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Garuda Purana (Devanagari: गरुड़ पुराण) is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds. The second half contains details of life after death, funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation, thus it is recited as a part Antyesti (Antim Sanskar) or funeral rites (funeral liturgy) in Hinduism.
Bhagawaan* = from the Sanskrit language: The Supreme, possessed of all material and spiritual opulences, in a proportion beyond limited human imagination or infinite as in the Sanskrit word, Ananta.
Garuda Purana is in the form of instructions by Vishnu to his carrier, Garuda (The King of Birds – a vahana of Bhagawaan* Vishnu). This Purana deals with astronomy, medicine, grammar, and gemstone structure and qualities. In addition, the Garuda Purana is considered the authoritative Vedic reference volume describing the Nine Pearls, which includes not only the well known Oyster Pearl, but also the Conch Pearl, Cobra Pearl, Boar Pearl, Elephant Pearl, Bamboo Pearl, Whale Pearl, Fish Pearl, and Cloud Pearl.
The Garuda Purana has nineteen thousand shlokas (lines). It is a medium-sized Purana. The Skanda Purana, for example, has eighty-one thousand shlokas. And the Markandeya Purana only nine thousand. The thousand shlokas of the Garuda Purana are divided into two parts, a purva khanda (first part) and an uttara khanda (subsequent part). Each khanda has several chapters (adhyaya). The purva khanda is much longer, it has two hundred and thirty-four chapters. The Uttara khanda has only forty-five.
The latter half of this Purana deals with life after death. The followers of the eternal Vedas, addressed as “Hindus” of India generally read this Purana while cremating the physically dead bodies of departed atmaas/souls. This has given great importance to the origin of Garuda. There are nineteen thousand verses describing the ways to the Lord.
Suta and the other sages
Vedavyasa taught the Puranas to one of his disciples named Romaharshana or Lomaharshana. He was thus named because the hair (roma) on his body was thrilled (harshana) when he heard the Puranas from his teacher. It was Romaharshana who related the stories of the Puranas to everyone else. The Bhagavata Purana says the Romaharshana had a son named Suta and it was this son who related the story of that particular Purana to the other sages . On the other hand, Romaharshana himself belonged to the suta class, so that he too could be addressed as Suta. From reading the Garuda Purana, one does get the impression that it is Romaharshana himself who is relating the story, and not his son.
To come back to the point, Romaharshana came to a forest known as Naimisharanya. He sat there and contemplated the mysteries of the Lord Vishnu.
Several other rishis (sages) led by Shounaka also came to the forest. They told Romaharshana, “Sage, you know everything. Who is the god of all gods? Who is to be worshipped? What does one meditate on? Who destroys evil? How did the world come to be created? What is dharma (righteousness)? Tell us all these things and more”.
“I will”, replied Romaharshana. “I will recite to you the Garuda Purana. Many years ago, this Purana was told to the sage Kashyapa by the great bird Garuda himself. I learnt it from my teacher Vyasadeva. But first let me list for you the twenty-two avataras of Vishnu.
The second incarnation was as a boar (varaha). In this form, Vishnu rescued the earth from the underworld.
The third incarnation was as a great sage (devarishi). In this form, Vishnu spread the knowledge of several texts (tantras).
The fourth incarnation was as two sages named Nara-Narayana.
The seventh incarnation took place in the manvantra known as svayambhuva. Vishnu was born as the son of Ruchi and Akuti and performed many yajnas (sacrifices).
In the eighth incarnation, Vishnu was born as Urukrama, the son of Nabhi and Meru. He taught everyone the righteous way of life.
In the ninth incarnation, Vishnu became the king Prithu and restored foodgrains and herbs to the earth.
The twelfth incarnation was as Dhanvantari, physician of the gods and the originator of medicine.
In the sixteenth incarnation, Vishnu became Parashurama, killed all the wicked Kshatriyas in the world twenty-one times.
Vishnu’s eighteen incarnation was as the sage Narada.
The nineteenth incarnation was Rama. This incarnation is thought to be a bit contradictory, (Parshuram was present in the swayamvar of Sita) but it is not. Parshuram was ardh-avatara(Half incarnation) & Rama was poorna manav Avatara (Full Incarnation as a Human Soul).
