You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : March 1995

Purusha Sooktam

From: KRAZYKAT (V1S_at_eclx.psu.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 01 1995 - 07:51:04 PST

brAhmaNo asya mukhamAseet | bAhoo rAjanya: krta: |
ooru tadasya yad vaishya | padbhyAm shoodro ajAyata ||

(asya) His (mukham) mouth (Aseet) became (brAhmaNa:) 
the Brahmin, (bAhoo) his arms (krta:) were made (rAjanya:)
Kings. (yad) what were(asya ooru) his thighs, (tad) they were 
made into (vaishya:) the merchants, (padbhyAm) and from his feet 
(shoodro) were the servants (ajAyata) born.

Any commentary on this has, to say the least, significant
possibilities of spinning out of control as a discussion on the
role and system of the varNa-jAti system. I think it best to let
the verse speak for itself, as a record of the world-view of its
time, and let thinkers draw their own conclusions.

>From his mouth came forth 
The men of learning
And of his arms
Were warriors made
>From his thighs came
The trading people
And his feet gave 
Birth to servants..

***

candramA manaso jAta: | caksho sooryo ajAyata |
mukhaadeendrascAgnischa | prANAdvAyurajAyata ||

(manasa:) From his mind  (candramA) was the moon (jAta:)
born. (caksho) from his eyes (soorya:)  the sun was (ajAyata)
born. (mukhAd) From his mouth (indra-sca) Indra and (agni-sca)
Agni and (prANAt) from his breath (vAyu:) the wind (ajAyata:)
were born.

The natural phenomena mentioned in this verse are synonymous 
with their dieties, who govern them. This sort of 'double' reference
is common throughout the Rg-veda, especially in hymns addressed
to various dieties that also contain some breathtaking images of
nature and are beautiful poetry. The puruSHa is the source of these
dieties too. sAyaNAcarya says "yathA dadhi-Ajya-Adi-dravyAni 
gAvadaya: .... candra-Adayo deva: api tasmAt iva utpanna ityAha:"
Just as essences like yogurt and ghee come forth from 
undifferentiated, but essential milk, different in nature, yet identical 
in source, even thus did the Gods, like candra, come forth fom the
puruSHa. He is indeed the basis of all things. prANa is just one of
the breaths recognized by the vedic people. apAna, vyAna,
samAna, udAna are some of the others.

Of his mind , the Moon is born
Of his gaze, the shining Sun
from his mouth, Thunder and Fire,
And of his life's breath,
The whistling wind..

***

nAbhyA Aseedantariksham | sheerSHNau dhyau: samavartata |
padbhyAm bhoomir disha: shrotrAt | tathA lokAm akalpayan ||

(nAbhyA) from his navel (Aseed) did appear (antarisham)
space. (sheerSHNa:) From his head was (dhyau:) the sky
(sam-avartat) well established. (padbhyAm) From his feet
(bhoomi) the earth (shrotrAt) from his ears (disha:) the directions
(tathA) This did they (akalpayan) by mere intent, that is sankalpa,
cause (lokAn) the worlds.

This verse is the conclusion of the details of the establishment
of the worlds by the devas, and the sAdhyas. 

Some texts mention the verse "saptasyAn paridhaya:" after this,
this is common in most Rg-sangraha-s. The last verse of the PS
redaction in these texts ( eg. Le Mee, Chanana) is "yagnyena
 yagnyam.." which curiously, is found elsewhere in the Rgveda.
This place is the "asya vAmasya palitasya hotu:" hymn, RV -214,
by the rSHi deerghatamas (literally, profound darkness).The asya
vAmasya hymn is notable for its intense and complex imagery ,
and I have yet to find a satisfactory interpretation for its riddles.

However, the next three verse of the southern redaction are 
pregnant with meaning, and relevant to our enquiry.

Space unfolds
>From his navel
The sky well formed
>From his head
His feet, the earth
His ears the Quarters
Thus they thought up
All the worlds..