Eighteen Maha Puranas
Puranas with Lord Vishnu as the Predominating Deity (Sattva Guna)
1) Vishnu Purana – 23,000 verses.
Stories of various devotees; a description of varnasrama; the six angas of the Veda; a description of the age of Kali; description of Sveta-Varaha Kalpa, Vishnu dharmotara.
2) Naradiya Purana – 25,000 verses.
This Purana contains a synopsis of everything; it describes Jagannatha Puri, Dwaraka, Badrinatha, etc.
3) Padma Purana – 55,000 verses.
Contains the glory of Srimad-Bhagavatam; the stories of Rama, Jagannatha, Matsya, Ekadasi, Bhrgu, etc.
4) Garuda Purana – 19,000 verses.
Subject of Bhagavad-gita; reincarnation; visnu-sahasra-nama; description of Tarsya Kalpa.
5) Varaha Purana – 24,000 verses.
Describes different vratas; Lord Vishnu’s glories.
6) Bhagavata Purana – 18,000 verses. (included by some in the mode of goodness)
Puranas with Lord Brahma as the Predominating Deity (Rajo Guna):
7) Brahmanda Purana – 12,000 verses.
Describes the vedangas; describes the Adi Kalpa.
8) Brahmavaivarta Purana – 18,000 verses.
Contains the glories and pastimes of Radha and Krishna.
9) Markandeya Purana – 9,000 verses.
Stories of Rama and Krishna.
10) Bhavisya Purana – 14,500 verses.
Contains the glories of devotional service; prediction of Lord Chaitanya.
11) Vamana Purana – 10,000 verses.
Contains the story of Lord Trivikrama.
12) Brahma Purana – 10,000 verses.
Puranas with Lord Shiva as the Predominating Deity (Tamo Guna):
13) Matsya Purana – 14,000 verses.
Temple construction; describes Vamana and Varaha Kalpas.
14) Kurma Purana – 17,000 verses.
Contains the conversation between Krishna and the Sun-god (mentioned in Bhagavad-gita); Danvantari; Describes the Lakshmi Kalpa.
15) Linga Purana – 10,000 verses.
Contains the glory of Lord Nrismhadeva;
Janardhana; the story of Ambarisa; the glories of Gayatri.
16) Shiva Purana – 24,000 verses.
17) Skanda Purana – 81,000 verses.
18) Agni Purana – 15,400 verses.
Contains the description of Salagrama; Describes the Isana Kalpa.
All these Puranas describe five subjects. The Amarkhosa describes the Puranas as follows:
sargas ca pratisarga ca
vamsa manvantarani ca
vamsanu caritam capi
puranam panca laksanam
A Purana describes:
1) sarga (creation)
2) pratisarga (recreation)
3) vamsa (history of the sages)
4) manvantara (periods of Manu)
5) vamsanucarita (geneology of kings)
1. BRAHMA PURANA
Contains two parts- Purva Bhaag and Uttar Bhaag. Purva Bhaag contains tales of creation, description of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.
Uttar Bhaag contains a detailed description of Purshottam Tirtha prominent among all the holy places.
2. PADMA PURANA
Contains five parts. In the first part, sage Pulastya explains the essence of religion to Bheeshma. The second part contains a description of the earth. Third part contains tales of creation as well as geographical description of India. Fourth part describes the life of Lord Rama. In the fifth part, essential knowledge of religion has been discussed in dialogue style between Lord Shiva and Parvati.
3. VISHNU PURANA
Also contains five parts. First part narrates about the creation of the universe, Pralay and churning of the sea. Second part contains geographical description of earth divided into seven islands. Third part describes about the origin of Buddhism. Fourth part contains a description about the populating of the earth from the beginning. Fifth part is entirely devoted to the life and plays of Lord Krishna.
4. SKANDA PURANA
It is the largest Purana. It is mainly devoted to Kartikeya (Skanda), the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Besides, it contains a lot of tales related to Lord Shiv and many holy places of pilgrimage devoted prominently to Shiv.
5. SHIV MAHAPURANA
It is also a huge compilation of tales devoted primarily to the life and plays of Lord Shiva. It is divided into seven Samhitas, which together contain more than twenty-four thousand stanzas.
6. VAMANA PURANA
This Purana is entirely devoted to Vaman avtaar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu narrated in dialogue style between the sage Pulastya and Narad.
7. MAARKANDEYA PURANA
Markandeya Purana begins with a question put forth by sage Jaimini. In reply to this question, sage Markandeya narrates what constitutes the subject matter of this Purana.
8. VARAHA PURANA
It contains the tale of rescue of the earth by ‘Varaha’ avtaar (boar incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.
9. BRAHMA VAIVAT PURANA
This Purana contains four parts. First part contains the tale of creation. Second part contains tales related to goddesses. Third part contains tales related to Lord Ganesh. In the fourth part, tales related to the life and plays of Lord Krishna have been given.
10. AGNI PURANA
This Purana is devoted to Agni. It is presented in preaching style by Agni to sage Vashishta. It contains the description of various incarnations of God, Lord Rama and Krishna as well as of the earth and stars.
11. BHAVISHYA PURANA
This Purana contains five Parvas (parts). The first part contains description of creation. Second, third and fourth parts contain detailed description of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Surya respectively. In the fifth part, description of heaven has been given.
12. KURMA PURANA
Lord Himself has narrated this Purana in Kurma (tortoise) incarnation to Narad. Narad narrated it to Sutaji who in his term narrated it to an assembly of great sages.
13. MATSYA PURANA
Tales of Lord’s fish incarnation and preservation of Manu and the seeds of all life during Pralay by Matsya avtaar is the main theme of this Purana.
14. GARUDA PURANA
In Garuda Purana, Lord Vishnu preaches his vehicle, Garuda about the subtleties of religion and life. Besides, trivial tales related to religion and moral, this Purana also contains description of diamond like jewels and the ways to identify best kind of jewels.
15. BRAHMAAND PURANA
It is the last of the eighteen Puranas. Presently it is available in different pieces and no connection seems to exist between them. Once, it had contained Aadhyatma Ramayana.
16. SHRIMAD BHAGWAT PURANA
Because of its beautiful presentation style, Shrimad Bhagwat Purana has a high rank in Sanskrit literature. It contains tales related to various incarnations of Lord Vishnu and mainly deals with the life and plays of Lord Krishna.
17. LINGA PURANA
Preaching about the glory of Lord Shiva and Linga Puja is the main objective of this Purana. In two parts, this Purana contains tales related to the creation of the universe, origin of Linga, and of all the Vedas, Brahma, Vishnu etc. from this Linga.
18. NARAD PURANA
It is a Vaishnav Purana presented in a style of dialogue between Narad and Sanat kumar. This Purana contains detailed description of major places of pilgrimage.
A very Good website for learning all Puraans of Sanatan sanskruti.