Narratives concerning Vishnu tend to reflect, in contrast, his status as the cosmic maintainer of dharma. Some of the best-known of these narratives are the myths having to do with Vishnu's avataras, the forms he takes to come down to the human realm and restore cosmic and social order. The many, many myths and stories having to do with Krishna are among the most popular and oft-repeated sacred narratives in the Hindu world. Particularly important are the devotional stories and songs in the bhakti tradition that narrate the relationship between Krishna and his human consort, Radha, in the sacred forest of Vrindavana.
The great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are often seen as Vaishnava texts, although they contain many myths and rituals oriented to Shiva and the goddesses as well. For many Hindus, the stories and myths in these texts represent the most sacred of all narratives, because they describe the activities of the gods in the human realm. On one level, these are simply great stories. They are told and retold, enacted, sung, and, in the modern realm, filmed. They are also great myths, however, sacred narratives that unveil profound truths, present moral and ethical guidance, and articulate the formation and order of the cosmos.
|Three principal sects of Hinduism|
|Sect||Supreme Being||Name of the followers||Where sect is most widespread||Texts|
|Vaishnavism||Vishnu (or his avatars: Rama and Krishna)||Vaishnavas||India||Upanishads
|Saktism||Shakti (or Devi), the Divine Mother||Shaktas||India||Puranas
For many Hindus, the most sacred narratives are those having a much more local scope. Some of these narratives are contained within the Puranas, a huge collection of diverse religious texts. Many of the Puranas contain stories and myths that are linked to particular places, such as mountains or temples, as well as narratives that have pan-Indian resonance. The Puranas also contain variations of myths found elsewhere. Virtually all of the pan-Indian gods and goddesses appear in the Puranas.
|Division of Purana texts
(various divisions and numbers of texts are possible)
|The Mahapuranas (most important puranas)|
|The Upapuranas: secondary texts (no official list, but include the following)
Sanat-kumara, Narasimha, Brihan-naradiya, Siva-rahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavata, Ganesha, Mudgala, and Hamsa
|The Sthala Puranas: deal with traditions about temples and shrines|
|The Kula Puranas: deal with the origins of various castes|
|Jain and Buddhist Puranas|