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Prajapati with similar iconographical features associated with Brahma, a sculpture from Tamil Nadu
A Sculpture of Prajapati at Daksha Prajapati Temple, Banapur, Odisha

Prajapati (Sanskrit: प्रजापति, lit.'Lord of creation', IAST: Prajāpati) is a Vedic deity of Hinduism.[1][2][3]

In later literature, Prajapati is identified with the creator-god Brahma, but the term also connotes many different gods depending on the Hindu scriptures, ranging from being the creator god Brahma to being the same as the following: Vishvakarma, Agni, Indra, Daksha, and many others,[1] reflecting the diverse Hindu cosmology.[2] In classical and medieval era literature, Prajapati is equated to the metaphysical concept called Brahman as Prajapati-Brahman (Svayambhu Brahman), or alternatively Brahman is described as one who existed before Prajapati.[4][5]

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Prajapati (Sanskrit: प्रजापति) is a compound of "praja" (creation, procreative powers) and "pati" (lord, master).[6] The term means "lord of creatures",[1][2] or "lord of all born beings".[7] In the later Vedic texts, Prajapati is a distinct Vedic deity, but whose significance diminishes.[2] Later, the term is synonymous with other gods, particularly Brahma.[1][3] Still later, the term evolves to mean any divine, semi-divine or human sages who create something new.[1][2][8]


"An attempt to depict the creative activities of Prajapati", a steel engraving from the 1850s.

The origins of Prajapati are unclear. He appears late in the Vedic layer of texts, and the hymns that mention him provide different cosmological theories in different chapters.[3] He is missing from the Samhita layer of Vedic literature, conceived in the Brahmana layer, states Jan Gonda.[9] Prajapati is younger than Savitr, and the word was originally an epithet for the sun.[10] His profile gradually rises in the Vedas, peaking within the Brahmanas.[9] Scholars such as Renou, Keith and Bhattacharji posit Prajapati originated as an abstract or semi-abstract deity in the later Vedic milieu as speculations evolved from the archaic to more learned speculations.[10]

Similarity with other Indo-European deities

A possible connection between Prajapati (and related figures in Hindu mythology) and Prōtogonos, (Ancient Greek: Πρωτογόνος, literally "first-born") of the Greek Orphic tradition has been proposed:[11][12]

Protogonos is the Orphic mythology equivalent of the Vedic Prajapati in several ways: he is the first god born from a cosmic egg, he is the creator of the universe, and in the figure of Dionysus— a direct descendant of Protogonos — worshippers participate in his death, and rebirth

— Kate Alsobrook, The Beginning of Time: Vedic and Orphic Theogonies and Poetics[12]

According to Robert Graves, the name of /PRA-JĀ[N]-pati/ ('progeny-potentate') is etymologically equivalent to that of the oracular god Phanes at Colophon (according to Makrobios[13]), namely /prōtogonos/.[citation needed] The cosmic egg concept linked to Prajapati and Protogonos is common in many parts of the world, states David Leeming, which appears in later Orphic cult in Greece.[14]


Prajapati is described in many ways and inconsistently in Hindu texts, both in the Vedas and in the post-Vedic texts. These range from being the creator god Brahma to being same as one of the following: Agni, Indra, Vishvakarma, Daksha and many others.[1][15]


His role varies within the Vedic texts such as being one who created heaven and earth, all of water and beings, the chief, the father of gods, the creator of devas and asuras the cosmic bramhand (unique space ruled by one brahma)and the Purusha.[2][7] His role peaked in the Brahmanas layer of Vedic texts, then declined to being a group of helpers in the creation process.[2] In some Brahmana texts, his role remains ambiguous since he co-creates with the creator goddess Vāc.[16]

In the Rigveda, Prajapati appears as an epithet for Savitr, Soma, Agni and Indra, who are all praised as equal, same and lord of creatures.[17] Elsewhere, in hymn 10.121 of the Rigveda, is described Hiranyagarbha (golden embryo) that was born from the waters containing everything, which produced Prajapati. It then created manas (mind), kama (desire) and tapas (heat). However this Prajapati is a metaphor, one of many Hindu cosmology theories, and there is no supreme deity in the Rigveda.[18][19][20] One of the striking features about the Hindu Prajapati myths, states Jan Gonda, is the idea that work of creation is a gradual process, completed in stages of trial and improvement.[21]

In the Shatapatha Brahmana, embedded inside the Yajurveda, Prajapati emanated from Purusha (cosmic spirit) and Prajapati co-creates the world with Vāc[22] It also includes the "golden cosmic egg" mythology, wherein Prajapati is stated to be born from a golden egg in primeval sea after the egg was incubated for a year. His sounds became the sky, the earth and the seasons. When he inhaled, he created the devas, fire, and light. When he exhaled, he created the asuras, and darkness. Then, together with Vāc , he created all beings and time.[23] In Chapter 10 of the Shatapatha Brahmana, as well as chapter 13 of Pancavimsa Brahmana, is presented another myth wherein he, Prajapati is a mother, who becomes self-pregnant with all living creatures self-generated, then Mrtyu seizes these beings within his/her womb, but because these beings are part of the eternal Prajapati they desire to live long like him.[24][25]

