A few preliminary remarks on the history, scope and contents of the Garuda Puranam may be necessary. The Garuda Puranam may be safely described similar work to the Agni Puranam. Each of them treats of Para Vidya and Apara vidya secular knowledge and metaphysical truths, and partakes more of the nature of a catechism of the then prevailing Brahmananism, or of what a Brahmana was required to know at the time, than of the Puranam proper, at least if we may be admitted to look upon the Ramayana or the Rules of Pancha Sandhis, etc., the Guruda Puranam like its sister work. Reflects but the knowledge of the Brahmanical world at the time and had it used then as is have even now.
Cakrapani Dutta has quoted many a recipe from it and the Visnu Dharmottaram, according to several eminent authorities, originally formed a portion of the Garuda Puranam. All these factors emphatically demonstrate the fact that the Garuda Puranam was in existence even prior the tenth century, of the Christian Era. On the Contrary, we have reasons to believe that hosts of Puranas and Upapuranas were composed in the age of Brahmanic reniscence, which immediately followed the overthrow of Buddhism in India. The Garuda Puranam, like the Agni, Siva, Padma, and other Puranas were the exponents of the victorious Brahmanism tried to tutelary deity of each sect with the attributes of supreme divinity or Brahman and to equip its members with the Vedic literature became a new school of law. Medicine and metaphysics etc. re-instating the old errors of the Vedic literature as if to ignore the many advanced truths and principles of the later day Buddhistic science and to confirm the victory of Brahmanism.
The description of the incidents of the life of Buddha, however meager and incidental it might be, and the occurrence of the name of Susruta in the medical portion of the Garuda Puranam leaves not the slightest doubt that its author was intimately acquainted with the Buddhistic literature of the age, both medical and Metaphysical. It is a settled fact of history that the Susruta Samhita, at least the recension of the Sasruta Samhita by the Buddhist Nagarjuna, was written in the second century before the birth of Christ. Now the Susruta Samhita says that the number of bones in the human body is three hundred. The Visnu Smriti (Institutes of Visnu) following the orthodox (Vedic) non- medical opinion on the subject gives it as three hundred sixty-six.
We know that Nagarjuna, the Buddhist redacter of the Susruta Samhita, mentioned in his recension of the work that there are " three hundred bones in the human organism but the follower of the Vedas say that their number is three hundred and sixty" which tallies with the number given in the Yajnavalkya Smrti. The author of the Garuda Puranam, whoever he might be must have been sufficiently familiar with the works of Nagarjuna and other Buddhistic Medical Acaryas so as to be fully convinced of the truth of their statement and attempted to make the Vedic number of skeletal bones as near to the truth as possible. This fact serves to throw a new light upon the date of the composition of the Brahmanism once more attempted to restore the teachings of the Vedas in their pristine glory and the truths of the Buddhistic science or metaphysics were still too potent a factor to be ignored or lightly dismissed a fact which support our contention and lends a plausible colour to the view we have adopted as regards the probable date of the composition of the Garuda Puranam.
In the first Chapter we learn that the Puranam consistes of eight thousand and eight hundred verses and the subjects dealt with therein are creations of the universe Pujas, holy pools and shrines. Cosmogony and Geography Ages Manus, Duties of differents social orders Gifts making Duties of kings etc. Laws Vratas Royal dynasties Vedagas, Pralaya Laws of Virtue desire and money and knowledge (of Brahman and external things). These then were the main themes that were originally dealt with in the Guruda Puranam and we may say that this was so in the light of the principle of Adhyaya sampravibhaga (classification of chapters) which forms one of the cardinal rules in forming the plan of a Sanskrit work. We regret to say that many things having a direct bearing thereon have been added to it. And within the compass of the eight thousand and eight hundred slokas, as laid down in the introductory chapter. Thus we see that the Pretakhanda or Visnu dharmottara, was added to it by way of an appendix and the reason of these successive accretions to the text can easily understood if we consider that the Garuda Puranam like the Agni etc. although originally a compendium of the available Brahmanical knowledge and rituals pursued and followed by the Vaisnava section of the community came to gather in many tributaries from the other branches of Brahmanic thought and religion as the distinction between the sects of Visnu and other sects Siva and Sakti etc., came to be less marked and pronounced off. Thus we see many Tantrik rites and Mantras such as the Tripura Vidya, Nityaklinna vidya were introduced into the Garuda Puranam.
From the Jacket
The different works known by the name of Puranas (or old) are evidently derived from the myth heroic stage of Hindu belief. The puranas are commonly stated to be eighteen in number. It is said there are also eighteen Upa-Puranas but the names of all these are not found. The principal eighteen Puranas are Brahma, Padma, Visnu, Siva, Bhagvata, Naradiya, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavisya, Brahma, Vaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmanda.
All these Puranas are classed into three groups according to the qualities, which prevail in them. The matsya Purana remarks that those in which glory of Hari or Visnu prevails are Sattvika those in which the legends of Agni of Siva predominated are Tamasa and those which dwell most on the stories of Brahma are Rajasa.
The Garuda Puranam is a Vaisnava Purana and hence can be termed as Sattvika Purana. It is enumerated in all the lists available in the Puranas though these are not very ancient yet they show the popularity of the Garuda Purana in the Puranic literature. Also the authors of Dharmasastric digests and philosophical works quote extensively from the Garuda Purana thus it holds a unique place among the Puranas.
The present English translation by M. N. Dutt translated into English many Puranas and the Garuda Purana was one of them. It was first published in the year 108. Then it was reprinted. Now publishing its English translation with Sanskrit Verses. It is a medium size Purana consisting eight thousand verses. According to M. N. Dutt the book comprise three Samhitas viz the Agastya Samhita the Brhaspati Samhita ( Nitisara) and the Dhanvantari Samhita. Each one of those Samhitas would give it a permanent value and accord to it an undying fame among the works of practical ethics or Applied medicine. The Agastya Samhita deals with the names of the countries from which our fore fathers used to collect these gems the cutting polishing setting and apprecising etc. of the several kind of jems and dimond as they were practised in ancient in India cannot but be interesting to artists and ay men and the scientific traders unbedded in the highly poetic accounts of these original gems.
With the publication of this important purana alongwith English translation from a rare book by Dr. M. N. Dutt will help the scholars and the devotees as well.
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