Hindu views on evolution

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Darwin's theory of evolution has influenced modernist interpretations of Hindu philosophy, especially reincarnation and human development. Hindus have found support for, or ideas foreshadowing evolutionary ideas, in scriptures,[1][2] such as the mytheme of Dashavatara, the incarnations of Vishnu starting with a fish.

Reception in India[edit]

In India, there were minimal references to Darwinism in the 1800s. While elements of Victorian England opposed the idea of Darwinism, Hindus already had the present notion of common ancestry between humans and animals.[3] 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.[4][5]

Spiritual evolution[edit]

Many Hindu reformers compare the Samkhya philosophy, specifically the term parinama and the concept of evolutes, with Darwinism. According to Gosling, Swami Vivekananda based most of his cosmological and biological ideas on Samkhya.[3] Influenced by western thought and esotericism,[6] Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo developed a view on reincarnation in which an involution of the Divine into matter takes place, and the person has to evolve over multiple lives until the Divine gains recognition of its true nature and liberation is attained.[7][1]

Hindu creationism[edit]

According to Hindu creationists all species on earth including humans have "devolved" or come down from a high state of pure consciousness (Brahman). 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.[8] 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."[9] 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.[10][11]


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.[12][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.[13] Michael Cremo, a Hindu creationist, states:

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.[13]


The order of the Dashavatara (ten principal avatars of the god Vishnu) is interpreted to convey Darwin's evolution.[14][15] British geneticist and evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane opined that they are a true sequential depiction of the great unfolding of evolution. According to them, 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 is sometimes taken to mean creatures like Okapi, Archaeopteryx, and others, then comes Vamana, the dwarf hominid. Then Parashurama depicts humans when they were in the caveman stage. And then, Rama depicts the rise of civilization and kingdoms.[16] (Sometimes, when Balarama is taken into account, he is taken to represent the growth of agriculture.) Krishna is taken to symbolize the growth of art and crafts[17] and Buddha is taken to depict the embarking on philosophical and religious thought. Kalki is not yet born.[18][citation not found] 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gosling 2011.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ a b Gosling 2011, p. 345–347-348–353.
  4. ^ Balaram, P (2004). "Editorial" (PDF). Current Science. 86 (9): 1191–1192.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Mackenzie Brown 2020, p. 175.
  7. ^ Mackenzie Brown 2020, p. 124.
  8. ^ Science & Religion: A New Introduction, Alister E. McGrath, 2009, p. 140
  9. ^ The creationists: from scientific to intelligent design, Ronald L. Numbers, 2006, p. 420
  10. ^ James C. Carper, Thomas C. Hunt, The Praeger Handbook of Religion and Education in the United States: A-L, 2009, p. 167
  11. ^ A history of Indian philosophy, Volume 1, Surendranath Dasgupta, 1992, p. 10
  12. ^ J. K. Trikha, A study of the Ramayana of Valmiki, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1981
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Suresh Chandra (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Sarup & Sons. p. 298. ISBN 978-81-7625-039-9.
  15. ^ Nanditha Krishna (2010). Sacred Animals of India. Penguin Books India. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-14-306619-4.
  16. ^ Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India's Scientific Heritage - Google Books. 2006. ISBN 9788187276272.
  17. ^ Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India's Scientific Heritage - Google Books. 2006. ISBN 9788187276272.
  18. ^ "Cover Story: Haldane: Life Of A Prodigious Mind". Science Reporter. Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. 29: 46. 1992.


  • 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.
  • Mackenzie Brown, C., ed. (2020), Asian Religious Responses to Darwinism: Evolutionary Theories in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian Cultural Contexts, Springer Nature

Further reading[edit]

Evolution theory
  • Hindu Perspectives on Evolution: Darwin, Dharma, and Design (Routledge Hindu Studies Series), C. Mackenzie Brown, Routledge, 2012, ISBN 0-41577-970-7
  • C. Mackenzie Brown (ed.)(2020), Asian Religious Responses to Darwinism: Evolutionary Theories in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian Cultural Contexts, Springer Nature
  • 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.
"Vedic creationism"
  • 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
  • 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.
  • The Hidden History of the Human Race (The Condensed Edition of Forbidden Archeology), Michael A. Cremo, Torchlight Publishing, May 15, 1999, ISBN 0892133252
Hindu nationalism
  • Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Making of Hindu Nationalism in India, Meera Nanda, Rutgers University Press, 2003.

External links[edit]

Hinduism and Science

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