Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, by W.J. Wilkins, , at sacred-texts.com
Before passing on to the inferior deities, an account of the creation will be given. It is not at all easy to make out a consistent one from the Hindu scriptures, because the imagination of the writers seems to have run wild on this subject; not having any authority, each writer has written what seemed good to himself. As in the accounts of the deities, the germs are found in the older books of what is told at considerable length in the more recent. The following hymn from the Rig-Veda * describes the primal condition of things before the creative power of the Deity was exercised:—
"Gloom, hid in gloom, existed first—one sea, eluding view.
That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew.
Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind,
Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find.
"The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss—
Was it beneath? or high aloft? What bard can answer this?
There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove—
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.
This hymn contains perhaps the earliest speculations of the Hindus respecting the creation that have come down to us; and the wise conclusion was arrived at that God alone knew how the world came into being. But as time went on this confession of ignorance did not satisfy the cravings of the human mind: hence succeeding ages sought by its conjectures, which are given with the assurance of exact knowledge, to throw light upon the unknowable.
The next quotation is from the "Purusha Sakta" of the Rig-Veda, which from its thought and language is generally believed to be of much later origin than the preceding hymn.
Purusha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. On every side enveloping the earth, he overpassed (it) by a space of ten fingers. Purusha himself is this whole (universe), whatever has been and whatever shall be. He is also lord of immortality, since (or when) by food he expands. All existences are a quarter of him, and three-fourths of him are that which is immortal in the sky. With three-quarters Purusha mounted upward. A quarter of him was again produced here. From him was born Virāj; and from Virāj, Purusha. When the gods performed a sacrifice, with Purusha as the oblation, the spring was its butter, the summer its fuel, and the autumn its (accompanying) offering. From that universal sacrifice were provided curds and butter. From that universal sacrifice sprang the Rich and Sāman verses, the metres and the Yajush;
from it sprang horses and all animals with two rows of teeth, kine, goats and sheep. When (the gods) divided Purusha, into how many parts did they cut him up? The Brāhman was his mouth, the Rajanya was made his arms, the being (called) Vaisya was his thighs, and the Sudra sprang from his feet. The morn sprang from his soul (manas), the sun from his eye, Indra and Agni from his mouth, and Vāya from his breath. From his navel arose the air, from his head the sky, from his feet the earth, from his ear the (four) quarters; in this manner (the gods) formed the worlds." *
Now follows an extract from the "Sātapatha Brāhmana," which gives the words used at the creation. "(Uttering) 'bhūh,' Prajāpati generated this earth. (Uttering) 'bhuvah,' he generated the air; and (Uttering) 'svah,' he generated the sky. This universe is coextensive with these worlds. Saying 'bhūh,' Prajāpati generated the Brāhman; (saying) 'bhuvah,' he generated the Kshattra; (and saying) 'svah,' he generated the Vis. All this world is as much as the Brāhman, Kshattra and Vis. (Saying) 'bhūh,' Prajāpati generated himself; (saying) 'bhuvah,' he generated offspring; (saying) 'svah,' he generated animals. This world is so much as self, offspring, and animals." †
The "Taittiriya Brāhmana" says, "This entire (universe) has been created by Brahmā," and gives an account of the creation of the asuras, pitris (or fathers), and gods. "Prajāpati desired, 'May I propagate.' He practised austerity. His breath became alive. With that breath (asu) he created asuras. Having created the asuras, he regarded himself as a father. After that he created the fathers (pitris). That constitutes the fatherhood of the fathers. Having created the fathers,
he reflected. After that he created men. That constitutes the manhood of men. He who knows the manhood of men becomes intelligent. To him, when he was creating men, day appeared in the heavens. After that he created the gods." *
The "Sātapatha Brāhmana" relates the creation of men and animals. "Prajāpati was formerly this (universe) only. He desired, 'Let me create food, and be propagated.' He formed animals from his breaths, a man from his soul, a horse from his eye, a bull from his breath, a sheep from his ear, a goat from his voice. Since he formed animals from his breaths, therefore men say, 'The breaths are animals.' The soul is the first of breaths. Since he formed a man from his soul, therefore they say, 'Man is the first of the animals and the strongest.' The soul is all the breaths; for all the breaths depend upon the soul. Since he formed man from his soul, therefore they say, 'Man is all the animals;' for all these are man's." †
In another passage this Brāhmana gives quite a different account. Purusha, as the soul of the universe, was alone. Hence "he did not enjoy happiness. He desired a second. He caused this same self to fall asunder into two parts. Thence arose a husband and wife. From them men were born. She reflected, 'How does he, after having produced me from himself, cohabit with me? Ah! let me disappear!' She became a cow, and the other a bull; from them kine were produced. The one became a mare, the other a stallion; the one a she-ass, the other a male-ass. From them the class of animals with undivided hoofs were produced. The one became a she-goat, the other a he-goat; the one an ewe, the other a ram. From them goats and sheep were
produced. In this manner pairs of all creatures whatsoever, down to ants, were created." *
Again, this Brāhmana says, "Prajāpati created living beings. From his upper vital airs he created the gods; from his lower vital airs, mortal creatures." †
Manu's account of the creation most probably follows the preceding one in order of time; and it will be noticed that he has developed some germs of thought expressed there. "He (the self-existent) having felt desire, and willing to create various living beings from his own body, first created the waters, and threw into them a seed. That seed became a golden egg, of lustre equal to the Sun; in it he himself was born as Brahmā, the parent of all the world. The waters are called narah, for they are sprung from Nara; and as they were his first sphere of motion (ayana, i.e. path), he is therefore called Nārāyana. Produced from the imperceptible, eternal, existent and non-existent cause, that male (purusha) is celebrated in the world as Brahmā. After dwelling for a year in the egg, the glorious being, by his own contemplation, split in twain. . . . Having divided his own body into two parts, the lord (Brahmā) became, with the half a male, and with the half a female; and in her he created Viraj. Know, O most excellent twice-born men, that I, whom that male Viraj himself created, am the creator of all this world."
