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Difference Between Puranas and Upapuranas In Hinduism


Puranas occupy a very important place in Hinduism in respect to rituals, ethics and history. There are eighteen major Puranas (Mahapuranas) and there are eighteen or even more minor Puranas (Upapuranas). Here is a look at the difference between Puranas and Upapuranas.

Upapuranas are usually treated as of lesser importance and are assigned a secondary position compared to the Mahapuranas.

The antiquity of the eighteen major Puranas goes back to the past as early as that of Vedic literature and they were committed to rewriting during the Gupta period, which marks the rise of Puranic Hinduism – imparting Vedic knowledge through stories and symbols. The Upapuranas however are a later addition.

But there are some Upapuranas, for instance, Narasimha, Nandi, Samba and Aditya Puranas, which are believed to have been written before the Mahapuranas.

The Upapuranas have been treated as less important because they are taken as upabhedas (sub sections) of major Puranas.

These classifications were made by modern scholars. Upapuranas do not consider themselves as inferior and they refer themselves as Puranas.

It  must be noted here that some Upapuranas even vie with the major Puranas and as such claim a superior position equal to that of the main Purana, as for instance, Kalika Purana, which claims to be the real Devi Bhagavata Pruana, probably because it deals with the exploits of Mother Goddess Shakti.

The major Puranas are listed in Vishnu Purana and Markandeya Purana, which give all the eighteen titles but are silent about the Upapuranas. Kurma Purana states that the Upapuranas were composed by different sages after the eighteen major Puranas were completed by Sage Vyasa.

The contents of the Upapuranas are generally the same as those of the major Puranas. But the Mahapuranas have some more information. Upapuranas contains some new stories which seem to be fabricated. But in spite of these defects, they provide us with great insight into the different aspects of all phases of Hinduism, such as gods and goddesses, rituals etc. In this respect they are sometimes more important that the Mahapuranas.

Many Upapuranas have been lost and we have to infer their existence only from their mention in other works.




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