The tradition of Puranas in the country is of considerable antiquity and in the Brahmanical literature, these Puranas are held in high esteem, some of which like the Ghagvat Purana patronize Rsabhadeva as one of te incarnations of Visnu. In Jainism, however, there are several Puranas some of which belong to quite an early date. Unlike the Brahmani-cal Puranas, which are attributed t the sage Vyasa, the Jaina Puranas have been composed by different authors of considerable repute at different times. The Adi Purana by Jinasena is claimed opt belong to he ninth century A. D. and deals with the life story of lord Rsabhadeva, and his ten incarnations, besides the life sketches of Bharata as well as Bahubali. This is quite an important work for the purpose of the study of the ancient Jaina traditions, culture, history, besides the ancient geography of eh country. This is not only an important Puranan, but is a Mahakavya (epic) of great poetic excellence, a religious scripture and a political composition besides being a code of conduct for the Jaina clergy as well as the common man. It also testifies the gensis and evolution of the human race and its classification into different classes. This indeed is an excellent composition which reflect the various aspects of the ancient customs and tradition besides the way of life of the people of the Jaina faith and its English version would surely interest the readers in the country and abroad, Though utmost care has been taken in rendering the work in English, but there could still be some shortcomings here and there, which I am sure, the learned readers would be kind enough to overlook the same.
The author, a graduate of the Punjab University, served in the curatorial capacity in the Central Asian Antiques Museum, Nalanda, the Archaeological Section of the Indian Museum, Calcutta for a number of Years. He has to hi credit the scientific document-tation of over fifty thousand antiquities the rich cultural heritage of the country and comprising of sculptures bronzes, terracotta’s, beads, seals and sealing, ancient Indian numismatics, wood work, miniatures and paintings textiles and Pearce collection of gems, ranging from the earliest times to the late medieval period. He was awarded, in 1987,a fellowship, for his monograph on the Temples of Himachal Pradesh by the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi.
He has been working on the Indian Art, Culture and literature and his more than seventy works have already been published.
The word Purana as an adjective means, ancient or old. Its earliest use as a noun in the sense of the ancient lore of the old narrative is found in the Atharvaveda (XI.7.24) and the Satapatha Brahmana (XIII. 4.3.13). The word Itihasa means a story of the fact or traditional history. Yaska clearly uses the word Ithihasa, in this sense and later on the word is found used int eh Puranas as well . It seems however, that the word Purana once cannoted both the senses and any old story or ancient lore, whether allegorical, mystic all or factual was termed as Purana. This use of the word Purana is found present in the Atharvaveda as well as the subsequent Puranic literatue. As stated above, the word Purana is found used in the sense of both Purana (an old myth) or itihasa, (a factual story, as distinguished from an allegorical or the mythical one) in the old Vedic literature, hence the word Purana was a wider term and included both the ancient and the historical events. The Yajnvalkya smrti mentions only Purana (and the itishass or itishas-Purana) as one of the fourteen sthanas or sources of dharma:
But the Mahabharata calls itself both as itihasa as well as well as the Dharmasaastra. Hence Uajnavalkya seems here to include history also in the Puranas. Similarly, the Visny Purana includes only Purana among the fourteen vidyas. Kautilya however includes Purana in itihasa. Thus we find that PUrana and itithas were inter-changeable terms and as such though they were initially considered as the separated subjects but in course of time they became identical. The akhyanas then became the essential ingredients of both in the itishas and the Purana and in due course of time, they were similarly described. As the Puranas tended to become encyclopedic works and hence, began to include all the subjects of human interest and thus itishasa was also included in the Puranas. The great epic of Mahabharata which was composed in Puraninc style, is also called by scholars as a Purana. The vast Puranic literature, thus includes, the Puranas proper (eighteen Puranas and eighteen upa-Puranas are treated as the Puranas. Some scholars also bring the epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana under the category of the Puranas. The Indian religious literature uses the word Purana which indeed is linked with itihasa. While several of the people of learnings consider itihasa and Purana as the fifth Veda, Canakya in his Artbasastra has conceived itihasa in the Atharvaveda and in the Purana including the history, akin with the Prana, stories, examples, and Dharmasastras (religious treatises). This, therefore, goes onto establish that both itihasa and Puranas had separate entities and were linked with history in one way or the other. However, in general the Puranas are supposed to deal with the following subjects:
This means that the Puranic literary works include Sarga (progeny), pratisarga (creation or dissolution of the world), Vamsa (race)Manvantara (the age of Manu) and Vamsanucaritam (description of the royal races), as the five essential points of discussion in the Puranas.
