Narad Purana is what emerged from the lips of Maharshi Narad. Initially, it was a collection of about twenty-five thousand stanzas, but the currently available version of Narad Purana contains not more than twenty-two thousand stanzas.
The content of Narad Purana has been divided into two parts. The first part contains four chapters, which include a dialogue between Suta and Shaunak on the origin of the universe, salvation, the birth of Sukadev, training in the mantras, rituals of worship, provisions, and the results of the various fasts observed on particular days in particular months. The second part contains beautiful tales related to various incarnations of Lord Vishnu along with the significance of pilgrimage sites and performing pilgrimage.
Penance of the Sages in Naimisharnya and
Dialogue Between Suta and the Sages
Once upon a time, about twenty-six thousand sages assembled in the holy ambience of Naimisharanya. All of them had renounced their desires and homely comforts and were worshipping Lord Vishnu for the benefit of the entire humanity.
During their stay in Naimisharanya, those sages called a huge assembly to discuss about the means of attaining all the four goals of life, like Dharma, Arth, Kama and Moksha.
The great sage Shaunak was presiding over the assembly. He said: "O sages! We have assembled here to discuss the most cryptic disciplines of life. But it is beyond my powers to answer the questions you have put before me. Only a great sage like Suta, who is the most learned disciple of Vedavyasa, is able to answer these questions. Presently, he lives in a hermitage in Siddhipeeth. Let us all go there and request him to preach to us about the cryptic disciplines of life."
Hearing these words, all the sages thanked Shaunak with joy. Then, led by Shaunak himself, all of them reached the hermitage of the sage Suta. At the hermitage, sage Suta welcomed them all and satisfied their queries. He said:
"O great sages! I narrate to you, the great Purana, which was once narrated by the great saint Sanatkumar to Devarshi Narad and now known as Narad Purana."
Narad Prays to Lord Visnu
Shaunak says: "Sutaji, how did Sanatkumar unfold the mystic character of the religion to Narad? When and where they had the meeting to hold this pious discussion? Kindly tell us in detail."
Sutaji says: "The great sage Sanatkumar, who was free from illusions, was the creation of Brahma's imagination. He always remained engrossed in the worship of Brahma. Once, he was going towards the peaks of the mighty Meru Mountains (Himalayas) when on the way, he happened to sight the sacred Ganges. He was about to take a dip in the waters when Devarshi Narad also arrived there. Devarshi Narad greeted his elder brother and took bath in the river.
After carrying out usual rituals, they seated there and started a discussion about the virtues of Lord Vishnu." Devarshi Narad asked- "O brother! How can one realize the Lord Vishnu? Who is the cause of this whole creation? What is the appearance of devotion, knowledge and penance? Kindly elaborate the mystery of treating the guests also. Also tell me, how did Lord Vishnu effected the origin of Brahma and other gods?"
Sanatkumar says: In the beginning of creation, the self-illuminating Lord Vishnu created Brahma from His right hand side, Rudra from His central part and Vishnu, his own replica from His left hand side. As Lord Vishnu is omnipresent, similarly his illusions are also omnipresent and known with different names like Lakshmi, Uma, Shakti and Chandi. These are the powers of Lord Vishnu. Some people identify these powers with the illusions created by the Lord whereas the sages regard them as nature."
The gods, who protect the world, are Purush, and the Supreme Being, who is above these levels, is Lord. Nobody else is greater than He is. From His navel even Brahma has originated on a divine lotus. He is the Supreme Being the eternal joy incorporating all the three virtues.
O Narad! Five senses- sights, sound, scent, touch and taste have originated from the ego. Ego is the origin of other eleven senses also. These five senses in turn gave rise to five physical elements- ether, air, fire, water and earth. It was after the creation of these five physical elements that Brahma created the lower living beings. Then he created human beings followed by the creation of all the seven worlds and seven guards of these seven worlds. For the inhabitation of the living beings, Brahma also created great mountains, plains and seven seas.
Towards the north of the great saline sea and towards the south of the great Himalayas is situated the Holy Land of India. People who worship Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu inhabit this land. Because of their virtues, even the gods worship the people who populate the Indian landmass. Those ignorant people who do not seek salvation despite having been born in India have to suffer the tortures of hell as long as the Sun and the Moon shine in the sky. The whole world from Brahma to a seemingly unimportant blade of grass is the manifestation of Vasudev (Lord Vishnu).