The perception of the world in every religion is different and unique, and so is the story of how the world came into being. Let us take a look at the creation stories in the different religious traditions.
The creation of the world has been one of the fundamental questions that the humans have been seeking an answer for, since time immemorial. Various spiritual, theological, philosophical, and scientific explanations have been put forth till date, in attempts to unravel the mystery of the world’s creation. Religion, which forms the base of human behavior and beliefs, seems to have been the first solid institution to have tried to decode this enigmatic puzzle by means of various stories and myths. Creation stories, also known as ‘creation myths’, are narratives that speak symbolically about the creation of world and life. These myths, which tend to develop through various oral traditions, essentially have their roots in the folk culture. They are passed down from one generation to the other, and are interpreted in so many different ways in the process, that at the end of, say, a century, we might have several different versions of the same myth. Nevertheless, the purpose remains the same, to try to explain the beginning of the world.
As mentioned above, almost every religion of the world has its own, unique creation myth. Among the most interesting ones are the creation myths in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, and the one extolled via the Aboriginal ‘dreamtime’.
The aborigines of Australia belong to one of the oldest surviving cultures of the world. They propose the ‘Dreamtime’ concept of creation. According to the ‘Dreamtime’ creation story, the Earth was once flat and barren. There were no animals, birds, trees, water or man. Baiame, the ‘maker of things’, is believed to have brought the ‘dreamtime’ ancestors from beneath the Earth and sea, where they lied in eternal slumber. The ancestors wandered over the land and, soon became parts of interesting adventures. They met each other as they wandered, argued, encountered strange creatures, and fought battles. Each event gave Earth a new shape; hills and mountains rose and plants grew. When something wrong was done, the Rainbow Snake would punish the ancestors. But the Rainbow Snake is also referred to as the ‘Old Woman’, who taught humans how to talk and search for food. When the Emu ancestor, and the Eagle ancestor fought, the latter took one of former’s egg, and threw it in the air. The egg burst into flames, forming the sun. The ‘dreamtime’ ancestors also decided how different creatures should look and behave, and how sacred ceremonies were to be performed. The aborigines believe that the ‘dreamtime’ is not over, nor are the ancestors, dead.
Taoist Creation Myth
The Chinese Taoist creation myth is particularly interesting. It speaks of the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’, two opposite forces, working in conjunction with each other. Both these forces are, together, supposed to be the creative power that sustains life and being. Yin and yang are natural forces behind, even the gods. According to the theory, there was a time of utter chaos, mist, and emptiness. Suddenly, there was a colorful light from which all things sprang up. The mist shook, and everything that was light, rose up, while everything that was heavy, sank and became solid. The Heaven and the Earth yielded two strong forces – yin and yang. While yang is supposed to be hot, fiery, and masculine, yin is moist, cool, and feminine. Left alone, they are capable of destroying the world, and together they can generate balance and harmony. The belief is that yang created the sun, and the moon came from yin. Together they created the four seasons and the five elements, and all kinds of living creatures. In the beginning, the Earth was just a sphere without any features. Yin and yang created P’an Ku, the Ancient One, who was given the task of bringing order to the Earth. He created the mountains and the hills, and dug river valleys. One day P’an Ku collapsed and died. When he fell to the ground, his body transformed into the five sacred mountains. Taoism believes that his hair became the plants, and his blood formed the rivers. Thus, the world, as we see it today, was created.
Christian Creation Story
Christianity believes that God has three aspects: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1 and 2 in the Old Testament of the Bible, tells the Christian story of creation of the world. According to it, in the beginning, God roamed the universe and the waters and created light and darkness. On the second day, God created Heaven and separated water from the Earth. On the third day, he raised the dry land and created plants. On the fourth day, God made the light, ‘day’ and lesser light, ‘night’. On the fifth day, he created the creatures of the sea and air. On the sixth day, God created all kinds of living creatures on the Earth. On the seventh day or sabbath, God rested. The first humans that He created were Adam and Eve, who lived in Heaven, in the Garden of Eden. They were forbidden from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge – of good and evil. But a serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, which she did and also successfully persuaded Adam to do so. When God came to know of their sin, he drove them to Earth, to toil. Christians believe that man is the most important of God’s creations. They refer to the ‘fall’ to find answers to suffering and death.
Hinduism believes that this is not the first world or universe. There have been and are many more worlds. They are created by Lord Brahma the Creator. Lord Vishnu is the Sustainer, while Lord Shiva plays the Destroyer. These three gods are forms of the Supreme entity. The universe is a vast ocean on which Lord Vishnu resides. The lotus flower that springs from his navel is the abode of Lord Brahma. The story of creation in Hinduism mentions that when Brahma gets lonely, he splits himself into male and female, the same for man and beast. Everything comes from different parts of his body. One day of Lord Brahma is supposed to be longer than four thousand million Earth years. Every ‘night’ that Lord Brahma sleeps, the world is destroyed, and recreated every ‘morning’ that he wakes up. This cycle of the ‘yugas’ is ongoing and continues forever.
Islamic Creation Story
Islam or Muslim religion states that when God wants to create something, he says, “Be”, and it becomes. This was how God created the Earth and the Heavens. He created creatures that walk, swim, crawl, and fly. He also created the angels, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Holy Qur’an says that God caused it to rain in torrents, and generated corn, grapes, olives, palms, fruit trees, and the grass. Then, He ordered the angels to bring seven handfuls of soil of different colors and modeled man. He breathed life and power into Adam, the first man, and Eve, the first woman. God gave Adam, control over the Earth. When God forbade the couple to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, the Evil One tempted them to disobey God. They did so, and God cast them out of Paradise, down to the Earth. However, merciful God provided them with means of food, drink, and shelter.
The stories may be different, but the underlying commonality is seen within the fact that all of them speak of a higher power being responsible for creation of the world and of the beings that inhabit it.