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

The Bhagavata Purana (Sanskrit: भागवतपुराण; IAST: Bhāgavata Purāṇa), also known as the Srimad Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana or simply Bhagavata, is one of Hinduism's eighteen great Puranas (Mahapuranas).[1][2] Composed in Sanskrit by Veda Vyasa.[3] It promotes bhakti (devotion) towards Krishna,[4][5][6] 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 revered text in Vaishnavism, a Hindu tradition that reveres Vishnu.[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 date of composition is probably between the eighth and the tenth century CE, but may be as early as the 6th century CE.[6][17][18] Manuscripts survive in numerous inconsistent versions revised through the 18th century creating various recensions both in the same languages and across different Indian languages.[19]

The text consists of twelve books (skandhas) totalling 332 chapters (adhyayas) and 18,000 verses.[15][20] 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][21]

Nomenclature

'Bhagavata Purana' can be translated as 'the history of the devotees of Vishnu'. 'Srimad Bhagavatam' can be translated as 'the glorious devotees of Vishnu'.

Content and structure

The 18,000 verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam consist of several interconnected, interwoven, and non-linear dialogues, teachings, and explanations espousing Bhakti Yoga that go back and forth in time and across its twelve cantos:

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[31]

Stated authorship and purpose

Vyasa

From the A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada / Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) translation:

This Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect.

— Srimad Bhavagatam First Canto, Chapter 3, Verse 40[16]

From the Bibek Debroy translation:

This Purana has arisen now, in Kali yuga, when all learning has been destroyed, after Krishna returned to his own abode. It is like the sun and is full of knowledge about dharma.

— The Bhagavata Purana 1, First Skandha, Chapter 1(3) (SB 1.3.43)[32]

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[33]

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'[34][35] - 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[36]

A sattvic Vaishnava Mahapurana (‘great purana’), the Srimad Bhagavatam adds another five characteristics, expanding this list to ten.[37] From the J.M. Sanyal translation:

Sukadeva spoke, - "O King! In this Bhagavata Purana there are discourses on ten subject matters, namely: [1] Sarga (creation in general by God), [2] Bisarga (creation in particular by Brahma), [3] Sthana (position), [4] Poshana (preservation), [5] Uti (desire actuating an action), [6] Manwantara (pious modes of living by the Saintly persons), [7] Ishanuktha (discourses relating to God and his devotees), [8] Nirodha (merging in), [9] Mukti (liberation), and [10] Asraya (stay upon or in support of). Of the above ten, with a view to obtain true knowledge of the tenth, viz. Asraya, saintly people would have discourse on the nine others, by way of hearing, meeting, and drawing analogy.

— The Srimad-Bhagvatam of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (vol. 1), Book 2, Chapter X, Verses 1-2 (SB 2.10.1-2)[38]

The Bhagavata further elaborates on the differences between lesser and greater Puranas possessing five or ten characteristics, respectively.[39] From the Disciples of Swami Prabhupada / BBT translation:

O brāhmaṇa, authorities on the matter understand a Purāṇa to contain ten characteristic topics: the creation of this universe, the subsequent creation of worlds and beings, the maintenance of all living beings, their sustenance, the rule of various Manus, the dynasties of great kings, the activities of such kings, annihilation, motivation and the supreme shelter. Other scholars state that the great Purāṇas deal with these ten topics, while lesser Purāṇas may deal with five.

— Canto 12, Chapter 7, Verses 9-10[40]

Shlokas / verses

Although the number of original Sanskrit shlokas is stated to be 18,000 by the Bhagavata itself[41] - and by other Puranas such as the Matsya mahapurana[42] - the number of equivalent verses when translated into other languages varies, even between translations into the same language and based on the same manuscript[43] The English translation by Bibek Debroy (BD), for example, contains 78 more verses than the English translation by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada / BBT, despite likely being based on the same manuscript:[43]

Srimad Bhagavatam Chapters and Verses
BBT Translation BD Translation
Canto Chapters Verses % Chapters Verses %
1 19 808 5.7 19 811 5.7
2 10 393 2.8 10 391 2.8
3 33 1,416 10 33 1,412 10
4 31 1,449 10.3 31 1,450 10.2
5 26 668 4.8 26 738 5.2
6 19 851 6 19 855 6
7 15 750 5.3 15 752 5.3
8 24 931 6.6 24 929 6.6
9 24 960 6.8 24 962 6.8
10 90 3,936 27.9 90 3,948 27.9
11 31 1,367 9.7 31 1,360 9.6
12 13 565 4 13 564 4
Total 335 14,094 100 335 14,172 100
Difference (BBT/BD) -78 +78
Difference (Sanskrit) -3,906 -3,828

