(Last Updated on : 15/11/2010)
Khandas of Garuda Purana are mainly two- Purva Khanda and Uttara Khanda. 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. Found in the Khandas of the Garuda Purana are some basic concepts dealt with in all Puranas. It treats some of the five themes, i.e., Creation, the ages of the world, the genealogies of the solar and lunar dynasties; but far more attention is given to the worship of Vishnu, to descriptions of Vishnuite rites and festivals (Vratas), to expiatory ceremonies (Prayascittas) and glorifications of sacred places. It is also cognisant of Sakti-worship, and gives rules for the worship of the five gods- Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Lord Surya and Lord Ganesha.
Moreover, like the Agni Purana, it is a kind of encyclopaedia, in which the most varied subjects are dealt with. Thus we find the contents of the Mahabharata and the Harivamsa Parva being retold, and there are sections on cosmography, astronomy and astrology, omina and portenta, palmistry, medicine, metrics, grammar, knowledge of precious stones (Ratnapariksa) and politics (Niti). A considerable portion of the Yajnavalkya Dharmasastra has been included in the Garuda Purana.
What is counted as the Uttarakhanda or second part of the Garuda Purana is the Pretakalpa, a voluminous body of work which is actually quite unsystematically organised. This portion deals with everything connected with death, the dead and the beyond. There are to be found here doctrines on the fate of the soul after death. Karma
, rebirth and release from rebirth, on desire as the cause of Samsara, on omens of death, the path to Yama, the fate of the Pretas (i.e., the departed who still hover about the earth as spirits, and have not as yet found the way to the world beyond), the torments of the hells, and the Pretas as causing evil omens and dreams. Interspersed with this are the rules of all kinds regarding the rites to be performed at the approach of death, the treatment of the dying and of the corpse, funeral rites and ancestor-worship, the especial funeral sacrifices for a Sati, i.e., a woman who enters the funeral pyre with her husband. Here and there there can also be seen legends recalling the Buddhist Petavatthu, telling of encounters with Pretas who relate the cause of their wretched existence. Among the Mahatmyas which claim to be parts of the Garuda Purana, especial mention should be made of a Gaya Mahatmya in praise of Gaya, the place of pilgrimage, where it is particularly meritorious to perform Sraddhas.
Discussed above is therefore a brief outline of the subject matter of the Khandas of the Garuda Purana.