The Aitareya Brahmana offers a different myth, wherein Prajapati, having created the gods, turns into a stag and approaches his daughterUshas who was in the form of a doe, to produce other earthly beings. The gods were horrified by the incest, and joined forces to produce the angry destructive Rudra to punish Prajapati for "doing what is not done". Prajapati was killed by Rudra.[23] The Kausitaki Brahmana tells another myth, wherein Prajapati created Agni, Surya, Chandra, Vayu, Ushas and all deities released their energies and created the universe[23]

In section 2.266 of Jaiminiya Brahmana, Prajapati is presented as a spiritual teacher. His student Varuna lives with him for 100 years, studying the art and duties of being the "father-like king of gods".[26][27]


Prajapati appears in early Upanishads, among the most influential texts in Hinduism.[28] He is described in the Upanishads in diverse ways. For example, in different Upanishads, he is presented as the personification of creative power after Brahman,[29] the same as the wandering eternal soul,[30] as symbolism for unmanifest obscure first born,[31] as manifest procreative sexual powers,[32] the knower particularly of Atman (soul, self),[33] and a spiritual teacher that is within each person.[34][35] The Chandogya Upanishad, as an illustration, presents him as follows:[36]

The self (atman) that is free from evils, free from old age and death, free from sorrow, free from hunger and thirst; the self whose desires and intentions are real – that is the self that you should try to discover, that is the self that you should seek to perceive. When someone discovers that self and perceives it, he obtains all the worlds, and all his desires are fulfilled, so said Prajapati.

In Chandogya Upanishad 1.2.1, Prajapati appears as the creator of all devas and asuras. "The gods and goddesses and the demons are both children of Prajapati, yet they fought among themselves." (Sanskrit: देवासुरा ह वै यत्र संयेतिरे उभये प्राजापत्यास्तद्ध, IAST: devāsurā ha vai yatra saṃyetire ubhaye prājāpatyāstaddha).[37]

Post-Vedic texts

In the Mahabharata, Brahma is declared to be a Prajapati who creates many males and females, and imbues them with desire and anger, the former to drive them into reproducing themselves and the latter to prevent them from being like gods.[23] Other chapters of the epics and Puranas declare Vishnu or Shiva to be Prajapati.[17]

The Bhagavad Gita uses the epithet Prajapati to describe Krishna, along with many other epithets.[38]

The Grhyasutras include Prajapati as among the deities invoked during wedding ceremonies and prayed to for blessings of prosperous progeny, and harmony between husband and wife.[39]

Prajapati is identified with the personifications of Time, Fire, the Sun, etc. He is also identified with various mythical progenitors, especially (Manusmriti 1.34) the ten lords created beings first created by Brahma: Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishtha, Daksha, Bhrigu and Narada.[40]

In the Puranas, there are groups of Prajapatis called Prajapatayah who were rishis (sages) from whom all of the world is created, followed by a Prajapatis list that widely varies in number and name between different texts.[1][2] According to George Williams, the inconsistent, varying and evolving Prajapati concept in Hindu mythology reflects the diverse Hindu cosmology.[2]

The Mahabharata and the genre of Puranas call various gods and sages as Prajapati. Some illustrations, states Roshen Dalal, include Agni, Bharata, Shashabindu, Shukra, Havirdhaman, Indra, Kapila, Kshupa, Prithu, Chandra, Svishtakrita, Tvashtr, Vishvakarma and Virana.[1]

In the medieval era texts of Hinduism, Prajapati refers to legendary agents of creation, working as gods or sages, who appear in every cycle of creation-maintenance-destruction (manvantaras). Their numbers vary between seven, ten, sixteen or twenty-one.[1]

A list of twenty one includes found in the Mahabharata includes:[1][2]

  1. Rudra
  2. Manu
  3. Daksha
  4. Bhrigu
  5. Dharma
  6. Tapa
  7. Yama
  8. Marici
  9. Angiras
  10. Atri
  11. Pulastya
  12. Pulaha
  13. Kratu
  14. Vasishtha
  15. Parameshti
  16. Surya
  17. Chandra
  18. Kardama
  19. Krodha
  20. Vikrita.

A list of sixteen found in the Ramayana includes:[1]

  1. Angiras
  2. Arishtanemi
  3. Atri
  4. Daksha
  5. Kardama
  6. Kashyapa
  7. Kratu
  8. Marichi
  9. Prachetas
  10. Pulaha
  11. Pulastya
  12. Samshraya
  13. Shesha
  14. Surya.

A list of ten in Hindu scriptures includes:[1]

  1. Marichi
  2. Angiras
  3. Atri
  4. Pulastya
  5. Pulaha
  6. Kratu
  7. Vasishtha
  8. Daksha
  9. Bhrigu
  10. Narada.