In his discussion on the issue of varying numbers of verses in translations of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Debroy states:

[T]here are unabridged translations [of the Bhagavata] in Indian languages. However, to the best of my knowledge, there are only five unabridged translations in English[note 1]... One should not jump to the conclusion that a large number of shlokas are missing [in Debroy's translation]. A few are indeed missing. But, sometimes, it is also a question of how one counts a shloka. With the content remaining identical, the text may be counted as one shloka in one place and as two shlokas elsewhere... Hence, even though there may be no difference between our version of the text and say, that used by Swami Prabhupada, the numbering will vary a bit. (Sometimes there are minor differences in the Sanskrit text).

— The Bhagavata Purana 1, Introduction[43]

Manuscript

A Bhagavata Purana manuscript.
A Bhagavata Purana manuscript.

Contrary to the western cultural tradition of novelty, poetic or artistic license with existing materials is a strong tradition in Indian culture,[44] a 'tradition of several hundred years of linguistic creativity'.[45] There are variations of original manuscripts available for each Purana, including the Srimad Bhagavatam.[44] The common manuscript for translations of the Bhagavata Purana - seemingly used by both Swami Prabhupada and Bibek Debroy- is the Bhāgavatamahāpurāṇam (Nag Publishers, Delhi),[46] a reprint of Khemraj Shri Krishnadas' manuscript (Venkateshvara Press, Bombay).[43] 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')[44]

Critical Edition

The Bhāgavata [Śrīmad Bhāgavata Mahāpurāṇa]: Critical Edition, edited by H. G. Shastri, et al., 4 vols. in 6 parts, Ahmedabad: B. J. Institute of Learning and Research, 1996-2002 (vol. 1, skandhas 1-3, ed. by H. G. Shastri, 1996; vol. 2, skandhas 4-6, ed. by Bharati K. Shelat, 1999; vol. 3, skandhas 7-9, ed. respectively by H. G. Shastri, B. K. Shelat, and K. K. Shastree, 1998; vol. 4, part 1, skandha 10, ed. by K. K. Shastree, 1997; vol. 4, part 2, skandhas 11-12, ed. by K. K. Shastree, 1998; vol. 4, part 3, Epilogue, by K. K. Shastree, 2002).

Date of origin

Main article: Origin of the Bhagavata Purana

According to the Bhagavata Purana itself, it was spoken to Parikshit about 5,000 years ago and was recited and chanted by devotees up until to the present day. Academics estimate the date of composition is probably around the sixth century CE, but may be as early as the 1st century BCE.[6][47][18] Manuscripts survive in numerous, inconsistent versions revised through the 18th century, creating various recensions both in the same languages and across different Indian languages.[48]

Characters

All tables provided apply to all complete translations of the Bhagavata Purana. All tables can also be sorted by column title.

Avatars of Vishnu

The table below is primarily based on the avatars listed in Canto 1, Chapter 3 (SB 1.3)[49] and Canto 2, Chapter 7 (SB 2.7)[50] of the Srimad Bhagavatam (SB)[note 2]. The number given in parenthesis "()" after a name indicates the order of incarnation as stated in Canto 1. Note that:

