The text is named after the tortoise avatar of Vishnu. The critical edition of the Kurma Purana has 95 chapters. Tradition believes that the Kurma Purana text had 17,000 verses, and the extant manuscripts have about 6,000 verses. The original core of the text may have been composed about the start of the 8th-century CE.
The text covers and expresses reverence for Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti with equal enthusiasm. The Kurma Purana, like other Puranas, includes legends, mythology, geography, Tirtha (pilgrimage), theology, and a philosophical Gita. The notable aspect of its Gita, also called the Ishvara Gita, is that it is Shiva who presents ideas similar to those found in the Bhagavad Gita.