Narada ji inspired Ved Vyas ji to write and compose the divine scripture ‘Srimad Bhagwat Mahapurana’. Srimad Bhagwat has 335 chapters (Adhyay). This Purana (scripture) is one of the most important and greatest among the other 18 Puranas composed by him. Srimad Bhagwat contains 18,000 verses, 335 chapters, and 12 Skandha (canto).
Like other scriptures, Srimad Bhagwat was also written by Ved Vyasa ji. The great sage Shukdev ji, who was the son of Ved Vyasa ji, narrated the entire Bhagwat Purana to King Parikshit, who was cursed to die within 7 days by Takashak (a certain type of venomous snake) snake’s bite by Sage Shringi.
This scripture illustrates the significance and greatness of Bhakti (Devotion), Gyaan (Wisdom and knowledge), and Vairagya (Detachment from all materialistic desires and pleasures). Imparting knowledge and wisdom from the stories of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna’s various incarnations, it also teaches us the significance and importance of Sakam and Nishkam Karma (Sakam karma implies those deeds done with personal and selfish motives, whereas Nishkam karma implies those deeds done with selfless motives); Gyaan Sadhana (spiritual disciplined practice done by following the path of wisdom); Siddhi sadhana (various disciplined practices performed to attain supernatural powers); Bhakti (devotion); Anugraha (God’s grace); Maryada (boundaries and limitations set by moral values); Dwait-Adwait; Dwaitadwait; Nirgun-Sagun Knowledge. Srimad Bhagavat Mahapurana is the Akshay Bhandara (a never-ending vessel of eternal wisdom). This scripture bestows us with various blessings and the grace of the Lord.
This Purana is considered to be the most unique and one of the greatest scripture of Bhakti Shakha (the path of devotion), making many great scholars express their opinions and perspectives on it. This is the abode of Krishna bhakti (devotion towards Sri Krishna), illustrating various philosophical thoughts and wisdom. However, the mention of Radha, considered to be a great example of selfless love and devotion towards Sri Krishna, is not cited. The complete name of this highly blissful and liberating scripture is Srimad Bhagavat Mahapurana.
The first skandha of this scripture consists of nineteen (19) chapters, in which Sukhdev ji narrates the glory and significance of devotion towards God. It describes the various incarnations of the Lord; the past lives of Narada ji; King Parikshit’s story of birth, his various deeds, and moksha (salvation/liberation); the condemnable actions of Ashwathama and his defeat; the death of Bhishma Pitamah; Lord Krishna’s return to Dwarka; teachings and wisdom of Vidura, the story of Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, and Kunti liberating themselves from the illusion of life, and the Pandavas going to Himalayas for ascending heaven, are all narrated in chronological order.
This skandha begins with the description of Lord Vishnu’s Virat Swaroop (the great giant cosmic form), then followed by the mention of the various ways to worship different deities; the teachings of Bhagavad Gita; the glory and greatness of Lord Sri Krishna, and the essence of devotion with the feeling of ‘Krishnaparmastu’(offering everything to Sri Krishna). It is further illustrated that Lord Sri Krishna himself resides in every living being in the form of ‘Atama’ (soul). The ten characteristics of Purana (scripture) and the mention of the creation and origin of the entire cosmos are explained in this skandha.
This skandha begins with the meeting of Uddhava ji and Vidura ji, where in Uddhava ji mentions the various childhood Leelas (divine play) and other Leelas of Lord Sri Krishna. Apart from this, the meeting of Vidura and Sage Maitreya, the description of the creation of the universe and its sequence, the origin story of Lord Brahma, the description of Kaal- Vibhajan (a division of time), the expansion of the cosmos, the story of Varaha Avatara (Lord Vishnu’s incarnation), the union of Rishi Kashyap and Diti at her request and the curse of giving birth to two evil-minded demons like sons, the story of Jay and Vijay being cursed by Sanatkumar and falling from Vaikuntha (the abode of Lord Vishnu) and taking birth as Diti’s children- Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, the story of Prahlada’s selfless devotion, Hiranyaksha being killed by Lord Vishnu incarnated as Varaha, and Hiranyakashipu being killed by Narsingh Avatar (another incarnation of Lord Vishnu), the marriage of Kardam and Devahuti, teachings of Sankhya Shastra, and the description of the wisdom given by Lord himself incarnated as Kapil Muni, are all described and narrated in this skandha.
