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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Vedas > Purusa Sukta > Sri Purusa Suktam

Shri  Purusa Suktam


Prathama Anuvakam


Verse 1



sahasra sirsa  purusah  |  sahasraksah sahasrapat  |

sa bhumim visvato vrtva  | atyatistad dasangulam  || 1 ||


(sahasra) Thousands (sirsa) of heads has ( purusah)

the great being. (sahasra) Thousands of (aksa) eyes has he,

(sahasra pat) and thousands of legs. (sa) He (vrtva)

manifests (bhumim) the world. (atyatistat) He stands

beyond (dasangulam) the count of ten fingers.



The words "Purusa'' in its most literal sense means man. This is not a generic for human, but includes the masculine sense and principle of the world. In one way, it is interpreted as Narayana alone is Purusa, and all the rest of prakrti, creation, is female.  Purusa may also be split as pura + usa -- the dawn-light (usa) of the city of the body (pura). Or pu + rusa, one whose passions are refined. Or even puru + sa, filled with wisdom and happiness. Which Purusa is referred to here?


Man - is a simple answer, with some merit for its arguments. Man was created first, and he is a creature that knows not its own glory, and he is sacrificed for the rest of creation -- a humbling thought for us.


However, theistic and mystic sources tend to interpret Purusa as Parama-purusa, the Supreme  Purusa, Purushottama, the best among  Purusas,  Shriman Narayana. He is the source and the basis of all creation, He manifests Himself in all of it. All creation is His body -- the visvarupa mahakaya. He encompasses it.


So why does this Purusa have thousands of feet, hands, eyes? One must remember that large numbers, like a thousand, can refer to a fuzzy "uncountable''. Sayanacarya interprets this as the Purusa manifesting Himself in all that lives. And since all was created from His body, as we shall see, all heads are His heads, all eyes His eyes, all feet His feet.


And then we see that the Purusa extends beyond ten fingers. Rather limited that seems -- until we read Sayana again. The ten fingers here are the digits, the ten fingers of human hands. They are the basis of count, of all mathematics, of all the logic and science built on mathematics. However, they are all limited when it comes to analyzing Purusa. He is transcendent, and beyond such limited understanding.



With uncounted heads

Uncounted eyes, and

Uncounted feet, He

Moves, as all of


Verily is He


Beyond the grasp

Of the hands of men.



Verse 2


 purusa evedagm sarvam | yad bhutam yac ca bhavyam |

utamrtatvasyesanah | yad annenatirohati || 2 ||


(Purusa)  Purusa (eva) alone (idam sarvam) is all

of this, (yad bhutam) that which was, (yac ca bhavyam) and

that which is too be. (uta) Moreover (amrtatvasya) of

immortality too (isana) is He alone Lord. (yad) That

which (annena) as food (atirohati) shows itself, that too is




 Purusa is creation, this we know. In time, He is all that is, all that was, and all that is to be. Does He have an end, like death ? No. He is Lord of immortality, of the eternal that dies not (a-mrta).


Creation feeds on itself. It requires food to grow, to flourish. What is food but other life? Life feeds on life, be it plant, or animal life. This is why we say the world grows on food, the world is fill of food (annamayam jagat). All that is hidden in creation, and all that emerges, to show itself and be food, all this is Purusa. He sustains creation as food.



That which is,

Was, and is to be.

All of this

Is He alone.

And the eternal,

Beyond all end,

He is Lord,

Alone, of that.

The world is food..

That which hides,

And ventures forth,

He is that too.


Verse 3

etavan asya mahima | ato jyayagmsca  purusah |

pado 'sya visva bhutani | tripadasyamrtam divi || 3 ||


(etavan) All that is here seen (asya) is His (mahima)

greatness. (atah) And then, beyond all this ( purusah ca)

is that  Purusa (jyayan) great. (visva bhutani) All

that was created in this world (pado) is but one part

(asya) of Him. (tripad) The other three parts are (divi)

in heaven, (amrtam) where they are eternal.



This world of name and form (nama-rupa-bheda- jagat) is but one part of Purusa. Sat (truth), cit (being) and Ananda (bliss) are the other three parts, that rest in Narayana alone, and are eternal in Him. As Shri Krishna says in the Gita (10-42), ma eka amsena sthito jagat -- By a fraction of My yogic powers alone I sustain this world. And He is the one whose sport is this world, who sports without distinction of name or form. (rupa nama vibhedena jagat kridati yo yatha).


