The Puranas, Part 2


Jan 18, CANADA (SUN) — A four-part series on the Puranas.

The Bhagavata Purana

"That in which ample details of duty are described, and which opens with (an extract from) the Gayatri; that in which the death of the Asura Vritra is told, and in which the mortals and immortals of the Saraswata Kalpa, with the events that then happened to them in the world, are related; that, is celebrated as the Bhagavata, and consists of eighteen thousand verses." The Bhagavata is a work of great celebrity in India, and exercises a more direct and powerful influence upon the opinions and feelings of the people than perhaps any other of the Puranas. It is placed the fifth in all the lists; but the Padma Purana ranks it as the eighteenth, as the extracted substance of all the rest. According to the usual specification, it consists of eighteen thousand slokas, distributed amongst three hundred and thirty-two chapters, divided into twelve Skandhas or books. It is named Bhagavata from its being dedicated to the glorification of Bhagavat or Vishnu.

The Bhagavata is communicated to the Rishis at Naimisharanya by Suta, as usual; but he only repeats what was narrated by Suka, the son of Vyasa, to Parikshit, the king of Hastinapura, the grandson of Arjuna. Having incurred the imprecation of a hermit, by which he was sentenced to die of the bite of a venomous snake, at the expiration of seven days; the king, in preparation for this event, repairs to the banks of the Ganges; whither also come the gods and sages, to witness his death. Amongst the latter is Suka; and it is in reply to Parikshit's question, what a man should do who is about to die, that he narrates the Bhagavata, as he had heard it from Vyasa; for nothing secures final happiness so certainly, as to die whilst the thoughts are wholly engrossed by Vishnu.

The course of the narration opens with a cosmogony, which, although in most respects similar to that of other Puranas, is more largely intermixed with allegory and mysticism, and derives its tone more from the Vedanta than the Sankhya philosophy. The doctrine of active creation by the Supreme, as one with Vasudeva, is more distinctly asserted, with a more decided enunciation of the effects being resolvable into Maya, or illusion. There are also doctrinal peculiarities, highly characteristic of this Purana; amongst which is the assertion that it was originally communicated by Brahma to Narada, that all men whatsoever, Hindus of every caste, and even Mlechchhas, outcastes or barbarians, might learn to have faith in Vasudeva.

In the third book the interlocutors are changed to Maitreya and Vidura; the former of whom is the disciple in the Vishnu Purana, the latter was the half-brother of the Kuru princes. Maitreya, again, gives an account of the Srishti-lila, or sport of creation, in a strain partly common to the Puranas, partly peculiar; although he declares he learned it from his teacher Parasara, at the desire of Pulastya; referring thus to the fabulous origin of the Vishnu Purana, and furnishing evidence of its priority. Again, however, the authority is changed, and the narrative is said to have been that which was communicated by Sesha to the Nagas. The creation of Brahma is then described, and the divisions of time are explained. A very long and peculiar account is given of the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu, which is followed by the creation of the Prajapatis and Swayambhuva, whose daughter Devahuti is married to Karddama Rishi; an incident peculiar to this work, as is that which follows of the Avatara of Vishnu as Kapila the son of Karddama and Devahuti, the author of the Sankhya philosophy, which he expounds, after a Vaishnava fashion, to his mother, in the last nine chapters of this section.

The Manwantara of Swayambhuva, and the multiplication of the patriarchal families, are next described with some peculiarities of nomenclature, which are pointed out in the notes to the parallel passages of the Vishnu Purana. The traditions of Dhruva, Vena, Prithu, and other princes of this period, are the other subjects of the fourth Skandha, and are continued in the fifth to that of the Bharata who obtained emancipation. The details generally conform to those of the Vishnu Purana, and the same words are often employed, so that it would he difficult to determine which work had the best right to them, had not the Bhagavata itself indicated its obligations to the Vishnu. The remainder of the fifth book is occupied with the description of the universe, and the same conformity with the Vishnu continues.

