The first question a western trained mind would ask to a “Hindu” is, “Why do you have many Gods?“. This question has been asked by millions of people and most of those to whom this question is put, are helpless and succumb to unending discussions. How foolish it is of us to ask a biologist, “why do you guys have so many blood cells? Can’t a single cell be sufficient?” Even we think this is a foolish question, even though we are not biologists, because the question is meaningless i.e., we know for the fact that we have so many cells and hence biologists just stated what ever they discovered and they incorporated that info in their medical repositories. Similarly, the former question becomes meaningless when we understand that “we”, as explorers of LIFE, have discovered the multi functional aspect of Omnipresence and that is what we incorporated this fact in our “Spiritual Repositories“.
These spiritual repositories were named “SCRIPTURES“. A scripture is not a BOOK but the wisdom of the book. Is maths a book or the wisdom in the book? Similarly in the spiritual repositories, we stored: The knowledge of Human Body, the knowledge of SELF, the knowledge of Dēvās/Angels, Knowledge of Sheaths, Knowledge of Worlds, etc.
Just like a scientific fact is stored in its Mathematical/Pictorial form, a spiritual fact is stored in its SYMBOLIC form. To unlock the symbol is the only way to know what is the “Knowledge” that is actually been passed down since the dawn of time. If one does not unlock this SYMBOL and approach a scripture, one is left with just a skeleton of story with no meaning and purpose. Sometimes it will also lead to paradoxes letting us conclude that the scripture is bogus.
Today, I want to explore some part of the MYTHICAL story of Puranjana and through it the SYMBOL of Human Being entangling in a Human Body. This story of Puranjana occurs in the 4th Canto of Bhāgavata Scripture. This story has clues within its story lines. Anyways, one should always keep in mind that Bāhgavata is written as a commentary to the Vēda (which is the wisdom of SELF) and hence it borrows a lot of seed principles from the Vēda. Without this, one is doomed to conclusions that help us in no way. Let us proceed first into the story, then into character mapping and then into the symbol.
We divide the story into two parts.
- Part 1 (this article) deals with the introduction of Puranjana, his consort and structure of his kingdom, etc. i.e., his life before and just after marriage.
- Part 2 (future article) deals with his later part of the marriage where his kingdom is attacked by many forces. We will briefly touch the aspect of his hunt in forest.
PS: Here we follow very closely, the symbolism given by Mastr.E.K in his Telugu commentary to Pōtana’s Bhagavatam. At first sight, it may seem to be equivalent to the symbolism of Puranjana’s story as given by Srila Prabhupada ji (https://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/4/25), but when looked closely, the symbolism differs in its heart rather than in its form. I referred both the expositions, in relation to Puranjana’s story, and I am sticking to Master.E.K’s way of decoding. Let us not comment on which one is better, but let us try to gain LIGHT from which ever source it seems to shed us enough light to explore the hidden secrets.
The Story (in brief):
Once up on a time, there was a king named PURANJANA. He had a best friend by the name VIJÑĀTA. This friend never expressed himself, but silently observed Puranjana’s actions, even though he was one of the well-wishers. Puranjana was in search for a proper abode to establish himself. He went to many an abode and yet did not like even one. None of them was enough to satisfy his desires. Finally he found what he was looking for, at the southern forests of Himalayan mountains. . The kingdom was beautifully constructed with 9 doors, pillars, canals, gold, silver, curtains, stones, etc. He entered this kingdom and proceeded further.
When he entered a garden, suddenly a lady appeared coming towards him. She is in her prime youth. She had a body-guard accompanying her. It is a snake with 5 heads. She had 10 more accompanying her. Each of them is accompanied by 100 more. She is beautiful and decorated…………. “Who are you? Who is your father? Who are these 11 accompanying you? Who are those women accompanying them?” asked Puranjana………. He then asked, after falling for the beauty of hers, to marry him. She replied: “I do not know who I am or who my father is. But I do know that I exist here, in this kingdom of 9 doors. These people always accompany me. This snake guards me when I am asleep as well. Yes, I will marry you. ……..Please do take over this kingdom as yours and rule from here on for 100 years“.
Since then, he has been residing in that kingdom, enjoying many a pleasure. Now the structure of his kingdom is described:
- The kingdom has 9 doors.
- 5 doors on the East
- 1 door on the North
- 1 door on the South
- 2 doors on the West
- Thus there are 7 doors upwards and 2 doors downwards. To observe the transportation happening through these doors, each door has a presiding guard.
