Padma Purana is considered as the heart of Shree Vishnu. Always securing the second place in the enumeration of the Puranas, the Padma Purana derived its name from an account of the period when the world was a golden lotus (Padma), and of all the occurrences of that time. In volume and size, it is second only to Skanda-Purana. It is half of the Mahabharata in the number of verses.
Order of Padma Purana
As told above, Padma Purana is second in the order of Puranas. But Devi Bhagvata Mahapurana places it on the 14th rank. Other than these two opinions there are not much arguments about the order of Padma Purana.
Edition of Padma Purana
Padma Purana which is now with us is the amalgam of two editions – (1) North Indian and (2) South Indian. North Indian edition is also known as Calcutta edition or Bengali edition which is not yet published but still in manuscript form. South Indian edition is also known as Devanagari edition. South Indian edition has been published by the Anandashrama, Pune as well as Venkateshwara Press, Mumbai. North Indian edition is considered as older than the South Indian edition. South Indian edition published by Venkateshwara press, Mumbai is reprinted by Nag Publishers, Delhi.
Structure of Padma Purana
Padma Purana contains fifty five thousand verses which are divided into 628 chapters. Entire Padma Purana is divided into six main divisions which are known as Khanda. But North Indian edition contains five Khandas arranged in the following order – (1) Srushti (2) Bhumi (3) Swarga (4) Patala and (5) Uttara. The same is mentioned in the following verse,
प्रथमं सृष्टिखण्डं हि भूमिखण्डं व्दितीयकम् ।
तृतीयं स्वर्गखण्डं च पातालं च चतुर्थकम् ॥
पञ्चमं चोत्तरं खण्डं सर्वपापप्रणाशनम् ॥
Prathamam srushtikhandam hi bhumikhnadam dwitiyakam |
Trutiyam swargakhandam ca patalam ca caturthakam ||
Panchamam chottaram khandam sarvapapapranashanam |
On the other hand South Indian edition published by both presses are found to consist of six Khandas. The Anandashrama edition arranges these Khandas in the following order – (1) Adi (2) Bhumi (3) Brahma (4) Patala (5) Srsti or Prakriya (6) Uttara. The Venkateshwara arranges them as (1) Srsti (2) Bhumi (3) Swarga (4) Brahma (5) Patala and (6) Uttara.
The Adi Khanda in the former edition is the same as the Svarga Khanda in the latter. The arrangement and titles of the Khanda in the Venkateshwara edition (now from Nag Publisher Delhi-7) are intended most probably for making the Purana conform as far as possible to the old tradition.
Khanda wise subject matter of Padma Purana
The Srushti Khanda is really the first of the set. The Purana commences with treatment of primary creation out of the cosmic egg. It contains the story of Brahma and Savitri. This story shows that the motive of the Brahma worshippers was to revive Brahmanism which was going decadent. Many of the worshippers of Brahma had accepted Saivism, and worship of the god was growing obsolete. This section is also called Puskara khanda as Brahma performed the sacrifice at Puskara in Rajasthan. Some chapters of this Khanda are Vaisnava, Ramaite and Saiva in character. Several chapters betray the influence of Tantrism.
Srushti Khanda has following stories – aim of Padma Purana narrated by Shaunaka to Suta, description of universe through the dialogue between Pulastya and Bhishma, Manvantaras, description of the great flood (Pralaya), story of Varaha, origin of four Varnas, dialogue between Vishnu and Brahma, story of Daksha’s sacrifice, origin of Gods-demons-gandharvas-Uragas-Rakshasas-etc, story of Banasura, stories of birth of great eagle-Sampati-Jatayu, story of Pruthu, genealogy of various dynasties such as Aditya, Ikshwaku, Pitru, birth of Pandavas, birth of Krishna, reason for Vishnu’s ten incarnations, Saraswatimahatmya, Varanasi mahatmya, stories of Vrutra, Tarakasura, birth of Kartikeya, story of Sun, worship of Durga.