All that you see

Is but His glory

He is more

Than all of this

All of creation

Is but a fourth of Him.

Three parts eternal

Rest in Him alone.



Verse 4


tripad urdhva udait  purusah | pado 'syehabhavatpunah |

tato visvan vyakramat | sasananasane abhi || 4 ||


(tripad) Three parts ( purusah) of the  Purusa (udait) rise

above, (urdhva) above all creation. (padah) One part alone

(asya) of His (iha) is here (abhavat) manifested (punah) again and again.

(tata) From that part did (sasana - anasana) beings that eat and eat not,

(visvak) all of these (abhivyakramat) did come forth.



Ranganatha Muni comments on the greatness of the Purusa who looms above all creation. He is filled with grace and all joy, knowledge, and goodness. He is eternal, and the basis of all. The world's sustenance is but His sport. His joy is himself, as He is all. That besides, even the Vedas wonder about his greatness. "so anga veda yadi va na veda.'' He alone knows -- or maybe he knows not. (Rg Veda, Nasadiya Sukta).


The way "yad annenatirohati'' and "sasananasane abhi vyakramat'' are interpreted is a point of some discussion. Peterson, Renou, and LeMee, who give simply "man'' for  Purusa, interpret these as "man, who grows by food'', "a part of man was made into all things that eat and eat not, and advanced towards these/as these, outwards''. I prefer Sayana's interpretation, as given above. Not only is the importance of food stressed, two verses before, but now Purusa is also that which eats not, life and non-life. This is in conformity with the Visistadvaita view of Brahman manifest as cit and acit, living and inert.



Three parts of His

Are beyond all this

All of this, is but a part.

Again and again,

All that eats,

And that eats not

Appeared from this

One part of His.



Verse 5



tasmat virad ajayata | virajo adhi purusah |

sa jato atyaricyata | pascad bhumimatho purah || 5 ||


(tasmat) from that great Purusa (virat) did the shining

universe (ajayata) come forth. (virajo adhi) From that

virat, with its needs in heart ( purusah) came forth

Brahma, to care for it. (sa) He (jatah) was born

(ati aricyata) and grew very large, extending (pascat)

in front (bhumim) of the earth (atah) and then (purah) behind.



From Purusa came forth the universe. The creative aspect of his, Brahma, came forth, and grew to include everything in himself. This is why the universe is called "brahmanda'', the egg/sphere of Brahma. "Brahmanda'' is also an adjective indicating magnitude. This image of extending above and on all sides of the earth is in concordance with Ranganatha Muni.


What did this Brahma do after he was born ? Sayana gives the following interpretation. He grows very large after being born (sa jato atyaricyata). And then (pascat) He (sa) creates the earth (bhumim) and then (atah), (purah) -- cities -- bodies for creatures to live in. "virat vyaktrkto deva-tiryag-manusyadi rupo 'bhut''. He became large and became the bodies, or gave form to devas, animals (tiryak) and humans.


There is support for the former view from the Sakalya Brahmana, however. In this work, Aniruddha Narayana, one of the four aspects of Narayana in the first tier of the Visaka Yupa, appears to Brahma. This Bramha, engorged with growth as it were, is inactive, he does nothing. Aniruddha asks him the reason for his inactivity "brahman kim tusnim bhavasi - iti'' and Brahma replies, ``Because of not knowing'' - "ajnanat - iti hovaca''. However, Brahma has to create. This is his nature. So to remove his ignorance, Aniruddha Narayana instructs him to perform srsti yajna, the sacrifice of creation.


In the Brahmana, this is termed kancana yajna, the rite of gold. "brahman srstyartham kancana yajnam kuru''. By this means will you be able to create the worlds, as you have in kalpas past. The rest of Aniruddha Narayana's instructions and the details of the srsti yajna are given in the verses to come.



From Him came forth

The bright Universe

And He became a Creator

For its sake

And so He created

The verdant Earth

And creation

Was His body.



Verse 6




yat purusena havisa | deva yajnam atanvata |

vasanto asyasi-dajyam | grisma idhma saraddhavih || 6 ||


(yat) That (yajna) rite that (devah) the gods (atanvata)

performed, (purusena) with the  Purusa Himself as

(havisa) havis, the fire offering, (vasanta) the Spring

(asit) became (ajyam) its ghee. (grisma) The summer

became its (idhma) samit-wood firebrand, (sarad) Autumn

became (havih) its burn offering.