This is only partially the case with the sixth book, which contains a variety of legends of a miscellaneous description, intended to illustrate the merit of worshipping Vishnu: some of them belong to the early stock, but some are apparently novel. The seventh book is mostly occupied with the legend of Prahlada. In the eighth we have an account of the remaining Manwantaras; in which, as happening in the course of them, a variety of ancient legends are repeated, as the battle between the king of the elephants and an alligator, the churning of the ocean, and the dwarf and fish Avataras. The ninth book narrates the dynasties of the Vaivaswata Manwantara, or the princes of the solar and lunar races to the time of Krishna. The particulars conform generally with those recorded in the Vishnu.

The tenth book is the characteristic part of this Purana, and the portion upon which its popularity is founded. It is appropriated entirely to the history of Krishna, which it narrates much in the same manner as the Vishnu, but in more detail; holding a middle place, however, between it and the extravagant prolixity with which the Hari Vansa repeats the story. It is not necessary to particularize it farther. It has been translated into perhaps all the languages of India, and is a favourite work with all descriptions of people.

The eleventh book describes the destruction of the Yadavas, and death of Krishna. Previous to the latter event, Krishna instructs Uddhava in the performance of the Yoga; a subject consigned by the Vishnu to the concluding passages. The narrative is much the same, but something more summary than that of the Vishnu. The twelfth book continues the lines of the kings of the Kali age prophetically to a similar period as the Vishnu, and gives a like account of the deterioration of all things, and their final dissolution. Consistently with the subject of the Purana, the serpent Takshaka bites Parikshit, and he expires, and the work should terminate; or the close might be extended to the subsequent sacrifice of Janamejaya for the destruction of the whole serpent race. There is a rather awkwardly introduced description, however, of the arrangement of the Vedas and Puranas by Vyasa, and the legend of Markandeya's interview with the infant Krishna, during a period of worldly dissolution. We then come to the end of the Bhagavata, in a series of encomiastic commendations of its own sanctity, and efficacy to salvation.

Mr. Colebrooke observes of the Bhagavata Purana, "I am inclined to adopt an opinion supported by many learned Hindus, who consider the celebrated Sri Bhagavata as the work of a grammarian (Vopadeva), supposed to have lived six hundred years ago." Col. Vans Kennedy considers this an incautious admission, because "it is unquestionable that the number of the Puranas has been always held to be eighteen; but in most of the Puranas the names of the eighteen are enumerated, amongst which the Bhagavata is invariably included; and consequently if it were composed only six hundred years ago, the others must be of an equally modern date." Some of them are no doubt more recent; but, as already remarked, no weight can be attached to the specification of the eighteen names, for they are always complete; each Purana enumerates all. Which is the last? which had the opportunity of naming its seventeen predecessors, and adding itself? The argument proves too much. There can be little doubt that the list has been inserted upon the authority of tradition, either by some improving transcriber, or by the compiler of a work more recent than the eighteen genuine Puranas. The objection is also rebutted by the assertion, that there was another Purana to which the name applies, and which is still to be met with, the Devi Bhagavata.

For, the authenticity of the Bhagavata is one of the few questions affecting their sacred literature which Hindu writers have ventured to discuss. The occasion is furnished by the text itself. In the fourth chapter of the first book it is said that Vyasa arranged the Vedas, and divided them into four; and that he then compiled the Itihasa and Puranas, as a fifth Veda. The Vedas he gave to Paila and the rest; the Itihasa and Puranas to Lomaharshana, the father of Suta. Then reflecting that these works may not be accessible to women, Sudras, and mixed castes, he composed the Bharata, for the purpose of placing religious knowledge within their reach. Still he felt dissatisfied, and wandered in much perplexity along the banks of the Saraswati, where his hermitage was situated, when Narada paid him a visit.

Having confided to him his secret and seemingly causeless dissatisfaction, Narada suggested that it arose from his not having sufficiently dwelt, in the works he had finished, upon the merit of worshipping Vasudeva. Vyasa at once admitted its truth, and found a remedy for his uneasiness in the composition of the Bhagavata, which he taught to Suka his son. Here therefore is the most positive assertion that the Bhagavata was composed subsequently to the Puranas, and given to a different pupil, and was not therefore one of the eighteen of which Romaharshana the Seta was, according to all concurrent testimonies, the depositary. Still the Bhagavata is named amongst the eighteen Puranas by the inspired authorities; and how can these incongruities be reconciled?

