Vamana Purana

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Vamana Purana

This is a comparatively short purana listed among the Mahapuranas.

The extant version has 5400 verses, spread over 95 adhyayas or chapters, though, according to the Matsya and the Vayu puranas, it has 10,000 verses.

It was narrated by the sage Pulastya to Narada at his request.

As the name indicates, it is concerned with the avatara of Visnu as Vamana, the fifth incarnation among the Dasavataras and hence a Vaisnava purana. However, equal importance and reverence have been accorded to Siva and Devi also.

The story Vamana and Bali (the king of Asuras) has been narrated in great detail in the following chapters; 73; 74; 75; 77; 89; 91; 92; 93; 94; 95.

Other subjects dealt with are: Siva cutting off one of the five heads of Brahma; Siva redeemed at Varanasi; destruction of Daksa's sacrifice; Sati (Siva's wife) immolating herself and reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himalayas; Siva burning up Kama (the god Eros); observance of certain vratas like Kalastami; story of Durga, Mahisasura and Andhaka; greatness of the Sarasvati river; detailed description of Kuruksetra and pilgrim centres associated with it; story of Dandaka and Dandakaranya including Sukracarya's curse; various incidents connected with Prahlada; and, story of Gajendra's deliverance.

Several topics dealt with in the dharmasastra treatises have been described here, such as tirthas (holy rivers); sadachara (good conduct); samanyadharma (virtues common for all); ashrama dharma (duties of the four stages of life); vratas (religious observances); karma theory and its application.

Unlike other puranas, this purana does not give the genealogies of kings and sages. However, detailed geographical descriptions of mountains, rivers and janapadas (countries) are found here.

The mountains are: Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Suktiman, Rksa, Vindhya, and Pariyatra.

The various rivers arising from there are also mentioned.

The janapadas divided according to the traditional directions are: Anga, Bahlika, Bharakaccha, Caula, Kambhoja, Kerala, Pragjyotisa, Pundra, Surastra, Tusara, and Vanga.

Some of the social customs that prevailed were: early marriage; sulkadharma (bridegroom's parents giving money and presents to the bride); restriction of freedom to girls and women; sati-custom prevalent in certain sections of the society; disfavour of polygamy and having too many off springs; killing of animals and felling of trees frowned upon; strict adherence to the caste-system but possibility of attaining the status of a brahmana by taking bath in certain holy rivers (observing all the necessary disciplines) accepted.

Though the language of the work is similar to that of the general puranas, it often rises to great literary heights while describing the seasons, the mountains, city of Varanasi and the battles between the devas and asuras.