Kalpurush, the Cosmic Man


To understand Hindu Astrology in depth one needs to understand the concept of Kalpurush or Cosmic Man. The following Vedic Hymn is addressed to the Cosmis Man whose vastness and expanse is amply reflected in the hymn.


“ह्रीश्चते लक्षीश्चपत्न्यौ। अहोरात्रे पार्श्वे। नक्षत्राणि रूपम्। अश्विनौ व्यात्तम्।

इष्टं मनिषाण। अमुं मनिषाण। सर्वं मनिषाण॥”


The goddesses Hri and Sri are your wives. Day and night are your lateral limbs. The nakshatras are your form. The Ashvins are your expanse. Fulfill our desire for self-knowledge. Fulfill our desire for the enjoyments of this world. Fulfill our desire for everything.


Time creates, Time annihilates; but Kalpurush is beyond the cyclic movement of creation and destruction. He is Virat, so large that he is beyond the comprehsibility of the human mind – he is the Omnipresence Omniscient Omnipotent Consciousness, only a part of which has manifested as the universe which we see.


– Sri Aurobindo, Savitri


The Might of all that never yet came down


Purusha Sukta in the Vedas describes the Kala Purusha who is the source of the creation. He is beyond time and cannot be devoured by Time, hence is called Kalpurush. The Sukta describes Kalpurush as one who pervades everything – poetically described as one with thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet, and transcending in all directions. All manifestination – in past, present and in future – are held by Kalpurush. From Kalpurush emanates the creative Will which causes the projection of the universe in time and space. Through his own sacrifice in a yagya Kalpurush created the world and all forms of existence – the birds, animals, Vedas, metre, Sun, Moon, Indra, Agni, the Celestal Sphere, the heavens, the earth, the Space.


Purush Sukta is profound in its philosophican message, but is very difficult to comprehend through literary translation of its hymns, keeping in mind that Vedic Rishis used symbols to contain a complex idea or a meaning, and also that the Vedic Word was a seed of thought and vision by which they recovered old truths in new forms.


॥ अथ शुक्लयजुर्वेदीय पुरुषसूक्तः॥

सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात्।

स भूमि सर्वत स्पृत्वाऽत्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम्॥१॥


sahasrashIrShA puruShaH sahasrAkShaH sahasrapAt sa bhUmi{\m+} sarvata spR^itvA.atyatiShThaddashA~Ngulam


Purusha, the Cosmic Being has a Cosmic body and therefore countless heads, eyes and feet which are poetically mentioned here as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet; he has enveloped the Cosmic Earth from all sides, and has established himself in the 10-fingers wide space in the heart of the Jiva.


पुरुष एवेद सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भाव्यम्।

उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति॥२॥


puruSha eveda{\m+} sarvaM yadbhUtaM yacca bhAvyam utAmR^itatvasyeshAno yadannenAtirohati |


This Purusha alone is all that which existed in the past, that is, and that which shall appear in future. He is also the Lord of the immortality, and also of that which grow abundantly by food.


एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः।

पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि॥३॥


etAvAnasya mahimAto jyAyA.Nshcha pUruShaH pAdo.asya vishvA bhUtAni tripAdasyAmR^itaM divi


All that is here is indeed his greatness. But he has much more glory and greatness, the distinction of the Purusha; this, what is seen is just one-fourth of him, one leg of the creature, the other three are invisible and in the heaven of immortality.


त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पुरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत् पुनः।

ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि॥४॥


tripAdUrdhva udaitpuruShaH pAdo.asyehAbhavat punaH |tato viShva~N vyakrAmatsAshanAnashane abhi


With those other three parts this great Purusha ascended above, went up to the heaven of immortality; one alone remained here, this one becoming again and again, and from this came, extending over every side, sentient and insentient objects, objects and beings, those eat and those eat not.


ततो विराडजायत विराजो अधि पूरुषः।

स जातो अत्यरिच्यत पश्चाद्भूमिमथो पुरः॥५॥


tato virADajAyata virAjo adhi pUruShaH sa jAto atyaricyata pashchAdbhUmimatho puraH


Thence was born Viraj, the Splendid, and from Viraj came the Purusha; thus born, he grew at once large, exceedingly large, eastward and westward, extending beyond the Earth, both behind and in the front.


तस्माद्यज्ञात् सर्वहुतः सम्भृतं पृषदाज्यम्।

पशूँस्ताँश्चक्रे वायव्यानारण्या ग्राम्याश्च ये॥६॥


tasmAdyaj~nAt sarvahutaH sambhR^itaM pR^iShadAjyam |pashU.NstA.Nshchakre vAyavyAnAraNyA grAmyAshcha ye |
This was the Sarvahuta Yajna – Offering of the All – made by them, and from it was obtained पृषदाज्य mixture of curd and ghee (clarified butter); from it winged forth birds flying in the air, and beasts in the wild woods, and the meek ones of the small villages.


तस्माद्यज्ञात् सर्वहुतः ऋचः सामानि जज्ञिरे।

छन्दासि जज्ञिरे तस्माद्यजुस्तस्मादजायत॥७॥

tasmAdyaj~nAt sarvahutaH R^ichaH sAmAni jaj~nire |ChandA{\m+}si jaj~nire tasmAdyajustasmAdajAyata || 7||

From that Sarvahuta Yajna in which the Cosmic Being was Himself the Offering, born the riks – the hymns of the Rig Veda and the samans – the chants of the Sama Veda From the Yajna were born the Metres that govern the movements of the things in the universe, and soon the conduct of the rites, the sacrificial formulae of the Yajur Veda.


