By Swami Harshananda
Classification of Purāṇas
The purāṇas are encyclopedic in nature. They practically deal with all the aspects of religion, philosophy and culture. They are generally divided into two groups:
- The Mahāpurāṇas
- The Upapurāṇas
Though the former contain eighteen purāṇas and the latter is also said to have eighteen works, the actual number as discovered now is much more.
Significance of Śivapuraṇa
The Śivapuraṇa, also called Śiva-mahāpurāṇa and Śaivapurāṇa, is sometimes listed under the first group in place of Vāyupurāṇa and sometimes under the second group. The original purāṇa is said to have had one lakh verses spread over twelve samhitās or books. The sage Vyāsa condensed it to 24,000 verses in seven samhitās. They are:
- Establishing the Śivaliñga and worshiping it
- Pilgrimage to sacred places of Śiva
- Exposition of the greatness of the mantra Om namaś-śivāya
- Holiness of rudrākṣa beads and bhasma</ref>Bhasma means sacred ash.</ref>
This is a very big samhitā and is divided into five khaṇḍas or sections. They are:
The Śrstikhanda describes not only the creation of the world but also the methods of worshiping Śiva.
The Satikhanda describes in detail about how Dakṣayajña was destroyed by Vīrabhadra, a fierce god created by Śiva, since Satī being insulted by Dakṣa, had immolated herself in the fire of yoga generated in her own body.
Satī is reborn as Pārvatī, the daughter of Himavān and Menā. After performing severe austerities, she pleases Śiva and marries him. This is the gist of the Pārvatikhanda.
The Kumārakhanda describes the birth of Kumāra also known by other names such as Skanda, Kārttikeya, Saṇmukha and Subrahmaṇya and his exploits, especially the killing of the demon Tārakāsura. The story of Gaṇapati also appears at the end.
The last part is the Yuddhakhanda. Apart from the well- known episodes of Tripuradahana, the burning of the three cities of the demons by Śiva, it deals with the several yuddhas between Śiva, Viṣṇu and the gods on one side and the asuras Tāraka, Jalandhara, Dambha and Śaṅkhacuḍa on the other.
This book describes the hundred avatāras or manifestations of Śiva. Hence the name Śatarudrasamhitā. Unlike the avatāras of Viṣṇu, Śiva manifests himself directly wherever and whenever necessary and disappears after the task is done. The avataras dealt with here include the following:
- The five forms like Sadyojāta and Vāmadeva
- The Aṣṭamurtis such as Sarva, Bhava and Rudra
- Other forms like Kālabhairava, Śarabha, Yajñeśvara, Mahākāla and Ekādaśa or eleven Rudras like Kapālī, Sambhu and Vilohita; Vṛṣabha, Avadhuteśvara and Kirāta
This book deals with the twelve famous Śivaliṅgas known as Dvādaśa-Jyotirliṅgas spread out in places of pilgrimage like Kāśī, Somanātha, Kedāra and Rāmeśvara. It also contains a long hymn on Śiva known as the Śivasahasranāma. There is also a detailed description of how to perform the worship of Siva on the famous Mahāśivarātri day.
The subjects dealt with in this section are as follows:
- A description of various sins and hells
- Dānas or gifts
- Some geographical descriptions like those of Jambudvipa and Bhāratavarṣa
- Stories of Surya, Manu and a few kings of the Ikṣvāku race
- Story of the Devī in brief
This section gives a detailed description of praṇava, the procedure of taking sanyāsa, performance of pujā of Śiva, explanations of the Mahāvākyas, other statements of the Upaniṣads and also the after-death ceremonies for a sanyāsin who dies.
This is divided into two parts:
- The purvabhāga
- The uttarabhāga
Since the deity Vāyu is an important teacher here, this section gets his name. The purvabhāga deals with the following topics:
- Śiva as the best of gods
- Creation of the world by Śiva
- Destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice
- Some details regarding Śaivadharma
- Story of the sage Upamanyu
The topics of the uttarabhāga are:
- The whole world is a form of Śiva
- Various avatāras of Śiva as a teacher of Yoga
- Importance of the mantra Namaś-śivāya
- Details of Śivadīkṣā
- Daily duties
- Pujā of Śivaliṅga
- Details of homa
It is thus seen that this purāṇa is a comprehensive work dealing with many aspects of religion and philosophy connected to Śiva.
- It's scientific name is Elaeocarpus ganitrus.
- Dakṣayajña means sacrifice performed by Dakṣa.
- Satī means Śiva’s wife.
- Yuddhas means wars and battles.
- Asuras means demons.
- Aṣṭamurtis means eight forms.
- Kotirudrasamhitā Chapter 35, verses 2-131
- Kotirudrasamhitā Chapter 38
- Bhāratavarṣa means India.
- Śrāddha means obsequial rites.
- It is same as in the Devī-māhātmya.
- Praṇava means Oṅkāra.
- Pujā means ritualistic worship.
- These avatars include Śveta, Sutāra, Gautama, Soma-śarma and Lakulīśvara.
- Śivadīkṣā means initiation.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore