Nasadiya: The Creation Hymn of Rig Veda by Wendy Dongier O'Flaherty SignUp
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Nasadiya:
The Creation Hymn of Rig Veda
by Wendy Dongier O'Flaherty Bookmark and Share
 

 


There was neither non-existence nor existence then. 
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. 
What stirred? 
Where? 
In whose protection? 
Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?

There was neither death nor immortality then. 
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. 
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse. 
Other than that there was nothing beyond.

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning, 
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. 
The life force that was covered with emptiness, 
that One arose through the power of heat.

Desire came upon that One in the beginning, 
that was the first seed of mind. 
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom 
found the bond of existence and non-existence.

Their cord was extended across. 
Was there below? 
Was there above? 
There were seed-placers, there were powers. 
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.

Who really knows? 
Who will here proclaim it? 
Whence was it produced? 
Whence is this creation? 
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. 
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen
- perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not - 
the One who looks down on it, 
in the highest heaven, only He knows 
or perhaps even He does not know.

Translation by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. From the Book "The Rig Veda - Anthology" 
Image (c) Gettyimages.com

12-Aug-2010
More by :  Wendy Dongier O'Flaherty
 
Views: 16115
Article Comment GORA MUKHERJEE appears to be somewhat idealising the theme of oral translation of hand-me-down traditions. Great as they were , they cannot be measured in comparison with printed or written words.He fails to understand that with every generation such oral forms of transmission can become bogged-down in more than phonetics.. True scholarship has to take into account genetic breakdown in speech and intellectual understanding . Some may have been somewhat intellectually not as sharp as their fathers, nor as good in pronunciations. The shortcomings of any single generation has led to the present varied rituals performed by pundits to all those unsuspecting populations across their global habitats. True scholarship means not just looking at the idealised ideas of the TAJ MAHAL.. Truth can only be viewed by looking at the bogged-down drains as without a good sewer system the TAJ MAHAL would not have been a showcase .
Those Brahmins were and still are overly inbred; and like all living religious teachers become corrupted by style and pronunciation that leads to change of sound and pronunciation leading to dialectic sub-linguistic expressions of similar words. Even now on the subcontinent, one would find Brahmins even modifying the written words The only manner of proper transmission for posterity can be by written or printed liturgical political or social tomes. How much change had taken place before the first printed material was made - subject to the ego or timidity of those of the then previous generations ?.. JAYANT JOKHAN.
Jayant Jokhan
09/12/2014
Article Comment I am of Aryan / Dravidian descent ... and have read Wendy's translation with deep emotion ... and I felt within myself that depth within my spirit / soul / mind an awakening to something buried within my psyche suddenly - I see - as a light switched-on in a darkened room ! JJ
JAYANT JOKHAN
09/09/2014
Article Comment WHAT A GREAT TRANSLATION OF "NASADYA SUKTA" by Wendy. However, with her 2009 publication of "Hindus, An Alternative History, she seems to have made a descent from "sublime" to ridiculous.
I agree with Gora Mukherjee's overall appraisal of Doniger's 2009 book "Hindus-An Alternative History". It is like an architect appraising Taj Mahal and focusing only on its "clogged" drains. It is a big comedown for a great author and Indologist like Wendy Doniger. However, Penguin's recent decision to "pulp" the book under pressure of a fringe Hindu group is ill-concieved.

