by Jayaram V
The development of early
of creation coincided more or less with the
of religious thought in
Vedic India. In the early
Vedic hymns we see descriptions of
Aditi as the universal
mother or mother
goddess. She gave birth to all the
in turn shaped or carved the world. The
like carpenters or blacksmiths who forged and carved the worlds
and their beings. In the later
Vedic hymns we notice a shift from the concrete to the abstract
and find descriptions of an
or an infinite being as the efficient and material cause of all
creation. This evolutionary development in the Vedic thought happened
over a long period of time.
The early Vedic people
lived in very challenging circumstances. They invoked
help and protection and were preoccupied more with the problems
of survival rather than with such philosophical speculation as to
who created the
gods or how
and the world came into existence. The early Rigvedic hymns,
therefore, were mostly ceremonial invocations addressed to various
gods and goddesses
seeking their help or protection. In the later
Rigvedic hymns we can see a more philosophical enquiry, which
is reflected more prominently in the
where we find human thought soaring to great heights. This new development
coincided with the establishment of permanent settlements by the
Vedic people and probably their coming into contact with diverse
religious beliefs and practices of other tribes living in the same
In the early
Aditi is described as the
and mother of gods like
Indra, Aryaman and Varuna and the
number range from six to twelve. Some of the hymns also refer to
a father god. In the
last Mandala of the
Rigveda, for example, we come across this beautiful hymn on
the creation of gods which proclaim
as the creator of all gods and
Aditi as their
1. LET US with tuneful skill proclaim these generations
of the Gods, That one may see them when these hymns are chanted
in a future age.
2 These Brahmanaspati produced with blast and
smelting, like a Smith, Existence, in an earlier age of Gods, from
3 Existence, in the earliest age of Gods,
from Non-existence sprang. Thereafter were the regions born. This
sprang from the Productive Power.
4 Earth sprang from the Productive
Power the regions from the earth were born. Daksa was born of Aditi,
and Aditi was Daksa's Child.
5 For Aditi, O Daksa, she who is
thy Daughter, was brought forth. After her were the blessed Gods
born sharers of immortal life.
6 When ye, O Gods, in yonder deep
close clasping one another stood, Thence, as of dancers, from your
feet a thickening cloud of dust arose.
7 When, O ye Gods, like
Yatis, ye caused all existing things to grow, Then ye brought Surya
forward who was lying hidden in the sea.
8 Eight are the Sons
of Aditi who from her body sprang to life. With seven she went to
meet the Gods she cast Martanda far away.
9 So with her Seven
Sons Aditi went forth to meet the earlier age. She brought Martanda
thitherward to spring to life and die again.
This verse describes that existence sprang from non-existence.
From existence came regions, earth and
Aditi has an interesting
relationship with Daskha.
Aditi in her aspect
as mother gave birth to Daksha and from Daksha she was born again
as a daughter. This relationship between Daksha and
Aditi has some
similarity with the one between
who is both a daughter and wife of the former. From
Aditi all the gods
were born. Then gods brought forth Surya the sun god who was hiding
in the waters (sea).
Aditi brought forth
(solar deities) of which she cast Martanda far away and subjected
him to birth and
death. It is believed that these eight suns will shine
together at the time of dissolution of the worlds.
Purusha-sukta, which is described as a hymn of creation, is
found in the
Rigveda. It describes how creation manifested through
the primeval god and how worlds and beings manifested through him.
was immortal, mighty and infinite. All the creatures are one fourth
of him and the rest of his body is spread in the heavens. From him
Vedas, men and creatures, all the deities, rishis, birds, animals,
horses and cattle, sheep and goat. The four different
came out of the different parts of his body. So were the earth,
the mid region, the sun and the moon and the heavens.
1. A THOUSAND heads hath Purusa, a thousand eyes, a thousand
feet. On every side pervading earth he fills a space ten fingers
2 This Purusa is all that yet hath been and all that is
to be; The Lord of Immortality which waxes greater still by food.
3 So mighty is his greatness; yea, greater than this is Purusa.
All creatures are one-fourth of him, three-fourths eternal life
4 With three-fourths Purusa went up: one fourth of
him again was here. Thence he strode out to every side over what
casts not and what casts.
5 From him Viraj was born; again Purusa
from Viraj was born. As soon as he was born he spread eastward and
westward o'er the earth.
6 When Gods prepared the sacrifice with
Purusa as their offering, Its oil was spring, the holy gift was
autumn; summer was the wood.
7 They balmed as victim on the grass
Purusa born in earliest time. With him the Deities and all Sadhyas
and Rsis sacrificed.
8 From that great general sacrifice the
dripping fat was gathered up. He formed the creatures of-the air,
and animals both wild and tame.
9 From that great general sacrifice
Rcas and Sama-hymns were born: Therefrom were spells and charms
produced; the Yajus had its birth from it.
