Is the Rig Veda Purusha Suktam hymn an interpolation?

Western scholars and Indologists think so, especially the part about caste. Here's what wikipedia says on Varna:

This Purusha Sukta varna verse is now generally considered to have been inserted at a later date into the Vedic text, possibly as a charter myth.[16] Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, a professor of Sanskrit and Religious studies, state, "there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system", and "the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both then and later, a social ideal rather than a social reality".[16]

Ram Sharan Sharma states that "the Rig Vedic society was neither organized on the basis of social division of labour nor on that of differences in wealth ... [it] was primarily organised on the basis of kin, tribe and lineage."[17]

In the post-Vedic period, the varna division is described in the Dharmashastra literature, the Mahabharata and in the Puranas.[18]

And here are some quotes from various Western scholars and Indologists who claim the Purusha Suktam hymn in the Rig Veda is an interpolation:

As compared with by far the largest part of the hymns of the Rigveda, the Purusha Sukta has every character of modernness both in its diction and ideas. I have already observed that the hymns which we find in this collection (Purusha Sukta) are of very different periods.

— John Muir, [13] That the Purusha Sukta, considered as a hymn of the Rigveda, is among the latest portions of that collection, is clearly perceptible from its contents.

— Albrecht Weber, [14] That remarkable hymn (the Purusha Sukta) is in language, metre, and style, very different from the rest of the prayers with which it is associated. It has a decidedly more modern tone, and must have been composed after the Sanskrit language had been refined.

— Henry Thomas Colebrooke, [15] There can be little doubt, for instance, that the 90th hymn of the 10th book (Purusha Sukta) is modern both in its character and in its diction. (...) It mentions the three seasons in the order of the Vasanta, spring; Grishma, summer; and Sarad, autumn; it contains the only passage in the Rigveda where the four castes are enumerated. The evidence of language for the modern date of this composition is equally strong. Grishma, for instance, the name for the hot season, does not occur in any other hymn of the Rigveda; and Vasanta also does not belong to the earliest vocabulary of the Vedic poets.

— Max Müller, [16]


Susan Bayly summarises that Manusmriti and other scriptures helped elevate Brahmins in the social hierarchy and these were a factor in the making of the varna system, but the ancient texts did not in some way "create the phenomenon of caste" in India.[76]

This four varna-related verse is controversial and is believed by many scholars, such as Max Müller, to be a corruption and a medieval or modern era insertion into the text.

  • 5
    "as an Eastern scholar and Indologist, I think the part about Jesus turning water into wine is an interpolation of the Bible inserted at a later date, probably during the alcohol Prohibition era of 1920s. Maybe I should write a wikipedia article about it, and post a question on christianity SE."
    – ram
    Dec 28, 2018 at 2:29
  • 4
    Purusha Sukta is found in all the 4 Vedas.. FYI @Ikshvaku
    – Rickross
    Dec 28, 2018 at 6:37
  • 1
    @Ambi The whole suktam. Indologists think that the modern language of the suktam and the fact that it explains the caste system is indication that it's an interpolation from later times.
    – Ikshvaku
    Dec 28, 2018 at 11:58
  • 2
    Varna is different from caste, its phsyco analysis of human mind state, if a person interested in serving others he is called sudra, if a person interested in merchandise he is called vaisya a person interested in administration he is called satriya a person interested in knowledge and sharing knowledge he is called brahmana..in this prespective this varnasrama dharma prevails in all the societies. Hindu is sanatana dharma, it is super set. it should be applicable even to americas
    – Prasanna R
    Dec 28, 2018 at 12:35
  • 1
    @prasannaragothaman What if you're interested in all that? What caste are you then?
    – Ikshvaku
    Dec 28, 2018 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


No, it is not an interpolation. The Taittiriya Samhita of the Krishna Yajur Veda says the same exact thing as the Rig Veda Purusha Sukta hymn about the origin of the castes and the Devas from the body of the Purusha, or in the Yajur Veda's case, Prajapati.

