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Bhagavata Purana

Bhagavata Purana manuscripts from 16th- to 19th-century, in Sanskrit (above) and in Bengali

The Bhagavata Purana (Sanskrit: भागवतपुराण; IAST: Bhāgavata Purāṇa), also known as the Srimad Bhagavatam (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam), Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana (Śrīmad Bhāgavata Mahāpurāṇa) or simply Bhagavata (Bhāgavata), is one of Hinduism's eighteen great Puranas (Mahapuranas).[1][2] Composed in Sanskrit and traditionally attributed to Veda Vyasa,[3] it promotes bhakti (devotion) towards Krishna,[4][5][6] an avatar of Vishnu, integrating themes from the Advaita (monism) philosophy of Adi Shankara, the Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism) of Ramanujacharya and the Dvaita (dualism) of Madhvacharya.[5][7][8][9] It is widely available in almost all Indian languages.

The Bhagavata Purana, like other puranas, discusses a wide range of topics including cosmology, astronomy, genealogy, geography, legend, music, dance, yoga and culture.[5][10] As it begins, the forces of evil have won a war between the benevolent devas (deities) and evil asuras (demons) and now rule the universe. Truth re-emerges as Krishna (called "Hari" and "Vāsudeva" in the text) first makes peace with the demons, understands them and then creatively defeats them, bringing back hope, justice, freedom and happiness – a cyclic theme that appears in many legends.[11]

The Bhagavata Purana is a central text in Vaishnavism.[12] The text presents a form of religion (dharma) that competes with that of the Vedas, wherein bhakti ultimately leads to self-knowledge, salvation (moksha) and bliss.[13] However the Bhagavata Purana asserts that the inner nature and outer form of Krishna is identical to the Vedas and that this is what rescues the world from the forces of evil.[14] An oft-quoted verse (1.3.40) is used by some Krishna sects to assert that the text itself is Krishna in literary form.[15][16]

The text consists of twelve books (skandhas or cantos) totalling 335 chapters (adhyayas) and 18,000 verses.[15][17] The tenth book, with about 4,000 verses, has been the most popular and widely studied.[3] It was the first Purana to be translated into a European language, as a French translation of a Tamil version appeared in 1788 and introduced many Europeans to Hinduism and 18th-century Hindu culture during the colonial era.[6][18]

The Bhagavata Purana has been among the most celebrated and popular texts in the Puranic genre, and is, in the opinion of some, of non-dualistic tenor.[19][20] But, the dualistic school of Shriman Madhvacharya has a rich and strong tradition of dualistic interpretation of the Bhagavata, starting from the Bhagavata Taatparya Nirnaya of the Acharya himself and later, commentaries on the commentary. The Chaitanya school also rejects outright any monistic interpretation of the purana.

Nomenclature

  • 'Bhagavata' (or 'Bhagavatam' or 'Bhagavat', Sanskrit भागवत) means 'follower or worshipper of Vishnu'.[21]
    • 'Bhagavan' (Sanskrit भगवन्) means 'Blessed One', 'God', or 'Lord'.[22] Krishna – the transcendental, primeval Personality of Godhead, avatar of Vishnu – is directly referred to as 'Bhagavan' throughout this scripture. It is stated in canto 1, chapter 3, verse 28, "kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam" which A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates as, "Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead."[23]
  • 'Purana' (Sanskrit पुराण) means 'ancient' or 'old' (or 'old traditional history').[24] It also means 'complete' and 'completing'[24] in the sense that a Purana 'completes the Vedas'.[25]
    • 'Maha' (Sanskrit महत्) means 'great', 'large', or 'vast'.[26]
  • 'Srimad' (or 'Srimat', Sanskrit श्रीमत्) means 'radiant', 'holy', 'splendid', or 'glorious',[27] and is an honorific religious title.
    • 'Sri' (or 'Shri' or 'Shree', Sanskrit श्री) means 'wealth'.[28] Lakshmi – Goddess of Wealth and Vishnu/Krishna's wife – is also referred to as 'Sri'.
    • 'Mad' (or 'Mat', Sanskrit मत्) means 'religion' or 'believed'.[29]
    • Those with a wealth ('Sri') of religion ('mad') may be honoured with the title of 'radiant', 'holy', 'splendid', or 'glorious' ('Srimad').

Dating

Modern scholarship

Modern scholarship dates its composition to between 500 CE to 1000 CE, but most likely between 800 and 1000 CE.[30] A version of the text existed no later than 1030 CE, when it is mentioned by al Biruni[30] and quoted by Abhinavagupta. The Bhagavata Purana abounds in references to verses of the Vedas, the primary Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra of Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, and the Bhagavad Gita, suggesting that it was composed after these texts.[31] The text contains more details of Krishna's biography than the 3rd- 4th-century Harivamsha and Vishnu Purana, and is therefore likely to have been composed after these texts, suggesting a chronological range of 500–1000 CE.[30][32] Within this range, scholars such as R. C. Hazra date it to the first half of the 6th century CE, Bryant as well as Gupta and Valpey citing epigraphical and archaeological evidence suggest much of the text could be from the 4th to 7th century,[33][34] while most others place it in the post-Alvar period around the 9th century.[30][35][36] Parts of the text use an archaic Vedic flavour of Sanskrit, which may either suggest that its authors sought to preserve or express reverence for the Vedic tradition, or that some text has an earlier origin.[31] There are two flavors of Krishna stories, one of warrior prince and another of romantic lover, the former composed in more archaic Sanskrit and the later in a different linguistic style, suggesting that the texts may not have been composed by one author or over a short period, but rather grew over time as a compilation of accretions from different hands.[37]

The Bhagavata Purana contains apparent references to the South Indian Alvar saints and it makes a post factum prophecy of the spread of Vishnu worship in Tamil country (BP XI.5.38–40);[38][32] these facts, along with its emphasis on "emotional Bhakti to Krishna" and the "Advaita philosophy of Sankara", lead many scholars to trace its origins to South India.[39] However, J. A. B. van Buitenen points out that 10th–11th CE South Indian Vaishnava theologians Yamuna and Ramanuja do not refer to Bhagavata Purana in their writings, and this anomaly must be explained before the geographical origins and dating are regarded as definitive.[38][32]

Since the 19th-century, most scholars believe that the Bhagavata Purana was written by a group of learned Brahmin ascetics, probably in South India, who were well versed in Vedic and ancient Indian literature and influenced by the Alvars.[40] Postmodern scholars have suggested alternate theories.[41]

Content and structure

The Bhagavata Purana consists of twelve skhandas or cantos consisting of 18,000 verses of several interconnected, interwoven, and non-linear dialogues, teachings, and explanations espousing Bhakti Yoga that go back and forth in time:

We have alluded to the Bhagavata's identity as a Purana, an important feature of which is its multilevel dialogical structure... the layered arrangement of dialogues, in which a speaker (typically Suka, the main reciter, addressing his interlocutor, King Pariksit) quotes an "earlier" speaker (for example, Narada, addressing King Yudhisthira, Pariksit's granduncle, in a dialogue understood to have taken place earlier and elsewhere), who may in turn quote yet another speaker. Two or three such layers are typically operative simultaneously... the compounding of voices serve to strengthen the message delivered; and second, one is left with the sense that one cannot, and indeed need not, trace out the origin of the message.

— Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey, The Bhāgavata Purāna: Selected Readings[42]

Stated authorship and purpose

From the N.P. Jain for Motilal Banarsidass translation:

The divine seer, Vedavyasa, composed this Purana, known by the name of Srimad Bhagavata, which stands on a par with the Vedas and contains the stories of the Lord of excellent renown.

— Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1st Canto, Chapter 3, Verse 40

A unique and especial emphasis is placed on fostering transcendental loving devotion to Krishna as the ultimate good, i.e. for its own sake rather than for fruitive results or rewards such as detachment or worldly or heavenly gains, a practice known as Bhakti Yoga:

What makes the Bhagavata unique in the history of Indian Religion... is its prioritization of Bhakti. The main objective of this text is to promote Bhakti to Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna referred to variously, and to illustrate and explain it... what makes the Bhagavata special is its emphasis on an intense personal and passionate Bhakti...

