Structure of the Universe
Dr. K. Sivananda Murty
In the very remote pre-historic past the Aryavarta became the seat of tapas which was a way of life by itself for many sages. It revealed a thousand aspects of this creation through the voices of many Rishis. Such knowledge revealed is obviously meant for the benefit of mankind. Vedas were put to use in the Yajna as guided by the Brahmana texts that accompanied them. The Yajnas had a wide range of purpose like having a benign and merciful seasonal cycle, growth of progeny, cattle and crop which are the earthly benefits. ‘ Starting with these mundane benefits obtained as boons from the Devas, the Yajnas, in an ascending order, sought a place for men in the higher worlds after departing from the Earth. The underlying feature is addressing and propitiating the many Gods who dwell in the higher worlds. The Devas are free from a material physical body, from hunger, aging, death and are endowed with powers to control the elements, conquer space and distances in creation and ability to grant boons to the mortals on the Earth. The concept of there being higher worlds occupied by beings far superior to the human-beings is the basic foundation on which the Vedic religion is built. This hard fact is reflected in every Vedic and Puranic texts endlessly. The interaction between men on the Earth with the Gods in the higher worlds is the subject matter in the Puranas, showing Yajna or tapas as a linking medium. Rise of men to the higher worlds by merit after death here or the fall of a God to the Earth by curse or descent of a God to the Earth by invocation, is a commonplace event in the Puranas. The Vedic religion repeatedly speaks of the departed souls being in Pitruloka, Yamaloka, etc. or the Swargaloka by merit.
The question arises, what are the placements of these other worlds or the higher worlds in the vast space we behold? What are the mutual placements of these Iokas? Where are we on this Earth in the space? The word Brahmanda is often used in our literature. What does it mean in terms of the shape, the content, and the direction of those places with respect to the Earth etc.? We do not find a comprehensive, singular description of this Universe anywhere in our literature. But the various names of Iokas, the Devas, and their relation with the earthlings repeatedly occur in our literature. This Brahmanda is also called Jagati or Viswa.
It is common knowledge that we have a Solar system with planets and our Earth revolving round the Sun. Where is the Solar system in space and why these movements, revolution and rotation? Astronomy, ancient and modern, speaks of the planets, Moon etc. with calculations of their periodicities, but the science of this astronomical phenomenon is not the knowledge of this Brahmanda or the Universe.
We have thousands of references to the Iokas of this Brahmanda. There is a whole Purana dedicated to this name. There are instances described where a divine chariot arrived to take a noble soul to Swarga. In the Yajna performed by Dasaratha (Ramayana) the Yajna-purusha, the God appeared and handed a vessel of payasam to be distributed to his wives. There is an ocean of literature of this nature routinely speaking of Gods appearing before men and disappearing or vanishing i.e. returning to heaven. There are several instances where departed souls of one’s ancestors appear before them for a reason. They are said to be in-dwellers of Pitruloka. Bhishma in the Mahabharata is said to belong to a higher Ioka called Vasuloka. He was a divine being lower than the Gods of Swargaloka. And where is this Vasuloka? Parana tells us that this Brahmanda consists of 14 Iokas, 7 higher and 7 lower with our Earth at the centre. Pitruloka, Yamaloka and some others are not among these.
Similarly Gandharvaloka is often mentioned, but not as one of the 14 worlds. These Iokas are in fact closer to our earth. The Puranas speak of individuals going up and down between these proximate higher worlds and the Earth is often mentioned. The individuals from these proximate higher worlds came down to the Earth either by curse or by invocation and prayers.
Yudhishtira was an aspect of the Dharma Devata , Arjuna was an aspect of Indra, Bhima was an aspect of the God Vayu and Nakula and Sahadeva were aspects of the twin Gods Aswins. These divinities came down in human form by invocation and prayer to bless Pandava queens with children. Hence the Pandavas represented the nobler and righteous aspect of the Gods.
The birth of Bhishma was a result of curse on a God, Vasu, for misconduct. His conduct as a man on the Earth was a sad association with the evil and ending up in no noble achievements of any kind. Bhishma however was a highly knowledgeable being and he enlightened Yudhishtira about Dharma. Circumstances of descent on the Earth of these superior beings made all the difference.
