"This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43)
The timeless wisdom of India is expressed in the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit texts that touch upon all fields of human knowledge. Originally preserved through oral tradition, the Vedas were first put into writing five thousand years ago by Srila Vyasadeva, the "literary incarnation of God." After compiling the Vedas, Vyasadeva set forth their essence in the aphorisms known as Vedanta-sutras. Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) is Vyasadeva's commentary on his own Vedanta-sutras. It was written in the maturity of his spiritual life under the direction of Narada Muni, his spiritual master. Referred to as "the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic literature," Srimad-Bhagavatam is the most complete and authoritative exposition of Vedic knowledge.
After compiling the Bhagavatam, Vyasa imparted the synopsis of it to his son, the sage Sukadeva Gosvami. Sukadeva Gosvami subsequently recited the entire Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit in an assembly of learned saints on the bank of the Ganges at Hastinapura (now Delhi). Maharaja Pariksit was the emperor of the world and was a great rajarsi (saintly king). Having received a warning that he would die within a week, he renounced his entire kingdom and retired to the bank of the Ganges to fast until death and receive spiritual enlightenment. The Bhagavatam begins with Emperor Pariksit's sober inquiry to Sukadeva Gosvami: "You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die. Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do. Please explain all this to me."
Sukadeva Gosvami's answer to this question, and numerous other questions posed by Maharaja Pariksit, concerning everything from the nature of the self to the origin of the universe, held the assembled sages in rapt attention continuously for the seven days leading up to the king's death. The sage Suta Gosvami, who was present in that assembly when Sukadeva Gosvami first recited Srimad-Bhagavatam, later repeated the Bhagavatam before a gathering of sages in the forest of Naimisaranya. Those sages, concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people in general, had gathered to perform a long, continuous chain of sacrifices to counteract the degrading influence of the incipient age of Kali. In response to the sages' request that he speak the essence of Vedic wisdom, Suta Gosvami repeated from memory the entire eighteen thousand verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam, as spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit.
The reader to Srimad-Bhagavatam hears Suta Gosvami relate the questions of Maharaja Pariksit and the answers of Sukadeva Gosvami. Also, Suta Gosvami sometimes responds directly to the questions put by Saunaka Rsi, the spokesman for the sages gathered at Naimisaranya. One therefore simultaneously hears two dialogues: one between Maharaja Pariksit and Sukadeva Gosvami on the bank of the Ganges, and another at Naimisaranya between Suta Gosvami and the sages at Naimisaranya forest, headed by Saunaka Rsi. Furthermore, while instructing King Pariksit, Sukadeva Gosvami often related historical episodes and gives accounts of lengthy philosophical discussions between such great souls as Narada Muni and Vaasudeva. With the understanding of the history of the Bhagavatam, the reader will easily be able to follow its intermingling of dialogues and events from various sources. Since philosophical wisdom, not chronological order, is most important in the text, one need only be attentive to the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam to appreciate fully its profound message.
The translators of this edition compare the Bhagavatam to sugar candy - wherever you taste it, you will find it equally sweet and relishable. Therefore, to taste the sweetness of the Bhagavatam, one may begin by reading any of its volumes. After such an introductory taste, however, the serious reader is best advised to go back to the First Canto and then proceed through the Bhagavatam, canto after canto, in its natural order.
This edition of the Bhagavatam is the first complete English translation of this important text with an elaborate commentary, and it is the first widely available to the English-speaking public. The first twelve volumes (Canto One through Canto Ten, Part One) are the product of the scholarly and devotional effort of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the world's most distinguished teacher of Indian religious and philosophical thought. His consummate Sanskrit scholarship and intimate familiarity with Vedic culture and thought as well as the modern way of life combine to reveal to the West a magnificent exposition of this important classic. After the departure of Srila Prabhupada from this world, in 1977, his monumental work of translating and annotating Srimad-Bhagavatam has been continued by his disciples Hridayananda dasa Gosvami and Gopiparanadhana dasa.
Readers will find this work of value for many reasons. For those interested in the classical roots of Indian civilization, it serves as a vast reservoir of detailed information on virtually every one of its aspects. For students of comparative philosophy and religion, the Bhagavatam offers a penetrating view into the meaning of India's profound spiritual heritage. To sociologists and anthropologists, the Bhagavatam reveals the practical workings of a peaceful and scientifically organized Vedic culture, whose institutions were integrated on the basis of a highly developed spiritual world view. Students of literature will discover the Bhagavatam to be a master piece of majestic poetry. For students of psychology, the text provides important perspectives on the nature of consciousness, human behavior and the philosophical study of identity. Finally, to those seeking spiritual insight, the Bhagavatam offers simple and practical guidance for attainment of the highest self-knowledge and realization of the Absolute Truth. The entire multivolume text, presented by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, promises to occupy a significant place in the intellectual, cultural and spiritual life of modern man for a long time to come.