Symbolism of Egg (Andam) in Hinduism

Cosmic Egg, Brahmandam

by Jayaram V

Egg symbolized fertility, birth and genesis of life. Egg shaped objects were therefore revered in Hinduism as the symbols of God. The people of ancient India saw hidden in the egg not only divinity but also the whole map of the universe. Find here the archetypal meaning, cultural significance and symbolism of egg (andam) in Hinduism.

In Hinduism the egg symbolizes the source of life and the entire creation. The word anda (egg) is also used to denote sperm sac, reproductive organ, source of reproductive power, Brahma and Shiva. All living beings are also classified into three groups depending upon how they are born: those born from the germination of seeds, those born from eggs and those born from the womb. Vedic people were aware that beings were born from the womb because of the release of the male seed into the female reproductive organ. The soul resided in the male sac before it entered the womb through the seminal fluid. Their union resulted in the formation of embryo (bhruna) or embryonic body (pinda).

According to the Chandogya Upanishad (3:19) in the beginning there was nothing. Then the primal egg (andam) manifested. It remained dormant for a year. Then it broke open into silver and golden shells. The silver part became the earth, the golden part became the heaven. The space between the two became the mid-region. Its outer skin became the mountains, and the vacuous material became the mist with the clouds. Its veins turned into rivers and the embryonic fluid) into oceans. The yolk or the yellow part became.

The Vedas declare that creation began with the appearance of a golden cosmic egg (hiranyagarbha) in the ocean of life (prana). Symbolically, the egg constitutes the womb of the universe from which everything originates. Before the emergence of Mother Goddess as the source of all in the Vedic pantheon, the functions of Primal Nature (Prakriti) were attributed to Brahma Prajapathi (viraj). Aditi was considered the mother of all gods, and Brahma was identified with all material manifestation. The worlds and beings that emerged from his mind constituted the material universe or the egg of Brahma (brahmandam).

In some descriptions the awakened Brahma himself was compared to the awakened world (jagat or viraj). Whatever was or was not there before was nonexistence (asambhuthi), or the night of Brahma. In the later descriptions, the golden womb (hiranygarbha) became the womb (garbha) of the Mother Goddess or the Pirmal Nature, and God, the creator, became Isvara or Father God. From that emerged the idea that when Isvara or Purusha (Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism) became established in the womb of Prakriti, or Shakti, beings and worlds manifested.

The following description of the cosmic egg and the creation of the world is found in several Puranas with minor variations. According to them in the beginning the cosmic egg was like the seed of a wood apple tree (kaptittha). It had a shell (anda-kataha) as its outer layer which was further covered by a shell of water, a shell of fire and a shell of air respectively. Outside the shell of fire was space (akasa) enveloping them. All of them were further encased inside two more shells, the shell of egoism (ahamkara) and the great intelligence (mahat). The entire egg rested in Nature, along with several other universes or cosmic eggs (brahmandas). Nature enveloped and permeates them all. Then the egg was split into two and Virat Purusha, the great Being emerged from it. From him emerged the entire cosmos, and the 14 worlds. The Brahmanda Puranas describes the significance of the Cosmic Egg and descriptions of the future ages.

The modern theory of Big Bang also proposes the idea that the entire universe might have emerged from an egg like cluster of compressed atoms when it exploded with great force billions of years ago and provided the initial thirst for the emergence of an expanding universe, consisting of stars and galaxies

"Anda (egg), pinda (body), brahmanda (material manifestation)" is a popular folk expression which denotes everything or everywhere. The material universe (jagat) that emerges out of the mind of Brahma is also known as a vast cosmic egg (brahmandam) which floats in the waters of God's consciousness like a dream. It is mentioned in the Puranas in the descriptions of Mount Meru and the structure of the universe. According to one such description the cosmos is shaped like an egg with seven concentric spheres. The first three constitute the earth, the mid-region, and the heaven. There are seven lowers worlds and seven higher worlds (including the three described before). The earth is in the middle or center of the egg forming the seventh of the higher worlds. At the center of the earth is the Jambudvipa (Indian subcontinent) from which arises Mount Meru, surrounded by several continents and oceans.

The sun is also symbolized in the l literature as a great golden egg that floats in the sky or the highest heaven. Every day it rises from the waters and shines brightly the sky. As its presiding deity, Surya, or Aditya, the golden hued, the eye of the cosmic being, traverses across the sky from east to west in his golden chariot drawn by seven horses that represent seven colors, spreading his rays far and wide into the universe.

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