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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 24-25

Nāsadiya Sūktam: The earliest cosmology on origins of life

Anvesana Research Laboratories, Division of Yoga and Life Sciences, S-VYASA University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication14-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ramesh Mavathur Nanjundaiah
Anvesana Research Laboratories, Division of Yoga and Life Sciences, S.VYASA University, Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijny.ijoyppp_18_17

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How to cite this article:
Ragavendrasamy B, Nanjundaiah RM, Krishnamurthy MN. Nāsadiya Sūktam: The earliest cosmology on origins of life. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2017;5:24-5

How to cite this URL:
Ragavendrasamy B, Nanjundaiah RM, Krishnamurthy MN. Nāsadiya Sūktam: The earliest cosmology on origins of life. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 21];5:24-5. Available from: https://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2017/5/1/24/220775

One of the most common and persistent quests for the philosophers worldwide has been about the nature, origin, and purpose of life. Origin of life forms has been a serious question in the literature of most civilizations. Various cultures have tried to answer this philosophical question in several ways – based on their understanding. Modern-day scientists have also contributed their share of theories to answer this question. Theology and science have frequently wondered upon common questions, but no other topic overlaps as much as the inquiry on the origin of life. Detailed commentaries on Nāsadiya Sūktam are beyond the scope of this article and can be found elsewhere,[1],[2],[3] and a compilation of interpretations made by several authors can be found here.[4] Descriptions made until date have been focused mostly on the vedanta underlying the Nāsadiya Sūktam. In this letter, we communicate our views interpreting specific slokas of Nāsadiya Sūktam in the 10th maëdala of Šg veda,[5] limiting only to its mention of the concept of origin of life forms to its relevance to the modern theories.

Several theories have been proposed by the scientists through experiments regarding the origin of life forms on planet –”RNA World” – is one such widely accepted theory. We have come across several similarities between Nāsadiya Sūktam and RNA world theory, the former dating back to several centuries and the latter is from the 21st century.

Looking back into the history, it appears that there were conflicting beliefs among different cosmologies about the origin of life. The Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cosmologies combine the origin of universe and origin of life on earth as happening at finite time period. Whereas earlier, Greek philosophers like Aristotle believed that the universe had existed forever and would continue to exist forever and so were humans. In the ancient Christian countries, the common belief until the early 17th century was that life forms originated spontaneously. However, Francesco Redi in 1668 through experimentation disproved the spontaneous generation theory by showing that maggots appearing on the putrefying meat did not arise spontaneously but from microorganism already present in the meat. Another theory, called panspermia theory, explains that the first life forms on Earth were carried on meteorites traveling from different planets. However, due to lack of scientific proof, this theory did not gain much attention.

The RNA world theory proposes that RNA served as the first structural, functional, and basic units of organization in the most primitive life form. Also, because of its omnipresence, RNA has been recognized as the “Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA).” Modern-day definition of life includes a couple of features that is relevant for our discussion here. One is that, for an organized entity to be called alive, it should be able to replicate itself and the other is that it should have the ability to query the processes or in other words having the ability to change according to the needs of the situation. RNA fulfills both the needs. Being most versatile among all the biochemicals, having the ability to store genetic information, acting as catalytic enzyme, and using recombination and mutation to develop new niches [6] were considered to hold the most appropriate component of evolution. Recent experiments demonstrate the ease with which RNA could have formed in the early prebiotic broth; two prebiotic compounds, melamine and barbituric acid, formed glycosidic linkages with ribose and ribose-5-phosphate in water to produce nucleosides and nucleotides in good yields.[7] A research group demonstrated that structurally complex and highly active RNA ligases were derived from random RNA sequences,[8] suggesting randomness at some point might device key for an orderliness.

