Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?"
The Nasadiya Sukta (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.
|Part of a series on|
The Creation Hymn 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." Werner writes that prior to creation, the Creation Hymn does not describe a state of "nothingness" but rather "That One (tad ekam)" which is, "Spaceless, timeless, yet in its own way dynamic and the Sole Force, this Absolute..."
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).
An atheist interpretation sees the Creation Hymn as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism. Astronomer Carl Sagan quoted it in discussing India's "tradition of skeptical questioning and unselfconscious humility before the great cosmic mysteries."
Nasadiya Sukta consists of seven trishtubhs, although pada 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 if he does not know [...]"
It should be noted that Brereton's interpretation might be guided by the grammar rules applicable to the English language. The Sanskrit language does not follow the same rules.
Nasadiya Sukta with English translation
नासदासीन्नो सदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजो नो व्योमा परो यत् |
न मृत्युरासीदमृतं न तर्हि न रात्र्या अह्न आसीत्प्रकेतः |
तम आसीत्तमसा गूहळमग्रे प्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वाऽइदम् |
कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः प्रथमं यदासीत् |
तिरश्चीनो विततो रश्मिरेषामधः स्विदासीदुपरि स्विदासीत् |
को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |
Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
|—Translated by A. L. Basham|
In popular culture
- In Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan quotes the poem in episode 10, 'The Edge of Forever'.
- The title track of the popular Indian documentary series Bharat Ek Khoj features a rendering of part the Nasadiya Sukta, both in the original Sanskrit, and in Hindi translation.
- Verse 1 is quoted verbatim in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War during the loading screen prior to the missions in the game's second act.
- Kenneth Kramer (January 1986). World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions. Paulist Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-8091-2781-8.
- David Christian (1 September 2011). Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. University of California Press. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-0-520-95067-2.
- Upinder Singh (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0.
- Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-7914-0679-2.
- 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.
- Werner, Karel (1977). "Symbolism in the Vedas and Its Conceptualisation". Numen. 24 (3): 223–240. doi:10.2307/3269600.
- "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.
- Patri, Umesh and Prativa Devi. "Progress of Atheism in India: A Historical Perspective Archived 2014-06-29 at WebCite". Atheist Centre 1940-1990 Golden Jubilee. Vijayawada, February 1990. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan's: Cosmos Part 10 - The Edge of Forever 44:08
- Brereton, Joel (1999). "Edifying Puzzlement: Ṛgveda and the Uses of Enigma". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 10 (129).
- Avinash Sathaye, Translation of Nasadiya Sukta
- "Bharat Ek Khoj - Starting Track". Retrieved 16 May 2012.
- Joel P. Brereton, Edifying Puzzlement: Ṛgveda 10. 129 and the Uses of Enigma, Journal of the American Oriental Society (1999)
- P. T. Raju, The Development of Indian Thought, Journal of the History of Ideas (1952)
- Karel Werner, Symbolism in the Vedas and Its Conceptualisation, Numen (1977)