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Agni Purana

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A page from an Agni Purana manuscript (Sanskrit, Devanagari)

The Agni Purana, (Sanskrit: अग्नि पुराण, Agni Purāṇa) is a Sanskrit text and one of the eighteen major Puranas of Hinduism.[1] The text is variously classified as a Purana related to Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism, but also considered as a text that covers them all impartially without leaning towards a particular theology.[1][2]

The text exists in numerous versions, some very different from others.[3] The published manuscripts are divided into 382 or 383 chapters, containing between 12,000 and 15,000 verses.[3][4] The chapters of the text were likely composed in different centuries, with earliest version probably after the 7th-century,[5][6] but before the 11th century because the early 11th-century Persian scholar Al-Biruni acknowledged its existence in his memoir on India.[7] The youngest layer of the text in the Agni Purana may be from the 17th century.[7]

The Agni Purana is a medieval era encyclopedia that covers a diverse range of topics, and its "382 or 383 chapters actually deal with anything and everything", remark scholars such as Moriz Winternitz and Ludo Rocher.[8][9] Its encyclopedic secular style led some 19th-century Indologists such as Horace Hayman Wilson to question if it even qualifies as what is assumed to be a Purana.[10][11] The range of topics covered by this text include cosmology, mythology, genealogy, politics, education system, iconography, taxation theories, organization of army, theories on proper causes for war, martial arts,[5] diplomacy, local laws, building public projects, water distribution methods, trees and plants, medicine,[12] design and architecture,[13][14] gemology, grammar, metrics, poetry, food and agriculture,[15] rituals, geography and travel guide to Mithila (Bihar and neighboring states), cultural history, and numerous other topics.[4]



The Man Who Gratuitously Teaches Another,
A Craft Or A Trade Or Settles Upon Him A Property,
Whereby He Earns A Livelihood,
Acquires Infinite Merit.

Agni Purana 211.63, Translator: MN Dutt[16]

Tradition has it that its title is named after Agni because it was originally recited by Agni to the sage Vasishta when the latter wanted to learn about the Brahman, and Vasishta later recited it to Vyasa – the sage who compiled all the Vedas, Puranas and many other historic texts.[3][17] Vyasa recited it to Suta, who then recited to the rishis in Naimisharanya.[18] The Skanda Purana and Matsya Purana assert that the Agni Purana describes Isana-kalpa as described by god Agni, but the surviving manuscripts make no mention of Isana-kalpa.[19] Similarly, medieval Hindu texts cite verses that they claim are from Agni Purana, but these verses do not exist in current editions of the text.[19] These inconsistencies, considered together, have led scholars such as Rajendra Hazra to conclude that the extant manuscripts are different from the text Skanda and Matsya Puranas are referring to.[19]

The earliest core of the text is likely a post 7th-century composition, and a version existed by the 11th century.[7][20][21] The chapters that discuss grammar and lexicography may be an addition in the 12th century, while the chapters on metrics likely predate 950 CE because Pingala-sutras text by the 10th-century scholar Halayudha cites this text.[22] The section on poetics is likely a post-900 CE composition,[23] while its summary on Tantra is likely to be a composition between 800 and 1100 CE.[24]

The Agni Purana exists in many versions and it exemplifies the complex chronology of the Puranic genre of Indian literature that has survived into modern times. The number of chapters, number of verses and the specific content vary across Agni Purana manuscripts.[3][4] Dimmitt and van Buitenen state that each of the Puranas is encyclopedic in style, and it is difficult to ascertain when, where, why and by whom these were written:[25]

As they exist today, the Puranas are a stratified literature. Each titled work consists of material that has grown by numerous accretions in successive historical eras. Thus, no Puran has a single date of composition. (...) it is as if they were libraries to which new volumes have been continuously added, not necessarily at the end of the shelf, but randomly.

— Cornelia Dimmitt and J.A.B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas[25]


The published manuscripts are divided into 382 or 383 chapters, and ranging between 12,000 and 15,000 verses.[3][4] Many subjects it covers are in specific chapters, but states Rocher, these "succeed one another without the slightest connection or transition".[26] In other cases, such as its discussion of iconography, the verses are found in many sections of the Agni Purana.[9]

Editions and translations[edit]

The first printed edition of the text was edited by Rajendralal Mitra in the 1870s (Calcutta : Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1870–1879, 3 volumes; Bibliotheca Indica, 65, 1–3). The entire text extends to slightly below one million characters.[citation needed]

An English translation was published in two volumes by Manmatha Nath Dutt in 1903–04. There are several versions published by different companies.[citation needed]


The extant manuscripts are encyclopedic. The first chapter of the text declares its scope to be such.[27] Some subjects covered by the text include:[28]

