[Advaita-l] Purusamedha - Literary and Archeological - Ref

Satish Arigela satisharigela at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 22 02:37:04 CDT 2009

My last post on the topic: Even if I can dig 10 more references on this, it is of use to no-one. Things like these were long forbidden and hence the non-interest as knowledge of this matter doesnt help either me or the other party.
I would like add to the following reference by Kathirasan: Did not check this one myself:
"Do refer to chapter 16 of Katyayana Shrauta Sutras where it mentions that
the human victim had to be either a Kshatriya or a Vaishya (if my memory
serves right). There is also an instruction to kill the victim prior to the
ritual. The above text does provide much info about the Purushamedha."
More literary references: Note that even an old commentator mentions the real killing:
"Yes in the shatapatha the language is a bit ambiguous and the guy might not be smothered but merely bound and later released alive. In the case of the shA~NkhAyana and vaitAna shrauta sUtra-s it appears he was really killed. Some commentators (e.g. bhrAtR^ihari) do seem to clearly mention the guy being killed. So I think it was understood as an actual sacrifice and not a metaphorical one." This is read along with the earlier refernce in the rite to three devi-s performed before letting the victim roam for an year like the horse in the ashvamedha. 
"Another notable shrauta oblation made to revatI was in the human sacrifice – the puruShamedha ritual. In the ashvamedha before the horse is sent off to wander for an
year an oblation is performed to pUShan pathikR^it to protect the horse. In the puruShamedha, in place of this pUShan ritual, one is performed to the 3 devI-s,
anumatI, revatI and aditi. This is recorded in both R^igvedic and atharvavedic tradition (shA~NkhAyana shrauta 16.10.11; vaitAna shrauta sUtra 37.10.20)."
The one below is from google search ..so I myself would take this one with some salt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purushamedha
"However, in a late Vedic Brahmana text, the Vadhula Anvakhyana 4.108 (ed. Caland, Acta Orientalia 6, p.229) actual human sacrifice and even ritual anthropophagy is attested: "one formerly indeed offered a man as victim for Prajāpati", for example Karājāya. "Dhārtakratava Jātūkari did not wish to eat of the ida portion of the offered person; the gods therefore exchanged man as a sacrificial animal with a horse."
Archeological References:
"In terms of archaeology there are a small number of inscriptions mentioning performance of a puruShamedha. These are far fewer than ashvamedha and hence as I clearly stated before the rite was infrequent and not popular.
1) One such inscription can be seen in Andhra in vinukoNDa performed by a certain mAdhavavarman son of indravarman.
2) A chOLa king is mentioned in a tamil poem as performing a puruShamedha. 
3)The rAjpUt king vIra hammira has an inscription stating that he slaughtered several turuShka-s at an ashvamedha -- this does seem more like a puruShamedha. So while being a rare ritual it was unlikely to be non-existent."
Now dont come and say these are too few. This is what I have been saying from the begining: It is there eventhough **rare and performed very infrequently.**
To Kartik:
>This is not a legitimate argument - the prohibition can certainly exist to remove any >possible doubt that humans are the victims of the sacrifice.
It is not enough to brush it aside as an invalid argument. There are some statements forbidding certain acts. I do understand and agree that for some of these, inferring that contrary things was done in the past based on the prohibition will lead to silly conclusions. But in our case here, clearly the work says that when they are --about to be sacrificed-- they heard a voice asking them not to sacrifice the human victim. So isnt it reasonable (ofcourse when combined with other evidence) to infer that before this work came into existence(or composed if you would prefer), the human was likely sacrificed?
>How ancient do we have to go to find the kind of historical evidence you're talking about - >perhaps the Mahabharata times?
It was edited and reedited a couple of times during all these centuries. Which layer are you talking about?

>In the Mahabharata, king Jarasandha wishes to sacrifice to Shiva the enemy kings that he >has defeated and held captive. Along with Arjuna and Bhima, Krishna arrives at >Jarasandha's kingdom and says:

If jarAsandha intended to sacrifice to --shiva-- then it is no longer a shrauta ritual and hence the topic is not relevant for our discussion.
>Apparently, there were indeed idiots like Jarasandha who must've interpreted the Vedas in >a "novel" manner. But even the Smriti disagrees with such practices.
We just showed above that there is nothing novel about this. Smriti disagrees with so many practices that were allowed in earlier times. I am not saying puruShamedha should be practiced or valid..only pointing out that it existed in very ancient times and even in that time, it was something rare.

>In case you do not know how the story goes - Bhima kills Jarasandha in a gruesome >manner and frees the captive kings.
Ofcourse everyone knows that.
To the other learned gentleman:
>I just checked up the taittirIya brAhmaNa and there are about 190
>people supposed to be sacrificed in the puruShamedha - including a
>washerwoman, barber, a blind man, hunchback, dwarf, etc, in addition
>to a brahmin, etc. Are these also present in this story?
Does rAmAyana tell you the name of the barber of  rAmA? Or does it give you detailed accounts of the lifestyles and stories of his various servants in the palace? Your question doesnt in anyway disprove(by way of suggestion) the **extremely rare** act of human sacrifice in veda



More information about the Advaita-l mailing list