- A purana is a story about the deeds and life of a divinity. These stories supply a rich backdrop to Hinduism, and, together with the epics, the RAMA-YANA and MAHABHARATA, form the mythological infrastructure of the culture. Jains have their own puranic literature, but it dwells on the lives of the great teachers, the TIRTHANKARAS and other holy personages who have broken the bonds of karma, rather than on the gods.There are 18 traditional puranas in Hindu-ism, all written in SANSKRIT. Though their names could be taken to indicate a sectarian focus (as, for example, the Shiva Purana), most often they contain both SHAIVITE and Vaishnavite stories. At times stories outline the supremacy of the GODDESS, Lord Krishna’s birthplace, where his puranic tale begins, in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh (Constance A. Jones) such as those in the Markandeya Purana, but even these are juxtaposed with stories from the other two sects.Included in the category of purana are very important local stories, usually in Sanskrit, but sometimes in local languages. In particular, the Tamil language of South India contains many sto-ries like this. These sthala puranas, or puranas of “place,” tell the origin stories of the vast number of local divinities who populate the Indian landscape. An example of this would be the Tiruvilayadal Puranam, written in Tamil in the 16th century, which tells the story of MINAKSHI from the Brah-minical point of view, showing how she became subordinated to SHIVA, who became her husband.Further reading: Vettam Mani, Puranic Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive Work with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2002); David Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.