— Sisir Kumar Das, A History of Indian Literature[43]

Puranic characteristics

As detailed in the Matsya Mahapurana, all Puranas must cover at least five specific subjects or topics - referred to in Sanskrit as Pancha Lakshana (literally meaning 'consisting of five characteristics'[44][45] – in addition to other information including specific deities and the four aims or goals of life. From the K.L. Joshi (editor) translation:

The following are the five characteristics of the Puranas: They describe (1) the creation of the universe, (2) its genealogy and dissolution, (3) the dynasties, (4) the Manvantaras, (5) the dynastic chronicles. The Puranas, with these five characteristics, sing the glory of Brahma, Vishnu, the Sun and Rudra, as well as they describe also the creation and dissolution of the Earth. The four [aims of human life] (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa) have also been described in all the Puranas, along with evil consequences following from sin. In the sattvika Puranas there is largely a mention of Hari's glory.

— Matsya Mahapurana, Chapter 53[46]

The Srimad Bhagavatam adds another five characteristics, expanding this list to ten.[47]

The Bhagavata further elaborates on the differences between lesser and greater Puranas possessing five or ten characteristics, respectively.[48]

Manuscripts

A Bhagavata Purana manuscript.

According to Hariprasad Gangashankar Shastri, the oldest surviving manuscript dates to c. 1124-25 and is held in the Sampurnananda Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya in Varanasi.[49]

Contrary to the western cultural tradition of novelty, poetic or artistic license with existing materials is a strong tradition in Indian culture,[50] a 'tradition of several hundred years of linguistic creativity'.[51] There are variations of original manuscripts available for each Purana, including the Srimad Bhagavatam.[50] The common manuscript for translations of the Bhagavata Purana - seemingly used by both Swami Prabhupada and Bibek Debroy- is the Bhāgavatamahāpurāṇam[52] a reprint of Khemraj Shri Krishnadas' manuscript.[53] In regards to variances in Puranic manuscripts, academic Dr. Gregory Bailey states:

[S]ignificant are the widespread variations between manuscripts of the same Purana, especially those originating in different regions of India... one of the principal characteristics of the genre is the status of Purana as what Doniger calls "fluid texts" (Doniger 1991, 31). The mixture of fixed form [the Puranic Characteristics] and seemingly endless variety of content has enabled the Purana to be communicative vehicles for a range of cultural positions... [the] idea of originality is primarily Western and belies the fact that in the kind of oral genres of which the Puranas continue to form a part, such originality is neither promoted nor recognised. Like most forms of cultural creation in India, the function of the Puranas was to reprocess and comment upon old knowledge...

— The Study of Hinduism (Arvind Sharma, Editor), Chapter 6 ('The Puranas: A Study in the Development of Hinduism')[50]

Cantos

SB 1.1.3 original Sanskrit:

निगमकल्पतरोर्गलितं फलं
शुकमुखादमृतद्रवसंयुतम् ।
पिबत भागवतं रसमालयं
मुहुरहो रसिका भुवि भावुका: ॥ ३ ॥

O ye devotees possessing a taste for divine joy, Srimad Bhagavata is the fruit (essence) of the wish-yielding tree of Veda, dropped on earth from the mouth of the parrot-like sage Suka, and is full of the nectar of supreme bliss. It is unmixed sweetness (devoid of rind, seed or other superfluous matter). Go on drinking this divine nectar again and again till there is consciousness left in you.

First Canto

Consisting of 19 chapters,[54] the first canto opens with an invocation to Krishna and the assertion that the Srimad Bhagatavam, compiled by Vyasadeva, is sufficient alone to realise God. The overarching narration begins at the onset of Kali Yuga as a dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami (the son of Vyasadeva) and a group of sages headed by Saunaka, as they perform a thousand-year sacrifice for Krishna and his devotees in the forest of Naimisaranya. Questioned by the sages, topics covered by Suta Gosvami include the:

  • Birth of Pariksit – protected in the womb by Krishna – in the aftermath of the devastating Kurukshetra War
  • Appearance and instruction of Narada to Vyasadeva on the composition of the Srimad Bhagavatam
  • Meditation and inspiration of Vyasadeva on the western bank of the Sarasvati river to compile and revise the Bhagavata
  • Teaching of the Bhagavata by Vyasadeva to his already-liberated son, Suka Gosvami
  • Departure and disappearance of Krishna, followed by the signs and onset of Kali Yuga
  • Retirement of the Pandavas (including King Yudhisthira) and consequent enthronement of Pariksit
  • Attempts of Pariksit to stem the influence of Kali before being cursed by a Brahmana boy to die within seven days
  • Renunciation of Pariksit, who decided to fast until death (Prayopavesa) on the banks of the Ganges in devotion to Krishna
  • Arrival of sages (including Narada and Bhrgu) and their disciples to Pariksit's fast, followed by Suta Gosvami


SB 1.3.38 original Sanskrit:

स वेद धातु: पदवीं परस्य
दुरन्तवीर्यस्य रथाङ्गपाणे: ।
योऽमायया सन्ततयानुवृत्त्या
भजेत तत्पादसरोजगन्धम् ॥ ३८ ॥

The power of the Lord who wields the discus in His hand is infinite; though the Maker of this world, He remains ever beyond it. He alone can know His ways who inhales the fragrance of His lotus-feet through constant and sincere devotion to them.

Second Canto

Sukadeva Gosvami addressing Pariksit.

Consisting of 10 chapters,[55] the second canto opens with an invocation to Krishna. The second layer of overarching narration begins as a dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river (narrated by Suta Gosvami to a group of sages headed by Saunaka in the forest of Naimisaranya). Questioned by Pariksit, the topics covered by Sukadeva Gosvami include the:

  • Transcendental, supreme, eternal, and pure nature of Krishna
  • Universal Virat-Rupa and Maha-Vishnu forms of Krishna, as well as His scheduled avatars with their purposes
  • Process and laws of creation and annihilation of the universe
  • God realisation, Bhakti Yoga, devotional duties, and the need for a spiritual master (Guru)
  • Vedic knowledge, modes of material nature (gunas), karma, false (i.e. materialistic) ego, and illusion and suffering due to ignorance
  • Divisions (caste or varna) of society, common religious affiliations, and faith versus atheism

SB 2.5.35 original Sanskrit:

स एव पुरुषस्तस्मादण्डं निर्भिद्य निर्गत: ।
सहस्रोर्वङ्‌घ्रिबाह्वक्ष: सहस्राननशीर्षवान् ॥ ३५ ॥

Bursting open that (Cosmic) egg, issued therefrom the same Supreme Person (the Cosmic Being) with thousands of thighs, feet, arms and eyes and thousands of faces and heads too.

Third Canto

Consisting of 33 chapters,[56] the third canto continues the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. Vidura, the sudra incarnation of Yama and devotee of Krishna, is the main protagonist narrated. After being thrown out of his home by King Dhritarashtra (his older half-brother) for admonishing the Kaurava's ignoble behaviour towards the Pandavas, Vidura went on a pilgrimage where he met other devotees of Krishna such as Uddhava and the sage Maitreya; their dialogues form a third layer of narration. Topics covered by Sukadeva Gosvami, Uddhava, and Maitreya include the:

SB 3.25.25 original Sanskrit:

सतां प्रसङ्गान्मम वीर्यसंविदो
भवन्ति हृत्कर्णरसायना: कथा: ।
तज्जोषणादाश्वपवर्गवर्त्मनि
श्रद्धा रतिर्भक्तिरनुक्रमिष्यति ॥ २५ ॥

Through the fellowship of saints one gets to hear My stories, leading to a correct and full knowledge of My glory and pleasing to the heart as well as to the ear. By hearing such stories one is sure to develop one after another reverence and fondness for and Devotion to the Lord, whose realization is preceded by the cessation of ignorance.

