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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

Date of the Puráńas

The Puráńas are also works of evidently different ages, and have been compiled under different circumstances, the precise nature of which we can but imperfectly conjecture from internal evidence, and from what we know of the history of religious opinion in India. It is highly probable,

p. x

that of the present popular forms of the Hindu religion, none assumed their actual state earlier than the time of Śankara Áchárya, the great Śaiva reformer, who flourished, in all likelihood, in the eighth or ninth century. Of the Vaishńava teachers, Rámánuja dates in the twelfth century, Madhwáchárya in the thirteenth, and Vallabha in the sixteenth 17; and the Puráńas seem to have accompanied or followed their innovations, being obviously intended to advocate the doctrines they taught. This is to assign to some of them a very modern date, it is true; but I cannot think that a higher can with justice be ascribed to them. This, however, applies to some only out of the number, as I shall presently proceed to specify.

Another evidence of a comparatively modern date must be admitted in those chapters of the Puráńas which, assuming a prophetic tone, foretell what dynasties of kings will reign in the Kálí age. These chapters, it is true, are found but in four of the Puráńas, but they are conclusive in bringing down the date of those four to a period considerably subsequent to Christianity. It is also to be remarked, that the Váyu, Vishńu, Bhágavata, and Matsya Puráńas, in which these particulars are foretold, have in all other respects the character of as great antiquity as any works of their class 18.


x:17 As. Res. vols. XVI. and XVII. Account of Hindu Sects.

x:18 On the history of the composition of the Puráńas, as they now appear, I have hazarded some speculations in my Analysis of the Váyu Puráńa: Journ. Asiatic Society of Bengal, December 1832.

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