Purusha, aka: Puruṣa, Pūruṣa; 27 Definition(s)


Purusha means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit terms Puruṣa and Pūruṣa can be transliterated into English as Purusa or Purusha, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism


Purusha in Purana glossary... « previous · [P] · next »

Prakṛti (matter) and Puruṣa (spirit) are two basic factors essential for production of the Prapañca (the visible world which is the scene of manifold action) as man and woman are for the production of progeny. From Puruṣa (male), Prakṛti (female) originated and then they together created the Prapañca.

Puruṣa is the vital sentient Truth that sets in action the entire Prapañca. This Puruṣa is Supreme among the Supreme, beyond human comprehension, without form, colour, name, without origin, growth, change or end, residing in himself and that which can only be imagined to exist. This puruṣa has got two different forms, the visible and the invisible and also a third imaginary one, time. The sages call Puruṣa the Sūkṣmaprakṛti ('The subtle all-pervading spirit, the supreme soul'). Thus Sūkṣmaprakṛti which cannot be measured by any unit of measure, is not attached to anything, is imperishable, is without decrepitude, is immovable and is without the senses of sound, touch smell or form. This Prakṛti endowed with the three guṇas, without beginning or end is eternal, is the root cause of this Prapañca. This Prakṛti pervaded over Prapañca from the beginning of the great Deluge to the beginning of creation.

Source: Google Books: Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Purāṇas

Puruṣa (पुरुष) falls under the category of domesticated animals (grāmya-paśu) according to the Vāyu Purāṇa.

Source: Google Books: Cultural History from the Vāyu Purāna

Puruṣa (पुरुष).—See under Prakṛti.

Source: archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia

1a) Puruṣa (पुरुष).—As Virāṭ; subject of meditation; ety. of;1 the invisible principle;2 as dwelling in Hṛdākāśa;3 as issuing from the primordial aṇḍa (egg);4 as yajña;5 course of further cosmic evolution from Puruṣa;6 first avatār of Para Iśvara and Prakṛti;7 avatārs of Puruṣa;8 as Varāha;9 His energy;10 identified with Suparṇa;11 invoked by cowherds;12 personated as Kṛṣṇa and Rāma;13 celebrated by Akrūra.14 Śiva according to the Sānkhyas;15 primaeval male from whom the universe was evolved; supposed to be the 25th tatva according to one school and the 26th including Īśvara according to the other;16 constitutes twenty-five truths;17 description of.18

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa I. 3. 1; II. 1. 25-39; Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 76.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa XI. 16. 37; 22. 14; 24. 4-5.
  • 3) Ib. II. 2. 8-13; Vāyu-purāṇa 4. 44.
  • 4) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 5. 35-42.
  • 5) Ib. II. 6. 1-27.
  • 6) Ib. II. 6. 28-31; Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 2. 14-15, 60-65; VI. 4. 46.
  • 7) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 6. 41. Vāyu-purāṇa 5. 20, 29, 32.
  • 8) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 6. 41-5.
  • 9) Ib. II. 7. 1; 10. 10; Ib. III. 26. 21-22; VI. 13. 18.
  • 10) Ib. XII. 4. 22.
  • 11) Ib. XII. 11. 19.
  • 12) Ib. X. 6. 23.
  • 13) Ib. X. 38. 15 and 32.
  • 14) Ib. X. 40. (whole).
  • 15) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 9. 36, 39.
  • 16) Matsya-purāṇa 3. 27-8.
  • 17) Ib. 60. 3; 266. 52; 274. 62.
  • 18) Vāyu-purāṇa 7. 62-7.

1b) One of the names in the fifth Marut gaṇa.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 5. 97. Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 76; 67. 128; 102. 117.

1c) A dānava, killed by Sampadīśa.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 6. 16; IV. 28. 38 and 101.

1d) A son of Añjanāvatī an elephant.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 343.

1e) A class of people in Krauñcadvīpa.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 20. 22.

1f) Minor officials to be appointed in places according to qualifications.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 215. 45.