Avatar (Incarnation Number) Description Function Canto
Kumaras (1) Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanatkumara Revive spiritual truth 1, 3, 4
Varaha (2) Boar Lift the Earth out of the cosmic ocean (Garbhodaka) 3
Narada (3) Sage Expound Vedic Knowledge --
Nara-Narayana (4) Twins Demonstrate austerity and penance (Prāyaścitta) 4
Kapila (5) Sage Expound Sankhya Philosophy[51] 3
Dattatreya (6) Trimurti Guru Expound renunciation (Sannyasa) 4
Yajna (7) Personification of sacrifice Expound sacrifice (Yajna)
Rsabha (8) First Tirthankara of Jainism Expound Japa Yoga (materialistic yoga) 5
Prthu (9) First consecrated king Rule over the Earth in abundance 4
Matsya (10) Fish Shelter from the vast water at the end of the millennium 8
Kurma (11) Tortoise Pivot for Mandara Mountain used as a churning rod 8
Dhanvantari (12) God of Ayurvedic medicine Inaugurate medical science 8, 9
Mohini (13) Female; represents seductive illusion Delude demons - and later Shiva - through seduction (maya) 8
Narasimha (14) Half lion, half man Kill Hiranyakasipu 7
Vamana (15) Dwarf Take away all the lands of Bali in three steps 8
Parashurama / Bhrgupati (16) Warrior Uproot unwanted rulers (21 times) 9
Vyasadeva (17) Compiler of Vedic scriptures Divide Vedic knowledge to make it easier to understand --
Rama / Ramachandra (18) Incarnation in previous Treta Yuga Destroy Ravana 9
Balarama (19) Krishna's brother Diminish the burden of the Earth from asuras 10
Krishna (20) Transcendental source of all Diminish the burden of the Earth from asuras 1, 10, 11
Buddha (21) Founder of Buddhism Expound impersonal philosophy to atheists
Kalki (22) Supreme Chastister Appear at the end of Kali Yuga to destroy evil 12
Hayagriva Half-horse, half-man; personification of Vedas and Sacrifices Revive Vedic knowledge and sacrifice (Yajna) 2, 5
Hamsa Swan Revive Vedic knowledge 11
Aniruddha Grandson of Krishna, son of Pradyumna Diminish the burden of the Earth from asuras 10
Pradyumna Son of Krishna; avatar of Kamadeva (an avatar of Vishnu) Diminish the burden of the Earth from asuras 10
Samba Son of Krishna Diminish the burden of the Earth from asuras 10
Suyajna (Hari) Son of Prajapati Diminish misery; beget Demigods (e.g. Indra) with Daksina 7
Manu Descendant of the ruling Manu dynasty Rule over the miscreant kingly order (Kshatriyas) 3
Ananta / Sankarsana / Shesha / Tamasi Transcendental serpent worshipped by Shiva Support and destroy the universe 5
Ajita Appeared to churn the ocean of milk Churn the ocean of milk 8

Notable devotees

The table below does not include devotee avatars of Vishnu such as Narada, Kapila, or Prthu. Devotees featured or appearing repeatedly throughout the scripture are marked with "--" in the Canto column.

Name Description Canto
Prahlada Son of the demon-king Hiranyakashipu 7
Vidura Sudra incarnation of Yama; Aryamā officiated the post of Yamarāja in his absence (SB 1.13.15) 3
Uddhava Friend and counsellor of Krishna 3, 10, 11
Parikshit King, succeeded his granduncle Yudhishthira; much of the Srimad Bhagavatam consists of narrations to him by Suka Gosvami 1, 2, --
Suka Gosvami Sage, son of Vyasadeva, main narrator --
Maitreya Sage 3
Vrtrasura Demon King (also a villain) who defeated the demigods led by Indra 6
Dhruva Boy sage, son of Uttānapāda, grandson of Svayambhuva Manu 4
Pracetas / Varuna Meditated in the ocean to achieve liberation; instructed by Narada 4
Bharata King that lost liberation due to affection for a deer; reincarnated as a deer and later a human saved by the Goddess Kali from being sacrificed 5
Priyavrata King that was attached to his kingdom, but became detached and achieved liberation; his chariot wheels created the seven oceans and islands 5
Ajamila Brahmin that lost liberation due to sex-attraction; liberated due to calling his son's name - Narayana (one of Vishnu's names) - upon death 6
Citraketu King whose only son was murdered; in his sorrow, learned from Narada the illusion of familial relationships; later cursed by Parvati 6
Gajendra Elephant rescued from Makara, the crocodile, by Vishnu riding his mount, Garuda 8
Yayati King cursed to suffer old age; passed the curse to his son but learned the futility of sense-pleasure, took back the curse, and achieved liberation 9
Akrura Sent by Kamsa in a plot to trick and kill Krishna, but informed him of it 10
Vasudeva and Devaki Parents of Krishna and Balarama; imprisoned and had their other children murdered by Kamsa 10
Sandipani Muni Guru of Krishna and Balarama; Krishna later brought his dead son back from Yama's abode 10
Nanda and Yashoda Foster parents of Krishna and Balarama; Nanda was head of the Gopas, a tribe of cowherds 10
Mucukunda King granted a boon by Indra to sleep after battling demons; anyone who interrupts his sleep will be burned to ashes 10
Jambavan Bear that battled Krishna over the Syamantaka Jewel; surrendered and was blessed by Krishna who married his daughter, Jambavati 10
Nrga King turned into a lizard; rescued by Krishna from a well; he had accidentally given away a cow to a Brahmin that was not his 10
Sudama Impoverished sage and childhood friend of Krishna; so poor, he could only offer flat rice as a gift to Krishna at Dvaraka 10
Durvasa Sage that deliberately insulted Brahma, offended Shiva, and kicked Vishnu to determine which of them was the greatest 10
Nimi King instructed by the '9 Yogendras' about Bhakti for Krishna (narrated by Narada to Vasudeva, father of Krishna) 11
Ambarisha A devotee king of the Solar dynasty. When sage Durvasa cursed him, the Sudarsana chakra of Vishnu attacked Durvasa but he was saved by the prayer of Ambarisha 9
Harishchandra Another king of the Solar dynasty, who had a son named Rohitasva. 9

Notable demons and villains

Many demons (villains) are mentioned throughout the Srimad Bhagavatam; cantos listed concern their primary (or only) appearances and/or descriptions. This table is not exhaustive.

