Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Nasadiya Sukta - Creation Hymn


This hymn is from [R.V.10.129]. I have drawn heavily on the translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith for this article.

It is a "cosmology" hymn, that seeks to explain the origin of creation. Briefly, it describes the chaos that preceded creation, when there was neither death nor immortality. From this chaos, the "One", animated by its own impulse, breathed and came into existence. From the unfathomable depths of water, from the darkness of the cosmic void, emerged this spirit, animated by desire.

It goes on to say how the wise seers are able to perceive the kinship between being and non-being (that are separated merely by a thin line) by searching their heart for wisdom. They see the seminal powers that create the mighty, fertile forces. They see the impulse above the line and strength below.

It ends with a rather startling refrain. "After all, who really knows what happened and who can presume to tell it? What is the origin of creation? For, even the Gods themselves are younger than it. He whether he created it or did not, He who surveys it all from the highest heaven, He knows - or maybe even he does not!"

This end-refrain, where it leaves open the possibility that even the Supreme being may be ignorant of the mystery of creation, makes it rather unique among the creation songs.

नासदासीन् नो सदासीत् तदानीं नासीद् रजो नो व्योमापरो यत्
किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद् गहनं गभीरम्

Then was neither being nor non-being; there was no realm of air nor sky beyond. What covered it, and where? what sheltered it? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

न मृत्युरासीदमृतं न तर्हि न रात्र्या अह्न आसीत्प्रकेतः
आनीदवातं स्वधया तदेकं तस्माद्धान्यन् न परः किं चनास

Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal; no sign was there, nor day's and night's divider. That One being, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it there was nothing else.

तम आसीत् तमसा गूळमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमाइदम्
तुच्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत् तपसस्तन्महिनाजायतैकम्

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness all was indiscriminate chaos. All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः प्रथमं यदासीत्
सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन् हृदि प्रतीष्याकवयो मनीषा

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning, desire, the primal seed and germ of spirit. Seers who searched their heart for wisdom discovered the kinship between the being and non-being.

तिरश्चीनो विततो रश्मिरेषामधः स्विदासी दुपरिस्विदासी
रेतोधाआसन् महिमान आसन् स्वधा अवस्तात् प्रयतिः परस्तात्

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were seminal begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत् कुत आजाता कुत इयंविसृष्टिः
अर्वाग् देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यतआबभूव

Who knows and who can say, whence it was born and whence came this creation? The Gods are later than this world's creation. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन् सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा नवेद

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not, He who surveys it all from his highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps even he does not!

Of course, just like any other Sukta, what has been given here is merely the gist of its literal meaning. There are many commentaries that attribute a much deeper significance to this hymn and explain each term in great detail, but some of them use really "creative" interpretation of the words to arrive at their conclusions.

There is a really good poetic translation of this Sukta that can be found here.

Last Modified At: Wed Sep 29 23:49:10 2004