To the Indian mind, Vedas and Upanishads are believed to provide solutions for simplest to the most complex problems of the universe and from there on to the origin of life. Material-based scientists regard the deliberations on the origin of life in various civilizations to be driven by emotions, supernatural beliefs, and myths rather than by rational reasoning. Instead of neglecting the beliefs of the cultures, the changing meaning of articulation over time should be incorporated to appreciate the underlying wisdom. The contemporary scientists believe that, before the Big Bang event, there was nothing at all, not even time and space, and there was no day and night, light and darkness – similar to void or “śūnya” as claimed in the Nāsadiya Sūktam.

The Nāsadiya Sūktam, similar to the predictions of RNA world theory, declares that, when Earth came into existence, it was flooded everywhere with no distinction between land and water and it was covered with turbulent hot oceans. Further, it is described that, from unmanifested, the seed for all life forms manifested – which shall be interpreted as “the seed for all life forms” developed from the abundant prebiotic compounds that were available in the primitive earth.

tiraścrino vitato raśmireṣāmadhaḥ svidāsī dupari svidāsit |

retodhā āsanmahimāna āsantsvadhā avastātprayatiḥ parastāt | nā sū 5 ||

iyaṃ visriṣṭiryata ābabhūva yadi vā dadhe yadi vā na |

yo asyūdhyakṣaḥ parame vyomantso aṅga veda yadi vā na veda || nā sū 7 |||

Nāsadiya Sūktam further declares the quality of the “seed of all life forms,” which resembles the qualities of RNA. It is described that, that seed of all life forms as a particle of query, stretched like a string, driven by its inherent power and desire, “the seed of all life forms,” was protected from all sides, which had the property of increasing at will and keep itself identical. RNA is known for evolving itself in a self-replicating fashion and contribute to new functions. The replication process of RNA is very specific that it replicates the same sequence of nucleotides from the nucleotide pool – minimizing the chance of error and preserving the function of RNA. The “querying” and “capacity to replicate keeping itself identical” might indicate the “seed of origin of life” mentioned in Nāsadiya Sūktam to be the present-day RNA. This description in the Nāsadiya Sūktam might provide a new dimension in perceiving implicit biological phenomena.

In summary, origin of life forms in Nāsadiya Sūktam can be interpreted that the life form manifested itself from the unmanifested by its own desire and the manifested had its inherent nature to explore and replicate itself to a similar entity. This description mentioned in the Nāsadiya Sūktam matches precisely with the observation proposed by the modern-day scientists after scientific experiments. It appears that Nāsadiya Sūktam should be the earliest documented inquiry of such understanding, holding more comprehension and relevance with the present-day cosmology.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Maurer WH. A re-examination of Rgveda X.129, the Nasadiya Hymn. JIES 1975;3:210-37.  Back to cited text no. 1
Brereton JP. Edifying puzzlement: Ṛgveda 10. 129 and the uses of Enigma. J Am Orient Soc 1999;1:248-260.  Back to cited text no. 2
Bilimoria P. Misconception about the Nature of Self in Hindu Philosophy: A Comparative Critique of Sankara's Strategy and Foundationalism. Sydney Studies in Religion 2008; Available from: https://www.openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/SSR/article/viewFile/667/647. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 17].  Back to cited text no. 3
Shankar S. Rig Veda 10.129 – Background Paper. Astitva; 2015. Available from: https://www.archive.org/details/AstitvaDIN2072000010_201603. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 17].  Back to cited text no. 4
Sontakke NS, Kshikar NS. Åg Veda Samhitä with the Commentary of Saayanaachaarya. Mandala 9-10. Vol. 4. Pune: Vaidika Samshodhana Mandala; 1946.  Back to cited text no. 5
Gilbert W. Origin of life: The RNA world. Nature 1986;319:6055.  Back to cited text no. 6
Cafferty BJ, Fialho DM, Khanam J, Krishnamurthy R, Hud NV. Spontaneous formation and base pairing of plausible prebiotic nucleotides in water. Nat Commun 2016;7:11328.  Back to cited text no. 7
Ekland EH, Szostak JW, Bartel DP. Structurally complex and highly active RNA ligases derived from random RNA sequences. Science 1995;269:364-70.  Back to cited text no. 8


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