I am interested to study the origin of the Puranas and the relationship they share with the Vedas. Any incident, for example, the origin of Maa Ganga on earth, has been variously described in the Puranas. This gives some western-educated self-claimed historians and self-claimed "orientalists" the scope of presenting the Puranas as "stories". When I hear their assertion about the Puranas, I feel very pained. I don't know how to challenge their narrative. Please advise on the way to more serious academic (and Tantric) studies about the Puranas so that I can challenge their narrative.

  • 1
    There are two types of stories - puranic and itihaasic. Itihaasic ones are considered true happenings of the history and puranic are usually made up stories to make the audience understand the underlying concepts of upanishads. Puranas aren't usually considered higher texts as they have a lot of personal opinion and are composed likely much later.
    – user29449
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 13:18
  • question is about "origin of the Puranas and the relationship they share with the Vedas", not about which one is higher or lower.
    – ekAntika
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:00
  • @brahmāstra I see. I was talking about the stories of Puranas which the OP is concerned about.
    – user29449
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 19:35
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Are Puranas of divine origin?
    – CDR
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 12:24

3 Answers 3


Origin of the purANas and their relationship with vedas is described in gopatha brAhmaNa :

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Other vedas mention "fifth veda" as relationship of purANas with vedas :

chandogya-upanishad :

नाम वा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेद आथर्वणश्चतुर्थ इतिहासपुराणः पञ्चमो वेदानां वेदः पित्र्यो राशिर्दैवो निधिर्वाकोवाक्यमेकायनं देवविद्या ब्रह्मविद्या भूतविद्या क्षत्रविद्या नक्षत्रविद्या सर्पदेवजनविद्या नामैवैतन्नामोपास्स्वेति ॥ ७.१.४ ॥

Name is the Ṛg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sāma Veda, and the fourth—the Atharva Veda; then the fifth—history and the Purāṇas; also, grammar, funeral rites, mathematics, the science of omens, the science of underground resources, logic, moral science, astrology, Vedic knowledge, the science of the elements, archery, astronomy, the science relating to snakes, plus music, dance, and other fine arts. These are only names. Worship name.


asya mahato bhutasya nihsvasitam etad yad rg-vedo yajur-vedah sama vedo’tharvangirasa itihasah puranam ityadina

“O Maitreya, the Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas as well as Itihasas and the Puranas all manifest from the breathing of the Lord.”

Atharva Veda 15.6.10–12 :


“He approached the brhati meter, and thus the Itihasas, Puranas, Gathas and Narasamsis became favorable to him. One who knows this verily becomes the beloved abode of the Itihasas, Puranas, Gathas and Narasamsis.”


Purans are smriti. Vyas is more likely a tittle not a name. It's false to say that Ved-Vyas himself wrote Purans.

Vishnu Purana mentions that Vyasa entrusted his Puranasamhita to his disciple Lomaharshana, who in turn imparted it to his disciples, 3 of whom compiled their own samhitas. These 3, together with Lomaharshana's,comprise the Mulasamhita,from which the later 18 Main-Puranas were derived.

Means Purans were written by many sages. It explains there contradictory nature. Yea its true that Purana contradict each other at certain places. Either that's a product of interpolation or it was written like this (some says Kalpa Bheda).

शब्द इतिचेन्नातः प्रभवात्प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम्

If it be said that a contradiction will result in regard to Word (Vedas), we say that it is not so because the origination of everything is from perception and inference. Adi Shankara's commentary:

"Perception means Sruti; for its validity it is not dependent on anything else; inference is Smriti".

—Brahma sutra 1.3.28


If you want to read Purans then read it through Upanishads. Reason- If you directly read the Purans, then you will end up in void because Purans presents the same story from many perspective.

Like Shiv-Linga. If you try to find answer about the formation of Shiv-linga then you find many stories that too in a single Puran, maybe some are result of interpolation but it is as it is. This thing is very confusing but if you go through Purans via Upanishad, then you will not only able to filter it part but will also get the true essense of the Purans.


During Vedic yajñas which lasted several days, months or even years, the participants would pass the time between the daily sessions, by narrating legends of old these are what “Purāṇa” mentioned in the Upaṇiṣads refers to. Purāṇa simply means “ancient stories”


It's important to understand that The Word 'Puranam' present in the vedas did not always refer to the compilation of 18 texts which we have today.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.10 there is the teaching pertaining to the ‘creation’ of the Veda-s by Brahman. The mantra reads thus:

स यथार्द्रैंधाग्नेरभ्याहितात् पृथग्धूमा विनिश्चरन्त्येवं वा अरेऽस्य महतो भूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्यानान्यस्यैवैतानि निश्वसितानि ॥

As from a fire kindled with wet fuel various kinds of smoke issue forth, even so, my dear, the Rig—Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharvangirasa, history (itihaasa), mythology (purANa), the arts (vidyA), the Upanishads, verses (slokas), aphorisms (sUtras), elucidations (anuvyAkhyAnas) and explanations (vyAkhyAnas) are like the breath of this infinite Reality. From this Supreme Self are all these, indeed, breathed forth.

It's interesting to see how Adi Shankara comments on the word 'Itihasapurana'.

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English Translation-

The Ṛg-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sāma-Veda, Atharvāṅgirasa, i.e. the four kinds of Mantras. Itihasa, such as the dialogue between Urvaśī and Purūravas—‘The nymph Urvaśī,’ and so on (Ś. XI. iv. 4. 1); it is this Brāhmaṇa that is meant. Purana, such as, ‘This universe was in the beginning unmanifest,’ etc. (Tai. II. 7).

The Editor of this edition of the Bhashyam, Sri S.Subrahmanya Shastri, in the foot notes explains:

इतिहासः पुराणम् इत्यादौ भाष्ये वेदगत-अर्थवादरूपाणि पुरावृत्तानि ग्राह्याणीत्युक्तम् । भारतादीनामनादिवेदप्रतिपाद्यत्वासंभवात् ।

//By the terms ‘itihAsa and purANam’ of the mantra, the BhAshya intends to say: those statements contained in the Veda-s, as having ‘occurred’ in the ancient times are to be taken. However, the texts of the MahAbhArata, etc. cannot be regarded to be included by these Vedic terms as it would be unreasonable to hold that they have their source in the Vedas.//

Here is an instance where the word 'purana' in the vedas simply refers to the statements in the vedas which are said to be occured in the ancient times.

Now Let's see what sAyanacharya says in his Rigveda Bhasya bhumika.

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Acharya Sayana too does not interpret the word 'Purana' as the popular body of 18 texts which go by that name. He simply interprets the stories of creation etc. mentioned in the Vedas to be indicated by the word 'Purana. He quotes a statement from Taittiriya Brahmana as an example.

Hence as another answer aptly describes, Purana simply means 'Ancient stories'.

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