Origin Of the Universe: On Nasadiya Sukta of Rig Veda

ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE

–          Rayalu Vishwanadha

In the tenth book (Mandalam) of Rig Veda, 129th Hymn (Suktam) deals with the origin of the universe and creation. Original text and my translation are given below:

Nasadiya Suktam

नास॑दासी॒न्नो सदा॑सीत्त॒दानी॒म् नासी॒द्रजो॒ नो व्यो॑मा प॒रो यत्।

किमाव॑रीव॒: कुह॒ कस्य॒ शर्म॒न्नंभ॒: किमा॑सी॒द्गह॑नं गभी॒रम्॥१॥

nāsa̍dāsī̱nno sadā̍sītta̱dānī̱m nāsī̱drajo̱ no vyo̍mā pa̱ro yat |

kimāva̍rīva̱ḥ kuha̱ kasya̱ śarma̱nnaṁbha̱ḥ kimā̍sī̱dgaha̍naṁ gabhī̱ram ||1||

 

न मृ॒त्युरा॑सीद॒मृतं॒ न तर्हि॒ न रात्र्या॒ अह्न॑ आसीत्प्रके॒तः।

आनी॑दवा॒तं स्व॒धया॒ तदेकं॒ तस्मा॑द्धा॒न्यन्न प॒रः किञ्च॒नास॑॥२॥

na mṛ̱tyurā̍sīda̱mṛta̱ṁ na tarhi̱ na rātryā̱ ahna̍ āasītprake̱taḥ |

ānī̍davā̱taṁ sva̱dhayā̱ tadekaṁ̱ tasmā̍ddhā̱nyanna pa̱raḥ kiñca̱nāsa̍ ||2||

 

तम॑ आसी॒त्तम॑सा गू॒ळ्हमग्रे॑ऽप्रके॒तं स॑लि॒लं सर्व॑मा इ॒दं।

तु॒च्छ्येना॒भ्वपि॑हितं॒ यदासी॒त्तप॑स॒स्तन्म॑हि॒ना जा॑य॒तैकं॑॥ ३॥

tama̍ āasī̱ttama̍sā gū̱ḻhamagre̍’prake̱taṁ sa̍li̱laṁ sarva̍mā i̱daṁ |

tu̱cchyenā̱bhvapi̍hitaṁ̱ yadāsī̱ttapa̍sa̱stanma̍hi̱nā jā̍ya̱taika̍ṁ || 3 ||

 

काम॒स्तदग्रे॒ सम॑वर्त॒ताधि॒ मन॑सो॒ रेत॑: प्रथ॒मं यदासी॑त्।

स॒तो बन्धु॒मस॑ति॒ निर॑विन्दन् हृ॒दि प्र॒तीष्या॑ क॒वयो॑ मनी॒षा॥४॥

kāma̱stadagre̱ sama̍varta̱tādhi̱ mana̍so̱ reta̍ḥ pratha̱maṁ yadāsī̍t |

sa̱to bandhu̱masa̍ti̱ nira̍vindan hṛ̱di pra̱tīṣyā̍ ka̱vayo̍ manī̱ṣā ||4||

 

ति॒र॒श्चीनो॒ वित॑तो र॒श्मिरे॑षाम॒धः स्वि॑दा॒सी ३ दु॒परि॑ स्विदासी ३ त्।

रे॒तो॒धा आ॑सन्महि॒मान॑ आसन्त्स्व॒धा आ॒वस्ता॒त्प्रय॑तिः प॒रस्ता॑त्॥५॥

ti̱ra̱ścīno̱ vita̍to ra̱śmire̍ṣāma̱dhaḥ svi̍dā̱sī 3 du̱pari̍ svidāsī 3 t |

re̱to̱dhā āa̍sanmahi̱māna̍ āasantsva̱dhā ā̱vastā̱tpraya̍tiḥ pa̱rastā̍t ||5||

 

को अ॒द्धा वे॑द॒ क इ॒ह प्र वो॑च॒त्कुत॒ आजा॑ता॒ कुत॑ इ॒यं विसृ॑ष्टिः।

अ॒र्वाग्दे॒वा अ॒स्य वि॒सर्ज॑ने॒नाथा॒ को वे॑द॒ यत॑ आब॒भूव॑॥६॥

ko a̱ddhā ve̍da̱ ka i̱ha pra vo̍ca̱tkuta̱ āajā̍tā̱ kuta̍ i̱yaṁ visṛ̍ṣṭiḥ |

a̱rvāgde̱vā a̱sya vi̱sarja̍ne̱nāthā̱ ko ve̍da̱ yata̍ āaba̱bhūva̍ ||6 ||

 