The Purānas enter very minutely into the details of the creation. It is one of the specified topics of which a Purāna ought to treat. The first book of the "Vishnu Purāna" is largely filled with the accounts of this work. In his preface ‡ to the translation of the "Vishnu Purāna," Wilson says: "The first book of the six into
which the work is divided is occupied chiefly with the details of creation, primary and secondary; the first explaining how the universe proceeds from Prakriti, or eternal crude matter; the second, in what manner the forms of things are developed from the elementary substance previously evolved, or how they reappear after their temporary destruction. Both these creations are periodical, but the termination of the first occurs only at the end of the life of Brahmā; when not only all the gods and other forms are annihilated, but the elements are again merged into primary substance; besides which one only spiritual being exists: the latter takes place at the end of every Kalpa, a day of Brahmā, and affects only the forms of inferior creatures and lower worlds, leaving the substance of the universe entire, and sages and gods unharmed."
The account in the "Vishnu Purāna" was, according to that authority, "originally imparted by the great father of all (Brahmā) in answer to the questions of Daksha and other venerable sages, and repeated by them to Purukutsa, a king who reigned on the banks of the Narmadā." * " Who can describe him who is not to be apprehended by the senses? He is Brahma, supreme, lord, eternal, unborn, imperishable. He then existed in the form of Purusha and of Kāla. Purusha (Spirit) is the first form of the supreme; next proceeded two other forms, the discreet and indiscreet; and Kāla (time) was the last. These four—Pradhāna (primary or crude matter), Purusha (Spirit), Vyakta (visible substance), and Kāla (time)—in their due proportions, are the causes of the production of the phenomena of creation, preservation, and destruction. The supreme Brahma, the supreme soul, the substance of the world, the lord of all
creatures, the universal soul, the supreme ruler Hari (Vishnu), of his own will having entered into matter and spirit, agitated the mutable and immutable principles, the season of creation having arrived, in the same manner as fragrance affects the mind from its proximity merely, and not from any immediate operation upon mind itself; so the supreme influenced the elements of creation." *
After giving an account of the creation, or rather the evolution of the elements, the "Vishnu Purāna" † goes on to say: Then (the elements) ether, air, light, water and earth, severally united with the properties of sound, and the rest existed as distinguishable according to their qualities as soothing, terrific, or stupefying; but possessing various energies, and being unconnected, they could not without combination create living beings, not having blended with each other. Having combined, therefore, with one another, they assumed, through their mutual association, the character of one mass of entire unity; and from the direction of spirit, with the acquiescence of the indiscreet principle, intellect, and the rest, to the gross elements inclusive, formed an egg, which gradually expanded like a bubble of water. This vast egg, compounded of the elements, and resting on the waters, was the excellent natural abode of Vishnu in the form of Brahma; and there Vishnu, the lord of the universe, whose essence is inscrutable, assumed a perceptible form, and even he himself abided in it in the character of Brahma. Its womb, vast as the mountain Meru, was composed of the mountains; and the mighty oceans were the waters that filled its cavity. In that egg were the continents and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the universe, the gods, demons, and mankind.
"Affecting then the quality of activity, Hari the lord of all, himself becoming Brahma, engaged in the creation of the universe. Vishnu, with the quality of goodness and of immeasurable power, preserves created things through successive ages, until the close of the period termed a Kalpa; when the same mighty deity, invested with the quality of darkness, assumes the awful form of Rudra, and swallows up the universe. Having thus devoured all things, and converted the world into one vast ocean, the supreme reposes upon his mighty serpent couch amidst the deep: he awakes after a season, and again, as Brahma, becomes the author of creation."