2) Pūruṣa (पूरुष).—A son of Cākṣuṣa Manu.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa VIII. 5. 7.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

Purusa: The limited individual and the subject with five straitjackets 7-11. Trika philosophy depicts, "Purusa is Siva, who subjected Himself to the Kancukas" according to Tagare. Siva limits Himself so much to become Purusa that it is like a huge mountain reducing itself to an atom (anu). Anu has no spatial connotation but is a referent to Siva's limited capacity in Purusa as avowed before. Just imagine a professor of English literature suffering a stroke, becoming limited in memory and ability and relearning his alphabets in his rehabilitation. The individual soul is the watered-down version of Sadasiva (Tattva 3), where in he is the enjoyer or experiencer and the subjective manifestation of Aham asmi idam (I am the experience) of Vidya Tattva. These limitations are Antahstha, which is the internal state of limitation, a condition wherein the Kancukas stand in the way.

Source: bhagavadgitausa.com: Kashmir Saivism
Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

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Puruṣa is that which is absent in a dead body. The body, the brain and the senses are still there but are lifeless because Puruṣa is absent.

Source: Centre for Yoga Studies: Āyurveda & Yoga – The Pañca Bhūta
Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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Vastushastra (architecture)

Puruṣa Generally meaning ‘person’ is the word of Vedic origin and derived from the Sāṅkhya ideology, to distinguish the principle of life and consciousness from inanimate but evolving Prakrti (Lakshmi-tantra 16,15). In the traditional texts, the word signifies godhead, usually Viṣṇu. Etymologically, the meaning would be “the spirit that is hidden in the body” (puri śete), the spirit that fills the universe and makes it complete (Pratima-kosha, P.88). In the Pāñcaratra texts, Puruṣa is mentioned as one of the five ‘powers’ of godhead (pañca-sakti: pārameśṭhi, puruṣa, viśva, nivṛtti, and sarva). Purusha is the power that manifests itself as the world (jaganmayi) (cf. Nāradiya-saṃhitā, 15, 122).

Source: Ancient Indian Wisdom: Vāstu-puruṣa-maṇḍala
Vastushastra book cover
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Vastushastra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vāstuśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science (shastra) of architecture (vastu), dealing with topics such architecture, sculpture, town-building, fort building and various other constructions. Vastu also deals with the philosophy of the architectural relation with the cosmic universe.

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Ayurveda (science of life)

Puruṣa (पुरुष) is another name (synonym) for Kampillaka, which is the Sanskrit word for Mallotus philippensis (kamala tree), a plant from the Cleomaceae family. This synonym was identified by Narahari in his 13th-century Rājanighaṇṭu (verse 13.99), which is an Āyurvedic medicinal thesaurus.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

Puruṣa (पुरुष, “person—the living being”), in Āyurveda, is regarded as composed of six components—five Mahābhūtas (matter) and self (spirit). The gross human body along with its different organs and parts, the sense organs and the sense objects are all composed of five Mahābhūtas, e.g. ākāśa, vāyu, agni, ap and pṛthivi. The outer universe also has the same material composition and thus there is similarity between it and the material frame and skeleton of the living being. Though every material is composed of all the five mahābhūtas, there is predominance of one of them. The organs and substances are classified accordingly. (Caraka-saṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 7.16, Sūtrasthāna 26.11)

Source: Google Books: Essentials of Ayurveda

Ātma when joins with Pañca Mahābhūta then the matter assumes life and the body is termed as Puruṣa. In Āyurveda the term Puruṣa is specifically used for human beings. Thus Pañca Mahābhūta are the basic elements required for the formation of all the bodily tissues and sensory and motor organs including mind.

Source: Hand book of domestic medicine: Basic principles of Āyurveda

Puruṣa (पुरुष) is another name for Moraṭā, an unidentified medicinal plant, according to verse 3.92-93 of the 13th-century Raj Nighantu or Rājanighaṇṭu. Moraṭa is identified variously as either a) the root of the sugercane (Ikṣumūla), b) Aṅkolapuṣpā (Alangium lamarckii), c) Hastikarṇa-Palāśā or as a synonym of Mūrvā (both identified as Leea macrophylla), d) Maerua arenaria, e) Moīhar (Maerua arenaria). The third chapter (guḍūcyādi-varga) of this book contains climbers and creepers (vīrudh). Together with the names Puruṣa and Moraṭā, there are a total of eight  Sanskrit synonyms identified for this plant.

