Chapter 1

Puranic sources for the study of Viththal.

The traditional approach to the research denigrates the texts that preserve old myths and stories. However, such sources should be considered to understand the belief of the traditional society at different times.
Mahatmya of Pandharpur and the literature of the Marathi saint poets.
There are three extant Puranic style Sanskrit texts about Pandharpur,. All are entitled Panduranga Mahatmya. One of them claims to be part of the Skanda Purana, Another claims to be part of the Padma Purana. The third one claims to belong to the Visnu Purana. The Skanda Prana dates from before the 13th century.

Myths and Mahatmya : The importance of such sources is explained with an example of Mhalasa. One need to refer to the stories and Mahatmya since the historical records and inscription may not shade enough light.

Importance of Sthala Purana : In these sources, the culturally important events, transitions, processes during the period are reflected into it.  It notes the changing idols, and beliefs related to the place and gods related to them.

Viththalbhushana : It is a pamphlet published by Mahamahopadhyaya Karhadkar (1817-1897) quotes from Teerthkhanda of Hemadri. Thus Skaanda mahatmya should be dated before Hemadri.

Existence of Teerthakhanda : When one investigates of the existence of Teerthakhanda of Hemadri, its secondary sources prove its existence. Similarly existence of some of the references from Skanda Purana can be proved from other sources such as Baba Padhye, Pralhadmaharaj Badave, Gopalbodh Malgaonkar (1660-1740), Shridharswami Nazarekar (1658-1733)

Period of Skaanda mahatmya : It can be proved to be old text on the basis of various references from ancient times citing it authentically.

The dates of Pandurangamahatmya from Padma Purana : It was composed two or two – and – half centuries later than the Mahatmya from the Skanda Purana. There is reason to believe that the third Sanskrit Panduranga Mahatmya, the one from the Vishnu Purana must have been composed during this same period.

Evidance of Vaisnavaization in the Panduranga Mahatmya : The Mahatmya from Skanda Purana was composed before Viththal had been completely Vaishnavized.

The name “Panduranga” : It is originally the name of a place. Thus it was described as ‘Pandurang Viththal’ meaning Viththal from a place named Pandurang. Place names like Panduranga kshetra or Paundarika kshetra occur in Mahatmya from both the Skanda and Padma Purana. An inscription of Hoysala (1237C.E.) uses Pandarage as the original name of Pandharpur. Because the name Panduranga indicates whiteness, it ought to refer to Shiva who is as white as camphor.  But in the view of Marathi saint poets Viththal is Gopal Krishna. the cowherd.

Hence it is interesting to search the origin of the Viththal.





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