In fact the Puranic literature in the Bahmanicla pantheonis quite vast in which beside the upa-Puranas the following Mahapuranas are met with. The Mahapuranas are listed hereunder.
(1) Matsya Purana
(2) Markandeya Purana
(3) Bhagavata Purana
(4) Bhavisya Purana
(5) Brahmanda Purana
(6) Brahmavaivarta Purana
(8) Vaman Purana
(9) Varaha PUrana
(10) Visny Purana
(11) Vaya Purana or Siva Purana
(12) Agni Purana
(13) Narda Purana
(1) Padma Purana
(15) Linga Purana
(16) Garuda Purana
(17) Kurma Purana
(18) Skanda Purana
In addition to the aforesaid eighteen Maha-Puranasa, there are equal number of upa- Puranas which are also listed below:
(1) Sanat Kumara
In some texts of the Devi Bhagavata, names of Siva, Manava Aditya, Bhagavata and Vasistha are listed in place of Skanda, Vamana, Brahmanda, Marica and Bhargava.
In addition to the Puranas and Upa-Puranas as mentioned above, there are other puranas known as Ganesha, Maudgala, Devi, Kalki, and several others. Some of the scholars believe that the later Puranas were composed by about the Gupta times or the subsequent period. It may, however, be emphasized that most of the Puranas and up-Puranas of the Brahmanical pantheon are attributed to Vyasa, while it is not the case with the Jauna Puranas, which had been composed by different individuals. The Brahmanical Puranas have also been classified variouslyas Sattvika, Rajas and Tamas Pruanas and lists of such classifications are available in some of the Puranas like the Padma Purana and Bhavisya Purana the glimpses of which are provided hereunder”
(1) Sattvika Puranas
(1) Sattvika Purana
(i) Visnuvaivarta Purana
(2) Rajas Puranas
(vi) Brahma (2) Rajas Purana
(3) Tamas Puranas
Utility of the Puranas
The Puranas have contributed to the maximum to refine all the aspects of human life including national, social and cultural consciousness, besided the national awakening. They represent our individual as well as the social and political life besides the community life, the duties of the people towards the rulers and vice versa. In fact the Puranas were composed keeping in view the public consciousness, attraction of the people, and their welfare. The Puranas represent the biggest and unparallel contribution for the conduct the people during the present as well as the further life. The society, with the following of the ideals propounded in the Puraninc literature had always remained strong and conscious and for such a society, its self respect and the devotion the country had been supreme. The Purana had been successful to a considerable extent to compare the past and the present situations and to provide solutions to the people for their benefit. They also provide the historical background of the country. Besides the spiritual thought in order to enlighten the people at large. Infract, without the study of the Puranas the study of the ancient past of the country would be in complete.
It is not that the puranas were created in the Brahmanical Pantheon alone, but the Jina thinkers and scholars also did not leg behind in the creation of the Puranas some of which are listed below in the tentative chronological order the earliest times to the late medieval period:
Name of the Purana
7th Century A.D.
The Available Puranas
Evidently the Brahmanical Puranas in order to retain their authoritativeness and usefulness for the contemporary society, had to keep vicissitude during the then prevailing circumstances due to political, religious and social conditions in India . Therefore with the apparent changes in the contemporary society, the Puranas also underwent occasional changes, revisions and redactions, but they preserved to considerable extent the ancient character and traditions even from the Vedic times, which must have formed part of the original Puranas therefore the available editions of the Puranas could be more or less the revised editions of the original Puranas which are not currently available. None of the Puranas available at present (except those with some interpolated portions) could be posterior to the eleventh century A.D. because Albiruni (a foreign traveler) has given two lists of the Puranas, in which he mentions the names of the eighteen Puranas as well as some upa-Puranas. The earlier Puranas among these must have been composed by about the Gupta period or so, because in the dynastic lists, no mention is made of dynasties later then the imperial Guptas. However, Winternitz is of the opinion that many of the Puranas must have been composed prior to the start of the Christian era or latest by the first century A.D. The Lalitavistara, a Buddhist text, not only calls itself a PUrana, but also has much in some passages of the Mhavastu reminded us of the sectarian Puranas. ( Winternitz. History of Indian Literature, Vol. I, p. 525).
