Written by London Swaminathan
Date: 4 October 2018


Time uploaded in London –16-18 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5506


Pictures shown here are taken from various sources including google, Wikipedia, Facebook friends and newspapers. This is a non- commercial blog.



The word Purana is found in the Atharva Veda (25-6-4); Ithihasa-Purana occur together in Satapata Brahmana and other Brahmana  period books. This shows that Puranas- Hindu Mythologies– are as old as Vedic literature. But Puranas were constantly updated and so the latest updated versions decided their date. Hindus were great historians and they were updating the history and added it to the existing Puranas. This updates earned a bad name for Puranas and they were classified as the latest books in the Hindu literature. Puranas were meant to give genealogies of Hindu Kings and sutas/bards were singing it in all the places.


Atharva Veda  mentions Puranas with the Richs, the Samans and the Yajus (11-7-24)

The Satapata Brahmana (850 BCE composition according to foreign authors) called Ithihasa-Purana and certain other compositions as ‘honey offering to the God’s and commands their daily study (11-5-6-8)


In the Chandogya Upanishad, Narada mentioned the subjects he had studied in which Ithihasa- Purana comes immediately after four Vedas. So it is clear by the time of Bramanas, Ithihasa-Purna existed in its original form.


There are 18 major Puranas (see my two earliers posts on Puranas for more details). The internal evidence shows that they were written at different periods. By the time of Guptas,they got the present form.

Narrator of most of the Puranas is Romaharshana or his son Ugrasrava. Brahma, Vayu and Matsya Puranas were the oldest of the 18 Puranas. We see a clear pattern in the later Puranas. Brahma Purana is called the Adi (old, original) Purana.


Brahmanda Purana followed Vayu;

Padma Purana followed Matsya;

Agni Purana followed Brahma.


A comparison of the 12 later Puranas  shows that the version of each of them approximates to one or the other of the three ancient Puranas.

Vishnu Purana came after this.


Vayu Purana’s origin itself shows that it is very old. In the olden days Hindus had a very beautiful system which is not seen anywhere in the wolrd. They had conference inside the deep forest for 12 long years. Romaharshana recited the Vayu Purana deep inside the Naimisaranya (Forest named after King Nimi).

They had havans, scholarly deliberations, editing, compiling, revising during the 12 year period. Even daily recitation of it was considered sacred. We see even later day Tamil kings giving grants for reciting Ithihasa- Puranas in the temples.


Puranas were relegated to backstage because of some defects:


1.Winternitz says that the Puranas were passed into the hands of lower rank priesthood, who used them for the glorification of local deities. Even now we see such a trend in ‘sthala puranas’.



2.New editors gave wrong origin to many ancient dynasties. As the time passed they mixed up and merged two or three dynasties, because they could not understand them. When the brothers ruled different parts as juniors or a different clan ruled a smaller area the confusion arose (we see such trends in Tamil Chera Kings and Pandya kings; nothing to do with Puranas; just as an example I am giving this)


3.A  lot of exaggeration was there because it was for general public.


4.Editors who were lacking historical sense gave fabulous ages to ruling dynasties


King Alarka of Kasi is said to have ruled 66000 years; Rama ruled for 24,000 years.

But Vedas repeated in numerous places that the human life span is 100 years. Only Mahidasa Aitareya lived for 116 years; Dirgatamas lived for 100 years.

My comments:


We see this even in Sumerian history and Tamil Sangam History. wherever thousand comes we have to delete the three zeroes. Patajnjali in Mahabhasya approached this problem in a scientific way and worked out Rama ruled for 24 years.


5.We see many kings with same names. It is possible even today. But Puranic reciters or editors got mixed up with them. A Dasaratha ruled Mitanni region (Turkey, Iraq) in 1400 BCE. Another Dasaratha is found before Rama’s father. Most famous Dararatha was Rama’s father. Emperor Asoka’s grandson was also named Dasaratha. When such things came Pauranics recited or concocted new stories.


Manu Vaivasvata who was a king is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Later Manu samvarani who was not a king is also mentioned. His son Nabanedhista was shown as the son of Vaivasvata Manu. Two ‘Saryatis’, two Yayatis also led to lot of confusion.


  1. Rishi names such as Vasishta and Visvamitra are found in different ages. Actually they are Gotra names. Tamils have lot of Agastyas in different ages in different locations from te Vindhyas to Java  in Indonesia. All Vasithas shown having Arundhati as wife!


7.The identification of different persons was carried to an absurd limit when historical persons were confused with mythological beings and even planets or other objects bearing the same names.


For instance Indra, Surya/sun and Chandra/moon figure in most of the names from Kashmir to Kandy in Sri Lanka. With all the modern day communication, mass media and social media we sift them. Even then some confusion arises.


  1. Puranic editors deliberately introduced divine beings in the life of famous persons. In our time many people called themselves Avatars of so and so or Reincarnation of God etc. Lakhs of people believed them. It happened in the olden days leading to big confusion in later periods. (E.g. Sathya Sai Baba called himself an avatar of Shirdi Sai Baba)

9.Puranic editors added miracles in the lives of many. When great adventures or extraordinary events happened they attributed miracles. When Agastya laid a land route through the Vindhya mountains they called Agastya ‘belittled’ Vindhya mountain (Vindhya Garva Bhanga). When Agastya took a naval force to South East Asia, they interpreted it as Agastya drank the sea. This is a symbolic language. But Puranic reciters without understanding it said that he really drank the ocean. Bhagirata diverted the Ganges into new plains; Indra did it during Vedic times. Parasurama reclaimed saline and of Kerala and converted them as inhabitable area. Several Pandyas did this. But Tamil literature said that the Pandya king threw the spear in anger and the sea went back.


In short ignorance, communication gap, exaggeration, poor editing, mix ups, false interpretations, attributing miracles without understanding ancient way of presentation (symbolic language) and deliberate distortions for favors from kings—all these earned the Puranas a bad name.


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