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By Swami Harshananda

Purusottama (‘the best of human beings’)

The literal meaning of the word is ‘the best of men.’ However, it is often used to indicate God, especially in his aspect as Lord Viṣṇu.

After dividing this world into two classes of puruṣas—the kṣarapuruṣas (bound souls) and the akṣarapuruṣas (the liberated ones)—the Bhagavadgītā (16.16-18) declares that God (= Śrī Kṛṣṇa here) is Puruṣottama, the best of beings, who has transcended the other two.

The well-known Visnusahasranāma (24) uses this word also to indicate the Lord Viṣṇu. Out of the several interpretations a few may be given here:

1) He is the best of men. 2) It is Brahman who is called Puruṣottama. 3) It is he who is complete and perfect. 4) He is superior even to the creator Brahmā. 5) It is he who makes human beings superior to animals and the subhuman species.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore