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Creation of the Universe

by Araceli Perez

It would be ignorant to believe that there is only one explanation for the

creation of the universe. The Vedic hymns present several cosmogonies.

There are many interpretations for these myths resulting from there

documentation on various levels of culture. It is purposeless to quest for

the origin of each of these cosmogonies because most of these ideas and

beliefs represent a heritage transmitted from prehistory all over the

ancient world.

There are four essential types of cosmogonies that seem to have fascinated

the Vedic poets and theologians. They are as followed: (1) creation by

fecundation of the original waters; (2) creation by the dismembering of a

primordial giant, Purusa; (3) creation out of a unity-totality, at once

being and nonbeing; (4) creation by the separation of heaven and earth.[2]

[Image]

The first cosmogony relates to the celebrated hymn of the Rg Veda. The god

imagined as Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Embryo) hovers over the Waters,

Hiranyabarbha enters the waters and fecundates them. This gave birth to

Agni (the god of fire).[3]

The second cosmogony can be found in a hymn, the Purusasukta. Purusa is

represented at once as cosmic totality and as an androgynous being.

Creation proper is the result of a cosmic sacrifice. The gods sacrifice

Purusa. From his dismembered body proceed the animals, the liturgical

elements, the social classes, the earth, the sky, the gods: "His mouth

became the Brahman, the Warrior was the product of his arms, his thighs

were the Artisan, from his feet was born the servant" (strophe 12, after

the translation by Renou). His head became the sky, his feet turned into

the earth, the moon resulted from his consciousness, the sun from his gaze,

his mouth transformed into Indra and Agni, and the wind from his breath.

The hymn clearly states that Purusa precedes and surpasses the creation,

though the cosmos, life, and men proceed from his own body.[4]

The Purusasukta parallels those which are found in China, among the ancient

Germans and in Mesopotamia. They illustrate a cosmogony of an archaic type:

creation by the sacrifice of an anthropomorphic divine being.

The third cosmogony, being the most famous hymn of the Rig Veda, is

presented as a metaphysics. The question is asked, how Being could have

come out of non-Being, since, in the beginning, neither "non-Being existed

nor Being." There was neither men nor gods. The only thing that existed was

its own impulse, without there being any breath." Nothing else existed, but

Brahman which derived from heat. From the germ potential develops desire.

This same desire "was the first seed of consciousness." This was an

astounding declaration which anticipated one of the chief theses of Indian

philosophical thought. The first seed then divided itself into "high" and

"low", into a male principle and a female principle. "Brahman precedes the

universe and creates the world by deriving from its own being, without

thereby losing its idealism.[5]

The myth of the separation of heaven and earth is related to the

Purusasukta. In both there is a violent division of a totality for the

purpose of creating the world. Finally there is the creation by a divine

being, the Universal Artisan, Visvakarman forms the world like a craftsman.

This mythical motif is connected by the Vedic poets with the theme of the

creation-sacrifice. Some of these myths are found among other Indo-European

peoples. There are many myths similar to these which are documented in many

traditional cultures. India is the only place to have given rise to

sacrificial techniques, contemplative methods, and speculations so decisive

for the awakening of a new religious consciousness as a result of these

myths.[6]

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Other Rituals

The Vedic Cult did not have one specific place were all rites were to be

performed. These rituals were to be performed in the sacrificer's house or

on a nearby open space with a grassy ground, on which the three fires were

placed. There were both flesh and non flesh offerings. Among the non flesh

offerings were milk, butter, cereals, and cakes. The goat, the cow, the

bull, the ram, and the horse were also sacrificed. From the period of the

Rg Veda the soma sacrifice was the most important

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