Source: WorldCat: Rāj nighaṇṭu
Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Kosha (encyclopedic lexicons)

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Puruṣa (पुरुष) has been equated with loka by Caraka; whatever obtains in the puruṣa, also obtains in loka. Here puruṣa could be identified with the human being as a type and loka with vegetable and animal life.

Source: Google Books: Kalātattvakośa, volume 2
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Kosha (कोश, kośa) refers to Sanskrit lexicons intended to provide additional information regarding technical terms used in religion, philosophy and the various sciences (shastra). The oldest extant thesaurus (kosha) dates to the 4th century AD.

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Samkhya (school of philosophy)

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Puruṣa (पुरुष).—The word puruṣa is used in the Gītā in four distinct senses, firstly, in the sense of puruṣottama, or God; secondly, in the sense of a person; and the Gītā distinctly speaks of the two other puruṣas as kṣara (changeable) and akṣara (unchangeable). The kṣara is all living beings, whereas the akṣara is changeless. It is this higher self (uttama-puruṣa), different from the other puruṣa and called also paramātman, that pervades the three worlds and upholds them as their deathless God.

Source: archive.org: A History of Indian Philosophy (samkhya)

Puruṣa (पुरुष, “consciousness”) is the transcendental self or pure consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable through other agencies, above any experience by mind or senses and beyond any words or explanations. It remains pure, “nonattributive consciousness”. Puruṣa is neither produced nor does it produce. It is held that unlike Advaita-vedānta and like Purva-mīmāṃsā, Sāṃkhya believes in plurality of the puruṣas.

Source: Wikipedia: Samkhya

Puruṣa (पुरुष) originally meant “person,” and is used in the Ṛg Veda to signify the primordial, cosmic Person from whom the universe is created. In Sāṃkhya puruṣa signifies the observer, the “witness”. Prakṛti includes all the cognitive, moral, psychological, emotional, sensorial and physical aspects of reality. It is often mistranslated as “matter” or “nature”—in non-Sāṃkhyan usage it does mean “essential nature”—but that distracts from the heavy Sāṃkhyan stress on prakṛti’s cognitive, mental, psychological and sensorial activities.

Source: China Buddhism Encyclopedia: Sāṃkhya
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Samkhya (सांख्य, Sāṃkhya) is a dualistic school of Hindu philosophy (astika) and is closeley related to the Yoga school. Samkhya philosophy accepts three pramanas (‘proofs’) only as valid means of gaining knowledge. Another important concept is their theory of evolution, revolving around prakriti (matter) and purusha (consciousness).

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Puruṣa (पुरुष).—A grammatical term in the sense of 'person:' cf. करोतिः पचादीनां सर्वान् कालान् सर्वान् पुरुषान्सर्वाणि वचनान्यनु-वर्तते, भवतिः पुनर्वर्तमानकालं चैकत्वं च (karotiḥ pacādīnāṃ sarvān kālān sarvān puruṣānsarvāṇi vacanānyanu-vartate, bhavatiḥ punarvartamānakālaṃ caikatvaṃ ca). These persons or Purușas are described to be three प्रथम, मध्यम (prathama, madhyama) and उत्तम (uttama) corresponding to the third second and first persons respectively in English Grammar; cf. also Nir. VII. l and 2.

Source: Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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Vedanta (school of philosophy)

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Puruṣa (पुरुष) means “one who covers the whole world”. A puruṣa is a person who has full control of himself, who has withdrawn himself totally from the world and has gone through the strictest austerities.

Source: Google Books: Chāndogya Upaniṣad
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Vedanta (वेदान्त, vedānta) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. There are a number of sub-schools of Vedanta, however all of them expound on the basic teaching of the ultimate reality (brahman) and liberation (moksha) of the individual soul (atman).

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Itihasa (narrative history)

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Puruṣa (पुरुष) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. XIV.8.14, XIV.8) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Puruṣa) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

Source: JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places
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Itihasa (इतिहास, itihāsa) refers to ‘epic history’ and represents a branch of Sanskrit literature which popularly includes 1) the eighteen major Puranas, 2) the Mahabharata and 3) the Ramayana. It is a branch of Vedic Hinduism categorised as smriti literature (‘that which is remembered’) as opposed to shruti literature (‘that which is transmitted verbally’).

