What are Ithihasas and Puranas?
Epics elucidate on the Vedas and they form the Itihasa.
Itihasas are ancient historical anecdotes that delineate value systems derived from the lives of Vedic characters.
There are 2 Great Epics (Itihasas).
Mahabharata and Ramayana are the two epics.
On the other hand, there are 18 Primary Puranas.
Puranas are Vedic stories that talk about Dharma through stories of kings, ancient characters, Devatas and incanations of Lord Hari.
Now, the 18 Puranas can be classified into the following categories-
6 represent Puranas in the mode of goodness.
These are known as Sattvik Puranas.
Similarly 6 are Rajasic and the left 6 Puranas are Tamasic Puranas.
5 Characteristics of Puranas
These characteristics apply to all Puranas. A Purana must
1) Describe the cycle of creation of the universe.
2) Reveal the process of dissolution of the universe.
3) Talk about the various dynasties ruling over different landmasses.
4) Describe the day of 1 Brahma, (a.k.a Kalpa) and lifespan of Manu (a.k.a Manavantara)
A Kalpa covers 1000 cycles of the 4 Yugas (चतुर्युग) namely-
Satyuga, Tretayuga, Dwaparayuga and Kaliyuga.
These 1000 cycle Yugas are presided by 14 Manus (मनु).
Talk about Manavantara, which is the lifespan of each Manu.
In a nutshell, the rule or complete life of 1 Manu is called a Manvantara.
It is equivalent to 71 cycles of the 4 Yugas.
5) Give detailed descriptions of the prominent rulers within the Manvantara.
This characteristic includes talking about specific rulers, special events of significance, etc.
Meaning of the word Purana
Purana (पुराण) is split as ‘Pur’ + ‘ana’ (पुर+ अण).
“Pur” stands for being extremely ancient, whose dates can never be estimated.
On the other hand, “Ana” means, setting anew or extremely fresh.
This means that the Purana though being old shall never be outdated.
It shall always remain contemporary even if the current year is 2021 or 22021
Thus, the truths discussed in the Puranas shall remain ever recent and even futuristic.
There is no question of aging of the Purana.
Depending on the growing intelligence of the seeker who is grasping the Purana, it is capable of transmitting newer dimensions of realization, to improve life.
That is the power of the Puranas.
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Introduction to Bhagavatha Purana
The Bhagavatha Purana is the topmost amongst the 6 Sattvik Puranas.
It was composed by Srila Veda Vyas.
Sri Veda Vyasa’s son, Sri Sukadeva Goswami was the first to render this scripture to the monarch Parikshit.
King Parikshit was the grandson of the Pandava prince Arjun.
Parikshit Maharaja was to be dead in 7 days, following a curse issued by a Brahmin named Sringi.
Following this, he heard the entire Bhagavatha Purana from Sri Sukadeva Goswami, day-in and day-out.
It took a span of 7 days to complete hearing this scripture.
After hearing it all, he was rid of all the doubts about the material world.
Also, all material attachments, desires and responsibilities abandoned his heart.
Number of Cantos & Verses in Srimad Bhagavatham
The Bhagavatha Purana has a total of 18,000 verses.
It has a total of 12 Cantos.
It delineates the many incarnations of the Lord as well as discusses the life-sketch of a lot of devotees.
Family Tree of Sri Veda Vyasa
Sri Vyasadeva is born in the lineage of the Sage Vashishtha.
Sage Vashishtha’s son is the great sage Shakti.
Sage Shakti’s son is Parashara Rishi.
Finally, Sri Veda Vyasa is the son of Sage Parashara.
He is the creator of Srimad Bhagavatha Mahapurana.
Sri Sukadeva Goswami is the son of Sri Veda Vyasa.
He is a Parama Bhakta (dear devotee of Sri Narayana).
Hence, He is one of the 12 Mahajanas. Sri Veda Vyasa admired the divine qualities of his devotee-son.
Why should you read Bhagavatha Purana?
Srimad Bhagavatham is a blessing for makind.
Hearing it bestows one with immense grace.
“If one hears and contemplates on the Bhagavatha Purana for 7 days, it shall put an end to all sins
Instead, it shall accrue immense virtues”, declare the Scriptures.
But, hearing the Srimad Bhagavatham from a bonafide, spiritually eveolved master is most important.
Srila Sukhadeva is probably the only person who qualifies to deliver the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Though Srila Vyasadeva is one of the 24 incarnations of Sri Narayana, he wept on separating from Sri Sukhadeva Goswami.
This was the reciprocation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana for His great devotee Sukhadeva.
Indeed blessed as Pariskhit Maharaja heard Srimad Bhagavatham’s rendition from the lotus mouth of Sukhadeva.
Parikshita heard this scripture from Sukhadeva and that was his fortune.
Glories of Sukhadeva Goswami
Once, Sri Sukadeva Goswami prepared to leave his house. He had no bonds of attachment to house, family, or friends.
Hence, Sri Vyasa became worried for his son.
The relationship between Sri Vyasadeva and Sukadeva Goswami was more of that between two pure devotees, unlike the father & son relationship.
He could not bear the separation from a devotee like Sukadeva Goswami.
Now, Sri Sukadeva started walking away from his home.
This ignited the loving deep emotions of Sri Vyasa as he cried: “Oh son, do not leave, come back. “
Alas!, Sri Sukadeva never looked back.
He walked without stopping for a moment.
But there was an echo, all over, which cried back “Father, did you call me?”
Astonishingly, Sukadeva Goswami did not reply.
But, it was as if the entire universe that responded back to Vyasadeva.
There is a great secret in such a response from the entire creation.
You must know that, Sri Sukadeva Goswami attained oneness with all animals, birds, trees.
He was one with the entire creation.
Hence, this unison reflected in the creation around him.
Because of this oneness, even the lion, trees, dogs, cats, insects, chameleons and stones responded to the call of Sri Vyasadeva.
Sri Vyasa did not know whether to cry or feel elated, having got a response to his question, from the rest of the universe.
Should vyasa feel elated because a son of such great stature was born to Him?
But, now such an exalted devotee is leaving him and going.
This evoked a flurry of emotions in the heart of Srila Vyasadeva.
This episode highlights the love of God for His dear devotees, through the medium of Srila Vyasa deva and Sukhadeva.
Thanks for reading!