ASIAN 224 'Traditions of Poetry in India'

RV 10.90 Purusha ('primal man')   (tr. by Walter Maurer)

1. Thousand-headed is Purusha, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed. He covered the earth on all sides and stood above it the space of ten fingers.

2. Purusha alone is all this, what has been and what is to be, and he is the lord of the immortals, who gro further by means of food.

3. Such is his greatness, and greater than this is Purusha - a quarter of him is all beings, three-quarters of him the immortals in heaven.

4. Three-quarters of Purusha went upward, but a quarter of him was here below. From that he spread out in all directions into what eats and does not eat.

5. From that Vira:j was born; from Vira:j, Purusha. When he was born, he extended beyond the earth, behind and also in front.

6. When with Purusha as oblation the gods offered a sacrifice, the spring was its clarified butter, the summer the fuel, the autumn the oblation.

7. A sacrifice on the sacred grass they sprinkled him, Purusha, who was born in the beginning. With him the gods sacrificed, the Sa:dhyas and the seers.

8. From that sacrifice, a total offering, was brought together the clotted butter: it made the beasts: those of the air, of the forest and of the village.

9. From that sacrifice, a total offering, the Hymns of Praise and the Chants were born; the metres were born from it; the Sacrificial Formula from it was born.

10. From it the horses were born and whatsoever have incisor teeth in both jaws. The cows were born from it. From it were born the goats and sheep.

11. When they portioned out Purusha, in how many ways did they distribute him? What is his mouth called, what his arms, what his thighs, what are his feet called?

12. His mouth was the Bra:hmana, his arms were made the Ra:janya (= Kshatriya), what were his thighs were made the Vaishya, from his feet the Shu:dra was born.

13. The moon from his mind was born; from his eye the sun was born; from his mouth both Indra and Agni; from his breath the wind was born.

14. From his navel was the atmosphere; from his head the heaven evolved; from his feet the earth; the directions from his ear. Thus they fashioned the worlds.

15. Seven were the altar sticks; thrice seven burning logs were made, when the gods, offering the sacrifice, tied Purusha as their victim.

16. The gods sacrificed with the sacrifice to the sacrifice. These were the first rites. These powers reached the firmament, where the ancient Sa:dhyas are and also the gods.

*RV 10.90 is thought to be one of the very latest hymns in the Rigveda.

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