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Who is Hri?

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Apr 30 1999 - 16:06:02 PDT

Dear Learned Bhaktas,

Most of us are familiar with the second anuvAka of
the purusha sUktam. In this anuvAka, the last Rk 
contains the line:

   hrIS ca te lakshmIS ca patnyau | aho rAtre pArSve |
   nakshatrANi rUpam | aSvinau vyAttam |

   Hri and Lakshmi
   Are your consorts, your
   Two sides, Day and Night,
   The stars your form, 
   The Healing Ashvinis your words.

Who exactly is Hri? 'Hri' generally means modesty;
naturally then, modesty and opulent wealth, represented
by Lakshmi, are opposites that are reconciled in the
Supreme Purusha, just as day and night are.

However, 'Lakshmi' is not simply wealth. Lakshmi 
is the universal mother, the eternal consort of the
Purusha.  'Hri' therefore, cannot simply mean 'modesty',
if we are to accept this meaning of Lakshmi.

Who then is 'Hri'? One guess would be Bhumi Devi (mother earth)? 
However, in all of Sanskrit literature, Bhumi is never known as
'Hri'. Can someone clarify?

It is unfortunate that Nanjiyar commented only on the
first anuvAka of the purusha sUkta.