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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

15. The Kúrma Puráńa

15. Kúrma Puráńa. "That in which Janárddana, 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 Śakra, which refers to the Lakshmí Kalpa, and contains seventeen thousand stanzas, is the Kúrma Puráńa 76."

In the first chapter of the Kúrma Puráńa 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 Puráńa is the fifteenth. Sanhitás are fourfold, from the variety of the collections. The Bráhmí, Bhágavatí, Saurí, and Vaishńaví, are well known as the four Sanhitás which confer virtue, wealth, pleasure, and liberation. This is the Bráhmí Sanhitá, 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 Parameśwara 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 Sanhitá as here used. A Sanhitá, as observed above (p. xi), is something different from a Puráńa. It may be an assemblage of prayers and legends, extracted professedly from a Puráńa, but is not usually applicable to the original. The four Sanhitás 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 Sanhitás of the Skánda. In this sense a Puráńa might be also a Sanhitá; 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 Vishńu Puráńa, does adopt both titles. It says, "This is the excellent Kaurma Puráńa, the fifteenth (of the series):" and again, "This is the Bráhmí Sanhitá." At any rate, no other work has been met with pretending to be the Kúrma Puráńa.

p. l

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 Puráńa no mention is made of Vishńu as one of the teachers, yet Súta repeats at the outset a dialogue between Vishńu, 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 Vaishńava work; but it is always and correctly classed with the Śaiva. Puráńas, the greater portion of it inculcating the worship of Śiva and Durgá. It is divided into two parts, of nearly equal length. In the first part, accounts of the creation, of the Avatáras of Vishńu, of the solar and lunar dynasties of the kings to the time of Krishńa, of the universe, and of the Manwantaras, are given, in general in a summary manner, but not unfrequently in the words employed in the Vishńu Puráńa. With these are blended hymns addressed to Maheśwara by Brahmá and others; the defeat of Andhakásura by Bhairava; the origin of four Śaktis, Maheśwarí, Śivá, Śatí, and Haimavatí, from Śiva; and other Śaiva legends. One chapter gives a more distinct and connected account of the incarnations of Śiva in the present age than the Linga; and it wears still more the appearance of an attempt to identify the teachers of the Yoga school with personations of their preferential deity. Several chapters form a Káśí Máhátmya, a legend of Benares. In the second part there are no legends. It is divided into two parts, the Íśwara Gíta 77 and Vyása Gita. In the former the knowledge of god, that is, of Śiva, through contemplative devotion, is taught. In the latter the same object is enjoined through works, or observance of the ceremonies and precepts of the Vedas.

The date of the Kúrma Puráńa cannot be very remote, for it is avowedly posterior to the establishment of the Tántrika, the Sákta, and the Jain sects. In the twelfth chapter it is said, "The Bhairava, Váma, Árhata, and Yámala Śástras are intended for delusion." There is no

p. li

reason to believe that the Bhairava and Yámala Tantras are very ancient works, or that the practices of the left-hand Śáktas, or the doctrines of Arhat or Jina were known in the early centuries of our era.


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l:77 This is also translated by Col. Vans Kennedy (Anc. and Hindu Mythol., Appendix D. p. 444); and in this instance, as in other passages quoted by him from the Kúrma, his MS. and mine agree.

Next: 16. The Matsya Puráńa