तस्मादश्वा अजायन्त ये के चोभयादतः।

गावो ह जज्ञिरे तस्मात्तस्माज्जाता अजावयः॥८॥


tasmAdashvA ajAyanta ye ke chobhayAdataH |

gAvo ha jaj~nire tasmAttasmAjjAtA ajAvayaH || 8||


From that were born the Horses, creatures with only one and two rows of teeth, cattle, goats and sheep.


तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन् पुरुषं जातमग्रतः।

तेन देवा अयजन्त साध्या ऋषयश्च ये॥९॥


taM yaj~naM barhiShi praukShan puruShaM jAtamagrataH |tena devA ayajanta sAdhyA R^iShayashcha ye || 9||


The Accomplished and the Seers and the Gods performed the sacrifice. That splendid Being, Purusha, who was born before the beginning of things, ahead of everything, the earliest, they made him the offering in the Yajna; on the seat of sacred grass they sprinkled on him the consecrated water.


यत्पुरुषं व्यदधुः कतिधा व्यकल्पयन्।

मुखं किमस्यासीत् किं बाहू किमूरू पादा उच्येते॥ १०॥


yatpuruShaM vyadadhuH katidhA vyakalpayan |mukhaM kimasyAsIt kiM bAhU kimUrU pAdA ucyete || 10||


When this Purusha was divided (when the gods decided to sacrifice the Purusha and produce further creation) in how many parts did they do so? In what forms they shaped him? What became of his mouth? What became of his thighs? And his feet? How are these named?


ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद्बाहू राजन्यः कृतः।

ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्या शूद्रो अजायत॥ ११॥


brAhmaNo.asya mukhamAsIdbAhU rAjanyaH kR^itaH |UrU tadasya yadvaishyaH padbhyA{\m+} shUdro ajAyata || 11||


His head is the Brahmin, the wise and the learned, and his arms became Rajanya, the king, the man of valour; what were his thighs they were made into Vaishya, the man of transaction and business, and his two feet turned into Shudra, the doer of perfect works.  Wisdom, Power, power of Nutrition, Service – all are important ingredients of a yagya, and this Mantra indicates their nascence by using the allegory of four classes of society.


चन्द्रमा मनसो जातश्चक्षोः सूर्यो अजायत।

श्रोत्राद्वायुश्च प्राणश्च मुखादग्निरजायत॥ १२॥


chandramA manaso jAtashchakShoH sUryo ajAyata |shrotrAdvAyushca prANashca mukhAdagnirajAyata || 12||


From his mind was born the Chandrama, from his two eyes was born the Surya, from the mouth came Indra and Agni, and from his breath was born Vayu.


नाभ्या आसीदन्तरिक्ष शीर्ष्णो द्यौः समवर्तत।

पद्भ्यां भूमिर्दिशः श्रोत्रात्तथा लोकाँऽकल्पयन्॥ १३॥


nAbhyA AsIdantarikSha{\m+} shIrShNo dyauH samavartata |padbhyAM bhUmirdishaH shrotrAttathA lokA.N.akalpayan || 13||


From the navel of this Purusha appeared the Antariksha (the space between the earth and the heavens), and from the crown of his head came Dyuloka (heaven or celestial realms). Bhumi (earth) evolved out of his feet, from the ears came the ten directions; by the sheer power of imagination (formulation) the worlds came into existence.


यत्पुरुषेण हविषा देवा यज्ञमतन्वत।

वसन्तोऽस्यासीदाज्यं ग्रीष्म इध्मः शरद्धविः॥ १४॥


yatpuruSheNa haviShA devA yaj~namatanvata |vasanto.asyAsIdAjyaM grIShma idhmaH sharaddhaviH || 14||

Even as the devas performed the Yajna for the Creation, in the absence of any other mater Purusha himself was made the havi – the sacrificial offering to the great Mystic Fire. Vasanta (spring) became the ajya (ghee), the Grishma (summer) became the idhma (pieces of wood) and the sharad (autumn) filled the place of havis (oblatory material like the purodasha or rice-cake).


सप्तास्यासन् परिधयस्त्रिः सप्त समिधः कृताः।

देवा यद्यज्ञं तन्वाना अबध्नन् पुरुषं पशुम्॥ १५॥


saptAsyAsan paridhayastriH sapta samidhaH kR^itAH |devA yadyaj~naM tanvAnA abadhnan puruShaM pashum || 15||


Seven were the paridhis (pieces of the fuel-wood serving as borders), and three times seven (twentyone) items were made the samidha – the fuel sticks. In this Yajna, in which the Gods are the performers of the rite, they tied this Purusha (himself) as the pashu (sacrificial animal).


The seven paridhis represent seven seas and the twentyone fuel sticks represent the 5 Mahabhutas, 5 Tanmatras, 5 Karmendriyas, 5 Gyanendriyas and 1 Manas.


यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजन्त देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन्।

ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त यत्र पूर्वे साध्याः सन्ति देवाः॥ १६॥


yaj~nena yaj~namayajanta devAstAni dharmANi prathamAnyAsan |te ha nAkaM mahimAnaH sachanta yatra pUrve sAdhyAH santi devAH || 16||


The gods perform the Yajna, Sacrifice in the sacrifice as a sacrifice, and in it were established the first Dharmas (laws that guide humanity). In their excellence and glory did the gods ascend to heaven where the ancient devas and sadhyas live.


Kal Purush is thus the Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Divine Energy in the Universe, a personification of the eternal Time. The zodiac is his body, the twelve signs are parts of his body, the nakshatras adore various parts of his body, and his breath is the Cosmic Wind which moves Time’s cycle of creation and annihilation.


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