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Who is Prajapati?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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In the earliest writings of Hinduism, Prajapati is viewed as the ultimate creator. He is said to have made the heavens and the earth, and the creatures that live within the universe. As time went on, he became associated with various major gods, especially Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Prajapati was also associated with deities that personified the major forces of the universe, especially the sun and time. In early forms, he was often depicted as a lingam figure, sitting in full lotus position, preparing to give birth to all of creation.

An early creation myth casts Prajapati as an almost unwilling participant in the role of creation. It is said that he was alone in the vastness, and to ease his loneliness, he split his self into two distinct parts: man and woman. They then procreated and from them was born the race of man. Woman eventually tired of man, however, and so she turned herself into a cow and fled. Man turned himself into a bull and followed, and again they procreated, creating the cows. She continued to tire of man and so to transform herself and flee, and man would follow and they would procreate and populate the world. In this way all the various creatures of the world were created.

Prajapati is often cast in early tales as a sacrificial character. It is said of him in the Sarapatha Brahmana that "Prajapati is sacrifice, for he created it in his own self-expression." He is intricately tied to the early belief in Hinduism that all creation was born on the back of sacrifice, and that in creating the world, Prajapati gave up a part of himself.

In the modern world, a Cult of Prajapati has sprung up that seeks to combine elements of his early worship with elements of Christianity. Prajapati in this context is said to have been a manifestation of Jesus Christ. Followers of the cult believe that his role as sacrificial lamb was the same as Christ’s.

The word Prajapati, which means Lord of Creatures, became used in later Hinduism to refer to an entire class of deities. It is said that in the time before the universe was formed, the creator Brahma created ten distinct Prajapati to assist him in creation. These can be viewed in the later cycles as distinct manifestations of Prajapati, and are given the names Atri, Angirasa, Vasishta, Bhrigu, Narada, Marichi, Pulaha, Krathu, Pulasthya, and Prachethasa.

Each of these manifestations had distinct characteristics, and appear as characters in the various holy texts of Hinduism. Atri, for example, was a famous bard. He is known best for helping to propagate the holy word Aum. Bhrigu, on the other hand, is known as a famous astrologer, and is given as the author of the astrological text the Bhrigu Samhita from around 3000 BCE.

Prajapati was also simply used later as a title for the creator god Brahma. Brahma as Prajapati Brahma embodies the creative spirit that gave birth to the infinite universes, including that in which we live.

LanguageHumanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon346065 — On Aug 25, 2013

All confusion, is Hinduism I'm afraid. Prajapati in my understanding is clearly Lord Brahma, whose name is OM.

By anon324915 — On Mar 13, 2013

Prajpatis are the sons of Lord Brahma himself, Therefore Prajapatis are sons of the god Brahma.

Brahma is mentioned a lot more because it is Satya

the truth, and also pure in spirit, the same as we value truth and honesty.

G enerator/creator: Brahma

O operator: Vishnu

D estroyer: Mahesh (Lord Shiva)

By fify — On Mar 14, 2011

@anon105360-- King Nahush is Daksha Prajapati's descendant (Daksha's great great great great great grandson!) Although he comes from a line of Prajapatis, he was not a creator himself. But they say that he was a great scholar and King and ruled his people with justice and dharma.

By burcinc — On Mar 13, 2011

@turquoise-- Prajapatis means lords of creation. So all Hindu deities who create are called Prajapatis. Daksha Prajapati is a very old deity and he is the son of Brahman. Daksha had many sons and daughters so he is the father of a great many gods and kings. Shiva married one of Daksha's daughters and was his son-in-law. Shiva was also the one who is responsible for Daksha's goat head.

By turquoise — On Mar 12, 2011

I'm a little confused because I thought that Brahman was the creator. In fact, I have read about several other Hindu deities that are said to have created the universe. Since Prajapati is the ultimate creator, than what is Brahman? Do all of the other creator Gods come after Prajapati?

I find it difficult to follow the roles of all of the Hindu deities. There are so many and each one has multiple incarnations with different names. Their roles are also common sometimes. I understand the Hindu trinity of Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva. But I would like to know why some gods are preferred for worship or are more commonly discussed than others.

Prajapati sounds like a very important deity, but I have not heard him mentioned very often. Brahman is mentioned and worshiped more it seems.

By anon105360 — On Aug 20, 2010

Was king nahush a prajapati?

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