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Nasadiya Sukta: Demystifying the Mystery of Creation
The section of Rigveda describes the birth of the Universe in riveting flourish of words
At the beginning of each episode of the landmark television series ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’, created by Shyam Benegal based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s opus ‘Discovery of India’, a string of abstruse Sanskrit chants are heard followed by their Hindi rendering in verse. These chants speak of the birth of Creation in as spectacular fashion as the subject warrants. Even after hearing them a number of times, they still do not fail to leave me spellbound. You can hear them for yourself in the following video.
These fascinating chants comprise the Nasadiya Sukta, also known as the Hymn of Creation. Nasadiya Sukta is a part of Rigveda, the oldest Sanskrit text, estimated to be about three to four thousand years old.
The sheer magnitude of the most original questions of existence can overwhelm anyone. And what is fascinating is that the people who came thousands of years before us, who are considered primitive by present standards, wondered about the origin of the Universe and attempted to locate an answer. Curiosity, spirit of exploration, and profound capacity for thought is mirrored in the hymns of Nasadiya Sukta.
So what are the ancient scholars asking?
Where did it all begin? Who created it? What is knowable?
They also conjecture what could possibly be at the center of the mystery of Creation.
There was neither existence, nor non-existence.
No atmosphere or heavens above,
no light nor night, no death and the lack of it.
Vibrating in His own glory only He, nothing else.
From His desire the tranquility ended.
Who can tell really? Who is the direct witness?
Why is this Creation? and How?
Even gods cannot tell as they came after Creation.
So who can tell?
Only He who presides over the highest heavens,
He might know
Or may be even He doesn’t know.
First, I am enthralled by the vivid poetry of these hymns. Such a glorious depiction of the Creation. What is even more impressive is that Nasadiya Sukta doesn’t settle for a fictional account of the creation of the Universe. It didn’t mythologize the big questions of Creation itself. Instead it chose the route of radical inquiry and radical doubt. It attempts to go back in time and retrace the steps. It states explicitly that there was a void in the beginning. From that void sprang all existence. We can only guess ‘why’ or ‘how’. But that is our limitation. The seeds of the most widely accepted modern theory of the creation of Universe, the Big Bang Theory, can be uncannily found in this hymn. The answers are still obscured in the fathomless depths of the Universe. Humanity, far removed from the time it first asked the fundamental questions, is groping for answers even now.
Hearing these mesmerizing chants, I am transported back to thousands of years in the past, when the civilization stirred in its cradle and humanity took baby steps to understand its surrounding and its own place in the Universe. As the dawn broke, the first light appeared in the form as enchanting and luminous as Nasadiya Sukta.