The word “Purana” means “old. The Puranas are a group of important Hindu religious texts meant for religious education.
By definition, a Purana must cover five subjects: the creation of the universe; its destruction and recreation; the principal gods and patriarchs; the reigns of the Manus and the history of the Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi kings. However, none of the Puranas match this definition exactly, since none of them covers all five topics. There are eighteen major Puranas, telling us the adventures of the Hindu gods and goddesses. These texts were written about 400 B.C. to about 1,000 AD. The Puranas are closely connected to the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
All the Puranas are strongly sectarian, mainly devoted to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The most celebrated and popular of the Puranas is the Bhagvata Purana. It tells us of the life and deeds of Krishna.
The Puranas were written to popularise the religion of the Vedas. They contain the essence of the Vedas. The aim of the Puranas is to impress on the minds of the masses the teachings of the Vedas and to generate in them devotion to God, through concrete examples, myths, stories, legends, lives of saints, kings and great men, allegories and chronicles of great historical events. The sages made use of these things to illustrate the eternal principles of religion. The Puranas were meant, not for the scholars, but for the ordinary people who could not understand high philosophy and who could not study the Vedas.
These (Maha)Puranas are always said to be eighteen in number, divided into three groups of six, though in fact they are not always counted in the same way. Sometimes there are 20 Puranas depending the way you count.
The (Maha)Puranas are frequently classified according the three aspects of the divine Trimurti.
Brahma Puranas: Brahma Purana, Brahmānda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, markandeya Purana and the Bhavishya Purana.
Vishnu Puranas: Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana,Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana,Vāmana Purana,Kūrma Purana, Matsya Purana, and the Kalki Purana.
Shiva Puranas: Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana and the Vayu Purana.
The people had to life according the laws (Sutras and Shastras) according to each caste.
Dharma sutras and Dharma shastras are law books.
Between 500B.C. and 500 A.D new religious communities and a new social group arose.
The Brahmin priests saw this happening and wrote down behaviour codes in the Dharma sutras and Dharma shastras. These books contained the essentials of law relating to man and his fellows and to man and the state.
Rishi Manu described the four stadia of life and the division of labour in the Shastra of Mani He wrote down the behaviour codes of each caste and of human beings in their social, economic, and religious relations. Not only for each caste but also for the different stages of life in each caste.
The Varna (class/group) is the theoretical system of grouping found in Brahmin traditions and some medieval codes. The Jati system is prevalent in Indian society since historical times.
Varna (= order, category, type, colour and groups the human society into four main types as follows:
The fifth was added later to this system. All others, including foreigners, tribals and nomads, who did not subscribe to the norms of Hindu society were treated as contagious and untouchables.
In origin all the castes were equal. During time birth determined more than one’s qualities. This led to inequality.