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Unlike most Puranas that are encyclopedic, the Brihannaradiya text is focussed almost entirely on
The Naradiya Purana is notable for dedicating eighteen chapters on other Puranas, one entire chapter summarizing each major Purana. It is also notable for its verses extolling
Manuscripts of nearly all the major Puranas acknowledge the existence of a major Purana named either Narada or Naradiya, suggesting it was an important text in Hindu history. Yet, unlike other Puranas which either appear in the major Purana or minor Purana lists, the Narada text appears in both lists. This caused significant confusion to 19th and early 20th century Indologists. The confusion was compounded by the fact that the content of the text manuscripts they found seemed to follow similar scope and focus, except that the Brihannaradiya Purana text with about 3,500 verses was slightly bigger than the other with about 3,000 verses.
Later discovered manuscripts and scholarship established that the Narada or Naradiya is the major Purana, Brihannaradiya is the Upapurana. The Naradiya Purana consists of two bhagas (parts), with the first called Purvabhaga and second called Uttarabhaga. The Purvabhaga has four padas with the total of 125 chapters. The Uttarabhaga has 82 chapters, which embeds the Rukmangada-carita.
The Brihannarada Purana has no parts or padas, and a total of 38 adhyayas (chapters).
The Narada Purana texts, like other Puranas, exist in numerous versions, but with less variation than other Puranas. Wilson states that both texts are of likely recent composition, probably 16th or 17th century, because the five manuscripts he reviewed had verses mentioning certain events after Islamic invasion and control of the Indian subcontinent. The other unusual part of the manuscripts he examined, states Wilson, is that the descriptions of ritual worship of Vishnu in the text are "puerile inventions, wholly foreign to the more ancient" ideas in Purana genre of Hindu texts.
Rajendra Hazra, in contrast, states that the core verses of the texts were likely first composed over various centuries, as follows: he dates the Vishnu bhakti focussed text Brihannarada Purana to the 9th-century; he places the first 41 chapters of Purvabhaga and the first 37 chapters of Uttarabhaga to have been composed before the 11th century; and, the rest he states is of likely a comparatively later origin. The Naradiya Purana, states Hazra, was likely composed after the Brihannarada Purana. It is unknown, adds Hazra, whether the extant manuscripts of the Narada Puranas are same as the 9th and 10th-century originals, but we know that the verses quoted in medieval Hindu Smriti texts with these texts cited as source, are missing from the currently surviving manuscripts.
Rocher states that the composition date of each Purana remains unclear. Dimmitt and van Buitenen state that it is difficult to ascertain when, where, why and by whom the major and minor Puranas were written:
As they exist today, the Puranas are a stratified literature. Each titled work consists of material that has grown by numerous accretions in successive historical eras. Thus no Purana has a single date of composition. (...) It is as if they were libraries to which new volumes have been continuously added, not necessarily at the end of the shelf, but randomly.