Purusha Sukta

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The first two verses of the Purusha sukta, with Sayana's commentary. Page of Max Müller's Rig-Veda-sanhita, the Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans (reprint, London 1974).

Purusha sukta (puruṣasūkta, पुरुष सूक्त) is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being".

One version of the suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the anuṣṭubh meter, and the final one in the triṣṭubh meter. Another version of the suktam consists of 24 verses with the first 18 mantras designated as the Purva-narayana and the later portion termed as the Uttara-narayana probably in honour of Rishi Narayana. Some scholars state that some verses of Purusha sukta are later interpolations to the Rigveda.[1][2]


The Purusha sukta gives a description of the spiritual unity of the universe. It presents the nature of Purusha or the cosmic being as both immanent in the manifested world and yet transcendent to it.[3] From this being, the sukta holds, the original creative will (ldentified with Viswakarma, Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati) proceeds which causes the projection of the universe in space and time.[4] The Purusha sukta, in the seventh verse, hints at the organic connectedness of the various classes of society.


The Purusha is defined in verses 2 to 5 of the sukta. He is described as a being who pervades everything conscious and unconscious universally. He is poetically depicted as a being with thousand heads, eyes and legs, enveloping the earth from all sides and transcending it by ten fingers length - or transcending in all 10 directions. All manifestation, in past present and future, is held to be the Purusha alone.[3] It is also proclaimed that he transcends his creation. The immanence of the Purusha in manifestation and yet his transcendence of it is similar to the viewpoint held by panentheists. Finally, his glory is held to be even greater than the portrayal in this sukta.


Verses 5-15 hold the creation of the Rig Veda. Creation is described to have started with the origination of Virat or the cosmic body from the Purusha. In Virat, omnipresent intelligence manifests itself which causes the appearance of diversity. In the verses following, it is held that Purusha through a sacrifice of himself, brings forth the avian, forest-dwelling and domestic animals, the three Vedas, the metres (of the mantras). Then follows a verse which states that from his mouth, arms, thighs, feet the four Varnas (classes) are born. This four varna-related verse is controversial and is believed by many scholars, such as Max Müller, to be a corruption and a medieval or modern era insertion into the text.[1][2]

After the controversial verse, the sukta states the moon takes birth from the Purusha's mind and the sun from his eyes. Indra and Agni descend from his mouth and from his vital breath, air is born. The firmament comes from his navel, the heavens from his head, the earth from his feet and quarters of space from his ears.[3] Through this creation, underlying unity of human, cosmic and divine realities is espoused, for all are seen arising out of same original reality, the Purusha.[5]


The Purusha sukta holds that the world is created by and out of a Yajna or sacrifice of the Purusha. All forms of existence are held to be grounded in this primordial Yajna. In the seventeenth verse, the concept of Yajna itself is held to have arisen out of this original sacrifice. In the final verses, Yajna is extolled as the primordial energy ground for all existence.[6]


The Vedantins take the Purusha sukta to allegorize the principles of (upasana), knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti), and rituals and duties (dharma and karma). The sukta gives an expression to immanence of radical unity in diversity and is therefore, seen as the foundation of the Vaishnava thought, Bhedabheda school of philosophy and Bhagavata theology.[7]

The concept of the Purusha is from the Samkhya Philosophy which is traced to the Indus Valley period. It seems to be an interpolation into the Rig veda since it is out of character with the other hymns dedicated to nature gods. [Refer Indian Philosophy Vol-1 by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan].

The hymn finds place in Vedic texts such as the Atharvaveda (19.6), the Samaveda (6.4), the Yajurveda (VS 31.1-6), the Taittiriya Aranyaka (3.12,13) and it is commented upon in the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Taittiriya Brahmana, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Mudgala Upanishad. It is one of the few Rig Vedic hymns current in contemporary Hinduism like, the Gayatri Mantra. The Purusha sukta is also mentioned with explanations and interpretations in the Vajasaneyi Samhita (31.1-6), the Sama veda Samhita (6.4), and the Atharva Veda Samhita (19.6). Among Puranic texts, the sukta has been elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana (2.5.35 to 2.6.1-29) and in the Mahabharata (Mokshadharma Parva 351 and 352).