What sort of yajna is this srsti yajna? Nothing exists but the Brahma- Purusa, who envelops all. Logically, none of the ritual paraphernalia, the materiel, exist. It does not make consistent sense, to me, to look at this as an actual rite of "sacrifice, where the gods sacrificed a giant to create the world'', as this has sometimes been described. This was in a comparative work that compared the  Purusa Suktam to the Norse tale of how the Aesir made the world from the body of Ymir, the frost-giant.


Consider however the traditional view of this as a manasa yajna, a meditative sacrifice, of and in the heart, the first gedankeneksperiment, if you will!


The srsti yajna was Purusa's alone. He was havirbhokta, He who enjoys/eats the havis - burnt offerings to the fire. His senses were the devas, the gods, who were the rtvik-priests of this sacrifice. Nothing but Himself existed to sacrifice. And so He sacrificed Himself (purusena havisa) as the offering into the creative fires of His heart. A sacrifice of His self to Himself, for what or who existed but He? So the devas bound Brahma as the beast of sacrifice, and made ready for the rite.


Clarified butter, or ghee, is what is poured on the fire to make it burn brighter. The fire of course, is an essential part of any sacrifice. Fire is what speeds between heaven and earth carrying the food of sacrificial havis offerings to the gods. Spring brightens creation as the ghee brightens fire. Samit (palasa, flame of the forest) twigs are fed to the fire, to make it hotter -- these samit brands are Summer. Autumn with its brilliant hues was offered into the fire as havis.



Spring was the ghee

That brightened the fire

Summer the wood

That fueled it

Autumn was burnt

In this great rite

That the gods sacrificed

The  Purusa in.



Verse 7

saptasya san paridayah | trih saptah samidah krtah |

deva yad yajnam tanvanah | abadhnan  purusam pasum || 7 ||


(asya) For this sacrifice (sapta) seven were (paridayah) the

sheathing logs, the fences. (trih sapta) Thrice-seven, that is

twenty one (samidah) the samit-wood firebrands (krtah) made,

(yad yajnam) for the sacrifice for which (devah) the gods

as (tanvanah) as performers of the sacrifice (abadhnan) bound

( purusam) the  Purusa (pasum) as the beast of sacrifice.



The yagagni, the sacred fire of the sacrifice, is invoked on a vedi, or altar, that is always sheathed, or fenced. Sayana gives us this: "aistikasyavahavaniyasya trayah paridayah uttaravedikastrayah adityasca saptamah paridhi pratinidhi rupah''. Three fences are in the uttaravedi part, three in the avahaniya, and aditya is the seventh sheath, or fence.


Nothing had been created at this point. So what were the paridis? The seven chandas, or metres, gayatri, tristup, brhati, pankti, usnik, anustup, and jagati may be the seven here. However, later verses would seem to go against this hypothesis. The chandas seem to be later creations, as the basis of speech. The Maitrayani Upanisad suggests prthvi (earth), apa (water), tejas (fire), vayu ( air), akasa (space), ahamkara (ego), and buddhi (intellect) as these seven. The five elements or pancabhutas among these, (prthvi, apa, tejas, vayu, akasa), along with the five subtle principles or tanmatras, the five active senses or karmendriyas, the five discerning senses or jnanendriyas, combined with antah karanam, darkening, are said to be the twenty one samit firebrands, in the Painki Brahmana.



Seven were the fencing logs

Thrice seven the firebrands made

When the gods bound the Purusa

As the beast for their sacrifice.



Verse 8



tam yajnam barhisi proksan |  purusam jatam agratah |

tena deva ayajanta | sadhya rsayas ca ye || 8 ||


(tam) That (purusam)  Purusa (yajnam) of the sacrifice,

(jatam) who was (agratah) in the beginning, (sadhyah) those

achievers (proksan) sprinkled Him with holy water (barhisi)

on the sacrificial bed of straw. (tena) By this means (deva

rsayas ca) did the gods and the seers (ye) who where,

(ayajanta) sacrifice.



Here is the Purusa Himself bound as the beast of sacrifice. This beast has to be sanctified, on a sacred bed of straw, with holy water. The word barhis indicates this straw. According to the Yogaratna, virat (the all), barhis and prakrti are synonyms. In this sense, all of nature is the stage for this sacrifice, and Purusa the sacrifice to be offered. He was firstborn and foremost of creation. The word sadhyah according to Ranganatha Muni includes all devas, rsis, suras, and dwellers of Vaikuntha. However, in other places, it has been interpreted to mean something like an analogue to "bodhisattva'' -- those who have the potential of freedom from time, but have not yet actually achieved it. In the sense that sadhyam indicates possibility of achievement, I tend towards this view.