- Now, the glory of the Eastern doors
- The first two doors are named as Khadyōta and Avirmukhi.
- Those people who belong to this door call Puranjana with a disguised name: Dyumatsakha.
- He used to reside at a house named Vibhrājita, while at those those doors.
- The next two doors are named as Naḷini and Nāḷini.
- Those people who belong to this door call Puranjana with a disguised name: Avadhūtasakha.
- For his casual walks, there is a place named Saurabha here.
- Beneath all these 4 doors is the most important eastern door, named as Mukhya.
- Those people who belong to this door call Puranjana with a disguised name: Rasajña
- This door opens to verity of stores/facilities, which can be categorized under the names Āpaṇa and Bahūda.
- The first two doors are named as Khadyōta and Avirmukhi.
- The glory of the Southern door
- It is called Pitṛhu.
- Here, along with those named “Śṛtidharās“, Puranjana rule the southern kingdom of Pāncāla.
- The glory of the Northern door
- It is called Dēvahu.
- Here, along with some more of those , named Śṛtidharās, Puranjana rule the northern kingdom of Pāncāla.
- The glory of the two western doors
- One of them is named Āsuri.
- He resides in a place called Grāmaka, when at this door.
- When here, he mingles with Durmadās.
- The other door is named Nirṛtī.
- He is called as Lubdhaka, when at this door.
- His stay is named Vaiśasaṃ.
- One of them is named Āsuri.
- There are two blind fellows in this kingdom
- One of them is named Nirvāk. As he can not speak, he always carries his master – Puranjana, where ever he desires to go.
- The second one is named Prēśaskara. Without any complaints he used to serve Puranjana.
- When in his inner sanctum, he used to interact with his wife and children, with the help of a servant named Viṣūchi.
- He thus resided in the kingdom for several days before he embarked upon a mysterious hunt (intro to part-2).
The Character Map:
The major part of the above story can be pictorially summarized as below.
Let us go point by point, according to story and see how this symbolism is worked out. It is beneficial if you read two of my earlier articles in relation to SYMBOLS for a better and refined understanding: 25) Universal Symbols, 28) The SIX Keys (Part-1), 28) The Six Keys (part-2). Two points need to be kept in mind before going further.
- The words used in scripture are derived from “functional roots” i.e., a name is not just a name but depicts a function or an aspect. This forms one of the important premises before we go further.
- So, always look for the “root meaning” of the word rather than associating it with a known meaning. The number, color, shape, form, and other attributes become part of the meaning of the word as well.
- Example: The word “Nārāyaṇa”. It generally implies omnipresent one. But Nāra implies water. In its root, it implies fluid. Ayana implies a movement. The color is Neutral, form is fluid, aspect is motion and the object is GOD. So, who is Nārāyaṇa here? He is the Omnipresent lord who is responsible for the movement of invisible fluids. These invisible fluids and movements is what we call SPACE and Fluctuations in it, which cause the COSMOS and hence Nārāyaṇa is the lord of creation.
In similar way, we are going to decode the whole myth of Puranjana in the following paragraphs:
- Puranjana – The one who cherishes his residence in the Pura. Pura means a kingdom in general sense. But we will conclude that it is HUMAN BODY by further exploring the other symbols. So, Puranjana is the Jīva in the body.
- Vijñāta – “Vi” means specially and “Jñāta” means the one who is known. It is said that Vijñāta is the best friend of Puranjana, a well wisher but he just observes. This should remind us of the two puruṣās which we spoke in Mystic Passages – 3: Purusha Suktam (stanza 5- The brilliant EGG of Virāṭ). If Puranjana is the 2nd Purusha, who resides in the body as a soul, Vijñāta is the spirit or the primary Puruṣa. How? Because he was told to be well wisher and yet silent observer, which vividly describe the characteristics of Puruṣa-1. That is why he is specially known i.e., only through self realization can he be known!!
- The kingdom that he visited and that which was later offered to him, is said to have 9 doors/Dwāras. 9 doors should straight away hint us that they are indirectly speaking of human body with 9 orifices. Even if one is not convinced at this point, a later description of the doors that 7 doors are upwards and 2 doors downwards, 5 facing East, etc., will definitely narrow our imagination and lead us to the thought of human body. Who will construct a kingdom this way?? Is there any logic/purpose in it? So, instead of physical kingdom, PURA needs to be taken as HUMAN BODY!