This skandha is well-known because of ‘Purunjanopakhyan’. In this story, a king named Puranjan and a woman from BharatKhand (India) are used as metaphors. Out of his desires for worldly pleasures, Puranjan enters a city with nine gates. There he is attacked by Yavanas and Gandharvas. The metaphor here is that the city with nine gates is the human body. In youth, the soul roams freely in it, with the cravings of materialistic desires and pleasures. However with the invasion of old age, which here is represented by a woman named Kalkanya (the daughter of time), the soul loses its power and forgets its original form, in the end, being consumed by the fire.
Clarifying the metaphor, Narada ji says- Puranjan symbolizes living beings and the city with nine gates symbolizes human body (the nine gates being- two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, one anus, one genital). Maya, the illusion created by lack of knowledge and ignorance, is symbolized as a beautiful woman who has ten servants in the form of Indriyas, which symbolizes the senses of the human body (motoric and sensory senses). The city is protected by a five-headed snake (symbolizing the five elements), eleven commanders (representing ten senses and one mind), good deeds and bad deeds symbolizing the two-wheel of the chariot, with a flag holding three qualities (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas), the covering of the seven elements by skin, and the sensory pleasure through senses symbolizes hunting. The powerful force of time is represented as the enemy Gandharva named Chandveg, who has 360 soldiers which represents day and night, gradually taking away a person’s age. The human being with Panchpran (Five Life forces) fights with them day and night and yet suffers defeat. The powerful time defeats or destroys the fearful soul with various diseases.
The essence of this metaphor is that humans constantly indulge in pleasures and destroy their body. When old age arrives, they become weak and suffer from various diseases, and get destroyed. Their family members then burn their mortal bodies with fire”.
The fifth skandh illustrates the characters of various kings including Priyavrata, Agnidhra, King Nabhi, Rishabhdeva and Bharata. This Bharata is not the son of Shakuntala but a different one. It also describes how Bharata was born as a deer due to his attachment to deer and later took birth in a Brahmin family due to the glory of the Gandaki river, along with his spiritual conversation with the king of Sindhu Sauveer. Along with this, just like the story of Puranjan, the path of life is symbolized and explained with another beautiful metaphor. Then the description of the Bharata dynasty and the description of the universe is given. After this, the story of the descent of river Ganga, geographical description of India, and the way of remembering Lord Vishnu through the Shishumara jyotish chakra, are all narrated. Finally, the different types of hells and their punishments are described in this skandha.
The description of ‘Narayan Kavach’ and ‘Punsavan Vrat Vidhi’ is mentioned in this skandh with the thought of welfare of people. Punsavan vrat (mentioned rituals and rules) helps to obtain sons, and it protects from various diseases and illness and the negative effects of planets. It should be done specially on Ekadashi and Dwadasi days.
This skandha begins with the narration of Ajamil’s story, a resident of Kanyakubja. At the time of his death, Ajamil calls out to his son ‘Narayan’. Hearing him call Narayan, Lord Vishnu’s messenger, came to take him to the abode of Lord Vishnu. Describing the glory and significance of Bhagavat Dharma, the messengers say that even if one is thief, drunkard, friend betrayer, murderer, having intercourse with someone else’s or Guru’s wife or someone who has committed any sins, he/she gets liberated from all the sins and bad deeds that he/she has committed by just chanting Lord Vishnu’s name. However, the sin of having intercourse with someone else’s or Guru’s wife cannot be erased and he/she has to go through the hellish consequences by falling into hell.
This skandha also describes the lineage of Daksha Prajapati. The mention of the use of Narayan Kavach by Indra that helped him to gain victory over his enemies is also narrated. The effect of this Kavach remains even after death. It also includes the story of the demon Vatrasur defeating God, the creation of Vajra from Dadhichi’s bones, and the death of Vatrasur.