Him, firstborn of all of this

The sanctified, on a bed of straw

By Him did the seers,

Those great ones,

By Him did the gods too




Verse 9



tasmad yajnat sarvahutah | sambhrtam pradajyam |

pasugms tagms cakre vayavyan | aranyan gramyas ca ye || 9 ||


(tasmat) From that (yajnat) rite (sarvahutah) called sarvahut

(sambhrtam) was gathered (prsad-ajyam) ghee mixed with

yogurt. From this (cakre) were created (pasun) beasts,

(vayavyan) denizens of the air, (aranyan) denizens of the

woods, (gramyan) and denizens of the villages.



There is no holding back in the srsti yajna, it is "sarva-hut'', the offering of all. At yajnas, what is called by sources like Renou and LeMee as ``the clotted fat'' or ``the oil of the sacrifice'', curds mixed with ghee (clarified butter) was collected. Ranganatha Muni is of the opinion that for this yajna, the prsadajyam was ``potency'' of wondrous hue (pranijanana hetu-bhutam vicitravarnam jagatkarana hetu bhutam viryam prsadajyam bhavati) --- appearing as a means by which animals might be born, of wondrous hue, a potency that appeared as a means of the cause of the world --- this was the prsadajyam, the seed of all creation. The exact synonym of semen, retas, is not mentioned, but I think that in this case we may safely assume this is what is meant. With this did Brahma create the birds, and wild and tame animals.



From that offering

Of all was drawn

The wondrous seed

Of all creation

With that did He

Give forms to all,

birds and beasts

Of field and forest.



Verse 10



tasmad yajnat sarvahutah | rcah samani jajnire |

chandagmsi jajnire tasmat | yajus tasmad ajayanta || 10 ||


(tasmat yajnat sarvahutah) From that Sarvahut rite (rcah)

the Rg Veda mantras and (samani) Sama Veda mantras

(jagnyire) were got. From that did (chandamsi) did the metres

too (jagnyire) come forth. (tasmat) From that were (yajuh) the

Yajur Veda mantras (ajayata) born.



Sayana gives this derivation for sarvahut: "sarvatmaka puruso yasmin yajne huyate so ayam sarvahutah'' -- that yajna in which Purusa, the soul of all, is offered as sacrifice, that rite is sarvahut. Of the Vedas, the Rg concerns itself with recited hymns, in praise of nature and its deities, such as Agni, Indra, the Adityas, the Maruts, and so on. The Sama chants are those of song, the basis of music. Yajus, the Veda of the adhvaryu priests, is that of the methods, and formulas for the rite. Along with these comes forth chandas, the metre or rhythm of hymning.



From that rite

Of the giving of All,

Did the recited hymns

And the sung come forth

And from that came

The poetic metre

And from that arose

The ritual hymns.



Verse 11



tasmadasva ajayanta | ye ke cobhayadatah |

gavoham jagnyire tasmat | tasmajjata ajavayah || 11 ||


(tasmad) From that (ajayanta) were born (asvah) horses,

and beings with (eke ca) only one and (ubhayadatah) two

rows of teeth. (gavah) Cattle (jagnyire) were made (tasmat)

from that. (tasmat) From that (jata) were born (ajah) goats

and (avayah) sheep.



The most common interpretation I have seen for "ye ke cobhayadata'' is all animals with two rows of teeth. The one here, I have seen only in Anna's Tamil translation. However, it appeals to me as innately right. As for animals with one row of teeth, I cannot think of any except whales with their baleen. Someone with a better knowledge of zoological orthodonty may be able to help me here. All the animals specifically mentioned here, presumably had been tamed, and were counted as wealth in Rg Vedic society.



From that were born stately horses

Beasts with one and two rows of teeth

Cattle too, were born thereof

And goats and sheep with them created.


Verse 12


yat  purusam vyadadhuh | katidha vyakalpayan |

mukham kimasya kau bahu | kavuru pada ucyete || 11 ||


(yat) The ( purusam)  Purusa (vyadadhuh) that they divided,

(katidha) into what forms , how, (vyakalpayan) did they shape

Him ? (kim) What (asit) became (asya mukham) of His mouth ?