The principal point in dispute seems to have been started by an expression of Sridhara Swamin, a commentator on the Bhagavata, who somewhat incautiously made the remark that there was no reason to suspect that by the term Bhagavata any other work than the subject of his labours was intended. This was therefore an admission that some suspicions had been entertained of the correctness of the nomenclature, and that an opinion had been expressed that the term belonged, not to the Sri Bhagavata, but to the Devi Bhagavata; to a Saiva, not a Vaishnava, composition. With whom doubts prevailed prior to Sridhara Swamin, or by whom they were urged, does not appear; for, as far as we are aware, no works, anterior to his date, in which they are advanced have been met with. Subsequently, various tracts have been written on the subject. There are three in the library of the East India Company; the Durjana Mukha Chapetika, 'A slap of the face for the vile,' by Ramasrama; the Durjana Mukha Maha Chapetika, 'A great slap of the face for the wicked,' by Kasinath Bhatta; and the Durjana Mukha Padma Paduka, 'A slipper' for the same part of the same persons, by a nameless disputant. The first maintains the authenticity of the Bhagavata; the second asserts that the Devi Bhagavata is the genuine Purana; and the third replies to the arguments of the first. There is also a work by Purushottama, entitled 'Thirteen arguments for dispelling all doubts of the character of the Bhagavata' (Bhagavata swarupa vihsaya sanka nirasa trayodasa); whilst Balambhatta, a commentator on the Mitakshara, indulging in a dissertation on the meaning of the word Purana, adduces reasons for questioning the inspired origin of this Purana.

The chief arguments in favour of the authenticity of this Purana are the absence of any reason why Vopadeva, to whom it is attributed, should not have put his own name to it; its being included in all lists of the Puranas, sometimes with circumstances that belong to no other Purana; and its being admitted to be a Purana, and cited as authority, or made the subject of comment, by writers of established reputation, of whom Sankara Acharya is one, and he lived long before Vopadeva. The reply to the first argument is rather feeble, the controversialists being unwilling perhaps to admit the real object, the promotion of new doctrines. It is therefore said that Vyasa was an incarnation of Narayana, and the purpose was to propitiate his favour.

The insertion of a Bhagavata amongst the eighteen Puranas is acknowledged; but this, it is said, can be the Devi Bhagavata alone, for the circumstances apply more correctly to it than to the Vaishnava Bhagavata. Thus a text is quoted by Kasinath from a Purana--he does not state which--that says of the Bhagavata that it contains eighteen thousand verses, twelve books, and three hundred and thirty-two chapters. Kasinath asserts that the chapters of the Sri Bhagavata are three hundred and thirty-five, and that the numbers apply throughout only to the Devi Bhagavata. It is also said that the Bhagavata contains an account of the acquirement of holy knowledge by Hayagriva; the particulars of the Saraswata Kalpa; a dialogue between Ambarisha and Suka; and that it commences with the Gayatri, or at least a citation of it. These all apply to the Devi Bhagavata alone, except the last; but it also is more true of the Saiva than of the Vaishnava work, for the latter has only one word of the Gayatri, dhimahi, 'we meditate;' whilst the former to dhimahi adds, Ya nah prachodayat, 'who may enlighten us.'

To the third argument it is in the first place objected, that the citation of the Bhagavata by modern writers is no test of its authenticity; and with regard to the more ancient commentary of Sankara Acharya, it is asked, "Where is it?" Those who advocate the sanctity of the Bhagavata reply, "It was written in a difficult style, and became obsolete, and is lost." "A very unsatisfactory plea," retort their opponents, "for we still have the works of Sankara, several of which are quite as difficult as any in the Sanscrit language." The existence of this comment, too, rests upon the authority of Madhwa or Madhava, who in a commentary of his own asserts that he has consulted eight others. Now amongst these is one by the monkey Hanuman; and although a Hindu disputant may believe in the reality of such a composition, yet we may receive its citation as a proof that Madhwa was not very scrupulous in the verification of his authorities.

