The Purana, in which Janardana in the form of tortoise, in the regions under the Earth, explained the objects of life, duty, wealth, pleasure and liberation, in communication with the Rishis in the proximity of Sankara, which refers to the Lakshmi-kalpa and contains eighteen thousand stanzas is the Kurma-Purana.
Order of Kurma Purana
Kurma Purana is 15th in the order in the list of eighteen Puranas. There are not many debates about the order of this Purana.
Name & Nature of the Purana
Sages praised Vishnu during samudramathana. To them Vishnu narrated this Purana first in the form of Kurma. As this Purana is narrated by Vishnu in his first incarnation, it is known as Kurma Purana.
Cult of Kurma Purana
The name and beginning of Purana suggests that Kurma purana is assigned to Vaishnava cult. Also there are many stories related to the incarnations of Vishnu. But subject matter of Kurma Purana suggests that it is also assigned to Shiv cult. Narrating the importance of Shiva and Durga as well as devotion to them is the main aim of this purana.
Structure of Kurma Purana
The Kurma-Purana comprises of two parts, Purvardha and Uttarardha. The first part contains 52 chapters and the second part consists of 44 chapters.
According to Vishnu Purana it has 17000 verses whereas according to Matsya Purana it has 18000 verses. But the number of verses as given above by the Vishnu Purana and Matsya Purana does not tally with the number of stanzas found in the present Kurma Purana. Available edition of Kurma Purana has only 6000 verses.
Another, according to Narada and by its own testimonial there should be four Samhitas of Kurma Purana namely Brahmi, Bhagavati, Sauri, Vaishnavi which are cited bellow,
ब्राह्मी भागवती सौरी वैष्णवी च प्रकीर्तिताः ।
चतस्रः संहिता पुण्या धर्मकामार्थ मोक्षदाः ॥
Brahmi bhagavati sauri vaishnavi ca prakirtitah |
chatasrah samhita punya dharmakamartha mokshadah ||
But those are not available. Only Brahma- Samhita is available today. May be the other three are lost.
Date of Kurma Purana
This purana has description about Tantrisim and Tantric rituals; this makes us to believe that Kurma Purana belongs to a very later period. But according to Haraprasad Shastri 2nd AD is the period of Kurma Purana. On the other hand Kale considered 500 AD as the period of Kurma Purana.
Subject matter of Kurma Purana
Siva is described as the prominent god among gods. It does not believe in any difference among Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They are three different forms of Brahma (soul). It places a great stress upon the worship of Sakti. Thousand names of Sakti are listed in this work. The importance of Siva is emphasized with the description of securing Jambavati by Krushna through the grace of Siva.
Kurma-Purana comprises of two parts. In the first part there is an account of creation, of the incarnations of Vishnu, of the solar and lunar dynasties of the kings at the time of Krushna, of the universe, and of the manvantaras. These are given, in general, in the form of a brief summary. With these are blended hymns addressed to Mahesvara by Brahma and others; the defeat of Andakasura by Bhairava; the origin of four Saktis, Mahesvari, Siva, Sati and Haimavati from Siva and other Siva legends, several chapters form Kasi Mahatmya, a legend of Benaras.
In the second part there are no legends. It is divided into two parts- the Isvara-Gita. In the former the knowledge of god, that is, of Siva through contemplative devotion is taught. In the latter the same object is enjoined through works or observances of ceremonies and precepts of the Vedas.
Union of Shiva, Vishnu
सहस्रशिरसं देवं सहस्रचरणांकृतिम् ।
सहस्रबाहुं जटिलं चन्द्रार्द्धकृतशेखरम् ॥
ब्रह्माण्डं तेजसा स्वेन सर्वमावृत्यधिष्ठितम् ।
दंष्ट्रा करालं दुर्द्धर्ष सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभम् ॥
Sahasrashirasam devam sahasracaranamkrutim |
Sahasrabahum jatilam candrarddhakrutashekharam ||
Brahmandam tejasa swena sarvamavrutyadhishthitam |
Damshtra karalam durddharsham suryakotisamaprabham ||
The above mentioned mention verse from Kurma Purana describes Shiva. Though Kurma Purana begins with the importance of Vishnu, later there are descriptions of Shiva. In many places in Kurma Purana Shiva is assumed as Vishnu and Brahma. There is a paragraph which deals about the discussion between Shiva and Vishnu regarding the origin of universe. There Shiva is considered as the origin of universe and further Shiva says that Lord Vishnu is verily his own form. Kurma Purana mentions oneness between Shiva and Vishnu.
Other information about Kurma Purana
This Purana has all five parameters of Purana i.e. Panchalakshana. Mastya Purana says that, if one donates Kurma purana along with golden image of Kurma, he obtains the Punya of donating thousand cows. King Ativirarama Pandya (1564-1595 AD) had translated Sanskrit Kurma Purana into Tamil language.
Mahadeva Shastri Joshi. 1964. Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosha, Vol. II. Pune. Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal.