Thursday, November 8, 2007

Purusha Sukta

Hymn of the Supreme Being
~Holy Rigveda Samhita X:90:1-18

A thousand heads had Purusha, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet; He spread over the world on every side and covered ten fingers breadth beyond. [1]

The Purusha is all that exists, all that has been, all that is to be; He is the Lord of Immortality, who waxes greater still by food. [2]

So mighty is His greatness, yea greater than this is Purusha, all creatures are but one-fourth of Him, three-fourths eternal life in Heaven. [3]

Three-fourths of Purusha lies beyond the universe; one-fourth of Him again is here. Thence He strode out on every direction over all those creations what eats not and what does. [4]

From Him Virat was born; again Purusha from Virat was born, as soon as He was born He spread eastward and westward o'er the Earth. [5]

When the Devas prepared their fire sacrifice with Purusha as their offering, ghee was spring, the holy gift was autumn, and summer the wood. [6]

Seven fencing logs had He, thrice seven layers of fuel were prepared, when the Devas celebrating the sacrifice bound the Supreme Person as the offering. [7]

They balmed as offering on the grass Purusha, born in the earliest times, with Him the Devas, Sadhyas and Rishis sacrificed. [8]

From that great sacrifice formed the cream and ghee for oblation. From that Purusha formed the creatures of the air and animals both wild and tame. [9]

From that Purusha, Richa and Saman hymns were born: therefrom the meters were produced, Yajus hymns had its birth from them. [10]

From this sacrifice were horses born, and all creatures with one and two rows of teeth. From it were generated the cattle, from it the goats and sheep born. [11]

When they divided the Purusha how many portions did they make? What do they call His mouth, arms? And what do they call His thighs and feet? [12]

The brahmana was the mouth and rajanya, the warrior-princes were both arms, his thighs became vaishya and His feet became shudra. [13]

His mind formed the Moon, from His eyes the Sun had its birth; from His mouth sprouted Indra (power of grasping and activity) and Agni (will-force) sprouted from His mouth and Vayu from His prana (life-breath). [14]

From His navel came the atmosphere, the sky was fashioned from His head, Earth from His feet, from His ears the directions. Thus, they formed all the worlds. [15]

The Purusha is the Creator of all forms and is given all the names. As we know His great qualities, He is all-powerful, beyond darkness, bright like the Sun, performing all actions. [16]

Only he who truly knows Him attains happiness here; no other known or knowable way exists for liberation in this birth. [17]

The Devas, with sacrificial celebrations, offered to the fire sacrifice: these were the earliest of holy rituals. These mighty powers reached up to heaven: where Sadhyas, the Devas of old and heavenly beings dwell. [18]

~Translated by Raimundo Pannikar


The Purusha Sukta, Hymn of the Supreme Being, is one of the most glorious hymns from the Rigveda, and perhaps the most famous of all Vedic hymns. To Shaivites, the supreme Being (Purusha) is none other than Parameshvara Shiva, the highest on high. According to the Shaiva Agamas, authoritarian texts of Shaivism, the Purusha Sukta is one of the five obligatory Vedic hymns to be recited in every temple of Shiva.

The theme of the Purusha Sukta is simple at the surface, although it is replete with inner meanings which are rather difficult to understand. This hymn explains how the supreme Being (Purusha) expanded into all of existence - space, time and all beings - using the imagery of a Vedic fire ritual (yajna). It is further explained that all of existence is but a fraction (one-quarter) of that Purusha. The rest remains unmanifest in the great beyond. Perhaps most importantly, the Purusha Sukta tells us that creation was an act of sacrifice, the greatest of all sacrifices, on the part of the Lord. What was He to sacrifice, when there was nothing but Him? He sacrificed Himself, a part of His own being to bring about the world. As all of existence is but a part of Him, inseparable from Him, the only way for liberation from the cycles of samsara is to know Him, to realize Him as the essence of all. The Purusha Sukta declares nanyaha pantha ayanaya vidyate meaning no other known or knowable way exists for liberation (verse 17). In other words, liberation is contingent on realizing Him, the immortal Purusha, the supreme Being immanent within all existence. This edict is later found repeated in a myriad Upanishads and other successive holy books.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant. I haven't seen a one stop on Shiva quite like your blog. Will certainly be a regular visitor, and tell everyone i know about it. Well done, really. Fantastic. Full of knowledge, scriptures, and powerful visuals. Congrats.

Agnideva said...

Thanks for the kind words. Do keep visiting and feel free to leave your comments on the posts. I do post regularly, but the topics vary depending on my inspiriation.

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