The Narada Purana, also known as the Naradiya Purana, is one of the eighteen major Puranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts that narrate the history, cosmology, mythology, and ethics of Hinduism. The Narada Purana is attributed to the sage Narada, a renowned musician, monk, and devotee of Vishnu, who appears in many Sanskrit texts as a messenger and teacher of divine wisdom. The Narada Purana is in the form of a dialogue between Narada and Sanatkumara, one of the four mind-born sons of Brahma, the creator god.
The Narada Purana covers a wide range of topics, such as the origin and dissolution of the universe, the genealogy and deeds of gods, sages, and kings, the worship and incarnations of Vishnu, the significance and glory of various sacred places and rivers, the rules and benefits of various religious observances and rituals, the principles and practices of yoga and meditation, the summaries and teachings of other Puranas, and the praise of Buddha and his doctrine.
Structure and Date of Composition
The Narada Purana consists of two parts: the Purvabhaga (first part) and the Uttarabhaga (second part). The Purvabhaga has four sections: Prakriya (preliminary), Anusanga (secondary), Upodghata (introduction), and Upasamhara (conclusion). The Uttarabhaga has no sub-sections.
The total number of chapters in the Narada Purana is 125 in the Purvabhaga and 82 in the Uttarabhaga. The Brihannaradiya Purana, also known as the Naradiya Samhita, is sometimes considered as a minor or supplementary part of the Narada Purana. It has 38 chapters that mainly focus on the worship of Vishnu.
The date of composition of the Narada Purana is uncertain. Some scholars suggest that it was written between the 16th and 17th centuries CE, based on some references to Islamic invasions and some novel methods of worshipping Vishnu that are not found in other Puranas. Other scholars propose that it was composed before the 11th century CE, based on some internal evidence and cross-references with other texts.
Rajendra Chandra Hazra, a prominent Sanskritist and Puranic scholar, argued that the Brihannaradiya Purana was older than the Narada Purana and that it was written in the 9th century CE. He also suggested that some parts of the Narada Purana were interpolated or corrupted in later times.
Themes and Contents
The Narada Purana covers a variety of themes and contents that reflect the diversity and richness of Hindu literature and philosophy. Some of the main topics discussed in the Narada Purana are:
- The origin and dissolution of the universe: The Narada Purana describes how Brahma created the universe from his own mind, how Vishnu sustains it with his power, how Shiva destroys it by his fire, how time cycles through four ages (yugas), how different types of beings are born and die according to their karma (actions), how souls attain liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death by devotion to Vishnu or knowledge of Brahman (the supreme reality), how different regions of existence are arranged in a cosmic egg (brahmanda), etc.
- The genealogy and deeds of gods, sages, and kings: The Narada Purana narrates the stories of various gods, sages, and kings who played important roles in Hindu history and mythology. Some of them are Vishnu and his avatars (incarnations) such as Rama, Krishna, Varaha, Narasimha, etc., Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu), Saraswati (the goddess of learning and consort of Brahma), Ganesha (the elephant-headed god of success), Shiva (the god of destruction and asceticism) and his consort Parvati (the goddess of power) and their sons Kartikeya (the god of war) and Ganesha,
Stories and Teachings of the Narada Purana
The Narada Purana contains many stories and teachings that illustrate the glory and grace of Vishnu and his devotees. Some of the stories are:
- The story of Narada’s previous birth as a son of a maidservant, who attained perfection by serving the sages and hearing their discourses on Vishnu. This story also explains how Narada received the boon of being able to travel anywhere by the will of Vishnu, and how he became a great preacher of bhakti (devotion) (“Narada Muni: STORIES FROM THE NARADA PURANA”).
- The story of Ganga’s descent from heaven to earth, and how she became a sacred river that can purify anyone who bathes in her waters. This story also describes the various holy places along the course of Ganga, such as Haridvara, Prayaga, Kashi, Gaya, etc., and the benefits of visiting them (“All About Narada Purana & Naradiya Purana Stories”).
- The story of Dhruva, a five-year-old boy who performed severe penance to please Vishnu and obtain a permanent place in the sky as a star. This story also teaches how one should be detached from worldly desires and attached to Vishnu alone (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The story of Prahlada, a young boy who was devoted to Vishnu despite being born in a family of demons. His father, Hiranyakashipu, tried to kill him in various ways, but Vishnu protected him at every step. Finally, Vishnu appeared as Narasimha, a half-man half-lion form, and killed Hiranyakashipu. This story also shows how Vishnu is always present in his devotees’ hearts and how he can assume any form to save them (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The story of Ambarisha, a pious king who observed the vow of Ekadashi (fasting on the eleventh day of every fortnight) with great devotion. He was once offended by Durvasa Muni, a powerful sage who was known for his short temper. Durvasa tried to curse Ambarisha, but Vishnu intervened and sent his Sudarshana Chakra (disc weapon) to chase Durvasa. Durvasa had to beg for Ambarisha’s forgiveness to save himself from the Chakra. This story also demonstrates how Vishnu is more pleased with his devotees than with anyone else (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
The Narada Purana also contains many teachings on various aspects of Hindu philosophy and religion, such as:
- The nature and attributes of Vishnu, who is the supreme cause of all causes, the source of all other gods, the controller of all energies, the lord of all living beings, the bestower of all benedictions, the embodiment of all virtues, the reservoir of all beauty, the object of all love, etc. (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The methods and benefits of worshipping Vishnu, such as chanting his name, meditating on his form, offering him prayers, performing sacrifices, observing fasts and vows, visiting his temples and holy places, serving his devotees, etc. (“All About Narada Purana & Naradiya Purana Stories”).
