Written by Veda Vyasa, Shrimaad Bhagvatam is one of the 18 main Puranas. It is especially popular amongst the Vaishnavs. 18,000 Sanskrit verses are spread over 12 main sections of the Purana. Beauty of the original prose has inspired poets, saints and writers over the centuries to create wonderfully lyrical bhajans, kirtans and verses in praise of Shri Krishna. Artists, sculptors and dancers have found wonderfully innovative ways to bring the Puran life through their art.
Popularly misconception about the Bhagvat puran is that it is all about the childhood of Krushna. In fact, of the 12 sections of the Bhagvat Puran, only 10th, 11th and 12th deal with the life of Krushna. Though Krushna is introduced in the first section, the first 9 sections deal with various topics such as avatars of Vishnu, mythology, history philosophy etc. Only the 10th section deals with Shri Krushna’s childhood. The 11th and 12th section deal with Shri Krushna’s life as an adult.
Hindus, vaishnavs in particular, do the Bhagvat Puran great dis-service by not reading or wanting to understand the first 9 sections as an essential and integral part of the great Purana. Unless we understand the beginning of the tale, how can we understand the later parts ? To understand Shri Krushna in his entirety, we have to understand the SM Bhagvatam in its entirety.
Worse still, most people do not even read the original 10th section of the SM Bhagvatam. People are content to listen / read to other people’s commentaries on the SM Bhagvatam and accept their version as the original. Not having read the original, people also assume that a lot of non-original myths are actually integral to the SM Bhagvat Puran. For example, there is no mention of Krushna having harried gopies fetching water or gopies selling butter milk. Poetic inventions of later writers about these non-existent events have become so popular that people assume them to be part of the SM Bhagvat Puran.
One of the biggest invention of later poets is the character of “Radha”. She is projected as a goddess and a Krushna’s childhood girlfriend. No such character is mentioned in the original text and yet, countless temples and numerous sects dedicate themselves to this local goddess of Vraj. Some of these sects even place her over and above Shri Krushna as the supreme ruler of the universe ! We MUST read the original scripture in its entirety to understand its true beauty.
We now have excellent translations of the SM Bhagvatam in all the languages of India and in English too. It is important for us to read the original SM Bhagvatam to understand and appreciate the true beauty of the scripture.
Fight between Krushna and Indra for the kalpa-vruksha (Mughal painting)
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