According to the Mahabharata, it seems that all the eighteen Puranas were compiled by Rishi Vyasa before the Mahabharata itself was written:

aṣṭādaśapurāṇānāṃ śravaṇād yat phalaṃ bhavet | tat phalaṃ samavāpnoti viṣṇoḥ nātra saṃśayaḥ ||” (MBH 18:06:97)

One devoted to Vishnu acquires (through reading this Mahabharata) that merit which is acquired by listening to the eighteen Puranas. There is no doubt in this.

However, in the Srimad Bhagavatam (which is one of the eighteen Puranas), it is said that Vyasa even after compiling the Vedas and writing the Mahabharata was still sad and Narada visits him to write the Srimad Bhagavatam:

jijñāsitaṁ susampannam api te mahad-adbhutam | kṛtavān bhārataṁ yas tvaṁ sarvārtha-paribṛṁhitam || (SB 1:5:3)

[Narada said]: Your inquiries were full and your studies were also well fulfilled, and there is no doubt that you have prepared a great and wonderful work, the Mahābhārata, which is full of all kinds of Vedic sequences elaborately explained.

śrī-nārada uvāca | bhavatānudita-prāyaṁ yaśo bhagavato ’malam | yenaivāsau na tuṣyeta manye tad darśanaṁ khilam || (SB 1:5:8)

Śrī Nārada said: You have not actually broadcasted the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is considered worthless.

yathā dharmādayaś cārthā muni-varyānukīrtitāḥ | na tathā vāsudevasya mahimā hy anuvarṇitaḥ || (SB 1:5:9)

Although, great sage, you have very broadly described the four principles beginning with dharma, you have not described the glories of, Vāsudeva.

tvam apy adabhra-śruta viśrutaṁ vibhoḥ | samāpyate yena vidāṁ bubhutsitam | prākhyāhi duḥkhair muhur arditātmanāṁ | saṅkleśa-nirvāṇam uśanti nānyathā || (SB 1:5:40)

Please, therefore, describe the almighty Lord’s activities which you have learned by your vast knowledge of the Vedas, for that will satisfy the hankerings of great learned men and at the same time mitigate the miseries of the masses of common people who are always suffering from material pangs. Indeed, there is no other way to get out of such miseries.

This discrepancy in the timeline of compilation of the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam has been often used by Shaktas to claim that Devi Bhagavatam is the true Bhagavata Purana and not the Bhagavatam dedicated to Krishna.

So does it prove the Shakta claim of Srimad Bhagavatam being inauthentic? If not, what is the possible reason for this discrepancy?

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    @ram Yes, I agree but it is difficult to refute their points
    – user9969
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 16:03
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    You may be interested in reading the writings of B.N.K. Sharma. They answer a lot of the Shaivite objections against the Srimad Bhagavatam. Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 15:38
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    The simplest reason is that there are many interpolations in both texts. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 13:47
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    How are those verses even contradictions?
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 15:33
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    Be careful with translations. You are (presumably) using the ISKCON translation of the shrimad bhagavatam, which, in my experience, often interpolates their translations with new words aligned with their own philosophy. There is an alternative translation available for SB 1:3:28 published by Motilal Banarsidass which should be of your interest. The author explains that Krishna is included in the list of incarnations (mentioned as “parts”) but is at the same time the Supreme Being himself. Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


"One devoted to Vishnu acquires (through reading this Mahabharata) that merit which is acquired by listening to the eighteen Puranas. There is no doubt in this." (MBH 18:06:97)

We find this verse in SB 1.7.8:

sa samhitam bhagavatim krtvanukramya catma-jam sukam adhyapayam asa nivrtti-niratam munih

The great sage Vyāsadeva, after compiling the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and revising it, taught it to his own son, Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who was already engaged in self-realization.

Vishwanath Chakravarty Thakur comments as follows in his Sarartha Darshini.

First Vyäsa had made an abbreviated scripture about bhakti, but on the advice of Närada, he rearranged it (anukramya), purified it, giving most prominence to bhakti to Kåñëa.

Närada gave his instructions after the disappearance of Kåñëa and before Parékñit punished Kali, because at that time itself there was a tendency towards irreligion even among the followers of religion and adherents of scripture since the power of Kali manifested even at the beginning of his control. Because of this, Vyäsa was dissatisfied in his heart. This is shown in the following verse:

jugupsitaà dharma-kåte ’nuçäsataù svabhäva-raktasya mahän vyatikramaù yad-väkyato dharma itétaraù sthito na manyate tasya niväraëaà janaù

You have created a great disturbance by teaching what is condemned to people attached to material enjoyment in order make them accept dharma. Thinking that what you have taught is real dharma, they do not consider giving it up. SB 1.5.15

It is understood that before the beginning of Kali-yuga he would not have been dissatisfied in heart. Now at this time, he revised the Bhägavatam which was previously written. When it is said kåsëe svadhämopagate, ... puräëo ’rkto ’dhunotditaù (SB 1.3.43), this refers to the revised Bhägavatam, the present one. When it is said that the present Bhägavatam is another Bhägavatam and that the Bhägavatam is among the eighteen Puräëas, it refers to the same Bhägavatam, the present one... Nivåtti-niratam means that Sukadeva had realized brahman.