इ॒यं विसृ॑ष्टि॒र्यत॑ आब॒भूव॒ यदि॑ वा द॒धे यदि॑ वा॒ न।

यो अ॒स्याध्य॑क्षः पर॒मे व्यो॑म॒न्त्सो अ॒ङ्ग वे॑द॒ यदि॑ वा॒ न वेद॑॥ ७॥

i̱yaṁ visṛ̍ṣṭi̱ryata̍ āaba̱bhūva̱ yadi̍ vā da̱dhe yadi̍ vā̱ na |

yo a̱syādhya̍kṣaḥ para̱me vyo̍ma̱ntso a̱ṅga ve̍da̱ yadi̍ vā̱ na veda̍ || 7 ||

 

 1. Neither existence nor nonexistence was there

Neither matter nor space around

What covered it, where it was and who protected?

Why, that plasma, all pervading, deep and profound?

 2. Neither death nor immortality was there

And there was neither day nor night

But for that breathless one breathing on its own

There was nothing else, surely nothing

 3. It was darkness concealed in darkness

And an uninterrupted continuum of fluid

Out came in material form and shape

That one lying deep inside, on its own intent.

 4. In the cosmic mind, all pervading

Desire, the primal seed made its first appearance

And the wise men, seeking deep in their heart

Could see the link between ‘that is’ and ‘that is not’.

 5. Reins of the link, a grid of crisscross lines,

Holds all the seeds and mighty forces,

Microcosmic forces within

And macro forces out above.

 6. Who really knows, who can declare

When it started or where from?

And where will the creation end?

Seekers and sought entered later –

And so who knows when all this manifested?

 7. That one, out of which the creation came

May hold the reins or not,

Perceiving all from above, That one alone

Knows the beginning – may not know too.

But Veda is not only poetry; it also goes deep into the cause of the events taking place in the universe and unveils the facts. Modern cosmology tells us that the universe started with a ‘Big Bang’. Let us compare these verses with the statements of the Big Bang theory and assess the scientific approach manifested in Veda.Let me confess at the beginning, I could not do justice to the poetic beauty of the original. I could not do justice to the poetic beauty of the original. In just seven verses, we find ourselves in the ‘no time, no space’ mode, gradually reaching the center of deep darkness, surrounded by smooth, unending plasma. And lo! Out of shapeless nothing, matter with shape emerges. The whole description is picturesque. Poetry is said to be a window with a frame of words and through this window, we see beyond time and place. Surely these verses awaken the poet in us and make us see far, far beyond.

The beginning and the first moments as described by the big bang theory and the statements from Nasadiya Sukta are given side-by-side for easy comparison:

Time Sequence Cosmology Rig Veda
Beginning of time There is no physics. Theory cannot account for conditions existing or not existing Neither existence nor nonexistence was there; Neither matter nor space was there;(1st two lines of 1st Verse)
10-32 seconds after Big Bang The inflationary mode ends, having made the universe smooth and almost homogenous. Matter, anti-matter, and radiation are a bubbling opaque stew And an uninterrupted continuum of fluid.(2nd line of 3rd Verse)
10-4 seconds after big bang Universe expands. Matter and anti-matter annihilate each other. There is slightly more matter and this excess comprises the matter in the universe today forming galaxies. Out came in material form and shape That One lying deep inside, on its own intent(Last 2 lines of 3rd Verse)

It can be seen that the modern science is saying the same thing what Rig Veda declared earlier.

Rig Veda says in the sixth verse, who will know and who can declare when and where from it all started since we, the seekers were not there and also the causative forces were not present. They came later. Even gravity broke away from the presumed unified force later. Veda makes it clear that so long you are in search of the causative forces only, you will not get the answer. The same view is expressed by Robert Jastrow (internationally known astronomer and authority on life in cosmos; founder and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies), in his book “God and the Astronomers”. The essence of the mathematical calculations and scientific observations in to the galaxies is: The universe has a beginning – that it began at a certain moment in time, under circumstances that seem to make it impossible – jot just now, but ever – to find out what force or forces brought the world into being at that moment. The famous British theorist, Edward Milne, wrote a mathematical treatise on relativity and he concluded by saying: “As to the first cause of the universe, in the context of expansion, that is left to the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him.”

