The Vedic texts describe the process of creation as starting with a tug of war between 2 forces – an expanding force called Indra and a holding back force called Vrtra in the Hiranyagrabha, a golden hued womb akin to the cosmic egg concept of modern cosmology.
At one point Indra overcomes Vrtra and this causes the Hiranyagarbha to explode as a Brahmanda Visfotak, universal explosion or Big Bang and spew out the entire Universe.
The ancient Indian word for universe is Prapancha. Pancha means five and Pra denotes special, natural or primordial. Thus from this very word PraPancha, it is evident that the universe is made up of 5 primordial elements. The 5 basic primordial elements, the Panchabhuta of this Universe are:
Akasa – Space/Ether
Vayu – Air
Tejas – Fire
Apah – Water
Prthvi – Earth
The understanding of the Panchabhuta is given in various Vedic and Upanishad statements.
There are various suktas such as the Nasidiya Sukta, Apah Sukta, Hiranyagarbha Sukta, Vishwakarma Sukta which in the Veda describe the process of creation as well as the primordial elements.
Hiranyagarbha appeared in the beginning
and was the origin of everything.
Some of the salient verses of these Sukta are:
Garbho yo apam garbhe –Rig Veda I.70.2
Fire is hidden in the womb of the waters
Apah ha yadvrhatirviswamayam garbham
Dadhana janayanti Agnim – Rig Veda 10.121.7
When the mighty waters came bearing the garbha,
giving birth to Agni,
then the life spirit of the Divine came into existence…
All the characteristics or the Guna of the 5 elements which includes water and fire coexisted in that one point.
Tamidgarbham prathamam dadhra apo
Yatradevaha sama gachchanta vishwe |
Ajasya nabha vadhyekamarpitam yasmin
Vishwani bhuvanani tasthuhu||
The waters verily first retained the embryo
in which all the Divinity were aggregated, single,
deposited on the navel of the unborn created
in which all beings abode.
The word Hiranya means golden hued and Garbha means womb, in this case the womb of the universe.
All that is in the universe was tightly packed and held there. It was so tightly packed that all the forces of the nature which later exhibit themselves as divinities were all tightly packed in this one point.
From these Suktas we understand that
These 5 primordial elements lay aggregated in the form of their properties, guna, characteristics alone, in the neutral primordial waters of the Hiranyagarbha.
The 5 states of matter have been described such that each successive state of matter contains properties of all its preceding ones.
The Manifestation Process
The process of manifestation of matter and the Universe has been termed in the texts as “Panchikaranam”. Panch means 5 and karanam denotes acting. The term Panchikaranam was given to denote the interplay between the 5.
What is this Panchikaranam?
The 5 primordial elements in the Hiranyagarbha undergo a churning process described as the process of Panchikaranam, where the 5 interact and it is from this that the Universe in all its size, space and matter manifests.
Panchikaranam– in action
During Panchikaranama, each of the 5 primordial elements Bhuta, transform into a state such that they retain 50% of their own unique character or properties and the remaining 50% is a mix of the properties of the other 4 Bhuta. i.e the remaining 50% is a combination of 1/4th parts of the properties of each of the other 4 primordial elements or Bhuta.
Panchikaranam – prevalent state
Hence each of the 5 Bhuta has the properties of the other 4 Bhuta to the extent of 12.5% each.
It is when the 5 primordial elements are in their pure state, the 5 primordial elements are the Panchabhuta.
After Panchikaranam, the state of the 5 Panchabhuta, becomes Bhautika. Thus in the evolved Universe as it is now, we can never find the original, 5 Panchabhuta. We only find the transformed Bhuta.
This process of Panchikaranam is a continuous process, right through the life of this Universe and also before and after the life of the Universe. So, it is an eternal process.
Panchikaranam– Pure state
555 – Panchikaranam, Panchabhuta, Prapancha
Panchikaranam – the act of the 5
Panchabhuta – the 5 primordial elements
Prapancha – the Universe that is made of these 5 primordial elements
The concept we see repeating here is all to do with 5.
The concept of 5 is repeated in every stage in this Universe.
In an interesting parallel, in ancient Greek literature, the world is said to be made up on only 4 elements, whereas in ancient Indian literature, the concept of 5 is a predominant basis for the very existence of this Universe.
