M. NARASIMHACHARY

FRESH TRANSLATION AND COMMENTARY ON AN IMPORTANT VEDIC HYMN

A NEW APPROACH TO PURUSA SUKTAM English translation and exposition by T. Venkatacharya based on the Sanskrit commentary of Ranganatha Muni, pub. by Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 38, Bidhan Sarani, Kolkata-700006. The Purusha Sukta (hymn about the Supreme Being) is also a hymn on creation. There have been several editions of this hymn; and it is widely commented and translated in several languages. This hymn is found in all the Vedas with varying number of verses. Thus in the Rigveda this hymn is in 16 verses; Sukla Yajurveda contains 16, Sama Veda seven and Krishna Yajurveda 18. This edition is based on Rangantha Muni's Sanskrit commentary. He lived in the 13th century and followed the Krishna Yajurveda, which has 18 verses.The book presents a new approach to the study of this important and difficult hymn. Interpretation of Vedic texts requires a sound traditional background and thorough acquaintance with Vedic grammar. Some of the expressions are archaic and figurative or secondary in import. They should not be understood in the literal sense.

Interpretation

T. Venkatacharya, the expositor and translator of this hymn, combines in himself these qualifications in a full measure. The subtle nuances of Vedic language, the actual import of the hymn and the overall concept of creation have been commendably unfolded by him in this publication. This interpretation, which is quite novel, tries to explain the "mystery" of creation of the universe in as simple a language as possible.According to the translator, the word `Virat' refers to the primordial nature (Prakriti) out of which the universe is created. The word Purusha, occurring in the hymn, when it stands alone without any adjective, should be understood in the sense of the four-faced creator Brahma. But if it is qualified by an adjective as in "Mahantam Purusham" and "Sahasrasirsha Purushah", it refers to the Supreme Being. The act of Srishti (creation) mentioned here is not to be taken literally. It is a "mental act" involving deep meditation. Likewise, the word "Yajna" (sacrifice) also is a "mental act". It should not be taken as involving the sacrifice of any animal, as is generally understood. The Rishi who "saw" this hymn is Narayana. The word "Narayana" denotes the Supreme Being also, but one should distinguish the seer Narayana from God Narayana. Verse 16, which says, "I know this Supreme Person... " is in support of this view.These are some of the highlights of the present exposition, which make the approach to the study of this ancient and important Sukta, fresh and "new". There are many such explanations that make the study of this work a rewarding experience. We congratulate the learned translator for this memorable presentation.