There it lay in the middle of the universe, a shapeless form of matter, resembling chaos, in the midst of a static, soundless surrounding. Over thousands of years, soft sounds evolved signifying the movement of particles, one unprecedented in the history of the universe where millions of particles rose, differentiating between light and the particles with the lowest density. Light ascended at a faster pace than the rest and once, it reached its limit, the light formed the top of the universe and the particles below it formed first the clouds and then Heaven.  The particles that had not risen formed a huge mass, dense and dark which came to be called Earth. From Heaven emerged the first three Gods.This narrative, also known as Tenchikaibyaku, constitutes the Japanese Creation Myth which is described first hand in the texts of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.

Creation myths or cosmogony is a symbolic narrative of the creation and organization of the world defined by a certain culture. The three stages of creation usually comprise firstly, of the primordial beings or Gods, secondly of human ancestors who are semi divine and lastly, humans themselves. While in some creation myths like the Japanese narrative, the gradual emergence of the world highlights the latent power of the earth, others, like in the Hindu tradition, speak of the world being the offspring of primordial parents.  

Following the great dissolution of the universe or the mahapralaya, there was complete darkness and everything remained in a dormant, inactive state. In this context arose the Self manifested Being, ultimately responsible for the creation of primordial waters in which the seed of creation was sown. The seed grew into a golden womb or the Hiranyagarbha, following which, the Svayambhu penetrated the egg.

This narrative forms the base of a range of Hindu texts. While the Isvara Upanisad identifies Isvara (God) to have pervaded every aspect of the universe, becoming omnipresent, the Vedanta Sutra states that from the Brahman the Universe proceeds and eventually returns. The Samkhya school highlights the two primary principles- Purusa and Prakriti where creation is only a manifestation or evolution of the constituents of Prakriti as a result of Purusa’s Conciousness. In the Mahabharata, Narayana  stood alone as the Seed of all Creation, the ultimate creator. He was the source of the principles of creation, sustenance and dissolution (the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Visnu and Siva). According to the Manu Smriti, in the beginning, all the present features of life were entirely undifferentiated and indefinable. In this context, the Universe of ‘name and form’ emerged through the medium of the Self-existent Creator, Svayambhu.   

Hwanung, the son of Hwanin, an important character in Korean mythology, longed to live on earth among the valleys and mountains. One day his father granted him his wish and allowed him and 3000 followers to descend from heaven to a Sandalwood tree on the Baedu Mountain. On his arrival, Hwanung founded Sinsi (the city of God) and gave himself the title ‘Heaven King.’ A bear and tiger residing in a cave near the Sandalwood tree would visit the tree everyday to pray to him. One day, Hwangung gave the bear and the tiger twenty bulbs of garlic and some divine mugwort. Hwanung promised that if they managed to eat only his garlic and mugwort and remained in the cave, out of sunlight for 100 days, he would allow for their metamorphosis into humans. During their time inside the cave, the tiger got hungry and impatient, eventually leaving the cave before their time was up. However, the bear remained, and on the 21st day, it was transformed into a beautiful woman, who gracefully honored Hwanung with offerings. With time the woman grew lonely, and prayed to Hwanung that she might have a child. So Hwanung made her his wife and gave her a son called Dangun.

Chinese texts recording creation myths speak of heaven and earth being joint together in the beginning of time to resemble the shape of a chicken’s egg. Within this shape remained P’anku (referring to ‘Coiled up Antiquity’).  Over the span of 18,000 years, the mass of life split apart to differentiate the brightly lit Heaven from the dark and gloomy Earth. During the next 18,000 years, Heaven rose above by ten feet in height every day, while Earth increased ten feet in thickness and their midpoint or P’anku increased by 10 feet in size. Thus, Heaven and earth came to be separated by their present distance of 30,000 miles.

The myths, comprising elaborate details about the creation of Earth, raise a range of doubts that cannot be scientifically verified. However, they do indeed present intriguing religious perspectives. The various classical texts of the different regions of Asia highlight how creation myths tend to validate existing beliefs and in turn justify patterns of life and culture. 

-Flavy Sen Sharma, IInd Year, History

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    February 2013