Here is what it says in 7.1.1:

Prajapati [or Purusha] desired, 'May I have offspring.' He meted out the Trivrt from his mouth. After it the god Agni was created, the Gayatri metre, the Rathantara Saman, of men the Brahman, of cattle the goat; therefore are they the chief, for they were produced from the mouth. From the breast and arms he meted out the Pañcadaça Stoma. After it the god Indra was created, the Tristubh metre, the Brhat Saman, of men the Rajanya, of cattle the sheep. Therefore they are strong, for they were created from strength. From the middle he meted out the Saptadaça Stoma. After it the All-gods as deities were created, the Jagati metre, the Vairupa Saman, of men the Vaiçya, of cattle cows. Therefore are they to be eaten, for they were created from the receptacle of food. Therefore are they more numerous than others, for they were created after the most numerous of the gods. From his feet he meted out the Ekavinça Stoma. After it the Anustubh metre was created, the Vairaja Saman, of men the Çudra, of cattle the horse. Therefore the two, the horse and the Çudra, are dependent on others. Therefore the Çudra is not fit for the sacrifice, for he was not created after any gods. Therefore they depend on their feet, for they were created from the feet.

When you rephrase the paragraph by keeping only the sentences related to caste, you end up with this:

Prajapati desired, 'May I have offspring.'

He meted out Brahmanas from his mouth. Therefore, they are the chief, for they were produced from the mouth.

From the breast and arms he meted out the Rajanya [or Kshatriyas]. Therefore, they are strong, for they were created from strength.

From the middle [waist or thighs] he meted out the Vaishyas. Therefore, they are more numerous than others, for they were created after the most numerous of the gods.

From his feet he meted out the Shudras. Therefore, Shudras are dependent on others. Therefore the Shudra is not fit for the sacrifice [Yajna], for he was not created after any gods. Therefore they depend on their feet, for they were created from the feet.

First, note how this is the same concept found in the Purusha Suktam hymn of the Rig Veda Samhita.

RV 10.90:

When they divided Puruṣa how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet? The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made. His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced. The Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth; Indra and Agni from his mouth were born, and Vāyu from his breath. Forth from his navel came mid-air the sky was fashioned from his head Earth from his feet, and from his car the regions. Thus they formed the worlds.

Note that this same exposition of the caste system is found in the Yajur Veda Samhita as well as the Rig Veda Samhita. So, how can anyone call it an interpolation when it's found in another Vedic Samhita that's almost as ancient (according to Indologists).

But Indologists also say that the ancient Vedic society during Rig Vedic times did not support an elaborate caste system, and that the Purusha Suktam hymn that talks about caste, is a later interpolation because the language is closer to classical (Panini's) Sanskrit instead of Vedic Sanskrit. But even this is incorrect because the Taittiriya Samhita paragraph quoted above mentions the same caste theory and body-origination theory and it uses Vedic sanskrit, not classical Sanskrit! Read it for yourself.

Here is what Michael Witzel, who is the current leading scholar in the Aryan Migration theory, says:

The Yajur Veda Samhita prose texts ... may therefore be dated after c. 1200 BCE (until c. 800 BCE).

This time frame falls within the "Vedic period", before the modern/classical/post-Vedic period, and before Panini, who modernized/standardized Vedic Sanskrit and turned it into Classical Sanskrit.

This also refutes Susan Bayly's claim that,

the ancient texts did not in some way "create the phenomenon of caste" in India.

So, the caste system is not a post-Vedic, classical era, Puranic/Smriti era creation.

This small paragraph from the Yajur Veda lays down the foundation of the birth based caste system that is so elaborately described in the Smritis, Itihasas, Puranas, and Dharma Shastras that so many people claim to be interpolated or fabricated with the goal of oppressing non-Aryas.

Let's first go through this paragraph and talk about how it supports the caste system.

Birth based

The castes were created or produced from the body of Prajapati, just like how the animals mentioned in the same paragraph were created (such as goats, sheep, horses, and cows). Creation and production is a one-time event that is fixed. So this means that the sons and daughters of Brahmin parents are also Brahmins, and so on. This implies that caste cannot change through ordinary means in life.


The paragraph also describes the caste hierarchy starting with Brahmanas or priests first. It says: "therefore are they the chief, for they were produced from the mouth." And then the paragraph goes on to list the other castes produced from the other parts of Prajapati's body in order from top to bottom: kshatriya, vaishya, then shudra, which represents the hierarchy: castes that come from higher in the body have more authority than castes that come from lower in the body.


It ascribes qualities to castes, such as Kshatriyas: "Therefore they are strong, for they were created from strength." Vaishyas: "Therefore, they are more numerous than others" (since societies have lots of landlords and businessmen).

Shudras must serve Dvijas

It also says that the Shudras are dependent on others (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas): "Therefore the two, the horse and the Çudra, are dependent on others." So this is why Smritis say that the duty of the Shudras is to serve the Dvijas.

