Many people of this era are not aware of most of the Vedic texts or Hindu Scriptures. One common confusion among this generation is about the difference between Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. The Srimad Bhagavatam is generally mistaken to be the same as the Bhagavad Gita. Srimad Bhagavatam is popularly known as Bhāgavata Purāṇa, one of the 18 Puranas of Hinduism.
The Bhagavad Gita
The most important part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Bhisma Parva (the 6th part) of the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita consists of 18 smaller chapters and is around 700 verses. It is a marvelous dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield, before the commencement of the great war. Bhagavan Sri Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna. Sri Krishna explained the essentials of Hindu religion to Arjuna. Just as the Upanishads contain the cream of the Vedas, so does the Gita contain the cream of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the cows. Lord Krishna is the cowherd. Arjuna is the calf. The Gita is the milk. The wise men are those who drink the milk of the Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is the most precious jewel of Hindu literature. It is a universal gospel. The Gita teaches the Yoga of Synthesis. It ranks high in the religious literature of the world.
Arjuna saw before him his dear relatives and teachers in the battle-field. He fainted and refused to fight against them. Then Lord Krishna imparted knowledge of the Self to Arjuna and convinced him that it was his duty to fight regardless of consequences. Afterward, Arjuna gave up his Moha or delusion. All his doubts were cleared. He fought against the Kauravas and achieved victory.
The Srimad Bhagavatam
Srimad Bhagavatam or the Bhagavata Purana is the 5th major Purana amongst 18 different Puranas. It is considered to be the essence of all the Vedas. The Vedas are compared to a desire tree because all kinds of knowledge that one may desire, are available in them. It contains 12 different parts (skandhas) and around 18,000 verses. Similar to the other Puranas, the Srimad Bhagavatham is written by Sage Vyasa. Sage Shuka, who was Vyasa’s son, recited the Bhagavatam to King Parikshit who was cursed to die in 7 days, by Sage Shrungi.
The Srimad Bhagavata Purana is a chronicle of the various Avataras of Lord Vishnu. There are ten Avataras of Vishnu. The aim of every Avatara is to save the world from some great danger, to destroy the wicked and protect the virtuous. The ten Avataras are: Matsya (The Fish), Kurma (The Tortoise), Varaha (The Boar), Narasimha (The Man-Lion), Vamana (The Dwarf), Parasurama (Rama with the axe, the destroyer of the Kshatriya race), Ramachandra (The hero of Ramayana—the son of Dasaratha), who destroyed Ravana, Sri Krishna, The teacher of the Gita, Buddha (The prince-ascetic, founder of Buddhism) and Kalki (The hero riding on a white horse, who is to come at the end of the Kali-Yuga).
The object of the Matsya Avatara was to save Vaivasvata Manu from destruction by a deluge. The object of Kurma Avatara was to enable the world to recover some precious things which were lost in the deluge. The Kurma gave its back for keeping the churning rod when the Gods and the Asuras churned the ocean of milk. The purpose of Varaha Avatara was to rescue, from the waters, the earth which had been dragged down by a demon named Hiranyaksha. The purpose of Narasimha Avatara, half-lion, and half-man, was to free the world from the oppression of Hiranyakasipu, a demon, the father of Bhakta Prahlada. The object of Vamana Avatara was to restore the power of the gods which had been eclipsed by the penance and devotion of King Bali.
The object of Parasurama Avatara was to deliver the country from the oppression of the Kshatriya rulers. Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriya race twenty-one times. The object of Rama was to destroy the wicked Ravana. The object of Sri Krishna Avatara was to destroy Kamsa and other demons, to deliver His wonderful message of the Gita in the Mahabharata war, and to become the center of the Bhakti schools of India. The object of Buddha Avatara was to prohibit animal sacrifices and teach piety. The object of the Kalki Avatar is the destruction of the wicked and the re-establishment of virtue.
(Balarama is included as the eighth avatar of Vishnu in the Sri Vaishnava lists, but Amar Chitra Katha’s Dashavatar book lists Krishna as 8th and Buddha as 9th avatar of Lord Vishnu. Balarama is also considered as an avatar of sheesha naag.)