Will the universe eventually stop expanding and start contracting or will it expand forever? Stephen W. Hawking, famous theoretical physicist of the present day, says in his book “A Brief History Time”: “If the density of the matter in the universe is greater than the critical value, gravity will stop the expansion at some time in the future” . As we are not in a position at present to calculate the density even to an approximation, we cannot answer the question. Robert Jastrow confirms there is a theory in the scientific world envisaging a cosmos that oscillates forever passing through infinite number of moments of creation in a never-ending cycle of birth, death and repetition. This has the advantage of being able to answer the question – What preceded the explosion? (In his book “God and the Astronomers”). Veda also says that this creation and its ending is a repetitive cycle.

Modern cosmology, on the basis of available evidence, envisages the end will come in darkness. Beginning follows the end. Veda describes the beginning in the same way – darkness concealed in darkness was the state of things.

Cosmology limits its search and research to material universe only. Is molecule simply a sum of its atoms? Ca n we define an atom as only a group of electrons and protons? Man is not a bundle of flesh and bones only?  Herbert Reeves, the famous astrophysicist, after discussing about the primordial force of Big Bang and subsequent distinct forces like gravity, asks a relevant question: “Did not the universe, somewhere, aim at achieving self-awareness through the creation of human mind?” (His article in Figaro-Magazine of February 1983) The answer is available in Rig Veda for all thinkers of all ages. The answer does not limit human beings only, but extends to all animate and inanimate worlds. Cosmic mind and primordial desire appeared on the scene. Desire entered the mind. Seeds and forces, we know and will know are manifested. These ‘seeds’ for germination (also procreation) and the ‘forces’ to keep all matter into cohesive shapes, spread throughout to transform into macro and micro worlds.

The cosmic mind is also mentioned as Prajapati in other Suktas. In Satapatha Brahmana (6-1-1-8) it is stated – “prajaapati rakaamayata”, meaning Prajapati desired. Cosmic mind desired and it happened. Same is the case in the microcosmic world of human body. We desire, act and incidents take place.

Every object has not only a mechanical formula but also purpose. All are purposive in tune with the all-pervading purposiveness around. This can only be explained by accepting that the cosmic mind and its forces are all-pervading, within also. The human mind perceives (Vedic word for this is “pasya”) to find out their purpose. Why should we have this desire? Because human mind also emerged from the same cosmic mind and the desire is part of that primal desire. Thus Veda not only defines and describes all “containers” in this universe, but also their “contents”.

The Kavi, Rishi or Wiseman seeking deep in his heart could see the link since both the physical and spiritual hearts (“known” to him) are there. Veda says that is the way to “see” and know.

The last verse is more profound in its meaning. That One, the “author” of all events should know the beginning. Veda says That One also may not know! That breathless One is breathing on its own. The beginning of universe, its expansion, demise and re-emergence – entire process is like involuntary inhaling and exhaling. If someone puts a question to any other one, when did you start that particular inhalation, the obvious answer will be – I do not know. It is a continuous process of which I hardly take notice of. The process is a continuum. Beginning and end are relevant to us, parts and parcels of universe. We float and sink in the ocean of time but not that continuous flow of events or its “author”.

Veda explains all natural phenomena (a) in a poetical manner, appealing to the esthetic mind, (b) gives details in a practical prosaic way to satisfy the pragmatic, down-to-the-earth mind, and also (c) discusses the philosophic approach to meet the demand of the spiritual seeking mind. The knowledge is communicated to all the three facets of the ever-inquisitive human mind, effectively. That is the way the timeless book speaks.

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ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE – On Nasadiya Suktam



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9 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on HINDUISM AND SANATAN DHARMA and commented:
    Nasadiya Sukta of Rigved

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  2. https://ardentdeciple.wordpress.com/

    can you have a read and suggest your valuable comments ?

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  3. Hi, thanks for sharing and writing a noce write up. I used your blog to memorize Nasadiya Suktam, thanks that. However, just wanted to point out that there is factual error about what you wrote about abundance of matter as compares to anti-matter in the universe. Actually, matter only accounts for 5% of the universe, rest is anti-matter. Astrophysicists dont know the laws that dictate anti-matter, that means all physical laws that we know are applicable only to 5% of universe matter. Cosmologists dont know why and what caused the abundance of anti-matter as against matter when they existed in almost equal amounts when the universe is created.
    Regards

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  4. Truly beautiful,

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  1. Investigation into nature – Abhi Keshav's blog
  2. Naasadiya sukta: The hymn of the Unknowable – धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः!

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