The Puranas, literally meaning ‘tales of ancient times’, are the richest collection of mythology in the world. Most of them attained their final form around 500 A.D. but they were passed on as an oral tradition since the time of Krishna (c. 1500 B.C.).
There are eighteen major Puranas and a few minor ones. Each is a long book consisting of various stories of the Gods and Goddesses, hymns, an outline of ancient history, cosmology, rules of life, rituals, instructions on spiritual knowledge. Hence the Puranas are like encyclopaedias of religion and culture and contain material of different levels and degrees of difficulty. Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts. They are usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another.