The twentieth incarnation was Balarama.
In the twenty-first incarnation, Vishnu was Krishna .
The twenty-second incarnation is yet to come. And Vishnu will come to destroy evil in the world and restore righteousness”.
There have been several other incarnations of Vishnu. But the ones mentioned above are the major ones.
List of Punishments
|Garuda Purana||Wrong doings||Punishment given in Naraka||Schema|
|Thamisra||Stealing other’s property including wife, children and belongings||Thrashing with the weapon, gada|
|Andhathamisra||Post marital cheating between husband and wife||Unconscious circulation in abyss|
|Rourava||Destroying, spiliting other’s family and their belongings||Spanking the Life organs with trident by Yama kinkaras|
|Maharourava||Brutally destroying other’s property and family for the sake of acquisition||A wild animal, Guru, tortures them in various forms|
|Kumbipaka||Destroying innocent lives for food||Roasting in hot oil tank by yama kinkaras|
|Kalasuthira||Torturing and putting elders & parents in starvation||Same set of treatment in hell|
|Asipathira||Abetting God and devolve from Dharma practises||Torture by evil spirits; results in fear|
|Panrimukha||Punishing innocent people and accomplice unlawful activiites||Grinding under the sharp teeth of an animal resembling pig|
|Anthakoopa||Torturing lives and inhumane activities||Biting by wild animals; wild run over by animals|
|Agnikunda||Snatching other’s property by force, gaining undue advantage and unlawfully making best out of everything in the world||Roasting in agni kunda in inverted position with hands and legs ties under a stick|
|Vajrakandaka||Unchaste people in physical contact with unmatching people||Physical hugging with fire spitting idols|
|Kirumibhojana||Selfish survival; eating other’s work||Insects are left intruding the body|
|Sanmali||Unchaste relationships by kamukas||Thrashing with gada|
|Vaitharani||Using official stature to attain undue advantge, acting against dharma||Submerging in Vaitarna river where water is mixed with blood, urine and feces|
|Booyoga||Shameless behaviour, mixing with unchaste women & leading the life without any motive||Biting by poisonous insects and animals|
|Prayanyoga||Torturing lives and killing them||Spanking the Life organs with arrows by Yama kinkaras|
|Pasusava||All devatas are in cows; torturing those cows||Slashing by canes|
|Sarameyathana||Gutting houses, torturing lives, poisoning lives, involving in massacre||Torture by unknown wild animals|
|Aveesi||Giving false evidence||Submerging and torturing in livebodies|
|Paribathana||Drinking and making others drink alcohol||Drinking lava|
|Sharakarthama||Involving in bad activities and defaming elders and living with selfish motives||Torture the Life organs by unknown spirits|
|Rakshogana||Performing narametha yaga, eating non vegetarian dishes and torturing soft animals||The same victims torture the hecklers|
|Soolaproga||Killing innocent people, masterminding people, committing suicide and doing nambike droha [i.e., betraying(droha) a person’s trust(nambike).]||Unknown birds peck and torture with shoola|
|Susimuga||Not doing any good, amassing wealth by wrong doings and stealing wealth||Stinging with nails and torturing with hunger and thirst|
|Kunthasootha||Not doing any good and always doing bad to others||Stinging by insects like scorpio|
|Vadaroga||Severrly torturing living beings||Handcuffed and burnt in fire|
|Piravarthana||Defaming guests and not treating them||Torturing with hunger and thirst|
|Lalapakshuga||Torturing wife and involving her in unchaste relationships||Same set of treatment in hell|
- Mani, Vettam. Puranic Encyclopedia. 1st English ed. Manipal: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
- Govindarajan “Garuda Puranam”, 1st edition. New Horizon,2007
- The Garuda Purana at sacred-texts.com (Wood and Subrahmanyam translation, 1911)
- Roman diacritic transliteration, Bombay: Venkatesvara Steam Press, part 1
- Roman diacritic transliteration, Bombay: Venkatesvara Steam Press, part 2
- Roman diacritic transliteration, Bombay: Venkatesvara Steam Press, part 3
- The Garuda Purana summary
- The Garuda Purana excerpts English translation of important verses