Geographical Descriptions in Visnu Purana
author: Dr. (Mrs) Manjushree Tripathy
edition: 2010, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati
The Puranas or the Palaeo-literature of India in Sanskrit play a significant role in projecting the rich heritage and hoary tradition of the country. The etymological meaning of the Puranas connotes that the role of Puranas to construct the history of a civilization is also equally important. Some Puranas also predict the future based on which the human society takes preventive measures to avoid any chaotic or untoward situation.
It is traditionally believed that the author of all the Principal Puranas is Bhagawan Vyasa, who compiled four Vedas that emanated from the lips of Lord Brahma. Since Maharsi Vyasa is known as or almost all the principal Puranas composed by him deal with the present, past and future of human race of a particular region or nation and this, no doubt, constitutes the basic frame of history. As per the tradition, Puranas are characterized with five important aspects and dimensions such as primary creation, secondary creation, genealogies, calculation of ages and the dynastic accounts. Besides, so many other things like location of mountains, rivers, landscaping, forests and forest products, climate and climatic changes, environment and environmental impacts, Indian system of medicine and engineering, moral values and human ethics etc. have been narrated in the Puranas in a systematic and methodical manner. Because of the all-inclusive nature of descriptions, some Puranas like Agniare regarded as the “World Encyclopaedea”.
Historians are still divided in respect of the exact date of the composition of Puranas despite the fact that authorship of all the Puranas has been ascribed to Maharsi Vyasa because the controversy centering round the identity of Bhagawan Vyasa as the compiler of the Vedas, author of Brahmasutra and composer of Puranas is still persitent in the minds of the scholars. However, almost all the scholars and researchers have accepted the antiquity of the Puranas and some of them have been described to be authored during the period pertaining to B.C. “Visnu Purana” is one among such principal Puranas, which is known to the world of scholars and historians for its antiquity and other characteristics.
So many scholars, particularly the foreign ones, have done a lot of commendable works on Indian Puranas and the outcome of the researches made on Puranas, in certain cases, has changed the course of the history of human civilization, thereby paving the way for conducting further researches to meet the curious minds. Research is a continuous process and it always aims at unearthing the unknown, undisclosed and untouched points of a particular area in a systematic and scientific manner. While preparing the present dissertation on one of the antique and important Puranas, i.e. Visnu Purana, the author, Dr. Manjushree Tripathy, seems to be fullyguided by the basic tenets of fundamental research and has made sincere efforts to unfold the untouched dimensions of the Visnu Puranas. It is needless to mention that she has been completely successful in her endeavour.
Geography is a subject that deals with the scientific study of the earth’s surface, physical features, divisions, products, population, forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes; climate, climatic changes etc.. All these things have been in existence from time immemorial, particularly from the inception of the creation because the creation depends upon these geographical aspects for its sustenance and continuance. Visnu Purana, being one of the ancient literary creations of one of the most ancient savants of the country, gives a clear picture of the geography of the entire “Jambu Dvipa” of which the present “Bharat” or India is a part only. It is badly needed that all these geographical descriptions, surfaced in the Visnu Purana, should be brought to the knowledge of the modem scholars and researchers particularly the geographers; so that the modem trend of investigation in the concerned field gets anew dimension of blending the old with new for the purpose of bringing the future generations closer to Indian culture and traditions. I have no hesitation to acknowledge that the book entitled “Geographical Descriptions in Visnu Purana” will act as a bridge between the world of ancient as well as modern scholars in respect of conducting some further analytical study in the concerned area to dive deep in to the matter. And for this unique achievement, Dr. Tripathy, the architect of the work, deserves our appreciation and commendation.
It is encouraging to note that the book has been included in the series of the Golden Jubilee Publications of Rashtriya Sanskrit University. The Rashtriya Sanskrit University, located at Tirupati, the sacred abode of the Lord of Seven Hills, is a premier institution in the field of higher learning and research in Sanskrit and is well known for its uncommon intellectual outputs for which it has been adjudged as “the best” in the country by the Tondon Committee, recently appointed by the Govt. of India to review the academic and research programmes of all the deemed Universities of the country. On the eve of its completion of fifty years of its successful existence, the Vidyapeetha [Vidyapitha] has already embarked upon a scheme to celebrate the Golden Jubilee during the year 2010 by organizing so many activities such as seminars, symposia, conferences, colloquiums etc. As a part of these series of activities, it has been decided to bring out at least fifty valuable publications during the year to mark the fifty years of existence of the institution. I am happy that so many learned authors including Smt. Tripathy have come forward with their manuscripts for publication under this series to highlight the intellectual outputs of the Vidyapeetha during the year of Golden Jubilee Celebrations. Besides, a committed team of scholars in collaboration with the department of Research and publications of our University, has shouldered the responsibility to execute the various plans and programmes of Golden Jubilee Celebration in a smooth and uninterrupted manner. May I avail this opportunity to express my profound sense of gratitude to those who have become the integral parts of this mega intellectual exercise.
I wish the publication a success and pray to Lord Venkateswar for His choicest blessings to be showered upon the author; so that many more meaningful works will be emerged in future from her continuous intellectual gymnastics.