Vishnu Purana

(ca. 1045)

The Vishnu Purana is one of the earliest of the eighteen major Puranas (“ancient stories”) revered by the Hindus. It is considered to be one of the most important Puranas and for this reason is referred to by the name Puranaratna, which means “Gem of Puranas.” Like some of the other Puranas, the Vishnu Purana is presented in the form of a dialogue, in this instance with the sage Parashara (or Parasara) teaching his disciple Maitreya how Vishnu, as the Supreme Being, takes care of his devotees and how one should evolve spiritually for the attainment of liberation. Major topics discussed in the Puranas include creation myths, narratives of battles fought between the Asuras (sinful, materialistic, power-seeking deities) and Devas (benevolent supernatural beings), the avatars (appearances, manifestations, or incarnations) of Vishnu, and stories and genealogies surrounding legendary kings. The Vishnu Purana glorifies Vishnu as the supreme lord of the universe, in whom the whole...

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The god Vishnu (Yale University Art Gallery)

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