The Padma Purana mentions that the eighteen Puranas are divided into three groups of six: Sattvika, Rajasika, and Tamasika. Why do the Rajasika and Tamasika Puranas exist at all? Does the Padma Purana explain this division, is there another Hindu scripture that explains this, or has a Hindu philosopher explained this?

Should only the Sattvika Puranas be taken as valid scripture and the Rajasika and Tamasika Puranas ignored?

I am not looking for wishy-washy answers like "the Puranas encourage Hindus to worship their Ishta Devata; therefore, all the Puranas are valid." I want a scriptural or a traditional philosophical explanation of this statement of the Padma Purana.

UPDATE: Sai has helped me a lot in gaining an understanding of the nature of the Puranas and their classification and Hindu scripture in general. However, I am still looking for other views. These are definitely welcome and will help me a lot.

  • 4
    Actually I said that the Wise think all tendencies are fetters, that is all of them hold one back! From what I understand its like: there are three kinds of people. Tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. The tamasic people dont even care to indulge in this discussion. The rajasic people think they are sattvic, because they always want to be better than others, thus they think that by being sattvic they would be better than others! But the actually sattvic person is pure, he believes all are equal. He does not think himself as sattvic! He instead values all gunas for their part they play and appreciates
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 5:11
  • 2
    Unfortunately that is a very personal journey and I really have no clue about it. Any answers you get here would be opinions that 'YOU must include only sattvik puranas' 'YOU must read ALL puranas' or perhaps a puranic statement that says 'Read this purana and discard all other' !! It all depends on your own tendency, your likes, dislikes, karma, realized, etc. My personal opinion is that all Puranas are equally tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. The reader, by virtue of the tendency that dominates in Him, he only extracts those portions of it and discards other unimportant stuffs. All the best
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:12
  • 3
    "it is not recommended that we should start eating meat, which is not sattvika". It's actually a highly complicated question. Mostly it would fetch opinion based answers. But my opinion is this: do not be a slave to food. do not be a slave to the body. the whole point of the sattvik, tamasic, rajasic foods is based on this. You would find that the tamasic foods taste the best, the rajasic foods taste second best, while sattvik foods do not taste that good. But all three help one to be well nourished and healthy. The sages say that by eating to live and not living to eat one can focus on God
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:32
  • 5
    Regarding why does the Padma Purana make this classification at all according to me, well you will find all puranas make some kind of authoritative statements! The Vishnu Purana claims that Sri Vishnu is the SUpreme Being, and worshipping Him is our ultimate goal, while the Shiva Purana claims that Lord Shiva is the Supreme Being, and worshipping Him is the Ultimate. So in order to substantiate these claims, each purana makes its own statements/stories. The Padma Purana says that it is a 'sattvik purana' thus by reading it one will be convinced that Lord Vishnu is Supreme Sir!!
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:37
  • 3
    Almost all saints who have blessed the soil place most emphasis on the following three scriptures: Gita, Brahma Sutras and Upanishads to reach Divinity. The one who has understood and practiced the Truths explained in these three will be able to clearly get a good view on the Essence behind the Puranic Truths. The newbie upon reading only the Puranas possibility become 1. Sectarian, 2. Confused or 3. Give up on all of Hinduism! But the wise one knows that Puranas are very beautiful and contain devotional truths, thus if read the right way, one can drink from the nectar of bliss sir
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


This again is sourced from a excellent vaishnavaite web site, http://narayanastra.blogspot.in/p/blog-page_9.html. I am reproducing the same here. Hope it helps.

The Sattvik Puranas always begin with a neutral question. For example, consider the Bhagavata Purana:

Please, therefore, being blessed with many years, explain to us, in an easily understandable way, what you have ascertained to be the absolute and ultimate good for the people in general. (Bhagavata Purana)

But now, consider the Skanda Purana:

Please narrate to us the greatness of Lord Shiva, who carries a trident in his hand. We would like to hear about the merit achieved by worshiping him and meditating upon his pastimes. (Skanda Purana)

As you can see, the Bhagavata begins with a question that is quite general, ie, what is the greatest good for all and then only goes on to talk about vAsudevA, the son of devaki. But in the Skanda Purana, the rishis asked a specific question, rather than a general one, and had a biased opinion about Shiva already in their mind, so they started with a question asking the greatness of Shiva rather than an unbiased enquiry of the ultimate truth.

