The Kurma Purana is one of the most important religious texts in Hinduism.
What makes this Purana unique is that Vishnu himself is the narrator. It mentions the origin of universe, the birth of a Brahamana and the incarnation of Vishnu.
Vishnu, in his Kurma Avatar (tortoise), had first preached this Purana to Sage Narada who then conveyed this to others. The first sage to receive details of this Purana was Sutji who in turn narrated it to other sages.
The Purana has details on almost all facets of life and philosophy. When it was narrated by Vishnu, it had four Samhitis or parts- Bramha Samhita, Bhagawati Samhita, Gauri Samhita and Vaishnavi Samhita. Unfortunately, except the Brahma or Brahmi Samhita none of the other three samhitas are available. As of nowm this Purana comprises of 18,000 slokas contained in 99 chapters.
The Brahma Samhitha can again be divided into parts-Purva and Uttara bhags. The Purva contains 53 chapters and the Uttara 46.
The Purana commences with the glory of Vishnu and talks of his incarnation as Kurma and in the Maya form of Lakshmi.
The section on Purva deals with aspects as varied as the story of Indradyumna, Kurma Purana itself, descriptions of Varnashram and sequence of these ashramas, origin of geo-sphere, description of various incarnations, preaching of the gods, the four yugas, Manu, destruction of Daksh’s yagya, Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu, Vamana, Rama and Krishna avatara , the Ikshvaku clan and Pururava clans and surprisingly Varanasi, Prayag and Yamuna and their holiness and linga.
The Uttara consists of daily rituals, duties of a celibate, drinking wine and how to expiate it, holiness of different pilgrim centres, appearance of Rudra avatara, metaphysics, eating edible and non-edible articles, dining and duties of a person in Vanaprastha.
This Purana gives us details about types of fasting to be done in case of committing sin. Each sin can be overcome by a particular fasting.
Most of the Puranas mention the different avatars of Vishnu. It is only the Kurma Purana that mentions the different avatars of Shiva.
The different avatars of Shiva are as follows: Shveta, Sutara, Madana, Suhotra, Kankana, Lokakshi, Jaigishavya, Dadhivaha,Rishabha, Bhrigu, Ugra, Atri, Vali, Goutama, Vedashirsha, Gokarna, Shikhandaka, Jatamali, Attahasa, Daruka, Langali, Mahavama, Muni, Shuli, Pindamunishvara, Sahishnu, Somasharma and Nakulishvara