By Swami Harshananda
Education and culture should go together. In fact, that which imparts culture is the only true education. Purāṇas propagated the same phenomena when formal education given in the gurukulas was restricted to the three higher castes. Out of the eighteen major purāṇas called as Mahāpurāṇas, the Padmapurāṇa is the second. There seems to be two recensions of this purāṇa out of which the second has been printed. These recensions are:
- The Bengal recension
- The South Indian recension
Contents of Padmapurāṇa
The total number of granthas or verses is 55,000 distributed among 690 adhyāyas or chapters accommodated in six khaṇḍas or books. This purāṇa has been classed among the sāttvika and Vaiṣṇava purāṇas.
It has 62 chapters. This khaṇḍa is sometimes called Svargakhanda also. It delineates the following:
- Geographical details of ancient India also called Jambudvīpa and Bhāratavarṣa
- Description of a large number of tīrthās including the rites and formalities connected with visiting them
- Prayāga containing the Triveṇi sañgama is eulogized as the best of all the tīrthas.
- Code of conduct of a person
- Duties of the four āśramas
It has 125 chapters. This book is perhaps named as Bhumikhanda to show the importance of this bhumi or earth where the spiritual progress is possible. Performance of one’s duty is stressed here as important like a tīrtha or a holy place, since it purifies one who does it. Incidentally number of stories are narrated, bringing out the importance of devotion to one’s parents, repetition of Lord Hari’s name and certain aspects of dharma. Description of svarga and naraka are also given briefly.
It has 26 chapters. This is the shortest of all the books. The name of this book does not seem to have any direct connection with the contents. The topics dealt with in this chapter are:
- Devotion to Lord Viṣṇu
- Importance of physical service in a temple
- Greatness of the Kṛṣṇajayantī festival
- Virtuous deeds to be performed by which one can get good children
- Significance of ekādaśī vrata
- The power of Lord Hari’s name and what offends it
It has 113 chapters giving a detailed description of the Aśvamedhayāga performed by Rāma. Unlike Valmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, here Sītā is reunited with Rāma and lives for many more years. The battles between Lava and Kuśa on one side and the army of Rāma on the other, are described in great detail. The latter part of this purāṇa is devoted to describing the story and the greatness of Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs of Vṛndāban are stated here to be the ṛṣis or the sages of the Tretāyuga who had been captivated by the beauty and charm of Rāma, reborn to enjoy his company.
Incidentally, information about śālagrāmas, a special mantra of Kṛṣṇa and its repetition, pujā of Lord Viṣṇu, characteristics and effects of true bhakti or devotion, are also explained. It is interesting to note that in this book, the greatness of Śiva, his emblem and his name and also the importance of bhasma are also given a wide coverage.
It has 82 chapters. Though this book is called Śrstikhanda, the topic of sṛṣṭi or creation is only a minor aspect of the subjects dealt with. Apart from the stories connected with the devas and the dānavas, the topic of śrāddha is dealt with in detail. The other subjects delineated are:
- Sacrifice performed by Brahmā
- The story of the sage Agastya subjugating the Vindhya mountain
- Some vratas or religious observances
- Story of Mahiṣāsura
- The arising of a golden lotus from the navel of Viṣṇu
- Birth of Brahmā from this lotus
- Characteristics of a bad and a good brāhmaṇa
- Greatness of a pativratā
- Importance of various kinds of dāna or gifts
- The rudrākṣī beads and the tulasī leaves
- Significance of the worship of Gaṇeśa
- The worship of the Navagrahas
- The goddess Durgā
It has 282 chapters. The title ‘uttara’ for this book simply signifies ‘last’. It is the last of the series of khaṇḍas comprising this purāṇa:
- Greatness of certain places of pilgrimage like Śriśaila and Haridvāra and also the rivers Gaṅgā and Yamunā
- Importance of annadāna or gifting food
- Description of the 24 ekādaśis
- Viṣṇusahasranāma which is different from the one given in the Mahābhārata
- Description and greatness of the Vaiṣṇavas
- Battles between the gods and the demons
- Worship of śālagrāma
- Method of observing the Dīpāvalī festival
- Some more places of pilgrimage
- Greatness of the Bhagavadgitā explained through stories
- Importance of the Bhāgavata
- Description of certain hells numbered here as 140
- How a bath in a sacred river in the month of Māgha purifies even a great sinner
- Certain ritualistic processes connected with the mantra of Lord Viṣṇu
- The story of churning the ocean of milk to get amṛta or ambrosia
- The ten avatāras or incarnations of Viṣṇu
On the whole, it can be stated that this purāṇa, which might have evolved over the period A. D. 600 to 1400, though it extols the greatness of Viṣṇu, is not an antagonistic to the deity Śiva who is also greatly revered here which gives a lot of information about the places of pilgrimage in the country.
- Tīrthās means the places of pilgrimage.
- It is modern Allahābād.
- It is the confluence of the three rivers Gañgā, Yamunā and the subterranean Sarasvatī.
- Svarga means heaven.
- Naraka means hell.
- It is a vow.
- Aśvamedhayāga means Horse- sacrifice.
- His emblem is the liṅga.
- Bhasma means holy ash.
- Devas are the gods.
- Dānavas are the demons.
- Śrāddha means obsequial rites.
- Pativratā means a chaste woman.
- Navagrahas means the nine planets.
- Ekādaśis means the eleventh days of every fortnight.
- Vaiṣṇavas are the devotees of Viṣṇu.
- Śālagrāma means stone symbol of Viṣṇu.
- It falls in the 11th lunar month, generally in February.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math,