- The characteristics and duties of people belonging to different varnas (social classes) and ashramas (stages of life), such as Brahmanas (priests and teachers), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), vaishyas (merchants and farmers), shudras (workers and servants), brahmacharis (celibate students), grihasthas (householders), vanaprasthas (retired forest dwellers) and sannyasis (renounced monks) (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The principles and practices of yoga and meditation, such as yama (moral restraints), niyama (positive observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption) (“All About Narada Purana & Naradiya Purana Stories”).
- Shiva Purana, which glorifies Shiva as the supreme lord of creation, preservation, and destruction, narrates his various forms, attributes, names, deeds, abodes, devotees, and festivals. It also describes the origin and significance of the linga (a symbolic representation of Shiva), the five faces of Shiva (Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, and Ishana), the twelve jyotirlingas (manifestations of Shiva’s light), the twenty-eight forms of Shiva (such as Pashupati, Mahakala, Bhairava, etc.), the eight forms of Parvati (such as Durga, Kali, Gauri, etc.), the stories of Ganesha and Kartikeya (the sons of Shiva and Parvati), and the legends of Rama and Krishna (the avatars of Vishnu who were devotees of Shiva) (“Shiva Purana – Wikipedia”).
Some other topics discussed in the Narada Purana are:
- The nature and functions of other gods and goddesses, such as Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Saraswati (the goddess of learning), Indra (the king of heaven), Surya (the sun god), Chandra (the moon god), Agni (the fire god), Vayu (the wind god), Varuna (the water god), Kubera (the god of wealth), etc. (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The origin and history of various sages and seers, such as Vyasa (the compiler of the Vedas and the Puranas), Valmiki (the author of the Ramayana), Vashishtha (the preceptor of Rama), Vishwamitra (the rival and friend of Vashishtha), Bhrigu (the father-in-law of Shiva), Narada (the son of Brahma and the narrator of the Purana), etc. (“Narada Muni: STORIES FROM THE NARADA PURANA”).
- The classification and characteristics of different types of beings, such as devas (gods), asuras (demons), Gandharvas (celestial musicians), apsaras (celestial nymphs), yakshas (nature spirits), rakshasas (man-eating monsters), nagas (serpent beings), kinnaras (half-human half-animal beings), vidyadharas (magical beings), Siddhas (perfected beings), etc. (“Narada Purana: The Narada Purana in English”).
- The description and benefits of various mantras (sacred utterances) and yantras (sacred diagrams) for invoking and worshipping various deities, such as Om Namah Shivaya (salutations to Shiva), Om Namo Narayanaya (salutations to Vishnu), Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah (salutations to Ganesha), Om Sri Durgayai Namah (salutations to Durga), etc. (“All About Narada Purana & Naradiya Purana Stories”).
The Narada Purana is a masterpiece of Hindu literature and philosophy that presents a comprehensive and coherent view of Hinduism as a way of life based on devotion to Vishnu or Shiva. It is a treasure trove of stories, teachings, rituals, ethics, cosmology, mythology, and history that can inspire and enlighten anyone who reads or hears it with faith and reverence. It is a source of spiritual guidance and moral instruction for all seekers of truth and happiness.
(1) Shiva Purana – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Purana
(2) Shiva Purana – Vyasa Mahabharata. https://www.vyasaonline.com/shiva-purana/
(3) Complete Knowledge of Shiv Puran or Shiv Mahapuran. https://www.jagatgururampalji.org/en/shiv-puran/
(4) The Shiva Purana – Science Through Stories – Isha. https://isha.sadhguru.org/yoga/history-of-yoga/the-shiva-purana-science-through-stories/
(5) All About Narada Purana & Naradiya Purana Stories – HindUtsav. https://www.hindutsav.com/narada-purana/
(6) Narada Purana And The Fast Of Dwadashi – GaneshaSpeaks. https://www.ganeshaspeaks.com/spirituality/hinduism/purana/narad-puran/
(7) The Narada Purana (abridged) – Wisdom Lib. https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/the-narada-purana
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