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The Skanda Purāṇa is the largest Mahāpurāṇa, a genre of eighteen Hindu religious texts. The text is devoted mainly to the lilas of Kartikeya, a son of Shiva and Parvati, who is also known as Skanda. It also contains a number of legends about Shiva, and the holy places associated with him. This Mahāpurāṇa was recited by the sage Vyasa, and is available in distinct parts, sometimes fragmented too.
Date of composition
There are a number of texts and manuscripts that bear the title Skanda Purana. Some of these texts have little in common except the name. The original text has accrued several additions, resulting in several different versions. It is, therefore, very difficult to establish an exact date of composition for the Skanda Purana.
Haraprasad Shastri discovered an old manuscript of Skanda Purana in Nepal, written in Gupta script. He and Cecil Bendall dated the manuscript to 7th century CE, on paleographic grounds. This suggests that the original text existed before this time. R. Adriaensen, H.Bakker, and H. Isaacson (1998) dated the earliest extant manuscript of Skanda Purana to 810 CE, and suggested that the earliest versions of the text were composed in 6th century CE.
Stylistically, the Skanda Purana is related to the Mahabharata, and it appears that its composers borrowed from the Mahabharata. The two texts employ similar stock phrases and compounds that are not found in the Ramayana. Some of the mythology mentioned in the present version of the Skanda Purana is undoubtedly post-Gupta period, consistent with the medieval South India. This indicates that several additions were made to the original text over the next few centuries. The Kashi Khanda, for example, acquired its present form around the mid-13th century CE. The latest part of the text might have been composed in as late as 15th century CE.
Traditionally, the whole corpus of texts which are considered as part of the Skanda Purana is grouped in two ways. According to a tradition, these are grouped in six saṁhitās, each of which consists of several khaṇḍas. According to another tradition, these are grouped in seven khaṇḍas. The currently available printed editions of this text are published by the Bangabasi Press, Calcutta, the Shri Venkateshvara Press, Bombay (1910) and the N.K. Press, Lucknow and all these editions include seven khaṇḍas (parts): Maheśvara, Viṣṇu or Vaiṣṇava, Brahma, Kāśī, Āvantya, Nāgara and Prabhāsa. In 1999–2003, an English translation of this text was published by the Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi in 20 volumes. This translation is also based on a text divided into seven khaṇḍas.
The seven khandas
The Maheśvara Khaṇḍa consists of three sections:
- the Kedāra Khaṇḍa (35 chapters)
- the Kaumārikā Khaṇḍa or Kumārikā Khaṇḍa (66 chapters) and
- the Arunācala Khaṇḍa or Arunācala Māhātmya, further divided into two parts:
- Pūrvārdha (13 chapters) and
- Uttarārdha (24 chapters)
The Viṣṇu Khaṇḍa or Vaiṣṇava Khaṇḍa consists of nine sections:
- Veṅkaṭācalamāhātmya (40 chapters)
- Puruṣottamakṣetramāhātmya (49 chapters)
- Badarikāśramamāhātmya (8 chapters)
- Kārttikamāsamāhātmya (36 chapters)
- Mārgaśirṣamāsamāhātmya 17 chapters)
- Bhāgavatamāhātmya (4 chapters)
- Vaiśākhamāsamāhātmya (25 chapters)
- Ayodhyāmāhātmya (10 chapters) and
- Vāsudevamāhātmya (32 chapters)
The Brahma Khaṇḍa has three sections:
- Setumāhātmya (52 chapters)
- Dharmāraṇya Khaṇḍa (40 chapters) and
- Uttara Khaṇḍa or Brahmottara Khaṇḍa (22 chapters)
The Kāśī Khaṇḍa is divided into two parts:
- Pūrvārdha (50 chapters) and
- Uttarārdha (50 chapters)
The Āvantya Khaṇḍa consists of:
- Avantikṣetramāhātmya (71 chapters)
- Caturaśītiliṅgamāhātmya (84 chapters) and
- Revā Khaṇḍa (232 chapters)
The Nāgara Khaṇḍa (279 chapters) consists of Tirthamāhātmya.
