Puranas are part of the Hindu religious Scriptures that belong to the Smriti (“that which is remembered”) genre of sacred literature associated with an author while the Vedas and Upanishads are considered part of Sruti (“that which is revealed”) that are regarded as eternal.
The Puranas began as oral histories recited by bards in public assemblies, millennia ago, as they are recited even today throughout India. Puranas are repositories of narrative, cosmology, and theology centered on particular deities, most frequently Vishnu, Shiva or Devi.
Puranas are mentioned even in the ancient Vedic Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2), where Celestial Sage Narada calls Itihasa and Purana as fifth Veda – “Itihasapuranam panchamam vedanam”. Another ancient Vedic Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad also refers to “puranas” on three occasions (2.4.10, 4.1.2, and 4.5.11). Puranic writings have existed since the beginning of the Vedic era, thousands of years ago, as asserted by many Hindu Acharyas and scholars.
According to one of the oldest Puranas, Vishnu Purana, Creation, secondary creation (or destruction), family histories and the ages of the Manus along with family genealogies are the five characteristic subjects of the Puranas (3.6.24). The Puranas contain descriptions of the divisions of time ranging from a microsecond up to billions of years that elapse during the course of a single creation. The Puranas also offer many passages of religious and philosophical teaching, many of which form the basis of contemporary Hinduism. Most Puranas emphasize the path of bhakti, devotion to the Deity.
Among the 18 Maha Puranas, Bhagavata Purana is the most widely heard and beloved of the Puranas. The word bhagavata means “related to Bhagavan, the Blessed Lord”, referring primarily to devotees of Lord Krishna. This Purana offers a sophisticated Vaishnava theology that is grounded in the philosophical traditions of Vedanta and Samkhya. The Bhagavata text sees itself as “the ripe fruit of Vedic revelation, whose ambrosial juice can be fully relished only by those who are refined in taste and sensibility, but which anyone can learn to appreciate by diligently hearing or reading this Purana”, (1.1.3). The preservation of Dharma is the Bhagavata’s concern from the beginning and asserts itself as which gives light “to those who have lost their sight” (1.3.43). Also, the narrator of Srimad Bhagavatam, Sage Suka reassures that “Krishna (Vishnu) descends to Earth repeatedly, in a variety of forms, to reestablish order and preserve dharma” (1.3.28).
In contemporary Hinduism, especially among the followers of Vaishnava tradition, the Bhagavata Purana, plays a prominent and pervasive influence most often retold in song, sculpture, paintings, vernacular poetry, and indeed bedtime stories for children. The Bhagavata Purana is traditionally said to have eighteen thousand verse couplets, that gives preeminence to Krishna, the dark blue-hued Lord, whose playful and heroic activities (“lila”) predominate the book 10, by far the longest of the Bhagavata Purana’s twelve books.
Bhagavata’s perspective, combined with its finely tuned inclusion and summary of Puranic themes integrated into its longing vision for the singularly beloved Lord Krishna, has earned for it high status among sacred Hindu texts. Over the millennia, Bhagavata’s status rose from being among the several Puranas to being seen as authenticating the otherwise most revered scripture, the Veda. As Christopher Minkowski argues, by the time of the well-known seventeenth-century commentator on the Mahabharatha, Nilakantha, the Bhagavata Purana had attained such authority that it was used to support and justify statements in the Rig Veda.