Fourth Canto

Vishnu appears before Dhruva

Consisting of 31 chapters,[57] the fourth canto continues the dialogues of Sukadeva Gosvami, Uddhava, and Maitreya. There are additional layers of dialogue, such as between the sage-avatar Narada and King Pracinabharhisat (as narrated by Maitreya to Vidura). Focusing on the female descendants of Svayambhuva Manu, topics covered include the:

  • Genealogies of the daughters of Svayambhuva Manu and of Dhruva (grandson of Svayambhuva Manu)
  • Enmity between Daksa and Shiva, self-immolation of Sati (wife of Shiva and daughter of Daksa), and attack by Shiva on Daksa's ritual
  • Liberation of the boy-sage Dhruva, including advice from Narada, his vision of Vishnu, and battles between Dhruva and the Yaksas
  • Killing of the tyrant-king Vena by Brahmins before the appearance of the Prthu avatar to restore abundance of the Earth
  • Allegorical story, descriptions, and characteristics of King Puranjana, who was reborn as a woman due to thinking of his wife when he died
  • Activities of the Pracetas, including meeting with Shiva, instruction from Narada, and ultimate liberation
  • Qualities of Krishna, Vaishnava devotion (Bhakti Yoga), the soul (atman), the super-soul (paramatman), and materialistic life


SB 4.16.17 original Sanskrit:

मातृभक्ति: परस्त्रीषु पत्‍न्यामर्ध इवात्मन: । प्रजासु पितृवत्स्‍निग्ध: किङ्करो ब्रह्मवादिनाम् ॥ १७ ॥

He regards and reveres the wives of others as His mother and loves His own wife as a half of His own body. He is loving as a father to those over whom He rules; He looks upon Himself as a servant to those who are well-versed in the Vedic lore.

Fifth Canto

Rsabha.

Consisting of 26 chapters,[58] the fifth canto focuses on the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. Notable additional layers of dialogue are between the avatar Rsabha and his sons, and between Bharata and King Rahugana (the former was perceived as a fool and made to carry the latter's palanquin). Topics covered include the:

  • Appearance, life, and teachings of the publicly abused avatar Rsabha, the first Tirthankara (spiritual teacher) of Jainism
  • Appearance of Hayagriva to return vedic knowledge to Brahma
  • Activities, character, teachings, and liberation of King Bharata (incarnated as a deer and then a supposed idiot-Brahmin)
  • Activities and descendants of King Priyavrata, whose chariot wheels created the seven oceans and islands (i.e. continents)
  • Descriptions of the universe, sun, orbits of the planets, and the heavenly and hellish planets
  • Flow of the Ganges and expansion of Narayana as Vasudeva (Krishna), Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha
  • Glories of Ananta / Sankarsana / Shesha / Tamasi

SB 5.5.1 original Sanskrit:

ऋषभ उवाच
नायं देहो देहभाजां नृलोके
कष्टान् कामानर्हते विड्भुजां ये ।
तपो दिव्यं पुत्रका येन सत्त्वं
शुद्ध्येद्यस्माद् ब्रह्मसौख्यं त्वनन्तम् ॥ १ ॥

This (human) body in the mortal world does not deserve to be given up to (the pursuit of) sensuous pleasures, which are (really) a source of misery and which are enjoyed even by swine, dogs and other animals (that feed on ordure). It is worthy of being devoted, My beloved sons, to sublime austerities whereby the mind is purified; and from purity of mind follows the unending bliss of absorption into the Absolute.

Sixth Canto

Vrtrasura attacks Indra

Consisting of 19 chapters,[59] the sixth canto continues with the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. A notable additional layer of dialogue is between Yama and his messengers (called the Yamadutas). With the main focus on the battles of the demon-devotee Vrtrasura and his armies against the demigods led by Indra, as well as the life of King Citraketu, topics covered include the:

  • Life of Ajamila, a Brahmin that lost liberation due to sex-attraction but was liberated due to calling his son – Narayana – upon death
  • Instructions of Yamaraja to his messengers about justice, punishment, chanting, Vishnu's messengers, and surrender (Bhakti) to Krishna
  • Curse of Daksa on Narada, and a genealogy of the daughters of Daksa
  • Offence of Indra to Brhaspati, the appearance of Vrtrasura to battle the demigods, their prayers to Narayana and Vrtrasura's death
  • Story of King Chitraketu, the murder of his son, instruction from Narada and Angiras, meeting with Krishna, and curse by Parvati
  • Vow of Diti to kill Indra, her embryo being cut into 49 pieces by Indra but saved by Vishnu, and her purification through devotion
  • Performance of the Pumsavana ceremony for pregnancy with prayers to Vishnu and Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Fortune)

SB 6.3.13 original Sanskrit:

यो नामभिर्वाचि जनं निजायां
बध्नाति तन्‍त्र्यामिव दामभिर्गा: ।
यस्मै बलिं त इमे नामकर्म-
निबन्धबद्धाश्चकिता वहन्ति ॥ १३ ॥

Just as a farmer ties (his) oxen with tethers to a big cord (to keep them together), He binds men with (different) denominations (Brahmana, Ksatriya and so on) to His own Word (the Veda)-allots them different duties as enjoined by the Vedas; and, bound by (these) strong ties in the shape of class, names and obligations (attaching thereto), the aforesaid men meticulously bear offerings (do homage) to Him (through the scrupulous discharge of their duties).

Seventh Canto

Nrsimha and Prahlada (R).

Consisting of 15 chapters,[60] the seventh canto continues with the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. A notable additional layer of dialogue is between Narada and Yudhishthira about Prahlada, the devotee-son of the demon-King Hiranyakasipu (brother of Hiranyaksa, destroyed by the Varaha avatar in the third canto; the demonic brothers are incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya). Prahlada, protected by Krishna, survives multiple attempts to kill him until the arrival of the Nrsimha avatar to destroy his father, who could not be killed by any weapon, by any man or beast, or in the water, air, or on land. Topics covered include the:

  • Vow of demon-King Hiranyakasipu to destroy Vishnu, his austerities to become invincible, and conquering of the entire universe
  • Birth, abuse, and teachings of the devotee Prahlada, son of Hiranyakasipu, protected from death by Krishna
  • Arrival of the Nrsimha avatar to destroy Hiranyakasipu, later pacified by the prayers of Prahlada
  • Perfect society in the form of the four social and four spiritual classes or orders
  • Behaviour of a good person, ideal family life, and instructions to be civilised
  • Exposition that the absolute truth is a person – Krishna – who is the master and controller of all
  • Previous incarnations of Narada, and that Krishna lived with the Pandavas like an ordinary human being

SB 7.14.9 original Sanskrit:

मृगोष्ट्रखरमर्काखुसरीसृप्खगमक्षिका: ।
आत्मन: पुत्रवत् पश्येत्तैरेषामन्तरं कियत् ॥ ९ ॥

He should look upon deer, camels, donkeys, monkeys, rats, reptiles, birds and flies as though they were their (own) children What is that which distinguishes these from those (children)? (They deserve his fostering care as much as his own children).

Eighth Canto

Vamana with Bali.

Consisting of 24 chapters,[61] the eighth canto continues the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. A notable additional layer of dialogue is between the Vamana avatar and King Bali about the demon-King Hiranyakasipu. Topics covered include the:

  • Details and ages of the four Manus (Svayambhuva, Svarocisa, Uttama, and Tamasa), and of the future Manus
  • Elephant Gajendra, rescued from Makara the crocodile by Vishnu riding his mount Garuda, after prayers of surrender
  • Battles between the demigods and the demons, the truce brokered by Vishnu, and churning of the ocean of milk by both factions
  • Appearance of the Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, and Ajita avatars (and Lakshmi) during the churning of the ocean of milk
  • Second appearance of Mohini to beguile Shiva
  • Annihilation of the demons by Indra
  • Appearance of the Vamana avatar to take back the three worlds from King Bali in three footsteps, and the surrender of Bali to Him
  • Appearance of the Matsya avatar to save devotee-King Satyavrata from the flood (during the time of Hiranyaksa in the third canto)

SB 8.5.30 original Sanskrit:

न यस्य कश्चातितितर्ति मायां
यया जनो मुह्यति वेद नार्थम् ।
तं निर्जितात्मात्मगुणं परेशं
नमाम भूतेषु समं चरन्तम् ॥ ३० ॥

Let us bow to that Ruler of the highest gods, moving qually in all created beings, whose Maya (deluding potency) nobody can overpass-that Māyā due to which men get bewildered and are unable to know the truth (their reality)-but vho has completely subdued that Maya-Sakti of His own and its properties (in the shape of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas).

