my opinion, the Sthala Puranas not only enables us to have an
insight into history but also enrich our knowledge of local
culture and local customs. It seems to me that if they are read
together in a connected manner they will throe more light on our
history than even the 18 major Puranas and Upapuranas. In fact,
they fill the gaps in the major Puranas.
legends do help in a proper understanding of history. For
instance, educated people today do not believe that Sankara
Bhagavatpada visited any of the temples or that he brought the
puja performed there under a certain system. "The great
non-dualist that he was and exponent of the path of jnana, "
they argue, "he would not have concerned himself with
devotion, temple worship, the Agasmas, and the like. " But
let us examine the stories that tell us that he gave new life to
certain temples, temples that are thousand miles or more apart.
Their connection with the Acharya is confirmed from such stories
and local legends. The priest who conducts the puja in
Badrinath(a) in the Himalaya is a Namputiri Brahmin from Kerala
-he is called "Rawal". Here, in Madras, the puja at the
Tripurasundari temple at Tiruvorriyur is also by a Namputiri.
This is proof of the oral tradition according to which the
Acharya was a Namputiri who engaged fellow Namputiris to conduct
puja in the temples he revived.
teaching us lessons in dharma also the Sthala Puranas are in no
way inferior to the major Puranas. It is in fact these local
Puranas which are a few hundred in number that throw light on the
finer points of dharma. Unfortunately, even the religious-minded
among the educated class today think poorly of them. But, until
recently, these Puranas were treated with respect by learned men
in Tamil Nadu. Distinguished Tamil scholars have written Puranas
after those existing in the name of great sages and also a number
of Sthala Puranas. There are works in Tamil describing the
importance and significance of places and temples - they are
known variously as Sthala Puranas, manmiyam, kalambagam, ula,
etc. ("Mahima" means greatness or glory; manmiyam is
its Tamil form. )
literature is divided into the Sangam, Tevaram-Divyaprabandham
and Kambar-Ottakuttar periods. Scholars describe the 16th century
as the period of the Sthala Puranas. The chief authors of such
works are Kamalai Jnanaprakasar and Saiva Ellappa Navalar. We
know the worthiness of Sthala Puranas from the fact that among
their authors are Kacchiyappa Sivachariyar (he composed the Kanda
Puranam), Paranjyoti Muni (he is the author of the Thiruvilayadal
Puranam), Umapati Sivachariyar (a distinguished teacher of
Saivism), Sivaprakasa Svami, the Irattai Pulavars, Antakkavi
Viraraghava Mudaliar, Kottaiyur Sivakkozhundu Desigar, Trikuta
Rasappakavirayar. In recent times there was Mahavidvan
Minaksisundaram Pillai who was the guru of U. V. Svaminatha
Ayyar. He has written a number of Sthala Puranas. We learn from
this that Sthala Puranas have a place of honour in the Tamil
religious tradition and literature.
distinguished Sanskrit scholar and authority on the sastras,
Karungulam Krsna Sastri, has written a Tamil work called
rulers gave their support to Sthala Puranas and their
propagation. More than four and half centuries ago, the Puranas
relating to Pancanadaksetra (Tiruvaiyaru, Tanjavur) was
translated into Tamil. The translator mentions that he undertook
the work as desired by Govinda Diksita who was responsible for
the founding of the Nayaka kingdom of Tanjavur.
"Hindu Dharma" is a book
which contains English translation of certain invaluable and
engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at
various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here