Name Description Canto
Asvatthama Killed the sleeping children of Draupadi and attempted to kill the unborn Pariksit, son of Uttara 1
Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakasipu Demonic twin-sons of Diti; first incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya cursed by the Four Sanas / Kumaras 1, 3, 7
Vena Corrupt and evil king that caused famines; cursed by brahmanas to die before the appearance of Prthu 4
Vrtrasura Demon King (also a pure devotee) that defeated the Demigods, led by Indra 6
Bali / Mahabali Demon King (a Pure devotee) that conquered the three worlds; Vamana took them back in three footsteps 8
Ravana and Kumbhakarna Demonic enemies of Rama (see Ramayana); second incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya 7, 9
Kamsa Tyrant King that imprisoned Krishna's parents, murdered Krishna's siblings, and attempted to kill Krishna 10
Putana Demon sent by Kamsa to poison baby Krishna 10
Trnavarta Whirlwind demon sent by Kamsa to kill baby Krishna 10
Aghasura Gigantic serpent demon sent by Kamsa to kill boy Krishna 10
Bakasura Gigantic heron demon that swallowed boy Krishna 10
Dhenuka Donkey demon, ruler of the Talavana forest near the Yamuna river 10
Kaliya Naga (serpent) that poisoned Kaliya Lake and Krishna's cowherd friends 10
Pralamba Demon sent by Kamsa, disguised as a cowherd boy 10
Aristasura Bull demon, attacked Krishna's cowherd community 10
Kesi Horse demon sent by Kamsa to kill young Krishna 10
Vyomasura Demon sent by Kamsa, disguised as a cowherd boy abducted Krishna's cowherd friends 10
Kuvalayapida Drunken and mad Elephant goaded to kill Krishna on behalf of Kamsa at a wrestling arena 10
Jarasandha Kamsa's father-in-law; laid siege to Mathura with 23 armies before Krishna established Dvaraka 10
Kalayavana Barbarian King and ally of Jarasandha; tricked by Krishna into kicking Mucukunda and waking him 10
Shishupala and Dantavakra Maternal cousins and kings; cousins and enemies of Krishna; third incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya 7, 10
Rukmi King and brother of Rukmini; wanted her to marry Shishupala, not Krishna; cheated Balarama at dice 10
Narakasura Demon that kidnapped 16,000 princesses; Krishna rescued and married them all 10
Banasura Demonic son of Bali who captured Aniruddha; saved by his naked mother from being killed by Krishna 10
Paundraka King that imitated Krishna and challenged his position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead 10
Dhvivida Gorilla friend of Narakasura; for revenge, raped and terrorised people in Krishna's province 10
Salva Demonic King, friend of Shishupala and Dantavakra, and an illusionist; attacked Krishna's city, Dvaraka 10
Viduratha Brother of Dantavakra; attempted to avenge his brother by attacking Krishna with a sword 10
Balvala Demon that had been polluting a sacrificial arena at the holy Naimisaraya forest 10
Bhasmasura Demon given a boon by Shiva to kill anyone whose head he touched; tried to kill Shiva with that boon 10
Kartavirya Arjuna A tyrant Kshattriya rule of the Haihaya clan; Parashurama killed him fr forcibly abducting the Kamadhenu cow. 9

Cantos

For ease of reference, synopses of cantos cite the complete 18-volume A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada / Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) translation of the Srimad Bhagavatam, available at the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase. It also provides original Sanskrit verses, transliterations, synonyms, and purports. Other translations of quoted verses have also been provided for comparison. The non-exhaustive overviews given apply to all complete translations.

SB 1.1.3 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

O expert and thoughtful men, relish Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarian juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.

— Canto 1, Chapter 1, Verse 3[52]

Bibek Debroy translation:

The sacred texts are like trees that yield all the objects of desire and this represents their ripened fruit. It emerged from Shuka's mouth, with the pulp and juice of amrita. Drink the Bhagavata, the store of juices. O those who possess taste! Savour it repeatedly and become happy on earth.

— First Skandha, Chapter 1(3)[53]

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:


SB 1.3.38 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

Only those who render unreserved, uninterrupted, favourable service unto the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, who carries the wheel of the chariot in his hand, can know the creator of the universe in His full glory, power, and transcendence.

