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

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 24 14:58:51 CDT 2009

--- On Tue, 9/22/09, Satish Arigela <satisharigela at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Since I said last post earlier.. I held off for sometime..
> but responding as I was surprised when I saw the kind
> of reasoning employed here.
> >There are many conclusions that can be drawn in the
> above instance. The story may >serve to underline the
> point that human sacrifices are NOT being intended, so "be
> careful >not to misconstrue these injunctions".
> No one misconstrued it here :) A few ancient commentators
> on the sUtra-s confirm this. 
> Dont talk as if this is the only reference to be found in
> the entire literature. I *clearly* said that this is to be
> read in conjunction --with other evidence-- *and then*
> infer.

The Sruti itself says the sacrifice is symbolic. The "other" evidence - the Smriti, for instance the Mahabharata, clearly does not permit human sacrifice.

Commentaries on Sruti and Smriti do not have the same authority as the scriptural texts themselves. Moreover, Sishtachara also says that the sacrifice is symbolic.

Interestingly, the wikipedia article on Purushamedha now reads:


The ritual in many aspects resembles that of the Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice), with, according to Griffith (1899)

    man, the noblest victim, being actually or symbolically sacrificed instead of the Horse, and men and women of various tribes, figures, complexions, characters, and professions being attached to the sacrificial stakes in place of the tame and wild animals enumerated in Book XXIV [VS 24]. These nominal victims were afterwards released uninjured, and, so far as the text of the White Yajurveda goes, the whole ceremony was merely emblematical.

The ceremony evokes the primordial mythical sacrifice of Purusha, the "Cosmic Man", and the officiating Brahman recites the Purusha sukta (RV 10.90 = AVS 5.19.6 = VS 31.1–16).

Note that Griffith acknowledges that the "so far as the text of the White Yajurveda goes, the whole ceremony was merely EMBLEMATICAL".

> >IF human sacrifice as enjoined by the Vedic texts
> actually occurred as you claim, WHY is >it that Krishna
> says that NO human sacrifice OF ANY KIND (including those
> that are >supposedly enjoined by the Veda) can be seen
> during that time?
> I can similarly ask you *WHY* is it that the old
> commentators mention a human sacrifice and *WHY* is it that
> you ignore other evidence? 

The "other" evidence CAN be set aside due to the higher authorities of Sruti and Smriti.

You still haven't answered my question though! :)

> Maybe because the later author who wrote this dialogue in
> the mahAbhArata never heard or seen a human sacrifice? The
> author(certainly not vyAsa** - common let us be a little
> reasonable here) of this episode being uninformed on the
> matter is not proof for its non-existence.

The burden of proof is on you to show that these specific passages are from "later interpolations". The story of Jarasandha occurs in all the available scripts on the Mahabharata (from the second book of "Sabha Parva"), and there is no reason to suppose that it is anything but genuine.

An example of burden of proof: there have been controversial recipients of the Nobel prize in the past. But to claim that "This particular Nobel laureate is not a fair recipient because of past Nobel controversies" is not valid - the person who makes the claim bears the burden of proof to show why this particular Nobel laureate is not a fair recipient of the prize.

> >The word "dR^iShTaH" is important - it indicates that
> such sacrifice MAY have occurred in >a hidden place such
> as a jungle or a cave outside the eye of the society, but
> that it was >not practised among those who have nothing
> to hide in their actions that conform to >dharma.
> >In fact, those who deal with the society in a dharmic
> way NEVER have anything to hide >from anyone!
> When a soma yAga was performed in Andhra in 2001, it was
> done in an isolated place where no one can see.

Really? How then do you know that it actually happened? Obviously, there had to be eye-witnesses to the event who testified to its occurrence!

> I hope you
> understand that I mean no one but the performers.
> Again the AruNakeTuka chayana that happened in Andhra in
> 2002 and the agnishchayana in 2008 was also perfomed in a
> place far away where the common man cannot come there
> unintentionally. 

None of what you've said above proves that the performers of these sacrifices tried to hide their sacrifice from the society. They may have chosen a place away from the general living areas because they wouldn't want to be disturbed during the sacrifice.

> Since these were done in hidden places do you conclude that
> these are undharmic acts?

See above.

> Let me extend this... when doing mantra japa you hide the
> japa mAla or if with fingers you hide with a cloth..what are
> you going to infer from this? Or for that matter shrIchakra
> pUja which is done in secret.

For dharmic reasons, a woman may take a bath where she may not been seen by other persons. However, before taking the bath, she may well announce that she is going to do so, and afterwards too, she can certainly say that she has completed her bath. Although the exact details of how the woman takes her bath is outside the vision of others, there is no reason to hide the occurrence of the action (i.e. bath) itself.




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