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General definition (in Hinduism)

1) Puruṣa (पुरुष), or Pūruṣa, is the generic term for ‘man’ in the Rigveda and later. Man is composed of five parts according to the Atharvaveda, or of six according to the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, or of sixteen, or of twenty, or of twenty-one, or of twenty-four, or of twenty-five, all more or less fanciful enumerations. Man is the first of animals, but also essentially an animal (see Paśu). The height of a man is given in the Kātyāyana-śrauta-sūtra as four Aratnis (‘cubits’), each of two Padas (‘feet’), each of twelve Aṅgulis (‘ finger’s breadths’); and the term Puruṣa itself is found earlier as a measure of length.

Puruṣa is also applied to denote the length of a man’s life, a ‘generation’; the ‘pupil’ in the eye; and in the grammatical literature the ‘person’ of the verb.

2) Pūruṣa (पूरुष) has in several passages the sense of ‘menial’ or ‘dependent’, like the English ‘man’.

Source: archive.org: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

Purusha is the primordial man, extolled in the PurushaSuktam [R.V.10.90]. These verses describe the greatness of this primeval man, who was sacrificed as an offering to himself. After the sacrifice, various parts of creation sprang from his body parts. From his eyes Surya was formed. From various parts of his body, the four Varnas who formed the race of men came forth.

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

Puruṣa is in the form of a mental sheath or cosmic mind (manomaya - consisting of spirit; this is not mamayakośa, the mental sheath in the subtle body covering the soul).

Source: Manblunder: Hinduism

Puruṣa (पुरुष) is used in the Ṛg Veda to signify the primordial, cosmic Person from whom the universe is created (10.90, Puruṣa Sūkta). Ṛg Veda I.24.7 says, “Two birds ... inseparable companions, have found refuge in the same sheltering tree. One incessantly eats from the peepal tree; the other, not eating, just looks on.” This image of an inseparable dyad, one part actively engaging its appetites and appropriational desires, and the other passively observing the activity of the first part, prefigures the notion of puruṣa and prakṛti.

Source: China Buddhism Encyclopedia: Hinduism

Puruṣa (पुरुष).—The Ṛg-veda (X.90.1-16) contains a creation myth in which a primordial being known as the puruṣa (‘Man’) is sacrificed by the gods to produce a new world.

The puruṣa is described there in these terms:

“The puruṣa has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. He pervades the earth everywhere and extends beyond for ten fingers’ breadth. The puruṣa himself is all this, whatever has been and whatever is to be… Al. him; three quarters are the immortal in heaven.”

The sacrifice of the puruṣa is then performed by the gods, sādhyas and sages.

Source: Institute of Buddhist Studies: Buddhist Forum, Volume 4 (hinduism)

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

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Puruṣa (पुरुष) refers to a class of kimpuruṣa deities according to both the Digambara and the Śvetāmbara traditions. The kimpuruṣas refer to a category of vyantaras gods which represents one of the four classes of celestial beings (devas). The kimpuruṣas are are golden in appearance according to Digambara, but white in complexion with very bright faces according to Śvetāmbara.

The deities such as the Puruṣas are defined in ancient Jain cosmological texts such as the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapaṇṇati by Yativṛṣabha (5th century) in the Digambara tradition.

Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism
General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

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puruṣa (पुरुष).—m (S) A man generally or individually, a male. 2 An adult. 3 A male among fruit trees. 4 The masculine gender. 5 A man's height or stature as a measure. 6 Used freely for a male ancestor or a male elderly relation.

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

puruṣa (पुरुष).—m A man. An adult. A man's height or as a measure. In Gen. Person.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Puruṣa (पुरुष).—[puri dehe śete śī-ḍa pṛṣo° Tv.; pur-agragamane kuṣan Uṇ. 4.74]

1) A male being, man; अर्थतः पुरुषो नारी या नारी सार्थतः पुमान् (arthataḥ puruṣo nārī yā nārī sārthataḥ pumān) Mk.3.27; Ms.1.32;7.17;9.2; R.2.41.

2) Men, mankind.