— Canto 1, Chapter 3, Verse 38[55]

J.M. Sanyal Translation:

It is only His devotee, who meditates ever with deep concentration upon the Lord holding the irresistibly destructive wheel (Chakra, more commonly called 'Sudarsan-chakra') in His Hand, that knows a bit about Him.

— Book 1, Chapter III, Verse 38[56]

Second Canto

Sukadeva Gosvami addressing Pariksit.

Consisting of 10 chapters,[57] 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 Sukadeva Gosvami to a group of sages headed by Saunaka in the forest of Naimisaranya). Questioned by Pariksit, the topics covered by Suta Gosvami include the:

SB 2.5.35 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

The lord Maha-Vishnu, although lying in the Causal Ocean, came out of it, and dividing Himself as Hiranyagarbha, He entered into each universe and assumed the virat-rupa, with thousands of legs, arms, mouths, heads, etc.

— Canto 2, Chapter 5, Verse 35[58]

Bibek Debroy translation:

Purusha split the egg and emerged, with thousands of thighs, legs, arms and eyes and thousands of mouths and heads.

— Second Skandha, Chapter 2(5)[59]

Third Canto

Depiction of Brahma's anger and the origin of Shiva from the former's eyebrows, when the Four Kumaras decide immediately to perform penance before helping their father in creation.
Depiction of Brahma's anger and the origin of Shiva from the former's eyebrows, when the Four Kumaras decide immediately to perform penance before helping their father in creation.
Vidura admonishes Dhritarashtra.
Vidura admonishes Dhritarashtra.

Consisting of 33 chapters,[60] 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 ॥

Swami Prabhupada translation:

In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.

— Canto 3, Chapter 25, Verse 25[61]

J.M. Sanyal translation:

They are so earnest and eagerly attached to mutual discussion on the holy glories of God that the limbs of their bodies become paralysed on account of their being devoid of sensibility due to their zeal for discourses on the illustrious Lord; and so they are possessed of the crowning virtue of kindness which is desired by all good people.

— Book 3, Chapter XV, Verse 25[62]

Fourth Canto

Vishnu appears before Dhruva
Vishnu appears before Dhruva

Consisting of 31 chapters,[63] 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:


SB 4.16.17 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

The king [Prthu] will respect all women as if they were his own mother, and he will treat his own wife as the other half of his body. He will be just like an affectionate father to his citizens, and he will treat himself as the most obedient servant of the devotees, who always preach the glories of the Lord.

— Canto 4, Chapter 16, Verse 17[64]

Bibek Debroy translation:

He will revere other men's wives like his own mother. He will treat his own wife like one half of his own self. Towards his subjects, he will be as gentle as a father. He will be a servant to those who know about the Brahman.

— Fourth Skandha, Chapter 4(16)[65]

Fifth Canto

Rsabha.

Consisting of 26 chapters,[66] 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:

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 ॥

Swami Prabhupada translation:

Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one’s heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.

— Canto 5, Chapter 5, Verse 1[67]

J.M. Sanyal translation:

The Auspicious Rishabhadeva said, - "O my sons! Those who have obtained the human body in this land of mortals, should not give themselves up to the enjoyments of ultimately painful worldly pleasures that are partaken of by pigs and other animals living on excreta. O my children! Austerity only is the most excellent thing by which one's being is purified and which again leads to the eternal felicity of Brahma".

— Book 5, Chapter V, Verse 1[68]

Sixth Canto

Vrtrasura attacks Indra
Vrtrasura attacks Indra

Consisting of 19 chapters,[69] 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 Yamadatas). 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:

SB 6.3.13 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

Just as the driver of a bullock cart ties ropes through the nostrils of his bulls to control them, the Supreme Personality of Godhead binds all men through the ropes of His words in the Vedas, which set forth the names and activities of the distinct orders of human society [brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra]. In fear, the members of these orders all worship the Supreme Lord by offering Him presentations according to their respective activities.

— Canto 6, Chapter 3, Verse 13[70]

Bibek Debroy translation:

They are bound to him with cords, like bulls with ropes. They are bound and scared. With different names and deeds, they bear the burden and offer sacrifices to him.

— Sixth Skandha, Chapter 6(3)[71]

Seventh Canto

Nrsimha and Prahlada (R).
Nrsimha and Prahlada (R).