Tradition of Translation
The tradition of the interpretation of the early Sanskrit works in the country is pretty old and some of the ancient Sanskrit scholars, were conscious of the fact that the Sanskrit texts like the Vedas and Post-Vedic literature had been beyond the understanding of the common or even the learned people of the society and for this purpose commentaries of the Vedas and other Sanskrit works were compose by great scholars like Sayana or the other. Admittedly such commentaries are few and far between and were not of much use to the common man.
However, with the composition of the Valmiki Ramayana by the sage Valmiki, a sort of revolution I the contemporary society was created. It became so popular in the contemporary society that people became desirous of listening to the story of Rama in simple Sanskrit or even in the local languages. Keeping this aspect in view, many of the later Sanskrit poets like Kalidasa, Bhatti, Bhairavi, Kumaradasa and many others adopted the story of Rama in their poetic works. (There is a long list of such works). In due course of time the same Ramayana of Valmiki was adopted by any of the poets like Kambn (Tamil), Pampa (Kannada), Madhavakandali (Assamesse), Krttivasa (Bengali), Jagamohan (Oriya), Tulasidasa (Hindi), Ranganatha (Telugu), Bhanubhakta (Kashmiri), Girdhara (Gujarati), Svayambhu (Prakrit ( and many others.
Not only in the country but the Ramayana was also translated into Persian during the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar, by Faizi. Another translation of the Ramayana was made at Varansi, by about the eighteenth century A. D. by Gosvami Anandaghana in the Court of Raja Mahip Narayana Singh. Beisdes the above, the Persian translation of the Mahabharata under the title of Razm-Nana was also made during the time of Akbar which is preserved in British Museum. The same epic was translated in to Persian and Arabic as claimed by Dr. Pusalker in his work entitled “Persian and Arabic Studies”.
In so far as the Puranas are concerned, a large of translations, adaptations, and epitomes of the Puranas and their important episodes, didactical portions and chapters on mahatmayas and Vrataas, were made in almost all the regional languages in India, both in the north and the south. In fact, the number of these regional translations and adaptations of the Puranas is so large that it is not possible to provide the necessary details here.
However, the Matsya Purana was translated into Persian, by Goswami Anandagha in (A.D. 1792) at Varanasi, a manuscript of which is available in the Italian Institute of Rome. A copy of the Persian translation of the Bhagavata Purana is reported to be available in the Aligarh Muslim University.
Not only in India, the Purana also travelled beyond the Indian frontiers to Tibet, China, Japan, Indonesia and the South East Asian countries. The Brahmanda Purana is the only work on Siva in the island of Bali. A large number of ancient Jvanese adaptations of sum original Sanskrit works there. R. Friedrich first drew the attention of the scholarly world to the old Javanesse Brahmanda Purana in 1847. The scholar Dr. H. N. Vander Tank collected many manuscripts of this Purana, which after his death were sent to Netherlands. Many translation works into Javanese of Ramayana are also reported from Java.
It is not that the Puranas were popular alone in India as well the adjoining countries, but they are found to have travelled to European countries. Western thinking especially the German literature and philosophy, since the start of the nineteenth century has been greatly influenced with the Indian ideas. A German scholar once observed that” the Indian concept of ephemeral nature of all the religions and philosophical systems could serve as a model to the western thinking as well.” The influence of Indian literature over European thoughts could be traced event to the middle ages. Some of the ancient Indian works passed to Europe through the Arabic and Persian translators.
For example, Pancatantra was first translated into Pehlevi in the early sixth century A. d. which was again translated into Syraic it he A. D. 570 and Arabic (in A. D. 750). Then through the various versions derived room the Arabic translation, it became known all over Europe. Isolated travelers, missionaries, also acquainted themselves with Indian literary works. Thus in A. D. 1951 a Dutchman Abraham Roger, published some of the proverbs of Bhartrhari which were translated for him into Portuguese by a Brahaman. The Upanisads were first translated into Persian by Dara Shakoh, and from the Persian they were translated into Latin in the beginning of the nineteenth century by a French scholar under the title of opnekhat. Thought the Perso-Latin translation of the Upanisads was quite imperfect, a s was declared by the great German scholar, Schopenhauer but still the observed that it was “the production of the highest human wisdom.” Then in due course of time Bhagvadgita, Hitopadesa, Sakuntala were translated direct from Sanskrit into English. In due course of time studies of Sanskrit became more popular in Europe and several Indian woks were translated into English and other European languages, a bird-eye view of which is provide here:
(a) Ramayana was translated into English by R. T. Griffith in five volumes in 1870-74.