The story of the beloved devotee of Prahalada and Hiranyakashipu is elaborately described in this seventh skandha. Apart from this, description of Manav-Dharma (human religion;true religion based on truth and morality), Varna- Dharma (duties performed according to the system of four varnas (social divisions) and four ashrams (stages in life), and Stree-Dharma (Women’s right way of living), are all briefly illustrated. Through the narrative story of devotee Prahlad, the importance and gravity of topics such as Dharma (religion), renunciation, devotion and selflessness is explained in this skandha.
This skandha describes an interesting story of Lord Vishnu rescuing Gajendra (elephant) when he was caught by a crocodile. It also includes the story of Lord Vishnu distributing Amrit (sacred water that makes one immortal) in the form of Mohini (female avatar of Lord Vishnu) to the gods and demons during the Samudra-Manthan (the churning of ocean). This skandha also narrates the story of Devasur-sangram (a fierce battle that took place between Gods and Demons), and the ‘Vamana Avatara’ of Lord Vishnu. This skandha concludes with the story of the ‘Matsya Avatara’ (Lord Vishnu incarnated in the divine form of fish).
According to one of the characteristics of the puranas (scripture) – ‘Vanshanucharita’, this skandha describes the lineages of Manu and his five sons- Ikshavaku Vansha, Nimi Vansha, Chandra Vansha, Vishvamitra Vansha and Puru Vansha, Bharata Vansha, Magadha Vansha, Anu Vansha, Drahayu Vansha, Turvasu Vansha and Yadu Vansha. This skandha also provides a detailed description of Ram, Sita and others, and also illustrates their ideals and principals.
This skandha is divided into two parts- ‘Purvardha’ and ‘Uttarardha’. Lord Sri Krishna’s incarnation is elaborately illustrated in this skandha. The famous ‘Ras Panchadhyayi’ is also described in this. The chapters of ‘Purvardha’ narrate the story from the birth of Sri Krishna to Akroor ji’s visit to Hastinapur. The ‘Uttarardha’ describes the war with Jarasandha, the creation and construction of Dwarka city, the abduction of Rukmini, Sri Krishna’s married life, the death of Shishupal and few other narrations. This skandha is completely filled with various leelas (divine plays) of Lord Sri Krishna. It begins with the marriage of Vasudeva and Devaki. It narrates the prophecy, Kansa killing Devaki’s children, the birth of Sri Krishna, the childhood leelas (divine plays) of Sri Krishna, Gopalan, death of Kansa, Akroor’s visit to Hastinapur, the war with Jarasandh, the construction of Dwarka city, Krishna’s marriage with Rukhmini, the birth of Pradyumna, the death of Shambasur, the story of Syamantak jewel, Sri Krishna’s marriage with Jambavati and Satyabhama, the love story of Usha and Aniruddha, the war with Banasur and the story of King Nruga and many other incidents. The story of Krishna and Sudama’s friendship is also mentioned in this skandha.
The characteristics of Lord’s devotees are mentioned in this skandha through a conversation between King Janaka and nine yogis. Brahmaveta Dattatreya Maharaja advises Yadu by saying that one should seek patience from earth, contentment and detachment from air, infinity from sky, purity from water, detachment from fire, fleetingness from moon, knowledge from sun and the lesson or practice of renunciation. Further, the description of eighteen types of siddhis (supernatural powers) is described while instructing/teaching Uddhava. Then the mention of God’s glories and description of Varnashrama (social division and stages of life), Gyan Yog ( the path of knowledge that leads to Lord), Karma Yog ( the path of selfless actions; yoga) and Bhakti Yog (the path of devotion) are all narrated in this skandha.
This skandha describes the dynasties that ruled after King Parikshit. The summary is that the King Pradyotnna ruled for 138 years, followed by the servant kings of Shishunaga dynasty, ten kings of the Maurya dynasty for 136 years, ten kings of Shunga dynasty for 112 years, four kings of Kanva dynasty for 345 years, and then thirty kings of Andhra dynasty for 456 years. After them, there will be the rule of Aamir, Gardabhi, Kadd, Yavan,Turk, Gurund, and Mouna Kings. The Mouna King will rule for 300 years, and the remaining kings will rule for 1099 years. After them, the rule will pass to the Valihika dynasty and then to the Shudras (Lowest caste of Hindu) and Mlecchhas (evil-minded people). This purana (scripture) is of great significance not only as a spiritual and religious work, but also as a pure literary and historical work.