- The descriptions of gold, silver, stones, canals, etc., of the kingdom then should depict the different blood canals in body, different Nāḍī (Iḍa-gold, Piṇgala-silver), different attributes of different organs (red ruby – heart, etc.), pillars (Back-bone,etc.).
- Now a lady appears to him in the garden. SHE is the Buddhi of a human. How so? Because Jīva falls in love only with his “Alter-Self”. Every one loves their alter-self than any one else. This alter-self is the result of Buddhi in lower plane i.e., when Buddhi is polarized towards the mundane. This Buddhi RULES or has the maximum sway over the Jīva of the body. We act according to what it says. This is what happens in story of Puranjana. He acts according to his wife’s wishes and reciprocates.
- The 5 hooded serpent that accompanied the Lady – We said that the Buddhi is the lady. It was told that this serpent protects the lady even when she is asleep. When we sleep, our buddhi dissolves into the inner-self. But the body does not.It is still active in its nocturnal mode. A snake is known by its HISSSS which is due to the air it breaths. Thus, a snake is symbolic to air which is actually symbolic to Prāṇa. That is why snake and life are intimately related (its bite makes us loose consciousness). With this symbol and the fact that it protects the body when the buddhi dissolves and that it has 5 heads (so five breaths) should straight away imply the the concept of “Pancha Prāṇa” – Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna, Udāna and Samāna.
- The 10 groups of 100 each having one leader making a total 11. The number 11 always reverberates the Ēkādaśa Rudrās who preside over
- 5 Motor organs
- 5 Sense organs
- 1 Mind
- This MIND is the leader that the story is speaking. Every group i.e., every organ has its own 100s of functionality and when MIND reside in it, it takes the ruler-ship of that organ. This is what is meant by 10 groups of 100s waking with each group having a leader, making total 11. Its very weird way to put but that is how complex a scripture is encoded!
- Because the lady is BUDDHI, she said she does not know when and how she came into existence. Do you know when you gained consciousness that “I am so and so”?
Now that we have established the primary symbolism of Puranjana=Jīva, Lady=Buddhi and the accompanying agents=different organs and senses and mind, let us dive into the mapping of Puranjana’s kingdom in detail. Before that please note: when Puranjana was at particular door, he has an alternate name. The concept is that, when we see a beautiful image, we live as the joy of sight in that moment. When we taste some bad object, we live as a sad part of the taste in that moment. In that exact moment, we are not who we are, but we identify ourselves with the “attribute” of the sense. This is what is the clue to understand Puranjana’s alternate names and the names of his associated residence in the following.
- It seems that there are 5 doors in the East, 1 in the North, 1 in the south and 2 in the West. If we literally think a kingdom this way, it may look haphazard. But because it is a symbolic human body, it all will make sense.
- Why are 5 doors or 5 orifices on FACE said to be in the direction of East? East symbolizes rising SUN and hence our awaking consciousness. To suggest this fact of descent of consciousness as the light of the sense organs present on HEAD, they are said to be facing East. Also, EYES alone can know the directionality of East/West, etc., and hence, EYES are facing East, and there by constraining the rest 3 to face East.
- Doors-1,2: “Kha” is root for SPACE (Khagōḷa). “Dyu” is root for LIGHT. The light in space is Khadyōta – The Solar principle. Avirmukhi – means light of shape/form. So, this is the reflected light that we perceive and hence LUNAR principle. These two are the two principles of LIGHT with which eyes see. From Yōga science if we borrow the concept of Nāḍīs, we see that right eye is solar and left is lunar in nature, which is exactly being explained here.
- Dyumatsakha – Means the one who is friend of LIGHT, the EYES. So, in door-1,2, Puranjana lives as the EYES.
- He used to reside at a house named Vibhrājita means that his existence as EYES is through the LIGHT they perceive. Vi+Bhrāja=Special Glow i.e., HE exists as the world of SIGHT.
- Doors 3,4: Naḷini means flower and Nāḷini means the one with a stalk. Flowers are always a symbol of smell primarily.
- Avadhūtasakha – It means the one who becomes a friend just as quickly as a breeze flow i.e., property of AIR. That is why doors-3,4 should symbolize NOSE.
- His world of smells in the nose is called Saurabha – The grand Aroma.
