- THE VEDAS
The oldest of the Hindu scriptures is the Rig Veda, presumed to date back to eternity by Hindu puritans and to BC 3000-1500 by conservative historians. This Veda, the first of four, is actually a series of poetic incantations by the ancient nomadic tribe of Aryans. (Believed nomadic because there is no mention of a grand temple or a house, only of cattle and food and fire places for worship – just as the Jews of Old Testament can only think of portable tents with golden pillars for their tabernacles. Most of those incantations, as if they are the forerunners of psalms, are aimed at getting material help from elemental gods in securing booties like cattle from battles with the tribes of indigenous enemies called Dasyus – so much like the prayers that must have echoed in the makeshift churches in the Americas when white men were determined to eliminate native Indians and to steal their land and cattle
The Vedic chants were addressed to what you might call the elemental Gods – Indra, the philandering and powerful God of earlier times who wielded the thunderbolt, Fire or Agni, the immediately accessible God who could be expected to faithfully relay the offerings of the sacrifice to other Gods, Air or Vayu, the other disernible though not visible God, Rudra, the fierce God of the storm , Adityas – Suns of several seasons and times –, Savitr, Vishnu etc. , Ashwins, the twin horse-headed Gods and, not too surprisingly, Mithra, the ubiquitous God found across regions of same latitudinal width from Greece through Rome, Iran and Northern India. There are also other Gods who make cameo appearances.
There is no mention of any of the later anthropomorphic Gods of the scriptures except of Vishnu. This Vedic Vishnu, who is one of the twelve aspects of Aditya the Sun, has a mere character role in the Vedas. He has little resemblance to the supreme God Vishnu who was to come later into Hindu beliefs. However, in Bhagavad Gita, another much celebrated scripture, Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, does say that among the many Adityas (suns) the Vedas, he is Vishnu (Gita 10.21). A Vedic verse that says allegorically that this Vishnu (sun) measured the earth in three steps (dawn, noon and evening) is adopted in a story where the scriptural Vishnu, in the disguise of a dwarf named Vamana, measured the whole universe in two steps and then for the third steip stamped down a genial demon king Bali into the netherworld so that his spreading popularity did not end up in the dethroning of Indra, the favoured god-king. Some say that another God that makes occasional appearance, Rudra, alludes to Shiva of the later scriptures, which is an unfounded claim. Vedic Rudra is the God of storm, father of Marut the wind, and a dispenser of medicines
There is much philosophy in the Vedas (Rig Veda in particular), advice against gambling and womanizing, solace for wives who lost their husbands in battle and Confucius-like words of advice intermingled with solicitation to Gods we mentioned. Interestingly, there is also a couple of verses where a woman chants for the elimination of her mean co-wife. One thing that is common to the nature of all these semi-personal Gods to whom sacrifices are offered is that they all rejoice in Soma, the pressed (apparently not brewed or distilled) juice of some hallucinogenic plant. Indra, naturally, is the champion in imbibing Soma, and he alone gets totally inebriated with it. Others just enjoy it much like another of the many sacrificial offerings. Interestingly, there are verses that offer sacrifices to Soma as if it were also a God.
In ancient India, there is no such word as one that means religion. Dharma, which was later translated as religion by Western scholars actually meant virtue combined with observance of one’s duty. The word Hindu was first used by trading Arabs, probably rather derisively to refer to the people who settled around the Sindhu River, just as North Indians call Southerners Madrasis and the latter return the compliment with such phrases as Vadakkans (Northerner) with a taint of contempt. Vedas probably started out as spontaneous songs of piety and appeal for security and special favours, but later transformed into symbols of knowledge and power of the priestly community just as TaNaKh was produced for the sole benefit of Jewish priesthood (Moses’ brother Aaron and his progeny to begin with) as a favoured people of God. The difference is that while the favouritism of gods towards Brahmins sustained them in high financial and social status through centuries and this privilege is not yet entirely abated, all that the Jews received in return from being the favoured race of their God was persecution from God as well as men through the same centuries.
The Vedic incantations and promise of sacrificial offerings to these multiple Gods were interspersed with occasional philosophical musings, eulogy of austerity and ethical exhortations, even paeans to the joy of love and sex. Claims regarding the creation and sustenance of the world by a God or Gods and the need for praising this God or Gods without interruption had a few dissenting voices among the verbal avalanche.
One version of creation in the Rig Veda goes thus:
These Brahmanaspati produced with blast and smelting, like a Smith, Existence, in an earlier age of Gods, from Non−existence sprang.
Existence, in the earliest age of Gods, from Non−existence sprang.
Thereafter were the regions born. This sprang from the Productive Power Earth sprang from the Productive Power the regions from the earth were born.