There are other topics urged in this controversy on both sides, some of which are simple enough, some are ingenious: but the statement of the text is of itself sufficient to shew that according to the received opinion of all the authorities of the priority of the eighteen Puranas to the Bharata, it is impossible that the Sri Bhagavata, which is subsequent to the Bharata, should be of the number; and the evidence of style, the superiority of which to that of the Puranas in general is admitted by the disputants, is also proof that it is the work of a different hand. Whether the Devi Bhagavata have a better title to be considered as an original composition of Vyasa, is equally questionable; but it cannot be doubted that the Sri Bhagavata is the product of uninspired erudition. There does not seem to be any other ground than tradition for ascribing it to Vopadeva the grammarian; but there is no reason to call the tradition in question. Vopadeva flourished at the court of Hemadri, Raja of Devagiri, Deogur or Dowlutabad, and must consequently have lived prior to the conquest of that principality by the Mohammedans in the fourteenth century. The date of the twelfth century, commonly assigned to him, is probably correct, and is that of the Bhagavata Purana.

The Naradiya Purana

"Where Narada has described the duties which were observed in the Vrihat Kalpa, that, is called the Naradiya, having twenty-five thousand stanzas." If the number of verses be here correctly stated, the Purana has not fallen into my hands. The copy I have analysed contains not many more than three thousand slokas. There is another work, which might be expected to be of greater extent, the Vrihat Naradiya, or great Narada Purana; but this, according to the concurrence of three copies in my possession, and of five others in the Company's library, contains but about three thousand five hundred verses. It may be doubted, therefore, if the Narada Purana of the Matsya exists.

According to the Matsya, the Narada Purana is related by Narada, and gives an account of the Vrihat Kalpa. The Naradiya Purana is communicated by Narada to the Rishis at Naimisharanya, on the Gomati river. The Vrihannaradiya is related to the same persons, at the same place, by Suta, as it was told by Narada to Sanatkumara. Possibly the term Vrihat may have been suggested by the specification which is given in the Matsya; but there is no description in it of any particular Kalpa, or day of Brahma.

From a cursory examination of these Puranas, it is very evident that they have no conformity to the definition of a Purana, and that both are sectarial and modern compilations, intended to support the doctrine of Bhakti, or faith in Vishnu. With this view they have collected a variety of prayers addressed to one or other form of that divinity; a number of observances and holidays connected with his adoration; and different legends, some perhaps of an early, others of a more recent date, illustrative of the efficacy of devotion to Hari. Thus in the Narada we have the stories of Dhruva and Prahlada; the latter told in the words of the Vishnu: whilst the second portion of it is occupied with a legend of Mohini, the will-born daughter of a king called Rukmangada: beguiled by whom, the king offers to perform for her whatever she may desire. She calls upon him either to violate the rule of fasting on the eleventh day of the fortnight, a day sacred to Vishnu, or to put his son to death; and he kills his son, as the lesser sin of the two. This shews the spirit of the work. Its date may also be inferred from its tenor, as such monstrous extravagancies in praise of Bhakti are certainly of modern origin. One limit it furnishes itself, for it refers to Suka and Parikshit, the interlocutors of the Bhagavata, and it is consequently subsequent to the date of that Purana: it is probably considerably later, for it affords evidence that it was written after India was in the hands of the Mohammedans. In the concluding passage it is said, "Let not this Purana be repeated in the presence of the 'killers of cows' and contemners of the gods." It is possibly a compilation of the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The Vrihannaradiya is a work of the same tenor and time. It contains little else than panegyrical prayers addressed to Vishnu, and injunctions to observe various rites, and keep holy certain seasons, in honour of him. The earlier legends introduced are the birth of Markandeya, the destruction of Sagara's sons, and the dwarf Avatara; but they are subservient to the design of the whole, and are rendered occasions for praising Narayana: others, illustrating the efficacy of certain Vaishnava observances, are puerile inventions, wholly foreign to the more ancient system of Pauranik fiction. There is no attempt at cosmogony, or patriarchal or regal genealogy. It is possible that these topics may be treated of in the missing stanzas; but it seems more likely that the Narada Purana of the lists has little in common with the works to which its name is applied in Bengal and Hindustan.

The Markandeya Purana

"That Purana in which, commencing with the story of the birds that were acquainted with right and wrong, every thing is narrated fully by Markandeya, as it was explained by holy sages in reply to the question of the Muni, is called the Markandeya, containing nine thousand verses." This is so called from its being in the first instance narrated by Markandeya Muni, and in the second place by certain fabulous birds; thus far agreeing with the account given of it in the Matsya. That, as well as other authorities, specify its containing nine thousand stanzas; but my copy closes with a verse affirming that the number of verses recited by the Muni was six thousand nine hundred; and a copy in the East India Company's library has a similar specification. The termination is, however, somewhat abrupt, and there is no reason why the subject with which it ends should not have been carried on farther. One copy in the Company's library, indeed, belonging to the Guicowar's collection, states at the close that it is the end of the first Khanda, or section. If the Purana was ever completed, the remaining portion of it appears to be lost.

