Kurma means tortoise. The Kurma Purana belongs to the eighteen great puranas. This medieval text has survived in many versions, and the number of chapters vary among regional manuscripts. The critical edition of the Kurma Purana has 95 chapters. The extant manuscripts have about 6,000 verses.
Vishnu does not dominate the text, even though it is a work of Vishnuism. It includes legends and a philosophical Gita, among other subjects. In this Gita (teaching poem) are ideas similar to some in the Bhagavad Gita. Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen state that it is difficult to ascertain when, where, why and by whom the Puranas were written:
As they exist today, the Puranas are a stratified literature. Each titled work consists of material that has grown by numerous accretions in successive historical eras. Thus no Purana has a single date of composition. . . . It is as if they were libraries to which new volumes have been continuously added, not necessarily at the end of the shelf, but randomly. (Dimmitt and van Buitenen 1978, 5).
The Naimisa forest that sages stayed in for years on end and got the main Puranas recited by Romaharsana, a disciple of Veda-Vyasa. The forest is in today's Nimsar, some 30 km off Sitapur and perhaps 60 km to the north-west of Lucknow.
Once long ago the gods lost their glory. Vishnu then advised them to churn out nectar from the Ocean of Milk. They used a mountain for a churning-rod, but it began to sink for lack of support. Vishnu then took the form of a tortoise and took the the churning-mountain on its back so that it got the needed support. In this way the gods got their glory back and got jubilant.
Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. 1978. Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Tagare, G. V., tr. 1981. Kurma Purana. Vol. 1. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Tagare, G. V., tr. 1982. Kurma Purana. Vol. 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
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