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Cosmology In The Vedas – Symbolism

The worldview of the Rig Veda has two aspects: Theological view and Philosophical view. According to Vedic belief, the whole universe is constituted by three elements: earth, air, and space. Vedas generally describe the universe in terms of the relationship between heaven and earth as dyava-prithivi. Aditi indicates feminine principle and Daksha the male principle of the creation. Purusha Sukta, a Rig Vedic hymn describes a cosmic sacrifice to be the cause of whole creation. It also says that it is Purusha or God who has become the whole cosmos. However, God is not a finite being limited to the universe, but transcends even that. In other words, the world is only a partial manifestation of God, who is infinite in nature. In this way, the hymn extolls God as immanent and at the same time, transcendent also. The Vedas also designate God as Vishwakarma, the creator of the universe and prajapati, the father of all beings. The origin of the world is also traced to Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic mind. We see all these concepts getting philosophical dimension in the Upanishads.

Rig Veda also contains deep philosophical thoughts couched in beautiful, but innocent poetic expressions. They suggest that the universe has come out of a great principle without any outside interference. The scholars have recognised the depth of intuition and understanding disguised in the hymns composed by the Vedic sages. They also say that it is these vague ideas which later developed into philosophical doctrines in the Upanishads. Nasadiya Sukta, one such hymn well-known for its deep philosophical significance, reads in part as follows:

Existence was not then, nor non-existence,
The world was not, the sky beyond was neither.
What covered the mist? Of whom was that?
What was in the depths of darkness thick?
Death was not then, nor immortality,
The night was neither separate from day,
But motionless did That vibrate
Alone, with Its own glory one —
Beyond That nothing did exist.
At first in darkness hidden darkness lay,
Undistinguished as one mass of water,
Then That which lay in void thus covered
A glory did put forth by Tapah!

Source – excerpts from Editorial of Prabuddha Bharata Magazine October 2020.