(Rig.Veda 10. LXXII.2-4.Trans. R.T.H. Griffith (1826-1906); www.hinduwebsite.com/sacredscripts/)
The reference to blast and smelting and the productive power energises a few well-meaning Hindus to claim that the Vedas always knew of the Big-bang origin of the universe of which modern science learnt barely a century ago. Hindus rarely have a quarrel with modern science; they can always find a verse or two among their numerous scriptures that vaguely hints at one scientific theory or another. “Scientifically proved” is a constant claim you hear from priests, Astrologers, self-styled Babas and laymen. The claims may be as bogus as Zakir Naik’s claims of science in Quran, or of Dr. James Frederick Ivey that “the ways in which the application of science, especially modern physics, quantum mechanics, and relativity have important applications in our thinking about God, the Bible, and Judeo-Christianity” – but the believers have no qualms about repeating the refrain that any truth in science can be found in their scripture. You are very unlikely to hear a Hindu preacher, the Guru or the Baba, denouncing science itself while cursing materialism over an electronic microphone, having come down first class in a Dreamliner from his palace-like Ashram in India or the United States, transported from the airport to an LED-decorated stage in a Rolls Royce and seated on shiny synthetic cushions. Instead, he would speak of ‘vibrations’, resonance of the word Ohm through millennia, Brahamanda, the egg-shaped universe and paramanu, the smallest matter – atom or even a quark. The multiple theories of Hinduism, devoid of any inflexible dogma can fit into a church or a mosque except when confronted by blatant bigotry of Abrahamic religions.
In a verse that vaguely recalls the morbidity of crucifixion and the fate of the “Living Christ’ thereafter, Rig Veda tells us that real creation began with a pre-existent humanoid called Purusa (literally, the masculine being).
They balmed as victim on the grass Purusa born in earliest time. With him the Deities and all Sadhyas and Rsis sacrificed.
From that great general sacrifice the dripping fat was gathered up. He formed the creatures of−the air, and animals both wild and tame.
From that great general sacrifice Rig and Sama−(Vedic) hymns were born: Therefrom were spells and charms produced; the Yajus had its birth from it.
(Note : Rig, Sama and Yajur are the first three noble Vedas. The fouth, Atharva Veda, is considered disreputable.)
From it were horses born, from it all cattle with two rows of teeth: From it were generated kine, from it the goats and sheep were born.
When they divided Purusa how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced.
The Moon was gendered from his mind, and from his eye the Sun had birth; Indra and Agni from his mouth were born, and Vayu from his breath.
Forth from his navel came mid−air the sky was fashioned from his head, Earth from his feet, and from his car the regions. Thus they formed the worlds.
Seven fencing−sticks had he, thrice seven layers of fuel were prepared, When the Gods, offering sacrifice, bound, as their victim, Purusa.
Gods, sacrificing, sacrificed the victim these were the earliest holy ordinances.
The Mighty Ones attained the height of heaven, there where the Sidhyas, Gods of old, are dwelling. (Rig.10. 8. HYMN XC. )
This verse that hints of human sacrifice tells us that the humans were created with caste in their very origin. Earth sky and the celestial spheres were created after humans were dropped into their respective caste moulds.
Though Purusa (often spelt Purusha) simply means a full-grown man, the sacrificial victim in this verse was a superman like Jesus Christ who was also sacrificed and his blood and flesh are still symbolically passed around as a sacrament and savoured by the pious in churches of all denominations across the world. Whether this verse refers to an actual human sacrifice that was held some time in the Vedic period is a moot point. If it was, then the sacrificial victim, a God among men (the comparison with Jesus glares) was believed to have gone to heaven. Perhaps the story was later interpolated into the Vedic package to show that caste system was not a new invention by Manu the law-giver, or by the authors of such epics as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
If the so-called Big Bang Theory in Rig Veda was the whim of one of the poets of the verses, another poet has a different explanation for creation
“SAVITAR (another seasonal name for the Sun) fixed the earth with bands to bind it, and made heaven steadfast where no prop supported. Savitar milked, as ’twere a restless courser, air, sea bound fast to what no foot had trodden.
Well knoweth Savitar, O Child of Waters, where ocean, firmly fixt, o’erflowed its limit.
Thence sprang the world, from that uprose the region: thence heaven spread out and the wide earth expanded.
Then, with a full crowd of Immortal Beings, this other realm came later, high and holy.
First, verily, Savitar’s strong−pinioned Eagle was born: and he obeys his law for ever. As warriors to their steeds, kine to their village, as fond milk giving cows approach their youngling, As man to wife, let Savitar come downward to us, heaven’s bearer, Lord of every blessing.
(Rig Veda, 10. Part 11. HYMN CXLIX. Savitar).
In classic Rig Veda, which Hindus believe to be the fountainhead of all spiritual and scientific knowledge, there is at least one verse that challenges the popular concept of God and creation. Thus one of the creation theories in Rig Veda is openly skeptic:
Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non−existent. Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.
Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The Gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.
(Rig Veda, 10.10.129)
These famous lines are no prayer, but a rational thought – the first recorded philosophical enquiry into the very existence or significance of a God. Interpolated perhaps centuries after the nomadic Aryans began to chant verses and make sacrifices for their safety and acquisition of booties in their battles against the indigenous people they called Dasas or Dasyus. The expression, Dasa, later came to mean slave.
Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas that is looked down upon by the other three for its references to witchcraft and prescription for medicinal concoctions, speaks of Time as the creator of all. Time is treated philosophically and allegorically, and although the description is somewhat obscure, I see this as the best among the theories on creation in any Hindu scripture. There is no sudden uprising of a fully developed universe here. Shorn of all verbal ticker-tapes, the verse actually speaks of cosmic evolution of the universe as a function of Time which is vaguely along the lines of what modern science suggests.
Time, the steed, runs with seven reins (rays), thousand−eyed, ageless, rich in seed.
The seers, thinking holy thoughts, mount him, all the beings (worlds) are his wheels. With seven wheels does this Time ride, seven naves has he, immortality is his axle. He carries hither all these beings (worlds).
