"Who really knows?
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?"
RV, 10:129-6 
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.
The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian darshan and in Western philology.
The Creation Hymn begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" (ná ásat ?s?t ná u sát ?s?t tadân?m), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" (ná m?tyú? ?s?t am?tam ná tárhi). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" ân?t av?tám svadháy? tát ékam). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from heat (tapas) was born that one" (tápasa? tát mahinâ aj?yata ékam). Verse 4 mentions desire (k?ma) 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 spho?a), equating poetic utterance and creation (see ?abda).
According to one source, the hymn is undoubtedly late within the Rigveda, and expresses thought more typical of later Indian philosophy.
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 v? dadhé yádi v? 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 a?gá veda yádi v? ná véda
- "he verily knows; or if he does not know [...]"
Nasadiya Sukta with English translation
? ? ? ? |
? ? |
? ? ? ? |
? ? |
? ? ?
Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?
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.
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 heat.
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 kin to that which is not.
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.
But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the Devas (gods) themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows - or maybe even he does not know.
||--Translated by A. L. Basham
In popular culture
- ^ 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 Skhya theory." Ravi Prakash Arya and K. L. Joshi. ?gveda Sa?hit?: 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: ?gveda 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 2012.
- ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20160402152055/http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=cosmos-carl-sagan&episode=s01e10
- Joel P. Brereton, Edifying Puzzlementgveda 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)
Carl Sagan's 'COSMOS' mentioning Nasadiya Sukta.YouTube link