See the introduction to Shiva Purana, where the sages pose the question to Romaharshana:

You have taught us a lot, but we are still not satisfied. You have had the fortune of studying under Vedavyasa and there is nothing that you do not know, past, present or future. Tell us about Shiva, we do not know very much about Shiva. (Shiva Purana)

The same biased inquiry again. This proves that the nature of brahma jignyAsa in the tAmasa purAnAs is not proper and tAmasic as opposed to the sAttvika purAnAs.

Since knowledge gained by a biased question is obviously biased and hence a form of tAmas, these purAnAs are classified as ‘tAmasa purAnAs’.

4) The confusion of the tAmasa purAnAs

The same tAmasa purAnAs that also contain statements like ‘In Sri Vaikunta, the supreme abode, the liberated serve the Lord and his devotees’ (shiva purAnA)’.

Similarly many statements like ‘Achyuta is superior to Brahma and Rudra’ occur in other tAmasa purAnAs.

This shows that these purAnAs are confused with respect to the knowledge they advocate. They mix the right meanings of ShAstra (such as the above quotes) now and then with the largely tAmasic portions. In contrast, the sAttvika purAnAs like Vishnu and Bhagavata PurAnAs are consistent with respect to the supremacy of Vishnu.

Since confusion arises from and is a form of tAmas, these purAnAs are classified as ‘tAmasa purAnAs’.

Note: In this context, I would like to point out the following extract from Madhva's Brahma Sutra Bhashya (Translation by Prof. Pandurangi) first adhyaya, first pada, first sutra (1.1.1) :

"Also in the Skanda Purana celebrating the supremacy of Siva, this is said:

'O, Undecaying One, the moment thou shouldst, in wrath, turn thy face away from them, Brahma, Isana, and other gods would be doomed to miseries worse than those inflicted upon the basest of the base';

and in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana which seeks to extol Brahma, it is said:

'Neither I nor Siva nor others can lay claim to even a small fraction of his power. As a child sports with its toys, so does Achyuta with us.' And no such statement is to be found in the works declaring the supremacy of Vishnu,...

5) Following the path of the wise with respect to the purAnAs

The Bhagavad Gita states that it is not enough if the shAstra states something. One must first look to see if great personalities accept this and follow it in practice. Then, one must emulate such mahAtmAs.

In accordance to this, one can clearly see that Sri Adi Shankara has never used the tAmasa purAnAs in his bhAshyas as authority.

Note: By this, Adi Shankara, in his prasthAna traya bhAShyas where any discussion of the nature of Brahman is taken up, never uses the sections in Tamasa Puranas that celebrate the supremacy of brahma, Siva and others, such as Shankara Samhita, Suta Samhita, Shiva Gita, Shiva Sahasranama, Devi Mahatmya, etc.

No vedAntin, with the exception of Appayya Dikshita (whose theories were soundly refuted) have ever given weight to the absurd stories contained in the tAmasa purAnAs nor given them authority. And nobody has opposed their decision to do so as well, which shows that such a practice was well accepted at that time as traditional.

But this does not mean we must reject the tAmasa purAns wholly. They are authoritative so long as they do not contradict shruti.

Puranas are classified into Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The Rajas and Tamas puranas are not authentic because they are veda virodha. But this does not mean they are entirely to be rejected. There are often sattvik portions in rajasa and tamasa puranas which are accepted. Examples include the ones stated in point 4) of this article, such as praise of Vishnu as parabrahman as well as some portions such as Sri VenkatAchala mAhAtmyam and BrindAranya Kshetra mAhAtmyam in BrahmAnda purAna and others.

Indeed, sri rAmAnuja, sri parAshara bhattar as well as srI mAdhva have quoted these sAttvic portions from the tAmasa purAnAs.

Similarly, the sAttvik puranas are not of the form of pure sattva, but only mishra sattva (sattva mixed with rajas and tamas). So, even the sAttvik puranas may contain a little amount of Rajas and Tamas. For instance, some chapters of Padma Purana are veda virodha. But for the greater part, that purana is sattvik. Since the tamasic and rAjasic portion of this purAnA are minimal, and sAttvik portion is greater, the purAnA is classified as ‘sAttvik’ overall.

Tamasic purANas are not authoritative, and hence can not be used to understand the Vedas. This has been very well spelled out not only in Padma Purana, but also in the Matsya Purana. Ramanujacharya and even prior to that Yamunacharya has quoted the following verse from it:

agneḥ śivasya māhātmyaṃ tāmaseṣu prakīrtyate / rājaseṣu ca māhātmyam adhikaṃ brahmaṇo viduḥ // sāttvikeṣu ca kalpeṣu māhātmyam adhikaṃ hareḥ / teṣv eva yogasaṃsiddhā gamiṣyanti parāṃ gatim //

The above Puranic verse quoted by Ramanuja is authentic is to be found in the current editions of Matsya Purana hosted on following link http://is1.mum.edu/vedicreserve/puranas/matsya_purana.pdf. See line 68 in page 216 here. The reading is slightly different, but the meaning is the same:

sāttvikeṣu purāṇeṣu māhātmyamadhikaṃ hareḥ / rājaseṣu ca māhātmyam adhikaṃ brahmaṇo viduḥ // MatsP_53.68 // .tadvadagneśca māhātmyaṃ tāmaseṣu śivasya ca /

Due to the three-fold division of Puranas into sAtvika, rAjasa, and tAmasa conveyed by the above verse, prAchIna advaita AcAryas such as Adi Shankara never quoted any verse from these Tamasic purANas , but quotes only the passages which show Vishnu as supreme in all his bhAShyas.

  • You said that even the Sattvika Puranas have portions that are Rajasika and Tamasika, and even the Tamasika Puranas have portions that are Sattvika. How do you distinguish which parts of the Sattvika Puranas are in fact Rajasika/Tamasika?
    – AdityaS
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 20:09
  • A simple rule of vedAntA is that whatever contradicts shruti is rejected and whatever conforms to shruti is accepted. The knowledgeable rishis have stated that the first authority is apAurushEya shruti, followed by the pAurushEya granthas like IthihAsA and purAnA. Among these two, ithihAsA enjoys a greater authority since it is a documented history at the very time of its occurrence, as opposed to purAnAs which speak of histories that happened long time ago.The shruti identifies the parabrahman as nArAyaNa only. That which talks about Lord Vishnu/Narayana/Krishna and his avataras are sattvik.
    – user808
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 6:34
  • I have added the link of the web site from where i have sourced the info. Please check it for further clarifications.
    – user808
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 6:34
  • Krishna great Answer, Dharma/Truth may become weak but never fails. Jai Shriman Narayana.
    – Yogi
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 15:35
  • @Yogi - If you like the answer, pls do up vote it. Thanka
    – user808
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 15:29

And the answer is "no" because if you go and check epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana there is nothing like even the Vayu Purana which is mentioned in Mahabharata itself means it exists in the times of Mahabharata do not supports it. It gives the creation story that among Tridevas no one created no one even lord Brahma is not created by either by lord Vishnu or lord Shiva . The second oldest Purana Matsya Purana too supports this but is kept by Padma Purana as "Tamsik Purana".

Even though the Padma Purana in this case looks interpolated although on my blog I have given a full article on that but then also it do not discriminate gods on the basis of satwa-rajas-tamas.

Here's the proof:—


According to Suta, all the Puranas are nothing but the mediums through which Sri Hari manifests himself---Brahma Purana is said to be the forehead of Sri Hari, Padma Purana is said to be the 'heart' of Sri Hari, Vishnu Purana is said to be the 'right arm' of Sri Hari. Shiva Purana is said to be the 'left arm' of Sri Hari. Srimad Bhagavata is said to be his 'thigh', Narada Purana is said to be his 'navel', Markendeya Purana is said to be his 'right-foot'. Agni Purana is said to be his 'left foot', Bhavishya Purana is said to be his 'right-knee', Brahma Vaivrata Purana is said to be his 'left knee'. Linga Purana is said to be his 'right ankle', Varaha Purana is said to be his 'left ankle', Skanda Purana is said to be the hair on the body of 'Sri Hari. Vamana Purana is said to be his skin. Kurma Purana is said to be his back. Matsya Purana is said to be his stomach. Garuda Purana is said to be his bone-marrow. Brahmanda Purana is said to be his bone. So, all the Puranas being manifestation of different parts of Sri Hari's body are very sacred and capable of bestowing salvation.

