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Puráňa contains six Samhitás, five hundred Khandas, and five hundred thousand stanzas; more than is even attributed to all the Puráňas. He thinks, judging from internal evidence, that all the Khandas and Samhitás may be admitted to be genuine, though the Máhátmyas have rather a questionable appearance. Now, one kind of internal evidence is the quantity; and, as no more than eighty-one thousand one hundred stanzas have ever been claimed for it, * all in excess above that amoun must be questionable. But many of the Khandas, the Káśí Khanda, for instance, are quite as local as the Máhátmyas; being legendary stories relating to the erection and sanctity of certain temples, or groups of temples, and to certain Lingas; the interested origin of which renders them, very reasonably, objects of suspicion. In the present state of our acquaintance with the reputed portions of the Skanda Purána, my own views of their authenticity are so opposed to those entertained by Colonel Vans Kennedy, that, instead of admitting all the Samhitás and Khandas to be genuine, I doubt if any one of them was ever a part of the Skanda Puráňa.
14. Vámana Puráňa. “That in which the four-faced Brahmá taught the three objects of existence, as subservient to the account of the greatness of Trivikrama, which treats, also, of the Siva Kalpa, and which consists of ten thousand stanzas, is called the Vámana Purana.” 1
* But see the end of my third note in p. XXIV., supra. † Professor Wilson here omitted a word of two syllables -- , probably,
The Vámana Puráńa contains an account of the dwarf incarnation of Vishńu: but it is related by Pulastya to Nárada, and extends to but about seven thousand stanzas. Its contents scarcely establish its claim to the character of a Puráňa.
There is little or no order in the subjects which this work recapitulates, and which arise out of replies made by Pulastya to questions put, abruptly and unconnectedly, by Nárada. The greater part of them relate to the worship of the Linga; a rather strange topic for a Vaishnava Puráńa, but engrossing the principal part of the compilation. They are, however, subservient to the object of illustrating the sanctity of certain holy places; so that the Vámana Purana is little else than a succession of Mahátmyas. Thus, in the opening, almost, of the work occurs the story of Daksha's sacrifice, the object of which is to send Siva to Pápamochana Tírtha, at Benares, where he is released from the sin of Brahmanicide. Next comes the story of the burning of Kámadeva, for the purpose of illustrating the holiness of a Siva-linga at Kedáreśwara in the Himalaya, and of Badarikáśrama. The larger part of the work consists of the Saro-máhátmya, or legendary exemplifications of the holiness of Stháńu Tírtha; that
From the extracts from the Vámana Purana translated by Colonel Vans Kennedy, pp. 293, et seq., it appears that his copy so far corresponds with mine; and the work is, therefore, probably, the same. Two copies in the Company's library also agree with mine.
is, of the sanctity of various Lingas and certain pools at Thanesar and Kurukhet, the country north-west from Delhi. There are some stories, also, relating to the holiness of the Godávarí river: but the general site of the legends is in Hindusthán. In the course of these accounts, we have a long narrative of the marriage of Siva with Umá, and the birth of Kárttikeya. There are a few brief allusions to creation and the Manwantaras; but they are merely incidental: and all the five characteristics of a Puráňa are deficient. In noticing the Swarochisha Manwantara, towards the I end of the book, the elevation of Bali as monarch of "the Daityas, and his subjugation of the universe, the
gods included, are described; and this leads to the narration that gives its title to the Puráňa, the birth of Krishna as a dwarf, for the purpose of humiliating Bali by fraud, as he was invincible by force. The story is told as usual; but the scene is laid at Kurukshetra.
A more minute examination of this work than that which has been given to it, might, perhaps, discover some hint from which to conjecture its date. It is of a more tolerant character than the Puráňas, and divides its homage between Siva and Vishńu with tolerable impartiality. It is not connected, therefore, with any sectarial principles, and may have preceded their introduction. It has not, however, the air of any antiquity; and its compilation may have amused the leisure of some Brahman of Benares three or four centuries ago.
15. Kúrma Puráňa. “That in which Janárdana, in the form of a tortoise, in the regions under the earth, explained the objects of life — duty, wealth, pleasure, and liberation—in communication with Indradyumna and the Rishis in the proximity of Sakra, which refers to the Lakshmi Kalpa, and contains seventeen thousand stanzas, is the Kurma Purana."1
In the first chapter of the Kúrma Purána, it gives an account of itself, which does not exactly agree with this description. Súta, who is repeating the narration, is made to say to the Rishis: “This most excellent Kaurma Purána is the fifteenth. Samhitás are fourfold. from the variety of the collections. The Brahmi, Bhagavatí, Saurí, and Vaishnaví are well known as the four Samhitas which confer virtue, wealth, pleasure, and liberation. This is the Brahmí Samhitá, conformable to the four Vedas; in which there are six thousand ślokas; and, by it, the importance of the four objects of life, O great sages, holy knowledge and Parameswara is known.”* There is an irreconcilable difference in this specification of the number of stanzas and that
given above. It is not very clear what is meant by a Samhitá, as here used. A Samhitá, as observed above (p. XIX.), is something different from a Puráňa. It may be an assemblage of prayers and legends, extracted, professedly, from a Puráňa, but is not, usually, applicable to the original. The four Samhitás here specified, refer rather to their religious character than to their connexion with any specific work; and, in fact, the same terms are applied to what are called Samhitás of the Skanda. In this sense, a Puráňa might be also a Samhitá; that is, it might be an assemblage of formulæ and legends belonging to a division of the Hindu system; and the work in question, like the Vishnu Purana, does adopt both titles. It says: “This is the excellent Kaurma Puráńa, the fifteenth (of the series).” And again: “This is the Bráhmí Samhita.” At any rate, no other work has been met with pretending to be the Kúrma Puráňa.
With regard to the other particulars specified by the Matsya, traces of them are to be found. Although, in two accounts of the traditional communication of the Puráňa, no mention is made of Vishňu as one of the teachers, yet Súta repeats, at the outset, a dialogue between Vishňu, as the Kúrma, and Indradyumna, at the time of the churning of the ocean; and much of the subsequent narrative is put into the mouth of the former.
The name, being that of an Avatára of Vishńu, might lead us to expect a Vaishnava work: but it is always, and correctly, classed with the Saiva Puráňas; the greater portion of it inculcating the worship of Siva and Durgá. It is divided into two parts, of nearly