The big bang of the Rigveda


We’ve all heard about the Big Bang Theory, not the comedy show, but the other one which is about the beginning of this universe. Scientists estimate a primordial explosion to have taken place inside a bubble, and they call that explosion as the Big Bang. It is said that the Belgian priest Georges Lemaître is the founder of the Big Bang Theory. So this theory has its origin in the 19-20th century AD.

The Rigveda is till now the oldest literature of the Indian civilisation. It dates back to more than 1800 BCE. Rigveda has many hymns describing how the universe came into being. I happened to read the most unpopular one, a hymn composed by Laukya Bṛhaspati and/or Aditi Dākṣāyaṇī. It is the 72nd hymn in the 10th book of the Rigveda.

To my surprise, in its second verse, it clearly speaks of a bang like happening. Here is my translation of it:

“Like a blacksmith (karmāra iva), the protector of expansion (brahmaṇaspatiḥ), completely blew/blasted the births (/birthplaces) of the natural forces [into flames] (etā samadhamat). In the ancient era (pūrvye yuge) of the natural forces (devānāṃ), manifest was born (sadajāyata) from unmanifest (asataḥ).” 

(brahmaṇaspatiretā saṃ karmāra ivādhamat. devānāṃ pūrvye yuge asataḥ sadajāyata.)

I chose to translate the word ‘deva’ as ‘natural force’ because in the Rigveda ‘deva’ doesn’t always seem to translate as ‘god’. The Rigvedic people worshipped air, fire, earth, rain, the force behind rain, etc. 

Look at the imagination, the poet describes the ‘force’ behind the big bang as being like a blacksmith, the surface is kind of heated and then he blows/blasts it. And then he/she says that in the ancient era of the natural forces, manifest was born from unmanifest. There is heat & there is a blast and that too in the births or as I think  the poet means, in the birthplaces of the natural forces.

Another interesting part is that the force to which the big bang is attributed is brahmaṇaspati or the protector of ‘expansion’. Brahma means that which expands (brahmaṇaḥ = of brahma), pati means protector. A force of expansion has been said to have done the blast like act.

So near about 1800 BCE, or even earlier, there was a poet, who imagined that the beginning of this universe happened in a bang like manner. The confidence of the poet’s imagination reflects in the first verse which I’ve translated as:

“In detail do we speak about the origin of the natural forces, so that in the future, in the praises being sung, one could see them.”

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