Encyclopedic subjects in Agni Purana
Subject Chapters Illustrative content Reference
Book summary 21-70 Pancaratra texts, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Pingala-Sutras, Amarakosha, etc. [26][27]
Regional geography 114-116 Mithila (now Bihar), rivers, forests, towns, culture [26][27]
Medicine 279-286, 370 Ayurveda, herbs, nutrition [26][29]
Buddhist incantations 123-149 Summary of the Buddhist text Yuddhajayarnava, mantras of Trailokyavijaya [26][30][31]
Politics 218-231 Structure of a state, education and duties of a king and key ministers,
organization of army, theory of just war, ambassadors to other kingdoms,
system of administration, civil and criminal law, taxation,
local administration and court system
Agriculture, planning 239, 247, 282, 292 Fortification, trees and parks, water reservoirs [26][34][35]
Martial arts, weapons 249-252 32 types of martial arts, making and maintaining weapons [36]
Cow 310 Holiness of cow, breeding and taking care of cows [37]
Hindu temple, monastery 25, 39-45, 55-67, 99-101 Design, layout, construction, architecture [38]
Metrics, poetics, art of writing 328-347 Summary of different schools on poetics, music, art of poetry,
Alamkara, Chandas, Rasa, Riti, language, rhetoric
Yoga, moksha 372-381 Eight limbs of yoga, ethics, meditation, samadhi,
soul, non-dualism (Advaita), summary of Bhagavad Gita

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dalal 2014, p. 10.
  2. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 20–22.
  3. ^ a b c d e Wilson 1864, p. LVIII-LX.
  4. ^ a b c d Rocher 1986, pp. 134–137.
  5. ^ a b Thomas Green (2001). Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-1576071502, page 282
  6. ^ Phillip B. Zarrilli. Paradigms of Practice and Power in a South Indian Martial Art. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  7. ^ a b c Rocher 1986, pp. 31, 136–137.
  8. ^ Winternitz 1922, p. 541.
  9. ^ a b Rocher 1986, pp. 134–135.
  10. ^ Dalal 2014, pp. 10, 145.
  11. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 79 with footnotes.
  12. ^ Jagdish Lal Shastri; Arnold Kunst (1970). Ancient Indian Tradition & Mythology: The Agni Purana, Part 4. Motilal Banarsidass. p. xxx. ISBN 978-81-208-0306-0.
  13. ^ Kramrisch 1976, p. 96, 136 with footnotes.
  14. ^ James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.
  15. ^ VC Srivastava (2008). History of Agriculture in India, Up to C. 1200 A.D. Routledge. p. 839. ISBN 978-81-8069-521-6.
  16. ^ MN Dutt, Agni Purana Vol 2 Archived 2022-12-27 at the Wayback Machine, Chapter CCXI, page 757
  17. ^ Hazra 1940, pp. 134–136.
  18. ^ Mohapatra, Amulya (1993). Hinduism : analytical study. Bijaya Mohapatra. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 81-7099-388-1. OCLC 34690102.
  19. ^ a b c Hazra 1940, pp. 134–135.
  20. ^ Hazra 1940, pp. 134–141.
  21. ^ K P Gietz 1992, p. 15 with note 73.
  22. ^ a b Rocher 1986, p. 136.
  23. ^ K P Gietz 1992, p. 344-345 with note 1897.
  24. ^ a b Rocher 1986, pp. 135–136.
  25. ^ a b Dimmitt & van Buitenen 2012, p. 5.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Rocher 1986, p. 135.
  27. ^ a b c Hazra 1940, p. 136.
  28. ^ Shastri, P. (1995) Introduction to the Puranas, New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, pp.98–115
  29. ^ Prasad PV, Subhaktha PK, Narayana A (2007). "Medical information in Agnipurana". Bull Indian Inst Hist Med Hyderabad. 37 (1): 87–106. PMID 19569455.
  30. ^ Hazra 1940, p. 137.
  31. ^ Jan Gonda (1969). Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde. Vol. 75–76. North-Holland. pp. 609 with note 3.
  32. ^ Gonda, J. (1956). "Ancient Indian Kingship From the Religious Point of View". Numen. 3 (1). Brill Academic Publishers: 36–71. doi:10.1163/156852756x00041. JSTOR 3269464.
  33. ^ Bambahadur Mishra (1965). Polity in the Agni Purāṇa. Punthi Pustak. OCLC 637947585.
  34. ^ Sonia Tidemann; Andrew Gosler (2010). Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society. Earthscan. pp. 141–151. ISBN 978-1-84977-475-8.
  35. ^ MN Dutt, Agni Purana Vol 2 Archived 2022-12-27 at the Wayback Machine, pages 853-858
  36. ^ MN Dutt (1967), Agni Purana, Vol 1, OCLC 421840, ISBN 978-8170309192, pages 102-109
  37. ^ MN Dutt, Agni Purana Vol 2 Archived 2022-12-27 at the Wayback Machine, pages 1075-1081 (Note: Dutt's manuscript has 365 chapters, and is numbered differently)
  38. ^ Stella Kramrisch; Raymond Burnier (1976). The Hindu Temple. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 300–305. ISBN 978-81-208-0224-7.
  39. ^ Suresh Mohan Bhattacharyya (1976). The Alaṃkāra-section of the Agni-purāṇa. Firma KLM. ISBN 9780883869116. OCLC 313637004.
  40. ^ Anders Pettersson; Gunilla Lindberg-Wada; Margareta Petersson; Stefan Helgesson (2006). Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective: Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 164–170. ISBN 978-3-11-089411-0.
  41. ^ MN Dutt (1967), Agni Purana, OCLC 421840, ISBN 978-8170309192, pages 433-457
  42. ^ MN Dutt, Agni Purana Vol 2 Archived 2022-12-27 at the Wayback Machine, pages 1313-1338 (Note: Dutt's manuscript has 365 chapters, and is numbered differently)
  43. ^ David Gordon White (2014). The "Yoga Sutra of Patanjali": A Biography. Princeton University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-4008-5005-1.


External links[edit]