According to Hindu Puranas, repeated creations and dissolutions happen in a cycle. How many types of Pralayas are there according to the Puranas? What is the difference between Pralaya and Mahapralaya?
According to the Vishnu Purana there are 4 types of Pralayas:
naimittikah prakrtikastathaivatyantiko dvijah |
nityasca sarvabhutanam pralayo’yam caturvidhah ||
Vishnu Purana 1.7.38
1. Nitya Pralaya: The constant dissolution of all beings, like death that occurs daily.
2. Namittika Pralaya/Maha Pralaya: (also known as Brahma Pralaya) It occurs at the end of a Kalpa when Brahma goes into his sleep. This occurs for the same time as a Kalpa (1000 Mahayugas). A great fire consumes the Bhu, Bhuvah, and Shah Lokas.
3. Prakrutika Pralaya: Occurs at the end of Brahmas lifetime when the whole world (Brahmanda) reunites with prakriti.
4. Atyantika Pralaya: When man attains liberation he merges with Narayana.
As we can see Mahapralaya is one type of Pralaya.