Salter, Emma (2011) Purusha Sukta: creating the cosmos and mapping the methods. In: Teaching Religions of South Asian Origin, 13th January 2011, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished)

Purusha Sukta, hymn 10.90 in the Rg Veda, is a particular favourite for teaching about scholastic interpretations of Brahmanism; a topic often placed near the beginning of courses about Hinduism. This paper demonstrates how I exploit Purusha Sukta not only to teach about Brahmanical religion and society, but also to exemplify a range of different methodologies in the study of religion. A textual analysis of Purusha Sukta’s creation mythology provides an ideal model for examining substantive approaches, with an emphasis on the relationship between myth, ritual and society, and reductionist approaches, with an emphasis on the sociology of religion. It also provides a stark challenge to phenomenology. Conceptualising Purusha unlocks a philosophy of the type scholars of religion delight in and alerts us to our potential orientalism. Purusha Sukta is a crucible for methodological approaches in the study of religion. Purusha created the Vedic cosmos; in my classroom he also helps in mapping the religious studies tool kit.

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