— Padma Purana book 2.5 (book 2 or book 3 but make sure it shall be swarga khanda )

https://www.google.co.in/url?q=https://bhaktisanskar.com/padam-puran-hindi/&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwjH_dqT4NTWAhXJQyYKHVORASYQFggkMAU&usg=AOvVaw2qoWGN7zDW_Xujae-DlioE Now the padma puran says all purans are sacred and leads to salavation.

Now, Prakasa samhita (one ofthe pancharatra samhita) states as follows:

vārāhaṃ vaiṣṇavaṃ pādmaṃ vāyuproktaṃ ca gāruḍam /śrīmadbhāgavataṃ caiva sātvikānīti hi śrutiḥ // PS_1,4.32 //

“ Varaha ,Vishnu,Padma, Vayu, Garudam and the Srimad bhagavata purana are sattvik puranas.

”brahmāṇḍaṃ brahmavaivartaṃ mārkaṇḍeyaṃ ca vāmanam /bhaviṣyaṃ nārasiṃhaṃ ca rājasāni ṣaḍaiva hi // PS_1,4.33 //

“Brahmanda, Brahmavaivarta, Markendeya,Vamana,Bhavishya and Narsimha purana are always rajasic.

”mātsyaṃ kaurmyaṃ tathā laiṅgyaṃ śaivaṃ skāndaṃ tathaiva ca /pāśupatasaṃjñikaṃ ceti tāmasāni vido viduḥ // PS_1,4.34 //

“Matysa, Kurma,Linga,Siva,Skanda and the Pasupata sastra are the tamasic in nature.

Well this book (Prakasa samhita) is one of the pancharatra samhita which is a angma not a puran,shastra or any thing related to puranic purans. Even angmas are both vedic and non-vedic too and besides all the Prakasa samhita is one of the pancharatra samhita which is a vaishnava text.

Here is the proof:—

The Agama literature is voluminous, and includes 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas (also called Tantras),and 108 Vaishnava Agamas (also calledPancharatraSamhitas), and numerous Upa-Agamas


”The Garuda Purana(3.1.52) confirms:

visnoh puranam bhagavatam puranam sattvottamam garudam cahur aryah

“The Aryans declare that Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana and Garuda Purana the best of the Puranas in the mode of goodness."

Even though Matsya Purana is one of the oldest Puranas but it gives the story of Trimurti as when Brahman divided himself into Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha the Purana which gives such equality of Trimurti can differentiate gods on the basis of nature satwa,rajas and tamas. And the Skanda Purana which is the most interpolated Purana rest all Puranas belongs to Vaishnavism. And just because Padma Purana contains a story type for that that's why I have given points only on Padma Purana rest every Purana contains just a verse and that is nothing but a interpolation. This is the reason why Mahabharata do not mention lord bhramha, lord vishnu and lord shiva on the basis of satwa-rajas-tamas. But all equal even in the harivamsa parva of mahabharat oldest book dedicated to lord krishna.


There is nothing like mishrit purans because logically everywhere this thing is written :-

mātsyaṃ kaurmaṃ tathā laiṅgaṃ śaivaṃ skāndaṃ tathaiva ca /āgneyañ ca ṣaḍ etāni tāmasāni nibodha me //

"Know from me that Mastya,Kurma,Linga,Shiva,so also Skanda and Agni are tamasa(vicious)."

vaiṣṇavaḥ nāradīyañ ca tathā bhāgavataṃ śubhaṃ /gāruḍañ ca tathā pādmaṃ vārāhaṃ śubhadarśane //

“ The Vaisnava,Naradiya,Bhagavata,Garuda,Padma,Varaha should be known to be sattvika and should be considered auspicious."

sāttvikāni purāṇāni vijñeyāni ca ṣaṭ pṛthak /brahmāṇḍaṃ brahmakaivartaṃ mārkaṇḍeyaṃ tathaiva ca //bhaviṣyad vāmanaṃ brāhmaṃ rājasāni ca ṣaḍvidhāḥ /"

Know from me that, Brahmanda,Brahmavaivarta, Markendeya, Bhavishya,Vamana and Brahma are rajasa (endowed with the quality of passion).

"The Kurma Purana(2.43.49), Skanda Purana and the Matsya Purana(53.68-69) together states as follows:

sāttvikeṣu purāṇeṣu māhātmyamadhikaṃ hareḥ /rājaseṣu ca māhātmyam adhikaṃ brahmaṇo viduḥ //tadvadagneśca māhātmyaṃ tāmaseṣu śivasya ca

"In the Puranas in the mode of goodness, the focus is the glories of Lord Hari. Those in the mode of passion, the focus is on the glories of Lord Brahma. Similarly, those in the mode of ignorance, the focus is on the glories of Lord Siva and Agni.

No where is written about any Purana is mishrit somewhere not in Puranas but like where here only it is written that the Puranas which gives equality to all gods are focus on goddess Saraswati or ancestors.

But all 18 major Puranas are totally divided on the basis of satwa-rajas-tamas. Nowhere is mentioned about mishrit Puranas.

Now it is cleared that the classification of Puranas on the basis of satwa-rajas-tamas is useless.

Then also I have my own thinking on this topic :-

Tamas is sometimes referred as ignorant, but it also refers as darkness or the absolute when nothing was there.

So,let's move towards the Mahabharata verse to show this —

Here Narayana is the ultimate god.

The Shruti declares,--Day was not. Night was not. Aught was not. Naught was not. In the beginning there was only Tamas in the form of the universe, and she is the night of Narayana of universal form. Even this is the meaning of the word Tamas.

— The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Section CCCXLII

Then we know darkness  means tamas then see what Vedas say about it in this hymn:-

Well I am giving the full hymn as it is a good hymn:


  1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, un-fathomed depth of water?

2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was in-discriminated chaos.All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.

4 Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.

5 Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder

6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

So,the Vedas say darkness was there at first and the first universal nothingness  darkness means tamas that we got from Mahabharata.

Let's see what come after that tamas.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad is one of the mukhya Upanishads. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.18 also says the glory of tamas.

IV-18: When ignorance is dispelled, there is neither day nor night, neither being nor non-being. There is only  shiva who is imperishable, and who is worthy of being adored by the creator. From Him has proceeded the ancient wisdom.

So, we can say that the tamas guna referred for god Rudra and the tamsik purans is referred as which gives knowledge of absolute and take away from materialistic world to the absolute truth. Or if someone do not believe this then i have already proofed the classification of Puranas on the basis of satwa-rajas-tamas is entirely useless.

And it even does not correspond to Vedic knowledge.

Here is the proof:—

13 Glory to Gods, the mighty and the lesser glory to Gods the younger and the elder! Let us, if we have power, pay the God worship: no better prayer than this, ye Gods, acknowledge.

—Rig Veda 1.27.13

Vedas say to give equal respect to all gods.

Now on my blog i have discussed about Padma Purana,smriti,shruti,jigyasa(curiosity) etc.

http://shivaandvishnu.blogspot.in/2017/09/clasification-of-purans-on-basis-of.html?m=1 or http://shivaandvishnu.blogspot

please have a look at this :—



       —Thanks for reading—

  • I edited your answer because it has too many grammar mistakes, why you reverted back?
    – user9554
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 16:52
  • No,no friend ajay that i did not done for you but for adding a link to the post to my blog .And well thank you, but if you don't mind please let me know about some mistakes i do not observed them please do not take that othervise i am asking it normally. I am a bit new to the website so i was unaware of things like ** bold** etc. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 17:57
  • I was also didn't know anything when I came here for the first time. This is completely normal. Go to the tour page
    – user9554
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 18:38
  • This answer is an exact duplicate of your other answer. You should not copy paste the same answer to different questions. Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 17:39
  • 1
    "excellent vaishnavaite web site, narayanastra.blogspot.in/p/blog-page_9.html. ". opinions vary about that.
    – S K
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 17:45

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