Creation of the Universe (सृष्ट्युत्पत्तिः)
Creation of the Universe (Samskrit: सृष्ट्युत्पत्तिः) has been discussed in the bharatiya knowledge tradition. Vedic literature provides information on many things related to the origin of creation. This article explores the vedic explanations on the creation of the universe, hymns related to the same as well as the features of the ultimate reality resposible for the creation of the universe as discussed in the Vedic literature.
विराट्पुरुषः ॥ Primordial Being
In the Rigveda, many rishis like Prajapati, Parmeshthi Narayana and Dirghatamas have described the initial stage of creation.
Rigveda mentions creation of the universe in Nasadiya Sukta and Purusha Sukta. According to the Purusha Sukta, creation of the universe originated from Virat Purusha. Rishi Narayana, describing the creative power and omnipresence of the supreme being, in the Purusha Sukta says,
सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् । स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम् ॥१॥ sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākṣaḥ sahasrapāt । sa bhūmiṁ viśvato vr̥tvātyatiṣṭhaddaśāṅgulam ॥1॥
Here, the Supreme Being is described as one with thousands of heads, thousands of eyes and with thousands of feet, who is present in the whole universe. It states that the Supreme Being, who is the creator of the world, has surrounded the entire nature in all its forms. And even after encompassing the entire universe from all sides, transcends it by ten angulas.
The Purusha Sukta, therefore, explains creation of the universe through working powers of the Supreme Being.
द्वैतम् ॥ Duality
Rishi Dirghatamas in the Rigveda, revealing the mystery of the origin of creation says,
द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परि षस्वजाते । तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभि चाकशीति ॥२०॥ dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vr̥kṣaṁ pari ṣasvajāte । tayoranyaḥ pippalaṁ svādvattyanaśnannanyo abhi cākaśīti ॥20॥
Meaning: Two birds are sitting side by side on the same tree. One of these two birds tastes the fruits of that tree while the other bird is not eating the fruits and doing a subtle inspection of the movements of the first bird eating those fruits.
Here, the first bird is a metaphor of the person who is doing the deeds while the second one observing the bird is the metaphor of the divine, who is closely observing the movements of that first bird in order to give fruit according to its deeds. It is thus, expressed through this verse that there are two major elements in the creation of the universe.
त्रैतम् ॥ Triad
According to the Atharvaveda, three major elements are mentioned in the creation process as follows:
बालादेकमणीयस्कमुतैकं नेव दृश्यते । ततः परिष्वजीयसी देवता सा मम प्रिया ॥२५॥ bālādekamaṇīyaskamutaikaṁ neva dr̥śyate । tataḥ pariṣvajīyasī devatā sā mama priyā ॥25॥
It means that there is an element which is more subtle than the subtle hair and is unique. This a metaphor for an organism. The second element is so subtle that it is irresistible. This is the metaphor for subtle invisible nature. While the third element is the one in which nature is embraced. And that is the omnipotent Supreme Power, the beloved deity.
सृष्टिप्रक्रिया ॥ Process of Creation
According to Prajapati Parmeshthi in the Nasadiya Sukta of the Rigveda, in the early period of creation, there was a substance in liquid state from which the creation has taken place. It is said that the primordial being breathed due to its own inherent powers. That is, no one had power other than that one.
आनीदवातं स्वधया तदेकं तस्माद्धान्यन्न परः किं चनास॥२॥ ānīdavātaṁ svadhayā tadekaṁ tasmāddhānyanna paraḥ kiṁ canāsa॥2॥
It further states that before the creation of the universe, there was initially just darkness covered with darkness. And there was only that liquid.
तम आसीत्तमसा गूळ्हमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमा इदम् । tama āsīttamasā gūlhamagre'praketaṁ salilaṁ sarvamā idam।
In conclusion, there is a moving fluid which made creation possible. That primordial substance is akin to an atom. For, atoms behave like a liquid due to being too subtle. And then it transforms in the form of water - salilaṁ sarvamedam. According to Rishi Madhucchanda in the Rigveda, Almighty created the complete space from water. Then appeared time, era and calculation from the space and then the Supreme power created day and night. After that, the mighty Supreme being created the sun, the moon, the dyuloka, the earth, the space and the Sukhaloka respectively.
