Nasadiya Sukta

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The Nāsadīya Sūkta (after the incipit ná ásat, or "not the non-existent"), also known as the Hymn of Creation, is the 129th hymn of the 10th mandala of the Rigveda (10:129). It is concerned with cosmology and the origin of the universe[1] and may present a doctrine of creation ex nihilo.[2]

Nasadiya Sukta begins with the statement: "Then, there was neither existence, nor non-existence." It ponders when, why, and through whom the universe came into being in a contemplative tone, and provides no definite answers. Rather, it concludes that the gods too may not know, as they came after creation, and that even the surveyor of that which has been created, in the highest heaven may or may not know.[3] To this extent, the conventional English title Hymn of Creation is perhaps misleading, since the verse does not itself present a cosmogony or creation myth akin to those found in other religious texts, instead provoking the listener to question whether one can ever know ALL the details of origins of the universe.

Nasadiya Sukta (Hymn of non-Eternity, origin of universe):

There was neither non-existence nor existence then;
Neither the realm of space, nor the sky which is beyond;
What stirred? Where? In whose protection?

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

Darkness there was at first, by darkness hidden;
Without distinctive marks, this all was water;
That which, becoming, by the void was covered;
That One by force of heat came into being;

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

Whether God's will created it, or whether He was mute;
Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not;
The Supreme Brahman of the world, all pervasive and all knowing
He indeed knows, if not, no one knows

Rigveda 10.129 (Abridged, Tr: Kramer / Christian)[4]


The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian darsanas and in Western philology.[5] The hymn, as Mandala 10 in general, is late within the Rigveda Samhita, and expresses thought more typical of later Vedantic philosophy.[6] Even though untypical of the content of the Vedic hymns, it is one of the most widely received portions of the Rigveda. An atheist interpretation sees the Creation Hymn as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism.[7] Astronomer Carl Sagan quoted it in discussing India's "tradition of skeptical questioning and unselfconscious humility before the great cosmic mysteries."[8]

The text begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" (ná ásat āsīt ná u sát āsīt tadânīm), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" (ná mṛtyúḥ āsīt amŕtam ná tárhi). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" ânīt avātám svadháyā tát ékam). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from heat (tapas) was born that one" (tápasaḥ tát mahinâ ajāyata ékam). Verse 4 mentions desire (kāma) as the primal seed, and the first poet-seers (kavayas) who "found the bond of being within non-being with their heart's thought".

Karel Werner describes the author's source for the material as one not derived from reasoning, but a "visionary, mystical or Yogic experience put into words."[9]

Brereton (1999) argues that the reference to the sages searching for being in their spirit is central, and that the hymn's gradual procession from non-being to being in fact re-enacts creation within the listener (see sphoṭa), equating poetic utterance and creation (see śabda).


Nasadiya Sukta consists of seven trishtubhs, although para 7b is defective, being two syllables short,

yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná
"if he has created it; or if not [...]"

Brereton (1999) argues that the defect is a conscious device employed by the rishi to express puzzlement at the possibility that the world may not be created, parallel to the syntactic defect of pada 7d, which ends in a subordinate clause without a governing clause:

só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda
"he verily knows; or maybe he does not know [...]"[10]

Text and translation[edit]

Devanagari Transliteration[11] Translation (Basham 1954)[12]

नासदासीन्नो सदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजो नो व्योमा परो यत् |

किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद्गहनं गभीरम् ॥ १॥

न मृत्युरासीदमृतं न तर्हि न रात्र्या अह्न आसीत्प्रकेतः |

आनीदवातं स्वधया तदेकं तस्माद्धान्यन्न परः किञ्चनास ॥२॥

तम आसीत्तमसा गूहळमग्रे प्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वाऽइदम् |

तुच्छ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिनाजायतैकम् ॥३॥

कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः प्रथमं यदासीत् |

सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन्हृदि प्रतीष्या कवयो मनीषा ॥४॥

तिरश्चीनो विततो रश्मिरेषामधः स्विदासीदुपरि स्विदासीत् |

रेतोधा आसन्महिमान आसन्त्स्वधा अवस्तात्प्रयतिः परस्तात् ॥५॥

को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |

अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥

इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |

यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

1. nā́sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadā́nīṃ
nā́sīd rájo nó víomā paró yát
kím ā́varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann
ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanaṃ gabhīrám

