The Purusha Sukta
From Wikipedia, the free
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 (puru?a
sukta) is hymn
Rigveda, dedicated to
Purusha, the "cosmic man". It has 16 verses, 15 in the
anushtubh meter, and the final one in the
triishtubh meter. It is the only Rigvedic hymn dedicated to
Purusha, and thus, even though appearing in a late book of the
Rigveda, the oldest attestation of the Purusha myth.
creation hymn, its archaic mythological setting is in
striking contrast to the famous creation account of RV
10.129-130 with its monotheistic and philosophical speculation.
Vaishnavite scholars such as
Shukavak N. Dasa
 have commentated that Purusha sukta identifies
Vishnu as the Supreme Being, and it is regularly chanted in
The Purusa-sukta is found in all the
Vedas and is therefore mentioned in the
Pancaratras and the
Puranas as the most important Vedic hymn (along with the
Purusha is described as a primeval
giant, not unlike the Norse
that is sacrificed by the gods (see
Purushamedha) and from whose body the world and the
varnas (castes) are built. He is described as having a
thousand heads and a thousand feet. He emanated
the female creative principle, from which he is reborn in turn
before the world was made out of his parts.
In the sacrifice of Purusha, the
Vedic chants were first created. The horses and cows were born,
Brahmins were made from Purusha's mouth, the
Kshatriyas from his arms, the
Vaishyas from his thighs, and the
Shudras from his feet.
The Moon was born from his spirit, the Sun from his eyes, the
heavens from his skull.
Agni emerged from his mouth.
The parallel to Norse Ymir is often
considered to reflect the myth's origin in
The hymn is repeated in 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
Shatapatha Brahmana, the Taittiriya Brahmana, the
Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the
Mudgala Upanishad. It is one of the popular hymns of the
Hinduism (like, for example, the
Gayatri mantra), its
Vedantic interpretation taking it to allegorize the
principles of meditation (upasana),
and rituals and duties (dharma
In the Translation of
Ralph T.H. Griffith (1896) and summaries of interpretations
Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and
Purushasuktam,, Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai.:
- 1. A thousand heads hath Purusa,
a thousand eyes, a thousand feet.
- On every side pervading earth he
fills a space ten fingers wide.
- 2. This Purusa is all that yet
hath been and all that is to be;
- The Lord of Immortality which
waxes greater still by food.
- 3. So mighty is his greatness;
yea, greater than this is Purusa.
- All creatures are one-fourth of
him, three-fourths eternal life in heaven.
- 4. With three-fourths Purusa
went up: one fourth of him again was here.
- Thence he strode out to every
side over what eats not and what eats.
- 5. From him Viraj was born;
again Purusa from Viraj was born.
- As soon as he was born he spread
eastward and westward o'er the earth.
- 6. When Gods prepared the
sacrifice with Purusa as their offering,
- Its oil was spring, the holy
gift was autumn; summer was the wood.
- 7. They balmed as victim on the
grass Purusa born in earliest time.
- With him the Deities and all
Sadhyas and Rsis sacrificed.
- 8. From that great general
sacrifice the dripping fat was gathered up.
- He formed the creatures of-the
air, and animals both wild and tame.
- 9. From that great general
sacrifice Reas and Sama-hymns were born:
- Therefrom were spells and charms
produced; the Yajus had its birth from it.
- 10. From it were horses born,
from it all cattle with two rows of teeth:
- From it were generated kine,
from it the goats and sheep were born.
- 11. When they divided Purusa how
many portions did they make?
- What do they call his mouth, his
arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
- 12. The Brahman was his mouth,
of both his arms was the Rajanya made.
- His thighs became the Vaisya,
from his feet the Sudra was produced.
- 13. The Moon was gendered from
his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth;
- Indra and Agni from his mouth
were born, and Vayu from his breath.
- 14. Forth from his navel came
mid-air the sky was fashioned from his head
- Earth from his feet, and from
his ear the regions. Thus they formed the worlds.
- 15. Seven fencing-sticks had he,
thrice seven layers of fuel were prepared,
- When the Gods, offering
sacrifice, bound, as their victim, Purusa.
- 16. Gods, sacrificing,
sacrificed the victim these were the earliest holy
- The Mighty Ones attained the
height of heaven, there where the Sidhyas, Gods of old, are
The President of the
Ramakrishna Mission, at
Chennai, in commentating on the introduction to
Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and
Purushasuktam, stated that the
describe the essential nature of the Supreme Being and the
Purusha sukta is one of those hymns which describe
Shukavak N. Dasa states,
"surprisingly, the name of Vishnu is not mentioned anywhere in
the hymn, but still Vaisnavas universally take it as an address
Verse 1: According to two
Bhatta Bhaskara, this verse identifies the Supreme Being,
Vaishnavism. According to this site,
, the Vaishnavite saint,
Raghavendra Swami comments that Vishnu is in all Purushas or
souls and that He is complete even in dust, grass,wood and in
the small particles.
