October 2, 2020

Vedic theories of the Universe:

By Nilakhi Banerjee

So how did life arrive on Earth?

This question is always troubling as, how exactly did human race come to dwell in a blue ball spinning in completely black space? Were we put here by an architect? Did we evolve from simpler forms of life (as science says)? Could we have migrated here from another planet? Let’s explore the diverse theories that are prevalent in Hinduism of those earliest days.

The Big Bang theory

One of the theories put forward by cosmologists is the Big Bang theory. This suggests that about 15,000 million years ago there was a massive explosion. This was the point at which all matter in the universe began; space and time began then too. Over time the universe that we know, and human and animal life, emerged. This theory is generally accepted by scientists as being the best theory they have to explain the origins of the universe.

Science versus sacred texts

Most of us have read and accepted the verdict of science – that we are the chance result of billions of years of evolution from single-celled creatures, to sea-born creatures, to reptiles, birds, mammals, to apes and finally to man. But the Vedas and Puranas have different stories to tell. Read on to know about a few concepts that converse beyond science.

It all started from Lord Vishnu

Vedas say that before the creation of the universe Lord Vishnu is sleeping in the ocean of all causes. His bed is a giant serpent with thousands of cobra like hoods. While Vishnu is asleep, a lotus sprouts of his navel (note that navel is symbolised as the root of creation). Inside this lotus, Brahma resides. Brahma represents the universe which we all live in, and it is this Brahma who creates life forms.

The idea of multiverse

Vishnu is the personification of the eternal multiverse that exists forever without any beginning or end. Brahma is the personification of our temporary physical universe that was created in the big bang. Brahma is said to have been created from the navel (which is a single point) of Vishnu, described as a lotus blooming out of the navel, much like our big bang universe.

A temporary place to be

Now this universe represented by Brahma is not a permanent universe, it is temporary, Brahma lives for 100 years, says the Vedas, and then dies and then a new universe (Brahma) is born. So as per Vedas, our universe lives for 100 years. Talking of time measurements – Brahma lives for hundred years say Vedas and we are in the first day of the 51st year of the Brahma.

Talking of symbolism

For now, Brahma represents our universe which has birth and death, a big bang and a big cruch, from a navel singularity. Vishnu represents the eternity that lies beyond our universe which has no birth or death and that which is eternal! Many such universes like ours exist in Vishnu. Vedas say that thousands of Brahmas have passed away! In other words, this is not the first time universe has been created.

The theory involving Purusha

In the Rig Veda (the first scripture of Hinduism, containing spiritual and scientific knowledge) it says that the universe was created out of the parts of the body of a single cosmic man Purusha when his body was sacrificed. There the four classes (varnas) of Indian society come from his body: the priest (Brahmin) from his mouth, the warrior (Kshatritya) from his arms, the peasant (Vaishya) from his thighs, and the servant (Shudra) from his legs.

As per the Chandogya Upanishad

In the Chandogya Upanishad it says that in the beginning was the Brahman, and through heaven, the earth, and the atmosphere and the three seasons of summer, rains, and harvest he produced the entire universe.

Where science meets Vedas

Some scientists have suggested that, following the Big Bang, the process of the expansion of the universe will eventually be reversed and at some distant point in the future will start to contract, eventually imploding into a `Big Crunch’. This could lead to another ‘Big Bang’, with a new universe being formed. This somehow relates to the present Brahma years coming to an end.

Pralaya or the Big Crunch?

A universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or Kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named Pralaya, repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma’s lifespan. Brahma is regarded as a manifestation of Brahman as the creator.

Born from OM

The universe is often said to be born from the sacred syllable Om, or from an inert void in which “there was neither being nor non-being death nor non- death”, a single principle from which emerged the diversity of life. From this void desire was born, and from desire came humans, gods and demons.

The theory of The Golden Egg

In earlier Vedic thinking, the universe was created by Hiranyagarbha (here interpreted as ‘the golden embryo’) or by Prajapati who was born from the Hiranyagarbha (here interpreted as ‘the golden womb’). Prajapati was later identified with the puranic Brahma. Other gods are credited with acts of creation, primarily the act of propping apart the sky and the Earth – gods who are said to have done this include Indra, Varuna and Vishnu.


The theory of zilch

According to some school of thoughts, in Hinduism, the universe had no beginning it was there always. As Sri Krishna said “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be”.

As per Shaiva Scriptures

As per Shaiva scriptures, at first the ultimate truth “Brahman” was Shiva without any birth or death. Vishnu is formed from the Vaamanga of Shiva or the left body. Shiva is the extreme male power of the universe. From him manifested the extreme female power of the universe Sati. Then the preserver of the universe Vishnu took three forms – Maha Vishnu, Garbhodakasayi vishnu and Ksirodaksayi vishnu. MahaVisnu have several Garbhodakasayi vishnus in the spiritual sky.

So the ancient civilizations were indeed very advanced. We must all be proud of our ancestors.