Author: A Composition
Publisher: Gita Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 812930256X
The word purana means old or ancient. Thus the puranas are old and ancient texts that have come down to us through the ages. They have stories about famous people and descriptions of religion and society of those times. Amongst the Mahapuranas, the Brahmavaivarta figures tenth in the catalog of eighteen. There are about eighteen thousand shlokas in this Purana. The text has four parts. These are known as Brahma Khanda, Prakriti Khanda, Ganesha Khanda and Srikrishnajanma Khanda.
The Brahmavaivarta Purana is a Rajasika Purana. The others in this group are the Brahmanda Purana, the Brahmavaivarta Purana, the Markandya Purana, the Vamana Purana and the Brahma Purana. The Brahmavaivarta Purana is a text that describes Brahma and creation through the vivartana (evolution) of Brahma. Brahma is regarded as being both saguna (with quality or attribute) as well as nirguna (without attribute). The fourth part of this Purana, that relating to the birth of Krishna, describes these two different aspects of Brahma.
The definition of a Purana is, in fact, quite precise. To be considered a proper Puranas, a text to has to cover five subjects. These are known as the five characteristics of a Purana. Traditionally, a purana must firstly describe the primary creation of the universe; this is known as sarga. But once the universe is created, it is periodically destroyed and created again. A purana must secondly describe this process of periodic destruction and creation; this is known as pratisarga. A purana must thirdly list out the genealogies of gods and saints, this is known as vamsha. Fourthly, a Purana must catalog the various manvantaras, this is, the many different eras that the earth or the universe has passed through. And finally, a Purana must have a history of the royal dynasties, vamshanucharita.
Around this core skeleton of the five subjects, any Purana normally contains matters of religious concern, customs, ceremonies, sacrifices, festivals, duties of the various castes, different types of donations, details of constructions of temples and images and descriptions of places of pilgrimage.
Eighteen mahapuranas are divided into three groups and each group has six texts. The Hindu Trinity consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is regarded as the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Since all three are important gods, all these are given due emphasis in any Purana. But the relative emphasis often varies from Purana to Purana.
Texts which talk a lot about the incarnations of Vishnu are regarded as Vishnu Puranas, and are called Sattvika Puranas. Texts which emphasize creation more are regarded as Brahma Puranas and are called Rajasika Puranas. Texts which give a lot of importance to norms and rituals are regarded as Shiva Puranas, and are called tamasika Puranas.