Kama was the result of an indiscreet invocation of the Sun-God, by an immature mind of a girl. When born he was unwelcome and was deserted. This caused an evil association in his life, an evil conduct and a nature that consisted of hatred and jealousy against the noble pandavas with no provocation.
Fundamentally however the beings in the superior worlds are noble. It is therefore very clear that these superior beings are closely related to the men on the Earth. The Mahabharata tells us that the evil persons like Duryodhana entered the regions of Yama to suffer from their sins on earth. Another version tells us that Duryodhana’s soul merged into the Kali-Purusha. The five sons of Pandavas are Gandharvas. Even Dhritarashtra belonged to the Gandharvaloka who was born on the Earth begotten by Vedavyasa. Abhimanyu was an aspect of the Moon-God. Others such as Drupada, Virata and others were aspects of Yakshas, Gandharvas, Guhyakas etc. They left the Earth by fighting on the side of righteousness and reached their happy abodes. Draupadi was born as an aspect of Mahalakshmi from out of yajna-fixe by invocation, but not from the womb of a woman, as ayonija. She left the Earth to merge into the universal mother, the Mahalakshmi. Many others like Uttara, Salya joined the Viswedevas. Dhrishtadyumna merged into the God of fire Agni. The great Yadavas like Satyaki, Kritavarma etc joined the Siddha, Sadhya and the Viswedevas. Such a detailed description of the Mahabharata shows the existence of nearby superior worlds in the northern regions of our outer space and their inter-relationship with beings on Earth. In this context there is no mention of Swargaloka, with reference to these great departed souls of the Earth. Swarga is one of the 14 major worlds of Brahmanda, long distance away.
Vedic cosmology also describes the different worlds of Brahmanda. The texts like Purushasukta, Taittiriya Brahmana, and Satapatha Brahmana indicate the creation of the superior worlds. Prajapati is the origin personality of the creation and he is none else than Brahma himself, as a physical creative aspect. Brahma is mere thought-conceiver of the creation. About the creation there are many sentences such as the following.
The Veda says:
naabhya aaseed antariksham.
tadhaa lokaa’gm akalpayan.
Thus he created the Iokas from out of his limbs.
The Veda says:
There existed Hiranyagarbha at the beginning. The cosmic golden egg was created by the Hiranyagarbha, the first Prajapati. The golden egg is the Brahmanda itself inside of which the Iokas were delivered as above: The physical, elemental Earth from his feet, antariksha from his navel region, all light from his head, and the directions from his ears. This indicates the four directions, the four sub directions and the two directions above and below which is the cosmic form, compared here to a human form. This is to indicate that the Prajapati’s form itself is the shape of the universe in the three dimensional space. It is said that having created the Universe, he himself entered into it.
Veda: Tat srushtvaa tadeva anupraavishat
This simply means that the universe is fully living and dynamic in nature. Men have to understand this for realising an all pervasive truth for the sake of elevation to higher and higher consciousness. The path may consist of Vedic rituals worshipping the higher beings at various levels, through tapas or meditation on this wonderful all pervasive truth, or through yoga in which the Earth and body consciousness are left behind and the self, rising to levels of higher Universal consciousness.
On a repeated reading of Puranas on this subject we find several fragments of references to the contents in the Brahmanda, relation between the Earth and the higher Worlds. The Puranas speak of the worlds, like Pitru, Gandharva etc which we should identify as proximate Iokas situated south and north of the Earth’s path around the Sun, much more often than references to the seven higher worlds like Swarga, Maharloka, Janoloka, Tapoloka etc. This is to say that the human souls of the Earth have more to do with these proximate worlds like Vasuloka, Gandharva, Yaksha, KimNara the Yama, Rakshasa, and the Guhyaka Iokas etc, and not directly with the higher worlds like Swarga and above. The Antariksha – the space between this cluster of Iokas at the centre of the Brahmanda and the Swargaloka above is known as the Antariksha in which there are no worlds or Lokas, but the space is occupied by a million Rudras. They are similar in form to Rudra Mahadeva.