In 7th chapter of eighth canto mentioned Lord Shiva is also non different from Brahman. He is supreme ruler of the universe and the eternal refugee of all living beings.

Gita Press:

You are the supreme, mysterious Brahma (the Absolute), the Creator of all beings, (the gods, beasts and so on), high and low. It is You, the (supreme) Spirit, that stand manifested as the universe by virtue of (Your) manifold energies (in the form of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) and are its Ruler (too).

— Canto 8, Chapter 7, Verse 24

29. The five sacred (Vedic) texts (known by the names of Tatpuruşa, Aghora, Sadyojäta, Vämadeva and Iśāna), O Lord, from (the thirty- eight parts of) which the thirty-eight fragmentary Mantras came into existence, constitute Your (five) faces (bearing the same names as the sacred texts themselves). Again, that self- effulgent Principle, constituting the supreme Reality, which is known by the name of Śiva, O Deity, is (nothing but) Your absolute state.

— Canto 8, Chapter 7, Verse 29

Ninth Canto

Parashurama

Consisting of 24 chapters,[62] the ninth canto continues the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. With no notable additional layers of dialogue, the primary focus is upon the male dynasties of various ruling figures (the female sides are covered in the fourth canto). Topics covered include the:

SB 9.24.59.60 original Sanskrit:

अक्षौहिणीनां पतिभिरसुरैर्नृपलाञ्छनै: । भुव आक्रम्यमाणाया अभाराय कृतोद्यम: ॥ ५९ ॥

कर्माण्यपरिमेयाणि मनसापि सुरेश्वरैः ।

सहसङ्कर्षणश्चक्रे भगवान्मधुसूदनः ॥ ६० ॥

Endeavouring to remove the burden of the earth, which was overrun by demons disguised as kings, who led more than one Akşauhinīs, Lord Śri Krsna (the slayer of the demon Madhu). accompanied by (His elder brother) Lord Sarnkarsana (better known as Balarama), performed deeds which cannot be comprehended even in thought by the rulers of gods.

Tenth Canto

Krishna and Balarama Studying with the Brahman Sandipani (Bhagavata Purana, 1525-1550 CE print). Krishna in blue is seated next to Balarama, both wearing peacock-feather headdresses, in front of their teacher Sandipani. Two other students appear on the left.
Kuvalayapida Slain

Consisting of 90 chapters,[63] the tenth canto continues the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. Notable additional layers of dialogue all involve the lila (divine play) of the supreme and transcendental Krishna avatar. Thus focusing on the appearance and pastimes of Krishna, topics covered include the:

  • Imprisonment of Krishna's parents (Vasudeva Anakadundubhi and Devaki), the murder of His siblings, and attempted murder of baby Krishna by King Kamsa
  • Fostering of Krishna and Balarama by Nanda and Yashoda (Gopas, a tribe of cowherds); Yashoda saw the universal form in boy-Krishna's mouth
  • Attempts on baby and boy-Krishna's life by various demons, mostly sent by Kamsa (e.g. Putana, Trnavarta, Aghasura, Pralamba, Kesi, etc.)
  • Chastisement of Kaliya, swallowing of a forest fire, lifting of Govardhana Hill, stealing of Gopis' clothes, and the Rasa dance
  • Raas Leela is described very thoroughly and is shown in great detail in the Tenth Canto.
  • Defeat of numerous demonic foes (e.g. Kamsa, Jarasandha, Kalayavana, Narakasura, Paundraka, etc.) to diminish the burden of the Earth
  • Marriages to over 16,000 wives (and children with each), establishment of Dvaraka, return of the Syamantaka Jewel, and washing of Narada's feet
  • Defeat of Banasura and Shiva, daily activities, blessing of Sudama, blessing of His devotees, saving of Shiva from Vrkasura, and summary of glories

SB 10.90.50 original Sanskrit:

मर्त्यस्तयानुसवमेधितया मुकुन्द-
श्रीमत्कथाश्रवणकीर्तनचिन्तयैति ।
तद्धाम दुस्तरकृतान्तजवापवर्गं
ग्रामाद् वनं क्षितिभुजोऽपि ययुर्यदर्था: ॥ ५० ॥

By listening to, chanting and contemplating on the charming stories of Bhagavān Sri Krsna every moment, man develops the devotion which leads him to the (supreme) sphere of the Lord. (True,) it is (most) difficult to reach beyond the jurisdiction of Time; but in the Lord's realm Time has no sway. Even rulers of the earth have left their kingdom and retired to the forest for (the performance of austerities with the object of) gaining that eternal realm. (Therefore, one should constantly engage oneself in hearing the stories of the Lord.)

Study

The largest canto with 4,000 verses, the tenth canto is also the most popular and widely studied part of the Bhagavata.[64] It has also been translated, commented on, and published separately from the rest of the Srimad Bhagavatam.[65][66]

Eleventh Canto

Hamsa

Consisting of 31 chapters,[67] the eleventh canto continues the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river. Notable additional layers of dialogue are between Narada and Vasudeva, and between Krishna and Uddhava (and in turn, other dialogues such as that between the Hamsa (swan) avatar and Brahma). Topics covered include the:

  • Curse and destruction of the Yadu Dynasty (through intoxicated in-fighting) at Prabhasa to relieve the burden of the Earth
  • Appearance of the Hamsa (swan) avatar to answer the questions of the sons of Brahma
  • Discourse of Narada to Vasudeva about the instruction of the '9 Yogendras' to King Nimi about Bhakti for Krishna
  • Final teachings of Krishna to Uddhava at Dvaraka (e.g. the story of a young Brahmin avadhuta narrating his 24 gurus to King Yadu)
  • Disappearance of Krishna after being shot in the foot by the hunter, Jara
  • Flood and destruction of Dvarka


SB 11.7.33–35 original Sanskrit:

पृथिवी वायुराकाशमापोऽग्निश्चन्द्रमा रवि: ।
कपोतोऽजगर: सिन्धु: पतङ्गो मधुकृद् गज: ॥ ३३ ॥
मधुहाहरिणो मीन: पिङ्गला कुररोऽर्भक: ।
कुमारी शरकृत् सर्प ऊर्णनाभि: सुपेशकृत् ॥ ३४ ॥
एते मे गुरवो राजन् चतुर्विंशतिराश्रिता: ।
शिक्षा वृत्तिभिरेतेषामन्वशिक्षमिहात्मन: ॥ ३५ ॥

The earth, the air, the sky, water, fire, the moon and the sun, the dove, the boa-constrictor, the sea, the moth, the honey-bee, the elephant, the honey-gatherer, the deer, the fish, Pingala (a courtesan), the osprey, the infant, the maiden, the forger of arrows, the serpent, the spider and the Bhrnga (a kind of wasp) these twenty-four have been accepted, O king, by me as preceptors. From the conduct of these have I learnt all that I had to learn in this life for my good.

The Uddhava or Hamsa Gita

Containing the final teachings of Krishna to His devotee Uddhava, the eleventh canto is also referred to as the 'Uddhava Gita' or 'Hamsa Gita'. Like the tenth canto, it has also been translated and published separately, usually as a companion or 'sequel' to the Bhagavad Gita.[68][69] 'Hamsa' means 'swan' or 'spirit',[70] and:

  • Is the name of the single class or order of society in Satya Yuga (as compared to four in Kali Yuga), the first and purest of the four cyclical yugas[71]
  • Symbolises Brahman (Ultimate Truth, Self, or Atman) in Hinduism[72]
  • Is the mount ridden by Brahma
  • Is the name of the tenth (i.e. swan) avatar of Krishna that taught the Vedas to Brahma (hence the symbolism of the swan being ridden by Brahma as a mount).