Authenticity of Purusha Sukta[edit]

Many scholars have questioned as to when parts or all of Purusha Sukta were composed, and whether some of these verses were present in the ancient version of Rigveda. Colebrook hold that the origin of the Purusha Sukta is relatively modern. Muir and Weber comment on the modern nature of the philosophic thought, though make no explicit claim about a later date of composition. [1][2]

As compared with by far the largest part of the hymns of the Rigveda, the Purusha Sukta has every character of modernness both in its diction and ideas. I have already observed that the hymns which we find in this collection (Purusha Sukta) are of very different periods.

That the Purusha Sukta, considered as a hymn of the Rigveda, is among the latest portions of that collection, is clearly perceptible from its contents.

That remarkable hymn (the Purusha Sukta) is in language, metre, and style, very different from the rest of the prayers with which it is associated. It has a decidedly more modern tone, and must have been composed after the Sanskrit language had been refined.

There can be little doubt, for instance, that the 90th hymn of the 10th book (Purusha Sukta) is modern both in its character and in its diction. (...) It mentions the three seasons in the order of the Vasanta, spring; Grishma, summer; and Sarad, autumn; it contains the only passage in the Rigveda where the four castes are enumerated. The evidence of language for the modern date of this composition is equally strong. Grishma, for instance, the name for the hot season, does not occur in any other hymn of the Rigveda; and Vasanta also does not belong to the earliest vocabulary of the Vedic poets.

B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar, on the other hand, has disputed this idea:[12]

The language of this hymn is particularly sweet, rhythmical and polished and this has led to its being regarded as the product of a later age when the capabilities of the language had been developed. But the polish may be due to the artistic skill of the particular author, to the nature of the subject and to several other causes than mere posteriority in time. We might as well say that Chaucer must have lived centuries after Gower, because the language of the former is so refined and that of the latter, so rugged. We must at the same time confess that we are unable to discover any distinct linguistic peculiarity in the hymn which will stamp it as of a later origin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c David Keane (2007), Caste-based Discrimination in International Human Rights Law, ISBN 978-0754671725, pp 26-27
  2. ^ a b c Raghwan (2009), Discovering the Rigveda A Bracing text for our Times, ISBN 978-8178357782, pp 77-88
  3. ^ a b c The Purusha sukta in Daily Invocations by Swami Krishnananda
  4. ^ Krishnananda. p. 19
  5. ^ Koller, p. 44.
  6. ^ Koller, p. 45-47.
  7. ^ Haberman, David L. River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. University of California Press; 1 edition (September 10, 2006). P. 34. ISBN 0520247906.
  8. ^ J. Muir (1868), Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India - their religion and institutions at Google Books, 2nd Edition, pp 12
  9. ^ Albert Friedrich Weber, Indische Studien, herausg. von at Google Books, Volume 10, pp 1-9 with footnotes (in German); For a translation, see page page 14 of Original Sanskrit Texts at Google Books
  10. ^ Colebrooke, Miscallaneous Essays Volume 1, WH Allen & Co, London, see footnote at page 309
  11. ^ Müller (1859), A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Williams & Norgate, London, pp 570-571
  12. ^ Aiyar, B.V. Kamesvara (1898), The Purusha Sukta, G.A. Natesan, Madras , introduction, p. 7


  • Coomaraswamy, Ananda, Rigveda 10.90.1: aty atiṣṭhad daśāṅgulám, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 66, no. 2 (1946), 145-161.
  • Deo, Shankarrao (Member of India's Constituent Assembly and co-author of the Constitution of India), Upanishadateel daha goshti OR Ten stories from the Upanishads, Continental Publication, Pune, India, (1988), 41-46.
  • Koller, John M. The Indian Way: An Introduction to the Philosophies & Religions of India (2nd Edition). Pearson Education, 2006. ISBN 0131455788.
  • Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and Purushasuktam,, Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai.
  • Krishnananda, Swami. A Short History of Religious and Philosophic Thought in India. Divine Life Society.
  • Patrice Lajoye, "Puruṣa", Nouvelle Mythologie Comparée / New Comparative Mythologie, 1, 2013: http://nouvellemythologiecomparee.hautetfort.com/archive/2013/02/03/patrice-lajoye-purusha.html

External links[edit]