ततो रात्र्यजायत ततः समुद्रो अर्णवः ॥१॥ समुद्रादर्णवादधि संवत्सरो अजायत । अहोरात्राणि विदधद्विश्वस्य मिषतो वशी ॥२॥
सूर्याचन्द्रमसौ धाता यथापूर्वमकल्पयत् । दिवं च पृथिवीं चान्तरिक्षमथो स्वः ॥३॥
tato rātryajāyata tataḥ samudro arṇavaḥ ॥1॥ samudrādarṇavādadhi saṁvatsaro ajāyata । ahorātrāṇi vidadhadviśvasya miṣato vaśī ॥2॥
sūryācandramasau dhātā yathāpūrvamakalpayat । divaṁ ca pr̥thivīṁ cāntarikṣamatho svaḥ ॥3॥
Rishi Kutsa of the Atharvaveda believes that the process of creation of the world keeps on being new and transforming. It keeps going on continuously. However, the power that produces it is permanent and eternal.
सनातनमेनमाहुरुताद्य स्यात्पुनर्णवः । अहोरात्रे प्र जायेते अन्यो अन्यस्य रूपयोः ॥२३॥ sanātanamenamāhurutādya syātpunarṇavaḥ । ahorātre pra jāyete anyo anyasya rūpayoḥ ॥23॥
पञ्चमहाभूतानि ॥ Panchamahabhutas
The word 'bhuta' is formed by the sum of 'kta' affixes in 'bhu sattayam'. And means 'one who has the power of existence' or 'one who exists'. Prthvi (earth), Ap (water), Teja (fire), Vayu (air) and Akasha (sky) are called Panchamahabhutas (the five great elements). There is no reason for their origin, but the existence of everything else is because of these great elements. They are called 'mahabhutas' due to their importance or grossness.
महन्तानि भूतानि महाभूतानि । mahantāni bhūtāni mahābhūtāni ।
Infact, the body of all living beings and non-living substances of this earth are made from them.
इह हि द्रव्यं पञ्चमहाभूतात्मकम् ।१७.२ iha hi dravyaṁ pañcamahābhūtātmakam ।17.2
The five great elements from which creation has originated are as follows:
- Sky: The sky has been considered to be eternal. One of the properties of the sky is 'shabda'. Just as the sky is eternal, so is its property 'shabda' also everlasting.
- Wind: The origin of air is assumed to be from the sky - आकाशाद्वायुः । ākāśādvāyuḥ and is also considered to be eternal like the sky. The air has its own property of touch and the quality of the sky ie. shabda. In this way the two properties of air - touch and word are everlasting.
- Fire: Fire, also known as teja, is believed to have originated air - वायोरग्निः । vāyoragniḥ. It has three properties viz. shabda, touch and form. And all three qualities are eternal.
- Water: Also known as Ap, the origin of water is assumed to be from agni or fire - अग्नेरापः । agnerāpaḥ. It is everlasting and has four properties viz. shabda, touch, form and taste that are all eternal like itself.
- Earth: It is believed to originate from water. And shabda, touch, form, taste and smell are the five properties of earth.
|Fire||shabda, touch, form|
|Water||shabda, touch, form, taste|
|Earth||shabda, touch, form, taste, smell|
Apart from the above basic and essential properties, there are some other characteristics in these mahabhutas which can be felt through the senses. For example, in the earth, water, light, air respectively, the characteristics of smell, liquidity, consistency etc. can be inferred. Similarly, there is the experience of resistance in the sky.
The manifestations of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (qualities) are also described in the five great elements. The nature of the Panchamahabutas and their predominant qualities are as follows:
- Sky - Sattva predominance
- Wind - Rajas predominance
- Fire - Sattva and Rajas predominance
- Water - Sattva and Tamas predominance
- Earth - Tamas predominance
Thus, the entire universe is created by these five great elements viz. water, fire, air, sky and earth. And their properties are continual.
जीवात्मन् ॥ Individual Self
The Taittiriya Upanishad states that from the Atman came into existence ether possessing the quality of sound. From ether came air, possessing the qualities of sound and touch. Then came into being fire with the qualities of sound, touch and colour. From fire, water having the qualities of sound touch, colour and taste came into being. And from water came into existence earth with the qualities of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. Then vegetation grew from earth. From vegetation came food and from food, Purusha came into existence.
तस्माद्वा एतस्मादात्मन आकाशः संभूतः । आकाशाद्वायुः । वायोरग्निः । अग्नेरापः । अद्भ्यः पृथिवी । पृथिव्या ओषधयः । ओषधीभ्योऽन्नम् । अन्नात्पुरुषः । स वा एष पुरुषोऽन्नरसमयः ।...॥ १ ॥ tasmādvā etasmādātmana ākāśaḥ saṁbhūtaḥ । ākāśādvāyuḥ । vāyoragniḥ । agnerāpaḥ । adbhyaḥ pr̥thivī । pr̥thivyā oṣadhayaḥ । oṣadhībhyo'nnam । annātpuruṣaḥ । sa vā eṣa puruṣo'nnarasamayaḥ ।...॥ 1 ॥
Parabrahman is the Supreme being while aparabrahman is next to the Supreme being. The minute and subtle form of Aparabrahman is called the Jivatman that dwells in the materialized form of aparabrahman ie. the body. So, the body which is made of the five elements is the dwelling place of the Jivatman. It sits in the miniature lotus of heart in the miniature ether. The Jivatman or individual Self exists in every living being. The body originated from food is the outer covering of the Jivatman. This materialized body is also called 'Annamayakosha'. Inside this annamayakosha there is the Pranamayakosha (the chest of the life breaths). It is stated in the Taittiriya Upanishad that this Pranamayakosha is separate from and existing inside the annamayakosha. It has the shape of a man. The life breath which appears as the inhaling and exhaling breath is the head of the Pranamayakosha. The life breath Vyana is its right wing, Apana is the left wing, ether its atman and Prthvi (the earth) its tail.
तस्मादन्नं तदुच्यत इति । ... अन्योऽन्तर आत्मा प्राणमयः । ... स वा एष पुरुषविध एव । तस्य पुरुषविधताम् । अन्वयं पुरुषविधः । तस्य प्राण एव शिरः । व्यानो दक्षिणः पक्षः । अपान उत्तरः पक्षः । आकाश आत्मा । पृथिवी पुच्छं प्रतिष्ठा । ... ॥ १ ॥tasmādannaṁ taducyata iti । ... anyo'ntara ātmā prāṇamayaḥ । ... sa vā eṣa puruṣavidha eva । tasya puruṣavidhatām । anvayaṁ puruṣavidhaḥ । tasya prāṇa eva śiraḥ । vyāno dakṣiṇaḥ pakṣaḥ । apāna uttaraḥ pakṣaḥ । ākāśa ātmā । pr̥thivī pucchaṁ pratiṣṭhā । ... ॥ 1 ॥
Inside the Pranamayakosha, there exists the Manomayakosha (the chest of mind) that fills the entire interior of the Pranamayakosha. And inside the Manomayakosha exists the Vijnanamayakosha (the chest of knowledge or understanding) inside which the jivatman or individual Self dwells and pervades the entire body. It is by the activity of the Vijnanamayakosha that the jivatman feels its individuality. And inside the Vijnanamayakosha exists a fifth kosha known as the Anandamayakosha, which is the immediate covering of the jivatman, and which has no sense of individuality. These three Koshas viz. Anandamayakosha, Vijnanamayakosha and Pranamayakosha together is called Sukshmasharira (the subtle body). The heart is the abode of the jivatman making the name hrdayam for heart meaningful (hrdi ayam ie. in the heart this being exists). And according to the Kathopanishad, the purusha sitting inside the heart or the jivatman is only as big as the toe.
अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषो मध्य आत्मनि तिष्ठति ।...॥ १२ ॥ aṅguṣṭhamātraḥ puruṣo madhya ātmani tiṣṭhati ।...॥ 12 ॥
However, the Jivatman or the Aparabrahman is without beginning. Even from the past which is beyond our thinking, crores and crores of Jivatmans had got into individuals and when the Annamayakoshas of the individuals decayed due to death, they abandoned them and entered into new individuals.
The author of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad gives an explanation to the question 'why this Jivatman which is as free as air enters the body of man, beast, bird, tree, rock etc. and subjects itself to misery and hardship'. It says,
"Where does the Jivatman originate from? how does it enter this body?" Jivatman originates from Paramatman. As the shadow pervades the body of a man, this Jivatman overshadows this body."
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Vijnana - Level A (Chapter 1), Noida: National Institute of Open Schooling (Open Basic Education Programme).
- ↑ Rigveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 90
- ↑ S.K.Ramachandra Rao (2006), Purusha Sukta, Bangalore: Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture.
- ↑ Rigveda, Mandala 1, Sukta 164
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Atharvaveda, Kanda 10, Sukta 8
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Rigveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 129
- ↑ Sripad Damodar Satavlekar (1985), Rigveda ka Subodh Bhashya (Volume 4), Pardi: Svadhyay Mandal.
- ↑ Rigveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 190
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Vijnana - Level A (Chapter 2), Noida: National Institute of Open Schooling (Open Basic Education Programme).
- ↑ Ashtanga Sangraha, Sutra Sthana, Adhyayas 11-20
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmananda Valli, Anuvaka 1.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Vettam Mani (1975), Puranic Encyclopaedia, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. See: Jivatman
- ↑ Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmananda Valli, Anuvaka 2.
- ↑ Kathopanishad, Adhyaya 2, Prathama Valli.