Twelfth Canto

Kalki

Consisting of 13 chapters,[73] the twelfth and final canto completes the dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and Pariksit on the banks of the Ganges river, and ends with the overarching dialogue between Sukadeva Gosvami and the group of sages led by Saunaka, at the forest of Naimisaranya. Focusing on prophecies and signs of Kali Yuga, topics covered in this canto include the:

  • Degradation of rulers as liars and plunderers, and the symptoms of the age of Kali (e.g. atheism, political intrigue, low character of royals, etc.)
  • A list of the future rulers of the world, and the way they attained downfall
  • Final instructions to and death of Pariksit due to his curse (bitten by a poisonous serpent Takshaka)
  • Prayers of sage Markandeya to Nara-Narayana, resistance to Kamadeva sent by Indra to break his vows, and glorification by Shiva and Uma
  • Four categories of universal annihilation
  • Appearance of the Kalki avatar to destroy evil at the end of Kali Yuga
  • Description of the lesser and greater Puranas, and the eighteen major Puranas
  • Description of the Mahapurusa
  • Summary and glories of the Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 12.13.11–12 original Sanskrit:

आदिमध्यावसानेषु वैराग्याख्यानसंयुतम् ।
हरिलीलाकथाव्रातामृतानन्दितसत्सुरम् ॥ ११ ॥
सर्ववेदान्तसारं यद ब्रह्मात्मैकत्वलक्षणम् ।
वस्त्वद्वितीयं तन्निष्ठं कैवल्यैकप्रयोजनम् ॥ १२ ॥

It has been enriched at the beginning, in the middle and at the end with legends illustrating the glory of Dispassion and has been delighting the righteous as well as the gods with its nectar-like stories describing the pastimes of Lord Śri Hari. (11) It has for its theme that one reality without a second—which is the sum and substance of all the Upaniṣads (which are the culmination of the Vedas) and has been characterized as the oneness of Brahma (the Absolute) and the (individual) soul—and has detachment of the Spirit from Matter as its only object.

Philosophy

While Bhakti Yoga and Dvaita Vedanta are the prominent teachings, states T. S. Rukmani, various passages show a synthesis that also includes Samkhya, Yoga, Vedanta, and Advaita Vedanta.[74]

Bhakti

Cutler states the Bhagavata Purana is among the most important texts on bhakti, presenting a fully developed teaching that originated with the Bhagavad Gita.[75] Bryant states that while classical yoga attempts to shut down the mind and senses, Bhakti Yoga in the Bhagavata teaches that the mind is transformed by filling it with thoughts of Krishna.[76]

Matchett states that in addition to various didactic philosophical passages the Bhagavata also describes one of the activities that can lead to liberation (moksha) as listening to, reflecting on the stories of, and sharing devotion for Krishna with others.[77] Bhakti is depicted in the Purana, adds Matchett, as both an overpowering emotion as well as a way of life that is rational and deliberately cultivated.[78]

Samkhya

Kapila Muni.

Surendranath Dasgupta describes the theistic Samkhya philosophy taught by Kapila in the Bhagavata as the dominant philosophy in the text.[79]

Sheridan points out that in the Third Canto, Kapila is described as an avatar of Vishnu, born as the son of the Prajapati Kardama, in order to share the knowledge of self-realization and liberation with his mother, Devahuti; in the Eleventh Canto, Krishna also teaches Samkhya to Uddhava, describing the world as an illusion, and the individual as dreaming, even while in the waking state. Krishna expounds Samhkhya and Yoga as the way of overcoming the dream, with the goal being Krishna Himself.[80]

Sheridan also states that the treatment of Samkhya in the Bhagavata is also changed by its emphasis on devotion, as does Dasgupta, adding it is somewhat different from other classical Samkhya texts.[81][80]

Advaita

Sringeri Sharada Peetham is one of the Hindu Advaita Vedanta matha or monastery established by Adi Shankara.

Kumar Das and Sheridan state that the Bhagavata frequently discusses a distinctly advaitic or non-dualistic philosophy of Shankara.[5][82] Rukmani adds that the concept of moksha is explained as Ekatva (Oneness) and Sayujya (Absorption, intimate union), wherein one is completely lost in Brahman (Self, Supreme Being, one's true nature).[74] This, states Rukmani, is proclamation of a 'return of the individual soul to the Absolute and its merging into the Absolute', which is unmistakably advaitic.[74] The Bhagavata Purana is also stated to parallel the non-duality of Adi Shankara by Sheridan.[82] As an example:

The aim of life is inquiry into the Truth, and not the desire for enjoyment in heaven by performing religious rites,
Those who possess the knowledge of the Truth, call the knowledge of non-duality as the Truth,
It is called Brahman, the Highest Self, and Bhagavan.

— Sūta, Bhagavata Purana 1.2.10–11, Translated by Daniel Sheridan[83]

Scholars describe this philosophy as built on the foundation of non-dualism in the Upanishads, and term it as "Advaitic Theism".[82][84] This term combines the seemingly contradictory beliefs of a personal God that can be worshiped with a God that is immanent in creation and in one's own self. God in this philosophy is within and is not different from the individual self, states Sheridan, and transcends the limitations of specificity and temporality. Sheridan also describes Advaitic Theism as a "both/and" solution for the questions of whether God is transcendent or immanent, and credits the Bhāgavata with a 'truly creative religious moment' for introducing this philosophy.[82] The text suggests that God Vishnu and the soul (atman) in all beings is one in quality (nirguna).

Bryant states that the monism in Bhagavata Purana is certainly built on Vedanta foundations, but not exactly the same as the monism of Adi Shankara.[85] The Bhagavata asserts, according to Bryant, that the empirical and the spiritual universe are both metaphysical realities, and manifestations of the same Oneness, just like heat and light are "real but different" manifestations of sunlight.[85] Bryant notes that the tenth book of the Bhagavata does not, as is conventional for non-dualist schools, understand Krishna's form to be a "secondary derivation," which can be subsumed within the impersonal absolute. Rather than describe Brahman to be ultimately formless, the tenth book ascribes an "eternal personal element" to Brahman.[86]

Dharma

The Dharma wheel.

Kurmas Das states the Bhagavata Purana conceptualizes a form of Dharma that competes with that of the Vedas, suggesting that Bhakti ultimately leads to Self-knowledge, Moksha (salvation) and bliss.[87] The earliest mention of bhakti is found in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad verse 6.23,[88][89] but scholars such as Max Muller state that the word Bhakti appears only once in this Upanishad; and that being in one last verse of the epilogue it could be a later addition, and that the context suggests that it is a panentheistic idea and not theistic.[90][91]

Scholarly consensus sees bhakti as a post-Vedic movement that developed primarily during the Puranas era of Indian history.[92] The Bhagavata Purana develops the Bhakti concept more elaborately, states Cutler,[93] proposing "worship without ulterior motive and with kind disposition towards all" as Dharma.[94][95] T.R. Sharma states the text includes in its scope intellectual and emotional devotion as well as Advaita Vedanta ideas.[96]

The text does not subscribe, states Gupta and Valpey, to context-less "categorical notions of justice or morality", but suggests that "Dharma depends on context".[97] They add that in a positive or neutral context, ethics and moral behavior must be adhered to; and when persistently persecuted by evil, anything that reduces the strength of the "evil and poisonous circumstances" is good.[97] That which is motivated by, furthers, and enables bhakti is the golden standard of Dharma.[97]

Yoga

Sarma states that the Bhagavata Purana describes all steps of yoga practice, and characterizes yoga as bhakti, asserting that the most important aspect is the spiritual goal.[98] According to Sarma and Rukmani, the text dedicates numerous chapters to yoga, such as Canto 10 (chapter 11), which begins with a declaration that Siddhi results from concentrating one's mind on Krishna, adding this substitutes the concept of a "personal god" in the Yogasutras of Patanjali, and contrasts with Patanjali's view that Siddhi is considered powerful but an obstacle to Samadhi.[98][99]

In other chapters of the text, Rukmani states, Śuka describes different meditations on aspects of Krishna, in a way that is similar to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[74] However, adds Bryant, the Bhagavata Purana recommends the object of concentration as Krishna, thus folding in yoga as a form of bhakti and the "union with the divine".[74][100] Bryant describes the synthesis of ideas in Bhagavata Purana as:

The philosophy of the Bhagavata is a mixture of Vedanta terminology, Samkhyan metaphysics and devotionalized Yoga praxis. (...) The tenth book promotes Krishna as the highest absolute personal aspect of godhead – the personality behind the term Ishvara and the ultimate aspect of Brahman.