2. ná mr̥tyúr āsīd amŕ̥taṃ ná tárhi
ná rā́triyā áhna āsīt praketáḥ
ā́nīd avātáṃ svadháyā tád ékaṃ
tásmād dhānyán ná paráḥ kíṃ canā́sa

3. táma āsīt támasā gūháḷam ágre
apraketáṃ saliláṃ sárvam ā idám
tuchyénābhú ápihitaṃ yád ā́sīt
tápasas tán mahinā́jāyataíkam

4. kā́mas tád ágre sám avartatā́dhi
mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád ā́sīt
sató bándhum ásati nír avindan
hr̥dí pratī́ṣyā kaváyo manīṣā́

5. tiraścī́no vítato raśmír eṣām
adháḥ svid āsī́d upári svid āsīt
retodhā́ āsan mahimā́na āsan
svadhā́ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt

6. kó addhā́ veda ká ihá prá vocat
kúta ā́jātā kúta iyáṃ vísr̥ṣṭiḥ
arvā́g devā́ asyá visárjanena
áthā kó veda yáta ābabhū́va

7. iyáṃ vísr̥ṣṭir yáta ābabhū́va
yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná
yó asyā́dhyakṣaḥ paramé vyoman
só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda

1. Then even non-existence was not there, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the space beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?
Was there then cosmic fluid, in depths unfathomed?

2. Then there was neither death nor immortality
nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.

3. At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined cosmic water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of knowledge.

4. In the beginning desire descended on it -
that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
know that which is, is kin to that which is not.

5. And they have stretched their cord across the void,
and know what was above, and what below.
Seminal powers made fertile mighty forces.
Below was strength, and over it was impulse.

6. But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

7. Whence all creation had its origin,
the creator, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows — or maybe even he does not know.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-7914-0679-2.
  2. ^ Lisman 2013, p. 218.
  3. ^ "Nasadiya Suktam - The Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda". Archived from the original on 2020-01-30. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  4. ^ * Original Sanskrit: Rigveda 10.129 Archived 2017-05-25 at the Wayback Machine Wikisource;
  5. ^ Wendy Doniger says of this hymn (10.129) "This short hymn, though linguistically simple... is conceptually extremely provocative and has, indeed, provoked hundreds of complex commentaries among Indian theologians and Western scholars. In many ways, it is meant to puzzle and challenge, to raise unanswerable questions, to pile up paradoxes." The Rig Veda. (Penguin Books: 1981) p. 25. ISBN 0-14-044989-2.
  6. ^ "Although, no doubt, of high antiquity, the hymn appears to be less of a primary than of a secondary origin, being in fact a controversial composition levelled especially against the Sāṃkhya theory." Ravi Prakash Arya and K. L. Joshi. Ṛgveda Saṃhitā: Sanskrit Text, English Translation, Notes & Index of Verses. (Parimal Publications: Delhi, 2001) ISBN 81-7110-138-7 (Set of four volumes). Parimal Sanskrit Series No. 45; 2003 reprint: 81-7020-070-9, Volume 4, p. 519.
  7. ^ Patri, Umesh and Prativa Devi. "Progress of Atheism in India: A Historical Perspective Archived 2013-09-25 at the Wayback Machine". Atheist Centre 1940-1990 Golden Jubilee. Vijayawada, February 1990. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
  8. ^ Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage Part 10 - The Edge of Forever Video Link (timestamp-36:40)
  9. ^ Werner, Karel (1977). "Symbolism in the Vedas and Its Conceptualisation". Numen. 24 (3): 223–240. doi:10.2307/3269600. JSTOR 3269600.
  10. ^ Brereton, Joel (1999). "Edifying Puzzlement: Ṛgveda and the Uses of Enigma". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 10 (129).
  11. ^ Karen Thomson and Jonathan Slocum, Rig Veda: a Metrically Restored Text (1994), Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (1954).


  • Lisman, J.W. (2013). Cosmogony, Theogony and Anthropogeny in Sumerian texts. Ugarit-Verlag.

Further reading[edit]