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The scared Puranas have come down to us in the great oral tradition of the rishis, the sages of Bharatavarsha. Once, the peerless Vyasa composed them from ‘ancient material’: ancient for him. Traditionally, a Purana deals with five subjects, called panchalakshana: the primary creation of the universe; secondary creation after periodic destruction; the genesis of the Gods and rishis; great epochs of time, the kalpas, manvantaras, yugas; and the history of some royal dynasties of the earth.

More recently, after BC 4000 until AD 1000, roughly, a lot of other material has grown around the central Purana. These concern rituals for sacrifices, other customs, festivals, caste customs, specifications for temple construction, etcetera. There are eighteen principal surviving Mahapuranas, great Puranas. The Siva Purana is one of these.

They are collections of revelations, in the form of stories, or otherwise, usually narrated to some rishis by a Suta, who heard them from Vyasa, who heard them from Narada, Brahma or another fabulous raconteur, in time out of mind. They have come down, invariably, in Sanskrit couplets.

The Siva Purana is considerably longer than the portions of it I have included in this book. My aim was not to undertake a scholarly translation, of which there are few, but to write as readable a version as I could, without diminishing the spirit and the scope of the original. For example, large sections of the original deal with intricate rituals and other list of all of Siva’s thousand names, with their meanings. I have only touched upon these, which hold little narrative appeal for the ordinary reader.

Also, the sequence of tales in the recorded Purana is often different from mine; but I have retained all the important legends of Siva.

In some sections, I have taken stylistic and fictive liberties: but never changing the meaning and flavour of the original. No doubt, generations of puranikas, in oral tradition, did the same.

The Puranic tradition is mainly lost to those of us that do not know Sanskrit and lack the patience to plough through scholarly translations, many of which tend to dispense with the poetic magic of the originals. These luminous stories are our race’s very soul. The days when we would hear them at our grandmother’s knees are over. We know less than them than our parents did and our children shall know even less that we do. My book seeks to restore the Siva Purana to the English-speaking Indian in some small measure and, hopefully, to preserve it for a time in our consciousness. It also seeks to introduce the non-Indian reader to another, perhaps rare, facet of our heritage. I am aware that an English rendering cannot remotely approach the Sanskrit in depth or resonance:

I pray that I have not trivialised the Purana.

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