The Purāna next gives an account of the creation in the present Kalpa or age. This is a secondary creation, for water and the earth also are already in existence; it is not creation properly speaking, but the change of pre-existing matter into their present forms. Vishnu knew that the earth lay hidden in the waters; he, therefore, assuming the form of a boar, * raised it upon his tusks.
In answer to a request for a full account of the creation of gods and other beings, the following passages † occur:—"Created beings, although they are destroyed (in their original forms) at the periods of dissolution, yet, being affected by the good or evil acts of former existence, are never exempted from their consequences; and when Brahmā creates the world anew, they are the progeny of his will, in the fourfold condition of gods, men, animals, and inanimate things. Brahmā then, being desirous of creating the four orders of beings—termed gods, demons, progenitors, and men—collected his mind into itself.
"Whilst thus concentrated, the quality of darkness
pervaded his body, and thence the demons (the asuras) were first born, issuing from his thigh. Brahmā then abandoned that form which was composed of the rudiment of darkness, and which, being deserted by him, became night. Continuing to create, but assuming a different shape, he experienced pleasure, and thence from his mouth proceeded the gods. The form abandoned by him became day, in which the good quality predominates; and hence by day the gods are most powerful, and by night the demons. He next adopted another person (form) in which the rudiment of good men also prevailed; and thinking of himself as the father of the world, the progenitors (or Pitris) were born from his side. The body, when he abandoned it, became the Sandhya, or evening twilight. Brahmā then assumed another person, pervaded by the quality of foulness; and from this, men in whom foulness (or passion) predominates, were produced. Quickly abandoning that body, it became the dawn. At the appearance of this light of day men feel most vigour; whilst the progenitors are most powerful in the evening.
"Next from Brahmā, in a form composed of the quality of foulness, was produced hunger, of whom anger was born; and the god put forth in darkness beings emaciated with hunger, of hideous aspect and with long beards. These beings hastened to the deity. Such of them as exclaimed, 'Oh, preserve us,' were thence called Rākshasas (from Raksha, to preserve); others who cried out, 'Let us eat,' were denominated from that expression Yākshas (from Yaksha, to eat). Beholding them so disgusting, the hairs of Brahmā were shrivelled up, and first falling from his head were again renewed upon it; from their falling they became serpents, called Sarpa (Srip, to creep), from their creeping, and Ahi
[paragraph continues] (from Hā, to abandon), because they had deserted the head. The creator of the world, being incensed, then created fierce beings, who were denominated goblins, bhutas, malignant fiends, and eaters of flesh. The Gandharvas (choristers) were next born: imbibing melody, drinking of the goddess of speech, they were born, and hence their appellation.
"The divine Brahmā, influenced by their material energies, having created these beings, made others of his own will. Birds he formed from his vital vigour; sheep from his heart; goats from his mouth; kine from his belly and sides; and horses, elephants, sarabhas, gayals, deer, camels, mules, antelopes, and other animals from his feet: whilst from the hairs of his body sprang herbs, roots, and fruits." In this manner all things are said to have sprung from Brahmā; they were with him in the egg: hence this is an account of evolution, rather than of creation. The creation of man, as divided into four castes, is described in this Purāna, in similar terms to those in Manu.
Following this is the account of the mind-born sons of Brahmā—Bhrigu, Daksha, and others—nine in number, who became the progenitors of men. * Next "Brahmā created himself as Manu Swāyambhu, born of, and identical with, his original self, for the protection of created beings: and the female portion of himself he constituted Satarūpā, whom austerity purified from the sin (forbidden nuptials), and whom the divine Manu Swāyambhu took to wife." After this follows a long account of the descendants of these mind-born sons; and it is then shown how by the production of the amrita at the churning of the ocean the gods obtained immortality, and the work of creation for this age was complete.
With some variations this is the story of the creation as told in the Purānas. In some, greater prominence is given to parts that are only lightly touched upon in this account; whilst other incidents are more fully described here than in the other Purānas.
342:* Muir, O. S. T., v. 356.
344:* Muir, O. S. T., i. 9.
344:† Ibid., i. 17.
345:* Muir, O. S. T., i. 23.
345:† Ibid., i. 24.
346:* Muir, O. S. T., i. 26.
346:† "Vishnu Purāna," p. 31.
346:‡ Ibid., p. 39.
347:* "Vishnu Purāna," p. 9.
348:* "Vishnu Purāna," p. 13.
348:† Page 18.
349:* See ante, p. 144.
349:† "Vishnu Purāna," p. 39.
351:* See part iii. chap. i.