Out of the eighteen mahapuranas all ascribed to the sage Vyasa the
Garuda purana is listed as the seventeenth. It is said to have derived its name
from the fact that Visnu taught it to
Garuda at his request.
It comprises two parts: the Purvakhanda
(with 240 chapters) and the
Uttarakhanda. The latter again, is divided
into two sections, called Pretakalpa
(42 chapters) and Brahmakhanda (29
The work is encyclopaedic in character. The contents of the two epics, as also
of the Harivamsa have been retold here.
The topics dealt with in the Puravakhanda can be summarised as follows:
creation of the world; worship of the deities
Surya (the Sun-god), Siva, Devi, Ganesa,
various aspects of Visnu and also his
ayudhas or weapons; yoga or meditations
based on the Vaisnava view-point; the
sandhya ritual; architecture and town-
planning; iconography; dana or gifts;
varna asrama dharmas; sins and their expiations; geographical and cosmological
description of the universe; various vratas
or religious observances; the solar and the
lunar races of kings; incarnations of Lord
Visnu; Ayurveda or the science of medicine
and surgery; Asvavidya or the science of
horses; grammar, poetry and rhetoric;
astangayoga (eightfold yoga); hymns on
various aspects of Visnu as Narasimha or
Acyuta; mantras and astrology.
The subjects discussed in the Pretakalpa are:
Exposition of dharma; causes for
various kinds of births; way to the abode
of Yama, the god of death; description of
Yama's world and his affluent palace; rites
connected with the death of a person;
after-death ceremonies; various types of
sraddhas: sapindikarana rite; Narayanabali rite; results of good and bad deeds of human beings.
The BrahmaKhanda deals with the
following topics: procedure for saluting
Srihari; the three gunas of sattva, rajas
and tamas; unity of Brahma, Visnu and
Siva; creation of the world; incarnations
of Visnu and Laksmi; the salagrama stone;
importance of many holy rivers; worship
of Visnu and eulogy of dharma.
On the whole, this is a very useful
work throwing light on several facets of
Hindu religion, culture and social conditions.
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