I’m currently working on an introductory interpretation of the Vedic conception of creation for a class. I hope to share my thoughts on this subject later, but for now, here are three amazing suktas discussing Creation (the act and the manifestation), the Great Mystery, and the Deity. Kudos to whoever can guess my angle on it. From the Wendy Doniger translation (sorry!). Interestingly, my youth choir once sang a piece using as a text the Nasadiya. Can’t recall the composer, however.
Nasadiya (Creation Hymn, 10.129)
There was neither non-existence nor existence then.
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.
In whose protection?
Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.
Other than that there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.
The life force that was covered with emptiness,
that One arose through the power of heat.
Desire came upon that One in the beginning,
that was the first seed of mind.
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom
found the bond of existence and non-existence.
Their cord was extended across.
Was there below?
Was there above?
There were seed-placers, there were powers.
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.
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?
Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –
the One who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
or perhaps even He does not know.
“Deus Ignotus” 10.121
1. In the beginning the Golden Embryo arose. Once he was born, he was the one lord of Creation. He held in place the earth and this sky. Who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
2. He who gives life, who gives strength, whose command all the gods, his own, obey; his shadow is immortality – and death. Who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
3. He who by his greatness became the one king of the world that breathes and blinks, who rules over his two footed and four footed creatures – who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
4. He who through his power owns these snowy mountains, and the ocean together with river Rasaa, they say; who has the quarters of sky as his two arms – who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
5. He by whom the awesome sky and the earth were made firm, by whom the dome of the sky was popped up, and the sun, who measured out the middle realm of space – who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
6. He whom the two opposed masses looked with trembling in their hearts, supported by his help, on whom the rising sun shines down – who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
7. When the high waters came, pregnant with embryo that is everything, bring forth fire, he arose from that as one life’s breath of gods. Who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
8. He who in his greatness looked over the waters, which were pregnant with Daksha, bringing forth the sacrifice, he who was the one god among all gods – who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
9. Let him not harm us, he who fathered the earth and created the sky, whose laws are true, who created the high shining waters. Who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?
10. O’ Prajapathi, lord of progeny, no one but you embraces all these creatures. Grant us the desires for which we offer you oblation. Let us be lords of riches.
In Praise of Indra 2.12
The god who had insight the moment he was born, the first who protected the gods with his power of thought, before whose hot breath the two world-halves tremble at the greatness of his manly powers–he, my people, is Indra.
He who made fast the tottering earth, who made still the quaking mountains, who measured out and extended the expanse of the air, who propped up the sky–he, my people, is Indra.
He who killed the serpent and loosed the seven rivers, who drove out the cows that had been pent up by Vala, who gave birth to fire between two stones, the winner of booty in combats–he, my people, is Indra.
He by whom all these changes were rung, who drove the race of Dasas down into obscurity, who took away the flourishing wealth of the enemy as a winning gambler takes the stake–he, my people, is Indra.
He about whom they ask, ‘Where is he?,’ or they say of him, the terrible one, ‘He does not exist,’ he who diminishes the flourishing wealth of the enemy as a gambler does–believe in him! He, my people, is Indra.
He who encourages the weary and the sick, and the poor priest who is in need, who helps the man who harnesses the stones to press Soma, he who has lips fine for drinking–he, my people, is Indra.
He under whose command are horses and cows and villages and all chariots, who gave birth to the sun and the dawn and led out the waters, he, my people, is Indra.
He who is invoked by both of two armies, enemies locked in combat, on this side and that side, he who is even invoked separately by each of two men standing on the very same chariot, he, my people, is Indra.
He without whom people do not conquer, he whom they call on for help when they are fighting, who became the image of everything, who shakes the unshakeable–he, my people, is Indra.
He who killed with his weapon all those who had committed a great sin, even when they did not know it, he who does not pardon the arrogant man for his arrogance, who is the slayer of the Dasyus, he, my people, is Indra.
He who in the fortieth autumn discovered Sambara living in the mountains, who killed the violent serpent, the Danu, as he lay there, he, my people, is Indra.
He, the mighty bull who with his seven reins let loose the seven rivers to flow, who with his thunderbolt in his hand hurled down Rauhina as he was climbing up to the sky, he, my people, is Indra.
Even the sky and the earth bow low before him, and the mountains are terrified of his hot breath; he who is known as the Soma-drinker, with his thunderbolt in his hand, with the thunderbolt in his palm, he, my people, is Indra.
He who helps with his favor the one who presses and the one who cooks, the praiser and the preparer, he for whom prayer is nourishment, for whom Soma is the special gift, he, my people, is Indra.
You who furiously grasp the prize for the one who presses and the one who cooks, you are truly real. Let us be dear to you, Indra, all our days, and let us speak as men of power in the sacrificial gathering.
As a note, both Prajaapathi (Creator of All Beings) and Vishvakarman (Creator of All) are names of Vishnu. Prajaapathi has also been identified with Brahma.