Creation of the Universeby Araceli PerezIt would be ignorant to believe that there is only one explanation for thecreation of the universe. The Vedic hymns present several cosmogonies. There are many interpretations for these myths resulting from theredocumentation on various levels of culture. It is purposeless to quest forthe origin of each of these cosmogonies because most of these ideas andbeliefs represent a heritage transmitted from prehistory all over theancient world. There are four essential types of cosmogonies that seem to have fascinatedthe Vedic poets and theologians. They are as followed: (1) creation byfecundation of the original waters; (2) creation by the dismembering of aprimordial giant, Purusa; (3) creation out of a unity-totality, at oncebeing and nonbeing; (4) creation by the separation of heaven and earth.Order now
2ImageThe first cosmogony relates to the celebrated hymn of the Rg Veda. The godimagined as Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Embryo) hovers over the Waters,Hiranyabarbha enters the waters and fecundates them. This gave birth toAgni (the god of fire). 3The second cosmogony can be found in a hymn, the Purusasukta. Purusa isrepresented at once as cosmic totality and as an androgynous being.
Creation proper is the result of a cosmic sacrifice. The gods sacrificePurusa. From his dismembered body proceed the animals, the liturgicalelements, the social classes, the earth, the sky, the gods: “His mouthbecame the Brahman, the Warrior was the product of his arms, his thighswere the Artisan, from his feet was born the servant” (strophe 12, afterthe translation by Renou). His head became the sky, his feet turned intothe earth, the moon resulted from his consciousness, the sun from his gaze,his mouth transformed into Indra and Agni, and the wind from his breath. The hymn clearly states that Purusa precedes and surpasses the creation,though the cosmos, life, and men proceed from his own body. 4The Purusasukta parallels those which are found in China, among the ancientGermans and in Mesopotamia.
They illustrate a cosmogony of an archaic type:creation by the sacrifice of an anthropomorphic divine being. The third cosmogony, being the most famous hymn of the Rig Veda, ispresented as a metaphysics. The question is asked, how Being could havecome out of non-Being, since, in the beginning, neither “non-Being existednor Being. ” There was neither men nor gods. The only thing that existed wasits own impulse, without there being any breath.
” Nothing else existed, butBrahman which derived from heat. From the germ potential develops desire. This same desire “was the first seed of consciousness. ” This was anastounding declaration which anticipated one of the chief theses of Indianphilosophical thought.
The first seed then divided itself into “high” and”low”, into a male principle and a female principle. “Brahman precedes theuniverse and creates the world by deriving from its own being, withoutthereby losing its idealism. 5The myth of the separation of heaven and earth is related to thePurusasukta. In both there is a violent division of a totality for thepurpose of creating the world. Finally there is the creation by a divinebeing, the Universal Artisan, Visvakarman forms the world like a craftsman. This mythical motif is connected by the Vedic poets with the theme of thecreation-sacrifice.
Some of these myths are found among other Indo-Europeanpeoples. There are many myths similar to these which are documented in manytraditional cultures. India is the only place to have given rise tosacrificial techniques, contemplative methods, and speculations so decisivefor the awakening of a new religious consciousness as a result of thesemyths. 6————————————————————————Other RitualsThe Vedic Cult did not have one specific place were all rites were to beperformed. These rituals were to be performed in the sacrificer’s house oron a nearby open space with a grassy ground, on which the three fires wereplaced.
There were both flesh and non flesh offerings. Among the non fleshofferings were milk, butter, cereals, and cakes. The goat, the cow, thebull, the ram, and the horse were also sacrificed. From the period of theRg Veda the soma sacrifice was the most important one. The rituals are divided into either the domestic class or the solemn class.
Other than keeping up the domestic fire and the agricultural festivals,there are four things that are most important to private rituals. They aresacraments or consecrations in connection with the conception and birth ofchildren, the introduction of the boy to his Brahmanic preceptor, marriage,and funerals. These are all basic ceremonies that involve non fleshoblations and offerings. As for the sacraments, also included are ritualgestures accompanied by formulas the master of the house would announce.
7The most important sacrament is the upanayana. This ritual constitutes thehomologue of the puberty initiation. The preceptor transforms the boy intoan embryo and keeps him for three nights in his belly. The preceptorconceives at the moment when he puts his hand on the child’s shoulder, and,on the third day, the child is reborn in the state of brahmanhood. 8The simplest ritual of those of the solemn is the agnihotra (“the oblationof fire”).
This ritual takes place at dawn and twilight and consists in anoffering of milk to Agni9. The essential sacrifices, particularly part ofthe Vedic cult, are those of soma. The agnistoma (“praise of Agni”) isperformed once a year during the spring. Agnistoma consists in three daysof “homage. ” The soma is squeezed in the morning, at noon, and in theevening. At the midday squeezing there is a distribution of honorariums: 7,21, 60, or 1,000 cows, or , on occasion, all of the sacrificers’spossessions.
In this ritual all the gods are invited to participate. 10The most important and most celebrated Vedic Ritual was the asvamedha(“horse sacrifice”). This ritual was performed by a victorious king, whohas obtained the dignity of “Universal Sovereign. ” The purpose of asvamedhawas to cleanse pollution and insure fecundity and prosperity throughout thecountry.
The preliminary ceremonies were performed in a period of one year. During this time the stallion was given liberty and put with one hundredother horses. It was not to approach the mares, in order to keep this fromhappening 400 young men were put on guard. The actual ritual itself lastedthree days. At first some specific ceremonies such, as mares being shown tothe stallion, the stallion being harnessed to a chariot, and the chariotbeing driven to the pond, were performed. On the second day many domesticanimals were sacrificed.
Finally the stallion was suffocated. The fourqueens, each accompanied by a hundred female attendants, circled the body. The principle wife laid next to the stallion, covered with a cloak, andperformed sexual acts. While this went on the priests and the women alsoperformed sexual acts.
As soon as the queen rose, the horse and the othervictims were cut up. Other rituals were performed on the third day, andfinally the honorariums and the four queens or their attendants weredistributed to the priests. 11————————————————————————BibliographyEliade, Mircia. A History of Religious Ideas: volume one, From the StoneAge to the Eleusinian Mysteries. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Il.
1978. Hiltebeitel, Alf. ‘Hinduism’ The Religious Traditions of Asia: Religion,history and culture selections from The Encyclopedia of Religion. ed. Mircea Eliade.
MacMillian Publishing Company, New York, NY. 1989.Words/ Pages : 1,234 / 24