The Puranas were composed by different types of people, whose purpose was to elevate consciousness. While some sections of the Vedic literature offer philosophical inquiry into the absolute reality, and other sections provide information about how to perform Vedic sacrifices, in order to achieve the absolute realm, the Puranas narrate the history of persons living a Vedic life, combining the import of the philosophical teachings with practical histories in a way as to give access to the Vedic teachings to all sections of humanity.
The Puranas largely contain narrations of saintly sages and kings.
By hearing accounts of the lives of these persons, faithful readers can deepen their awareness of the Absolute and learn from the experiences of others who have tried to approach Him. Thus we have stories like those of Visvamitra, a once powerful king, who saw the spiritual power of a brahmana and coveted it. By following his story, we get much advice on what it means to live a pious, God-centered life. As the goal of the Vedic literature is to entice us to serve God, so the Puranas, being part of the Vedic literature, share that goal.
There are quite a few Puranas, compiled over the millennia by various sages. Some date back millions of years, while others were com-posed more recently. They are living works – additional materials are often added to them by later authors in order to emphasize particular points.
The sages teach that the Puranas are divided into three broad categories according to the three broad categories of human proclivity, Therefore we have Puranas that are suitable for those primarily in the mode of goodness, others that are suitable for those in the mode of passion, and still others suitable for those in the mode of ignorance.
We are most interested in the Puranas in the mode of goodness, because these histories describe the characteristics of the Supreme Lord and His incarnations and how to attain the spiritual world – all told through the accounts of those who have trod the spiritual path. The Puranas in the mode of passion describe various demigods and how to appease them in order to gain control over a bigger chunk of matter. The tamasic Puranas focus on Lord Siva and the material energy. Irrespective of what each of these Puranic categories describe, all have the ultimate goal of the reader discovering spiritual reality. The Puranas in the lower modes are there like sugarcoated medicine; they provide those intoxicated by matter the opportunity to take some truth without finding it quite so bitter.