3) A member or representative of a generation.

4) An officer, functionary, agent, attendant, servant.

5) The height or measure of a man (considered as a measure of length); द्वौ पुरुषौ प्रमाणमस्य सा द्विपुरुषा-षी परिखा (dvau puruṣau pramāṇamasya sā dvipuruṣā-ṣī parikhā) Sk.

6) The soul; द्वाविमौ पुरुषौ लोके क्षरश्चाक्षर एव च (dvāvimau puruṣau loke kṣaraścākṣara eva ca) Bg.15.16 &c.

7) The Supreme Being, God (soul of the universe); पुरातनं त्वां पुरुषं पुराविदः (purātanaṃ tvāṃ puruṣaṃ purāvidaḥ) (viduḥ) Śi.1.33; R.13.6.

8) A person (in grammar); प्रथम- पुरुषः (prathama- puruṣaḥ) the third person, मध्यमपुरुषः (madhyamapuruṣaḥ) the second person, and उत्तमपुरुषः (uttamapuruṣaḥ) the first person, (this is the strict order in Sk.).

9) The pupil of the eye.

1) (In Sāṅ. phil.) The soul (opp. prakṛti); according to the Sāṅkhyas it is neither a production nor productive; it is passive and a looker-on of the Prakṛti; cf. त्वामामनन्ति प्रकृतिं पुरुषार्थप्रवर्तिनीम् (tvāmāmananti prakṛtiṃ puruṣārthapravartinīm) Ku.2.13 and the word सांख्य (sāṃkhya) also.

11) The soul, the original source of the universe (described in the puruṣasūkta); सहस्रशीर्षः पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् (sahasraśīrṣaḥ puruṣaḥ sahasrākṣaḥ sahasrapāt) &c.

12) The Punnāga tree.

13) Name of the first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh signs of the zodiac.

14) The seven divine or active principles of which the universe was formed; तेषामिदं तु सप्तानां पुरुषाणां महौजसाम् (teṣāmidaṃ tu saptānāṃ puruṣāṇāṃ mahaujasām) Ms.1.19.

-ṣī A woman.

-ṣam An epithet of the mountain Meru.

Derivable forms: puruṣaḥ (पुरुषः).

--- OR ---

Pūruṣa (पूरुष).—= पुरुष (puruṣa) q. v.; Bv.1.75.

Derivable forms: pūruṣaḥ (पूरुषः).

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Puruṣottama is one of the Brāhmaṇa donees mentioned in the “Asankhali plates of Narasiṃha II” (...
Puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ, “renunciation”) refers to the concept of “four ends of life”.—These four...
Tatpuruṣa (तत्पुरुष) refers to one of the five faces of Sadāśiva that revealed the Āgamas (sacr...
Parapuruṣa (परपुरुष).—1) another man, a stranger. 2) the Supreme Spirit, Viṣṇu. 3) the husband ...
Purāṇapuruṣa (पुराणपुरुष) refers to “eternal being” and is explained by Lakṣmaṇadeśika in his 1...
Mahāpuruṣa (महापुरुष).—1) a great man, an eminent or distinguished personage; शब्दं महापुरुषसंव...
Vāstupuruṣa (वास्तुपुरुष).—In days of yore a ghost of immense size, who was feared by all other...
Paramapuruṣa (परमपुरुष) or Paramapuruṣasaṃhitā is the name of a Vaiṣṇava Āgama scripture, class...
Puruṣapura (पुरुषपुर).—Name of the capital of Gāndhāra, q. v. Derivable forms: puruṣapuram (पुर...
Puruṣasūkta (पुरुषसूक्त).—Name of the 9th hymn of the 1th Maṇḍala of the Ṛigveda (regarded as a...
Puruṣa—individual consciousness/self, knowing subject: ātman, jīva, kṣetrajña.
Nakṣatrapuruṣa (नक्षत्रपुरुष).—1) (in astr.) the figure of a man's body on the limbs of which a...
kālapuruṣa (कालपुरुष).—m A term for any terrific fellow. One of Yama's attendants.
Puruṣasiṃha (पुरुषसिंह).—'a tiger or lion among men', a distinguished or eminent man. उद्योगिनं...

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