Evolution Day is a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the initial publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin on 24 November 1859.
Young Charles Darwin
An illustrious Family
Charles Darwin was born into a religious family. His wife came from the illustrious Wedgewood family, who were well known for making the famous blue China pottery for royalty.
His mother Susannah Wedgwood, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter.
When he grew up, he lived in the countryside, an hour south of London, in the picturisque Downe village. He chose this place as a spot of recuperation from his continuous illness.
Visiting Church, Sitting outside
While Darwin’s wife, Emma Darwin was religious, Darwin wasn’t. This arose partly from his scepticism about Christian theology.
Darwin’s wife, Emma being a devout Christian, used to visit church every Sunday. He used to accompany her to Church as a husband. But while she attended the Church Mass, Darwin sat outside waiting for her.
Today, Charles Darwin’s is remembered as someone who revolutionized science. How did he find such an esteemed place in the annals of scientific world?
Voyage on Beagle
At a young age of 22, Darwin set out on an ocean voyage on the research vessel H M S Beagle. He got this opportunity as one research scholar opted out at the last moment. This chance opportunity that Darwin got, to go on this research vessel, changed his life and subsequently the course of our understanding about evolution.
The Vessel, H M S Beagle
Until then, the prevalent view in Europe was that which was dictated by the Christian Theology which states that God created the earth in 7 days, with earth, man and animals in a set sequence.
During the voyage, Darwin studied various forms of life, right from butterflies, insects, to tortoises, including the famous long living tortoise of Galapagos.
At every port of call, he collected samples and studied them. The ship route covered southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil, lasting for 5 long years.
The Voyage of the Beagle
On the Origin of Species
After he came back to England from the Voyage, he settled down to write his master piece book, “On the Origin of Species”.
Charles Darwin’s Book, The Origin of Species
Intitially the publisher was hesitant to print and publish his book.
He was so sure about his theory being accepted that He offered to buy back the 1250 printed copies of the book if they did not sell.
This book soon shook the very foundations of science and Christian theology.
Charles Darwin & the Avatar Theory
It is interesting to note that, some aspects of his theory are in sync with the Indian story of evolution.
According to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, aquatic creatures were the first to come into existence, followed by amphibians and then land creature.
In India, the concept of evolution has been discussed in the sequence of Dasavatara of Vishnu, starting from the fish and evolving all the way to the intellectual human.
Matsya – A Fish
As the legend goes, when the world was to be engulfed by a Pralaya, dissolution, the Rishi are taken to safety by Vishnu in the form of a large fish. The fish here is symbolic of life emerging from waters.
Kurma – A tortoise
At a time when there was a tug of war between the Deva, equated with the divine forces and the Asura equated with the demonic forces, they used a mountain for churning the ocean. When this mountain kept slipping, Vishnu in the form of a large tortoise supported the mountain and this allowed the Deva and Asura to complete their churning of the ocean from which emerged the good and bad of the universe. The tortoise here is symbolic of an amphibious life.
Varaha – A Boar
Later in time, when the Earth is held under the oppression of Hiranyaksha, an Asura, a demonic power, Vishnu in the form of a boar, bores through and releases the Earth from captivity. Boar is here symbolic of land based forms of life.
Narasimha – A Beast, man lion
Soon after, Vishnu emerges in the form of a ferocious half man – half lion to wipe out Hiranyakashipu, anotherAsura, whohad terrorised the world. This beast like form is symbolic of man living like a savage.
Vamana – A dwarf
As a dwarf Vamana, Vishnu humbles the ego of another Asura called Mahabali. This form is symbolic of man in his early stages of evolution where thinking and learning sets in.
Parashurama – A hunter
As Parashurama, a hunter, this form of Vishnu highlights the phase of mankind where man lived by hunting and as a forest dweller.
Rama – A leader
The Rama form of Vishnu and the good governance of Rama, showcases the stage when man started living by rules as a disciplined society.
Balarama – A farmer
Vishnu as Balarama, the bearer of a plough, is symbolic of the stage when man took to organized farming, irrigation, cattle rearing and trade as an industry.
Krishna – A strategist
Vishnu as Krishna, highlights the stage when man after the setting in of societal living, industrialization and trade starts to strategize to improve his position.
Kalki – A horse rider
This is an avatar of Vishnu which is yet to come but when it does, is expected to herald the dissolution of the world. In this as a horse rider, Vishnu symbolizes the speed and power which eventually are believed to become the cause of the destruction of the world.
We see here a great connect between Darwin theory and the Indian Avataric concept. While Charles Darwin’s theories challenged the idea of Divinity in the west by propounding an evolutionary origin of humans, the same theory was in line with the Indian concept of Avatars, incarnations of the Divinity Vishnu. The people of this land had understood the concept of evolution even before Darwin.
Charles Darwin was a great scientist with the similar insight of an Indian Rishi. No wonder, at his death people queued up next to pay their last respects to him, probably one of the longest queue, showing the respect, the common men had for this great man.