World Faiths & Religions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the creation story in Hinduism?

Before discussing accounts of creation in Hinduism (there are many), it is important to first note that unlike many "western" traditions, the Hindu traditions espouse views of time as cyclical and conceptions of space as infinite and multi-layered. Therefore, because of its cyclical notions of time, Hinduism holds that the world is created many times, over and over again, and not just once and for all. Further, this universe is considered to be just one of many; other universes (and other forms of life), exist on many different planes. Therefore, there are often several creation accounts for each of these different realms. Finally, though there are many creation accounts in Hinduism, unlike the creations stories of the western dualistic traditions (like Christianity, for example), Hindu creation accounts do not generally contain stories of a divine god/goddess creating a mundane/profane world separate from himself/herself. Instead, most Hindu creation accounts articulate a fundamental nondualism, wherein the material world-which is either fully divine or is, at least, infused with divinity-emanates from (as opposed to being created by) the principal deity.

Two popular Hindu creations stories come from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the Vishnu Purana. Both accounts demonstrate the fundamental nondualism typical of most Hindu creation accounts.

Briefly, these two creation stories are as follows:

  1. Brhadaryanka Upanishad 1.4: the world is said to have come into existence because the Primeval One, having become bored being the only being in existence, split Itself into a variety of forms and manifestations (i.e., the material world and all of its beings) so that, through them, It could experience a loving and playful relationship with Itself.
  2. The creation account from the Vishnu Purana, wherein Vishnu, lying on an ocean of milk atop the serpent Sesha, sprung a lotus from his naval that contained the god Brahma. Having been sprung from Vishnu's navel, Brahma creates all living beings, as well as the sun, moon, planets, etc. and a number of other gods and demigods. Following Brahma's creative acts, it is then said that Vishnu expanded himself into Ksirodakasayi Visnu (Paramatma) and entered into everything that exists in the material and immaterial spheres.