- Door 5: Mukha in Sanskrit means mouth. That is why this door is called Mukhya. Also, it is only through mouth that we speak, eat, alternatively breath, etc.,, and hence one of the very important door indeed!
- When Puranjana is in this door, he is called Rasajña meaning the one who TASTES.
- It seems that this door opens to the world of Āpaṇa and Bahūda. These symbolize the facilities of food and other stores or they symbolize the WORD we utter.
- Door 6, 7: They are the ears. How so?
- When Puranjana resides in the ears, he is said to be associated with Śṛtidharās. Śṛti means the Nāda base of the sound. That which is heard is also called Śṛti. So, doors 6,7 should obviously denote Ears.
- When face faces east, right ear face south and left ears faces north. Also, South is symbolic to Dakṣiṇāyana (path of Sun in southern hemisphere) and as per Gita, this path is related to Pitṛs. Similarly the North ward path is related to Dēvās. That is why it is said that right ear is “Pitṛhu” and left ear is “Dēvahū“.
- Also, the mantrās related to dēvās and pitṛ dēvās are heard through ears, these ears got the same name.
- Door 8: It seems that the door 8 is called Āsuri. What/Who is Asura? Most common understanding is A+Sura = Deamon. The Vēda has no deamons in its literature. In Vēdic lore, Asura is understood as Asu+Ra i.e., Asu = Breath and Ra=Externalize. So, that which externalizes the breath of Puruṣa are Asurās. Breath of Puruṣa means the life. And puruṣa’s life is begotten as baby-puruṣa (refer: Mystic Passages – 3: Purusha Suktam (stanza 5- The brilliant EGG of Virāṭ)). Thus, those who support the cosmic order of reproduction are called Asurās. That is why the reproductory organs, which externalize the life within, are called Āsuri here. Not that they are bad or demonic. If so, is GOD so sadistic in giving us such bad equipment? Good/Bad lies in the way we use it. So, even before using one can not attribute a quality to an object and hence Āsuri must not mean demonic, but the way I described above.
- Here, when Puranjana lives here, he mingles with Durmadās (those who are immersed in bad activities). See, he only mingles but not called as durmada. So, there is probability of a jīva mingling with wrong usage of reproductory organs and if so, we will be called durmadās.
- The world of reproduction is called Grāmaka, as it is related to population and group living.
- The last door 8 is the anus. How so? It is called Nirṛti. It means that which is associated with excreta/death. Ṛtu means periodicity and hence continuity while its opposite is the END or Death. Because Anus is the doorway for that which is dead in our body (relative to what we need), it is called Nirṛti.
- When puranjana is in this door, he is called as Lubdhaka, meaning the one who hunts and rips the flesh off of a body. SO does the excretory function in us!
- This world is called Vaiśasaṃ, which again means the world of destruction/hunt.
- It seems that his kingdom has two blind personalities.
- One always carries him where ever Puranjana desires. So they are the Feet/Legs – Nirvāk (having no say)
- The other always serves Puranjana. So they are the Hands – Prēśaskara (one who does things -Kara means hand, Pra means special/brilliant)
- Viṣūchi is the one who forms an interface between Puranjana/Jīva and teh family of Buddhi (The body, life forces, heart, organs, etc.). This interface is what we call the MIND. When this mind is bound by the lower polarity of Buddhi, we call it Viṣūchi. That is why, Viṣūchi means cholera in Ayurveda. A symbol for self-destruction.
This completes the Mapping of each character to our body with the logic inherent in the story itself. Let us now go into the SYMBOL.
I will write this in a continuous form.
“The jīva when wanders as a soul in the garden of Eden/the physical world, it encounters with physical body to enter (union of sperm and ova). The seed principles of Human minus the jīva i.e., Buddhi and other entities exist and lure him into their matrix. When jīva, by law of karma, falls pray for this luster, he forgets himself and becomes the alter-ego of the matrix newly formed. This matrix has some primary doors and organs through which he interacts with outer world, which binds him more and more and day by day. Mind forms an interface between him and his bodily entities. As long as the time permits (100 years is just a Gaussian average in earlier days) the jīva resides in the bodily matrix and enjoys the pleasure of their functionality. While he enjoys, he is also enslaved by the body. This slave attitude renders him unfit to stay longer as a ruler of the body and gets him killed (this comes in part-2). His desire for his Buddhi, which is feminine form relatively, marks a strong imprint on his inner-self which becomes a cause for his birth as a woman in next life.“
The next part-2 will reveal the later part of jiva’s journey in his life circle. After that we can elaborately go into the philosophy of the symbolism.