Their creative role varies. Pulaha, for example, is the Mānasaputra of Brahma and Sarasvati is a great rishi. As one of the Prajapatis, he creates animals and plants.[41]

Balinese Hinduism

Hindu temples in Bali Indonesia called Pura Prajapati, also called Pura Mrajapati, are common. They are most associated with funeral rituals and the Ngaben (cremation) ceremony for the dead.[42][43]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 234–235. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
  3. ^ a b c James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 518–519. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
  4. ^ Sukumari Bhattacharji (2007). The Indian Theogony. Cambridge University Press. pp. 322–323, 337, 338, 341–342.
  5. ^ "Prajapati, Prajāpati, Prajāpatī, Praja-pati: 30 definitions". 28 September 2010.
  6. ^ Jan Gonda (1982), The Popular Prajāpati Archived 15 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine, History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Nov., 1982), University of Chicago Press, pp. 137-141
  7. ^ a b Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 332. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
  8. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 169, 518–519. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
  9. ^ a b Jan Gonda (1986). Prajāpatiʼs rise to higher rank. BRILL Academic. pp. 2–5. ISBN 90-04-07734-0.
  10. ^ a b Jan Gonda (1982), The Popular Prajāpati Archived 15 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine, History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Nov., 1982), University of Chicago Press, pp. 129-130
  11. ^ Martin West, Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971: 28-34
  12. ^ a b Kate Alsobrook (2008), "The Beginning of Time: Vedic and Orphic Theogonies and Poetics". M.A. Thesis, Reviewers: James Sickinger, Kathleen Erndl, John Marincola and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin, Florida State University, pages 20, 1-5, 24-25, 40-44
  13. ^ Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955. vol. 1, p. 31, sec. 2.2
  14. ^ David Adams Leeming (2010). Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 313–314. ISBN 978-1-59884-174-9.
  15. ^ Sukumari Bhattacharji (2007). The Indian Theogony. Cambridge University Press. pp. 322–330.
  16. ^ David Kinsley (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-520-90883-3.
  17. ^ a b Sukumari Bhattacharji (2007). The Indian Theogony. Cambridge University Press. pp. 322–323.
  18. ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0.
  19. ^ Henry White Wallis (1887). The Cosmology of the Ṛigveda: An Essay. Williams and Norgate. pp. 61–73, 117.
  20. ^ Laurie L. Patton (2005). Bringing the Gods to Mind: Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice. University of California Press. pp. 113, 216. ISBN 978-0-520-93088-9.
  21. ^ Jan Gonda (1986). Prajāpatiʼs rise to higher rank. BRILL Academic. pp. 20–21. ISBN 90-04-07734-0.
  22. ^ Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 414–416. ISBN 978-3-11-024003-0.
  23. ^ a b c d David Adams Leeming (2010). Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 144–146. ISBN 978-1-59884-174-9.
  24. ^ Jan Gonda (1986). Prajāpatiʼs rise to higher rank. BRILL Academic. pp. 5, 14–16. ISBN 90-04-07734-0.
  25. ^ Sukumari Bhattacharji (2007). The Indian Theogony. Cambridge University Press. pp. 324–325.
  26. ^ Jan Gonda (1986). Prajāpatiʼs rise to higher rank. BRILL Academic. pp. 17–18. ISBN 90-04-07734-0.
  27. ^ Sukumari Bhattacharji (2007). The Indian Theogony. Cambridge University Press. pp. 326–327.
  28. ^ Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanisads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195352429, pages 3, 279-281; Quote: "Even though theoretically the whole of vedic corpus is accepted as revealed truth [shruti], in reality it is the Upanishads that have continued to influence the life and thought of the various religious traditions that we have come to call Hindu. Upanishads are the scriptures par excellence of Hinduism".
  29. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 19–21, 205, 240, 350, 510, 544. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  30. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 495. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  31. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 85, 96–97, 252. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  32. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 53–56, 471, 534, 540. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  33. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 371. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  34. ^ Paul Deussen (1980). Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 21, 106, 198–205, 263, 508, 544. ISBN 978-81-208-1468-4.
  35. ^ Klaus G. Witz (1998). The Supreme Wisdom of the Upaniṣads: An Introduction. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 115, 145–153, 363–365. ISBN 978-81-208-1573-5.
  36. ^ a b The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text and Translation. Oxford University Press. 1998. pp. 279–281. ISBN 978-0-19-535242-9.
  37. ^ (4 January 2019). "Chandogya Upanishad, Verse 1.2.1 (English and Sanskrit)". Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  38. ^ Winthrop Sargeant (2010). Christopher Key Chapple (ed.). The Bhagavad Gita: Twenty-fifth–Anniversary Edition. State University of New York Press. pp. 37, 167, 491 (verse 11.39). ISBN 978-1-4384-2840-6.
  39. ^ Jan Gonda (1982), The Popular Prajāpati Archived 15 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine, History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Nov., 1982), University of Chicago Press, pp. 131-132
  40. ^ Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. p. 369. ISBN 81-246-0234-4.
  41. ^ Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin. p. 316. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  42. ^ David J. Stuart-Fox (2002). Pura Besakih: Temple, Religion and Society in Bali. KITLV. pp. 92–94, 207–209. ISBN 978-90-6718-146-4.
  43. ^ Between Harmony and Discrimination: Negotiating Religious Identities within Majority-Minority Relationships in Bali and Lombok. BRILL. 2014. pp. 264–266. ISBN 978-90-04-27149-4.
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