The word \u2018Pur\u0101\u1e47a\u2019, as is popularly known, means \u2018ancient\u2019. The Bh\u0101rat\u012bya tradition holds that the Pur\u0101\u1e47as are a corpus of sacred literature that explicated the esoteric teachings of the Vedas1. What has been alluded to or presented in an abstract form in the Vedas unfolds in the Pur\u0101\u1e47as in the form of lived practices that are embedded in allegorical narratives. The great aesthetician Mamma\u1e6da calls the style of the Itih\u0101sas and the Pur\u0101\u1e47as \u2018suh\u1e5bt-sa\u1e43hit\u0101\u2019, the affectionate advice of a dear friend. In contrast, he terms the style of the teachings of the Vedas \u2018prabhu-sa\u1e43hit\u0101\u2019, the exhortations of a master. This highlights that the teachings presented in the Pur\u0101\u1e47as are essentially non-different from those presented in the Vedas, but vary largely in the tone of instruction adopted. 1The term \u2018Vedas\u2019 refers to the entire Vedic corpus including the Upani\u1e63ads. Yet another point of divergence is the mode of instruction. Vedas often deal with abstract and esoteric terms, which make the comprehension of the literature a virtual impossibility without the help of commentaries learnt at the feet of an enlightened master. Pur\u0101\u1e47as, on the other hand, although learnt through the tradition of the guru-\u015bi\u1e63ya-parampar\u0101 (line of preceptors and disciples), are far less involved. The explanation offered in the tradition is that the Vedas are concretised and made explicit in the Pur\u0101\u1e47as. The didactic teachings and philosophical flight of thoughts of the Vedic corpus are re-presented as lived practices in the Pur\u0101\u1e47as. Essentially, Pur\u0101\u1e47as synchronise and locate the theological and philosophical tenets of the Vedas in societal life. Through narratives, they present the lived models of practices that can potentially be emulated in human society. Pur\u0101\u1e47as also explicate amply, the nature of dharma and adharma, the yield of adherence to dharma, the result of indulgence in adharma, and the process of expiation that can absolve sin accrued through indulgence in adharma. Amongst the different ways in which the Pur\u0101\u1e47as are categorised, they are classified as \u2018Mah\u0101pur\u0101\u1e47as\u2019 or major Pur\u0101\u1e47as that are eighteen in number, and \u2018Upapur\u0101\u1e47as\u2019 or minor Pur\u0101\u1e47as that are also enlisted to be eighteen in number. This categorisation is by no means a judgment on its value. Scholars often explain that the Mah\u0101pur\u0101\u1e47as are the texts that were more popularly known than the Upapur\u0101\u1e47as. As a testimony of the significance of the Upapur\u0101\u1e47as, it may be pointed out that theological schools often depend on the Upapur\u0101\u1e47as to inform their lived practices and tenets; for instance, the G\u0101\u1e47apatya and \u015a\u0101kta schools of theology. Among the several explanations that were put forward, an explanation states that some of these Upapur\u0101\u1e47as could be called so because they are sections of Mah\u0101pur\u0101\u1e47as that were significant enough to be presented as a treatise on their own. The Ga\u1e47e\u015ba-pur\u0101\u1e47a, for instance, is a section of the Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a. This is by no means a comprehensive explanation, nor it is meant to be one. The Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a is a significant and rather unique Pur\u0101\u1e47a. The Pur\u0101\u1e47a is called so because the treatise unfolds as a dialogue shared between lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u and his avian chariot, Garu\u1e0da. Composed of eighteen-thousand eight-hundred verses, predominantly in the Anu\u1e63\u1e6dup meter, the Pur\u0101\u1e47a elaborates on the five topics that determine a Pur\u0101\u1e47a, namely creation, dissolution, genealogy (of great kings and sages), (transpiration in) Manvantaras, and the Solar and Lunar dynasties. However, the uniqueness of a Pur\u0101\u1e47a rests in the unorthodox way in which it deals with these primary topics and the way it sheds lights on the wide variety of topics other than these. The Garu\u1e0da Pur\u0101\u1e47a can be divided into two sections, the P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da and the Uttara-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da, which are also referred to as \u0100c\u0101ra-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da and Dharma or Preta-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da. The \u0100c\u0101ra-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da derives its name from the centrality of the description on the mode of worship of various deities, which is found elaborately in the section. The Uttara-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da or the