Time, the first god, now hastens onward. …. He carries away all these beings (worlds); they call him Time in the highest heaven. He surely did bring hither all the beings (worlds), he surely did encompass all the beings. Being their father, he became their son; there is, verily, no other force higher than he.
Time begot yonder heaven, Time also (begot) these earths. That which was, and that which shall be, urged forth by Time, spreads out. Time created the earth, in Time the sun burns. In Time are all beings, in Time the eye looks abroad. In Time mind is fixed, in Time breath (is fixed), in Time names (are fixed); when Time has arrived all these creatures rejoice. In Time tapas (creative fervour) is fixed; in Time the highest (being is fixed); in Time Brahma is fixed; Time is the lord of everything, he was the father of Prajâpati.
By him this (universe) was urged forth, by him it was begotten, and upon him this (universe) was founded. Time, truly, having become the Brahma supports Parameshthin (the highest lord). Time created the creatures (prajâh), and Time in the beginning (created) the lord of creatures (Prâjapati); the self−existing Kasyapa and the tapas (creative fervour) from Time were born.
From Time the waters did arise, from Time the Brahma, the tapas (creative fervour), the regions (of space did arise). Through Time the sun rises, in Time he goes down again.Through Time the wind blows, through Time (exists) the great earth; the great sky is fixed in Time. In Time the son (Pragâpati) begot of yore that which was, and that which shall be.
From Time the Riks (Rig Veda) arose, the Yagus (Yajur Veda) was born from Time; Time put forth the sacrifice, the imperishable share of the gods. Upon Time the Gandharvas and Apsarases are founded, upon Time the worlds (are founded), in Time this Angiras and Atharvan rule over the heavens.
Having conquered this world and the highest world, and the holy (pure) worlds (and) their holy divisions; having by means of the brahma (spiritual exaltation) conquered all the worlds, Time, the highest God, forsooth, hastens onward.
Atharva Veda, XIX 53-54 COSMOGONIC AND THEOSOPHIC HYMNS − PART II 175)
You would notice that there is no mention of a personal God in this description of creation – Time is the creator. Isn’t that what Charles Darwin(1809-1882) proposed with his theory of evolution?
Vedas were too complex and inscrutable for the common man. They were in simple enough language – perhaps local dialects of the time – but an impression was created that they were not for the uninitiated . Naturally, those who came to be known as the lowest castes – Shudras born from Purusa’s despicable anatomy called feet – were forbidden not only to recite the Vedas, but also to hear them being recited.
Manusmriti, the largest compendium of caste-based laws ever written – its disputed date of origin stretches from second century BC to second century AD – says that to teach Veda to a Shudra is a sin, the verses must not be chanted in the presence of low-castes nor should they learn or recite them. The priests, who later came to identify themselves as privileged and God-beloved Brahmins, kept the verses close to their hearts, passing them on from generation to generation. Orthodox Brahmins claim that this treatise was written by Brahma the creator himself, thus dating it to the first yuga, the era of truth (Satya Yuga) several million human years ago. However, it is clear that it was written after coins became a currency of financial dealings, because for several punishments, fines are prescribed according to the severity of the crime in a currency called Panas – which is probably what became Annas, sixteenth fractions of a rupee till very recent times..
Like nearly many Hindu scriptures, Manusmriti subscribe to the concept of a cyclical universe:
“. Thus he, the imperishable one, by (alternately) waking and slumbering, incessantly revivifies and destroys this whole movable and immovable (creation). (Manu 1.57)
Manu uses a whole chapter to describe Creation and to elaborate its finer details. Since much of this is also what appears in Bhagavata Purana as well as Mahabharata, we will leave off the details at this point. The introduction to Creation is interesting:
This universe existed in the shape of darkness, subtle, devoid of distinctive marks, incomprehensible to reason, wholly immersed in deep slumber.
Then the self-born God, indiscernible and subtle, made all elements and energy dispelling the darkness . (“Let there be light”)
Thus the one who can only be perceived with the internal organs – the indiscernible, subtle and eternal God became visible.
If you were a clever Baba like late Chinmayananda (a Shudra Menon, by the way, who, like myself, is strictly banned against learning or reciting the Vedas by Manu) well-versed in the Big=Bang Theory, you could compare this last stanza with the transformation of the universe from opaque plasma-state to visible state some five million years ago and proclaim that our sages always knew it!
He first created the water and placed the energy (or seeds) of his own body in it. This seed became a golden egg, as brilliant as the sun. Within that egg he himself took birth as the Great Grandfather Brahma, the creator of the rest of the whole world.
This divine being resided inside this egg for a whole year; then by meditation he cleaved that egg in two. With those two halves he made the heaven and earth; between them he created the eight permanent earthly dimensions (directions).
Then out of himself, he drew forth the real and imaginary mind, self-awareness and self-pride. From the same soul, he created the three gunas (human traits – Good, Passionate and darkish) and the five senses . He created all beings with little particles of himself.
Further description of Creation includes anatomy of humans and other beings –a-la – Aristotle, and a detailed description of Time.
Although the Vedas do not explicitly prevent women from performing the rituals, Manu does.
“”Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.”” (Manusmriti 5. 158)
Disdain for the fourth caste and women is interspersed with noble thoughts and pieces of advice for women. Crimes and punishments are described in detail; capital punishment is reserved for lower castes who killed Brahmins and Shudra men who slept with higher-caste women. As in the Bible or Quran, there are many dos and don’t-dos, detailed admonition on personal hygiene, observance of menstrual periods of women. the right time to procreate and the wrong days to make love.
