Hindu views on evolution

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Hinduism includes a range of viewpoints about the origin of life, and evolution. There is no single story of creation, due to dynamic diversity of Hinduism, and these are derived from various sources like Vedas, some from the Brahmanas, some from Puranas; some are philosophical, based on concepts, and others are narratives.[1] The Rigveda mentions the Hiranyagarbha ("hiranya = golden or radiant" and "garbha = filled / womb") as the source of the creation of the Universe, similar to the world egg motif found in the creation myths of many other civilizations. It also contains a myth of proto-Indo-European origin, in which the creation arises out of the dismemberment of a cosmic being (the Purusha) who is sacrificed by the gods.[2] As for the creation of the primordial gods themselves, the Nasadiya Sukta of Rigveda takes a near-agnostic stand, stating that the gods came into being after the world's creation, and nobody knows when the world first came into being.[3] In the later Puranic texts, the creator god Brahma is described as performing the act of 'creation', or more specifically of 'propagating life within the universe'. Some texts consider him equivalent to the Hiranyagarbha or the Purusha, while others state that he arose out of these. Brahma is a part of the trinity of gods that also includes Vishnu and Shiva, who are responsible for 'preservation' and 'destruction' (of the universe) respectively.

Many Hindu texts mention the cycle of creation and destruction. The Shatapatha Brahmana states that the current human generation descends from Manu, the only man who survived a great deluge after being warned by the God. This legend is comparable to the other flood legends, such as the story of the Noah's Ark mentioned in the Bible and the Quran.[4]

Hindus find support for, or foreshadowing of evolutionary ideas in scriptures.[5] For example, the concept of Dashavatara can be seen as having some similarities to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.The first incarnation of Vishnu in the form of a fish resembles the evolutionary origin of fish in the Silurian Period.

While the Creation–evolution controversy has seen much debate in US, Middle East and parts of Africa, it is an insignificant issue in India, because of its Hindu-majority population.[6][7] In India, there were minimal references to Darwinism in the 1800s. Elements of Victorian England opposed the idea of Darwinism. Hindus already had present notion of common ancestry between humans and animals. The Hindu dharma believes that the gods have animal features, showing a theory that humans can be reborn again as animals or with their features.[8]

Hindu scriptures[edit]

According to Hindu creationists all species on earth including humans have "devolved" or come down from a high state of pure consciousness. Hindu creationists claim that species of plants and animals are material forms adopted by pure consciousness which live an endless cycle of births and rebirths.[9] Ronald Numbers says that: "Hindu Creationists have insisted on the antiquity of humans, who they believe appeared fully formed as long, perhaps, as trillions of years ago."[10] Hindu creationism is a form of old earth creationism. According to Hindu creationists the universe may even be older than billions of years. These views are based on the Vedas, which depict an extreme antiquity of the universe and history of the earth.[11][12]


Hinduism is a conglomeration/group of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.[13] As a result, the Hindu texts do not provide a single canonical account of the creation; they mention a range of theories of the creation of the world, some of which are apparently contradictory.[14] This is due to the wide range of beliefs within the same group of people at the time of the writing of these scriptures. Two contradictory views could exist simultaneously with neither side trying to enforce itself on the other; ancient India was the mark of a true hub for knowledge.


The Purusha Sukta of the earliest Hindu text Rigveda mentions Purusha, primeval cosmic being.[15] Purusha is described as all that has ever existed and will ever exist.[16] This being's body was the origin of four different kinds of people: the Brahmin, the Rajanya, the Vaishya, and the Shudra.[17] Viraj, variously interpreted as the mundane egg[15] (see Hiranyagarbha) or the twofold male-female energy, was born from Purusha, and the Purusha was born again from Viraj. The gods then performed a yajna with the Purusha, leading to the creation of the other things in the manifested world from his various body parts and his mind. These things included the animals, the Vedas, the Varnas, the celestial bodies, the air, the sky, the heavens, the earth, the directions, and the Gods Indra and Agni. It is likely that this myth has proto-Indo-European origins, as it is similar to other myths found in the Indo-European cultures, in which the creation arises out of the dismemberment of a divine being (cf. Ymir of the Norse mythology).[2]

The concept of Purusha is similar to the concept of Brahman described in the later texts.[18]:318 As for the creation of the primordial beings (such as the gods who performed the sacrifice of the Purusha), the Nasadiya Sukta states:[19]

Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.

— Rig Veda 10.129.1-7

Rigveda (10.121) also mentions the Hiranyagarbha (literally, golden embryo/womb/egg) that existed before the creation. This metaphor has been interpreted differently by the various later texts. The Samkhya texts state that Purusha and the Prakriti made the embryo, from which the world emerged. In another tradition, the creator god Brahma emerged from the egg and created the world, while in yet another tradition the Brahma himself is the Hiranyagarbha.[20] The nature of the Purusha, the creation of the gods and other details of the embryo creation myth have been described variously by the later Hindu texts.

The early hymns of Rigveda also mention Tvastar as the first born creator of the human world.[21]

Recounting the creation of gods, the Rig Veda does seem to affirm ‘’creatio ex nihilo’’. Rig Veda 10.72 states:

देवानां नु वयं जाना पर वोचाम विपन्यया |
उक्थेषुशस्यमानेषु यः पश्यादुत्तरे युगे ||
बरह्मणस पतिरेता सं कर्मार इवाधमत |
देवानाम्पूर्व्ये युगे.असतः सदजायत ||
देवानां युगे परथमे.असतः सदजायत |
तदाशा अन्वजायन्त तदुत्तानपदस परि ||

1. LET US with tuneful skill proclaim these generations of the Gods,
That one may see them when these hymns are chanted in a future age.
2 These Brahmaṇaspati produced with blast and smelting, like a Smith,
Existence, in an earlier age of Gods, from Non-existence sprang.
3 Existence, in the earliest age of Gods, from Non-existence sprang.
Thereafter were the regions born. This sprang from the Productive Power.[22]


The fish avatara of Vishnu saves Manu, the progenitor of the existing human race, during the great deluge.

The Shatapatha Brahmana mentions a story of creation, in which the Prajapati performs tapas to reproduce himself. He releases the waters and enters them in the form of an egg that evolves into the cosmos.[23] The Prajapati emerged from the golden egg, and created the earth, the middle regions and the sky. With further tapas, he created the devas. He also created the asuras, and the darkness came into the being.[18]:102–103 It also contains a story similar to the other great flood stories. After the great flood, Manu the only surviving human, offers a sacrifice from which Ida is born. From her, the existing human race comes into the being.[18]:102–103


The Aitareya Upanishad (3.4.1) mentions that only the "Atman" (the Self) existed in the beginning. The Self created the heaven (Ambhas), the sky (Marikis), the earth (Mara) and the underworld (Ap). He then formed the Purusha from the water. He also created the speech, the fire, the prana (breath of life), the air and the various senses, the directions, the trees, the mind, the moon and other things.[24]

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4) mentions that in the beginning, only the Atman existed as the Purusha. Feeling lonely, the Purusha divided itself into two parts: male ("pati") and female ("patni"). The men were born when the male embraced the female. The female thought "how can he embrace me, after having produced me from himself? I shall hide myself." She then became a cow to hide herself, but the male became a bull and embraced her. Thus the cows were born. Similarly, everything that exists in pairs, was created. Next, the Purusha created the fire, the soma and the immortal gods (the devas) from his better part. He also created the various powers of the gods, the different classes, the dharma (law or duty) and so on.[25] The Taittiriya Upanishad states that the being (sat) was created from the non-being. The Being later became the Atman (2.7.1), and then created the worlds (1.1.1).[18]:103 The Chhandogya states that the Brahma creates, sustains and destroys the world.[26]

Later texts[edit]

An attempt to depict the creative activities of Prajapati; a steel engraving from the 1850s

Belief in evolution is among the Samkhya philosophy. In the Samkhya philosophy, evolution is symbolized by the Sanskrit term parinama. Many Hindu reformers compare this term and philosophy with Darwinism. The prominent Vivekananda, based most of his cosmological and biological ideas off of the Samkhya.[8] The Samkhya texts state that there are two distinct fundamental eternal entities: the Purusha and the Prakriti. The Prakriti has three qualities: sattva (purity or preservation), rajas (creation) and tamas (darkness or destruction). When the equilibrium between these qualities is broken, the act of creation starts. Rajas quality leads to creation.[27]

The later texts such as the Puranas identify the Purusha with the God. In many Puranic notes, Brahma is the creator god.[18]:103 However, some Puranas also identify Vishnu, Shiva or Devi as the creator.[18]:103

In Garuda Purana, there was nothing in the universe except Brahman. The universe became an expanse of water, and in that Vishnu was born in the golden egg. He created Brahma with four faces. Brahma then created the devas, asuras, pitris and manushas. He also created the rakshasas, yakshas, and gandharvas. Other creatures came from the various parts of his body (e.g. snakes from his hair, sheep from his chest, goats from his mouth, cows from his stomach, others from his feet). His body hair became herbs. The four varnas came from his body parts and the four Vedas from his mouths. He created several sons from his mind: Daksha, Daksha's wife, Manu Svaymbhuva, his wife Shatarupta and the rishi Kashypa. Kashypata married thirteen of Daksha's daughters and all the devas and the creatures were born through them.[18]:103 Other Puranas and the Manu Smriti mention several variations of this theory.