(kau) What are (ucyete) now called (asya bahu) His arms ?

(asya uru) His thighs, (asya padau) His feet, (kau ucyete)

what do they call them now ?



This verse begins a series of questions and answers as to how the Purusa was divided up, and what each of the parts of His body (kosa rupa - the form that contained all) became, in the sarvahut rite of creation. Aniruddha Narayana had advised Bramha that to make His body the havis, Aniruddha the havirbhokta, and meditating on Narayana, merge Himself, offer himself up to Narayana's form of fire. (mam ca havirbhbhujam dhyatva manmanabhutva mayyagnau nivacaye) And by just feeling the touch (madanga sparsa matrena) of His, Bramha's body, in which all of the worlds are contained (jagat-kosa bhutas-tvat-kayo) would become huge (brmhisyate) and become the brahmanda, the great all. The different classes of animals that came forth from this (tasmat udbhutani prani jatani), Bramha would be able to establish for them different and appropriate forms (yatha puram nirmaya) and assume the role of creator (srastha bhavisyasi) that he had in previous eons.


Those sanskrit quotes are from the P.S. samhita of the Sakalya Brahmana, referred to before. Like most Brahmana verses, this ends with " evam srsthiyajnyam yo janati sa janmaniha mukto bhavati " - Who knows the rite of creation thus, will be liberated in this very birth.


So now the details of this 'ritual dismemberment' of the Purusa's body, the brahmanda, are given in the next few verses as an account of this creation rite.



When they had

Divided Him up,

Into what forms

Did they cast Him ?

And what of His mouth,

His arms, His thighs, His feet ?

What did they make them ?



Verse 13



brahmano `sya mukhamasit | bahu rajanya: krtah |

uru tadasya yad vaisya | padbhyam sudro ajayata || 12 ||



(asya) His (mukham) mouth (asit) became (brahmanah)

the Brahmana, (bahu) His arms (krtah) were made (rajanyah)

Kings. (yad) what were(asya uru) His thighs, (tad) they were

made into (vaisyah) the merchants, (padbhyam) and from His feet

(sudro) 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..



Verse 14



candrama manaso jatah | cakso suryo ajayata |

mukhadindrascagnisca | pranadvayur ajayata || 13 ||


(manasah) From His mind (candrama) was the moon (jatah)

born. (cakso) from His eyes (suryah) the sun was (ajayata)

born. (mukhad) From His mouth (indra-sca) Indra and (agni-sca)

Agni and (pranat) from His breath (vayuh) the wind (ajayatah)

were born.



The natural phenomena mentioned in this verse are synonymous with their deities, who govern them. This sort of 'double' reference is common throughout the Rg-Veda, especially in hymns addressed to various deities that also contain some breathtaking images of nature and are beautiful poetry. The Purusa is the source of these deities too. Sayanacarya says "yatha dadhi-ajya-adi-dravyani gavadayah .... candra-adayo devah api tasmat iva utpanna ityahah "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 from the Purusa. 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..



Verse 15



nabhya asidantariksam | sirsnau dhyauh samavartata |

padbhyam bhumir disah srotrat | thata lokam akalpayan || 14 ||


(nabhya) from His navel (asid) did appear (antariksam)

space. (sirsnah) From His head was (dhyauh) the sky

(sam-avartat) well established. (padbhyam) From His feet

(bhumi) the earth (srotrat) from His ears (disah) 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 paridhayah" after this, this is common in most Rg-sangrahas. The last verse of the PS redaction in these texts ( eg. Le Mee, Chanana) is "yajnena yajnam." which curiously, is found elsewhere in the Rg Veda. This place is the "asya vamasya palitasya hotuh" hymn, RV -214, by the rsi Dirghatamas (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.



Verse 16

vedahametam  purusam mahantam | adityavarnam tamasastu pare |

sarvani rupani vicitya dhirah | namani krtvabhivadan yadaste || 16 ||


(yat) that (dhirah) valorous  Purusa (aste) who is, who has

(vicityah) materialized (sarvani) all (rupani) forms, and (krtyah)

made (sarvani) all (namani) names, (abhivadan) and maintains all

of these, (etam) that (mahantam) glorious (adityavarnam)

sun-brilliant ( Purusam)  Purusa, (astu) who is (pare)

beyond (tamas) darkness, (aham) I (vedah) Know Him.