The Prabhāsa Khaṇḍa (491 chapters) consists of:
- Prabhāsakṣetramāhātmya (365 chapters)
- Vastrāpathakṣetramāhātmya (19 chapters)
- Arvuda Khaṇḍa (63 chapters) and
- Dvārakāmāhātmya (44 chapters)
The six samhitas
The second type of division of the Skanda Purana is found in some texts like Hālasyamāhātmya of the Agastya Saṁhitā or the Śaṁkarī Saṁhitā, Sambhava Kāṇḍa of the Śaṁkarī Saṁhitā, Śivamāhātmya Khaṇḍa of the Sūta Saṁhitā and Kālikā Khaṇḍa of the Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā. According to these texts, the Skanda Purana consists of six saṁhitās (sections):
- the Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā
- the Sūta Saṁhitā
- the Śaṁkarī Saṁhitā
- the Vaiṣṇavī Saṁhitā
- the Brāhmī Saṁhitā and
- the Saura Saṁhitā
The manuscripts of the Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā, the Śaṁkarī Saṁhitā, the Sūta Saṁhitā and the Saura Saṁhitā are extant. A manuscript of a commentary on the Sūta Saṁhitā by Madhavācārya is also available.
The other texts
The manuscripts of several other texts which claim to be part of the Skanda Purāṇa are found partially or wholly. Some of the notable texts amongst these are: Himavat Khaṇḍa which contains Nepālamāhātmya (30 chapters), Kanakādri Khaṇḍa, Bhīma Khaṇḍa, Śivarahasya Khaṇḍa, Sahyādri Khaṇḍa, Ayodhyā Khaṇḍa, Mathurā Khaṇḍa and Pātāla Khaṇḍa.
The popular narratives
Some of the popular narratives described in the Skanda Purana are:
- The yajña (sacrifice) of Prajapati Daksha
- The churning of the ocean (Samudra manthan) and the emergence of Amrita (Ambrosia)
- The story of the demon Tarakasura
- The birth of Goddess Parvati and her marriage to Lord Shiva
- The birth of Kartikeya
- The killing of the demon Tarakasura by Kartikeya
- The killing of Pralambasura
- The queries of Karamdham
- The killing of the demons Shumbh, Nishimbh and Mahishasura
- An account of Vishnukund
- The story of Padmavati
- A description of various holy places associated with Shiva and Skanda
- The story of Trishanku and sage Vishvamitra
- A description of Narakas (Hell)
- A description of Jyotirlingas – the important holy shrines associated with Lord Shiva.
- A description of Navadurgas
- Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare (1996). Studies in Skanda Purāṇa. Published by Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1260-3
- Richard D. Mann (2011). The Rise of Mahāsena. BRILL. p. 187. ISBN 9789004218864.
- Hans Bakker (2004). "The Structure of the Varanasimahatmya in Skandapurana 26-31". Origin and Growth of the Purāṇic Text Corpus. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 2. ISBN 9788120820494.
- Stephen Jacobs (2015). The Art of Living Foundation. Ashgate. p. 139. ISBN 9781472412683.
- Fred W. Clothey (1978). The Many Faces of Murukan̲. Walter de Gruyter. p. 224. ISBN 9789027976321.
- Jonathan P. Parry (1994). Death in Banaras. Cambridge University Press. p. 272. ISBN 9780521466257.
- Shastri, P. (1995) Introduction to the Puranas, New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, pp.118–20
- Mani, Vettam. Puranic Encyclopedia. 1st English ed. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
- G. V. Tagare, Dr. The Skanda-Purana (23 Vols.), Motilal Banarsidass. 2007.
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- original Sanskrit text
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- Skanda Purāṇa 1–2[dubious ]
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