10 From it were horses
born, from it all cattle with two rows of teeth: From it were generated
kine, from it the goats and sheep were born.
11 When they divided
Purusa how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth,
his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
12 The Brahman
was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs
became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced.
Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth;
Indra and Agni from his mouth were born, and Vayu from his breath.
14 Forth from his navel came mid-air the sky was fashioned from
his head Earth from his feet, and from his car the regions. Thus
they formed the worlds.
15 Seven fencing-sticks had he, thrice
seven layers of fuel were prepared, When the Gods, offering sacrifice,
bound, as their victim, Purusa.
16 Gods, sacrificing, sacrificed
the victim these were the earliest holy ordinances. The Mighty Ones
attained the height of heaven, there where the Sidhyas, Gods of
old, are dwelling.
In the following
Rigvedic hymn we hear for the first time the creation of the
worlds emerging from Hiranyagarbha, the primeval egg.
1. IN the beginning rose
born Only Lord of all created beings. He fixed and holdeth up this
earth and heaven. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
2 Giver of vital breath, of power and vigour, he whose commandments
all the Gods acknowledge. The Lord of death, whose shade is life
immortal. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
3 Who by
his grandeur hath become Sole Ruler of all the moving world that
breathes and slumbers; He who is Loord of men and Lord of cattle.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?
4 His, through his
might, are these snow-covered mountains, and men call sea and Rasa
his possession: His arms are these, his are these heavenly regions.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?
5 By him the heavens
are strong and earth is steadfast, by him light's realm and sky-vault
are supported: By him the regions in mid-air were measured. What
God shall we adore with our oblation?
6 To him, supported by
his help, two armies embattled look while trembling in their spirit,
When over them the risen Sun is shining. What God shall we adore
with our oblation?
7 What time the mighty waters came, containing
the universal germ, producing Agni, Thence sprang the Gods' one
spirit into being. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
8 He in his might surveyed the floods containing productive force
and generating Worship. He is the God of gods, and none beside him.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?
9 Never may he harm
us who is earth's Begetter, nor he whose laws are sure, the heavens'
Creator, He who brought forth the great and lucid waters. What God
shall we adore with our oblation?
10 Prajapati! thou only comprehends
all these created things, and none beside thee. Grant us our hearts'
desire when we invoke thee: may we have store of riches in possession.
In this verse, the mighty germ,
created not Brahma
but Agni and then
other divinities. The last few lines of the hymns clarify
Brahma or Prajapathi
or the creator of all
heaven. This is in line with the early Vedic thought of
Brahma as the
creator. In the later Vedic period,
replaced by Lord
Vishnu as the
while followers of
Siva considered him to be the creator.
lost his status as the highest god, retained his function as a creator
and became one of the
In some of the later
Rigvedic hymns we find a significant departure from the earlier
notions of creation. In the following hymn, for the first time,
we find a clear reference to an absolute or infinite being as the
source of creation.
1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was
no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? and
what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was
there, the day's and night's divider. That One Thing, breathless,
breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was
indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and form less:
by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of
Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered
the existent's kinship in the non-existent.
5 Transversely was
their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below
it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action
here and energy up yonder
6 Who verily knows and who can here
declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The
Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence
it first came into being?
7 He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls
this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he
The hymn tries to presents a visual picture of the beginning
of all beginnings, when there was nothing whatsoever, neither existence
nor non-existence and how from that great void of indiscriminate
chaos came existence with desire as the primal seed. It represents
the beginning of all subsequent
regarding creation proposed in various sects of
and schools of
Hindu philosophy. It presents an imagery of the beginnings of
creation that is at once honest, timeless, grandiloquent and unparalleled
in any other religion that we know so far.
The creator is described in the hymn as "That One Thing, breathless,
breathed by its own nature." It conveys the indefinable nature of
the creator. In essence "That being" is the same as the
of the Upanishads.
Non existence and existence refer to the distinction between
with qualities) and
and also the birth of worlds and beings from an unfathomable void.
Theories of Creation
Most schools and sects of
follow one of the following three predominantly popular Hindu theories
of creation to explain the origin and creation of our worlds and
the beings and objects that inhabit them.
1. God is the creator. He is either the efficient cause or the
material cause of creation or both. He creates the worlds
out of himself. He creates his own energy or primeval matter (mula-prakriti).
Differentiating himself into innumerable
differentiating the primeval matter into various elements (tattvas)
and by establishing the
souls in them
he manifests the worlds and their beings.
is one of the
clouds their true consciousness and makes them behave like limited
beings separate from
the rest of the creation. When the individual
maya and realize
their true nature, they return to
merge into him. This approach is accepted by the followers of monism
with some modifications by the followers of qualified monism (vishishtadvaita).
is the creator. But He neither creates the individual souls nor
the the primeval matter. They preexist and like God they are also
eternal. When God initiates the creative cycle
brings forth various tattvas. Once activated,
takes over most of the creative process. The souls unite with the
elements and qualities of
and manifest themselves as limited purushas or
their true consciousness and make them act and behave like limited
and ignorant beings. When they overcome their
realize their true nature, they return to their original state and
exist eternally. They would never merge with God. They will continue
to exist as separate souls eternally even after the dissolution
of the worlds at the end of the creative cycle. This theory of creation
is accepted by the followers of dualism (dvaita) and with some modifications
by other schools of dualism.
