[Advaita-l] Purushamedha

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 23 22:20:02 CDT 2009

Dear friends,
I think there were some secrecies involved in all such type of rituals and we cannot really explore the rituals fully without the missing links. There might have have been some esoteric texts with explanations, which could have been lost in time. For example the anointing of the sacrificial horse by the queen privately is also another mystery connected with the Asvamedha yajna. Some anti-dharmic critics have even given repulsive interpretations of that.
Sunil K. Bhattacharjya

--- On Wed, 9/23/09, Anbu sivam2 <anbesivam2 at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Anbu sivam2 <anbesivam2 at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Purushamedha
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 7:05 PM

Our Vedas and Puranas and Ithihasas talk of so many characters who you can
come across in every day life.  How many of the members of this forum alone
have not come across a character such as a Jambavan (who enthused you to
succeed) or a Salya (who decried your efforts every step of the way)?
Sunakshepa is a character who was willing to die.  If you come across a
person who self-immolates as it happens in India (!) you know there is a
Sunakshepa!  Gandhi was a Sunakshepa and he advocated losing oneself for a
cause that is of no personal benefit to himself let alone for anyone else.
For him the MEANS is sacred NOT THE END CAUSE OR RESULT.  He delightedly
showed his other cheek to a white man who slapped him.  *Appease but never
fight  was his path*.  He believed that in the goodness of the enemy that he
might let you live but if he didn't it is OK!! I have come across a lot of
people who thought it was great that Gandhi showed his other cheek but never
practiced it themselves!  My father was averse to that fake struggle called
Sathyagraha that ended unceremoniously when the British decided to quit
after dividing the country that let to the blood flowing like the rivers
Sindhu and the Ganga in Panjab and Bengal.  The author of the sathyagraha
wasn't willing to claim victory after the division and bloodbath.  A Hindu
cursed him for the setback and took him out in despair.   The Congress party
portrayed Gandhi as a martyr and made political gains for its secular
objectives and for those of Muslims and Christians to convert and flourish
in the Hindu India.  And sathyagraha was given the credit for the so called
independence. (sic!)  Ever since then we only see this govt appeasing the
Muslims and Christians at the expense of the Hindus.  It appeased Pakistan
and China with territories and never felt it sacred to fight for its return.

I agree with Jaldharji on his disapproval of Purusamedha which is taking out
one's life for another's gain.  But to that I simply add disapproval for
characters like Sunakshepa who is devoid of any principle of value except
being a loser.  I sometimes think that Viswamithra after adopting Sunakshepa
would have turned him into a man of some loftly principle worth emulating
for others in standing up for himself!

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 7:35 PM, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>wrote:

