Creation stories - continued

What accounts of the origins of the universe are found in Hinduism?

In Hinduism the universe is millions of years old. In line with the Hindu belief in reincarnation, the universe we live in is not the first or indeed the last universe.

For Hindus the universe was created by Brahma, the creator who made the universe out of himself.

After Brahma created the world, it is the power of Vishnu which preserves the world and human beings.

As part of the cycle of birth, life and death it is Shiva who will ultimately destroy the universe. This is not necessarily as bad as it might sound because it allows Brahma to start the process of creation all over again.

Examples of how the origins of the universe are explained in Hinduism include:

  • A lotus flower grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel with Brahma sitting on it. Brahma separated the flower into three parts - the heavens, the Earth and the sky.
  • Out of loneliness, Brahma split himself into two to create a male and a female. From this male and female all beings were created.
  • Another story makes reference to life coming from the cracking of an enormous egg, which is the life from which the universe is born.
  • The Hymn of Creation from the Rig Veda concludes that nobody knows how the universe came into being and even questions whether Brahman knows.
  • Some Hindu texts offer a more scientific explanation based on the evolution of primary elements from a single source.

These accounts, and others, were written many centuries ago in or around what we now know as India. They were not necessarily intended to be taken as literal scientific truth, but are indicators of the complexity and infinite nature of the universe.

Many Hindus understand religious teachings about the universe in the following ways:

Brahma is the creator god who works with Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to maintain an unending cycle of universes. All three are aspects of Brahman.

Time is not a straight line. Instead there are eternal cycles with universes being created, existing and dying, followed by recreation, existence and death. There is no beginning and no end. This is mirrored in the belief in reincarnation.