— Edwin Bryant, Krishna: A Sourcebook[101]

Sheridan as well as Pintchman affirm Bryant's view, adding that the Vedantic view emphasized in the Bhagavata is non-dualist, as described within a reality of plural forms.[102][103]

Maya

In Vedanta, Maya is frequently depicted as a deceptive or deluding energy. Conversely, the Bhagavata Purana presents Maya as divine energy through which Krishna manifests the material universe, including its elements, universes, bodies, senses, and minds, contributing to the richness and diversity of the phenomenal world. This process is not just entrapment but also a path to liberation for beings caught in the cycle of birth and death. Maya's illusionary powers, though binding individuals to temporal existence, ultimately facilitate their spiritual growth and release.[104]

Suffering

In explaining suffering, the Bhagavata Purana acknowledges karma as a central principle, where actions in past lives influence current and future existences, shaping one's destiny and experiences in subsequent lifetimes. However, it also critiques the adequacy of karma in fully explaining suffering and explores time (kala) as a significant factor in suffering. Time, personified by Sudarshana Chakra, is shown as an unstoppable force that brings both end and renewal, acting indiscriminately upon all beings. Despite time's overwhelming power, the text suggests that sincere devotion (bhakti) to God and surrender to the divine can enable devout souls to overcome the influence of time and karma, ultimately leading to spiritual liberation (moksha).[105]

Lila

The Bhagavata Purana argues that the play of God (lila) is central to understanding his actions in the world. Despite having everything and being able to make his wishes reality, Krishna engages in various activities and interactions with devotees out of joy and divine play, rather than out of any necessity or compulsion (SB 1.10.24). By participating in Krishna's lila, individuals can transcend the limitations and suffering of the material world and ultimately achieve liberation from time's constraints.[106]

Significance

The source of many popular stories of Krishna's pastimes for centuries in the Indian subcontinent,[6] the Bhagavata Purana is widely recognized as the best-known and most influential of the Puranas, and as a part of Vedic literature (the Puranas, Itihasa epics, and Upanishads) is referred to as the "Fifth Veda".[107][108][109] It is important in Indian religious literature for its emphasis on the practice of devotion compared to the more theoretical approach of the Bhagavad Gita, for challenging the ritualism of the Vedas, and for its extended description of a God in human form.[5]

The Srimad Bhagavatam is the very essence of all the Vedanta literature. One who has enjoyed the nectar of its rasa never has any desire for anything else.

— Bhagavata Purana 12.13.15, Translated by David Haberman[110]

Relation to other texts

The Bhagavata Purana aligns itself with canonical texts like Brahma Sutras and Rigveda by echoing their verses at various points throughout its narrative. It claims equality with the Vedas and reinterprets their themes to emphasize the supremacy of Krishna. It transforms the descriptions of Vishnu's deeds found in the Vishnu Sukta into narratives centered around Krishna's actions (verse 10.51.38). The Bhagavata Purana does not directly reference the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata. Instead, it includes the teachings similar to those found in the Bhagavad Gita in the form of dialogues between Krishna and Uddhava in Canto 11.[111]

Hindu Festivals

The stories in the Bhagavata Purana are also the legends quoted by one generation to the next in Vaishnavism, during annual festivals such as Holi and Diwali.[112][113]

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) celebrates the promise of Canto 12, Chapter 13, Verse 13 by distributing sets of Srimad Bhagavatam leading up to the full-moon day of the month of Bhādra (Bhādra Purnima) in India and around the world.[114]

Vaishnavism

Chaitanya (1486–1534 CE)

Gaudiya Vaishnavism

The Bhagavata has played a significant role in the emergence of the Krishna-bhakti (Gaudiya Vaishnavism) movement of Chaitanya (1486–1534 CE), in Bengal.[115] The scriptural basis for the belief that Chaitanya is an avatar of Krishna is found in verses such as the following (Disciples of Swami Prabhupada translation):

In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.

— Canto 11, Chapter 5, Verse 32[116]

Chaitanya is commonly referred to as 'Gauranga' in regards to His golden complexion (as detailed in the Gauranga article, the Sanskrit word 'ākṛṣṇaṁ' means 'not blackish' and 'golden'), and is most notable for popularising the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. In regards to not being explicitly named as an avatar (unlike others such as Kalki) in the Bhagavata, this is also explained (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translation):

In this way, my Lord, You appear in various incarnations as a human being, an animal, a great saint, a demigod, a fish or a tortoise, thus maintaining the entire creation in different planetary systems and killing the demoniac principles. According to the age, O my Lord, You protect the principles of religion. In the Age of Kali, however, You do not assert Yourself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore You are known as Triyuga, or the Lord who appears in three yugas.

— Canto 7, Chapter 9, Verse 38[117]

The key word in this verse in regards to Krishna incarnating in the age of Kali Yuga is 'channaḥ' (Sanskrit छन्न), which means ' hidden', 'secret', or 'disguised'.[118] In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Chaitanya is accepted as a hidden avatar of Krishna who appeared in the age of Kali (also known as 'the Iron Age' and 'the age of quarrel') as His own devotee to show the easiest way to achieve Krishna Consciousness.[119] Modern Gaudiya movements such as the Gaudiya Math (established by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in 1920) and others established by disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966) and the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math (by Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar in 1941), trace their disciplic lineages back directly to Lord Chaitanya.

Other Vaishnava Traditions

In the 15th–16th century Ekasarana Dharma in Assam, a panentheistic tradition whose proponents, Sankardeva and Madhavdeva, acknowledge that their theological positions are rooted in the Bhagavata Purana,[120] purged of doctrines that find no place in Assamese Vaishnavism[121] and adding a monist commentary instead.[122]

In northern and western India the Bhagavata Purana has influenced the Hari Bhakti Vilasa and Haveli-style Krishna temples found in Braj region near Mathura-Vrindavan.[123] The text complements the Pancharatra Agama texts of Vaishnavism.[123] While the text focuses on Krishna "Lord Narayana (Vishnu) himself appears and explains how Brahma and Shiva should never be seen as independent and different from him".[124] The sixth book includes the feminine principle as Shakti, or goddess Devi, conceptualizing her as the "energy and creative power" of the masculine yet a manifestation of a sexless Brahman, presented in a language suffused with Hindu monism.[102]

Jainism and Buddhism

The fifth canto of the Bhagavata Purana is significant for its inclusion of legends about the first Tirthankara of Jainism, Rishabha, as an avatar of Vishnu.[125] Further, his father Nabhi is mentioned as one of the Manus and his mother Marudevi also finds a mention. It further mentions the 100 sons of Rishabha including Bharata.[126] While homage to Shakyamuni Buddha is included in by declaring him as an avatar of Vishnu,[127] the interpretation of Buddhism-related stories in the Purana range from honor to ambivalence to polemics wherein prophecies predict some will distort and misrepresent the teachings of the Vedas, and attempt to sow confusion.[128][129][130] According to T. S. Rukmani, the Bhagavata Purana is also significant in asserting that Yoga practice is a form of Bhakti.[131]

The Arts

The Bhagavata Purana was a significant text in the bhakti movement and the culture of India.[132] Dance and theatre arts such as Kathakali (left), Kuchipudi (middle) and Odissi (right) portray legends from the Purana.[133][134]

The Bhagavata Purana played a key role in the history of Indian theatre, music, and dance, particularly through the tradition of Ras Leela. These are dramatic enactments about Krishna's pastimes. Some of the text's legends have inspired secondary theatre literature such as the eroticism in Gita Govinda.[135] While Indian dance and music theatre traces its origins to the ancient Sama Veda and Natyasastra texts,[136][137] the Bhagavata Purana and other Krishna-related texts such as Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana have inspired numerous choreographic themes.[138]

Many 'Ras' plays dramatise episodes related in the Rasa Panchadhyayi ("Five chapters of the Celestial Dance"; Canto 10, Chapters 29–33) of the Bhagavatam.[139] The Bhagavatam also encourages theatrical performance as a means to propagate the faith (BP 11.11.23 and 36, 11.27.35 and 44, etc.), and this has led to the emergence of several theatrical forms centred on Krishna all across India.[140] Canto 10 of Bhagavatam is regarded as the inspiration for many classical dance styles such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri and Bharatnatyam.[141] Bryant summarizes the influence as follows,

The Bhagavata ranks as an outstanding product of Sanskrit literature. Perhaps more significantly, the Bhagavata has inspired more derivative literature, poetry, drama, dance, theatre and art than any other text in the history of Sanskrit literature, with the possible exception of the Ramayana.