This verse is probably closest to the  Shri sampradaya visualization of  Shriman Narayana, as creator and maintainer of all, ( refer back to 'namo bhagavate tasmai krishnaya adbhuta karmane rupa nama vibhedena jagat krdati yo yatah'), full of kalyana gunas such as mahima, brilliant as the sun, and beyond all darkness. What is the advantage of knowing this then ? This is explained in later verses. Also, in Sayana's commentary " mantradrasta svakiyam dhyananubhavam prakatayati". This mantra is how to visualize him for meditation, and thus to know him. Compare this to Visvamitra in the Ramayana " aham vedmi mahatmanam ramam satya-parakramam / vasistho api mahatejo ye ceme tapasi sthitah" - I know the great souled Rama, of deeds beyond measure, powerful in truth, more brilliant than Vasistha, who protected my yajna well". Or Mandodari's praise of Rama as Mahavisnu in the same, " tamasah paramo dhata sankha-cakra gadadhara" - O Creator, who bears the Conch, the Disk, and the Mace as weapons, who is Supreme above all darkness." The image of the sun here is especially effective, as the tamas referred to here is the darkness of the soul, ignorance and inactivity.



I Know Him,

Glorious, Valorous,

Who Names, Forms,

And Keeps all this,

Bright as the Sun,

Beyond all Darkness.



Verse 17



dhata purastadhyamudajahara | sakrah pravidvan pradisascatasrah |

tamevam vidhvanamrta iha bhavati | nanya: pantha ayanaya vidhyate || 17 ||


(ayanaya) to moksa, liberation (na vidhyate) I know not of

(anyah) other (panthah) paths. (yam) Whom (dhata) Bramha

(udajaharah) saw as the Supreme Being, and revealed (purastat)

in the beginning, (yam) whom (sakrah) Indra (pravidvan) knew

well, (pradisas-ca-tasra) in the four quarters, and everywhere,

(vidvan) who knows (tam) Him (evam) in this manner (bhavati)

becomes (amrtah) immortal (iha) in this very birth.



In the beginnning, Bramha said to the Purusa, "You are who was before me.. You are my guide in this", naming Him the cause of himself, and all. Indra learnt of the glory of the Parama purusa from Vamadeva, and from the four directions - Ranganatha Muni.



The object of almost all Vedic rites was to make life, or death, a little less dangerous ( see, eg., Wendy Doniger-O'Flaherty). The refrain of the mantras for these rites is 'Who knows this conquers death'. Even the stories in several Brahmanas involves seers 'seeing and praising with this hymn or metre, and thereby conquering death'. It is interesting to note that the goal is not life eternal (ciranjivitva) but a-mrta, or not-dying. This is a matter of the soul rather than the body, a difference worth appreciating.


The Purusa is manifested by the chanting of this mantra, to who chants this, in their hearts. This is the beginning - of the world, of contemplation of the worlds, of knowledge. In this knowledge, in knowing this by the heart, by the soul, is the beginning of liberation. To know of no other way but this reflects mahavisvasa - great faith. This, 'nanyah pantha vidhyate ayanaya' refrain is also found in several upanisads.



Who the Creator saw

And revealed, as the Cause

Of whom Indra learnt

In all the quarters

Who knows Him thus

Conquers death now.

I know of no other

Ways, than this.



Verse 18



yajnena yajnam-ayajanta devah | tani dharmani prathamanasann |

te ha nakam mahimanah sacante | yatra purve sadhyah santi devah || 18 ||


(yajnena) by sacrifice (devah) did the gods (ayajanta)

sacrifice (yajnam) to sacrifice. (tani) The (dharmani)

associated dharmas (asan) became (prathamani) the first.

(te mahimanah) By the glory of these very dharmas (sacante)

will the great ones achieve (yatra nakam) that heaven where

(purve) the ones who were, before, (devah) and the gods

also called (sadhyah) the achievers, (santi) are.



Here then is the importance of the sacrifice. The two words yaga and tyaga are both related, and may be translated as the one word, sacrifice, giving us a clue to the nature of the rite. The world is established by sacrifice - the Purusa giving His all, which is His self, His body, to form this world, the lives on it, giving them name and form. Why did this happen ? The Nasadiya Sukta relates, when neither being nor non-being was (na sat asit, na asat asit), the One breathed, without air. But then, "kamastadagre samavartatati" - desire first moved it. desire to be. And in its being, the world is. This One, we call  Purusa,  Shriman Narayana, God. And this is sat - Existence, along with Knowledge and Bliss, part of the nature of the divine. So the next time someone tells you St. Augustine was the first to define God as the verb "to be", you can refute them with this.).


