The zUdras of Purusha Suktam

I had blogged about Purusha Suktam and my interpretation in this blog here.

I had blogged a commentary on it in this blog here.

One doubt that very many people expressed to me in person was the point that I have very much differed in one of the key interpretations of Purusha Suktam that for years have been used to justify the caste system in India.

Almost every scholar from west to India has interpreted the following verse

brāhmaņosya mukhamāsīd bāhū rājanyaĥ kŗtaĥ

ūrū tadasya yad vaishyaĥ padbhyām shūdro ajāyata

as

The Brahmana was his mouth, and his arms were made the Rajanya,his thighs became the Vaisya, and from his feet was the Sudra born.

while I had interpreted it as

Face of this is ever-growing (Brahman, expanding or evolving). Arms are made by Agni/Fire. Large is the foot on which we depend. Continuously changing (is) the governance (nature) of this Creation.

So the general perception is that I have put a gloss over the real meaning so as to divert away from an ‘uncomfortable fact' that Purusha Suktam justifies the Caste systems.

This is totally far from truth.

Rg Veda is a Sruti script. It is a revelation. A Revelation that is supposed to have occurred to our Rishis much much before the human civilizations took the organized shape, much before the Smrti traditions were concretized.

Even according to the Western scholars, the dating of these scripts is much before 3000 BCE and possibly occurred in Afghanistan, even assuming their own philosophy of Aryan Invasion Theory is true. In those times, according to them, ‘Dravidians' or other local tribes have not been conquered. So there is no question of a ‘Sudra' being there.

Again there are many indologists (from the west) who say Rg Veda was composed during the time when Aryans were nomadic tribes. They go to the extent to map a ‘Grama' to a cart, to justify their stance. Even if this is true, there were no Sudras at that time.

My theory is that Rg Vedic texts were revelations which have been handed down to us by Rishis generation after generation, much before the society took an organized shape of castes and communities.

Caste systems should have come up in the society much later. These were described in many Smriti Scripts. Smrti Scripts are one which are based on tradition and do not have the same sanction in our Dharma as the Sruti scripts, which are revelations.

The real meaning of Brahman as used in Rg veda in many other places is one that is ever expanding, growing or evolving continuously.

The root meaning of Rajanya is fire or agni, again as used in many places.

The root meaning of Vaishya is dependence or more correctly dependent.

The real meaning of zUdra is one that changes fast or unstable. (zU – fast, dra – fluid).

When I interpreted it, I looked at the question that was posed by Rishis in the previous verses, which compared the explosion of the Universe to sacrifice of Purusha and purusha getting thrown in different directions, as it happens during the stirring of curd in butter, giving rise to several stars and constellations.

The Rishis asked themselves when the Purusha was sacrificed and got thrown in different directions (like butter in stirring of curd) what happened to his face, arms and feet ?

They answered it as the face (of this universe) is ever growing or evolving, its arms are the fires (that circle and make up the galaxies), its large feet is what we depend on (planets).

But this meaning (which is actually a straight interpretation without convoluting any words) could be understood today. But it is not possible to comprehend it in the generations that took over the Rg Vedic texts subsequently and interpreted them.

When caste system evolved much later to Rg Vedic times, those who expanded the society's knowledge or evolved the society (or whose role is to do that) continuously should have been called Brahmans.

Those who protected the people like the fire that protected people from animals should have been called Rajanyas.

Those who farmed the land and became dependent on the soil should have been called Vaishyas.

Those who did not have a fixed profession, but adopted to anything that they could do should have been called zUdras.

When scholars of the later days looked at the Rg vedic texts, they were always looking through the caste system and hence landed up mapping these words to their caste names, without bothering the fact that Rg Vedic texts were revelations (Sruti) and not based on tradition (smrti), while caste system is a smrti concept.

-TBT

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