Jaimini, the pupil of Vyasa, applies to Markandeya to be made acquainted with the nature of Vasudeva, and for an explanation of some of the incidents described in the Mahabharata; with the ambrosia of which divine poem, Vyasa he declares has watered the whole world: a reference which establishes the priority of the Bharata to the Markandeya Purana, however incompatible this may be with the tradition, that having finished the Puranas, Vyasa wrote the poem.

Markandeya excuses himself, saying he has a religious rite to perform; and he refers Jaimini to some very sapient birds, who reside in the Vindhya mountains; birds of a celestial origin, found, when just born, by the Muni Samika, on the field of Kurukshetra, and brought up by him along with his scholars: in consequence of which, and by virtue of their heavenly descent, they became profoundly versed in the Vedas, and a knowledge of spiritual truth. This machinery is borrowed from the Mahabharata, with some embellishment. Jaimini accordingly has recourse to the birds, Pingaksha and his brethren, and puts to them the questions he had asked of the Muni. "Why was Vasudeva born as a mortal? How was it that Draupadi was the wife of the five Pandus? Why did Baladeva do penance for Brahmanicide? and why were the children of Draupadi destroyed, when they had Krishna and Arjuna to defend them?" The answers to these inquiries occupy a number of chapters, and form a sort of supplement to the Mahabharata; supplying, partly by invention, perhaps, and partly by reference to equally ancient authorities, the blanks left in some of its narrations.

Legends of Vritrasura's death, Baladeva's penance, Harischandra's elevation to heaven, and the quarrel between Vasishtha and Viswamitra, are followed by a discussion respecting birth, death, and sin; which leads to a more extended description of the different hells than is found in other Puranas. The account of creation which is contained in this work is repeated by the birds after Markandeya's account of it to Kroshtuki, and is confined to the origin of the Vedas and patriarchal families, amongst whom are new characters, as Duhsaha and his wife Marshti, and their descendants; allegorical personages, representing intolerable iniquity and its consequences. There is then a description of the world, with, as usual to this Purana, several singularities, some of which are noticed in the following pages. This being the state of the world in the Swayambhuva Manwantara, an account of the other Manwantaras succeeds, in which the births of the Manus, and a number of other particulars, are peculiar to this work. The present or Vaivaswata Manwantara is very briefly passed over; but the next, the first of the future Manwantaras, contains the long episodical narrative of the actions of the goddess Durga, which is the especial boast of this Purana, and is the text-book of the worshippers of Kali, Chandi, or Durga, in Bengal. It is the Chandi Patha, or Durga Mahatmya, in which the victories of the goddess over different evil beings, or Asuras, are detailed with considerable power and spirit. It is read daily in the temples of Durga, and furnishes the pomp and circumstance of the great festival of Bengal, the Durga puja, or public worship of that goddess.

After the account of the Manwantaras is completed, there follows a series of legends, some new, some old, relating to the sun and his posterity; continued to Vaivaswata Manu and his sons, and their immediate descendants; terminating with Dama, the son of Narishyanta. Of most of the persons noticed, the work narrates particulars not found elsewhere.

This Purana has a character different from that of all the others. It has nothing of a sectarial spirit, little of a religious tone, rarely inserting prayers and invocations to any deity, and such as are inserted are brief and moderate. It deals little in precepts, ceremonial or moral. Its leading feature is narrative, and it presents an uninterrupted succession of legends, most of which, when ancient, are embellished with new circumstances; and when new, partake so far of the spirit of the old, that they are disinterested creations of the imagination, having no particular motive; being designed to recommend no special doctrine or observance. Whether they are derived from any other source, or whether they are original inventions, it is not possible to ascertain. They are most probably, for the greater part at least, original; and the whole has been narrated in the compiler's own manner, a manner superior to that of the Puranas in general, with exception of the Bhagavata.

