The religious practices of the modern Hindus depend largely upon the information and instruction given by the paurāṇic literature. This literature has grown voluminously over several centuries.
Hindu tradition recognises 18 mahā-purāṇas or major purāṇas and 18 upa-purāṇas or subsidiary ones. The Brahma-purāṇa (also spelt as Brāhmapurāṇa) is invariably placed at the head of the list of the major purāṇas. It is sometimes called the Ādipurāṇa or the Ādibrahma-purāṇa. It may have attained its present form by the 10th to the 12th century A.D. It gets its name mainly due to the fact that Brahmā narrates it, even though Vyāsa is the narrator in the later part. It may have originated in the Godāvarī basin.
The Brahmapurāṇa, as available in print now, has 13,783 verses, spread over 245 chapters.
The contents, which deal with various aspects of Hindu religion may be presented briefly as follows: creation of the world and the living beings, histories of various kings, description of the earth with its seven islands, hells of various types, Dakṣa’s sacrifice and its destruction by Śiva, detailed descriptions of various places of pilgrimage like Ekāmra, Avantī and Puruṣottamakṣetra (Purī), origin of the river Gaṅgā, story of Rāvaṇa, story of the king Hariścandra, story of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in detail, various avatāras or incarnations of Viṣṇu, performance of śrāddhas or obsequial rites, spiritual wisdom contained in Sāṅkhya and Yoga darśanas, and a eulogy of listening to the whole purāṇa.
Its treatment of the places of pilgrimage is fairly exhaustive and its verses on this subject have been extensively quoted by the writers on the dharmaśāstras.
See also PURĀṆAS.