All that is, is born of this love, this desire. And all was given (sarvahut) to bring this about. This is the nature of this being.


This is the sacrifice, whose results were the beginning of all. This is why the verse says "tani dharmani prathamani asan" - these dharmas became the first. They are the fruits of the sacrifice, that provide us the means to our own liberation, our very own stairway to heaven.



By Sacrifice did the gods

Sacrifice to Sacrifice

By the fruits of this,

The first harvest,

Do the great ones

Ascend to where the gods

The first ones,

Those who made straight the way





Dvitiya anuvakam



Verse 1

adbhyas-sambhutah prthivyai rasaca | visvakarmanas-samavartatadhi |

tasya tvastha vidadhadrupameti | tatpurusasya visvamajanamagre || 1 ||



(adbhyah) From the waters and from the (rasat) elemental essence

of (prthivyai) earth (sambhutah) was the brahmanda, the

Universe, born. (visvakarmanah) As Visvakarma, the divine

architect, did the Purusa, who is (adhi) more than that Universe, appear

(samavartata). (tvasta) As Tvastha, the divine smith He

(vidadhat) establishes (tasya rupam) His form, that includes all the

worlds (eti) and manifests it everywhere. (agre) In the beginning

was (tat purusasya) that Purusa's (visvam) all, His Visvarupa, (ajanam) formed.




The waters of destruction are again the waters of creation, and from them does the earth reveal itself after pralaya. From these elemental materials is the universe formed, and into these it dissolves. Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. Tvasta was the smith who forged Indra's vajra, thunderbolt, from the bones of the rsi Dadici. Visvakarma is the divine architect who planned and built, among other cities, Kuvera's Alakapuri and also Lanka, and Indra's city.





From the waters and earth

Does all appear

As a builder He builds,

As a smith He forges it..

He who was all

Before the all was.




Verse 2


vedahametam purusam mahantam | adityavarnam tamasas parastat |

tamevam vidhvanamrta iha bhavati | nanyah pantha vidhyate ayanaya || 2 ||



(etam) That (mahantam) glorious (adityavarnam) sun-brilliant

(purusam) Purusa, (astu) who transcends (parastat) all

(tamas) darkness, (aham) I (vedah) know Him.(vidvan) Who

knows (tam) Him (evam) in this manner (bhavati) becomes

(amrtah) immortal (iha) in this very birth. (ayanaya) To moksa,

-liberation (na vidhyate) I know not of (anyah) other (panthah)




This is a re-working of slokas 16 and 17 in the first lesson, or prathama anuvaka.


I Know Him,


Bright as the Sun,

Beyond all Darkness.

Who knows Him thus

Conquers death now.

I know of no other

Ways, than this.



Verse 3


prajapatiscarati garbhe antah | ajayamano bahudha vijayate |

tasya dhirah parijananti yonim | maricinam padamiccanti vedhasah || 3 ||


(prajapatih) As Prajapati, Lord of His subjects, He (carati)

lives (antah) in (garbhe) the womb. (ajayamanah ) Unborn,

(vijayate) He appears (bahudha) in many ways. (dhirah) The

steadfast (parijananti) know well (tasya) His (yonim) true form.

Even (vedhasah) the creators, the knowers (iccanti) desire to the

(padam) positions of (marichinam) sages like Marici, who

worship Him.




I must go to Sayana for commentary on this rather obtuse verse. What is this womb Prajapati resides in ? 'brahmanda rupe garbhe anat madhye prajapatir vigrahavan bhutva carati'. Virat, the shining universe, the female principle that Purusa gave birth to, which in turn gave birth to puruSHa has now been formed into the bramhAnda, and is compared to a womb, in which prajApati, Lord of his Subjects, puruSHa manifested as a fertility diety invoked in weddings etc., resides. Purusha does not need to be born to manifest himself as all. That process begins before he appears from, in and as virAt. He encompasses satyam, gnyaanam, anantam - truth, knowledge, and infinity. Since he gives birth to all, he is yoni, themouth of the womb. His form is a yoni, from which all is born. 'tasya prajApater yonim jagatkAraNaroopam vAstavam svaroopam'. Who knows this ? 'dheera dhairyavantA yogena drtendriyA mahAtmAno jAnanti' - the brave, the courageous, those who have made their senses steadfast in yoga, those great ones know this truth. Such is the compulsion of this truth that even the srshtikartA-s of this world, those that puruSHa has manifested himself as in order to create, desire nothing but to worship him as 'tam eva upAsya mareeceenAm mareecyatri-pramukhAnAm' - the sage mareeci, and sages led by mareeci, atri (among the seven RSHis) - as these sages do.



