From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Puṇya literally means ‘that which purifies’.

The words puṇya and pāpa are commonly found in the scriptures. Even the Ṛgveda has used the words punya[1] and pāpa[2] So also the Upaniṣads. Punya refers to the fruit of any good or meritorious action. Other words considered as its equivalents are:

  1. Dharma
  2. Śreyas
  3. Sukṛta
  4. Vṛṣa

Punya gives happiness both here and hereafter. The most common definition of puṇya is that which causes happiness to others, reducing their problems and difficulties. The dharmaśāstras and the purāṇas give detailed descriptions of punya and pāpa for the guidance of people in general.


  1. Ṛgveda 2.43.2
  2. Ṛgveda 10.164.5
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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