UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL,
School of Classical Civilizations
Student Number: 208504832
Student Name: Nahishta Singh
Course name: Classical Civilizations 201
Question: Describe the creation myth of any traditional ethnicity or culture of your choice, ancient or modern. How, according to this culture, did the world begin & how did humans originate?
Cosmic myths are concerned with the world and how it is ordered. They seek to explain the origin of the world, universal catastrophes and natural disasters such as fire or floods, as well as the afterlife. Nearly all mythologies have stories about creation. This type of story is technically known as cosmogony, meaning “birth of the world.” (T Lansford, 2006) These Creation stories also include myths of how human beings first came into existence and how death and suffering entered human experience. In my assignment, I have chosen to describe the creation myth of Hinduism as I am a Hindu myself. I shall begin by creating a clear understanding of Hinduism thereafter proceeding on to discuss the various creation myths of this culture as well as its many religious beliefs. Finally, I will conclude my essay.
Hinduism is currently followed by one fifth of humankind. (A Michaels, 2004: 12) It is a religious tradition of Indian origin, embracing the beliefs and practices of Hindus. Hinduism is a religion of diverse gods and goddesses. It comprises elaborate ritual and a striking tolerance for diversity, or the possibility of different spiritual paths for many different people and at different times in their lives. (P.F Lurquin & L Stone, 2007: 25) Our Hindu festivals tend to be vibrant and lively, and are celebrated with much devotion and purity.
Contrary to Judaism, Islam and Christianity each of which complies with just one religious book, Hinduism has many religious texts. (P.F Lurquin & L Stone, 2007: 25) Such books as the Rig-Veda and the Bhagavad-Gita come to mind. The Rig-Veda is the oldest Hindu sacred text and does not present its version of creation as fact. (P.F Lurquin & L Stone, 2007: 25) Bhagavad-Gita directly translated means “Song of the Lord”. (W. Doniger, 2007). It is a Sanskrit poem, consisting of 700 verses divided into 18 chapters, that is regarded by most Hindus as their most important text. (W. Doniger, 2007). To most Hindus, including myself, it is the essence of our belief. Almost every significant Hindu philosopher has written a commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, and new translations and interpretations continue to appear. According to Alex Michaels (2004: 59), it was probably completed in the second century A.D. The Bhagavad-Gita incorporates many doctrines, such as the immortality of the individual soul (Known as “atman” in Hindi) and its identity with the supreme godhead (Brahman), the process of reincarnation, and the need to renounce the fruits of one's actions. (W. Doniger, 2007)
Now that I have given you a brief overview of Hinduism and its’ religious texts, I shall go on to discuss the creation myths of this culture. The process of creation did not proceed as smoothly as might have been expected; from its beginning the rivals of the gods kept a keen eye on the proceedings. (A.L Dallapiccola, 2003: 26) Hinduism has more than one myth of creation. One version restricts itself to saying that some sort of substance, commonly known to Hindus as “prakrit”, is at the origin of all that exists in the universe. (P.F Lurquin & L. Stone, 2007: 25) Another version has beliefs that are similar to that of Christianity and Greek mythology, where the world arises out of chaos and nothingness. This version is much more descriptive than the first. It explains how the universe is reborn multiple times in cycles of destruction and...
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• Dallapiccola, A.L, “Hindu Myths.” University of Texas Press, 2003. ISBN 0292702337, 9780292702332.
• Doniger, W., “Bhagavad-Gita.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2007, Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2006.
• Leerning, D.A., “A Dictionary of Asian Mythology.” Oxford University Press, 2001.
• Lurquin, P.F. & Stone, L., “Evolution and Religious Creation myths: How scientists respond.” Oxford University Press US, 2007.
• Michaels, A., “Hinduism ' Past and Present.” Princeton University Press, Oxfordshire, 2004.
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