The Puranas - OCHS Online Courses

If you are curious where many of the stories and concepts central to Hindu dharma originate from, look no further than the Puranas. These Sanskrit texts are a collection of eighteen “major” texts and countless innumerable “minor” works. Given the amount of material, this course will select sections from the Bhagavata Purana, the Shiva Purana and the Markandeya Purana, in order to comprise a general understanding of Puranic literature. Additionally, we will read specific passages relating to Vishnu, Shiva and Durga, as well as pay close attention to the accounts of Krishna’s childhood and early life.

Here is an overview of the seven sessions:

  • Session One: You will begin with an overview of Puranic literature, detailing the 18 “major” works as well as the “minor” works and where they fit in. We will review essays from various scholars that will help to illuminate how the Puranas fit within the overall schema of Hindu religious tradition.
  • Session Two: We will have the opportunity to examine the parallel between the Bhagavad-Gita’s doctrine of ‘avatara’ and how it’s represented in the Bhagavata Purana. This session will concentrate on Book Seven from this Purana and the story of Prahlada’s life and the descent of Vishnu in his Narsimha avatara.
  • Session Three: One of the most anticipated sessions, you will be learning about Krishna’s childhood activities and the relationship that existed between himself and his parents. Many contemporary Vaishnava devotees have come to highlight this time period as significant, and we will determine how and why that came to be.
  • Session Four: One of the most controversial chapters in the Bhagavata Purana is Book 10, which examines the relationships Krishna had with the young women in his village. Many of the great Hindu teachers have culled devotional ideals from these dalliances and we’ll look in detail at how these religious tendencies manifested.
  • Session Five: This session focuses on the relationship between Shiva and the world he presides over. You will have an opportunity to examine the doctrines that are present in Shaivism and the role Shiva plays in Hinduism.
  • Session Six: You’ll come to a deeper understanding of the relationship between Shiva and Vishnu in this particular session. We will then evaluate the differences between Vaishnava and Shaivite perspectives and how they are represented in the Puranic texts.
  • Session Seven: We now turn our attention to the Markandeya Purana, and one of the most famous Puranic passages, the Devi Mahatmya. You’ll be learning how Shakta beliefs are represented in the text as well as reading about the encounter between Durga and Mahishasura.