It is not easy to conjecture a date for this Purana: it is subsequent to the Mahabharata, but how long subsequent is doubtful. It is unquestionably more ancient than such works as the Brahma, Padma, and Naradiya Puranas; and its freedom from sectarial bias is a reason for supposing it anterior to the Bhagavata. At the same time, its partial conformity to the definition of a Purana, and the tenor of the additions which it has made to received legends and traditions, indicate a not very remote age; and, in the absence of any guide to a more positive conclusion, it may conjecturally be placed in the ninth or tenth century.

The Agni Purana

"That Purana which describes the occurrences of the Isana Kalpa, and was related by Agni to Vasishtha, is called the Agneya: it consists of sixteen thousand stanzas." The Agni or Agneya Purana derives its name from its having being communicated originally by Agni, the deity of fire, to the Muni Vasishtha, for the purpose of instructing him in the twofold knowledge of Brahma. By him it was taught to Vyasa, who imparted it to Suta; and the latter is represented as repeating it to the Rising at Naimisharanya. Its contents are variously specified as sixteen thousand, fifteen thousand, or fourteen thousand stanzas. The two copies which were employed by me contain about fifteen thousand slokas. There are two in the Company's library, which do not extend beyond twelve thousand verses; but they are in many other respects different from mine: one of them was written at Agra, in the reign of Akbar, in A. D. 1589.

The Agni Purana, in the form in which it has been obtained in Bengal and at Benares, presents a striking contrast to the Markandeya. It may be doubted if a single line of it is original. A very great proportion of it may be traced to other sources; and a more careful collation --if the task was worth the time it would require--would probably discover the remainder.

The early chapters of this Purana describe the Avataras; and in those of Rama and Krishna avowedly follow the Ramayana and Mahabharata. A considerable portion is then appropriated to instructions for the performance of religious ceremonies; many of winch belong to the Tantrika ritual, and are apparently transcribed from the principal authorities of that system. Some belong to mystical forms of Saiva worship, little known in Hindustan, though perhaps still practised in the south. One of these is the Diksha, or initiation of a novice; by which, with numerous ceremonies and invocations, in which the mysterious monosyllables of the Tantras are constantly repeated, the disciple is transformed into a living personation of Siva, and receives in that capacity the homage of his Guru. Interspersed with these, are chapters descriptive of the earth and of the universe, which are the same as those of the Vishnu Purana; and Mahatmyas or legends of holy places, particularly of Gaya.

Chapters on the duties of kings, and on the art of war, then occur, which have the appearance of being extracted from some older work, as is undoubtedly the chapter on judicature, which follows them, and which is the same as the text of the Mitakshara. Subsequent to these, we have an account of the distribution and arrangement of the Vedas and Puranas, which is little else than an abridgment of the Vishnu: and in a chapter on gifts we have a description of the Puranas, which is precisely the same, and in the same situation, as the similar subject in the Matsya Purana. The genealogical chapters are meagre lists, differing in a few respects from those commonly received, as hereafter noticed, but unaccompanied by any particulars, such as those recorded or invented in the Markandeya. The next subject is medicine, compiled avowedly, but injudiciously, from the Sausruta. A series of chapters on the mystic worship of Siva and Devi follows; and the work winds up with treatises on rhetoric, prosody, and grammar, according to the Sutras of Pingala and Panini.

The cyclopędical character of the Agni Purana, as it is now described, excludes it from any legitimate claims to be regarded as a Purana, and proves that its origin cannot be very remote. It is subsequent to the Itihasas; to the chief works on grammar, rhetoric, and medicine; and to the introduction of the Tantrika worship of Devi. When this latter took place is yet far from determined, but there is every probability that it dates long after the beginning of our era. The materials of the Agni, Purana are, however, no doubt of some antiquity. The medicine of Susruta is considerably older than the ninth century; and the grammar of Panini probably precedes Christianity. The chapters on archery and arms, and on regal administration, are also distinguished by an entirely Hindu character, and must have been written long anterior to the Mohammedan invasion. So far the Agni Purana is valuable, as embodying and preserving relics of antiquity, although compiled at a more' recent date.

