Bhagavata Purana (5 Volumes)

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Preface

The present volume contains the Bhagavata Purana Part I (Skandhas 1-3) in English translation. It is the seventh in the series of fifty volumes on Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology.

The project of the series was envisaged and financed in 1970 by Shri Sundarlal Jain the veteran enterprise in the field of oriental publication and the leading partner Messrs Motilal Banarsidas. Hitherto seven volumes of the series have been published and are ready for sale.

The present translation is based on the Sanskrit text of the Bhagavata Purana published by Messrs Ksemaraja Sri Krsna Das Venkateswara Press, Bombay. This text constructed on the collation of mss and supported by the oldest commentator Sridhara Swami is fairly accurate. But we have also recorded the translation of all the additional verses accepted as genuine in the authoritative commentaries of Ramanuja and Madhva schools that are not found in the text of Sridhara Swami.

The Bhagavata Purana Deals with a variety of subjects geographical, historical , philosophical, religious and the like which need elucidation. This task could not be accomplished by a mere translation. We have therefore provided footnotes on these topics. On the philosophical verses especially we have recorded different interpretations of the commentators belonging to different schools of thought viz those of Sankara Ramanuja Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Caitanya (Gaudiya School of Vaishnavism) and also two eminent Marathi commentators Krsna Dayarnava and Ekanatha. In the Accomplishment of this task we have utilized the commentaries published in the Bhagavata Vidya Peeth Ahmedabad Edition and in the Vrindavana edition of this Purana.

In order to help the reader understand the background of the subject matter, we have prefixed to this part a critical and comparative introduction that discusses among other topics the date authorship, philosophy, religion and general characteristics of this Purana. A Brief note on the commentators has also been added to the introduction while a general index is thought to be included in the last Part of this work.

Before closing it is our pleasant duty to put on record our sincere gratitude to Dr. S.K. Chatterjee, Dr. V. Raghavan of the UNESCO for their kind encouragement and valuable help which render this work more valuable to scholars than it would otherwise have been. We must also thank the learned translator and annotator Dr. G.V. Tagare for his untiring zeal and sustained efforts in bringing out his volume within the scheduled time in spite of untold obstacles.

Finally, we avail of this opportunity to state that any critical suggestions and advice for improvement are welcome and will receive proper consideration from us.

 

Introduction

The term Purana usually occurs in close association with itihasa in old Sanskrit literature originally it connoted simply an old narrative. The Puranas describe this term as that which lives from ancient times or the records of ancient events to convey the same sense Sanskrit lexicons derive the term Purana grammatically as follows:

  1. Pura (Purvasmin kale) Bhavam
  2. Pura Niyate iti

As a class of literature Puranas existed in Vedic times and are mentioned as such along with Brahmanas, Itihasa and Narasamsi gatha in the Atharva Veda in Brahmanas and in the Tai. Ar. (Taittiriya Aranyaka) by the time of the Chandogya Upa…they were accorded the status of the fifth Veda and formed a part of the syllabus of Vedic studies. The use of itihasa and Purana in a collective dvandva and in the singular number in these ancient works suggests that possibly there was one work or rather tract of literature called Purana a tradition recorded in the Matsya Padma and Skanda Puranas. As P.V. Kane Shows the Apastamba Dharma Sutra Twice quotes verses from a Purana and summarizes the view of a Bhavisyath Purana. The quotations show that Puranas in those days were versified compositions in archaic Sanskrit and that even in those times there was a Purana called Bhavisyath Purana.

It appears that probably to the pre-eminence of the war between Karuavas and Pandavas wherein the then contemporary Aryandom participated the Mahabharata with all its accretion came to be designated as itihas (history) and the rest of the ancient lore Purana. But both itihasa and puranas are equally myth and history. It is presumed by scholars like M. Winternitz that similar to the Vedic Samhitas there existed one or several collections of itihasas and Puranas made up of myths and legends. During the Brahmana period the recital of narrative poems formed a part of the religious ceremonies at the sacrificial and domestic festivals. Thus the daily recitation of legends of gods and heroes belonged to the preliminary celebration which lasted a whole year of the great horse sacrifice. As shown by S. Bhattacharya it was this sacrificial milieu which led to the formation of the following main topics dealt with in the Puranas viz (1) sarga (Creation of the universe); (2) Pratisarga (Recreation after destruction or deluge); (3) Vamsa (Genealogy) ; (4) Manvantara (the great periods of time with Manu as the primal ancestor) and (5) vamsam carita (The history of the dynasties both the solar and the Lunar). These topics formed an integral part of the definition of the puranas as given in the Amara kosa. But as G.V. Devashali notes the texts that have come down to us under the title Purana hardly conform to this definition since they contain either something more or something less than the limitations set by it. The reasons were obvious. The process of Aryanisation of pre Aryan masses and assimilation of foreign invaders like Greeks Scythians Hunas and others in the Hindu fold necessitated the creation of literature which included non Aryan beliefs rituals customs etc and could shape the conduct and meet the worldly and spiritual needs of the masses. Hence the conglomeration of legends of gods and tales of demons and snake deities, old sages and kings of ancient times in Puranas. Some Puranas like Agni, Garuda and Narada are ancient encyclopedias of literatures containing abstracts of works in arts and sciences medicine, grammar, dramaturgy, music, astrology etc. most of them are rich in dharma sastra material such as acara (religious duties), Asrama-dharma (duties pertaining to one’s social class and stage in life) dana (gifts) Prayascitta (Atonement for sins) Sraddha (Rituals pertaining to the dealt anniversary), Tirtha (Holy places) etc. they have amalgamated agamic Vaishnavism with early (Vedic) vaishnavism and agamic Saivism with the Vedic traditions. A number of them are rich hence they afford us far greater insight into all aspects and phases of Hinduism its love of God its philosophy and its superstition its festivals and ceremonies when he calls Puranas as a popular encyclopedia of ancient and medieval Hinduism religious, philosophical, historical, personal social and political.

 

 

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