There is a Vedic text known as “Ghosha Shanti”. It describes an abhisheka kriya (Worshipful bathing) addressed to the almighty Mahadeva who occupied the Universe from the lowest Patala to the end of the space above (aapaatala nabhasthalaanta…). The Ashta Vasus pour the nectar on the Supreme Being from the east praising Him in ‘Gayatri Chandas’. The Rudras do the abhisheka from the south praising Him in ‘Trishtup Chandas’. The Adityas or twelve suns do the Abhisheka from the west chanting the praise in the ‘Jagati Chandas’. From the north, Viswedevas worship Mahadeva praising Him in the ‘Anushtup Chandas’. High above in the Brahmanda, Brihaspati worships Him from all the directions in the ‘Pankti Chandas’. This is because, far above our mid regions of our Solar system, there can be no directions whatsoever. It is just an open space all round. In our region of our Solar system there are directions due to the Earth’s rotation causing apparent sunrise and sunset and there is a southern course and northern course of the Earth’s path around the Sun. The existence of various lokas around us finds a clear mention here. In fact references to this effect are aplenty in our literature.
Yajnas and Astronomy
Long ago in the Vedic age itself a clear identification of the Nakshatras with their limits in the Zodiac, the moments of Sun’s entry into the Nakshatras, exact moments of the beginning of Uttarayana and Dakshinayana, and many other astronomical phenomena were known to the Aryan society. This formed the basis for their ritual calendar. Heliacal rising of Stars and Planets were correctly predicted. Auspicious moments for various Vedic rituals or for mundane activities were being fixed with precision. Most important of all, precession of Equinoxes was noticed and calculated. All this is evident from Puranic and Vedic records. The Mahabharata was recorded with astronomical particulars. Even in the Ramayana, description of Moon in Rohini for its brightness is mentioned for a poetic use. There is the story in the Purana that Moon married the 27 star daughters of Daksha and was partial to Rohini.
This astronomical knowledge was accompanied by the Aryan’s faith and belief in the benefic and malefic nature of stars and planets and their various combinations. That was the beginning of a whole elaborate Astrological religious tradition with rituals ranging from daily ones to month-long and year-long yajnas etc. This is the pre-history of the Vedic religion.
Researchers place Mahabharata War in and around 1500 BCE as against its traditional placement before 3100 BCE. There are reasons to believe that the truth is somewhere in between these dates. We are aware that the Vedas were spread over the Aryavarta in Rishi families and that Vedavyasa collected all of them, edited and divided them with a clear classification and then a new era began in the Aryan culture. Many oral traditions entered into books for the sake of preservation in a modern society. Earliest of them is Vedanga-Jyotisha assigned to 1300 BCE. It provided a ready calendar-form based on the mean motions of the Sun and Moon and many other astronomical phenomena such as the solstices, eclipses etc. The text contains 36 verses in essence which are important and some more verses are related to Rigveda and Yajurveda. It’s a guide for sacrifices right from Darsapoorna, ishtis to Agnichayana and seasonal yajnas. This era introduced mathematical devices instead of observational procedures. By this time the yuga calculations, the year cycles, prediction of eclipses etc. were established. Sage Laghada was the author of Vedanga-Jyotisha . Later the Siddhanta works came up one by one and Surya Siddhanta in the 2nd century CE. Although it is a book of astronomy, it treats with the malefic aspects of combinations like vaidhriti etc. The Aryan knowledge of astronomy was totally religion oriented. Our Panchangas today are not work-a-day calendars but religious guides with astronomical details for the good of man on Earth vis-a-vis pleasing the higher Iokas and the Gods therein.
In this monograph an attempt is made to differentiate between the Earth and related smaller worlds around, and the 14 major worlds inside the Brahmanda. In Chapter 1 a brief discussion is given to show the position of the Vedic knowledge in the context of modern scientific knowledge of Cosmos. In this context, Brahmanda Purana is also briefly mentioned.
Chapter 2 is an attempt to explain the zodiac in the context of Vedic religion. The position and relevance of the smaller Iokas to the Earth is discussed in Chapter 2 with Vedic quotations. Chapter 3 attempts to explain the purpose of creation as the evolution of the souls from darkness to light. Chapter 4 attempts to explain Indian astronomy and its achievements in ancient times. Chapter 5 is devoted to the human limitations of knowledge of cosmos, the paths of the souls and also the acceptance of the Vedic path in general and deviation from that among the asuras, Chapter 6 has dealt with the Surya Siddhanta and also the Vedic religion of yajna. Some more discussion of the cosmology is attempted. Chapter 7 deals with the Solar system and the galaxies.
Chapter 8 is devoted to the western attitude towards Hindu astronomy. A discussion is made about the theory of libration, which is unique to the Hindu astronomy and also to the precession of Equinoxes. Chapter 9 is the epilogue, which explains the divinities in the creation, the arrival of the in-dwellers, and the role of Prajapatis in the procreation of the jivas and the Vedic and other concepts of emancipation and Buddhism.
This work is replete with repetitions by the demand of context. The subjects involved have not permitted a more clear-cut division and regimentation of discussions. The purpose of this work will have been served if the reader is able to appreciate that the Vedic knowledge conceived a real three dimensional, finite cosmos with a clear purpose and that such purpose was conceived in the intelligence of the creative genius. I crave the indulgence of the reader. A mention of the philosophical concepts has been made about the creation. Today’s Vedic religion has more than one theory about jivatma being the paramatman himself or it being different. The explanation offered here is not in specific support of any theory in particular but is general in nature. Such theories are not relevant here where we are treating the universe as a reality with a physical volume and contents of its own. The question whether the creation is reality or an illusion is not relevant here. My knowledge of modern astronomy is insignificant. I am enlightened up to my capacity by modern works like “Structure of the Universe” by Prof. Jay ant Narlikar and works of other scientists of the West.
A doubt may arise in the modem mind that if these worlds are so literally present in the skies or space beyond, how come modern scientific space exploring instruments which are able to trace distant galaxies, do not find any traces of these true Iokas in space? It is necessary to note that these Iokas are purely spiritual in nature and therefore not visible nor detectable and they contain no medium that can reflect back any wave like electro-magnetic or much subtler waves of any nature. We should not forget that a soul is itself not visible by any means.
This monograph was conceived more than 18 years ago. Many jottings were made from time to time over the years. In a final attempt during the past one year the monograph has taken a shape with whatever plan and clarity that is possible. Limitations of my time, energy and memories of readings made in early decades of my life are all involved in this work. In the course of chapters emerging I have taken the comments, the guidance and assessments from my valued friend Prof. V.V.S. Sarma, Formerly, INAE Distinguished Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is an eminent thinker and a scientist with great patience. I can never adequately thank him for his suggestions that added maximum clarity to this work.
I must make a special mention of my daughter Ms. N. Radhakumari, M.Sc. She is instrumental in recording my dictations and providing repeated texts for corrections, with great patience, involvement and devotion. She has gone through its process in press also. Without her service this work would not have seen the light.
A member of my family Dr. R. Raghavendran an eminent scientist in the field of water management with a background of research in France has been a source of encouragement to me. He is one of my intimate caretakers also, along with Mrs. Sathyavathi Raghavendran and my daughter Ms. N. Radhakumari.
During the preparation of this text at Bangalore Sri H. Krishnamurthy, Chief Research Scientist, IISc, Bangalore, helped me in organising the dictated matter and also by providing general assistance. I acknowledge his valuable assistance.
I am greatly indebted to Dr. David Frawley, a well-known scholar and orientalist and author of many books on Indology for his careful reading and comments. I am grateful to Dr. Subhash Kak, Regents Professor and Head, Department of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, USA for his kind words of appreciation. I am very greatful to Prof. Y.Narahari, Chairman, Dept of Computer Science, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for his kind review. I am very greatful to Mahamahopadhyaya Sri Pullela Sriramachandrudu, a learned scholar, for his insight into this write-up and observations. These great men have given me confidence that led to the publication of this small monograph. I am indebted to these eminent scientists of our world for their most valuable reviews and words of encouragement. I shall remember these great men forever.
K. Sivananda Murty
1 December 2013