Monday, September 25, 2017

Garuda Purana - Review

Garuda Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 17)

Translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the eighth purana that I am reviewing. It is easy for anyone to guess the name as at the start of the review it is given the “Garuda Purana”. This Purana is the seventeenth Purana in the list of Mahapuranas. In my Vishnu Purana review I had mentioned that I was taking a break from tamsik puranas and would be reviewing satvik puranas instead. The Garuda Purana is also a satvik purana. It is the third satvik purana that I am reviewing. This Purana is not very long. It has only nineteen thousand shlokas. These shlokas are divided into two parts – the purva khanda and the Uttara khanda. These parts are further divided into chapters. The purva khanda has two hundred and thirty-four chapters and the Uttara khanda has forty-five chapters.

I think this much introduction is enough so let us move on.

Most of the Puranas have been narrated by Romaharshana to the sages in the namisharanya forest. Well, let us find out a bit about this disciple of Vedavyasa. Romaharshana was named such because the roma {hair on his body} was thrilled{harshana} when he heard the Puranas and liked them very much. This is what the Purana says.

Let us learn a bit about the original recitation of this sacred Purana. Garuda once asked Vishnu for a boon. Vishnu asked him what he wanted for the boon. Garuda said that he wished to have enough knowledge so that one day he might be able to compose a Purana of his own. Vishnu granted him the boon and Garuda composed a purana. As you can all guess it was the Garuda Purana.

Enough of introduction. Let us now move on to the review.

The Garuda Purana, like any other Purana talked about the solar and lunar dynasties and the division of the Earth. It also talked a lot about the different types of narakas{hells} and the building of a house. All this information covered a lot of space so there was very little space left for stories. Out of the few stories in the Purana I will narrate one of my favorites.

Every time a shraddha ceremony is performed, pindas are offered to the ancestors, and brahmans are invited. We never see the ancestors coming down to take the pindas{food} yet they are accepted. How does this happen? The story below will explain that.

During their exile, Rama and Sita get to know about Dasharatha’s death. They perform the funeral ceremony in the forest and invite the brahmans. Sita cooks the food but when it is time to be served she is not to be found. Rama finally serves the food himself. Afterwards when he questions Sita about this she replied she was ashamed to come out. She explains that she saw Rama’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather come down to eat the food. She felt ashamed to come out in the deer skin clothes that she was wearing so she hid.

The ancestors enter the body of the brahmans and take the pindas and offerings made to them.

The Purana talk a lot about the narakas. These hells are very torturous and each one is more painful than the other. There are seven main ones that are described in the Garuda Purana. They are:
  1. Rourava
  2. Maharourava
  3. Atishita
  4. Nikrintana
  5. Apratishtha
  6. Asipatravana
  7. Taptakumbha
I have one last, important thing to discuss in this review. It is the four types of Yugas{eras}. They are:
  • Satyayuga – In this yuga, dharma walks on four legs. They symbolize donation of alms, truthfulness, pity and meditation. Men live for four thousand years in this era. Brahmans are revered.
  • Tretayuga – In this yuga dharma walks on three legs. They symbolize pity, donation of alms and truthfulness. Kshatriyas prosper in this era. Men live for thousand years.
  • Dvaparayuga – In this yuga dharma walks on two legs. Vedavyasa is born in every Dvaparayuga to bring people back to the path of dharma. Kshatriyas and brahmans flourish and prosper. Men live for four hundred years.
  • Kaliyuga - In this yuga dharma walks on only one leg. People become greedy, cruel and selfish. Brahmans become worse than shudras. People live for two hundred years. People are addicted to killing, lying and drinking. This is the current yuga we are living in.
I am not going to reveal anything more about the book. But I will tell you the virtues that come from reading this Purana so that you will be tempted to read it yourself.

Great punya is acquired from reading or hearing this Purana. You will have to donate alms after hearing or reading it because otherwise no punya is acquired. If you hear it you have to worship the reciter with clothes, cows, food, gold and land.

Read the original if you would like to obtain the punya.

Links: Other Purana reviews.
Buy from Amazon US, Amazon IN

© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.

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