Bhumi Khanda treats geography in 125 chapters. It is a book entirely of legends. These legends have been introduced in order to prove the sanctity of various holy places and show how Prahalad became a devotee of Vishnu and why a teacher, a father, or a chaste and devoted wife is called Tirtha. In connection with these legends and glorifications the duties of Ashramas, gifts, duties of women, vrata and holy places have been treated. The river Narmada which is also called Reva has been glorified more than once and declared to have a sanctifying power much greater than that of the Ganga, Sindhu etc.
It also has how Shivasharma Brahmin obtained position in heaven, stories of gods, story of Pruthu, Indra and Indrapada, story of Suvrata, origin of Maratas, Jain religion, story of Sukara, story of Yayati and Nahusha, Shivadharma, description of heaven, Stotra of Vasudeva, etc.
The Swarga Khanda is purely Vaisnava, begins with a short account of the creation of the universe. It then passes on to the geography of the Earth, deals with the glories of various holy places and rivers with few chapters on Vishnu bhakti, and the duties of the members of the different castes in different ages of their life.
Additionally story of Dushyant, description of Apsaras, Suryaloka, story of Varuna, birth of Ravana and Kubera, description of Vaikuntha, story of Sagara, Gangavatarana, stories of Divodasa, Harishchandra, Mandhata, rules relating to food, sacrifice of Daksha, etc are also given in Swarga Khanda.
The Brahma Khanda is related by Suta and Saunaka. It is a short one consisting of 26 chapters only. It is concerned with the description of Vaisnava feast and festivals. It narrates the merits of besmearing a Visnu temple with cowdung and burning of a lamp there are at night’ the observances during the month of Karttika, the Jayanti vrata etc. The merits of the observance of these festivals are illustrated with various stories. The churning of the ocean has been narrated in connection with the birthday festival of Radha.
The Patala Khanda begins with Sesa and Vatsyayana as interlocutors, their interlocution being reported by Suta to sages. Chapter 1 – 68 is avowedly Rama. It deifies Rama and conceives him as Vishnu incarnate. Sita is identified with Laxmi. These chapters describe Rama’s return from Lanka and celebration of the horse sacrifice. Chapters 100 to the end give an account of Rama’s life after the horse sacrifice.
Kamakshi, holy place Nilagiri, Gandaki, Purushottama stotra, story of Satyawana, story of Valmiki, Krishna, importance of Vrundavana, worship of Hari, Mnatra of Krishna, rules of linga worship, worship of Shiva, number of mahapuranas and upapuranas, etc are also the subject matter of Patala Khanda.
Uttar Khanda of Padma Purana
Description of Badarikashrama, story of Jalandhara, holy places such as Shreeshaila, Haridwar, Gaya, Ganga, Tulasi, Prayaga, importance of donation of food, Ekadashi vrata, Chaturmasa vrata, Bhagavat saptah, geeta mahatmya etc are covered in the Uttara khanda of Padma Purana.
Among the Khandas of Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda is the biggest in size. It has more number of verses than any other Khanda. Some scholars think that entire Uttar Khanda is may be the later addition. Because Padma Purana is Vaishnava Purana, overall it has the impact of Vaishnavism but Uttar Khanda has the impact of Shaivism. Another reason is many stories from Uttar Khanda give the feel that they are the extension of some previous stories. Overall it is the guess of scholars that there are many later additions to the entire Padma Purana.
Importance of Padma Purana
It is said that reciting Padma Purana destroys all sins. It is filled with best stotras of various deities. Padma Purana is one of the important Vaishnava Puranas. Some verses are the same in Padma Purana and Matsya Purana. According to a group of scholars some stories from Padma Purana are the oldest. Dr. Luders claims that the story of Rushyashringa is older than that of Mahabharata. Even description of holy places in Padma Purana is older than that of from Vanaparva of Mahabharata. Story of Rama from Patalakhanda and Raghuvamsha is very similar. Some other stories from Padma Purana are narrated by Kalidas in his literature with his poetic imagination.
Mahadeva Shastri Joshi. 1968. Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosha, Vol. V. Pune. Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal.