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Garuda Purana in Hinduism – Importance – Contents

In Hinduism, Garuda Purana is one of the eighteen major Puranas. It is a Vishnu Purana and it is the 17th of the eighteen Mahapuranas. Importance of Garuda Purana is due to its exhaustive dealing of death rituals, hell and afterlife. The contents of Garuda Purana are broadly divided into three.
  1. Achara Kanda – 240 chapters
  2. Preta or Uttara Kanda – 49 chapters
  3. Brahma Kanda – 29 chapters

Misunderstanding of Garuda Purana by Hindus

There is a wrong belief that Garuda Purana only deals with death, hell and death related rituals. This is not true. Only the Uttara Kanda deals with the subject of death and hell. Among 49 chapters in the Preta Kanda there are only few chapters that is exclusively dedicated to hell and death.

More than 80 percent of Garuda Purana is dedicated to Vishnu bhakti and other general themes found in other Puranas.

The wrong information has led to people believing that Garuda Purana should not be kept home and is should not be read on normal days. It should only read when there is a death in the family.

This is not true and it can be read on any day as it contains valuable information and spiritual lessons.

Why it is known as Garuda Purana?

The scripture is known as Garuda Purana because Garuda, the divine eagle-vehicle of Lord Vishnu had narrated it.

Achara Kanda of Garuda Purana

Achara Kanda of Garuda Purana deals with five essential contents of a Purana
  1. Primary and secondary creations
  2. Genealogies of Gods and sages
  3. Manvantras
  4. Genealogy of Kings
  5. Cosmogony and Dissolution

But what makes the Purana important is its encyclopedic nature as it includes numerous other topics.
Important Topics Covered in Achara Kanda of Garuda Purana

Lord Vishnu assumes the form of Brahma and begins the process of creation. Vishnu then protects the world. He later takes the form of Rudra, destroys the universe, and prepares it for next cycle of creation. After millions of years, Vishnu will again appear as Brahma and begin anther cycle of creation.

Vishnu is devoid of attributes, all qualities emanate from him.

Vishnu as Brahma is the creator of the cosmic egg.

Three Different Types of Creation

Three different kinds of creation as per Garuda Purana are primary (prakrta), secondary (vaikrta) and primary-secondary (prakrta – vaikrta).

Primary creation consists of intellect and ego, five subtle principles, five organs of action, five organs of knowledge and mind.

Secondary creation consists of the creation of insentient objects, animals and birds, divine beings, human beings and sentient beings. Patriarchs and manes are part of secondary. Daksha, the first prajapati, is also included in the list. He later assists in the creating various beings on earth.

Primary-secondary creation consists of the mind born sons of Brahma.

But the nine-fold creation of Brahma did not reproduce. So, Brahma divided himself into two as man and woman. This man and woman was known as Swayambhu Manu and Shatarupa. The carried the process of creation.

Time in Garuda Purana

  • The creation lasts for a day of Brahma, which is equal to the period of fourteen Manus.
  • There is dissolution at the end of each Manu.
  • The process of creation and dissolution takes place continuously till the final dissolution occurs.

Brief Topics in Garuda Purana

Genealogy of kings is dealt briefly. There is a brief account of Ramayana, Krishna Avatar, Harivamsha, and the Mahabharata.

Names of fourteen Manus and their sons are detailed.

The names of demons killed by Vishnu during his various incarnations in the periods of fourteen Manus are narrated.

Garuda Purana also deals with Ayurveda, veterinary science, lapidary science, grammar, metrics, ethics, smritis like Yajnavalkya Smriti an Parasara Smriti. Philosophical concepts and austerities are also discussed.

There are sections glorifying the devotion of Vishnu, there is a separate hymn of thousand names of Vishnu,  and several minor hymns are discussed.

Descriptions of salagrama, importance of five-face Shiva, different types of temples, the presiding deities of building sites and their worship are part of the Achara Kanda of the purana.

Uttara Kanda – Preta Kanda of Garuda Purana

Garuda Purana is today famous for the contents in the Uttara Kanda or Preta Kanda. It deals with
  • Life after death
  • Different hells
  • Gifts during rituals
  • Austere life
  • Acts to be avoided so that one does not become a ghost or preta after death.
  • Death and afterlife are explained with appropriate anecdotes.
The Uttara Kanda is read during the ten days after death in a Hindu home.

There is a big misunderstanding among Hindus that Garuda Purana is only associated with death.

Brahma Kanda of Garuda Purana

Brahma Kanda is in the form of a dialogue between Krishna and Garuda. The 29 chapters in this section discuss the devotion and supremacy of Vishnu, nature and form of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and temples and sacred places including Tirupati Balaji Temple.

This section also has chapters dedicated to criticism of Advaitic concepts. There is a belief that such chapters were later added to the Purana by the Dvaita school of thought.

Twenty-Two Incarnations of Vishnu in Achara Kanda of Garuda Purana

  1. Kaumara – celibate
  2. Boar – Varaha
  3. Divine sage (creation of sages and performance of good deeds)
  4. Nara Narayana (to maintain Dharma)
  5. Sage Kapila (expounding the doctrine of Samkhya)
  6. Dattatreya
  7. Son of Akuti and Ruchi
  8. Rishabha
  9. Son of Nabhi and Merudevi (he made earth yield various things for living beings)
  10. Fish
  11. Tortoise
  12. Dhanvantri
  13. Mohini
  14. Narasimha
  15. Vamana
  16. Parashurama
  17. Vyasa
  18. Rama
  19. Balaram
  20. Krishna
  21. Buddha
  22. Kalki