Before the world, Sky or stars were made, there was darkness. It was everywhere, and it was empty; but for all its emptiness it was neither dead nor cold. It was warm, damp and lively, endless ripping and eddying throughout the universe. If people had existed and been able to see it, it would have seemed like a giant creature without shape, breathing softly as it slept. And if they had been able to listen, they would have heard its ripples gradually transform themselves to sound. A word began. At first it was no more than a whisper, but it swelled and grew to a billow of sound, a gentle syllable endlessly repeating itself, folding back on itself, coiling and twisting till it filled all space. OM … OM … OM… .
As the word unfolded and speared, calm as a heartbeat, it turned the rippling universe into an endless, unfathomable ocean. Deep in the water bobbed a seed as the ocean currents ebbed and flowed, they carried it to the surface to become a glowing golden egg. The egg rocked on the water, and wave tips reflected its radiance to every corner of the darkness round about. As it rocked, the sacred word “OM” went on cradling it, enfolding it the way rose-petals enfold the flower-heart deep inside. The sound was in and out and roundabout, and inside the eggshell, it formed itself into Brahma, the First Father, Creator of Worlds.
When Brahma was ready to be born, he hatched like a chick from the golden egg. From half the shell he made the sky; from the other he made the earth; he set air between them to keep them apart. The sky-shell twinkled in the smoke of space like a myriad stars, or life water-drops glistening in an upturned bowl. The earth-shell bobbed on the sea, until Brahma anchored it with rocks and mountain-peaks. The air between the shells sometimes took its form the golden light above, and was clear and pure; at other times it gathered dampness from the sea below, and blanketed the earth with storms.
When the earth was ready, Brahma drew out of himself six elements: thought, hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. He blended the element to make living things of every kind. He sowed the earth with plants, and gave them two gifts; the sense of touch and the power to remark themselves with seeds and fruits. He stocked the land with animals and the sea with fish, and set the air whirring with birds and insects-and to each of them he gave seven gifts: the sense of touch, taste, hearing, sight, and smell, the power to reproduce themselves and the power of movement. The world throbbed with life, as its new creatures squawked, hissed, chattered, buzzed, yelped, whistled and barked on every side.
So Brahma created all living things, and gave them gifts. One thing only he kept from them: though. The world was their playground, and they had senses to enjoy it-why should they need thought as well? Until the time came when he made a creature worthy of possessing intelligence, Brahma locked it inside himself. Many age passed, and he spent them roaming the world delighting in his own creation. Sometimes he rode a lotus-boat. With his hands he picked up all kinds of objects and carried them: a pink lotus-flower, a string of prayer, a sacred book, golden pot.
After a time, Brahma divided himself and made another being, Saraswati. As soon as she existed, Brahma fell passionately in love with her. He gazed fondly at her, and she lowered her eyes and modestly stepped to one side, out of his gaze. At once a second head appeared on Brahma’s neck, gazing at her lovingly as before. She stepped behind him, and a third head grew; she stepped to his other side, and a fourth head grew; she soared into the air above him, and a fifth head grew, looking up. Brahma said, “Come down, Saraswati. Help me make angles to live in light, demons to live in darkness, and the human race to live on earth.” Saraswati swooped back down to earth and married him.
Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and of all the arts, especially music. She holds: Flowers, prayer-beads, finger-drum or palm-leaf book; she plays a wire-stringed veena, and her music fills the world with sweetness of the gods.
The Saraswati Vandana which is sung in some schools is a most beautiful and melodious composition in praise, basically, of the idea of education.
Abridged from “in the Beginning”
By Helen Cherry and Kenneth mcleish