From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Pañcajana literally means ‘five kinds or types of people’.

Pañcajana is one of the archaic words used in the Vedas, the Upaniṣads and allied literature, whose interpretations vary widely. It can be delineated as belows:

  • In the Ṛgveda[1] this word forms a part of the mantra to be chanted by the hotṛ priest during the Darśapurṇa-māsa sacrifice.
  • Pañcajanas are the five types of persons to whom the hotṛ priest is appealing to accept his duly discharged duties. They are:
  1. Devas - gods
  2. Manuṣyas - human beings
  3. Pitṛs - manes
  4. Paśus - animals
  5. Pakṣis - birds
  • According to another interpretation they are the members of the four varṇas:
  1. Brāhmaṇas
  2. Kṣattriyās
  3. Vaiśyas
  4. Śudras along with the niṣādas[2]
  • A third interpretation is that it refers to:
  1. Gandharvas - semigods
  2. Pitṛs - manes
  3. Devas - gods
  4. Asuras - antigods
  5. Rākṣasas - demons

In the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad[3] this word has been used to indicate five kinds of beings who also are established in the Ātman/Brahman as their support. Here too, the interpretations given by the commentators are the same as the third and the second ones given above for the word in the Ṛgveda.

  • Pañcajana is also the name of a demon.


  1. Ṛgveda 10.53.4
  2. Niṣādas means hunters.
  3. Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.17
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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