Preta-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da, as the name suggests, deals largely with obsequies, the journey of a soul after death; especially the one that must be cleansed in the netherworlds. This section of the Pur\u0101\u1e47a is thus a mine of information on the San\u0101tana-dharma\u2019s conception of sin, rites of absolution, and the netherworlds that are earned in the absence of atonement. Here is an introduction to the Pur\u0101\u1e47a \u2013 The P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da begins with an explanation on the history of the guru-\u015bi\u1e63ya-parampar\u0101 through which the Pur\u0101\u1e47a was handed down. The Pur\u0101\u1e47a was originally narrated by lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u to lord Brahm\u0101 and lord \u015aiva. Lord Brahm\u0101 initiated Sage Vy\u0101sa into the Pur\u0101\u1e47a, and sage Vy\u0101sa, in turn, recited the Pur\u0101\u1e47a to S\u016bta. S\u016bta, as is famously known, is the Pur\u0101\u1e47ic character who narrates nearly all the Pur\u0101\u1e47as to a gathering of sages in the forest of Naimi\u1e63a. Yet another interesting dialogue embedded in the history of this Pur\u0101\u1e47a is the one shared by Garu\u1e0da with lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u, and that of sage Ka\u015byapa. Garu\u1e0da was once distressed by his mother Vinat\u0101\u2019s bond of slavery to her co-wife, Kadr\u016b2. Required to secure a pot of am\u1e5bta (nectar) from the Gods to release his mother from the bondage, Garu\u1e0da undertook penance to win the grace of lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u. Pleased with the stupendous penance, lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u appeared before Garu\u1e0da and urged him to seek a boon. Delighted with the words of encouragement extended by lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u, Garu\u1e0da explained the predicament of his mother and pleaded with the lord, 2 Kadr\u016b and Vinat\u0101 were both wives of sage Ka\u015byapa. To Kadr\u016b were born the n\u0101gas or celestial serpents and to Vinat\u0101 the pak\u1e63\u012bs or celestial birds. The rivalry between Kadr\u016b and Vinat\u0101 led to Vinat\u0101 being enslaved by her co-wife, Kadr\u016b, which in turn led to the eternal animosity between the n\u0101gas and the pak\u1e63\u012bs. \u092e\u092e \u092e\u093e\u0924\u093e \u091a \u0935\u093f\u0928\u0924\u093e \u0928\u093e\u0917\u0948\u0930\u094d\u0926\u093e\u0938\u0940\u0915\u0943\u0924\u093e \u0939\u0930\u0947\u0964 \u092f\u0925\u093e\u0939\u0902 \u0926\u0947\u0935 \u0924\u093e\u091e\u094d\u091c\u093f\u0924\u094d\u0935\u093e \u091a\u093e\u092e\u0943\u0924\u0902 \u0939\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0928\u092f\u093e\u092e\u093f \u0924\u0924\u094d\u0965 \u0926\u093e\u0938\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0915\u094d\u0937\u093f\u092e\u094b\u0915\u094d\u0937\u092f\u093f\u0937\u094d\u092f\u093e\u092e\u093f \u092f\u0925\u093e\u0939\u0902 \u0935\u093e\u0939\u0928\u0938\u094d\u0924\u0935\u0965 \u092e\u0939\u093e\u092c\u0932\u094b \u092e\u0939\u093e\u0935\u0940\u0930\u094d\u092f\u0903 \u0938\u0930\u094d\u0935\u091c\u094d\u091e\u094b \u0928\u093e\u0917\u0926\u093e\u0930\u0923\u0903\u0964 \u092a\u0941\u0930\u093e\u0923\u0938\u0902\u0939\u093f\u0924\u093e\u0915\u0930\u094d\u0924\u093e \u092f\u0925\u093e\u0939\u0902 \u0938\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0902 \u0924\u0925\u093e \u0915\u0941\u0930\u0941\u0965 mama m\u0101t\u0101 ca vinat\u0101 n\u0101gaird\u0101s\u012bk\u1e5bt\u0101 hare | yath\u0101ha\u1e41 deva t\u0101\u00f1jitv\u0101 c\u0101m\u1e5bta\u1e41 hy\u0101nay\u0101mi tat || d\u0101sy\u0101k\u1e63imok\u1e63ayi\u1e63y\u0101mi yath\u0101ha\u1e41 v\u0101hanastava || mah\u0101balo mah\u0101v\u012brya\u1e25 sarvaj\u00f1o n\u0101gad\u0101ra\u1e47a\u1e25 | pur\u0101\u1e47asa\u1e43hit\u0101kart\u0101 yath\u0101ha\u1e41 sy\u0101\u1e41 tath\u0101 kuru || O\u2019 Hari! The n\u0101gas have enslaved my mother, Vinat\u0101. Lord, act in such a manner that I may procure am\u1e5bta, defeat them (n\u0101gas), and rescue her from bondage; that I would become your vehicle, be supremely strong, supremely valiant, all-knowing, a destroyer of n\u0101gas, and a creator of a Pur\u0101\u1e47a. - Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a, 1.2.50, 51 Pleaded with thus in earnest by Garu\u1e0da, lord Vi\u1e63\u1e47u blessed him to accomplish all that he sought. He added further, \u201cThis Pur\u0101\u1e47a that shall be my very embodiment shall emerge forth through your lips and will be renowned in the world by your name.\u201d \u092f\u0925\u093e\u0939\u0902 \u0926\u0947\u0935\u0926\u0947\u0935\u093e\u0928\u093e\u0902 \u0936\u094d\u0930\u0940\u0903 \u0916\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0924\u094b \u0935\u093f\u0928\u0924\u093e\u0938\u0941\u0924\u0964 \u0924\u0925\u093e \u0916\u094d\u092f\u093e\u0924\u093f\u0902 \u092a\u0941\u0930\u093e\u0923\u0947\u0937\u0941 \u0917\u093e\u0930\u0941\u0921\u0902 \u0917\u0930\u0941\u0921\u0948\u0937\u094d\u092f\u0924\u093f\u0965 yath\u0101ha\u1e41 devadev\u0101n\u0101\u1e41 \u015br\u012b\u1e25 khy\u0101to vinat\u0101suta | tath\u0101 khy\u0101ti\u1e41 pur\u0101\u1e47e\u1e63u g\u0101ru\u1e0da\u1e41 garu\u1e0dai\u1e63yati || Just as I am the glorious wealth of the gods of gods, O\u2019 Garu\u1e0da, son of Vinat\u0101, this Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a will attain to glory (rivalling my own). - Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a, 1. 2. 56 Imbued with these blessings of the lord, Garu\u1e0da formulated the Pur\u0101\u1e47a and vocalised it to sage Ka\u015byapa who sought the wisdom from him. The sage, in turn, internalised the essence of the Pur\u0101\u1e47a that he heard from the lips of Garu\u1e0da. He was able to revive a dead tree as a testimony to the potency of the treatise. Having described the history of the emergence of the treatise, the Pur\u0101\u1e47a then describes its scope. In describing its scope, though the work draws an elaborate list in the third chapter of the P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da, it falls short of doing justice to the vast number of topics discussed in the treatise. The P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da describes the rituals and rites of worship elaborately, and in extension, describes the various holy shrines and sacred water bodies. The famous Gay\u0101-m\u0101h\u0101tmya or the greatness of the sacred city of Gay\u0101 finds mention in this K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da. Interestingly, the science of Gemmology, which the Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a links to sage Agastya, is also elaborately mentioned in this K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da. The origin of gems, testing of gems, the various blemishes that may be found in gems, and even the pricing of gems has been dealt with in elaborate. Twelve gems are dealt with, in detail; and each gem elicits a chapter of its own. Yet another curious feature in the Pur\u0101\u1e47a is the elaboration of s\u0101mudrik\u0101-lak\u1e63a\u1e47a in two separate chapters; one concentrating on that of men and the other on women. S\u0101mudrik\u0101-lak\u1e63a\u1e47a may be described as the ideal (bodily) features of a man and woman and informs many classical Sanskrit texts. This feature of the Pur\u0101\u1e47a is unique to the Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a and does not find mention in other Pur\u0101\u1e47as. Dharma\u015b\u0101stra forms the basis of several chapters in the P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da with the duties of the various classes and orders of men, those of kings, and those of servants elaborated. The methodology of raising sacrificial altars (V\u0101stu\u015b\u0101stra) is explained in specific chapters of the treatise. Astronomy and astrology find mention in other chapters, in which the movements of the celestial bodies and their effects on society are elaborated. An entire section of the P\u016brva-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da, called \u2018Dhanvantari-sa\u1e43hit\u0101\u2019, is dedicated to diagnostics and the description of diseases and their cures. About fifty medical conditions are dealt with in detail, including what may popularly have been thought to be modern conditions; for instance, syphilis3. In addition, the Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a has a chapter that is dedicated to the treatment of illnesses in quadrupeds. 3 The first modern case of the disease is said to have been recorded in the fourteenth century. The case was recorded in France and is believed to have migrated from Spain. The Uttara-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da or the Preta-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da begins with the description of the rites of cremation and the journey of a soul after death. The entire K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da elaborates on the various rituals connected with obsequies, the nature of sin, the nature of religious merit that accompanies a soul on its journey afterlife, the harrowing scenes of the various netherworlds, affairs in the case of the various kinds of death (natural and unnatural), affairs in the case of various times of death (at birth, during childhood, and so on), the suffering of a soul after death, and rebirth. The Pur\u0101\u1e47a draws to a close with the mok\u1e63a-K\u0101\u1e47\u1e0da that surprisingly discusses the nature of the various embodiments of the Supreme as the various Gods and not the nature of salvation. In a nutshell, the Garu\u1e0da-pur\u0101\u1e47a is one of the most interesting Pur\u0101\u1e47as for the sheer variety of topics it sheds lights on.