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The Puranas

The Puranas are the core texts of Hindu religiosity. They expand on the ideas contained in the Vedas through stories, which hold immediate popular appeal. The Mahabharata says that the Vedas fear the person who tries to interpret them without knowing the Puranas first. The Devibhagavata puts it crisply: “Shruti and Smrti are the two eyes of dharma but the Purana is its heart” (XI.1.21).

The Puranas are usually in the form of dialogues between a spiritual aspirant and an accomplished saint. The major topics addressed in the Puranas include the purusharthas or “aims of humanity” (dharma, “sacred duty”; artha “material prosperity”; kama, “pleasure”; and moksha, “liberation”), religious observances, pilgrimage, charitable offerings, rites for the dead, the glorification of various divinities, descriptions of cycles of time, graphic portrayals of heavens and hells, philosophical expositions, delineation of social duties, and of course, the supreme amongst all spiritual practices - Bhakti.

The Puranas are traditionally said to be eighteen in number. However, there is no exactness according to which Puranas fall into the eighteen. The major Puranas are:

1. Brahma Purana

2. Padma Purana

3. Vishnu Purana

4. Vayu Purana

5. Bhagavata Purana

6. Narada Purana

7. Markandeya Purana

8. Agni Purana

9. Bhavishya Purana

10. Brahmavaivarta Purana

11. Linga Purana

12. Varaha Purana

13. Skanda Purana

14. Vamana Purana

15. Kurma Purana

16. Matsya Purana

17. Garuda Purana

18. Brahmanda Purana

19. Shiva Purana

All the Puranas are attributed to the divine sage Vyasa, who, according to the Bhagavata Purana, is an incarantion of Lord Vishnu.