Verse 2: The same commentators state
that the Supreme Lord is greater than the sum of His creation.
The manifested world is only a fraction of Vishnu. This verse is
an allusion to
panentheistic concepts in Vaishnavism. Raghavendra Swami
comments that "Vishnu is in the Past, is in the Present and will
be in the Future,as He is the Complete- the Omniscient and
Verse 3: The saint comments that
everything in the universe acts as per the order of
Verse 4: Bhatta Bhaskar, the
commentator has stated that many things such as elements and
sense organs were created. Raghavendra Swami comments that
Vishnu is omnipresent.
Verse 5: Raghavendra Swami comments
Sriman Narayana is the Lord of everything created.
Verse 6: Sayana states since many
substances were not yet created so the
devas mentally performed a
The spring season became
summer season became
faggots and autumn season became
Raghavendra Swami comments that
Vishnu created the seasons for this yajna.
Verse 7: The saint states that
Vishnu, is the ultimate creater, preserver and destroyer.
Verse 8: Bhatta Bhaskara interprets
this verse to mean that both wild and domesticated animals were
created from Purusha who is the soul of everything. Sayana
states a similar interpretation and like Bhatta, agrees that
Vayu, the wind
deva is the presiding deity over space and animals are from
the deity of space.
Verse 9: Bhatta Bhaskara, the
commentator states that the
such as Rig Veda and yajus were born from the sacrifice. Sayana
additionally includes creation of the
Gayatri mantra from this sacrifice. Raghavendra Swami states
that Vishnu created the
the Gayatri mantra, etc.
Verse 10: Bhatta Bhaskara interprets
the animal creation from this Purusha. He states that horses,
animals with two rows of teeth in the upper and lower jaws such
as donkeys were born. Additionally, cows, goats and sheep were
Raghavendra Swami states that Vishnu
created horse, donkey, sheep, cow and goats for this yajna.
Verse 12: Both commentators state
that the four classes of human society (castes) were born from
Warriors were created from the arms
of God and the priests were from his head and the merchants from
his abdomen and the laborers from his legs. This may be
interpreted as meaning that no one caste is more important than
the other and that society cannot survive without all parts
Verse 13: Both commentators state
devas such as
Vayu were born from various parts of the Supreme Being, The
saint comments that Hari has created
Chandra by his mind,
by his eyes,
devas from his face. Sri Hari created
by his breath.
Verse 14: Sayana states that heaven
emerges from his head, the earth from his feet and from his
ears, the quarters were created. Bhatta Bhaskara interprets this
verse to mean the various worlds were created from the Supreme
Verse 16: Sayana states that from
such worship came the dharmas which sustained the world emerged
and the fruits of such worship. Bhatta Bhaskara states that all
the elements which sustain the world emerged and the great ones
reached heaven where there is only happiness.
The saint comments that all the
devas performed the yajna and attained the fruits by Vishnu,
Swami Amritananda's translation of Sri Rudram and
Purushasuktam,, Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai.
^ the term
purusha itself is attested in other hymns of
the tenth book, 10.51.8 and 10.165.3, but not in any of
the older books, and not in connection with the Purusha
^ The terms Vaishya and
Shudra only occur in the Purusha Sukta hymn in the Rig
- Rigveda 10.901 aty atisthad
dasangulam. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Journal of the American
Oriental Society, vol. 66, no. 2. 1946.
The Purusha Sukta is a most commonly used Vedic Sanskrit hymn. It is
recited in almost all Vedic rituals and ceremonies. It is often used during the
worship of the Deity of Vishnu or Narayana in the temple, installation and fire
ceremonies, or during the daily recitation of Sanskrit literature or for one's
The Purusha Sukta is an important part of the Rig-veda
(10.7.90.1-16). It also appears in the Taittiriya Aranyaka (3.12,13),
the Vajasaneyi Samhita (31.1-6), the Sama-veda Samhita (6.4),
and the Atharva-veda Samhita (19.6). An explanation of parts of it can
also be found in the Shatapatha Brahman, the Taittiriya Brahmana,
and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. The Mudgalopanishad gives a
nice summary of the entire Purusha Sukta. The contents of the Sukta
have also been reflected and elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana (2.5.35
to 2.6.1-29) and in the Mahabharata (Mokshadharma Parva 351 and 352).
The most commonly used portion of the Sukta contains 24 mantras or
stanzas. The first 18 mantras are designated as the Purvanarayana, and
the rest as the Uttaranarayana. Sometimes 6 more mantras are added.
