[INDOLOGY] 84 lakhs of living beings

Manu Francis manufrancis at gmail.com
Wed Sep 28 08:37:25 UTC 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I am reading for the moment Tamil commentaries to the *Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai*.

One of them reads about the first word of the poem (*ulakam*, "the world"
in bold below):

*ulakam ulakiṉkaṇṇuḷḷa eṇ pattu nāṉku ilaṭcam cīvapētaṅkaḷākiya
*"**ulakam *(means) the group of living beings which are the 84 lakhs of
classes of living beings which are in the world."

Another comments as follows upon the first two words of the poem (*ulakam
uvappa*, "while/so that the world rejoices" in bold below):

*ulaka muvappa** eṉpatu lōkalōkaṅkaḷum eṇpattu nālu leṭcam āṟṟumākkaḷuñ
canto[vi]ttaiy aṭaintu piḻaikkum paṭi. *Which I tentatively translate as:

"The phrase *ulaka muvappa* (means) the manner in which (in) the worlds (
*lōkalōkaṅkaḷum*) the eighty four lakhs of kinds (*āṟṟu* < *āṟu*, litteraly
“way”) of people obtain salvation after obtaining knowledge (*vittai* =
*vidyā*) of the poem (*cantō* < *chandas*, “sacred hymn; metre”)."

The mention of the 84 lakhs of living beings appears to be just a way to
state, as the other commentaries do, that all living beings rejoice.

I have found references to this number of 84 lakhs in the Maitrāyaṇīya
Upaniṣad (see van Buitenen, 1962, p. 102 and 129) as well as in the
Rāmāyaṇa of Tulsidas, the Caitanyacaritāmṛta and in a 1499 CE inscription
from Gujarat.

Could any one point out to me other sources (Pūrāṇas for instance) and,
especially, sources where the this total of 84 lakhs is detailed?

With a great many thanks in advance.


Emmanuel Francis
Chargé de recherche CNRS, Centre d'étude de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (UMR
8564, EHESS-CNRS, Paris)
Associate member, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Culture (SFB 950,
Universität Hamburg)

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