— Edwin Bryant, Krishna: A Sourcebook[142]


Modern Reception

In the 20th century, the Bhagavata Purana became widely popular as it spread beyond India, translated into over twenty languages and respected by people worldwide.[143]

Bhaktivedanta Swami

Bhaktivedanta Swami significantly impacted the global recognition of the Bhagavata Purana. Bhaktivedanta Swami, raised in a devout Vaishnava family, embraced the Caitanya tradition in 1932. Between 1962 and 1965, he devoted himself to translating the Bhagavata Purana into English, a departure from earlier works focusing on Caitanya's life and teachings.[144] While lacking formal traditional education, he was deeply familiar with the teachings of Caitanya and the insights of ancient commentators through self-study. He made the Bhagavata Purana meaningful to modern readers, and his way of explaining the text made it easier to understand and relevant to modern world. He appealed to young people who were looking for something different from mainstream religion.[145]

Commentaries and translations

Commentaries

The Bhagavata Purana is one of the most commented texts in Indian literature. There is a saying in Sanskrit – vidyā bhāgavatāvadhi – Bhāgavatam is the limit of one's learning. Hence throughout the centuries it attracted a host of commentators from all schools of Krishna worshippers. Over eighty medieval era Bhāṣya (scholarly reviews and commentaries) in Sanskrit alone are known, and many more commentaries exist in various Indian languages.[3] The oldest exegetical commentary presently known is Tantra-Bhagavata from the Pancaratra school. Other commentaries include:

Advaita Vedanta commentaries

Acintya-bhedābheda Commentaries

Dvaita commentaries

Dvaitādvaita Commentaries

  • Siddhānta pradīpikā – Śuka-sudhī (Early 19th Century)

Suddhādvaita Commentaries

  • Subodhinī by Vallabha (incomplete — present on the First, Second, Third, Tenth Cantos and partially on the Eleventh Canto)
  • Bhāgavatārtha-prakaraṇa by Vallabha
  • Daśama-skandha anukramaṇikā by Vallabha
  • Ṭippaṇī – Gosvāmī Viṭṭhalanātha
  • Subodhinī-prakāśa – Gosvāmī Puruṣhottama
  • Bāla-prabodhinī – Gosvāmī Giridharlāl
  • Viśuddha-rasa-dīpikā – Kishorī Prasāda

Viśiṣṭādvaita Commentaries

  • Śuka pakṣīyā – Sudarśana sūri (alias Vyāsa Bhaṭṭa)
  • Bhāgavata-candrikā – Vīrarāghava (14th century CE) – elaborate commentary
  • Bhakta-rañjanī – Bhagavat prasāda

Others

  • Hanumad-bhāṣya
  • Vāsanā-bhāṣya
  • Sambandhokti
  • Vidvat-kāmadhenu
  • Paramahaṁsa-priyā
  • Śuka-hṛdaya
  • Muktā-phala and Hari-līlāmṛta by Vopadeva
  • Bhakti-ratnāvali by Viṣṇupurī
  • Bhakti-ratnākara by Srimanta Sankardev
  • Ekanathi Bhagavata by Saint Eknath of Paithan (16th century CE, on the 11th Canto in the vernacular language of the Indian state of Maharashtra)
  • Narayaneeyam by Melpathur Bhattathiri of Kerala (1586, a condensed Srimad Bhagavatam)
  • Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa – Vaṁśīdhara
  • Anvitārtha prakāśikā – Gaṅgāsahāya
  • Bhagavata-Purana by S.S. Shulba (2017, original Sanskrit);[150] other Sanskrit manuscripts are available
  • A study of the Bhagavata Purana or Esoteric Hinduism by P.N. Sinha (1901)[151]

Translations

The Bhagavata has been rendered into various Indian and non-Indian languages. A version of it is available in almost every Indian language, with forty translations alone in the Bengali language.[3] From the eighteenth century onwards, the text became the subject of scholarly interest and Victorian disapproval,[142] with the publication of a French translation followed by an English one. The following is a partial list of translations:

Assamese

Bengali

  • Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vijaya by Maladhara Basu, a translation of the 10th Canto and a bit from others
  • Kṛṣṇa-prema-taraṅginī by Śrī Raghunātha Bhāgavatācārya (15th Century CE)

Hindi

  • Bhagavata Mahapurana published by Gita Press (2017)

Kannada

Odia

Telugu

English

  • The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1970–77, includes transliterations, synonyms, and purports). Swami Prabhupada completed cantos 1 through 9 and the first thirteen chapters of canto 10 before he died. After his departure, a team of his disciples completed the work, which was then published by the Bhaktivedenta Book Trust.
  • A prose English translation of Shrimadbhagabatam by M.N. Dutt (1895, unabridged)[157]
  • Bhagavata Purana by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (1950, unabridged)[158]
  • The Srimad Bhagavatam by J.M. Sanyal (1970, abridged)
  • The Bhagavata Purana by Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare (1976, unabridged)[156]
  • Srimad Bhagavata by Swami Tapasyananda (1980, unabridged)
  • A Translation by B.P. Yati Maharaj of Mayapur Sri Chaitanya Math
  • Reading from Bhagabata by Gananath Das which has been translated from Odia Bhagabata
  • Bhagavata Mahapurana by C.L. Goswami and M.A. Shastri (2006, unabridged, Gita Press)[156][159]
  • Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with the Sārārtha-darśinī commentary of Viśvanātha Cakravartī by Swami Bhānu (2010)
  • Srimad Bhagavata Purana by Anand Aadhar (2012)[160]
  • The Bhagavata Purana by Bibek Debroy (2019, unabridged)

English (partial translations and paraphrases)

  • Kṛṣṇa: The Supreme Personality of Godhead by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (part translation, condensed version: summary study and paraphrase of Canto 10)[156]
  • Vallabhacarya on the Love Games of Krishna by James D. Redington (English translation of Vallabha's commentary on the Rāsa-Panchyādhyāyi)
  • The Bhagavata Purana; Book X by Nandini Nopani and P. Lal (1997)
  • Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana Book X by Edwin F. Bryant (2004)[161]
  • The Wisdom of God: Srimat Bhagavatam by Swami Prabhavananda (part translation, part summary and paraphrase)
  • The Uddhava Gita by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati (2000, prose translation of Canto 11)
  • Bhagavata Purana by Ramesh Menon (2007, a 'retelling' based on other translations)
  • Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: A Symphony of Commentaries on the Tenth Canto in six volumes (covering chapters 1-33) by Gaurapada Dāsa, M.A. (translator) & Matsya Avatāra Dāsa (editor) (2016-2018)
  • Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana by Edwin F. Bryant (2017, selections of verses and commentary)
  • Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with the Krama-sandarbha commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī by Swami Bhānu (2019)
  • Bṛhad-vaiṣṇnava-toṣaṇī (Canto 10) of Sanātana Gosvāmī by Swami Bhānu (2020)
  • Laghu-vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī (Canto 10) of Jīva Gosvāmī by Swami Bhānu (2020)
  • Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with the Vaiṣṇavānandinī commentary (Cantos 1 & 10) of Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa by Swami Bhānu (2022–23)

French

  • Bagavadam ou Bhagavata Purana by Maridas Poullé (1769)
  • Le Bhagavata Purana by Eugene Burnouf (1840)[156]

