The Ganesha Purana (Sanskrit:गणेश पुराणम्; ) is a Hindu religious text dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesha (). It is an that includes many stories and ritualistic elements relating to Ganesha. The Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana are core scriptures for devotees of Ganesha, known as Ganapatyas (). These are the only two Purana that are exclusively dedicated to Ganesha.
The Ganesha Purana asserts its own status as one of the eighteen upapuranas in its opening lines (I.1.8-9):
"There are, however, eighteen minor such as the , the Nārada, the , etc. Amongst these, firstly I am going to recite the which is rarely heard, especially by someone in the world of mortals."These lines indicate that the authors sought to ensure the status of this work as an , a category whose membership was not fully codified at that time.
Thapan (pp. 20-21) believes that the epithet Ganesha as a widely-used name for this deity appears to have been popularized by the Ganesha Purana, which is associated with the region of modern Maharashtra Vananasi, Karnataka, and perhaps some parts of Andhra Pradesh. Today the epithet Ganapati is popular in South India while Ganesha is more frequently used in Maharashtra and North India.
During the medieval period the followers of Ganesha, known the Ganapatyas, formed an independent religious movement dedicated to the worship of Ganesha as their preeminent deity. They considered Ganesha to be the qualitative form of the ultimate unqualified Brahman. The Ganesha Purana is pervaded with this concept and interprets well-known Puranic stories in new ways to emphasize the importance of Ganesha and to explain his relationships with other divinities.
The Purana specifies many methods of worship, key beliefs, and philosophical positions of the Ganapatya sect. The contents of the Ganesha Purana are difficult to summarize because they include a variety of stories and devotional material. The general purpose of the work can be inferred from this set of questions that Vyāsa puts to Brahmā in the tenth chapter of the first Book (I.10.29-30 in Bailey's English edition):
"Who is this Ganesha? What is his real appearance (Sanskrit:स्वरूप; ; also spelled svarupa) and how can it be known? To whom has he previously been kindly disposed, four-faced god? How many are his incarnations and what deeds did they perform? Who previously worshipped him and in respect of what deed was he called to mind?"
The last chapter of the first book summarizes the lengthy narratives by saying:
"I have narrated the worship (Sanskrit:उपासना; ; also spelled upasana) of Ganesha to you in the course of a sequence of many tales. (I.92.53)
These statements confirm the role that this Purana plays in establishing the relationship between Ganesha and his followers through the use of traditional Puranic stories and new material. This intends to emphasize the importance of Ganesha as a primary deity.
A brief review of references to Ganesha in various Puranas appears in Courtright
Thapan reviews different views on dating and states her own judgement that it appears likely that the core of the Ganesha Purana come into existence around the 12th and 13th centuries, being subject to interpolations during the succeeding ages. Thapan notes that these Puranas, like other Puranas, developed over a period of time as multi-layered works.
Lawrence W. Preston considers that the period AD 1100-1400 is the most reasonable date for the Ganesha Purana because that period agrees with the apparent age of the sacred sites mentioned by it. Hazra also dates the Ganesha Purana between AD 1100-1400. Farquhar dates it between AD 900-1350.
Krishan says that a critical examination of the Ganesha Gita shows that ninety percent of its stanzas are, with slight modifications, taken from the Bhagavad Gita. Their topics are the same: karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. However, Ganesha replaces Krishna in the divine role. In II.138.22 Ganesha asserts claims similar to those made by Krishna in BG 4.6-8: I create the world, maintain it and destroy it again; I am Mahavishnu, Sadashiva, and Mahashakti, and Aryaman, the sun. In II.140.9-11 he says that he is unborn (aja), the life principle in all beings (bhūtātmā), beginningless (anādi), and lord (īśvara). Like Krishna, whenever there is an increase of unrighteousness (adharma) and decline of righteousness (dharma) he takes birth to protect the good and destroy the wicked.
These four are not the same as the eight incarnations of Ganesha that are described in the Mudgala Purana.
Greg M. Bailey, who has published a scholarly review and translation into English of the first portion of the Ganesha Purana, notes that there are hundreds of manuscripts for this Purana in libraries in India, and that it was clearly very popular from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Bailey edition does not provide the Sanskrit text.
An edition of the Ganesha Purana was published in two parts by the at Moregaon, Maharashtra (the site of one of the temples). The Upasanakhanda was published in 1979 and the Kridakhanda was published in 1985. This is the edition that Thapan cites in her book on the development of the Ganapatyas ().
The Ganesha Purana was published three times before the edition of the :
One well-known edition that is currently obtainable is the 1993 full-length reprint edition of the 1892 edition, providing the full Sanskrit text in Devanagari script. The 1993 reprint edition edited by Ram Karan Sharma is not mentioned in Bailey's bibliography. Spot comparisons of line numbering and content show some variations between the Bailey and Sharma editions.
Thapan notes (p. 33) that the Ganesha Purana was translated into Tamil in the eighteenth century and the Tamil version is referred to as the .