Formalized by the tenth century, the expansive Bhagavata Purana resists easy categorization. While the narrative holds together as a coherent literary work, its language and expression compete with the best of Sanskrit poetry. The text's theological message focuses on devotion to Krishna or Vishnu, and its philosophical outlook is grounded in the classical traditions of Vedanta and Samkhya. No other Purana has inspired so much commentary, imitation, and derivation. The work has grown in vibrancy through centuries of performance, interpretation, worship, and debate and has guided the actions and meditations of elite intellectuals and everyday worshippers alike.
This annotated translation and detailed analysis shows how one text can have such enduring appeal. Key selections from the Bhagavata Purana are faithfully translated, while all remaining sections of the Purana are concisely summarized, providing the reader with a continuous and comprehensive narrative. Detailed endnotes explain unfamiliar concepts and several essays elucidate the rich philosophical and religious debates found in the Sanskrit commentaries. Together with the multidisciplinary readings contained in the companion volume The Bhagavata Purana: Sacred Text and Living Tradition (Columbia, 2013), this book makes a central Hindu masterpiece more accessible to English-speaking audiences and more meaningful to scholars of Hindu literature, philosophy, and religion.