Translated and annotated by N.Gangadharan
Published by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi - 1954
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The Agni Purana, is a Sanskrit text and one of the eighteen major Puranas of Hinduism. The text is variously classified as a Purana related to Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism, but also considered as a text that covers them all impartially without leaning towards a particular theology.
The text exists in numerous versions, some very different from others. The published manuscripts are divided into 382 or 383 chapters, containing between 12,000 and 15,000 verses. The chapters of the text were likely composed in different centuries, with earliest version probably after the 7th-century, but before the 11th-century because the early 11th-century Persian scholar Al-Biruni acknowledged its existence in his memoir on India.The youngest layer of the text in the Agni Purana may be from the 17th-century.
The Agni Purana is a medieval era encyclopedia that covers a diverse range of topics, and its "382 or 383 chapters actually deal with anything and everything", remark scholars such as Moriz Winternitz and Ludo Rocher. Its encyclopedic secular style led some 19th-century Indologists such as Horace Hayman Wilson to question if it even qualifies as what is assumed to be a Purana.
The range of topics covered by this text include cosmology, mythology, genealogy, politics, education system, iconography, taxation theories, organization of army, theories on proper causes for war, martial arts, diplomacy, local laws, building public projects, water distribution methods, trees and plants, medicine, design and architecture, gemology, grammar, metrics, poetry, food and agriculture, rituals, geography and travel guide to Mithila (Bihar and neighboring states), cultural history, and numerous other topics.
Gouache painting on paper, part of an album of seventy paintings of Indian deities. Agni, with two heads, sits on the back of a ram. On both heads his hair is tied neatly in a jata makuta from which emanate tongues of fire. One of Agni’s faces is shown in profile and the other full frontal. In his upper pair of hands Agni carries a fan; his lower right hand is in abhaya while his lower left is in varada mudra.
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© 2021 The Trustees of the British Museum
Thanks to Rare Book Society of India