HM
HARISH MIDHA
02/17/2014
Article Comment 1. I posted an enthusiastic note a few minutes earlier, for reasons stated. The subject must be studied. I will do so soon. My response concerns just the lines that are printed online. It does not refer to W.D. ʻO Flahertyʻs entire translation. This is my first encounter with her work (online, several lls.). Thank you!
2. This is to comment on Gora Mukherjeeʻs response. You are absolutely right.
The Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukuʻi and Elbert used all sources known in print, I imagine and believe, but mainly the authority of M.K. Pukuʻi, who was a researcher for the Bishop Museum for many years. She became the indigenous
"scholar" (a Western word for a non-Western knowledgeable source). She was an oral informer -- not the best speaker or researcher but one who learned the
scholarship ways of the West and came to accept that she was indeed more knowledgeable than certain others, who chance to be males. In her research, she learned more than any one person of any one locale and one lifetime, thus displacing the men who had been her genuine original sources. Insofar as the men as sources were attached to different chiefs and their respective island traditional accounts, they were the "Repositories of Knowledge." Today,their materials are mainly recorded through the agency of Mary K. Pukuʻi, notable for saying her mother taught her this and that. No woman could have known some of the things in such great detail as she implies her mother knew, for the scope of the data in time, space, and persons whose resources they were are too great. But researchers today do not know that.
And so the original accounts are lost, truly, in ways that actually men were trained to know them as professional Repositories serving their particular High Paramount Chiefs. One researcher, Theodore Kelsey, an American who was raised in Hawaiʻi since aged 2 (1880ʻs) and spent most of his adult life
in the field gathering records and writing them down, specifying names of the
informants, residences, birthplaces, and gender, shows how such accounts can make a difference. The womenʻs information follows the general rule of
what females are allowed; likewise for the men; and in matters of great importance especially if death is involved, like going to war, or healing the sick, etc., in general the men were the greater among the numbered practitioners and resources. So it is important to understand the difference.
Pukuʻi did not make up the rules of her centrality as mouthpiece for the Bishop Museumʻs indigenous scholarly cultural and historical knowledge; but those that did are not the ones who are today being noted for having done contemporary Hawaiian researchers a great disservice. Which is not to say that women did not know what they knew but to say in traditional societies like the Indian and the Hawaiian (which is an Indo-Pacific language descendant), males dominated and the information often comes out closer grained, larger scoped, deeper time depth, more multiple alternatives, and involving greater numbers of people and groups, i.e., leaderships of more kinds by tradition. That is because Hawaiian was always an oral language until the missionaries arrived in 1821. Sanskrit is in a much happier place, fortunately. I am so pleased to see the work now produced. Thank you!
Leialoha Perkins
04/11/2013
Article Comment What a find! What an amazing happenstance to find a translation of the Rig Veda that shows, as I suspected for over two decades, thanks to Mary Carroll
Smithʻs Harvard Ph.D. The Rig Veda: the Song of Indiaʻs Sacred Text. many
affinities and suggestions of correspondences in the much later Hawaiian oral classic He Tumulīpō ordered by King Kalākaua for transmission into writing from the oral for the Austrian anthropologist Adolf Bastian, tr. Martha W. Beckwith He Kumulipo: a Creation Chant, This is absolutely amazing! I must put out my
paper on the Theodore Kelsey, Henry Kekahuna and Fred Beckley and indigenous scholarsʻ collaborativeʻs work on He Tumulīpō. My paper is in a journal I founded precisely for this kind of return, cyclable information known to exist but that is to me, in the middle of the Pacific, coming from "out of the blue." My paper is in J. Hawaiian and Pacific Folklore and Folklife Studies, Kamaluʻuluolele Publishers/ University of Hawaiʻi, Leeward, 2v., 1991, 1992. . . .But first I must read the remainder of your papers (and I must get your book!). Please keep coming! And mahalo pumehana. Oia iʻo nō! -L.A.P.
Leialoha Perkins
04/11/2013
Article Comment Excellent work. Compels me to read and reserach more on the Vedas.
Pawan Kumar
08/04/2012
Article Comment Not about this particular piece.Wendy's scholarship and knowledge of Sanskrit is well known.But I think she should confine herself to the job of a translator and not venture into some thing like an "alternative history" of Hinduism.I was highly disappointed with this book which,appears to have been a sponsored writing.She hurriedly glosses over the fundamental part of the development of Hindu philosophical thought-The Vedas,and Upanishads,busy as she is chasing an imaginary ghost-The Male Brahmin.If you leave out the Brahmins,whatever their later misdeeds and greed
might have brought embarrassment to many of their present day caste mates,you are left with practically nothing to write about!How did they memorize thousands and thousands of lines of prose and verses for over a thousand years,with correct phonetic notes! I am surprised that a translator of "Kamsutra" did not appreciate a society where even a courtesan could enjoy not only acceptance but even respectability and royal patronage.Women's sexual needs and various erotic arts to satisfy them were put down explicitly.Compare this with any other civilization,ancient or modern.Your book is a highly prejudicial views.You even point out that Alexander is not considered in India"that great after all".What a come down from Maxmuller
Gora Mukherjee
08/04/2012
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