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Song of Creation -- Anonymous

Guest poem submitted by Sameer Siruguri
(Poem #739) Song of Creation
 Then there was neither Aught nor Nought, no air nor sky beyond.
 What covered all? Where rested all? In watery gulf profound?
 Nor death was then, nor deathlessness, nor change of night and day.
 That One breathed calmly, self-sustained; nought else beyond it lay.

 Gloom hid in gloom existed first - one sea, eluding view.
 That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew.
 Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind,
 Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find.

 The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss-
 Was it beneath? or high aloft? What bard can answer this?
 There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove-
 A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.

 Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
 No gods had then been born - who then can e'er the truth disclose?
 Whence sprang this world, and whether framed by hand divine or no-
 Its lord in heaven alone can tell, if even he can show.
-- Anonymous
Translated by John Muir, in 'Original Sankrit Texts', volume 5.

Notes:

The Creation Hymn is better known through Prof Friedrich Max Mueller's
translation of it ([broken link] http://www.msci.memphis.edu/~ramamurt/gems/gem101.html)
but I chose this version because I thought Muir had done a commendable job
of metrification.

The hymn itself is a favourite of mine, ever since I first heard the Hindi
translation sung as the opening tune to Shyam Benegal's televised version of
Jawahar Lal Nehru's Discovery of India. The climactic note of perplexity,
voiced after all the esoteric speculations made on no less a subject than
the origin of the Universe itself, has always fascinated me. To me, it
conjures up the image of a sage looking defiantly into the skies, thumbing
his nose up at the powers above and challenging them, with all their
omniscience and omnipotence, to unravel this, the most mystifying secret of
existence.

Too, the hymn, and subsequent commentary, evoke the academic intensity and
diversity of theological debates in Vedic and classical Hindu traditions.
This presents a marked contrast to the ritualism and orthodoxy that suffuse
the religion today.

Muir's work contains a compact chronology of the dissections of this verse,
in various Upanishads and Puranas. An interesting point made in one is that
the author is not expressing the Creator's ignorance in the final line.
Instead, he postulates that since all Being is part of the Creator, the
Creator cannot "know" of any existence external to his own, simply because
there is none. Muir, writing in 1880, with the hindsight of centuries of
Humanism, preferred to believe that the "simple author" of the hymn could
hardly have entertained such "transcendental notions."

Sameer.

23 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Abraham Thomas said...

Here's Max Mueller's (more celebrated) translation of the poem:

"The Song of Creation"

Then there was not non-existent nor existent:
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter?
was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal:
no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That one thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature
apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness,
this All was undiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless;
by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning,
Desire the primal seed and germ of spirit.
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 of 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 it not.

-- Anon. (The Rig Veda)

translated by Max Mueller, in "Hindu Scriptures".

Narayan said...

please provide the original poem in sanskrit along with the translation,
narayan

Divya said...

Here's an itrans version of the original Sanskrit (Rig Veda, Book 10, Hymn
129) from www.sacred-texts.com:

nAsadAsIn no sadAsIt tadAnIM nAsId rajo no vyomAparo yat
kimAvarIvaH kuha kasya sharmannambhaH kimAsId gahanaM gabhIram
na mRtyurAsIdamRtaM na tarhi na rAtryA ahna AsItpraketaH
AnIdavAtaM svadhayA tadekaM tasmAddhAnyan na paraH kiM canAsa

tama AsIt tamasA gULamagre.apraketaM salilaM sarvamAidam
tuchyenAbhvapihitaM yadAsIt tapasastanmahinAjAyataikam
kAmastadagre samavartatAdhi manaso retaH prathamaM yadAsIt
sato bandhumasati niravindan hRdi pratISyAkavayo manISA

tirashcIno vitato rashmireSAmadhaH svidAsI.a.a.at
retodhAAsan mahimAna Asan svadhA avastAt prayatiH parastAt
ko addhA veda ka iha pra vocat kuta AjAtA kuta iyaMvisRSTiH
arvAg devA asya visarjanenAthA ko veda yataAbabhUva
iyaM visRSTiryata AbabhUva yadi vA dadhe yadi vA na
yo asyAdhyakSaH parame vyoman so aN^ga veda yadi vA naveda

cheers,
Divya

-------
asatomah sat gamayah
tamaso mah jyotir gamayah
mrityomam amrtam gamayah
om shantih shantih shantih
(lead me from the unreal to the real
from darkness to light
from death to immortality
to be one with eternity in everlasting peace.)
-- bRhadAraNyaka upanishad.

Sujoy Ghosh said...

Dear Sir,

I'm unable to read the transliteration of the creation hymn. I
shall be highly obliged to have the hymn in Devanagari - Hindi &
not Sanskrit i.e. transliteration in Hindi & not translation.

Regards,

Sujoy Ghosh.

Karen Walker said...

Subj: please help with translation

Hello-I saw your input regarding the "Song of
Creation" while doing a search on google. I have
recently purchased an antique tile depicting St.
Francis. There is some writing below the saint and I
was told it was fron the "Song of Creation". The
writing goes like this, "laudato si mi signore per
messer lu frate facu per lo quale endaumini la
noetas"...do you know if this is frome the poem? Or
what language? Thank you so much for your time and
help. Best regards, Karen Walker

Lt Abhilash Tomy said...

thus...the rig veda asks us to ask if we are the creation of our gods or if our gods are our creation.

and the old testament almost gives us an answer

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Anonymous said...

I see that the nAsadIya sukta is attributed to anonymous. In all of the vedic sutras, the hymns are attributed to some Rshi or Rshis who are the co-discoverer of what is mentioned in the hymns. Thus nAsadIya sUkta is attributed to paramEshTi prajApati.

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