Creation of the Universe
by Araceli Perez
It would be ignorant to believe that there is only one explanation for the
creation of the universe. The Vedic hymns present several cosmogonies.
There are many interpretations for these myths resulting from there
documentation on various levels of culture. It is purposeless to quest for
the origin of each of these cosmogonies because most of these ideas and
beliefs represent a heritage transmitted from prehistory all over the
There are four essential types of cosmogonies that seem to have fascinated
the Vedic poets and theologians. They are as followed: (1) creation by
fecundation of the original waters; (2) creation by the dismembering of a
primordial giant, Purusa; (3) creation out of a unity-totality, at once
being and nonbeing; (4) creation by the separation of heaven and earth.
The first cosmogony relates to the celebrated hymn of the Rg Veda. The god
imagined as Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Embryo) hovers over the Waters,
Hiranyabarbha enters the waters and fecundates them. This gave birth to
Agni (the god of fire).
The second cosmogony can be found in a hymn, the Purusasukta. Purusa is
represented at once as cosmic totality and as an androgynous being.
Creation proper is the result of a cosmic sacrifice. The gods sacrifice
Purusa. From his dismembered body proceed the animals, the liturgical
elements, the social classes, the earth, the sky, the gods: "His mouth
became the Brahman, the Warrior was the product of his arms, his thighs
were the Artisan, from his feet was born the servant" (strophe 12, after
the translation by Renou). His head became the sky, his feet turned into
the earth, the moon resulted from his consciousness, the sun from his gaze,
his mouth transformed into Indra and Agni, and the wind from his breath.
The hymn clearly states that Purusa precedes and surpasses the creation,
though the cosmos, life, and men proceed from his own body.
The Purusasukta parallels those which are found in China, among the ancient
Germans and in Mesopotamia. They illustrate a cosmogony of an archaic type:
creation by the sacrifice of an anthropomorphic divine being.
The third cosmogony, being the most famous hymn of the Rig Veda, is
presented as a metaphysics. The question is asked, how Being could have
come out of non-Being, since, in the beginning, neither "non-Being existed
nor Being." There was neither men nor gods. The only thing that existed was
its own impulse, without there being any breath." Nothing else existed, but
Brahman which derived from heat. From the germ potential develops desire.
This same desire "was the first seed of consciousness." This was an
astounding declaration which anticipated one of the chief theses of Indian
philosophical thought. The first seed then divided itself into "high" and
"low", into a male principle and a female principle. "Brahman precedes the
universe and creates the world by deriving from its own being, without
thereby losing its idealism.
The myth of the separation of heaven and earth is related to the
Purusasukta. In both there is a violent division of a totality for the
purpose of creating the world. Finally there is the creation by a divine
being, the Universal Artisan, Visvakarman forms the world like a craftsman.
This mythical motif is connected by the Vedic poets with the theme of the
creation-sacrifice. Some of these myths are found among other Indo-European
peoples. There are many myths similar to these which are documented in many
traditional cultures. India is the only place to have given rise to
sacrificial techniques, contemplative methods, and speculations so decisive
for the awakening of a new religious consciousness as a result of these
The Vedic Cult did not have one specific place were all rites were to be
performed. These rituals were to be performed in the sacrificer's house or
on a nearby open space with a grassy ground, on which the three fires were
placed. There were both flesh and non flesh offerings. Among the non flesh
offerings were milk, butter, cereals, and cakes. The goat, the cow, the
bull, the ram, and the horse were also sacrificed. From the period of the
Rg Veda the soma sacrifice was the most important one.
The rituals are divided into either the domestic class or the solemn class.
Other than keeping up the domestic fire and the agricultural festivals,
there are four things that are most important to private rituals. They are
sacraments or consecrations in connection with the conception and birth of
children, the introduction of the boy to his Brahmanic preceptor, marriage,
and funerals. These