The Puranas (Sanskrit: पुराण purāṇa, “of ancient times”) are ancient Hindu texts eulogizing various deities, primarily the divine Trimurti God in Hinduism through divine stories. Puranas may also be described as a genre of important Hindu religious texts alongside some Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.The Puranas are frequently classified according to the Trimurti (Trinity or the three aspects of the divine). The Padma Purana classifies them in accordance with the three gunas or qualities as Sattva (Truth and Purity), Rajas (Dimness and Passion) and Tamas (Darkness and Ignorance).
Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered the compiler of the Puranas. However, the earliest written versions date from the time of the Gupta Empire (third-fifth century CE) and much material may be dated, through historical references and other means, to this period and the succeeding centuries.
The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas. On one hand, they existed in some oral form before being written while at the same time, they have been incrementally modified well into the 16th century.
An early reference is found in the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2). (circa 500 BCE). The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad refers to purana as the “fifth Veda”, itihāsapurāṇaṃ pañcamaṃ vedānāṃ, reflecting the early religious importance of these myths, presumably then in purely oral form. Importantly, the most famous form of itihāsapurāṇaṃ is the Mahabharata. The term also appears in the Atharvaveda11.7.24.
According to Matysa Purana, they are said to narrate five subjects, called Pancha Lakshana pañcalakṣaṇa (“five distinguishing marks”, though some scholars have suggested that these are shared by other traditional religious scriptures):
- Sarga: the creation of the universe.
- Pratisarga: secondary creations, mostly recreations after dissolution.
- Vamśa: genealogy of the gods and sages.
- Manvañtara: the creation of the human race and the first human beings. The epoch of the Manus‘ rule, 71 celestial Yugas or 308,448,000 years.
- Vamśānucaritam: the histories of the patriarchs of the lunar and solar dynasties.
The Puranas also lay emphasis on keeping a record of genealogies, as the Vayu Purana says, “to preserve the genealogies of gods, sages and glorious kings and the traditions of great men.” The Puranic genealogies indicate, for example, that Sraddhadeva Manu lived 95 generations before the Bharata war. In Arrian‘s Indica, Megasthenes is quoted as stating that the Indians counted from “Dionysos” (Shiva) to “Sandracottus” (Chandragupta Maurya) “a hundred and fifty-three kings over six thousand and forty-three years.” The list of kings in Kalhana‘s Rajatarangini goes back to the 19th century BCE.
Excerpt of Wikipedia Article: Puranas