Another way to understand is that a purana is to be determined by its characteristics not exactly differences in the times of compilations. If indeed time difference is a valid criteria, on critical analysis many puranas have to thrown out of the list of eighteen puranas.

For eg: The first chapter of Markendeya Purana contains statement that Mahabharata is already compiled. http://www.ramayana.pushpak.de/pdf/markandeya_en.pdf

Having saluted the Supreme Deity (Narayana), and the highest of male beings (Nara) as also the goddess of learning, Saraswati, let us cry success. The highly energetic Jaimini, the disciple of Vyasa, asked the great ascetic Markandeya, engaged in hard austerities and the study of Vedas. (1) "O Reverend Sir, the story of Bharata, that has been related by the highsouled Vyasa, is full of many brilliant expressions collected from various scriptures, and consists of divine metres and figures of speech, excellent words, questions and their solutions. (2-3) As Vishnu is amongst the celestials, a Brahmana amongst men, the peerless jewel amongst all ornaments, the thunder-bolt amongst all weapons and mind amongst all organs, so is the most excellent Mahabharata amongst all sacred writings. (4-5) In it are described both collectively and separately wealth, virtue desire and liberation. (6) It is the foremost of all religious scriptures, the most excellent of all treatises treating of wealth, the foremost of all works relating to desire and the best of all discoursing on liberation. (7) O great Sir, in it have been described by the intelligent Veda Vyasa, the practices, mode of living and the attainment of object belonging to the four conditions (of life). (8) O Sir, this has been so composed by the generous Vyasa that this great scripture, albeit very extensive, is not assailed by contradictions

Agni Purana: The 381st chapter of Agni Purana contains many Bhagavad Gita verses.

Such a critical analysis may throw many puranas out of list of 18 puranas.

Hence, the characteristics of Bhagavatam found in other puranas should be the real criteria, not the exact time when it is written.

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    @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury if at all you have to doubt, you have to doubt Mahabharata version of Suka and Pariksit story. Jiva Goswami references Sukadeva story from Brahma Vaivarta instead of Mahabharata. Some puranas tell bhagavata is conversation between Suka and Pariksit and is about Krishna. Advaitic commentators like Sridhara Swami and Madhusudhana saraswati didn't find any issue. Bhagavatam is the best preserved of all. Mahabharata because of being too lengthy could not have been preserved well and interpolated. This all assuming they are of same kalpa.
    – user16618
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 2:59

This verse you quote at the beginning:

aṣṭādaśapurāṇānāṃ śravaṇād yat phalaṃ bhavet |
tat phalaṃ samavāpnoti viṣṇoḥ nātra saṃśayaḥ || (MBH 18:06:97)

One devoted to Vishnu acquires (through reading this Mahabharata) that merit which is acquired by listening to the eighteen Puranas. There is no doubt in this.

...is not present in the Critical Edition (CE) of the Mahābhārata.

In the CE, the Svargārohaṇika Parva ends with Chapter 5, whereas, the translation you are quoting is K. M. Ganguli's from here that belongs to Chapter 6.

So, the rest of the argument doesn't hold any weight.

  • Sanskrit version contains many errors. For example look at chapter 350 of Shanthi Parva. English version contains meaning for around 60 verses, but Sanskrit version has less than 20 verses. The reason is because some other chapter is mentioned as chapter 350 in Sanskrit version. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 2:05
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    I think the Sanskrit version at sacred-texts.com is the BORI CE but the KMG translation is based on a mix of MB versions as I explain here. So it's almost impossible to find the corresponding Sanskrit verses for the KMG tr. because they are way out of sync. See if this meta post helps you. I prefer the CE at GRETIL and then compare with the Debroy tr. based on the CE. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 20:02
  • Look at 97th verse in the Kumbakonam edition. sanskritdocuments.org/mirrors/mahabharata/mbhK/… @sv. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 1:59
  • This? (aShTAdashapurANAnAM shravaNAdyatphalaM bhavet | tatphalaM samavApnoti vaiShNavo nAtra saMshayaH 18-6-97) Yes, matches with what OP quotes. But CE excised a lot a of stuff from it. This is the CE-based translation of the last chapter. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 2:19

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