This part is called the Vaishnavanuvaka since it has been taken from
another well known hymn called the Vishnusukta, a part of the
Rig-veda Samhita. Though the mantras of the Uttaranarayana and the
Vaishnavanuvaka do not seem to have any coherence with the 16 mantras
of the Rig-veda Samhita, tradition has somehow tied them together.
The Purusha Sukta is a rather difficult text to explain in a modern
way. This is primarily because of the archaic language that cannot always lend
itself to interpretations based on the classical Sanskrit, and that many of the
words can be taken in several different ways, both literal and symbolic.
Nonetheless, the Purusha Sukta gives us the essence of the philosophy
of Vedanta, the Vedic tradition, as well as the Bhagavad-gita
and Bhagavat Purana. It incorporates the principles of meditation (upasana),
knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti), and rituals and duties (dharma
and karma). This is why it is highly regarded and extensively used
today as much as thousands of years ago.
Om taccham yoravrini mahe
daivi svastirastu naha
urdhvam jigatu bheshajam
sham no astu dvipade
Om shantih shantih shantihi
worship and pray to the Supreme Lord for the welfare of all beings. May all
miseries and shortcomings leave us forever so that we may always sing for the
Lord during the holy fire ceremonies. May all medicinal herbs grow in potency so
that all diseases may be cured. May the gods rain peace on us. May all the
two-legged creatures be happy, and may all the four-legged creatures also be
happy. May there be peace in the hearts of all beings in all realms.
Om sahasra shirsha purushaha
sa bhumim vishvato vritva
Purusha (the Supreme Being) has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand
feet. He has enveloped this world from all sides and has (even) transcended it
by ten angulas or inches.
purusha evedagam sarvam
yadbhutam yaccha bhavyam
is verily the Purusha. All that which existed in the past or will come into
being in the future (is also the Purusha). Also, he is the Lord of immortality.
That which grows profusely by food (is also the Purusha).
ato jyayagamshcha purushaha
padosya vishva bhutani
tripadasya mritam divi
is His greatness. However, the Purusha is greater than this. All the beings form
only a quarter (part of) Him. The three-quarter part of His, which is eternal,
is established in the spiritual domain.
tato vishvajya kramat
sashana ashane abhi
Purusha with the three-quarters (of His energy) ascended above (the spiritual
energy). His one quarter of material energy becomes this creation again (and
again). Then He pervades this universe comprising a variety of sentient beings
and insentient objects.
virajo adhi purushah
sa jato atyarichyata
pashchad bhumimatho puraha
(the Adipurusha or original Supreme Being) was born the Virat (or Virat Purusha,
the immense universal form). Making this Virat as the substratum (another)
purusha (or being, Brahma) (was born). As soon as he was born, he multiplied
himself. Later, he created this earth and then, the bodies (of the living
deva yajnam atanvata
grishma idhmash sharaddhavihi
devas (the demigods or beings of light) performed a yajna (or sacrificial
ritual), using the Purusha as the havis (sacrificial material) for the yajna
(ritual), the Vasanta (spring) became the ajya (ghee), the Grishma (summer)
served as idhma (pieces of wood) and the sharad (autumn) filled the place of
havis (oblatory material like the purodasha or rice-cake).
trissapta samidhah kritaha
deva yadjajnam tanvanaha
abadhnan purusham pashum
(yajna or spiritual ceremony) there were seven paridhis (fuel pieces serving as
borders). And, twenty-one items were made the samit or sacrificial fuel sticks.
When the devas were performing this yajna or ceremony, they tied the purusha
(himself) as the pashu (sacrificial animal).
tam yajnam barhishipraukshan
tena deva ayajantaha
devas, the sadhyas and the rishis performed the sacrifice by using that Purusha
as the means of yajna, the Purusha who had been born in the beginning, after
sprinkling him with water by the barhis (or sacrificial grass).
tasmad yajnat sarvahutaha
vayavyan aranyan gramashcaye
yajna (or sacrificial ritual) wherein the Cosmic Being was Himself the oblation,
was produced the prasajya (or curds mixed with ghee). Birds flying in the air,
wild animals of the forest as also the domesticated animals of the villages were
tasmad yajnat sarvahutaha
chandhagamsi jijignire tasmat
yajus tasmad ajayata
yajna (or sacrifice) wherein the Cosmic Being was Himself the oblation, were
born the riks (the mantras of the Rig-veda) and the samans (the mantras of the
Sama-veda). From that (yajna) the metres (like Gayatri) were born. From that
(yajna again) the yujas (the Yajur-veda) was born.