Brahmins are to baptize their babies on the eighth day of birth with a name that is holy, Kshatriyas with one of valour, Vyshyas – the third cast – with something related to their trade, but the Shudra babies are to be named with something contemptible. Brahmins are not to eat in the presence of their wives, and must not spend too much time with any women – including their mothers or sisters since flesh is weak. Women do not deserve freedom at any stage of their lives. To mitigate the shock generated by such decrees against females, Manu also says that a house where women are not respected is doomed. For the cursed Shudras , there is no such mitigation.
Modern India is democratic and officially egalitarian, but the humiliatingly discriminatory laws laid down by Manu (referred to derisively as Manu-vad by the champions of the lower castes) rule the mindset of a good section of upper-caste Hindus till today.
Manusmriti is an unadulterated manifesto of Brahmanism, just as the Old Testament is of Judaism. Brahmin, says Manu, is the lord of all creation because of the excellence of his birth – not by training or by chosen profession, as claimed by Hindu apologetics.
“As the Brahmana sprang from Brahma’s mouth, as he was the first-born, and as he bears the Veda, he is by right the Lord of all Creation (1.93)
“On account of his pre-eminence, on account of the superiority of his birth, on account of his observance of the laws, and on account of his anointment, Brahmana is the lord of all castes.”
To the modern man, Manu’s theory of creation might sound as ridiculous as the six-day miracle of the Bible. Yet in Manusmriti, with all its flaws, there is no call to wanton killing of other tribes, or of smiting the non-believers with the edge of a sword. Brutal punishments such as death by stoning, beheading etc. do not find place in Manu’s statute. However, a Shudra who derides a Brahmin would have his tongue cut out (8.270). Manu does not call for the annihilation of the atheists and rationalists, just for excluding them from funeral and other assemblies. To that extent, though not a noble scripture, yet Manusmriti is a little more civilized than the Bible or its later derivative, the Quran.
Upanishads are supposed to be interpretations of the Vedas, which they mostly are not. They are philosophical musings of wiser men who appeared on the theological scene well into the Gregorian (AD) era. Though many of them pay formal respects to the Vedas, their thought processes are more sophisticated; their philosophies are less material-centred.
While the Vedas enjoy great veneration and can be heard being chanted in sacrifices funded by local governments to propitiate rain gods during periods of drought, Bhagavad Gita, listed among the Upanishads, is supposed to be the words of Krishna (recorded, as one is expected to presume, by Vyasa) who proclaims himself the Supreme Godhead (making no reference to Vishnu, whose incarnation he was supposed to be). Krishna says that the flowery speeches of the Vedas are for the greedy who desire of material things. (Gita Chapter 2, 42-44). There is no need to read Veda for the knowledgeable any more than there is a need for a reservoir in the midst of a flood of waters (G. 2.46). In the next chapter, though, the same God says that those who do not observe the cycle of sacrifices as prescribed in the Vedas fall into an abyss of sin (G. 3. 16) and that he himself was the creator of the Vedas (G. 15.15).
Of Creation, Krishna has this to say:
“By me, in my unmanifested form, this universe is pervaded. All beings are in me, but I am not in them. Yet everything that is created does not rest in me. Although I am the maintainer of all living things, and even though I am everywhere, my Self is the very source of Creation. As the mighty wind, blowing everywhere, takes its rest in ethereal space, similarly all beings rest in me (after their work is done). At the end of the millennium (of the Gods, obviously) every physical being enters into my nature, and at the beginning of the next millennium with my power I create again.” (G. 9.4-7)
Though Krishna’s super ego oversteps the other concepts of creation, it still conforms to the cyclical theory.
Aitreya Upanishad has this detailed, anatomical view on creation:
In the beginning all this verily was Atman (The Supreme Soul) only, one and without a second. There was nothing else that winked. He bethought Himself: “Let Me now create the worlds.”
He created these worlds: Ambhah, the world of water−bearing clouds, Marichi, the world of the solar rays, Mara, the world of mortals and Ap,
the world of waters. Yon is Ambhah, above heaven; heaven is its support. The Marichis are the interspace. Mara is the earth. What is underneath is Ap.
He bethought Himself: “Here now are the worlds. Let Me now create world−guardians.” Right from the waters He drew forth the Person in the form of a lump and gave Him a shape.
One should admit that this Atman did more detailed work on his creation that YHWH did on Adam and his wife. Observe the meticulous craftsmanship in carving out a human shape from the lump:.
He brooded over Him (meaning the lump which was given shape). From Him, so brooded over, the mouth was separated out, as with an egg; form the mouth, the organ of speech; from speech, fire, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the nostrils were separated out; from the nostrils, the organ of breath; from breath, air, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the eyes were separated out; from the eyes, the organ of sight; from sight, the sun, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the ears were separated out; from the ears, the organ of hearing; from hearing, the quarters of space, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the skin was separated out; from the skin, hairs, the organ of touch; from the hairs, plants and trees, air the controlling deity of the organs.
Then the heart was separated out; from the heart, the organ of the mind; from the mind, the moon, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the navel was separated out; from the navel, the organ of the apana; from the apana, Death, Varuna, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the virile member was separated out; from the virile member, semen, the organ of generation; from the semen, the waters, the controlling deity of the organ.