- One may wonder why 9 doors and not 10 to the Pura, as a woman has 10th orifice as well and a soul can also enter a female’s body. Because it is story of Puranjana and to stress the aspect of “being” as a Puruṣa, 9 door symbolism is taken for his pura. When in next part of the story, we see that Puranjana begets 110 daughters unlike 100 sons, we see the symbolism of 100 + 10 i.e., daughters with 10 orifices. They are symbol of Prakṛti as I pointed out in 11) Spiritual Symbolism of a Woman. So, one needs to have patience and intuition to decode such depths.
- Even before Puranjana visited, the bodily kingdom was ready with all its principles. What does this imply? WE do not own the body but we only reside in it as long as TIME permits, as per law of Karma. So, the body is a host of dēvās who have no say (Nirvāk). WE utilize the body. The way we utilize matters. In case of Puranjana, he utilized for self gratification and it neared him to his death and rebirth.
- “The thought before we die determines our next birth”, says Gita. The same is proven in case of Puranjana. He dies thinking of his wife (you will see in part-2) and this caused him to be born as a woman in next life.
- I did not go into full detail but there is a whole one-one mapping of body with the story – like 7 dhātūs, 5 kōśās/sheaths, 7 centers/chakras, etc. I thought the above symbolism that I explored is enough to give a hint as to how to approach to the subject.
- For some, it may seem redundant that if the story is mapped to human body, whats the new thing that we learned in this modern era? Don’t we know that we have 2 eyes, 2 ears, etc? This is a dry way to look at the story-mapping. Such questions imply that the goal is lost and we are left with skeleton of the subject. The goal here is to map the story and then to understand what each mapping does. Modern science may know that we have two ears, but does it know what the ears do except hear? The primary goal being SALVATION, the story needs to be understood under its lens and in its light. The two ears are said to invoke Dēvās in us. That means, by listening and contemplating on the associated mantrās we will invoke the presence of the lord of the mantra in us. It is more faster if specific ear is used (for dēvās – left and for pitṛs – right), because each ear is associated with a nāḍi and the spiritual currents and their driving force matters in our elevation. Similarly, for other mappings. So, without knowing the depths of our cultural heritage, we should not blindly ask and think proud of ourselves nor should we nod our head in accordance with those who ask, by not even attempting to look into the past literature.
In this part-1, we have seen an introduction of a being into a body. In the next, we will explore the pitfalls of the being when he associates himself with the body rather than associating himself with the Omnipresent.
Stay tuned for Part-2
Thank you for this beautiful explanation. Appreciate your shining this light and also your comment on Extra Notes. Thank you. 🙂
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It was so hard to condense such an epic into two posts. I hope I did a decent job in preserving the import. Thanks for the read. I was hoping you could share your insights too as you immerse yourself in Bhagawata often. 🙂
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I remember when i read it the first time i was just amazed!!! At the depth of the detail and the mapping of the story with human life – felt like i was reading a paper from a top journal – planned in a super analytical way to convey the Supreme Truth of life. You’ve done a wonderful job bringing it out point by point. Enjoyed the read. Thank you. 🙂
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Thanks a lot 🙂 🙂
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Post seems huge and I could not remember the names, but I read it whole and got the message –
Our hero enters a kingdom of 5 doors at East, 2 at West, 1 at North and 1 at South, each symbolically representing the number of orifice in a human body mapping East with face, North with an ear and so on.
Our hero (the soul) enters the kingdom (the body) hosted by a lady (the intelligence) followed by 1 guard who is further followed by 10 more and so on (the to marry her.
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… and so on (the branching of central nervous system) to marry her.
Oh, I see, I seem to differ here, in the sense that snake guards symbolizes the slenderness of nerves, rather than breath/prana.
This ancient biology, though cryptic, seems so reasonable !
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Thank you for bringing this up.
Many thanks to the ancient writer of beautifully expressed biology.
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Hi, you are a fast learner. Very good. Happy to see you resonating with the code/decode. Just a clarification. The 5hooded snake and 1armies of 11leaders are not nervous system (you may want to reread this). The Ayurvedic treatment of body differs from biology in the sense that, later forms a subset of the former. So you may find things that are not in present biology. So keep an open mind.
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