Categories: Hindu Scripture

Markandeya Purana:The Inclusive Scripture of Hindu Philosophy

The Markandeya Purana, an ancient Hindu scripture, stands as a treasure trove of wisdom and spirituality. This Purana, named after the sage Markandeya, offers profound insights into Hindu mythology and philosophy. Unlike many other Puranas, it refrains from promoting a specific deity, making it a unique and inclusive text. Notably, it houses the Devi Mahatmya, an ancient treatise venerating the Goddess as the Supreme Creator. Within its 137 chapters, it delves into a wide array of topics, blending socio-cultural insights with metaphysical wisdom, making it a revered and diverse source of ancient knowledge.

Devi Mahatmya

Content of the Markandeya Purana

The Markandeya Purana is a sacred text with 137 chapters. It begins with Jaimini, the founder of Mimamsa, seeking answers to questions left unanswered by the Mahabharata. Sage Markandeya, in response, directs Jaimini to wise birds living in the Vindhya range. These birds, in chapters 4 to 45, offer insightful answers that intertwine moral teachings with mythology, Karma, Samsara, Dharma, and verses from the Mahabharata and Gautama Dharmasutras.

The text delves into Yoga philosophy from chapters 39 to 43, emphasizing its role in self-knowledge and liberation (Moksha) while addressing past Karma. Dattatreya‘s portrayal and teachings in the Markandeya Purana primarily focus on Jnana yoga within the framework of Advaita Vedanta, emphasizing non-dualism.

The Markandeya Purana, alongside other Puranas like Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, Narada Purana, and Kurma Purana underscores the principles of Advaita (non-dualism), likely predating Adi Shankara‘s time.

As the text progresses, it shifts its style. The later chapters feature conversations between the birds and sage Markandeya, while the sage himself takes the lead in chapters 45-80 and 94-137. This stylistic transition is believed to reflect the older core of the Purana, covering genealogy, manvantaras, geography, and chapters dedicated to the glorification of the Sun god, Surya.

Devi Mahatmya

The Devi Mahatmya, often known as the “Glorification of the Goddess,” is a revered text found in the Markandeya Purana, spanning chapters 81 to 93. This sacred scripture holds a special place in the hearts of those who worship Durga or Chandi as the embodiment of Shakti, the divine feminine power. It is also referred to as Saptasati or Chandi-mahatmya and is widely cherished in eastern regions of India and Bangladesh.

The Devi Mahatmya commences with the tale of King Suratha, who faced defeat in battle and was cast into exile, alongside Samadhi, a merchant abandoned by his family due to his wealth. Fate brings them together in the forest, where they realize a shared concern for the well-being of those who had rejected them. Perplexed by this compassion, they seek answers from sage Medhas. The sage enlightens them by drawing a parallel to nature, highlighting how even hungry birds selflessly feed their hungry offspring. This, he explains, is the profound influence of the Goddess – she nurtures attachments while also facilitating liberation. Intrigued by these insights, the two men embark on a quest to deepen their understanding of this divine feminine force, as the Devi Mahatmya unfolds its theological and philosophical teachings centered around the Goddess.

Socio-cultural Content

The Markandeya Purana, a rich ancient Indian text, delves into a captivating array of subjects, spanning society, religion, and mythology. Its chapters serve as a treasure trove of knowledge, offering insights into Family, Marriage, Social Life, Dress, Food, Customs, Ceremonies, Weights And Measures, Social Conventions, Position Of Women, Geography, Flora And Fauna, all of which held significant importance in the bygone era. Moreover, the Purana beautifully weaves together the tapestry of Mythology and Theology, enriching our understanding of ancient Indian society.

Wendy Doniger’s analysis sheds light on how the Markandeya Purana challenges prevalent notions about medieval Indian society in the 1st millennium. Notably, within chapters 10 and 11, the text explores its unique theory of embryo development, emphasizing the vital role of women in nurturing and ensuring the well-being of a growing fetus. This profound revelation underscores the Purana’s timeless relevance, offering a deeper appreciation of the intricate web of beliefs and knowledge woven into its pages.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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