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Rigveda - Hymn 90 - The Sacrifice of Primal Man - The Story of God's Divine Sacrifice

A thousand heads and [primal] Man, [a]

A thousand eyes, a thousand feet:

Surrounding the earth on every side,

He exceeded it by ten fingers’ [b].

2 [That primal] Man is this whole universe,—

What was and what is yet to be,

The Lord of immortality

Which He outgrows by [eating] food.

3 This is the measure of His greatness,

But greater yet is the Spirit.

All beings form a quarter of Him,

Three-quarters are the immortal [c] in heaven.

4 With three-quarters the Spirit rose up on high,

A quarter of Him came to be again, [down] here:

From this the Spirit spread in all directions,

Into all that eats and does not eat.

5 From God was supreme authority [d] born,

From the Spirit, splendor again:

Once born,—behind, before,

He reached beyond the physical.

6 With the Spirit as God's oblation [e]

The Divine One performed the sacrifice,

Spring was the melted butter, [f] Summer the fuel, and autumn the sacrifice.

7 He was vaporized on the sacrificial matter,—

[Primeval] Man, born in the beginning:

With Him [their victim], God performed the sacrifice

with purpose and provision.

8 From this sacrifice [freely and] completely offered

The clotted ghee was gathered up:

From this He fashioned beasts and birds,

Creatures of the woods and creatures of the [man-made] village.

9 From this sacrifice [freely and] completely offered

Were born texts of songs, hymns and melodies; [g]

From these musical patterns were born,

[And] From this, the recipe of ritual-offering was born. [h]

10 From this were horses born, all creatures

That have teeth in either jaw:

From this were cattle born,

From this sprang goats and sheep.

11 When God divided [primal] Man,

Into how many parts did He divide?

What was His mouth? What His arms?

What are His thighs called? What His feet?

12 The Word [i] was His mouth,

His arms were the Enlightened One, [j]

His thighs the common people,

And from his feet the servants were born.

13 From His mind the moon was born,

And from His eye the sun,

From His mouth justice [k] and wisdom, [l]

From His breath the wind was born.

14 From His navel arose the atmosphere,

From His head the sky evolved,

From His feet the earth, and from His ear

The cardinal points of the compass:

So did they fashion forth these worlds.

15 Seven were his enclosing sticks, [m]

Three times seven were made his fuel-sticks, [n]

When God, performing sacrifice,

Bound [primal] Man, [the sacrificial] beast.

16 With sacrifice [of Himself] God

Made sacrifice to sacrifice [for creation]:

This self-giving behavior was the first social order, [o]

To the boundary of heaven these forces lifted up

Where the original purpose of life resides. [p]


a. Primal Man, or Purusha. Sanskrit. The soul of the universe, the universal Spirit present everywhere, in everything and everyone, all the times. Purusha is Universal Principle that is eternal, indestructible, without form and all pervasive. Other names include, the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of God

b. breadth, the distance measurement, width; Possible context ? [God exceeded it] through measurement and structure.

c. Or, the unseen.

d. Viraj, Sanskrit. Indicates sovereignty, excellence or splendor. Viraj is the mythical primeval being associated with creation who is often personified as the secondary creator.

e. Or sacrifice, offering for God.

f. Or, beautiful gift. Butter/ghee is symbolic in Hindu literature, as butter is hidden in milk, the same way God is hidden in all creation; spiritual work produces rewards, and this concept is symbolized by the hard job of churning milk to make butter, so it is used as a sacrificial offering.

g. The Rig- and Sama-Vedas

h. The Yajur-Veda

i. Brahman. Sanskrit. The ultimate reality underlying all phenomena

j. Or, the Prince. Son of God

k. Or, Righteousness. Indra, Sanskrit. The one who kills the great symbolic evil, or “deceiving forces” (what obstructs human prosperity and happiness); the deity of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war.

l. Or, fire. Agni, Sanskrit. Regarded as the friend and protector of humanity, in particular, Agni safeguards the home. Various forms of fire are associated with Agni and include the fire on earth, the lightning in the atmosphere, the light of the sun, and the digestive fire that is within all humans. Fire reflects the earliest power to consume, transform and convey.

m. Represents the stages of the creative process through which creation exists: ie. 7 primary colors that make up white light (sight), 7 frequency zones (hearing), 7 perfect pH neutrality between acid and base (taste), 7 base units from which all other units are derived: (length, mass, time, electric, current, temperature, luminous intensity, amount of substance).

n. Oxygen, heat, and fuel

o. Or, religious rites. Dharma, Sanskrit. the eternal and inherent nature of reality, a cosmic law underlying right behavior and social order.

p. Sādhya: Sanskrit: The goal of life, the objective thing to be accomplished, established or made good, to be conquered or subdued.

Hindu Scriptures

Hindu Scriptures / translated from Sanskrit by R. C. Zaehner, copyright © 1966 J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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