Bhāgavata Purana or also known as Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, or simply Bhāgavatam (Sanskrit: "Ancient Book of the Lord") — is the most celebrated text of a variety of Hindu sacred literature in Sanskrit that is known as the Purāṇas. The Bhāgavatam takes the form of a story being told by a great rishi known as Suta Goswami, to a host of assembled sages, who ask him questions in regard to the various avatars, or descents of Vishnu within the mortal world. Suta Goswami then relates the Bhāgavatam as he has heard it from another sage, called Sukadeva.
Each section or canto describes specific avatars of Vishnu, beginning with a summary of all avatars in the first canto concluding with description of Krishna as Svayam bhagavan. The tenth and eleventh cantos give detailed accounts of the story of Krishna's appearance and pastimes in Vrindavan, and his instructions to various devotees (such as the Uddhava Gita). The final twelfth canto foretells the coming of the age of Kali yuga (the current age according to the Hindu cycle of ages), and the eventual destruction of the earthly universe.
Bhagavata Purana is popular because it focuses on the Bhakti Yoga (devotion to the supreme Lord expressed through love) Lord VishnuVishnu or Krishna is understood as the Supreme lord. Bhagavat Purana consists of eighteen thousand slokas, distributed amongst 332 chapters and divided into twelve cantos (skandhas). It is named Bhagavata from its being dedicated to the glorification of Lord Vishnu. Though originally written in Sanskrit, Bhagavat has been explored and translated in many vernacular languages of India. Bhagavat, an epic philosophical and literary classic, holds a prominent position in India`s voluminous written wisdom. Bhagavat exercises a more direct and powerful influence upon the opinions and feelings of the people than perhaps any other of the Puranas. History suggests that the text was written in the 9th or 10th century. However, Hindu religious tradition holds it to be one of the works of Vyasa written at the beginning of Kali Yuga.
The Bhagavata Purana is the conversation between King Parikshit (grandson of Arjuna Pandavas)and saint Sukadeva Goswami.King Parikshit was cursed by a brahmin that he would die within seven days.So he decided to give up his kingly duties and search for the goal of life .As he was mentally preparing for his approaching death he met the great saint Sukadeva Gosvami, who was searching for a suitable disciple to whom he might impart his great knowledge.He decided to teach King Parikshit . The conversation between the two goes on uninterrupted for seven day .During this period the king does not eat, drink or sleep. The saint explains to him that one`s goal in life is understanding the absolute truth who is personified as Lord Krishna ,the supreme God.
The Srimad Bhagavatam speaks about several topics, which in modern times have been subjected to scientific speculation and research. The Third canto (chapter 11) deals with the calculations of time .At the same time it goes into detail about the human life starting from the development of the embryo in the womb .The first sections of the literature also contains stories of devotees and objects of their devotion: the various avataras of Krishna or Vishnu. The most famous section is the 10th Canto, which deals in detail with the story of Krishna`s appearance and pastimes in Vrindavan.The Bhagavata Purana depicts Krishna not as a Jagat -guru (teacher)as stated in the Bhagavad gita ,but as a heroic young boy brought up by cowherd parents ,Nand and Yashoda,in a small village situated on the banks of Yamuna Young Krishna`s childhood plays and acts of bravery in protecting villagers from demons and his pastimes with the cowherd girls (Gopis`) is narrated in a simple style .The intense devotion of the Gopis towards Lord Krishna expressed through love is later described as Bhakti Yoga . When Krishna leaves for Mathura on a mission, Gopis` become grief- stricken. Their intense longing is presented as a model of extreme devotion to the Supreme Lord. In a way, Bhagavata Purana paved the way for the various schools of Bhakti Movement.
Table of Contents
02: The Cosmic Manifestation
03: The Status Quo
04: Creation of the Fourth Order
05: The Creative Impetus
06: Prescribed Duties for Mankind
07: The Study of God
08: Withdrawal of the Cosmic Creations
10: The Summum Bonum
11: General History
12: The Age of Deterioration
Srimad Bhagavatam bears the essence of Vedic literature and Vedantic philosophy it is the source of Vaishnava theology and Gaudiya Vaishnava theology. It is the most complete and authoritative exposition of Vedic knowledge and covers everything from the nature of the self to the origin of the universe, and touches upon all fields of knowledge. It raises and answers fundamental questions like what is life, what is a human being`s role in life, what is meant by cycle of birth and death, what is the relation between God and man. It is the Bhagavata Purana which adds the fifth element of devotion (or divine service) besides well-known four aspects of life i.e. dharma (morality), artha (acquiring wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation or salvation). Narrated in story-form it is simple in style at the same time lyrical and picturesque.
Impact on India Life
The impact of Bhagavata on Indian life over ages cannot be measured easily. Other than being an important Hindu literature it has served as the inspiration for countless works of literature, song, drama, painting, sculpture, folk-theatres and crafts. Stories of Lord Krishna from childhood to the Kurukshetra battle in Mahabharata figure in one form or other in Vaishnava temple sculptures. All the important dance types, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Odissi and Manipuri have themes taken from the Bhagavata Purana.
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