Birthing this word

Himself Unborn

He is known by those

Who yoked their senses..

And even the knowers

Of this world and more

Desire but to adore Him.



Verse 4


yo devebhya Atapati | yo devAnAm purohita: |

poorvo yo devebhyo jAta: | namo rucAya brAhmaye || 4 ||


(nama:) We salute (ya:) who (Atapati) shines as divinity in

(devebhya:) in the Gods, (ya:) who is (purohita:) Brhaspati, priest

to (devAnAm) the Gods, (ya:) who was (jAta:) born (poorva:)

before (devebhya:) the Gods, (rucAya) who brilliant in himself,

(brahmaye) is the parabramham, the supreme all.


puruSHa was, 'hiraNyagarbha: samavartatAgre' - before the golden shining womb of all, virAt, was established. He is first of all the Gods, their priest, their guide to immortality, and the essence of their divinity. verily is he worthy of our salutations. This is one answer to the question "kasmai devAya havitA vidhema?" - Which God shall we worship by our offerings ?


Who burns, fire-bright

In the Gods, who is their priest,

Eldest, who is the Essence,

Of what Is,

We worship Him.



Verse 5


rucam brAmham janayanta: | deva agre tadabruvan |

yastvaivam brAhmaNo vidhyAt | tasya deva asan vashe || 5 ||


(deva) The Gods, who (janayanta) send forth the (rucam

brAhmam) essence of the knowledge of Brahman (abruvan) said

this (tat) about that Brahman (agre) in the Beginning : " (yastu)

whoever (brAhmaNa:) has an inclination towards Brahman, if he

(vidhyAt) knows Brahman (evam) thus, (devA:) the Gods (asan)

will be (tasya) in his (vashe) control. "


The Gods taste of Brahman.. This "rucam brAmham" is yet another food metaphor for the joining, or the union of the seeker and the sought. Even as he who eats food tastes it, so shall you taste Brahman, and enjoy him. The Gods are in the Brahma- Vidyaa-Sampradaaya, and they are our teachers, our gurus too. They declare this in the beginning, as a sort of 'phalashruti', or list of fruits of knowing the puruSHa thus : Who, with heart steadfast on the puruSHa knows him thus, him even we will serve. Compare the Taittiriya Upanishad, that talks about he who knows Brahman - 'sarve asmai devA balim-Aharanti' - All the Gods bring him offerings.


The Gods who taste

Him, and spread the word

Said this, in the beginning

``Who with his heart

Knows Him, thus,

Him even We will be bound by.''



Verse 6


hreeshca te lakshmeeshca patnyau | ahorAtre pArshve |

nakshatrANi roopam | ashvinau vyAttam |


iSHTam maniSHANa |

amum maniSHANa |

sarvam maniSHANA ||


(hreeshca) Hree and (lakshmishca) Laskhmi are (patnyau) wives (te)

to you. (aho - rAtre) The day and the night (pArshve) your sides.

(nakshatrANi) the Stars (roopam) your brilliant form. (ashvinau)

the Healing Ashvins (vyAttam) your mouth


(maniSHANa) Grant us (iSHTam) the knowledge that we desire,

(maniSHANa) grant us (amum) happiness in this world,

(maniSHANa) grant us (sarvam) all that is, now and forever


Hree is the Goddess that grants Modesty, and Lakshmi she who grants Wealth. ( hreer-lajjAbhimAninee devata , lakshmee- raishvayAbhimAninee devatA - iti sAyaNA) The Day and the Night are even such opposites. Shriman Narayana is the conciliation of all such opposites, even as Sesha, the snake, and garuda, the eagle, worshipping him together signify. He is brilliant as the stars, and healing comes from him.


Asking him to grant as iSHTam, amum, sarvam, is an analogue to asking for sat, Ananda, and chit. All we ask is to know Him.


Hree and Lakshmi

Are your consorts, your

Two sides, Day and Night,

The stars your form,

Healing your words.


Grant us

Our desires,

Our joys,

Your all.