3. According to the third approach, there is no God. There is
no absolute cause of the creation. Individual beings or purushas
and primeval matter (prakriti) exist eternally. The individual beings
join the primeval matter and become subject to the laws of nature.
is an aspect of
deludes their nature and subjects them to the cycle of births and
deaths. When the individual soul overcomes its ignorance or illusion
and realizes its true nature it regains freedom and exists eternally
in a state of freedom. This view is accepted by followers of the
atheistic schools such as
Vaiseshika and also by
Purva Mimansa school goes one step further and asserts the static
nature of universe, that it has always been the same and that at
no time the world is otherwise than it is
Among the schools that accept God as the ultimate source of creation,
God is named differently as
The Puranas, which are books of ancient genealogies and religious
history of several
gods and goddesses,
contain stories of creation in a narrative form. Though they agree
in general with the basic processes of creation described above,
the Puranas identify a particular god or goddess as the initiator
of creation and proceed there from to explain the manifestation
of different aspects of visible and invisible worlds and their beings
through that source. Thus we have Puranas which consider
as the creator, some which consider
Siva as the creator and some which consider
In the first version,
wakes from his eternal sleep and rests on the waters. From his navel
who initiates the process of creation. At the end of creation,
who destroys the worlds and brings the creative cycle to an end.
In the second version,
Siva is the supreme self. He manifests himself in five forms:
creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer and bestower of grace.
He brings forth individual
awakens his dynamic power of
which divides itself into several
or principles. United with these
or elements of
the individual jivas become subject to the three impurities:
egoism or atomicity
(anava), binding action (karma)
and illusion (maya). Caught in samsara, they undergo births and
deaths, till they realize their true nature through the grace of
In the third version,
the mother of all worlds. Both real and unreal, she is the supreme
source who creates the universe, preserves and destroys the worlds
she creates and in the end resolves all creation into herself. God,
by himself is passive and inactive. United by
remains in the beings as an onlooker or witness consciousness.
Followers of Shakti do not accept either
Vishnu or Brahma
as the cause of the manifestation. According to them if
to have arisen from the navel of Vishnu and
rests on a thousand hooded serpent which in turn rests on waters,
Vishnu cannot be the highest supreme self because he, the serpent
and the waters need another support to stay in place and that supporter
of all is Shakti whose sattvic form is
whose rajasic form is
and whose tamasic form is Maha Kali. Manifestation of these three
powers is known as sarga (creation). These three powers then resolve
Vishnu and Mahesa for the purpose of creation, preservation
and dissolution od the universe. And this is called pratisarga (secondary
Theory of Evolution and Involution
It is believed that the process of creation is cyclical and happens
in two phases. The first phase is the phase of
in which the soul consciousness descends or expands first into subtle
matter or subtle energy and then into gross matter or gross energy.
Once the soul consciousness enters into gross physical bodies, the
second phase begins, which is called the phase of involution. In
this phase the soul gradually withdraws from the gross
into the inner subtle bodies and finally into itself.
At the individual level, the first phase usually involves the
jivas or beings
getting caught in the web of samsara (phenomenal world) and developing
attachment with the sense objects through the play of the
(sattva, rajas and tamas) and the activity of the
In the second phase the
and their minds into their subtle planes and inner states of consciousness
and other contemplative processes and finally experience oneness
with their true consciousness in a state of samadhi.
The same process happens at the macrocosmic level also. In the
expands outwardly set in process by the sound of AUM and in the
next withdraws into Himself to become one indivisible silence and
nothingness. It is interesting to note that, if we set aside the
consciousness aspect of
(Purusha) and focus only on the physical or material or energy aspect
of the universe (Prakriti), the modern scientific theories of creation
and dissolution of the physical universe more or less agree with
the Hindu theory of evolution and involution.
According to the big bang theory, the universe existed in the
beginning as a primeval matter floating in the void (non-existence)
of the universe in the form of an egg (Hiranyagarbha). By some process
of gravitational pressure it exploded probably with an incredible
sound into galaxies, stars, planetary bodies, gaseous substances,
infrared radiation, individual molecules and other cosmic energies.
The initial thrust given by the big bang continues till date and
the universe is in a state of expansion. One day this phase of expansion
of the universe will come to an end and the universe will start
withdrawing into itself to become a big blackhole suspended somewhere
in the form of an egg. With that one cycle of creation, expansion
and dissolution of the universe comes to an end.
Suggested Further Reading
na kadachit anidrsam jagat
Bhagavatam Chapter 2