The Puranas

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The Puranas. Following the two great epics, the texts called Puranas are the next major collection of Hindu lore and religious debate. Purana means that which renews the old. The Puranas use popular legends and mythology to illustrate and expound the philosophical and religious ideas of the Vedas. Together with the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Puranas are the origins of many of the stories and anecdotes of the social, religious, and cultural history of India.

The main Puranas are 18 encyclopedic collections of legend and myth. They were probably compiled between about A.D. 500 and 1000. They develop the ideas of classical Hinduism through stories of gods and heroes set in the sacred plains, mountains, and rivers of India.

The main Puranas have five subjects:

  1. the creation of the universe
  2. the cyclic process of destruction and re-creation
  3. the different eras or cosmic cycles
  4. the histories of the solar and lunar dynasties of gods and sages
  5. the genealogies of kings.
Each Purana adds other details of religious practice. These Puranas are a meeting point of diverse religious and social beliefs and represent a synthesis of various cultural traditions from the Indian subcontinent

Upanishads  are a group of writings that make up the last section of a collection of Hindu scriptures called the Vedas. The Upanishads form a basic part of Hinduism and have influenced most Indian philosophy. The Upanishads are sometimes called the Vedanta, which means the summing up of the Veda. The word Upanishads means to sit close to. It suggests that this sacred material was originally secret. Most of the Upanishads were composed as dialogues between a teacher and a student. The most important ones appeared between 800 and 600 B.C.

Several important Hindu schools of thought, including the sankhya and yoga schools, were founded on the teachings of the Upanishads. These teachings follow two basic philosophies. One states that there is a single fundamental reality, called Brahman, or God, which corresponds to Atman, the soul. Thus, there is no real distinction between the soul and God. The other Upanishadic philosophy states that each soul is individually eternal.

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