Tejas Transactions in the Itihāsa-Purāṇa

Paolo Magnone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the frame of my ongoing research devoted to the elucidation of the notion of tejas (‘ardent/fierce energy’), the present paper purposes to investigate an aspect that has so far lurked in the background of the former contributions, despite its crucial significance to the notion of tejas itself: namely, its liability to transference. As a prominent instance of so-called “substance-powers” or Daseinsmächte, as Glasenapp originally termed them, meaning by such term “hypostases of qualities and processes conceived as self-standing substances”, tejas shares the transferability which is an essential property of substances — in contradistinction to qualities, which, existing only in alio and not enjoying an independent status, cannot be transferred as such. (As has already been noted, Indian thought is apt to hypostatize what would elsewhere be counted a mere quality: a well known case in point is puṇya, i.e. ‘virtue/merit’, which is not regarded in the śāstras as the inherent attribute of the virtuous, but rather as a stock of goods liable to be alienated to someone else). The basic mechanics of tejas transfer, configuring either an increment or a decrement, can be further specified according to a fourfold typology: i) bestowal with inception of being; ii) bestowal with promotion of status; iii) withdrawal with demotion from status; iv) withdrawal with cessation from being. Such fourfold typology depends on a twofold acception of the notion of tejas, either (in a broader sense, brought out, e.g. in Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa I, 171, 2-7: ajeyaṃ vaiṣṇavaṃ tejas tac ca nityaṃ ca jantuṣu | nāśam āyānti te sarve hīnā vaiṣṇavatejasā) as the Lord’s selfsame cosmic life-sustaining energy, or (in a more restricted sense, brought out, e.g. in Bhagavad Gītā 10, 41: yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṃ śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā | tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṃ mama tejo’mśasaṃbhavam) as a special supererogatory dispensation, building up the pre-eminence of exceptionally powerful beings. Whereas the bestowal and withdrawal of tejas in the general sense cannot but entail, respectively, origination and dissolution, the shift of (supererogatory) tejas in the special sense can have less drastic consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Churning of the Epics and Purāṇas
EditorsS. Brodbeck, A. Bowles, A. Hiltebeitel
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • hinduism
  • purāṇa
  • sanskrit literature
  • tejas


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