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Nasadiya Sukta

"Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?"

RV, 10:129-6 [1][2][3]

The Nasadiya Sukta (after the incipit ná ásat "not the non-existent") also known as the Hymn of Creation is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda (10:129). It is concerned with cosmology and the origin of the universe.[4]

Interpretations[edit]

The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian theology and in Western philology.[5]

It begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" (ná ásat āsīt ná u sát āsīt tadânīm), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" (ná mṛtyúḥ āsīt amŕtam ná tárhi). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" ânīt avātám svadháyā tát ékam). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from heat (tapas) was born that one" (tápasaḥ tát mahinâ ajāyata ékam). Verse 4 mentions desire (kāma) as the primal seed, and the first poet-seers (kavayas) who "found the bond of being within non-being with their heart's thought".

Brereton (1999) argues that the reference to the sages searching for being in their spirit is central, and that the hymn's gradual procession from non-being to being in fact re-enacts creation within the listener (see sphoṭa), equating poetic utterance and creation (see śabda).

The hymn is undoubtedly late within the Rigveda, and expresses thought more typical of later Indian philosophy.[6]

The hymn has been interpreted as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism.[7] Astronomer Carl Sagan quoted it in discussing India's "tradition of skeptical questioning and unselfconscious humility before the great cosmic mysteries."[8]

Nasadiya Sukta with English translation[edit]

नासदासींनॊसदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजॊ नॊ व्यॊमापरॊ यत् ।
किमावरीव: कुहकस्यशर्मन्नभ: किमासीद्गहनं गभीरम् ॥१॥

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?

न मृत्युरासीदमृतं न तर्हि न रात्र्या।आन्ह।आसीत् प्रकॆत: ।
आनीदवातं स्वधया तदॆकं तस्माद्धान्यन्नपर: किंचनास ॥२॥

Then there was neither death nor immortality
nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.

तम।आअसीत्तमसा गूह्ळमग्रॆ प्रकॆतं सलिलं सर्वमा।इदम् ।
तुच्छॆनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिना जायतैकम् ॥३॥

At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.

कामस्तदग्रॆ समवर्तताधि मनसॊ रॆत: प्रथमं यदासीत् ।
सतॊबन्धुमसति निरविन्दन्हृदि प्रतीष्या कवयॊ मनीषा ॥४॥

In the beginning desire descended on it -
that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
know that which is is kin to that which is not.

तिरश्चीनॊ विततॊ रश्मीरॆषामध: स्विदासी ३ दुपरिस्विदासीत् ।
रॆतॊधा।आसन्महिमान् ।आसन्त्स्वधा ।आवस्तात् प्रयति: परस्तात् ॥५॥

And they have stretched their cord across the void,
and know what was above, and what below.
Seminal powers made fertile mighty forces.
Below was strength, and over it was impulse.

कॊ ।आद्धा वॆद क‌।इह प्रवॊचत् कुत ।आअजाता कुत ।इयं विसृष्टि: ।
अर्वाग्दॆवा ।आस्य विसर्जनॆनाथाकॊ वॆद यत ।आबभूव ॥६॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

इयं विसृष्टिर्यत ।आबभूव यदि वा दधॆ यदि वा न ।
यॊ ।आस्याध्यक्ष: परमॆ व्यॊमन्त्सॊ आंग वॆद यदि वा न वॆद ॥७॥

Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows - or maybe even he does not know.[9]

RV 10.130[edit]

The hymn that immediately follows (10.130) deals with the origin of sacrifice and refers to puṃs "a Man", identified with Prajāpati by Sāyana.[10] The hymn contemplates that the first sacrifice was performed by humans who by that act were elevated to rishis, alluding to the mythical first sacrifice performed by the gods described in the Purusha Sukta (RV 10.90) verse 6 (trans. Griffith):

So by this knowledge men were raised to rishis, when ancient sacrifice sprang up, our fathers.
With the mind's eye I think that I behold them who first performed this sacrificial worship.

The questions in verse 3, "What were the rule, the order and the model? What were the wooden fender and the butter?" refer back to the questions in 10.129 (5b "what was above it then, and what below it?" etc.)

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kenneth Kramer (January 1986). World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions. Paulist Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-8091-2781-8. 
  2. ^ David Christian (1 September 2011). Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. University of California Press. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-0-520-95067-2. 
  3. ^ Upinder Singh (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0. 
  4. ^ Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-7914-0679-2. 
  5. ^ Wendy Doniger says of this hymn (10.129) "This short hymn, though linguistically simple... is conceptually extremely provocative and has, indeed, provoked hundreds of complex commentaries among Indian theologians and Western scholars. In many ways, it is meant to puzzle and challenge, to raise unanswerable questions, to pile up paradoxes." The Rig Veda. (Penguin Books: 1981) p. 25. ISBN 0-14-044989-2.
  6. ^ "Although, no doubt, of high antiquity, the hymn appears to be less of a primary than of a secondary origin, being in fact a controversial composition levelled especially against the Sāṃkhya theory." Ravi Prakash Arya and K. L. Joshi. Ṛgveda Saṃhitā: Sanskrit Text, English Translation, Notes & Index of Verses. (Parimal Publications: Delhi, 2001) ISBN 81-7110-138-7 (Set of four volumes). Parimal Sanskrit Series No. 45; 2003 reprint: 81-7020-070-9, Volume 4, p. 519.
  7. ^ Patri, Umesh and Prativa Devi. "Progress of Atheism in India: A Historical Perspective". Atheist Centre 1940-1990 Golden Jubilee. Vijayawada, February 1990. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
  8. ^ Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan's: Cosmos Part 10 - The Edge of Forever 37:00
  9. ^ Avinash Sathaye, Translation of Nasadiya Sukta
  10. ^ "As the subject of the hymn is creation typified and originated by the mysterious primeval sacrifice (cp. X.90), Prajāpati the Creator is said by Sāyana to be the deity. The Rṣi is Yajña (Sacrifice), Prajāpati's son." Ralph T. H. Griffith. The Hymns of the Ŗgveda. (Motilal Banarsidass: Delhi: 1973 New Revised Edition, Reprint 1995) p. 634, note. ISBN 81-208-0046-X.
  11. ^ "Bharat Ek Khoj - Starting Track". Retrieved 16 May 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Joel P. Brereton, Edifying Puzzlement: Ṛgveda 10. 129 and the Uses of Enigma, Journal of the American Oriental Society (1999)
  • P. T. Raju, The Development of Indian Thought, Journal of the History of Ideas (1952)
  • Karel Werner, Symbolism in the Vedas and Its Conceptualisation, Numen (1977)

External links[edit]

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