From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Significance of Purāṇas[edit]

The purāṇas, stories of the ancient period, have served the purpose of educating the masses, both in the religious and in the secular fields. Recitation and exposition of the purāṇas in temples and dharmaśālas by a learned brāhmaṇa, for the benefit of the masses, was very common in the towns and villages even a hundred years ago.

Origin of Garuḍapurāṇa[edit]

Out of the eighteen mahāpurāṇas ascribed to the sage Vyāsa, the Garuḍapurāṇa is listed as the seventeenth. It has derived its name from the fact that Viṣṇu taught it to Garuḍa at his request. It is assigned to the period A. D. 900. The number of ślokas of this purāṇa, as per different compilations and editions, varies from 8000 to 19,000.

Sections of Garuḍapurāṇa[edit]

Garuḍapurāṇa was considered as a spurious Vaiṣṇava work by the scholar-king Ballalasena (12th century A. D.) famed as the Dānasāgara. Yet it is a highly revered work even now. It comprises of two parts:

  1. The Purvakhanḍa - 240 chapters
  2. The Uttarakhanḍa - 71 chapters

The Uttarakhanda is further divided into two sections:

  1. Pretakalpa - 42 chapters
  2. Brahmakhanḍa - 29 chapters


The work is encyclopaedic in character. The contents of the two epics of the Harivarśa have been retold here. The topics dealt with in the Purvakhanḍa can be summarized as follows:

  1. Creation of the world
  2. Worship of the deities Surya (the Sun-god)
  3. Śiva
  4. Devi
  5. Gaṇeśa
  6. various aspects of Viṣṇu and also his āyudhas or weapons
  7. Yoga or meditations based on the Vaiṣṇava view-point
  8. The sandhyā ritual
  9. Architecture and town-planning
  10. Iconography
  11. Dāna or gifts
  12. Varṇāśramadharmas
  13. Sins and their expiations
  14. Geographical and cosmological description of the universe
  15. Various vratas or religious observances
  16. The solar and the lunar races of kings
  17. Incarnations of Lord Viṣṇu
  18. Āyurveda or the science of medicine and surgery
  19. Aśvavidyā or the science of horses
  20. Grammar
  21. Poetry and rhetoric
  22. Aṣṭāṅgayoga - eightfold yoga
  23. Hymns on various aspects of Viṣṇu as Narasimha or Acyuta
  24. Mantras
  25. Astrology



The subjects dealt in the Pretakalpa are:

  1. Exposition of dharma
  2. Causes for various kinds of births
  3. Way to the abode of Yama, the god of death
  4. Description of Yama’s world and his affluent palace
  5. Rites connected with the death of a person
  6. After-death ceremonies
  7. Various types of śrāddhas
  8. Sapiṇḍikaraṇa rite
  9. Nārayaṇabali rite
  10. Results of good and bad deeds of human beings


This section deals with the following topics:

  1. Procedure for saluting Śrīhari
  2. The three guṇas of sattva, rajas and tamas
  3. Unity of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva
  4. Creation of the world
  5. Incarnations of Viṣṇu and Lakṣmī
  6. The śālagrāma stone
  7. Importance of many holy rivers
  8. Worship of Viṣṇu
  9. Eulogy of dharma


Garuḍapurāṇa is a very useful work exposing several facets of the religion, culture and social conditions.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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