(Aitreya Upanishad, Chap 1. Part, Mantra 1-4. Esamsmriti.com, 2011)
The next session tells us how the Gods were plunged into the ocean, where they were subjected to hunger and thirst. They asked the creator for an abode to stay in and then eat food.
The Gods were given a cow, and then a horse, which they did not find good enough abodes. Finally, they were given man, inside whom they agreed to reside. Fire entered the man’s mouth and became the organ of speech; air became breath in his nostrils. Sun entered the eyes; the deities of four sections of space became hearing. Moon became the mind of man, plants and trees became his hair (Just as it happened in Egyptian mythology – so you know why some Egyptians and lighter-skinned Indians look alike!). The God of death entered the navel, and that of water entered the man’s penis and became semen. Thus reside Gods in human.
That God resides in everyone is a Hindu belief. ‘Tat-Twam-Asi’ (That you are) is a philosophical dictum you find displayed outside the walls of many Hindu temples. The belief that God exists in everything, (though it amounts to a contradiction of Krishna’s claim in Gita 9.4) extends to animate and inanimate objects. A Hindu invited to receive an award on stage would touch the floor of the stage to his forehead in a pious gesture before climbing it; he or she might put a garland on his new motor car before driving it, or a bicycle before he rides it, prostrate before his teacher, his parents and even before a movie or television actor who is called upon to hand him a monetary award or a certificate. The phrase of greeting, Namaste (Greeting-to-you), is rather exaggeratedly interpreted to mean ‘I greet the divinity in you’. God is supposed to be in every object of His creation. This further extends to such sayings as ‘children are Gods’, ‘Teacher is God’, ‘Parents are Gods’ and even “Husband is a woman’s visible God.’ Asked why Sita was made to touch the feet of her husband Rama every time they came face to face in their jungle sojourn, Late Ramanand Sagar, the producer of the television Magnum Opus Ramayan, proudly told his audience that in his household, all womenfolk touch the feet of the men when they wake up in the morning. Sagar won an applause from his audience, which consisted mostly of women.
Probably men are believed to be Gods because they carry lingam, believed to be the tool of creation.
- CREATION OF GODS : THE HINDU TRINITY
Not being able to get hold of the glorified but obscure Vedas, and not satisfied with the obscurantism of the Vedic scholars, lesser men invented personalized Gods. As everywhere else in the world, each race and each tribe in every race invented its own God – usually fashioned after a heroic, kindly or even merciless and dictatorial ancestor. In the beginning, these Gods competed and fought among themselves for pre-eminence. Sometimes the competitions were results of racial or territorial wars; and at other times men fought for saving the fame and dignity or proving the superiority of their own one-and-only God – which people still do in the twenty-first century. Biblical wars, wars in Mahabharata and Ramayana, Quranic battles – all represent wars of the kind. Religious scriptures and bloody violent battles are inseparable.
At some period before the advent of the Christian era, the three major Gods of Hindus – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – arrived at a truce of sorts and re-allocated individual departments to themselves in a spirit of cooperation. Brahma became the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destroyer. Destruction automatically led to the repetition of the process, thus they complimented each other and justified the ancient concept of a recycling universe which several centuries later Stephen Hawking was to describe as the No-Boundary-condition. However, these three Gods often overstepped into each other’s realm of authority.
Each of the the Hindu Trinity or Trimurthy – had his own purana meaning biographical epic, strengthening one’s claim to superiority among the threesome, and each has His own version of how creation came into being.
Brahmapurana, the story of Brahma, from whose name the universe got its Sanskrit name Brahmanda (Brahma’s egg or, if you will, the egg-shaped universe) describes creation just a little differently from the Manu version:
In the beginning there was water everywhere and the Brahma, the divine essence, slept in the water in the form of Vishnu. Then there emerged a golden egg. Brahma was born inside that egg, and resided in it for a whole (Brahma’s, not human) year. Then the egg split in two. The upper half became heaven, and the lower half earth. Skies, eight directions, time, speech and senses were created in both heaven and earth.
From the powers of his mind, Brahma created seven sages and God Rudra, and, (possibly as an afterthought, an additional sage named ) Santhakumara.
Brahma’s mind continued to create, giving birth to a man and a woman – Manu and his wife, Shatarupa (woman with a hundred forms). All humans were born from Manu, (and with little regard for his wife’s role), humans came to be called manavas (or men).
(Brahmapurana, the chapter named the Forest of Time (Nimisharanya)
Note that here, Brahma creates by the power of his mind – by a mental stimulation or imagination, or a kind of holographic projection from his mind. Mayans of the South and Central America as well as many Australian aborigine tribes believed that creation happened by divine dreams. Author John Jackson’s book, ‘Brahma Dreaming,’ is an interesting, though not very bonafide, collection of Hindu mythologies where everything happens in Brahma’s dreams. Hindus do subscribe to the belief that everything that happens around is maya – illusion.
Actually, Brahma conceived, but it was his son Vishwakarma, who did the mud-and-stone masonry that did the crafting. He not only created the world, but also the beautiful mansions of the Gods, particularly the palace of Indra, and of the multi-trillionnaire Kubera and possibly his airplane called Vimana. which is the modern word for airplanes in the languages of India. His son, Nala, poet Valmiki tells us, was the architect-structural engineer of the long bridge built built across the ocean from India to Lanka.
