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The Paratvadi Panchakam is a five-verse poem by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Nadadur Ammal In praise of the five types of manifestations of Vishnu described in the Pancharatra Agamas: Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Antaryami, and Archa. Para refers to the supreme form of Vishnu who dwells in Vishnu’s highest abode of Paramapadam; Vyuha refers to Vishnu’s four forms known as Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha; Vibhava refers to Vishnu’s avatarams or incarnations; Antaryami refers to the form in which he dwells in the heart of living beings; and Archa refers to the form Vishnu takes in his statues. In any case, here is is what Nadadur Ammal says in verse 4, in praise of the Antaryami form of Vishnu:

Inside the shell of the Brahmanda, the movable and immovable beings, are classed into four kinds of generations, namely, the Devas, the Naras, the Tiryak, and the Stavaras. In them he who dwells and pervades the inside and outside of each entity is Vishnu, and he is smaller in all small entities and greater in great things, and he is as limited in size as the person’s thumb when seated in the hearts of Yogis. To that Lord I prostrate and submit myself unconditionally.

I’m interested in the part in bold. Deva is clear enough, Nara means human, and the translator clarified that Tiryak means “animals and creatures” and Sthavara means “plants etc.” My question is, what scriptures discuss this fourfold classification of living beings?

The closest thing I could find was this verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam:

etan nānāvatārāṇāṁ nidhānaṁ bījam avyayam |
yasyāṁśāṁśena sṛjyante deva-tiryaṅ-narādayaḥ ||

But it says Devas, Tiryaks, Naras, and so on, so it doesn’t mention Sthavaras. In any case I want scriptural verses that mention the specific fourfold classification described by Nadadur Ammal, not some other classification of living beings.

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Viṣṇu Purāṇa has the most detailed description of those four living beings.

Chapter V - Vishnu as Brahma creates the world

Maitreya said:—

Now unfold to me, Brahman, how this deity created the gods, sages, progenitors, demons, men, animals, trees, and the rest, that abide on earth, in heaven, or in the waters: how Brahmā at creation made the world with the qualities, the characteristics, and the forms of things.

Parāśara said:—

I will explain to you, Maitreya, listen attentively, how this deity, the lord of all, created the gods and other beings.

Whilst he (Brahmā) formerly, in the beginning of the Kalpas, was. meditating on creation, there appeared a creation beginning with ignorance, and consisting of darkness. From that great being appeared fivefold Ignorance, consisting of obscurity, illusion, extreme illusion, gloom, utter darkness.

The creation of the creator thus plunged in abstraction, was the fivefold (immovable) world, without intellect or reflection, void of perception or sensation, incapable of feeling, and destitute of motion. Since immovable things were first created, this is called the first creation.

Brahmā, beholding that it was defective, designed another; and whilst he thus meditated, the animal creation was manifested, to the products of which the term Tiryaksrotas is applied, from their nutriment following a winding course. These were called beasts, &c., and their characteristic was the quality of darkness, they being destitute of knowledge, uncontrolled in their conduct, and mistaking error for wisdom; being formed of egotism and self-esteem, labouring under the twenty-eight kinds of imperfection, manifesting inward sensations, and associating with each other (according to their kinds).

Beholding this creation also imperfect, Brahmā again meditated, and a third creation appeared, abounding with the quality of goodness, termed Ūrddhasrotas. The beings thus produced in the Ūrddhasrotas creation were endowed with pleasure and enjoyment, uneñcumbered internally or externally, and luminous within and without. This, termed the creation of immortals, was the third performance of Brahmā, who, although well pleased with it, still found it incompetent to fulfil his end.

Continuing therefore his meditations, there sprang, in consequence of his infallible purpose, the creation termed Arvāksrotas, from indiscrete nature. The products of this are termed Arvāksrotasas, from the downward current (of their nutriment). They abound with the light of knowledge, but the qualities of darkness and of foulness predominate. Hence they are afflicted by evil, and are repeatedly impelled to action. They have knowledge both externally and internally, and are the instruments (of accomplishing the object of creation, the liberation of soul). These creatures were mankind.

I have thus explained to you, excellent Muni, six creations.

  1. The first creation was that of Mahat or Intellect, which is also called the creation of Brahmā.
  2. The second was that of the rudimental principles (Tanmātras), thence termed the elemental creation (Bhūta serga).

  3. The third was the modified form of egotism, termed the organic creation, or creation of the senses (Aindrīyaka).

These three were the Prākrita creations, the developments of indiscrete nature, preceded by the indiscrete principle.

  1. The fourth or fundamental creation (of perceptible things) was that of inanimate bodies.
    [mukhyasargaś caturthas tu mukhyā vai sthāvarāḥ smṛtāḥ // (1,5.21.2)]

  2. The fifth, the Tairyag yonya creation, was that of animals.
    [pañcamas tu ca yaḥ proktas tairyagyonyaḥ sa ucyate / (1,5.22.1)]

  3. The sixth was the Ūrddhasrotas creation, or that of the divinities.
    [tatordhvasrotasāṃ ṣaṣṭho devasargas tu sa smṛtaḥ // (1,5.22.2)]

  4. The creation of the Arvāksrotas beings was the seventh, and was that of man.
    [tato 'rvāksrotasāṃ sargaḥ saptamaḥ sa tu mānuṣaḥ // (1,5.23.1)]

  5. There is an eighth creation, termed Anugraha, which possesses both the qualities of goodness and darkness.

Of these creations, five are secondary, and three are primary.

  1. But there is a ninth, the Kaumāra creation, which is both primary and secondary.

These are the nine creations of the great progenitor of all, and, both as primary and secondary, are the radical causes of the world, proceeding from the sovereign creator. What else dost thou desire to hear?


Maitreya said:— Thou hast briefly related to me, Muni, the creation of the gods and other beings: I am desirous, chief of sages, to hear from thee a more ample account of their creation.

Parāśara said:—

Created beings, although they are destroyed (in their individual forms) at the periods of dissolution, yet, being affected by the good or evil acts of former existence, they are never exempted from their consequences; and when Brahmā creates the world anew, they are the progeny of his will, in the fourfold condition of gods, men, animals, or inanimate things.

Brahmā then, being desirous of creating the four orders of beings, termed gods, demons, progenitors, and men, collected his mind into itself...


Agni (I.20), Garuḍa (I.4), Kūrma (1.7) and Liṅga (I.70) Purāṇas also have similar creation stories.

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