Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": 'WHAT GOD SHALL WE ADORE WITH OUR OBLATION?'

1. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha,1 born only lord of all created


He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven.

What god shall we adore with out oblation?

2. Giver of vital breath, of power and vigor, he whose commandments

all the gods acknowledge;

Whose shade is death, whose lustre makes immortal.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

3. Who by his grandeur hath become sole ruler of all the moving

world that breathes and slumbers;

He who is lord of men and lord of cattle.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

4. His, through his might, are these snow-covered mountains, and

men call sea and Rasa 2 his possession;

His arms are these, his are these heavenly regions.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

5. By him the heavens are strong and earth is steadfast, by him light's

realm and sky-vault are supported;3

By him the regions in mid-air were measured.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

6. To him, supported by his help, two armies embattled look while

trembling in their spirit,

When over them the risen sun is shining.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

7. What time the mighty waters 4 came. containing the universal germ, producing Agni,

Thence sprang the gods' one spirit 5 into being.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

8. He in his might surveyed the floods containing productive force

and generating worship.6

He is the god of gods, and none beside him.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

9. Ne'er may he harm us who is earth's begetter, nor he whose laws

are sure, the heavens' creator,

He who brought forth the great and lucid waters.

What god shall we adore with our oblation?

10. Prajapatil 7 thou only comprehendest all these created things, and none beside thee.

Grant us our hearts' desire when we invoke thee;

may we have store in riches in possession.


1 The refrain concluding each stanza asks, 'Who is the god whom I should worship?' The poet in this creation hymn seeks to name That One who is the true source of being. Later reciters, confused by the recurrent interrogative, posited a deity named 'Ka' (Who?') to whom this hymn was thenceforth addressed.

2 The mythological river which encompasses the earth and the atmosphere.

3 As Varuna, in his work of creation (see vii, 86, I) propped apart heaven and earth, so here does Hiranyagarbha perform the same divisive operation, creating a mid-space (antariksha) in the process.

4 Again, as in x, 129, it is the primordial waters which bear creation's germ. Here the solar germ and the fire forms of Agni are generated from the waters. Hiranyagarbha and Agni are both golden sons of the waters; they portray that unique coincidence of creation-in-chaos where the bright fire glows in the lap of dark chaotic waters,

5 The living spirit (asu) of all the gods is manifest uniquely when Hiranygarbha comes with the flooding waters.

6 Or,.generating sacrifice.

7 Lord of creatures, the answer to the interrogative refrain. This is an important text for the later bramanas, where Prajapati is identical with the sacrifice and 'creates the all out of himself.'

Translation by Ralph T.. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda iv (Benares, 1892), pp. 355-6

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