We will refrain from going on to who begat whom from that point. Interestingly, man begetting man, with no mention of the woman’s role, appears in all stories of creation – Abrahamic or Hindu, Mayan or Australian, Egyptian or Greek.
Maha Bhagavata, which is the story of Vishnu, who has the most significant role in maintaining the universe, tells the story more differently with Brahma taking on a subordinate role. Thus:
The universe has a cyclical existence that runs through a period known as Maha yuga (the Great Era) which adds up to 4,320,000,000 human years.
At the end of each of these Maha yugas, there happens a gargantuan deluge (which, unlike Noah’s flood which would be like a puddle in comparison,) engulfs the entire universe – Earth, sun and moon, stars, sky and all are annihilated.
During this period Vishnu, the Supreme God, slumbers on his serpent-bed , his activities totally suspended, and himself absorbed in blissful self-awareness. He thus spends a thousand chatur-yugas 0r 4.320 billion years (which, to the great joy of Hindu zealots, compares with – and hence ‘scientifically proves’ – the modern estimate of the life of the solar system).
Thereupon Vishnu looks within himself and finds the whole universe in its latent form. Stimulated by the power of Rajas (the second, and the lesser of the three passions- Satva, Rajas and Tamas) passion for action, a lotus bud emerges from his navel. Within that bud appears Brahma, the creator. Not knowing why he was there, and how he happened to appear within the lotus, this Brahma squeezes himself into the hollow of the stalk of the lotus and goes down till he reaches the dark empty space (a black hole?). He finds nothing and feels lost; so he climbs back into the lotus and enters into a meditative trance.
There he finds the magnificent form of Vishnu resting on the coiled bed of the great serpent Adisesha (his name meaning Beginning and the End) of thousand heads. ‘There he sees (presumably a miniature model of ) the entire universe, Sun, Moon and the Stars, the mountains and the oceans, including himself coming out of the lotus that emerged from the naval of the smiling Lord Vishnu.
On being commissioned and encouraged by Vishnu, Brahma begins the creation of the universe which was already latent within him, first dividing his lotus seat into three worlds.
(condensed from Maha Bhagavata, Skanda III, Chapter 10.)
Thus began a new Yuga or an era that averages 4,320,000 human years. A thousand such eras is Brahma’s day, thus making 4.32 Billion years. The last of such yoga’s, which is the current era, is Kali yuga, destined to end up in another deluge and destruction.
5. LINGAM, THE REAL TOOL OF CREATION
“The study of phallicism is the study of Religion.” Thus wrote author George Ryley Scott (1886-1980) in the introduction to his scholarly work Phallic Worship – A History of Sex and Sexual Rites, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Norsemen and far-away Mayans had at least one God with a large generative organ. Large Penis signified greater power. It is a pity that gods of such tantalizing power and incredible anatomy were put away in the dustbins of mythology by Jesus Christ with no such claim, also by Prophet Muhammad of Islam with some claim of his own.
Of the penile prowess of Prophet Muhammad, a Hadith says:
Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day andnight and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?”Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” AndSa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven). (Sahih al-Bukhari,, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268)
It is said that ancient Jews would greet each other with affection by mutual penile shake instead of a handshake. Bible tells us how Abraham made sure that his servant would keep his promise by placing his (the servant’s) hands únder his thighs.’ (Gen. 24:2-9). Testimony by Testicles was considered sacred and irrevocable.
Man’s penis was a convenient proxy to his head. To Jews, the Sliced-off foreskin symbolically represented sacrifice of one’s head to God. Bible tells us how David presented Saul with a hundred foreskins of Philistine soldiers . The foreskins represented the severed heads of the soldiers. In return, he received Saul’s daughter. (1 Samuel 18: 20-25)
To most Hindu worshippers, the Shivalingam is a simplified image of Shiva himself, nothing more. Hindus rarely attribute any sexual connotation to lingam worship. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It was in a missionary book that I learnt that Shivalingam had any obscene significance at all.” As a child taught to worship at the nearby temple after a bath every morning before starting for school, I had believed that lingam meant a stone image of God.
Lingapurana (Epic of the Lingam) is the life history, ideology, theories, predictions, dream-interpretations and legends of Lord Shiva, the third of the Hindu Trinity. While reasonably in agreement with the theory of creation in Vishnu’s biography, Lingapurana carries a terrific twist in the tail. It goes thus.:
After the creation was successfully achieved, and humans were on their own hunting, sowing and harvesting routine, demons were on their mischiefs and the demigods lived in fear of the demons and totally dependent on the unconcealed racial bias of Vishnu, and thus all was well with the universe, Brahma once went visiting Vishnu who was, as was his wont, reclining on the serpentine bed in the midst of an ocean of milk, being nursed and having his legs massaged by one his wives, Goddess Lakshmi.
“Come in, Brahma, my son, and how are you?” greeted Vishnu.
Brahma took offence, being belittled as if he were a little boy in the presence of beautiful Lakshmi. He said: “I did all the creation, including the thankless job of creating you, and how dare you call me your son?”
“You were born into a lotus that sprung out of my Naabhi according to my desire, so you are my son,” retorted a peeved Vishnu.
Now, the Sanskrit word Naabhi could also mean groin. It is translated as naval in this context to be in keeping with the anti-sex pretense of the alleged Abrahamic mlechhas or untouchables, and also giving due respect to the presence of the venerable Laxmi.