Consisting of 15 chapters,[72] 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:

SB 7.14.9 original Sanskrit:

मृगोष्ट्रखरमर्काखुसरीसृप्खगमक्षिका: ।
आत्मन: पुत्रवत् पश्येत्तैरेषामन्तरं कियत् ॥ ९ ॥

Swami Prabhupada translation:

One should treat animals such as deer, camels, asses, monkeys, mice, snakes, birds and flies exactly like one’s own son. How little difference there actually is between children and these innocent animals.

— Canto 7, Chapter 14, Verse 9[73]

J.M. Sanyal translation:

A householder should look upon deer, camels, donkeys, monkeys, mice, serpents, birds, and bees and all that enter his house or cornfield for eating the eatables stocked there, as his own sons, because between sons and those there is but very little difference.

— Book Seven, Chapter XIV, Verse 9[74]

Eighth Canto

Vamana with Bali.
Vamana with Bali.

Consisting of 24 chapters,[75] 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:

SB 8.5.30 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

No one can overcome the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s illusory energy [māyā], which is so strong that it bewilders everyone, making one lose the sense to understand the aim of life. That same māyā, however, is subdued by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who rules everyone and who is equally disposed toward all living entities. Let us offer our obeisances unto Him.

— Canto 8, Chapter 5, Verse 30[76]

Bibek Debroy translation:

No one is able to overcome his maya. Because of this, people are confounded and do not know the truth. He is the supreme lord who alone conquers his own gunas. He controls beings, without any partiality.

— Eighth Skandha, Chapter 8(5)[77]

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.

Motilal Banarsidass Publications:

You are that Supreme mysterious Brahman, the creator of beings, of the higher and the lower order. You are the supreme soul who appear as the universe by means of your various powers (such as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). Hence you are the Controller and Master of the Universe.

— Canto 8, Chapter 7, Verse 24

29. Oh Lord ! the five upanisads from which the collection of thirty eight mantras evolve, denote your (five) faces; that self-effulgence constituting the supreme principle which is designated as Shiva is your absolute state,

— Canto 8, Chapter 7, Verse 29

Ninth Canto

Parashurama

Consisting of 24 chapters,[78] 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 original Sanskrit:

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

Swami Prabhupada translation:

Although the demons who take possession of the government are dressed like men of government, they do not know the duty of the government. Consequently, by the arrangement of God, such demons, who possess great military strength, fight with one another, and thus the great burden of demons on the surface of the earth is reduced. The demons increase their military power by the will of the Supreme, so that their numbers will be diminished and the devotees will have a chance to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

— Canto 9, Chapter 24, Verse 59[79]

Bibek Debroy translation (the J.M. Sanyal translation is missing verse 58 onwards of this chapter):

The lords of the akshouhinis were asuras who were unfit to be kings. They attacked themselves and he sought to reduce the burden of the earth.

— Ninth Skandha, Chapter 9(24)[80]

Tenth Canto

Kuvalayapida Slain
Kuvalayapida Slain

Consisting of 90 chapters,[81] 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:

SB 10.90.50 original Sanskrit:

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

Disciples of Swami Prabhupada translation:

By regularly hearing, chanting and meditating on the beautiful topics of Lord Mukunda with ever-increasing sincerity, a mortal being will attain the divine kingdom of the Lord, where the inviolable power of death holds no sway. For this purpose, many persons, including great kings, abandoned their mundane homes and took to the forest.

— Canto 10, Chapter 90, Verse 50[82]

J.M. Sanyal translation:

Thus attentively listening to and reciting, and meditating on the theme of the glorious achievements of Mukunda, mortals attain to the regions where the destroying influence of death cannot reach, and in order to be transported to which kingdom, even the rulers of the earth betake themselves to the wilderness having deserted their respective kingdoms, to perform rigid austerities.

— Book Ten, Chapter XC, Verse 50[83]

Study

The largest canto with 4,000 verses, the tenth canto is also the most popular and widely studied part of the Bhagavata.[84] It has also been translated, commented on, and published separately from the rest of the Srimad Bhagavatam.[85][86] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada stated this canto is distinct from the others, albeit while warning against studying it before reading the previous nine:

The Tenth Canto is distinct from the first nine cantos because it deals directly with the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. One will be unable to capture the effects of the Tenth Canto without going through the first nine cantos. The book is complete in twelve cantos, each independent, but it is good for all to read them... one after another.

— Canto 1, Preface[87]

Eleventh Canto

Hamsa
Hamsa

Consisting of 31 chapters,[88] 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:


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 ॥

Disciples of Swami Prabhupada translation:

O King, I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus, who are the following: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the prostitute Piṅgalā, the kurara bird and the child; and the young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp. My dear King, by studying their activities I have learned the science of the self.