Emergence of the Universe
When the Hiranyagarbha exploded in the Brahmanda Visfotak and the Universe started emerging, the Panchabhuta emerged one after another in quick succession.
First came Akasa, space
The other elements of the Panchabhuta come only after Akasa.
This is explained by the instantaneous expansion of the Universe. As the Universe expands almost instantaneously in size, Akasa or space, the first of the 5 primordial elements, occupies the extent of the space at the instant of expansion.
Subsequent to this, each of the successive primordial elements, grow and occupy their respective places in this space.
Prthvi the fifth primordial element, whose property represents solid state matter, evolves as the Universe keeps evolving. It is with this understanding that the 5 primordial elements have been expressed in this successive, sequential order.
Understanding Akasa with our senses
Veda and Upanishad explain to us how man has the ability to understand and appreciate the 5 basic elements of the Universe with our 5 senses.
First came Akasa, space, ether and with that Sabda, sound. At most we can only hear sound in hollow space. We cannot touch, see, taste or smell it. It has no form. It just fills up the space.
After Akasa, evolved Vayu i.e. air, wind. We can not only hear the wind but also feel it when it touches you. But we still cannot see, taste or smell it. It has no form. It just fills up the space.
Vayu then gives way to the evolution of Tejas i.e. Agni, Fire, Heat. We can not only hear, and feel fire and its heat but can also see its form. But we cannot taste or smell it.
After Agni, comes Apah i.e. water. We can hear, feel, see and also taste water. But water still does not have any smell of its own.
Finally Prthvi or earth evolves, where we can hear, touch, see taste as well as smell it. We get a sense of this smell for example, when it proliferates the air soon after rains on a ground.
While the names of the Panchbhuta are translated in English as space, wind, fire, water, earth, the root meanings for these names in the Samskrt language denote the characteristics, Guna.
For example Prthvi comes from Prathu meaning expansive and heavy. Thus while Prthvi is the word used for earth, as a primordial element, it denotes solidified state of matter.
Thus these five states of matter give rise to the 5 senses and the experiences that arise from it.
The 5 Primordial Elements and The 5 Senses
Thus we see that-
Akasa, space grows,
Vayu, wind blows,
Tejas, fire grows,
Apah, water flows
Prthvi, earth shows.
Akasa is accorded the prime place in the order of the elements as it is the first among the primordial elements. It is the expansion of akasa that is responsible for the formation of the Universe, to the universal size that it is.
Akasa, is the bearer of OM, the eternal reverberation in the Cosmos.
Akasa in everyAnu
Hollow and Empty
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishakar, brings forth the view, “our body is hollow and empty”. The air within us and that around us is the same. We are all filled by the same space.
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
In modern science, in 1911 Earnest Rutherford described the atom as having mostly empty space with electrons and protons circling the nucleus the protons, and the neutron.
Rutherford Atomic Model
The element Rutherfordium was named in his honor
Atomic Theory: Jan of 11
1911: Rutherford described the
atom as having a central positive
nucleus surrounded by a
negative orbiting electrons.
He explained that most
of the atoms mass is in the
nucleus, and the rest of
the atom is mostly space
In 1922 his student Neils Bohr expanded on this model for which he won a Nobel Prize.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Vachnamrut lucidly states:
“Moreover, akasa [space] pervades and resides within all of those objects as well. In fact, there is not a single object in which there is no akasa; even the smallest particle of prthvi [earth] has akasa within in. In fact, if that minute particle is split into millions and millions of pieces, akasa will exist within those pieces as well.”
Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Gadhada expounded on this on 25th January 1820. (Maha Sud 11 in Samvat 1826.)
Vachnamrut by Bhagwan Swaminayaran
From all the above, the pervasiveness of space and the essence of hollowness and emptiness makes sense to us both from the traditional and modern science perspective.
Every atom in our body, in the body of every particle in this earth and in the cosmos is hollow and empty. The space covered in this hollow and emptiness is Akasa. Thus, in every particle there is akasa.
Creation- Srishti Vignana
More on this subject has been discussed in our book, Creation– Srshti Vignana, and our Film, Creation- Srshti Vignana.