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ Thompson, Richard L. (2007). The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana 'Mysteries of the Sacred Universe. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 978-81-208-1919-1.
  2. ^ Dominic Goodall (1996), Hindu Scriptures, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520207783, page xli
  3. ^ a b c d Bryant (2007), pp. 112
  4. ^ Sheridan (1986), p. 53.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kumar Das (2006), pp. 172–173
  6. ^ a b c Bryant (2007), p. 111–113.
  7. ^ Brown (1983), pp. 553–557
  8. ^ Sheridan (1986), pp. 1–2, 17–25.
  9. ^ Katz 2000, pp. 184–185: "The five classical Vaiṣṇava schools (sampradāyas) recognize the authority of this devotional text, and each school has accordingly produced commentaries to demonstrate the Bhāgavata's support of its particular views–the Viśiṣṭādvaita school of Rāmānuja (eleventh century), the Dvaita school of Madhva (thirteenth century), the Dvaitādvaita school of Nimbārka (twelfth-thirteenth century), the Śuddhādvaita school of Vallabha (sixteenth century), and the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava school of the Gosvāmins (sixteenth century)."
  10. ^ Rocher (1986), pp. 138–151
  11. ^ Gupta & Valpey 2013, pp. 3–19.
  12. ^ Constance Jones and James Ryan (2007), Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Infobase, ISBN 978-0816054589, page 474
  13. ^ Kumar Das (2006), p. 174
  14. ^ Barbara Holdrege (2015), Bhakti and Embodiment, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415670708, page 114
  15. ^ a b Barbara Holdrege (2015), Bhakti and Embodiment, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415670708, pages 109–110
  16. ^ "ŚB 1.3.40". vedabase.io. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  17. ^ Richard Thompson (2007), The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana 'Mysteries of the Sacred Universe', Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120819191
  18. ^ Jean Filliozat (1968), Tamil Studies in French Indology, in Tamil Studies Abroad, Xavier S Thani Nayagam, pages 1–14
  19. ^ Thompson, Richard L. (2007). The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana 'Mysteries of the Sacred Universe. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 978-81-208-1919-1.
  20. ^ Dominic Goodall (1996), Hindu Scriptures, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520207783, page xli
  21. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  22. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  23. ^ "ŚB 1.3.28". vedabase.io. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  25. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami (2001). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas. Sarup & Sons. pp. 222. ISBN 978-81-7625-226-3. purana word completes.
  26. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  27. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  28. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
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  30. ^ a b c d Sheridan (1986), p. 6
  31. ^ a b Sheridan (1986), p. 10–12
  32. ^ a b c van Buitenen, J. A. B (1966). "The Archaism of the Bhagavata Purana". In Milton Singer (ed.). Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes. pp. 23–40.. Reprinted in van Buitenen (1996), pp. 28–45
  33. ^ Gupta & Valpey 2013, pp. 13.
  34. ^ Bryant (2007), pp. 5–9, 113–114
  35. ^ Matchett 2003, p. 129-144.
  36. ^ Estimated dates given by some notable scholars include: R. C. Hazra – 6th century, Radhakamal Mukherjee – 9th–10th century, Farquhar – 10th century, Nilakanta Sastri – 10th century, S. N. Dasgupta – 10th century Kumar Das (2006), pp. 172–173
  37. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 141–144; Sheridan 1986, pp. 5–11.
  38. ^ a b Sheridan (1986), p. 1-16.
  39. ^ Kumar Das (2006), p. 172-173.
  40. ^ Sheridan (1986), p. 11-14.
  41. ^ Edwin Bryant (2002), The Date and Provenance of the Bhagavata Purana, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Vol 2, Issue 1, pages 51-80
  42. ^ Gupta, Ravi M.; Valpey, Kenneth R. (29 November 2016). The Bhāgavata Purāna: Selected Readings. Columbia University Press. p. 7. ISBN 9780231542340.
  43. ^ Das, Sisir Kumar (2005). A History of Indian Literature, 500–1399: From Courtly to the Popular. Sahitya Akademi. p. 173. ISBN 9788126021710.
  44. ^ "Sanskrit-English Dictionary". learnsanskrit.cc. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
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  46. ^ Jośī, Kanhaiyālāla (2007). Matsya Mahāpurāṇa: Chapters 1–150. Parimal Publications. pp. 213–214. ISBN 9788171103065.
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  49. ^ Edelmann, Jonathan (2018). "Bhāgavatapurāṇa". In Jacobsen, Knut A.; Basu, Helene; Malinar, Angelika; Narayanan, Vasudha (eds.). Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online. Brill.
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  51. ^ Rao, Velcheru Narayana (1 June 2017). Text and Tradition in South India. SUNY Press. p. 32. ISBN 9781438467757.
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  56. ^ "Canto 3: The Status Quo". vedabase.io. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  57. ^ "Canto 4: The Creation of the Fourth Order". vedabase.io. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  58. ^ "Canto 5: The Creative Impetus". vedabase.io. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  59. ^ "Canto 6: Prescribed Duties for Mankind". vedabase.io. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  60. ^ "Canto 7: The Science of God". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  61. ^ "Canto 8: Withdrawal of the Cosmic Creations". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  62. ^ "Canto 9: Liberation". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  63. ^ "Canto 10: The Summum Bonum". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  64. ^ Bryant (2007), p. 112.
  65. ^ Bryant, Edwin F. (4 December 2003). Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 9780140447996.
  66. ^ Prabhupāda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1 April 1994). Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. ISBN 9780892131365.
  67. ^ "Canto 11: General History". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  68. ^ Saraswati, Swami Ambikananda (2002). The Uddhava Gita. Ulysses Press. ISBN 9781569753200.
  69. ^ Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati; Purnaprajna Das; Viśvanātha Cakravartī (2007). The Uddhava-Gītā: ultimate companion to Bhagavad Gita by the same speaker : original Sanskrit text, roman transliterations, and translations featuring Sārārtha darśinī commentary by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, chapter summaries and Gauḍiya bhāṣya purport by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Kolkata: Touchstone Media. ISBN 9788187897194. OCLC 191006938.
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  72. ^ Jones, Lindsay (2005). Encyclopedia of religion, Volume 13. Macmillan Reference. p. 8894. ISBN 978-0028657332.
  73. ^ "Canto 12: The Age of Deterioration". vedabase.io. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  74. ^ a b c d e Rukmani (1993), pp. 217–218
  75. ^ Cutler (1987), p. 1
  76. ^ Bryant (2007), p. 117
  77. ^ Matchett (1993), p. 103
  78. ^ Matchett (1993), p. 104
  79. ^ Dasgupta (1949), p. 30
  80. ^ a b Sheridan (1986), p. 42-43.
  81. ^ Dasgupta (1949), p. 24.
  82. ^ a b c d Sheridan (1986), p. 1-22.
  83. ^ Sheridan (1986), p. 23 with footnote 17.
  84. ^ Brown (1998), p. 17
  85. ^ a b Edwin Bryant (2004), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana Book X, Penguin, ISBN 978-0140447996, pages 43–48
  86. ^ Bryant (2007), p. 114.
  87. ^ Kumar Das (2006), p. 174
  88. ^ Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 326
  89. ^ Max Muller, Shvetashvatara Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part II, Oxford University Press, page 267
  90. ^ Max Muller, The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, Oxford University Press, pages xxxiv and xxxvii
  91. ^ Paul Carus, The Monist at Google Books, pages 514–515
  92. ^ Karen Pechilis Prentiss (2014), The Embodiment of Bhakti, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195351903, page 17, Quote: "Scholarly consensus today tends to view bhakti as a post-Vedic development that took place primarily in the watershed years of the epics and Puranas."
  93. ^ Norman Cutler (1987), Songs of Experience, Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253353344, pages 1–5
  94. ^ Kumar Das (2006), pp. 173–175
  95. ^ Bryant (2007), p. 382
  96. ^ TR Sharma (1993), Psychological Analysis of Bhakti, Love Divine: Studies in Bhakti and Devotional Mysticism (Editor: Karel Werner), Routledge, ISBN 978-0-7007-0235-0, pages 103–107
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  101. ^ Bryant (2007), pp. 114
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  122. ^ "...the influence of the Bhagavata Purana in forming the theological backbone of Assam Vaishnavism in quite clear and the monistic commentary of Sridhara Swami is highly popular amongst all sections of Vaishnavas" SN Sarma (1966), The Neo-Vaisnavite Movement and the Satra Institution of Assam, Gauhati University, ISBN 978-8173310263, page 26
  123. ^ a b Edwin Francis Bryant and Maria Ekstrand (2004), The Hare Krishna Movement, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231122566, pages 48–51
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Sources

Further reading

English

Sanskrit original

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Bhagavata Purana
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