[Advaita-l] Purusamedha

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Wed Sep 2 15:29:09 CDT 2009

On Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 7:53 AM, BV Giri<research at devavision.org> wrote:
> Namaskaram,
> I am writing a thesis on certain elements of Yajur Veda and I am somewhat
> confused regarding the Purushamedha
> It seems quite confusing as to where the Vedas stand on this issue. The
> Purusa-medha seems to strongly to suggest that in the Vedic period, human
> sacrifices were performed by Brahmanas. Many scholars say that the
> Purusa-medha was only symbolic and nobody was really killed. However, in the
> Satpatha Brahmana texts and also in Bhagavata Purana we find the story of
> Sunahsepha, who was chosen as a sacrificial victim by the brahmanas and was
> almost offered in sacrifice.
> Anyhow, I am not interested in scholars speculations. I am more interested
> in what sampradayik Vaisnavas have to say on this matter. Could you find
> time to ask any Sri or Madhva scholars what the Purusa-medha was about and
> if anyone was actually sacrificed. If it was symbolic, how do we account for
> the story of Sunahsepha?

The shatapatha brAhmaNa specifies that the human beings are merely
tied up and released - not actually sacrificed. The purushamedha is a
sacrifice to the cosmic puruSha - the "victims" are all different
human beings - a brahmin, kShatriya, etc., and also from different
professions. The list of victims can be found in the taittiriya
brAhmaNa 3.4, beginning with brahmaNe brAhmaNam Alabhate, kShatrAya
rAjanyam, etc. A very similar list can be found in the shatapatha
brAhmaNa also.

It may or may not have been actually performed - but there are no
recorded instances of these being actually performed unlike other
sacrifices such as ashvamedha, rAjasUya, etc. A few srauta texts
actually claim contrary to the shatapatha brAhmaNa that the victims
are actually sacrificed.

This is the advaita-l - not perhaps the best forum for finding out
what Srivaishnavas or Madhvas have to say regarding this.


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