The egg-or-chicken argument got heated since the logic of mutual creation was incomprehensible even to the two divinities. The argument was who created whom, and hence who was the greatest. It came to a stage when the divine beings would come to nuclear blows, which would end up in the annihilation of the world they together built over a period of 4.32 billion years.
Suddenly, there was a flash of lightning, and as if by a movie-camera trick, a huge luminous pillar appeared between them. It appeared to stand rooted well below the earth, and to reach out beyondthe clouds. The enraged contestants were stunned for a divine moment which could be many human years; then they calmed down and agreed to investigate what appeared to be a common challenge. By mutual consent, Vishnu mounted his eagle Garuda, and went down to see the origin of this pillar. Brahma mounted his swan and went higher and higher to reach for its top. Several human years of exploration later, they both returned to earth to exchange notes. Vishnu confessed he could not fathom the depth of the penile pillar. Brahma lied that he found its height. However, they both conceded that the pillar, which they recognized as Shiva’s lingam, was more than what they could ever measure up to, thus conceding the greatness to Shiva. Brahma, having proved himself a liar, lost the status of being worshiped on a regular basis – which is why you rarely find a temple dedicated to him.
The moral of this story is simple : To those who are believers in the power of Shiva, the other two Gods do not even measure up to Shiva’s penile member, the lingam. I suppose the story also obliquely tells the power of Parvati, Shiva’s wife, for managing her sex life with such a massive organ. In an ode dedicated to the Goddess, supposedly written by sage Adi Shankara (8th Century AD) , describes Parvati’s Naabhi as the bed of her hairline that starts from beneath her breasts; the pit where Kamadeva – the God of love – displays his power of enticement and is the pleasure-house of the Goddess of coitus Rati, and the pit where Shiva, (the God with the lingam), finds the consummation of all his divine austerities. (Saundarya Lahri, Verse 79). This book of verses addressed to Shva’s wife Parvati could scarcely be written by Shankara, a sage who had taken the vow of total abstinence, but is honoured as such by the pious, and sung by honourable ladies presumably without really comprehending the meaning.
However, Hindus as a rule do not regard Shiva’s lingam as a penis (usually described as phallus, because of its divinity), but as a simplified idol of Shiva himself. Ease to create with any medium – clay, wood or stone – is its plus point and cause for popularity, not its erotic suggestion. It is a black cylinder with a domed top – as opposed to the penile shapes that Kanamara Matsuri festival revellers worship in Kawasaki, Japan. There the Japanese fly balloons, hang temple bells shaped like penis with its glans thrusting and testacles in place. Girls suck the rounded and knobbed ice-cream, relishing the craftsmanship of the organ.
The Shiva lingam, on the other hand, sits in the middle of a square channel with a long outlet on one side – meant for draining the milk and water with which the lingam is bathed. The channel and its suitably shaped drain could be interpreted as yoni or vagina. The resemblance, if any, is peripheral.
Religions of all shades attribute creation (after the first one at hands of God) to the male dildo. The womb is a mere field to sow – the tilth for you to plough and drop your seed. All ancient religions openly worshipped the penis. “Show me your man,” said Edmund Buckley, “and I will show you his God.”
We shall not deal with Phallus worship here since it is an interesting subject that calls for another diligently researched essay.
6. CREATION BY IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Though it is the semen alone that is the cause of reproduction in all religious beliefs, there is just one story in Hindu mythology that alludes to reproduction by what amounts to female cloning. Goddess Parvati, wary of her husband Shiva walking unannounced into her bath and salivating at her nudity, decided to put a guard at the door to prevent Him. Before the bath, she created a person by rolling the grime and dry skin on her body (some say from the dry skin flakes on the soles of her feet) and shaping it. Parvati being chaste, no God, no Sun, Moon or Vayu the Air (or for that matter the sons of the Biblical God) – all of whom were well known for procreating heroes in willing women – was called in to help in the process. Shiva, of course, had no clue. When the young man took shape and instantly assumed full-grown size, she anointed him as the Lord of all spooks – ganas,- that would do guard duty for Gods. Thus he became Ganesha, the God of spooks. She instructed this God, cloned from her own body and hence most faithful, to stand at the door, and not to allow anyone inside.
Soon thereafter, Shiva tried to walk into his wife’s bath with explicit non-Godly intentions. Ganesha blocked his path. Having had no part in his conception, Shiva did not recognize this insolent young man standing guard at the door of his wife’s bath.
‘Let me in, I’m her husband, I can see her anywhere and in any form I want,’ said Shiva.
‘I couldn’t care less, not to allow anyone inside is my orders,’ retorted Ganesha.
Shiva grew furious at the temerity of the stranger in his own house, and as is the way of any God of any religion, beheaded the impious and disobedient man. The heavy thud of the falling head startled Parvati, who came running.
“Put back his head and bring him back alive,” roared the normally docile, but now fiercely angry wife.
“For one thing, he deserved the punishment for disobeying the greatest God on earth,” said her Lord. “For another, I do not put back the head that I sliced off. Gods neither retract nor regret.” Evidently, He had not heard of YHWH the Biblical God regretting after the flood he created to elimiate all humans but Noah and his family
A furious exchange of words ensued. Parvati probably looked too alluring, having hastily wrapped a towel only around her waist and thus exposing her other endowments. Furthermore, having experienced the consequences of his wife’s fury in her destructive form of Shakti or the Goddess of Power, Shiva acquiesced and agreed to replace the severed head with the head of whoever first appeared in his line of vision.
