Greek and Indo-Scythian incursions into central India. It also contains what is almost certainly the earliest account of the four Yugas-the Ages of man-in a form that was later adopted by both the Mahabharata and the Puranas. It is thus a key text for the study of both a period of early Indian history and the evolution of Indian ideas of time. In his latest revised edition of this work, Dr Mitchiner presents the definitive text of the Yuga-Purana based on all known manuscripts, including new additions that he has uncovered since the first edition was published. This is accompanied by a full and detailed study of the issues raised by the yuga-Purana.

About the Author:

John Mitchiner graduated from Bristol University and obtained both M. A. and Ph. D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, where his doctoral thesis was on the Sanskrit traditions of the Seven Rsia. Following a year in Varanasi, he held successive research fellowships between 1977 and 1979 at VisvaBharati, Santiniketan and at Calcutta University. He joined HM Diplomatic Service in 1980; following assignments in Istanbul, New Delhi and Berne he was appointed HM Ambassador to Armenia in 1997 and British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata in 2000. He has travelled extensively throughout India, the Middle East and South-East Asia. He is the author of Studies in the Indus Valley Inscriptions, Traditions of the Seven Rsis, and Guru: The Search for Enlightenment, as well as of numerous articles on Indian history and religion.

Preface to the Second Edition:

Since the first edition was published, I have been able to track down a number of further manuscripts of the Gargiya Jyotisa, two of which contain the full Yuga Purana chapter. The present edition incorporates all the variant readings from these two further manuscripts, and is thus based on a total of sixteen manuscripts. The two additional manuscripts are closely linked to others already known; while they do not necessitate any revision of our understanding of the Yuga-Purana, they are nonetheless welcome additions to the corpus of manuscripts, and provide further corroboration for a number of textual readings and variants.

British Deputy High Commission
15 April 2000


John Mitchiner


I am happy to present the second edition of the Yuga Purana. Critically edited with an English translation, by Dr John E. Mitchiner to the discerning scholar of Indological studies both in India and abroad. For any scholar engaged in the study of the presence Indo-Greeks or Indo-Scythiians before the Christian era, the Yuga Purana is an important source material. The present edition is based on sixteen manuscripts including two new manuscripts of Gargiya Jyotisa found by Dr Mitchiner. This edition of Yuga Purana, I am sure, will also be appreciated even by the students of Indian literature.

I must thank Dr Mitchiner for enriching our knowledge on Yuga Purana and for reminding us in the process the long line of Western scholars who made significant contributions in the realm of Indological studies.

The Asiatic Society
Dated August 25, 2002


Dilip Commer Ghose
General Secretary


Prefatory Note

It is a matter of great satisfaction tat it has been possible at last for the Asiatic Society to publish a critical edition of the highly interesting text of the Yuga-Purana with an English translation by John E. Mitchiner. It may be recalled here that the present work supplants and supplements some earlier editions done on parts or portions of the treatise, most of which are now out of print. The enquiries by scholars over the years indicated the growing demand for this unique text.

We hope the present edition of the Yuga-Purana will go a long way to meeting the requirements of our scholars and researchers.

Preface to the First Edition:

The Yuga-Purana is a unique text in several ways. It is perhaps above all the only Indian text which refers in any detail to the presence of Indo-Greeks in India-the other literary evidence for this being brief mentions in the works of Patanjali and Kalidasa; and it is the only Brahminical text which refers in any detail to Indo-Scythian incursions to western India-episodes which are otherwise recorded only in Jain sources. The passages in the Yuga-Purana relating to these events have naturally attracted attention ever since the text was first brought to light by Hendrik Kern little more than a century ago: but they have nonetheless not received the full consideration which they deserve. Two reasons would seem to account for this: in the first place, no numismatic evidence for the presence of either Indo-Greeks or Indo-Scythians in central India before the start of the Christian era was forthcoming until the last ten years; and in the second place, the passages in the Yuga-Purana< recording these events have remained somewhat unclear, due mainly to the small number of known manuscripts of the text, and have been variously debated and interpreted. This has on occasions given rise to very fanciful "reconstructions" of the text: notably by Jayaswal and Dhruva, but also by such doyens of Indian historical research as Narain and Sircar.

Aisde from the "Historical" events narrated in the text, the Yuga-Purana is also important for its account of the four Yugas-the Ages of man-which constitutes most probably the earliest account of the Yugas in Indian literature. This aspect of the Yuga-Purana has not so far received attention; part of the reason for this most probably lies in the fact that the non-historical sections of the Yuga-Purana were published for the first time only in 1951, by D. R. Mankad, in a work which has since gone out of print; while they were translated into English for the first time only in 1976, by myself. Mankad's readings for these sections were, moreover, taken predominantly from only a single manuscript, and consequently contained a number of errors and lacunae.

The Yuga-Purana is a very short work-being but a chapter in a larger and still unedited work on jyotisa; but its importance far outweighs its brevity, and a good edition of the text has been desirable for some time. When, therefore, I was in 1977 offered the Bipradas Palchaudhuri Fellowship for 1970 of Calcutta University-an award made once every five years to a foreign scholar, but which is currently running somewhat in arrears-I decided to take this opportunity to prepare an edition of the Yuga-Purana. While spending several months searching through manuscript collections in various parts of India, I was able to discover a further eight manuscripts of the Yuga-Purana: the present edition is therefore based on a total of 14 manuscripts, and has a full critical apparatus incorporating all variants reading from these manuscripts. The present work also includes an English translation of the Yuga-Purana, and an Introduction in which are discussed various topics relating both to the Yuga-Purana itself and also to the jyotisa work of Garga of which the Yuga-Purana forms a part.



1. The Yuga-Purana and the Treatises of Garga 1
2. The Authenticity of the Gargiya- jyotisa 4
3. The Authenticity of the Yuga-Purana 14
4. Previous Editions and Textual Studies 18
5. The Manuscripts of the Yuga-Purana 21
6. The Structure of the Yuga-Purana 31
7. The Language of the Yuga-Purana 33
8. Correspondences between the Yuga-Puranaand Other Works 41
9. Sectarianism in the Yuga-Purana 52
10. The Historicity of the Account 55
  A. Janamejaya Pariksit  
  B. Udayin and the founding of Pataliputra  
  C. Salisuka in Pataliputra  
  D. The Yavana incursion  
  E. Seven kings of Saketa  
  F. Anarchy, and Amrata in Pataliputra  
  G. The rule of the Agnivesya kings  
  H. The reign of king Satuvara  
  I. The Saka incursion and defeat  
  J. Regions in which men will survive and prosper  
11. The Place of Composition 87
12. The Date of Composition 92
13. The Value of the Yuga-Purana 95
1. The Structure and Contents of the Gargiya-jyotisa 113
2. Utpala's Citations from Garga and Vrddha-Garga 127
3. List of Manuscript Collections consulted in India 134
1. Primary Texts 139
2. Secondary Sources 144
INDICES 149-159
1. Deities and Semi-Divine Beings 151
2. Specific Individuals and Peoples 153
3. Geographical Names 156
4. Technical Terms 158

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