Vayu Purana

Vayu Purana
Information
ReligionHinduism
LanguageSanskrit

The Vayu Purana (Sanskrit: वायु पुराण, Vāyu Purāṇa) is a Sanskrit text and one of the eighteen major Puranas of Hinduism.Vayu Purana is mentioned in the manuscripts of the Mahabharata and other Hindu texts, which has led scholars to propose that the text is among the oldest in the Puranic genre.[1][2] [3] Vayu and Vayaviya Puranas do share a very large overlap in their structure and contents, possibly because they once were the same, but with continuous revisions over the centuries, the original text became two different texts, and the Vayaviya text came also to be known as the Brahmanda Purana.[4]

The Vayu Purana, according to the tradition and verses in other Puranas, contains 24,000 verses (shlokas).[5] However, the surviving manuscripts have about 12,000 verses.[6] The text was continuously revised over the centuries, and its extant manuscripts are very different.[7] Some manuscripts have four padas (parts) with 112 chapters, and some two khandas with 111 chapters.[7] Comparisons of the diverse manuscripts suggest that the following sections were slipped, in later centuries, into the more ancient Vayu Purana: chapters on geography and temples-related travel guides known as Mahatmya,[8] two chapters on castes and individual ashramas, three chapters on Dharma and penances, eleven chapters on purity and Sanskara (rite of passage) and a chapter on hell in after-life.[9]

The text is notable for the numerous references to it, in medieval era Indian literature,[10] likely links to inscriptions such as those found on the Mathura pillar and dated to 380 CE,[11] as well as being a source for carvings and reliefs such as those at the Elephanta Caves – a UNESCO world heritage site.[12]

History

The Vayu Purana is mentioned in chapter 3.191 of the Mahabharata, and section 1.7 of the Harivamsa, suggesting that the text existed in the first half of the 1st-millennium CE.[1][2] The 7th-century[13] Sanskrit prose writer Banabhatta refers to this work in his Kadambari and Harshacharita. In chapter 3 of the Harshacharita Banabhatta remarks that the Vayu Purana was read out to him in his native village.[14][15] Alberuni (973 -1048), the Persian scholar who visited and lived in northwest Indian subcontinent for many years in early 11th century, quoted from the version of Vayu Purana that existed during his visit.[16]

The various mentions of the Vayu Purana in other texts have led scholars to recognize it as one of the oldest.[1] The early 20th-century scholar Dikshitar, known for his dating proposals that push many texts as very ancient and well into 1st millennium BCE, stated that the Vayu Purana started to take shape around 350 BCE.[1] Later scholarship has proposed that the earliest version of the text is likely from the 300 to 500 CE period, and broadly agreed that it is among the oldest Puranas.[1][17]

The text, like all Puranas, has likely gone through revisions, additions and interpolations over its history. Rajendra Hazra, as well as other scholars, for example, consider Gaya-mahatmya, which is an embedded travel guide to Gaya, as a later addition. The Gaya-mahatmya replaced older sections of the Vayu Purana, sometime before the 15th century.[18][19] Vayu Purana, like all Puranas, has a complicated chronology. Dimmitt and van Buitenen state that each of the Puranas is encyclopedic in style, and it is difficult to ascertain when, where, why and by whom these were written:[20]

As they exist today, the Puranas are 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.

— Cornelia Dimmitt and J.A.B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas[20]