In Vishnu Purana, the Purusha is same as the creator deity Brahma, and is a part of Vishnu.[18]:319 The Shaivite texts mention the Hiranyagarbha as a creation of Shiva.[20] According to the Devi-Bhagavata Purana Purusha and Prakriti emerged together and formed the Brahman, the supreme universal spirit that is the origin and support of the universe.[18]:319

The Advaita Vedanta states that the creation arises from Brahman, but it is illusory and has no reality. (Vivarta)[18]:103

Hindu cosmological view[edit]

Many Hindu philosophies mention that the creation is cyclic.[18]:104 According to the Upanishads, the universe and the Earth, along with humans and other creatures, undergo repeated cycles of creation and destruction (pralaya). A variety of myths exist regarding the specifics of the process, but in general the Hindu view of the cosmos is as eternal and cyclic. The later puranic view also asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, age of earth is about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma that is 1000 times of sum of 4 yugas in years, the creator or kalpa)[28] 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, called pralaya (cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 trillion, 40 billion human years) that represents Brahma's lifespan.

Modern interpretations of scriptural archetypes[edit]


The order of the Dashavatara (ten principal avatars of the god Vishnu) is interpreted to convey Darwin's evolution.[29][30] British geneticist and evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane opined that they are a true sequential depiction of the great unfolding of evolution. Like the evolutionary process itself, the first avatar of God is a fish - Matsya,which depicts aquatic life, then comes the aquatic reptile turtle, Kurma,which depicts creatures moving to land, then a mammal - the boar Varaha, then Narasimha, a man-lion being, which depicts creatures like okapi, archeopteryx, and others, then Vamana, the dwarf homonid. Then parashurama depict early primitive human beings with axe living in caves.then Rama depicting beginning of civilization rise of kingdoms. and so on; Kalki is not yet born.[31][better source needed] Various saints, thinkers and authors like Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Helena Blavatsky, Monier Monier-Williams, Nabinchandra Sen, C. D. Deshmukh have associated the Dashavatara with evolution.[citation needed]


The Hindu epics mention an ape-like humanoid species called the vanaras.

The Sanskrit epics of the Hindus mention several exotic creatures including ape-like humanoids.[32][page needed] The Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, an ape-like species (ape-men) with human intelligence, that existed millions of years ago alongside modern humans.[33]

