The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
8. The Agni Puráńa
8. Agni Puráńa. "That Puráńa which describes the occurrences of the Íśána Kalpa, and was related by Agni to Vaśisht́ha, is called the Ágneya: it consists of sixteen thousand stanzas 58." The Agni or Agneya Puráńa derives its name from its having being communicated originally by Agni, the deity of fire, to the Muni Vaśisht́ha, for the purpose of instructing him in the twofold knowledge of Brahma 59. By him it was taught to Vyása, who imparted it to Súta; and the latter is represented as repeating it to the Rising at Naimishárańya. Its contents are variously specified as sixteen thousand, fifteen thousand, or fourteen thousand
stanzas. The two copies which were employed by me contain about fifteen thousand ślokas. There are two in the Company's library, which do not extend beyond twelve thousand verses; but they are in many other respects different from mine: one of them was written at Agra, in the reign of Akbar, in A. D. 1589.
The Agni Puráńa, in the form in which it has been obtained in Bengal and at Benares, presents a striking contrast to the Márkańd́eya. It may be doubted if a single line of it is original. A very great proportion of it may be traced to other sources; and a more careful collation --if the task was worth the time it would require--would probably discover the remainder.
The early chapters of this Puráńa 60 describe the Avatáras; and in those of Ráma and Krishńa avowedly follow the Rámáyańa and Mahábhárata. A considerable portion is then appropriated to instructions for the performance of religious ceremonies; many of winch belong to the Tántrika ritual, and are apparently transcribed from the principal authorities of that system. Some belong to mystical forms of Śaiva worship, little known in Hindustan, though perhaps still practised in the south. One of these is the Díkshá, or initiation of a novice; by which, with numerous ceremonies and invocations, in which the mysterious monosyllables of the Tantras are constantly repeated, the disciple is transformed into a living personation of Śiva, and receives in that capacity the homage of his Guru. Interspersed with these, are chapters descriptive of the earth and of the universe, which are the same as those of the Vishńu Puráńa; and Máhátmyas or legends of holy places, particularly of Gaya. Chapters on the duties of kings, and on the art of war, then occur, which have the appearance of being extracted from some older work, as is undoubtedly the chapter on judicature, which follows them, and which is the same as the text of the Mitákshara. Subsequent to these, we have an account of the distribution and arrangement of the Vedas and Puráńas, which is little else than an abridgment of the
[paragraph continues] Vishńu: and in a chapter on gifts we have a description of the Puráńas, which is precisely the same, and in the same situation, as the similar subject in the Matsya Puráńa. The genealogical chapters are meagre lists, differing in a few respects from those commonly received, as hereafter noticed, but unaccompanied by any particulars, such as those recorded or invented in the Márkańd́eya. The next subject is medicine, compiled avowedly, but injudiciously, from the Sauśruta. A series of chapters on the mystic worship of Śiva and Deví follows; and the work winds up with treatises on rhetoric, prosody, and grammar, according to the Sutras of Pingala and Pánini.
The cyclopædical character of the Agni Puráńa, as it is now described, excludes it from any legitimate claims to be regarded as a Puráńa, and proves that its origin cannot be very remote. It is subsequent to the Itihásas; to the chief works on grammar, rhetoric, and medicine; and to the introduction of the Tántrika worship of Deví. When this latter took place is yet far from determined, but there is every probability that it dates long after the beginning of our era. The materials of the Agni, Puráńa are, however, no doubt of some antiquity. The medicine of Suśruta is considerably older than the ninth century; and the grammar of Pánini probably precedes Christianity. The chapters on archery and arms, and on regal administration, are also distinguished by an entirely Hindu character, and must have been written long anterior to the Mohammedan invasion. So far the Agni Puráńa is valuable, as embodying and preserving relics of antiquity, although compiled at a more' recent date.
Col. Wilford 61 has made great use of a list of kings derived from an appendix to the Agni Puráńa, which professes to be the sixty-third or last section. As he observes, it is seldom found annexed to the Puráńa. I have never met with it, and doubt its ever having formed any part of the original compilation. It would appear from Col. Wilford's remarks, that this list notices Mohammed as the institutor of an era; but his account of this is not very distinct. He mentions explicitly, however, that the list speaks of Sáliváhana and Vikramáditya; and this is quite
sufficient to establish its character. The compilers of the Puráńas were not such bunglers as to bring within their chronology so well known a personage as Vikramáditya. There are in all parts of India various compilations ascribed to the Puráńas, which never formed any portion of their contents, and which, although offering sometimes useful local information, and valuable as preserving popular traditions, are not in justice to be confounded with the Puráńas, so as to cause them to be charged with even more serious errors and anachronisms than those of which they are guilty.
The two copies of this work in the library of the East India Company appropriate the first half to a description of the ordinary and occasional observances of the Hindus, interspersed with a few legends: the latter half treats exclusively of the history of Mina.
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xxxvi:59 See .
xxxvii:60 Analysis of the Agni Puráńa: Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, March 1832. I have there stated incorrectly that the Agni is a Vaishńava Puráńa: it is one of the Támasa or Śaiva class, as mentioned above.
xxxviii:61 Essay on Vikramáditya and Sáliváhana: As. Res. vol. IX. p. 131.