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Vedic Cosmogony


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At the center of Vedic creation as expressed particularly in the ṛg Veda (see ṛg Veda) is the idea of creation as separation, or sacrifice, which leads to the ordering of chaos. Incest plays a role in creation. The ṛg Veda tells how the unnamed Creator's phallus reached out to his daughter and how during the act of union some of his seed fell onto the earth resulting in the sacred words, or Vedas (see Vedas), and the rituals. The Earth itself (see Pṛthivī) may be thought of as the womb or yoni (see Yoni) of the daughter. Many versions of the incest creation would be told in the Brāhmaṇas (see Brāhmaṇas), later Vedic (see Vedism, see Vedic Mythology), texts. The Aitareya Brāhmaṇas, for instance, names the Creator as Prajāpati (see Prajāpati), who later becomes Brahmā (see Brahmā) and suggests that the daughter might be the Sky or the Dawn (see UṢas). But unlike the ṛg Veda, the Brāhmaṇas tend to stress the importance of ritual and proper action (see Dharma). Not surprisingly, therefore, the other gods criticize Prajāpati for committing incest and he is punished, especially by the protector of rituals, Rudra (see Rudra). As in the ṛg Veda, the god of fire, Agni, plays a role in making the god's seed flow, and in the Kauṣītaki Brāhmaṇa the sons of Prajāpati are involved with him in creative incest with a now seductive daughter, Dawn (UṢas). From the spilled seed of Prajāpati and his sons comes the thousand-eyed god Rudra (see Rudra), who resembles the ṛg Veda primal man PuruṢa (see Puruṣa) and who attacks his father and demands to be named. Prajāpati names him Bhava or “Existence.” In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa there is the motif of masturbation as the source of creation. Prajāpati literally “milks” himself, and the butter used for rituals is churned from the milk. This occurs after he creates Agni (see Agni) from his mouth. Agni as fire consumes, and sacrifice must be made to him. In terms of the Brahmanic (see Brahmanism) concern with proper ritual, the symbolism here has to do with the idea that, through sacrifice, Agni, who is Death, is appeased. Even in death the worshipper, who is fed to the fire, is reborn, because only the body is eaten by it.

A more complex ṛg Veda creation story, which is further developed in the more philosophical Upaniṣads (see Upaniṣads), is that of Purusa, who must unite with the active female principle Prakṛti (see Prakṛti) in order for creation to be realized. In the ṛg Veda, the PuruṢa himself becomes the creation. Three quarters of him is made up of the gods, one quarter is the earthly creation. PuruṢa is divided up as the first sacrifice and from that sacrifice comes the sacred chants and formulae—the Vedas (see Vedas). His breath becomes the wind (see Vāyu), Indra (see Indra) and Agni (see Agni) come from his mouth, the moon from his brain, the sun from his eye, Heaven from his head, Earth from his two feet, and so on (see Upanisadic Cosmogony, Puranic Cosmogony, Animism).

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Subjects: Religion.


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