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10. The Brahma-vaivartta Puráńa

10. Brahma-vaivartta Puráńa. "That Puráńa which is related by Sávarńi to Nárada, and contains the account of the greatness of Krishńa, with the occurrences of the Rathantara Kalpa, where also the story of Brahma-varáha is repeatedly told, is called the Brahma-vaivartta, and contains eighteen thousand stanzas 64." The account here given of the Brahma-vaivartta Puráńa agrees with its present state as to its extent. The copies rather exceed than fall short of eighteen thousand stanzas. It also correctly represents its comprising a Máhátmya or legend of Krishńa; but it is very doubtful, nevertheless, if the same work is intended.

The Brahma-vaivartta, as it now exists, is narrated, not by Sávarńi, but the Rishi Náráyańa to Nárada, by whom it is communicated to Vyása: he teaches it to Súta, and the latter repeats it to the Rishis at Naimishárańya. It is divided into four Khańd́as, or books; the Bráhma, Prakriti, Ganeśa, and Krishńa Janma Khańd́as; dedicated severally to describe the acts of Brahmá, Deví, Ganeśa, and Krishńa; the latter, however, throughout absorbing the interest and importance of the work. In none of these is there any account of the Varáha Avatára of Vishńu, which seems to be intended by the Matsya; nor any reference to a Rathantara Kalpa. It may also be observed, that, in describing the merit of presenting a copy of this Puráńa, the Matsya adds, "Whoever makes such gift, is honoured in the Brahma-loka;" a sphere which is of very inferior dignity to that to which a worshipper of Krishńa is taught to aspire by this Puráńa. The character of the work is in truth so decidedly sectarial, and the sect to which it belongs so distinctly marked,

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that of the worshippers of the juvenile Krishńa and Rádhá, a form of belief of known modern origin, that it can scarcely have found a notice in a work to which, like the Matsya, a much more remote date seems to belong. Although therefore the Matsya may be received in proof of there having been a Brahma-vaivartta Puráńa at the date of its compilation, dedicated especially to the honour of Krishńa, yet we cannot credit the possibility of its being the same we now possess.

Although some of the legends believed to be ancient are scattered through the different portions of this Puráńa, yet the great mass of it is taken up with tiresome descriptions of Vrindavan and Goloka, the dwellings of Krishńa on earth and in heaven; with endless repetitions of prayers and invocations addressed to him; and with insipid descriptions of his person and sports, and the love of the Gopís and of Rádhá towards him. There are some particulars of the origin of the artificer castes, which is of value because it is cited as authority in matters affecting them, contained in the Bráhma Khańd́a; and in the Prákrita and Ganeśa Khańd́as are legends of those divinities, not wholly, perhaps, modern inventions, but of which the source has not been traced. In the life of Krishńa the incidents recorded are the same as those narrated in the Vishńu and the Bhágavata; but the stories, absurd as they are, are much compressed to make room for original matter, still more puerile and tiresome. The Brahma-vaivartta has not the slightest title to be regarded as a Puráńa 65.


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xlii:65 Analysis of the Brahma-vaivartta Puráńa: Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, June 1832.

Next: 11. The Linga Puráńa