Carl Sagan on Cosmos in India

Recently, when the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking made some comments on Aliens Invading Earth, I tweeted the link and a friend on Twitter – Parthasarathy (@zincoshine) redirected me to Carl Sagan’s commentary “Pale Blue Dot”. While Pale Blue Dot is a very famous question asked in many quizzes, I must confess that I never took time to actually listen to the commentary. When I found Pale Blue Dot commentary, I also found some other Carl Sagan commentaries in Youtube recommendations section. The post is to collate what Carl Sagan said about Idea of Cosmos in Hinduism in his famous television series “Cosmos : A Personal Voyage”

Carl Sagan. The name is enough to explain the phenomenon called Scientific Mind. The phenomenon has had its repetitions in various forms all through the time. Carl Sagan happened during 1934 and 1996. Unfortunate that the phenomenon in Carl Sagan’s form ended, but in his form, it left us a lot of teachings on how humans look at various things starting from life to the universe. The biggest contribution of Carl Sagan to the mankind is his commentary on various aspects of religions and Gods, apart from the research he conducted as a scientist.

I watched the movie Contact after Star Network entered into Indian television industry. It was telecast as a prime-time movie on Star Movies. It was then that I came across the name Carl Sagan. I soon realized that this person was one of the geniuses of the century. However, it has always been a keen interest of mine to see what a Scientific Mind – unbiased, seeking logic as the base of any explanation and open to discussion on any interpretation, would think about explanation of Cosmos in Hinduism.

Hinduism has defined for the world the most elaborate explanation of the universe. I am yet to come across any world faith which even touched the periphery of the way Hinduism sees everything around us. Hinduism calls the creation “Brahmandam” which can be translated as the Universe. It has always proclaimed that Brahmandam, the Universe, has always existed. The Nasadiya Suktam in Rig Veda (10:129) is the hymn of creation. I found the following Youtube video explaining this.

As the description of the video says, it is difficult to translate Vedas to English because of the lack of proper constructs in English. I am copying the complete description here.

Nasadiya sukta – Hymn of creation Rig veda 10th Mandala 129 sukta

English Translation ( hard to translate as English does’t have the conceptual constructs required to translate it; this is the best you can get )

At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing.
There was not air nor yet sky beyond.
What was wrapping? Where? In whose protection?
Was Water there, unfathomable deep?
There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
of night or day there was not any sign.
The One breathed without breath by its own impulse.
Other than that was nothing at all.

Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void, that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.
In the beginning Love arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.

A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing.
What was described above it, what below?
Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces,
thrust from below and forward move above.
Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it?
Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation?
Even the Gods came after its emergence.
Then who can tell from whence it came to be?

That out of which creation has arisen,
whether it held it firm or it did not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He surely knows – or maybe He does not!

While Nasadiya Suktam is about creation, Vedas and Puranas also elaborate on just what the heck is everything around us. I will not go into the details on kalpas and brahma yugas etc. The whole idea is explained quite well in the following two Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage videos.

Part 1
Part 2

While I do not agree with Carl Sagan (in part 1) that the 8.32bn years of one kalpam was arrived at by chance, I agree with him on many of the other aspects he describes. The tandava nrityam of Lord Shiva is the pose in Nataraja statue. It is the most descriptive motif in Hinduism of the ideas represented by Vedas. The notion of a never ending universe where it is impossible to say whether Gods dream of mankind or mankind dream of Gods shows the level of maturity Hinduism has. The ideas such as various Brahmas being responsible for various Univereses show the concept of Parallel Universes.

It is of course widely known that Carl Sagan believed in Aryan Invasion theory. I do not blame him. He, being a researcher at Harvard, would have been forced to believe so by the overwhelming amount of literature supporting Aryan Invasion Theory.

If you find time, please go through some of his commentaries on God, religion, universe etc. You will realize why it is but logical that all scientists (at least Carl Sagan himself is) are by default Hindus.


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