Friday, September 08, 2006

The Cosmic PuruSa III

From Purusha SUkta by S.K.Ramachandra Rao, page-72-73:
(...contd from the last post)
"Even in Yajur Veda, where the references are more obviously to the four social groups, the explanation is symbolic:
as for instance, in Shukla Yajur Veda (14, 28-31), where there is a suggestion that the three currents (prAna, vyAna, and udAna) of the puruSa (or prajApati) represent the brahma, the ten toes, the two thighs, and the torso represent kshatra (viz. the kshtrIyas), the ten vital currents, the five elements, mind, consciousness and ego represent shUdrArye (viz. the SUdrAs and vaishyAs).

References to Brahma and Kshtra are to be found in this Veda quite frequently, and as 'yajamAnAs' in the sacrifical context. Aitareya BrahmaNa states that prajApati created yajna, and after that, brahma and kshatra:

The two [brahma and kshatra] denote powers that make a sacrfice possible. And, according to Satapatha brahmaNa (11.2.7, 16), these two powers are established in the common people, viz. the vaishyAs.

The same text identifies the three factors brahma, kshatra, and vishya with the three vyAhrRtIs-- bhuh (the earth), bhuvah (the midregion) and svah (the sky); PrajApati created the three powers from the three vyAhRtIs.

[Hence] this mantra is to be taken along with other mantras in the context of postulating a common origin for the entire uiverse-- animate as well as inanimate. "

So what is the conclusion?
The whole issue is about sacrifice of puruSa, which can be viewed as a yajna. And brahma and kshatra are two powers that need to be established in vaishyas (common people) or SUdrArye (vaishyAs and SUdrAs) for the success of this yajna.

The only unconnected reference is that the book doesnt not detail any explanation for why the word SUdra is present in only this sUkta in the whole of RV and in what context is it used here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Cosmic PuruSa II

RV 10:90.12--
Arguably the most important mantra in RV for an Indologist desiring to know about the social structure of the vedic peoples. And its totally easy to form quite a confident opinion of Vedic Social Structure based on just these 2 lines, relegating all the other 10,000-odd mantras in RV to mere academic interest.

Actually, till yesterday night, even I was of the same opinion that this verse actually told about the description of the varna system.

The actual explanation is very very different, opening completely new avenues of intellections. Please remember that meanings of many words have changed over the past 5000 years:

PuruSa SUkta, S.K.Ramachandra Rao, page-71:

Mantra 10.90.12:
Brahmano asya mukham AsIt bAhU rAjanyah kRtah

UrU tad asya yad vaishyah padbhyAm SUdrO ajAyata

[The puruSa who got ready to be sacrificed] had brahmaNa as his face (or mouth), ther rAjanya (or kshtrIya) as his arms, the vaishya as his thighs, and the SUdra was born from his feet.

At first glance, the mantra seems to make a reference to the origin of the four caste-groups (varnAs) in the Indian society. In fact, this is the explanation most often given to this mantra. Even SAyana suggests that the mantra seeks to assign different limbs of puruSa's body for the four caste groups (jAti). During the days of SAyana (14th century A.D.), caste-groups had not only come to stay, but had become important in social organisation. It was natural therefore for him for him to take the names 'brahmana' etc., in the sense of caste groups. But it must be noted that the caste system was altogether alien to Rig Vedic corpus and to the society prevalent where this corpus was compiled. It has been a matter for conjecture on how this mantra came to be incorporated into the sUkta; the non-believers in the apourushEyatva of the vEda have even suggested that the entire sUkta is an interpolation [suggesting that it is a later addition].

[The next paragraph is broken down into points to facilitate an easier approach to its import. Take a look at those points to appreciate their rather explosive nature]-

1)... the idea of the four groups has not been repeated anywhere in the Rig Vedic corpus;
2) ...the word SUdra does not occur anywhere else in the entire Rig Veda (as P.V.Kane has rightly pointed out, History of Dharma Sastra, Vol.2, pp.-18-104).
3) The expression 'brAhmaNa' is to be found only in this mantra, and nowhere else in the Rig Veda. The word 'brahma', however, has often been employed, but in the sense of a hymn or a hymn-maker.
4) The word rAjanya for a kshatrIya is employed only in this hymn, and nowhere else in the RV corpus. 'Kshatra' in RV means area, land (later KshEtra), and also valour, might, and majesty (as attributes of Indra, Varuna, or the Maruts).
5) And 'visha' (from which 'vaishya' emerged) signifies, 'any group of people' in the context of RV. It is just a collective expression.

So, if the words dont actually mean what they seem to mean, then where are we being led to by this sukta??
to be continued...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Cosmic PuruSa

Excerpt from "puruSa sUkta" by S.K.Ramachandra Rao:

"The expression puruSa is not be construed in the sense of 'man' (human being), although this meaning became prevalent at a later age. It is never employed in the vedic hymns in this sense."

And the book goes on to give the following definitions of the word puruSa:

1) that which goes ahead (purati agre gachchati)
2) that which fills all with strength (piparti pUrayati balam yah)
3) that which lies inside the township (puri shete yah)-- Shatapatha BrahmaNa (purah kuSan UnAdi--sUtra, 4.74)

He also mentions:
"It is said that the savitR of the gAyatrI mantra occuring in RV(3.62.10) is identical to the puruSa of the puruSa sUkta of RV(10.90)."

" The word puruSa has the meaning of the spirit in contradistinction to matter (prakRti); in the sankhya system of thought puruSa (masculine gender) is distinguished from prakRti (matter, nature, feminine gender). prakRti evolves, changes and binds;but it is inert and has therefore to depend upon the presence of puruSa to enliven, impel and vivify. puruSa here corresponds to SavitR in the sense of stimulator or creator of all things. All things in their individual forms are regarded as 'embodied' (viz. having bodies, which are filled by souls, and hence called puras).

We read in Bhagavatha (7.14.37):
The puruSa is so called because he creates all the species of beings (puras)- humans, beasts, sages, and gods, and lies in each of the beings in the form of soul.

Elsewhere PuruSa is identified with Vishnu, for he abides within the body which is called pura.

It is in this sense that the lexicon, Amara-Kosha, takes the word puruSa as synonymous with 'atman' (3.3.218). puruSa, as the ultimate and unitary cosmological principle as well as the subtlest psychic reality, occurs in the hymns of Rig-Veda, and in the UpaniSads."

The author then proceeds to detail wonderfully what famous upaniSads such as praSna, katha, munDaka, bRhadAnandaka say about puruSa and then he explains the relationship between puruSa and sun, puruSa and prajapati.
And given below is the marvellous representation of the cosmic puruSa by chandu--