— Canto 11, Chapter 7, Verses 33-35[89]

Swami Ambikananda Saraswati translation:

I have many teachers, O king,
Through my own awareness I have learned from them all,
And now I wander about this earth free from its turmoil.
Let me tell you of my teachers.

The earth, air, and space,
Water and fire,
The sun and moon,
The dove and the python,
The sea,
The moth and the bee,
And the elephant.

The honey gatherer,
The deer and the fish.
The prostitute Pingala
And the osprey,
The infant and the maiden.
The man who makes arrows
And a certain serpent,
The spider, and the insect
Captured by the wasp.

Those, great king, have been my teachers,
They number twenty-four in all.
From them and their ways
I have learned all that I know,
And all of it has been to my benefit.

— Dialogue 2, Verses 33-35[90]

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.[91][92] 'Hamsa' means 'swan' or 'spirit',[93] and:

Twelfth Canto

Kalki

Consisting of 13 chapters,[96] 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:

SB 12.13.11-12 original Sanskrit:

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

Disciples of Swami Prabhupada translation:

From beginning to end, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is full of narrations that encourage renunciation of material life, as well as nectarean accounts of Lord Hari’s transcendental pastimes, which give ecstasy to the saintly devotees and demigods. This Bhāgavatam is the essence of all Vedānta philosophy because its subject matter is the Absolute Truth, which, while nondifferent from the spirit soul, is the ultimate reality, one without a second. The goal of this literature is exclusive devotional service unto that Supreme Truth.

— Canto 12, Chapter 13, Verses 11-12[97]

A Wikipedia editor's translation:

From the beginning to the end, with its [Bhagavata] stories of detachment,
it delights the saintly and the virtuous with the nectar of its many Lila of Hari.
The essence of all the Upanishads this is, the sign that the Brahman [God] is one's Atman [Soul within],
it illuminates the One Reality without a second, it is the means of attaining Kaivalya [liberation].

— Bhagavata Purana, 12.13.11 - 12.13.12[98]

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.[99]

Bhakti

Main articles: Bhakti and Bhakti yoga

Cutler states the Bhagavata is among the most important texts on bhakti, presenting a fully developed teaching that originated with the Bhagavad Gita.[100] 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.[101]

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.[102] 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.[103]

Samkhya

Kapila Muni.
Kapila Muni.

Main article: Samkhya

Surendranath Dasgupta describes the theistic Samkhya philosophy taught by Kapila in the Bhagavata as the dominant philosophy in the text.[104]

Sheridan points out that in the Third Canto, Kapila is described as an avatar of Vishnu, born as the son of the sage Kardama Muni, 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,[105] 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.[105]

Sheridan also states that the treatment of Samkhya in the Bhagavata is also changed by its emphasis on devotion,[105] as does Dasgupta, adding it is somewhat different from other classical Samkhya texts.[106][105]

Advaita

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

Main article: Advaita Vedanta

Kumar Das and Sheridan state that the Bhagavata frequently discusses a distinctly advaitic or non-dualistic philosophy of Shankara.[5][8] 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).[99] 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.[99] The Bhagavata Purana is also stated to parallel the non-duality of Adi Shankara by Sheridan.[8] 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[107]

Scholars describe this philosophy as built on the foundation of non-dualism in the Upanishads, and term it as "Advaitic Theism".[8][108] 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.[8] 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.[109] 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.[109]

Dharma

The Dharma wheel.
The Dharma wheel.

Main article: Dharma

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.[110] The earliest mention of bhakti is found in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad verse 6.23,[111][112] 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.[113][114]

Scholarly consensus sees bhakti as a post-Vedic movement that developed primarily during the Puranas era of Indian history.[115] The Bhagavata Purana develops the Bhakti concept more elaborately, states Cutler,[116] proposing "worship without ulterior motive and with kind disposition towards all" as Dharma.[117][118] T.R. Sharma states the text includes in its scope intellectual and emotional devotion as well as Advaita Vedanta ideas.[119]

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".[120] 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.[120] That which is motivated by, furthers, and enables bhakti is the golden standard of Dharma.[120]

Yoga

Main article: 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.[121] 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.[121][122]

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.[99] 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".[99][123] 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[124]

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.[125][126]

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".[127][128][129] 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[130]

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.[131][132]

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.[133] Disciples of Swami Prabhupada translation:

If on the full moon day of the month of Bhādra one places Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam on a golden throne and gives it as a gift, he will attain the supreme transcendental destination.

