Hinduism

The Hymn of Creation: Nasadiya Sukta

Nasadiya Sukta is a famous hymn of the tenth mandala (Rig Veda 10:129), which is generally regarded as one of the later hymns, probably composed in the 9th century BCE.  “Not the Non-existent”, and is often given the English title Creation, because of its subject.

The hymn reveals an insoluble paradox in which the human mind of the past as well as the present easily gets trapped. Much of what puzzled people three thousand years ago, still puzzles us today. So, we should be wary of taking for granted that our ancestors were intellectually inferior to us. We have more facts, but they knew what we still would not know today, nor tomorrow.

That’s what this Creation hymn of Rig Veda points out.

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

There was neither non-existence nor existence then.
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.
What stirred?  Where?  In whose protection?
Was there water, bottom-lessly deep?

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

There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.
Other than that there was nothing beyond.

तम आसीत् तमसा गूळमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमाइदम्
तुच्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत् तपसस्तन्महिनाजायतैकम्

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.
The life force that was covered with emptiness,
that One arose through the power of heat.

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

Desire came upon that One in the beginning,
that was the first seed of mind.
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom
found the bond of existence and non-existence.

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

Their cord was extended across.
Was there below? Was there above?
There were seed-placers, there were powers.
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.

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

Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

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

Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –
the One who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
or perhaps He does not know.

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