Bhagavata Purana

Bhagavata Purana
   The Bhagavata Purana is one of the 18 principal PURANAS of Indian tradition; it may well be the most popular of them all. Bhagavata means “that which pertains to god” (in this case, VISHNU, and more particularly his incarnation as KRISHNA); a purana is a work describing the actions and his-tory of a divinity. The Bhagavata Purana then is the story about those who are devoted to God. The work is sometimes attributed to VYASA, author of the Mahabharata.
   The Bhagavata Purana was probably com-posed in South India, as it makes reference to the devotional ALVARAS Vaishnavite saints of the Tamil country. There are 18,000 verses in this work, 332 chapters and 12 sections or books. The 10th section, the most popular, recounts the tales of Krishna’s life in BRINDAVAN—his killing of demons, his childhood escapades, and his dalliances with the GOPIS or cowherd girls.
   The work exalts BHAKTI or devotion to God as the highest of paths. Neither by knowledge alone (JNANA) nor by action can one reach the supreme, which requires only steadfast devotion. The poem agrees with those VEDANTA philosophers who see the supreme divinity as the embodiment of innu-merable auspicious characteristics and see the world as real and a manifestation of the godhead. As do these philosophers, it equates the BRAHMAN (Ultimate Reality) and the ATMAN (Ultimate Self) of the UPANISHADS with Vishnu or Krishna.According to the Bhagavata Purana, each indi-vidual soul is eternally distinct and real, even when basking in the full effulgence of God after liberation from birth and rebirth. Liberation gives the soul its place in heaven, Goloka, where Lord Krishna resides. Commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana are numerous; the Vedanta (teachers) MAD-HVA and VALLABHA both wrote full commentaries.
   Further reading: Subhash Anand, The Way of Love: The Bhagavat Doctrine of Bhakti (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1996); Anant Pai, Stories from the Bhagawat (Mumbai: India Book House, 2000); James D. Redington, trans., Vallabhacarya on the Love Games of Krishna (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983); T. S. Rukmani, A Critical Study of the Bhagavata Purana with Special Reference to Bhakti. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, vol. 77 (Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1970); J. M. Sanyal, trans., The Srimad-Bhagavatam of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, 2d ed. 5 vols. (Calcutta: Oriental, 1964–65); Gra-ham M. Schweig and Graham M., trans., Dance of Divine Love: The Rasa Lila of Krishna from the Bhagavata Purana, India’s Classic Sacred Love Story (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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