— Bhagavata Purana, Canto 12, Chapter 13, Verse 13[134]

Vaishnavism

Chaitanya (1486–1534 CE)
Chaitanya (1486–1534 CE)

Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Main articles: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Gauranga, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism

The Bhagavata has played a significant role in the emergence of the Krishna-bhakti (Gaudiya Vaishnavism) movement of Lord Chaitanya (1486–1534 CE), in Bengal.[135] The scriptural basis for the belief that Lord 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[136]

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 (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[137]

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'.[138] In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Chaitanya is accepted as a hidden avatar of Krishna that 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.[139] 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 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,[140] purged of doctrines that find no place in Assamese Vaishnavism[141] and adding a monist commentary instead.[142]

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.[143] The text complements the Pancharatra Agama texts of Vaishnavism.[143] 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".[144] 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.[125]

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.[145] 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.[146] While homage to Shakyamuni Buddha is included in by declaring him as an avatar of Vishnu,[147] 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.[148][149][150] According to T. S. Rukmani, the Bhagavata Purana is also significant in asserting that Yoga practice is a form of Bhakti.[151]

The Arts

The Bhagavata Purana was a significant text in the bhakti movement and the culture of India.[152] Dance and theatre arts such as Kathakali (left), Kuchipudi (middle) and Odissi (right) portray legends from the Purana.[153][154]

The Bhagavata Purana played a key role in the history of Indian theatre, music, and dance, particularly through the tradition of Ras and 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.[155] While Indian dance and music theatre traces its origins to the ancient Sama Veda and Natyasastra texts,[156][157] the Bhagavata Purana and other Krishna-related texts such as Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana have inspired numerous choreographic themes.[158]

Many 'Ras' plays dramatise episodes related in the Rasa Panchadhyayi ("Five chapters of the Celestial Dance"; Canto 10, Chapters 29–33) of the Bhagavatam.[159] 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.[160] Canto 10 of Bhagavatam is regarded as the inspiration for many classical dance styles such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri and Bharatnatyam.[161] 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[162]

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:

Dvaita commentaries

Acintya-bhedābheda Commentaries

Viśiṣṭādvaita Commentaries

Suddhādvaita Commentaries

Dvaitādvaita Commentaries

Others

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,[162] with the publication of a French translation followed by an English one. The following is a partial list of translations:

Assamese

Bengali

Sri Krishna-Vijaya by Maladhara Basu, a translation of the 10th Canto and a bit from others.

Hindi

Kannada

Odia

Telugu

English

English (partial translations and paraphrases)

French

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Debroy states unabridged translations are by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896); Swami Prabhupada (1977); Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare (1976); Swami Tapasyananda (1980); and C.L. Goswami and M.A. Shastri (2006)
  2. ^ Chapters cited from vedabase.io are used with permission of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

References

Citations

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  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 d e Bryant 2007, pp. 111–113
  7. ^ Brown 1983, pp. 553–557
  8. ^ a b c d e Sheridan 1986, pp. 1–2, 17–25
  9. ^ Katz 2000, pp. 184–185.
  10. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 138–151
  11. ^ Ravi Gupta and Kenneth Valpey (2013), The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231149990, pages 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
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    हरिलीलाकथाव्राता मृतानन्दितसत्सुरम्
    सर्ववेदान्तसारं यद्ब्रह्मात्मैकत्वलक्षणम्
    वस्त्वद्वितीयं तन्निष्ठं कैवल्यैकप्रयोजनम्; Archive;
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    वदन्ति तत्तत्त्वविदस्तत्त्वं यज्ज्ञानमद्वयम् | ब्रह्मेति परमात्मेति भगवानिति शब्द्यते || Source: Bhagavata Purana Archive
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  142. ^ "...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
  143. ^ a b Edwin Francis Bryant and Maria Ekstrand (2004), The Hare Krishna Movement, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231122566, pages 48-51
  144. ^ Ravi Gupta and Kenneth Valpey (2013), The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231149990, pages 149-150
  145. ^ Ravi Gupta and Kenneth Valpey (2013), The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231149990, pages 151-155
  146. ^ Doniger 1993, p. 243.
  147. ^ Ravi Gupta and Kenneth Valpey (2013), The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231149990, pages 157-159
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  153. ^ ML Varadpande (1987), History of Indian Theatre, Vol 1, Abhinav, ISBN 978-8170172215, pages 98-99
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  155. ^ Graham Schweig ( 2007), Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions (Editor: Yudit Kornberg Greenberg), Volume 1, ISBN 978-1851099801, pages 247-249
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  157. ^ PV Kane, History of Sanskrit Poetics, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120802742 (2015 Reprint), pages 10-41
  158. ^ Varadpande 1987, pp. 92–94
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Sources

Further reading[edit]

English
Sanskrit original