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Is there any difference between Puranas, Upapuranas and Mahapuranas? What should we follow?

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The one difference between Maha-Puranas (Puranas) and Upa-Puranas can be found in Shreemad Bhaagvata Puraana, (Skandha 12, Chapter 7, Shloka 9-10). This whole chapter is about characteristics of Puranas.

According to this chapter the main difference between Puranas and Upa-Puranas is, Maha Puranas have Ten characteristics where as Upa-Puranas only have Five characteristics.

Following are the characteristics of Puranas

  1. sargaḥ
  2. visargaḥ
  3. vṛtti
  4. rakṣā
  5. antarāṇi (manvantara)
  6. vaṁśaḥ
  7. vaṁśa-anucaritam
  8. saṁsthā (pralaya)
  9. hetuḥ (Uti)
  10. apāśrayaḥ

सर्गोऽस्याथ विसर्गश्च वृत्तिरक्षान्तराणि च ।
वंशो वंशानुचरितं संस्था हेतुरपाश्रय: ॥ ९ ॥

दशभिर्लक्षणैर्युक्तं पुराणं तद्विदो विदु: ।
केचित् पञ्चविधं ब्रह्मन् महदल्पव्यवस्थया ॥ १० ॥

sargo ’syātha visargaś ca vṛtti-rakṣāntarāṇi ca
vaṁśo vaṁśānucaritaṁ saṁsthā hetur apāśrayaḥ

daśabhir lakṣaṇair yuktaṁ purāṇaṁ tad-vido viduḥ
kecit pañca-vidhaṁ brahman mahad-alpa-vyavasthayā

O brāhmaṇa, authorities on the matter understand a Purāṇa to contain ten characteristic topics: the creation of this universe, the subsequent creation of worlds and beings, the maintenance of all living beings, their sustenance, the rule of various Manus, the dynasties of great kings, the activities of such kings, annihilation, motivation and the supreme shelter. Other scholars state that the great Purāṇas deal with these ten topics, while lesser Purāṇas may deal with five.

  • @Mongrel -Thanks for accepting the answer.You also can extend your question further and ask the definitions of these terms ,if you like. – SwiftPushkar Jun 21 '17 at 5:46
  • There is a second question not answered yet - What should we follow? :) – Prakash K Aug 30 at 15:15
  • @PrakashK - Yes , but it largely depends upon the reader or a devotee. For e.g. those who are followers of Saura and Ganapatya traditions do follow Saura and Ganesh/Mudgal puranas , which are upapuranas. The Shaiva , Vaishnava etc. do follow Shiva and Vishnu Puranas respectively , which are mahapuranas. So What should we follow ? There is no precise answer but is dependent on which sect a person is belonging and what scripture (Purana or Upa-Purana) is authoritive for that sect. – SwiftPushkar Aug 31 at 7:04
  • Then that becomes your answer. That those who follow certain sects give importance to those but what about those who are just interested in eastern philosophy. – Prakash K Sep 1 at 15:20

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