The idea of ape-men is not something that was invented by Darwinists of the nineteenth century. Long before that, the ancient Sanskrit writings were speaking of creatures with apelike bodies, humanlike intelligence, and a low level of material culture. For example, the Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, a species of apelike men that existed millions of years ago. But alongside these ape-men existed humans of our type. The relationship was one of coexistence rather than evolution.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How did the world come into being according to Hinduism?".
  2. ^ a b Jan N. Bremmer (2007). The Strange World of Human Sacrifice. Peeters Publishers. pp. 170–. ISBN 978-90-429-1843-6. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  3. ^ Griffith, Ralph T.H. (Transl.): Rigveda Hymn CXXIX. Creation in Hymns of the Rgveda, Vol. II, 1889-92. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1999.
  4. ^ Sunil Sehgal (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: C-G. Sarup & Sons. p. 401. ISBN 978-81-7625-064-1. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  5. ^ Moorty, J.S.R.L.Narayana (May 18–21, 1995). "Science and spirituality: Any Points of Contact? The Teachings of U.G.Krishnamurti: A Case Study". Krishnamurti Centennial Conference. Retrieved 2008-12-26. Hinduism has its own version of evolution, which agrees with the scientific theory that evolution is from the simple to the complex and from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous
  6. ^ Balaram, P (2004). "Editorial" (PDF). Current Science. 86 (9): 1191–1192.
  7. ^ Coleman, Simon; Carlin, Leslie (2003). "The cultures of creationism: Shifting boundaries of belief, knowledge and nationhood". The Cultures of Creationism: Anti-evolutionism in English-speaking Countries. Ashgate Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 0-7546-0912-X.
  8. ^ a b Gosling, David (June 2011). "Darwin and the Hindu Tradition: Does What Goes Around Come Around?". Zygon. 46 (2): 345–347–348–353. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01177.x.
  9. ^ Science & Religion: A New Introduction, Alister E. McGrath, 2009, p. 140
  10. ^ The creationists: from scientific to intelligent design, Ronald L. Numbers, 2006, p. 420
  11. ^ James C. Carper, Thomas C. Hunt, The Praeger Handbook of Religion and Education in the United States: A-L, 2009, p. 167
  12. ^ A history of Indian philosophy, Volume 1, Surendranath Dasgupta, 1992, p. 10
  13. ^ Georgis, Faris (2010). Alone in Unity: Torments of an Iraqi God-Seeker in North America. Dorrance Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4349-0951-0.
  14. ^ Robert M. Torrance (1 April 1999). Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook. Counterpoint Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-1-58243-009-6. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  15. ^ a b S. N. Sadasivan (1 January 2000). A Social History Of India. APH Publishing. pp. 226–227. ISBN 978-81-7648-170-0. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  16. ^ "Rig Veda: Rig-Veda, Book 10: HYMN XC. Puruṣa". Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Worlds Together Worlds Apart", Fourth Edition, Beginnings Through the 15th century, Tignor, 2014, pg. 5
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Roshen Dalal (5 October 2011). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. pp. 318–319. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  19. ^ Patrick McNamara; Wesley J. Wildman (19 July 2012). Science and the World's Religions [3 Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-0-313-38732-6. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  20. ^ a b Edward Quinn (1 January 2009). Critical Companion to George Orwell. Infobase Publishing. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-4381-0873-5. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  21. ^ "The Creation Myth of the Rig Veda" by W. Norman Brown. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Jun., 1942), pp. 85-98.
  22. ^ Rig Veda 10.72 translation by R.T.H. Griffith (1896)
  23. ^ Merry I. White; Susan Pollak (2 November 2010). The Cultural Transition: Human Experience and Social Transformation in the Third World and Japan. Edited by Merry I White, Susan Pollak. Taylor & Francis. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-415-58826-3. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  24. ^ F. Max Muller (30 June 2004). The Upanishads, Vol I. Kessinger Publishing. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-4191-8641-7. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  25. ^ Fourth Brâhmana in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Fourth Brahmana. Translated by Max Müller as The Upanishads, Part 2 (SBE15) [1879].
  26. ^ S.K. Paul, A.N. Prasad (1 November 2007). Reassessing British Literature: Pt. 1. Sarup & Sons. p. 91. ISBN 978-81-7625-764-0. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  27. ^ Dinkar Joshi (1 January 2005). Glimpses Of Indian Culture. Star Publications. p. 32. ISBN 978-81-7650-190-3. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  28. ^ A survey of Hinduism, Klaus K. Klostermaier, 2007, pp. 495-496
  29. ^ Suresh Chandra (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Sarup & Sons. p. 298. ISBN 978-81-7625-039-9.
  30. ^ Nanditha Krishna (2010). Sacred Animals of India. Penguin Books India. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-14-306619-4.
  31. ^ "Cover Story: Haldane: Life Of A Prodigious Mind". Science Reporter. Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. 29: 46. 1992.
  32. ^ J. K. Trikha, A study of the Ramayana of Valmiki, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1981
  33. ^ a b Londhe, Sushama (2008). A Tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and Wisdom Spanning Continents and Time about India and Her Culture. Pragun Publications. p. 386. For example, the Ramayana speaks of the Vanaras, a species of apelike men that existed millions of years ago.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cavanaugh, Michael A. 1983. A Sociological Account of Scientific Creationism: Science, True Science, Pseudoscience. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.
  • Eve, Harold, "Creationist Movement in Modern America", Twayne Pub, 1990.
  • The Hidden History of the Human Race (The Condensed Edition of Forbidden Archeology), Michael A. Cremo, Torchlight Publishing, May 15, 1999ISBN 0892133252
  • Forbidden Archeology: The Full Unabridged Edition, Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson, Torchlight Publishing; 2Rev Ed edition, January 1998 ISBN 0-89213-294-9
  • Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Making of Hindu Nationalism in India, Meera Nanda, Rutgers University Press, 2003.
  • Explaining Hindu Dharma A Guide for Teachers, N. K. Prinja (ed), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK). pp. 204. Chatham Printers Limited, Leicester, UK, 2001.
  • Forbidden Archeology's Impact: How a Controversial New Book Shocked the Scientific Community and Became an Underground Classic, Michael A. Cremo, Torchlight Publishing, January 1998, ISBN 0-89213-283-3.
  • Hindu Perspectives on Evolution: Darwin, Dharma, and Design (Routledge Hindu Studies Series), C. Mackenzie Brown, Routledge, 2012, ISBN 0-41577-970-7

External links[edit]

Hinduism and Science

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