(Last Updated on : 16/09/2013)
Garuda Purana is one of the ancient Indian texts which forms a part of 'Smriti' literature.
It is in the form of instructions given by Lord Vishnu to his carrier, Garuda
, said to be the King of birds. The Garuda 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 is a Sattvika Purana. The others in this group are Vishnu Purana
, Narada Purana
, Bhagavata Purana
, Padma Purana
and Varaha Purana
taught the Puranas to one of his disciples named
Romaharshana. And it was Romaharshana who related the stories of the Indian Puranas
to everyone else. The Bhagavata Purana says the Romaharashana had a son named Suta and it was this son who related the story of that particular Purana to the other sages. Thus, Suta was a very learned sage. He was very well versed in the Puranas and in the Shastras as well as a devotee of Lord Vishnu. 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. And they started asking Romaharshana, all the questions about God and His existence. Thus, he started reciting the Garuda Purana, which gave all the answers about the questions the sages had asked.
Content of Garuda Purana
The Garuda Purana is a medium sized Purana consisting of nineteen thousand Shlokas. 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 Garuda Purana contains detailed descriptions of Vishnuite worship and rituals, and the focus of this Purana is Vishnu worship. The latter half of this Purana deals with life after death. Following this is an account of funeral procedures, including rituals, the astrological timing of the post-death observances, reincarnation and ritual gifts.
It also describes around 24 types of death punishments given to a person after death for the sins committed in life. These deaths include Khumbipakam (burned in oil) and Kirimibhojanam (given as prey to leeches). The final part of this text is an appeal to self-knowledge as the key to liberation, going beyond austerities and study of the texts. This has given great importance to the origin of Garuda. There are nineteen thousand verses describing the ways to the Lord.
The Hindus of north India generally read this Purana while cremating the bodies of the dead.