Introduction to Brahma purana
by Dipavali Debroy-Bibek Debroy
The Puranas are the sacred texts of Hinduism. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two great epics known to all. The Mahabharata states that there are 18 puranas and names three of them – the Markandeya purana, the Vayu purana and the Matsya purana. In Ramayana there is no mention of the puranas as such but the word purana has been used several times. This clearly tells us that the composers of Ramayana and Mahabharata were well versed with the ancient texts.
It is agreed that there are 18 major Puranas and are known as Mahapuranas. The several minor puranas are referred to as upapuranas. There is no disagreement with regard to the names of the mahapuranas. The only disagreement is with the name of the fourth. Some say the fourth is the Vayu purana while some say it is the Shiva purana . All agree the first purana is the Brahma purana.
Characteristic features of the puranas:
Any Mahapurana is supposed to have basic five lakshana [characteristics]. The text must describe five subjects. These five subjects are the original creation of the universe[sarga], the periodical process of destruction and re-creation[pratisarga], the different eras[manvantara], the histories of the solar dynasty [ surya vamsha] and the lunar dynasty[ Chandra vamsha] and royal genealogies [vamshanucharita]. The Brahma purana does describe all these five subjects/elements.
The puranas are associated with the Hindu Trinity- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is regarded as the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. These three important gods are glorified in the puranas.Their relative emphasis might vary from text to text. The puranas which gives importance to Vishnu will talk about his incarnation [avatara] and they are termed as Sattvika purana.. The puranas that gives importance and describe the creation in depth are called as Rajasika purana and are associated with Brahma. Finally the Tamasika purana tells about how a devotee should practise a lot of norms and rituals ,these are to be associated with Shiva.