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Harivamsa Purana - Explore the rich mythology and history of this ancient text

The Harivamsa is considered as the khila part of the great epic Mahabharata. Its main purpose seems to be to supply the details of the Krishna story, especially of the childhood and boyhood days. It is sometimes classed among the upapurana also, since it contains the five well-known characteristics of a standard purana.

It has three sections, each section being designated as a parva. The Harivamsa Purana, also called Vamsa Parva gives detailed genealogies of Yadavas, Vrishas, Andhakas, Vrishnis and Madhus. The lists are quite exhaustive. The Vishnu Parva gives the details of Krishna’s Life. The story is almost the same as in the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata.

Some minor differences between the details given in Harivamsa and the two puranas may be noted here:

The word ‘Rasakrida’ has been substituted by ‘Hallisakrida’ which means the same thing. When the people of Gokula were not willing to go to Vrindavan as suggested by Krishna, he created a very large number of wolves from his own body to frighten them and force them to leave.

In the Govardhana hill episode, the description of Indra’s defeat is less ignominious to him! The incident of taking away the parijata tree from svargaloka (heaven) has also been described in a similar vein.

The Bhavisyat Parva contains the following stories: Janamejaya’s sacrifice, creation of the world by God, episode of the king prithu, destruction of Dakasa’s sacrifice, stories of the avataras or incarnations of Vishnu, Shiva and Krishna, Krishna’s killing of several demons and so on.


Q1. Who wrote the Harivamsa Purana?


The Harivamsa ("the genealogy of Hari") is an important work of Sanskrit literature, containing 16,374 shlokas, mostly in the anustubh meter. The text is also known as the Harivamsa Purana. Harivamsa purana was composed by Acharya Jinasena in 783 AD and is divided into 66 cantos. The book aims to narrate the life of Neminatha, the twenty-second Tirthankara in Jainism. According to Jain sources, Krishna is the first cousin of Tirthankara Neminatha. Therefore, Krishna's adventures too occupy a significant portion of the book. Harivamsa Purana suggests that Draupadi was married to only Arjuna as opposed to Hindu traditional accounts which suggest that she was married to all five Pandavas.

Q2. Is Harivamsa part of Mahabharata?


Yes, the Harivamsa is not necessarily a part but is an appendix to the Mahabharata. It mentions other events left out in the Mahabharata. Most of the knowledge we have of Krishna’s family comes from the Harivamsa and some other Puranas. The Harivamsa Purana is believed to be an appendix or supplement to the Mahabharata and is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa. The role of the Mahabharata as the storehouse of Hindu lore was supplemented by the Harivamsa (“Genealogy of Hari”—that is, the god Vishnu), which deals with the ancestry and exploits of Krishna, the Pandavas’ friend, and adviser in the epic. Harivansh-Purana is the last chapter of the great epic Mahabharata.