Shudras cannot perform Vedic rituals

And finally it puts restrictions on Shudras performing Vedic rituals or yajnas: "Therefore the Çudra is not fit for the sacrifice, for he was not created after any gods." This is why Smritis say Shudras cannot undergo Upanayanam, etc.

  • 8
    I am kind of confused. What exactly is being as showcased as proof of non-interpolation here?
    – Ambi
    Dec 28, 2018 at 3:56
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    How can you say they are not created after any gods, as Shudras also emerged from the feet of Purusha(god)? Dec 28, 2018 at 5:52
  • 3
    @Ambi What is said in the Purusha Suktam is said in the other vaidika samhitas. The scholars who say purusha suktam as interpolation agree that these portion from Taittitiya samhita as genuine and ancient. They say the language used in Purusha Suktam is modern but the same Vaidika language is used in other samhita portion also. So, this answer give linguistic evidence as well as evidence from other Veda. Dec 28, 2018 at 6:58
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    @NaveenKick When the paragraph says "god", it's referring not to the Purusha or Prajapati but to different Devas that originate from different parts of the Purusha. So if you look at the original paragraph, you'll see that Agni came from the mouth, so Brahmins are based on Agni; Indra from the arms and chest, so Kshatriys are based on Indra; And Vishvedevas from the waist, so Vaishyas are based on them. But no Devas came from the feet of the Purusha, so Shudras are not based on any Deva.
    – Ikshvaku
    Dec 28, 2018 at 14:46
  • 2
    So Shaivism is a different religion from Hinduism because Shiva rejects varna based on birth?
    – Ajay Varma
    Jan 4, 2019 at 22:51

Purusha Sukta might be an interpolated one.


It was mentioned in the material at the above link as follows:

"Many 19th and early 20th century scholars questioned as to when parts or all of Purusha Sukta were composed, and whether some of these verses were present in the ancient version of Rigveda. They suggest it was interpolated in post-Vedic era and is a relatively modern origin of Purusha Sukta.

Consider the following:

  1. Indra was the Supreme God in Rig Veda period.


  1. In one of the Shanti Mantras "Vayu" was equalled to the "Brahman".

Om sham no mitrah sham varunah sham no bhavatvaryamaa Sham na indro brihaspatih sham no vishnururukramah

Namo brahmane namaste vaayo twameva pratyaksham Brahmaasi twaameva pratyaksham brahma vadishyaami Tanmaamavatu tadvaktaaramavatu Avatu maam avatu vaktaaram.

Om shantih shantih shantih!


May Mitra, Varuna and Aryama be good to us! May Indra and Brihaspati and Vishnu of great strides be good to us!

Prostrations unto Brahman! (Supreme Reality). Prostrations to Thee, O Vayu! Thou art the visible Brahman.

I shall proclaim Thee as the visible Brahman. I shall call Thee the just and the True. May He protect the teacher and me! May he protect the teacher!

Om peace, peace, peace!

However, in Purusha Suktam, Indra and Vaayu were stated to have emanated from "Purusha".

Candramaa Manaso Jaatash-Cakssoh Suuryo Ajaayata | Mukhaad-Indrash-Ca-Agnish-Ca Praannaad-Vaayur-Ajaayata ||13||

13.1: The Moon was born from His Mind and the Sun was born from His Eyes,

13.2: Indra and Agni (Fire) were born from His Mouth, and Vayu (Wind) was born from His Breath.

Hence, this Purusha Sukta might have been composed much later to the composition of Shanti Mantras and thus, an interpolated one (inserted at a later date).

  • I dont think that it proves that Purusha suktam is an interpolation.If we see the hymns of Rig veda,Then not only Indra but Agni,Rudra,Vishnu are also stated as supreme Lord of the universe.The vedic Gods are not like Greek Gods that Zeus is Supreme and all others are its subordinates. Puranas may state that this diety is supreme and others it s subordinates but they are for this purpose only ,They are to develop bhakti for paricular god either Shiva or Vishnu or Devi.Purusha suktam being an interpolation is a western speculation,Those same scholars belive in Indo aryan invasion theory too:). Jul 8, 2019 at 5:38
  • Rather in the case of Vayu,That shanti mantra is found in Upanishads.They state that Everything is brahman which means every deva is nothing but manifestation of brahman only,Svestavara Upanishad states that Rudra is brahman.Even in one Rig veda verse Soma is said to be father of Indra That doest mean it is also an interpolation . Jul 8, 2019 at 5:42
  • The whole hymn is not an interpolation, but one of the verses may or may not be an interpretation. May 2, 2023 at 1:35

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