(b) Agni Purana was translated into English by M. N. Datta, 1901.
(c) Bhagavata Purana, by M. N. Dutta-1895.
(d) Devi Bhagavata by Svami Vijnananananada
, 1922. (e) Brahmavaivarta Purana by Rajendranatha Sema.
(f) Garuda Purana by M. N. Datta, 1908.
(g) Markandeya Prana, by F. E. Pargiter, 1888-1905.
(h) Visnu Purana, by H. H. Wilson, 1884.
(This is only illustrative and not exhaustive)
(a) Mahabharata, by H. Fanche, 1863.
(b) Bhagavada Purana, by R. Rath and F. Max Muller, 1840.
(c) Brahma Purana by A. L. Chezy, 1822.
(d) Markandeya Purana, by Burnouf.
(a) Bhagavata Purana, by Turich, 1791.
(b) Brahma Purana, by A. W. Schlegel, 1822.
(c) Garuda Purana, by E. Abegg, 1921.
(d) Linga Puana by W. John, 1915 (in part)
(e) Markandeya Purana, by Fe Rokert, 1854 (in part)
(f) Visnu Purana,by Gekdner (in part)
The Adipurana has been composed in Sanskrit unlike several other earlier Jaina texts. Which were composed in Prakrta, Apabhramsa and othe r local languages. The earlier Jaina poets composed their works like Paumacarya in Prakrta, Apabhramsa and other local languages. The earlier Jina course of time Sanskrit was also patronized by the Jina poets. With the start of this tradition, there was no derth of the Jaina Sanksrit texts and the Jaina poets composed in Sanskrit even the great epics or the Mahakavuas. In fact the Sanskrit happens to be the language of the Vedas followed by the Brahamans, Upanisads and other post-vedic literature. In fact the Brahmanical poets right from the earliest times patronized Sanskrit alone in the composition of their works, which earned the international repute. The scholars well-versed in the history of Sanskrit literature into Samhitakala, Madhyasanskrtakala, and Laukika Sanskrit Kala, Puranakal and Kavyakal glimpses of which are provided hereunder:
(i) Samhitakala or the period of Samhitas
The vedic Samhitas viz Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and the Athraveda come under this category, which contain the Vedic hymans in Sanskrit . One has to take extra while reciting the Vedic hymns. Only the grammar of Paninis the authentic work explaining the formation of the Vedic terminology to a considerable extent.
(ii) Post Vedic or the Brahmankala or the Period of Brahmana literature
After the Vedic period the literature on Brahmans, Aranakas, and Upanisads started. The Sanskrit used in these compositions had been a bit easier than the one used in the Vedic literature and the rulers of the Panini’s Astadhyayi are indeed applicable in the case of these compositions, which are more lucid, simple and brief which could be easily understood.
This includes the period after the SRutikala to the time of Patanjali the great commentator. The start if this period is believed to be form the time of Yaska and Panini, during which several Sanskrit words like the Ramayana the Mahabharata the two great epic of this period spread over many countries. Astonishingly the creations during this period were more lucid, easier, impressive and exhibited great creativeness and thought provoking which penetrated into the minds of the local people to a large extent. The stories and episodes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, soon became popular with the masses who desired n due course of time to listen to them in their own language which gave rise to the creation of the works on Ramayana as well as the Mahabharata in local languages.
It may however beaded here that according to the testimony of the Adipurana the words spoken by lord Rsabhadeva, could be understood, by the Brahmanicl deities or the relevant literature.
Though the early Sanskrit literature speaks of the Puranas, including the Samhitas, Upanisads, as well as the Smrtis, therefore, the existence of the Puranas could be testified from the earliest times. But he Purana of the Samhita na upanisadic period are no more extant. Therefore on the basis of the extent Puranas it could be stated that composition of these Puranas and upa-Puranas by about the Bhasya period, in which the style of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata had been adopted patronisnig Anustupa-chanda to a considerable extent. Since these Puranas dealt with various subjects together with the historical events, they more popular with the educated elite besides the common man.
After the Puranakala, the period of literature arrived in which the poets composed fantastic creation in Sanskrit viz. epics, dramas, stories etc. The poets of this period were more creative in their outlook, could penetrate so deeply into the human hearts and their feelings, which they projected quite forcefully was composed during Bhasyakala, Purankala as well as the Kavyakala.
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