What exactly is the role of the Puranas in the Sanatana Dharma?


According to the Devi Bhagavatam, for the benefit of the Sudras, lower Dvijas and women Puranas are composed.

18-24. At every Manvantara, in each Dvâpara Yuga, Veda Vyâsa expounds the Purânas duly to preserve the religion. Veda Vyâsa is no other person than Visnu Himself; He, in the form of Veda Vyâsa, divides the (one) Veda into four parts, in every Dvâpara Yuga, for the good of the world. The Brahmânas of the Kali age are shortlived and their intellect (Buddhi) is not sharp; they cannot realise the meaning after studying the Vedas; knowing this in every Dvâpara Yuga Bhagavân expounds the holy Purâna Samhitas. The more so because women, S’udras, and the lower Dvijas are not entitled to hear the Vedas; for their good, the Purânas have been composed. Tne present auspicious Manvantara is Vaivasvata; it is the seventh in due order; and the son of Satyavati, the best of the knowers of Dharma, is the Veda Vyâsa of the 28th Dvâpara Yuga of this seventh Manvantara. He is my Guru; in the next Dvâpara, Yuga Asvatthama, the son of Drona will be the Veda Vyâsa. Twenty-seven Veda Vyâsas had expired and they duly compiled each their own Purâna Samhitas in their own Dvâpara Yugas.

Chapter 3, First Book

But have a look at the following verse where Lord Shiva is defining why Purana is so named.

Punya PApAdi KathanaAd RAkshashA DinibAranAt|
NavabhaktyAdi JananAt PurAn Iti Kathyate||

Because it tells of merit and demerit, Punyapapa, because it dispels evil beings like Raksasas, and because it generates ninefold devotion, Navabhakti, and the like, it is called Purana.

KulArnava TantrA 17.39

So, this verse gives three purposes of a Purana:

  1. Tell what is PApa and what is Punya.

  2. To dispel evil beings.

  3. To generate devotion among the masses.

And, if you see, then it is only the Puranas which talk about Bhakti a whole lot more than any scriptures like Vedas, Smritis, Tantras.

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