The first scalp spotted was that of an elephant, which he promptly cut off and fixed atop Ganesha’s bleeding neck. This surgical operation – the one and only head implant in records – was by divine hands; hence the effect was instantaneous. Ganesha stood up with a disproportionate elephantine head, long curled-up trunk, a pair of tusks (one of which was broken only later) and broad, self-fanning ears. Ever since then, this chubby and jovial God roamed the world, inspecting all the spooks on guard duty, first receiving all visitors into the temple of any Hindu God, accepting sweet lentil balls (called Modak) from his devotees in return for blessing them, and generally removing obstacles from the path of those who sang his praise.
The most significant moral of this story is that there was somebody in India who knew, or thought, many centuries before the creation of a lamb named Dolly that without the sacred but the smelly and sticky substance called male semen, a woman could do the procreation on her own if she chose.
Shiva had his revenge, though. Ganesha’s brother Kartikeya (Subramanian in the South) was created by having his seed picked up in the forest by a swan (actually, Brahma, the creator himself in disguise) and dropped into river Ganges where it developed into an embryo and finally into a strong young man who became the chief general in charge of the army of the Gods. This creation, however, could not be said to be a unilateral masculine achievement – for river Ganges is supposed to be a Goddess – a viscous female. How a drop of Shiva’s seed happened to lie on the earth in a forest shall forever remain a mystery since Gods are not known to masturbate.
Not being a dogma-based religion invented by an aspiring leader looking for a cause, but one that evolved through strife and synthesis, primitive imagination and philosophical rumination, Hinduism has a dozen or more theories for creation – So much like the ancient noble civilizations that lost out to Christian and Islamic conquests – Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian and Persian. In these stories God or Gods work hard at creation, not merely order ‘Let there be.’ The multiplicity of the theories, despite their naiveté and childish levels of conception, are in many ways less ludicrous than the mindless six-day creation theory of the Old Testament, which Islam follows and reveres as ‘The Book’.
7. FINALLY, THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION
Whenever virtues are saddened,
And unrighteousness flourishes
And to revive the virtues
I manifest myself
To protect the virtuous
To destroy the unrighteous
And to reinstate the rule of the virtuous
This promise of Lord Krishna, the supposed Supreme Godhead, has justified the rise of several man-gods (including one atheistic man-god) from the Hindu fold. May such man-gods have come an gone over the centuries; many survive; some of them in jail, some of them teaching breathing exercises as a solution for all the travails of the world.
Gita does not allude to Vishnu, but only to Krishna himself. However, the tradition is that Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu, who is the supreme reigning god. He is believed to have taken 10, 18, 27 or several more incarnations; but, for the sake of simplicity and elegance, ten incarnations are the most acceptable value. These are, in the chronological order, Fish, Turtle, pig, man-lion, dwarf, Parashurama (Axe-God) the violent God with an axe for his weapon, principled god Rama with his powerful bow and arrow, either the philosopher god Buddha or skilled god Balarama (pick your choice), god of all knowledge Krishna and finally, the God of termination- Kalki.
It was Helena Blavatsky (1831- 1891), a woman of many interests, founder-member of the Theosophical Society in New York and the spiritual mentor of Annie Besant (1847-1933) who first pointed out the Evolution Theory hidden in the ten incarnation of Vishnu
1.Fish – the first among sea vertebrates
2. Turtle – the amphibian
3. Pig – the mammal
4. Man-lion : Ape
5. Vamana – the pigmy, the primitive human
6. Parashu Rama – Man with axe, a primitive weapon
7. Lord Rama – the Noble man with his powerful bow and arrow, surrounded by monkeys (hanuman) and fighting the cannibals of the forest (Rakshasas)8. Balarama- the skilled human (The alternative, the Buddha, is not preferred by orthodoxy)
9. Krishna – the enlightened, yet powerful human
10, Kalki – the final stage of man , destruction of the world.
The order and extent of the number of incarnations might vary from one school of Hindu thought to another. Though many laymen are excited by this ‘revelation’ that their sages, the wisest ever, knew that the modern man was a fulfilment of the process of evolution. Dr. Annie Besant, the Hindu of all Hindus, supported the theories of incarnations of Gods and re-incarnation of men and had full trust in the wisdom of the sages of India, possibly supported this theory as well. However, stretching one’s imagination a little further, one could also see evolution in the order of Biblical creation: Plants and trees, creatures of the sea and birds of the air, then animals of their kind, and finally man. It is another matter that the Abrahamic God created the plants and vegetables on day 3 before he made the sun on day 4 to give them light. For one day, after all, the plants could fast and live without photosynthesis.
With so many theories already under their subconscious mind Hindus have no qualms to accept the six-days- six-thousand-years-ago Biblical theory. This benign acceptance lasts until provoked by proselytisers, taunting self-styled theologians or goaded by their own xenophobic leadership. Such a scenario of resistance, like that of a cornered cat, exists today in India. Nevertheless, the six-day creation theory is also taken in the Hindu stride, and most Hindus would recognize the names of the apocryphal Adam and Eve without the kind of smirk that people of Abrahamic religions would display when told of the multifarious (and none the more ridiculous) Hindu theories of creation.
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