Col. Wilford has made great use of a list of kings derived from an appendix to the Agni Purana, which professes to be the sixty-third or last section. As he observes, it is seldom found annexed to the Purana. I have never met with it, and doubt its ever having formed any part of the original compilation. It would appear from Col. Wilford's remarks, that this list notices Mohammed as the institutor of an era; but his account of this is not very distinct. He mentions explicitly, however, that the list speaks of Salivahana and Vikramaditya; and this is quite sufficient to establish its character. The compilers of the Puranas were not such bunglers as to bring within their chronology so well known a personage as Vikramaditya. There are in all parts of India various compilations ascribed to the Puranas, which never formed any portion of their contents, and which, although offering sometimes useful local information, and valuable as preserving popular traditions, are not in justice to be confounded with the Puranas, so as to cause them to be charged with even more serious errors and anachronisms than those of which they are guilty.

The two copies of this work in the library of the East India Company appropriate the first half to a description of the ordinary and occasional observances of the Hindus, interspersed with a few legends: the latter half treats exclusively of the history of Mina.

The Bhavishya Purana

"The Purana in which Brahma, having described the greatness of the sun, explained to Manu the existence of the world, and the characters of all created things, in the course of the Aghora Kalpa; that, is called the Bhavishya, the stories being for the most part the events of a future period. It contains fourteen thousand five hundred stanzas." This Purana, as the name implies, should be a book of prophecies, foretelling what will be (bhavishyati), as the Matsya Purana intimates. Whether such a work exists is doubtful. The copies, which appear to be entire, and of which there are three in the library of the East India Company, agreeing in their contents with two in my possession, contain about seven thousand stanzas. There is another work, entitled the Bhavishyottara, as if it was a continuation or supplement of the former, containing also about seven thousand verses; but the subjects of .both these works are but to a very imperfect degree analogous to those to which the Matsya alludes.

The Bhavishya Purana, as I have it, is a work in a hundred and twenty-six short chapters, repeated by Sumantu to Satanika, a king of the Pandu family. He notices, however, its having originated with Swayambhu or Brahma; and describes it as consisting of five parts; four dedicated, it should seem, to as many deities, as they are termed, Brahma, Vaishnava, Saiva, and Twashtra; whilst the fifth is the Pratisarga, or repeated creation. Possibly the first part only may have come into my hands, although it does not so appear by the manuscript.

Whatever it may be, the work in question is not a Purana. The first portion, indeed, treats of creation; but it is little else than a transcript of the words of the first chapter of Manu. The rest is entirely a manual of religious rites and ceremonies. It explains the ten Sanskaras, or initiatory rites; the performance of the Sandhya; the reverence to be shewn to a Guru; the duties of the different Asramas and castes; and enjoins a number of Vratas, or observances of fasting and the like, appropriate to different lunar days. A few legends enliven the series of precepts. That of the sage Chyavana is told at considerable length, taken chiefly from the Mahabharata. The Naga Panchami, or fifth lunation, sacred to the serpent-gods, gives rise to a description of different sorts of snakes. After these, which occupy about one-third of the chapters, the remainder of them conform in subject to one of the topics referred to by the Matsya. They chiefly represent conversations between Krishna, his son Samba, who had become a leper by the curse of Durvasas, Vasishtha, Narada, and Vyasa, upon the power and glory of the sun, and the manner in which he is to be worshipped. There is some curious matter in the last chapters, relating to the Magas, silent worshippers of the sun, from Sakadwipa, as if the compiler had adopted the Persian term Magh, and connected the fire-worshippers of Iran with those of India. This is a subject, however, that requires farther investigation.

The Bhavishyottara is, equally with the preceding, a sort of manual of religious offices, the greater portion being appropriated to Vratas, and the remainder to the forms and circumstances with which gifts are to be presented. Many of the ceremonies are obsolete, or are observed in a different manner, as the Rath-yatra, or car festival; and the Madanotsava, or festival of spring. The descriptions of these throw some light upon the public condition of the Hindu religion at a period probably prior to the Mohammedan conquest. The different ceremonies are illustrated by legends, which are sometimes ancient, as, for instance, the destruction of the god of love by Siva, and his thence becoming Ananga, the disembodied lord of hearts. The work is supposed to be communicated by Krishna to Yudhishthira, at a great assemblage of holy persons at the coronation of the latter, after the conclusion of the great war.


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