The extant version has 5400
verses, spread over 95 adhyayas or chapters, though, according to the Matsya and the Vayu puranas, it has 10,000 verses.
It was narrated by the sage Pulastya
to Narada at his request.
As the name indicates, it is concerned
with the avatara of Visnu as Vamana, the
fifth incarnation among the Dasavataras
and hence a Vaisnava purana. However,
equal importance and reverence have been
accorded to Siva and Devi also.
The story Vamana and Bali (the
king of Asuras) has been narrated in great
detail in the following chapters; 73; 74;
75; 77; 89; 91; 92; 93; 94; 95.
Other subjects dealt with are: Siva
cutting off one of the five heads of Brahma;
Siva redeemed at Varanasi; destruction of
Daksa's sacrifice; Sati (Siva's wife) immolating herself and reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himalayas; Siva burning up
Kama (the god Eros); observance of certain
vratas like Kalastami; story of Durga,
Mahisasura and Andhaka; greatness of
the Sarasvati river; detailed description
of Kuruksetra and pilgrim centres associated with it; story of Dandaka and Dandakaranya including Sukracarya's curse;
various incidents connected with Prahlada;
and, story of Gajendra's deliverance.
Several topics dealt with in the
dharmasastra treatises have been
described here, such as tirthas (holy
rivers); sadachara (good conduct); samanyadharma (virtues common for all); ashrama dharma (duties of the four stages of
life); vratas (religious observances); karma
theory and its application.
Unlike other puranas, this purana
does not give the genealogies of kings and sages. However, detailed geographical descriptions of mountains, rivers and janapadas (countries) are found here.
The mountains are: Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Suktiman, Rksa, Vindhya, and Pariyatra.
The various rivers arising from there
are also mentioned.
The janapadas divided according to
the traditional directions are: Anga,
Bahlika, Bharakaccha, Caula, Kambhoja,
Kerala, Pragjyotisa, Pundra, Surastra,
Tusara, and Vanga.
Some of the social customs that
prevailed were: early marriage; sulkadharma (bridegroom's parents giving
money and presents to the bride); restriction of freedom to girls and women; sati-custom prevalent in certain sections of the
society; disfavour of polygamy and having
too many off springs; killing of animals
and felling of trees frowned upon; strict
adherence to the caste-system but possibility of attaining the status of a brahmana
by taking bath in certain holy rivers
(observing all the necessary disciplines)
Though the language of the work is
similar to that of the general puranas, it
often rises to great literary heights while
describing the seasons, the mountains, city
of Varanasi and the battles between the
devas and asuras.
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