> On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, BV Giri wrote:
>  But if one reads the various accounts of the Sunasepha story, it seems
>> pretty clear that Purusamedha involved the actual sacrifice of a human.
> *that particular* one almost did.  But the point of the story is to express
> disapproval.
>  After all, it if were merely symbolic, why would Rajarishi Harishchandra
>> need to substitute his own son Rohita with Sunasepha? What would be the
>> necessity?
> He had been childless and made a promise to Varuna to sacrifice his son if
> one was born to him.  Now why he did that is another question.  One should
> bear in mind that the stories in shruti are arthavada to illustrate some
> point of dharma.  The story may not reflect history at all but only explain
> that the Sunasepha suktas are for Varuna.
> Also note it is Rohita who comes up with the idea of substitution.  His
> motivation should be obvious!
>  Also. why would Sunasepha's brahmin father want to literally sacrifice his
>> son in the first place if the Purusamedha was simply meant to be symbolic?
>> One would expect a Vedika brahmana to know whether or not the sacrifice
>> was
>> symbolic or not ­ however, the old man is more than willing to kill his
>> own
>> son.
> Patriarch of once illustrious family now fallen on hard times will stop at
> nothing, even murder, to ingratiate himself with the powerful and earn a few
> $$$ (or rather cows.) It's a plotline any Bollywood screenwriter would
> recognize.
> By the way this also illustrates that being a Rshi (a mantradrashta)
> implies no particular ethical or spiritual ability.
> On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Kathirasan K wrote:
>  Namaste
>> Do read up the chapter on Purusamedha in the following book for more info
>> on
>> this subject:
> This was an interesting read (the parts that were accessible) but I felt
> the author strained a bit to hard to see evidence of human sacrifice
> everywhere.
>  Namaste all,
>> 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.
> The problem is that the 16th adhyaya doesn't describe the Purushamedha but
> the agnichayana (building of the fire altar.)  However reading this section,
> the mystery deepens.  Here are a few relevant excerpts from 16.1.
> chikIShamANa uttarasyAM phAlgunyAM paurNamAseneShTvA pa~ncha
> pashUnAlabhate.adakShiNAn || 5 ||
> "One who wishes to build the chayana should after, offering the Purnimasa
> ishti of Phalguna,  obtain five pashus without giving dakshina"
> brahmaNe vA dadyAt || 6 ||
> "or he gives to the Brahmana[1] priest [only.]"
> [1] The seniormost of the hotrs.  I find it curious that the dakshina is
> curtailed or refused altogether.  A sign of disapproval perhaps?
> agnibhyaH kAmAya purushAshvago.vyajAn || 7 ||
> "For desire the Agnis[2] are given a man, a horse, a bull, a ram and a
> he-goat.[3]"
> [2] the seven forms of Agni
> [3] the five pashus of sutra 5.
> ...
> varShiShTharashanaH puruSho.anupUrvyA itareShAm || 9 ||
> "The rope for the man should be the longest and [progressively] shorter for
> the others."
> sarveShAM vA tulyaH || 10 ||
> "or all [ropes should be] of equal length."
> ...
> parivRte puruShasaMGYapanam || 14 ||
> "In an enclosed place[1] should be the killing of the man"
> [4] The commentator Deva Yajnika says it is behind the shed where the other
> pashus are killed.
> ...
> vaishyaH puruSho rAjanyo vA || 17 ||
> "The man should be a Vaishya or a Kshatriya"
> The goat is sacrificed in the fire.  The other four pashus are beheaded and
> their bodies are thrown into the water which is used for making the bricks
> for the altar.  The adhvaryu cleans the flesh from the heads and keeps the
> skulls on the site of the altar.
> anyAni vA hiraNmayAni vA mR^inmayAni vAnAlabhyaitAn || 32 ||
> "or others[5] or golden ones or clay ones without having obtained them[6]"
> [5] skulls.  The commentator Karkopadhyaya says this means the skulls of a
> Kshatriya or Vaishya who has died in battle can be used.
> [6] them = real animals.  I.e, real skulls can be substituted with models.
> shyAmatUparo vA prajApatyaH || 33 ||
> "or[7] a white hornless goat [is sacrificed] to Prajapati."
> [7] instead of the procedure described above.
> Unlike Purushamedha, Agnichayana is a living shrauta tradition.  Obviously
> the rite does not include human sacrifice today but did it ever?  Or were
> one of the optional substitutions used instead?  It would be instructive to
> look at the archaeological evidence.  For instance an agnichitti dating
> from the 3rd century AD was excavated in Kaushambi UP.  Animal bones were
> discovered at the site.  How about human ones?
> On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Satish Arigela wrote:
>  Not saying that this is a reliable way to learn about our traditions but
>> if you do a normal google search, you can find some stray references
>> where it is said that in the puruSha-medha, the queen behaves with the
>> human exactly in the same way she behaves with the horse in the context
>> of ashvamedha. : I wonder what were their references.. they could the
>> same ones given in earlier mail? I am not sure...
> On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Satish Arigela wrote:
>  Ok. I wonder if this is because the practice was abandoned even in
>> ancient(like 2000 yrs) times?
> As I mentioned before I think the purushamedha transformed into the viraja
> homa and that would only have been possible if it was conceptually about
> renunciation to begin with.
>> Is the similarity of the names just a coincidence then? Just wondering why
>> is it called puruSha-medha instead of puruSha yajna or by some other suffix?
>> Maybe there are other examples where two different shrauta rites had similar
>> names but from a ritualistic  viewpoint they are quite different?
> Medha as I understand it simply refers to an animal sacrifice but there is
> not a strict definition.  Four medhas are described in
> Katyayanashrautasutra:
> Ashvamedha in adhyaya 20, and purushamedha, sarvamedha, and pitramedha
> together in adhyaya 21.  Of these, only purushamedha and sarvamedha seem to
> be conceptually related.
>  "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)."
> Nothing of this sort occurs in the description of purushamedha in the KSS.
> The only similiarity is that the bound sacrificial victims have fire passed
> around them and then they are released which parallels a certain set of
> victims in the ashvamedha.
> --
> Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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