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Religious Studies

Hinduism: beliefs about creation and evolution

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Many of the world’s religions have ideas and beliefs about the origin of the universe, including people and animals. Usually these take the form of creation accounts in the sacred books of the religions concerned.

The origins of the universe

There are many different stories and beliefs about creation contained in the Hindu scriptures.

The sacred sound Aum is believed to be the first sound at the start of creation. Hindus believe that brahman (the one ultimate reality) has three functions and these are shown by the three gods, Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. These three are sometimes shown as three heads merging into one and are known as the Trimurti.

  • Brahma is the Creator and source of all creation
  • Vishnu is the Preserver and responsible for keeping all good things on earth
  • Shiva is the Destroyer and is needed because some things are harmful and because change is necessary for the creation of new things

In the Chandogya Upanishad (a Hindu sacred text.) creation is described as the breaking of an egg.

In the Vedas (knowledge) one of the accounts says that the creator built the universe with timber, as a carpenter builds a house.

In the Rig Veda (the first scripture of Hinduism, containing spiritual and scientific knowledge) it says that the universe was created out of the parts of the body of a single cosmic man Purusha when his body was sacrificed. There the four classes (varnas) of Indian society come from his body: the priest (Brahmin) from his mouth, the warrior (Kshatritya) from his arms, the peasant (Vaishya) from his thighs, and the servant (Shudra) from his legs.

The Hymn of Creation

Another attempt at explaining the creation of the universe is found in the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda:

Then was neither non-existence nor existence: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.

Death was not then, nor was there anything immortal: no sign was there, the Day’s and Night’s divider.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of Warmth was born that One.

In the Chandogya Upanishad it says that in the beginning was the Brahman, and through heaven, the earth, and the atmosphere and the three seasons of summer, rains, and harvest he produced the entire universe.

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