ye ke cobhaya dataha
gavo ha jijignire tasmat
tasmad jnata ajavayaha
were born the horses, as also animals (like donkeys and mules) which have two
rows of teeth. From that were born the cattle. From that (again) were born goats
mukham kimasya kau bahu
questions are raised by the sages:) When the gods decided to (mentally)
sacrifice the Viratpurusha (and produce further creation), in how many ways did
they do it? What became of his face or mouth? What became of his two arms? What
became of His two thighs? What were (the products of) the two feet called?
bahu rajanyah kritaha
uru tadasya yadvaishyaha
padhyagam shudro ajayata
face (or the mouth) came the brahmanas. From His two arms came the rajanya (the
kshatriyas). From His two thighs came the vaishyas. From His two feet came the
chandrama manaso jataha
chakshoh suryo ajayata
mukhad indrash chagnishcha
mind was born the moon. From His two eyes was born the sun. From His mouth were
born Indra and Agni. From His breath was born the air.
nabhya asidanta riksham
shirshno dyauh samavartata
padhyam bhumirdishash shrotrat
tada lokagamm akalpayan
(His) navel was produced the antariksha (the space between the earth and the
heavens). Dyuloka (or heaven) came into existence from His head. The bhumi (the
earth) evolved out of His feet, and deek (or spacial directions) from His ears.
Similarly (the demigods) produced the worlds (too).
vedahametam purusham mahantam
adityavarnam tamasastu pare
sarvani rupani vichitya dhiraha
namani kritva abhivadan yadaste
(through intuitive experience) this great Purusha (the Supreme Being), the wise
one, who, having created the various forms and the nomenclatures (for those
forms), deals with them by those names, and who is beyond darkness and is
brilliant like the sun."
dhata purastadya mudajahara
shakrah pravidvan pradishashcha tasraha
tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati
nanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate
ancient days, Prajapati (Brahma) praised Him. Indra who knows all the four
quarters also spoke about Him. Anyone who knows Him thus, will become immortal
even in this life. For attaining liberation there is no other path (than
knowledge of this Purusha, the Supreme Lord).
yajnena yajnam ayajanta devaha
tani dharmani pradhamanyasan
te ha nakam mahimanas sacante
yatra purve sadhyah santi devaha
(demi)gods worshiped (the Supreme Creator in the form of) yajna through yajna
(sacrifical ceremonies). Those very processes became the primary dharmas (laws
guiding humanity). Those great ones attain that heaven where the ancient devas
(demigods) and sadhyas live.
adbhyas sambhutah prithivyai rasacca
tasya tvashta vidadhad rupameti
Viratpurusha manifested Himself from out of (the all-pervading) water as also
the essence of the element of earth. This Viratpurusha was born out of the
greatness of the Paramapurusha, the Creator. The (Paramapurusha, known as)
Tvashta engaged Himself in the act of creating (the fourteen planetary systems),
(which form of the expanded) figure (of the Viratpurusha). (Thus) the entire
creation (related to the Viratpurusha) came into existence in the very beginning
vedahametam purusham mahantam
adityavarnam tamasah parastat
tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati
nanyah pantha vidyate'yanaya
known that great Purusha (Supreme Being) who is brilliant like the sun and who
is beyond all darkness. One who knows Him thus becomes immortal (even) here.
There is no other path for liberation than this."
prajapatishcharati garbhe antaha
ajayamano bahudha vijayate
tasya dhirah parijananti yonim
marichinam padamicchanti vedhasaha
(the Supreme Creator) moves inside the cosmic womb. (Though) unborn He takes
birth in a variety of ways. The wise ones know His (real nature) as the origin
(of the universe). The (secondary) creators desire to attain the positions of
Marichi and others.
yo devebhya atapati
yo devanam purohitaha
purvo yo devebhyo jataha
namo ruchaya brahmaye
Obeisances to Him, the self-luminous Brahman, who shines for the (demi)gods, who
is the leader of the rituals of the gods and who was born even before the gods.
rucham brahmam janayantaha
deva agre tadabruvan
yastvaivam brahmano vidyat
tasya deva asanvashe
beginning of creation, the gods, manifesting the light of Brahman, addressed
Brahman thus: "That brahmana who realizes (You) thus, all the gods will come
under his control."
hrishcha te lakshmishcha patnyau
Om shanti shanti shantihi
The goddesses Hri (modesty) and Sri (Lakshmi, wealth) are Your consorts. Day and
night are Your lateral limbs. The stars are Your form. The Ashvins are your
widely opened (mouth). (O Purusha) fulfill our desire for self-knowledge as also
our desire for the enjoyments of this world (like longevity, cows, and horses).
Give us all that we need. Om, let there be peace, peace, peace.
[These prayers are available at