Vedic cosmology is one of five primary topics addressed in ancient Sanskrit histories known as Puranas. This includes (1) universal creation by the Superconsciousness (Vishnu), and (2) subsequent creation by Superhuman beings (chiefly Brahma).
Vedic cosmology is a vast science with a comprehensive understanding of our universe that far surpasses the views currently presented by modern science. If you’re tempted to write off Vedic cosmology as mere mythology, you should first consider the following:
- The Origin of the Universe—the Puranic date for the Big Bang. The generation of this universe by the Superconsciousness — is 13.819 billion years ago. The current estimate within the scientific community is 13.801 billion years ago.
- The age of the sun according to the Puranas is 4.563 billion years. The current estimate within the scientific community is 4.567 billion years ago.
- The Permian mass extinction is recorded in the Puranas as happening 251.152 million years ago. The current estimate within the scientific community is 251.9 million years ago.
In this way, the universal timeline of Vedic cosmology closely matches the timeline of modern science. In addition, the Puranas accurately describe many, many other scientific phenomena that have only recently been understood in contemporary scientific circles, such as:
- The sun’s future evolution into a Red Giant, and its ultimate explosion into planetary nebulae
- The various stages of fetal development of a human infant in the womb
- The first appearance of life on Earth
- The cyclic nature of the Universe
- The time period for the initial formation of stars within the Universe
Billions of dollars and trillions of hours went into these scientific discoveries, each of which was viewed as ground-breaking in its time. But all of this information has been known to the sages of ancient India since many millenia, long before the technological advancements took place which enabled contemporary scientists to achieve these discoveries through arduous research and experimentation.
LEARN MORE: Author Sidharth Chhabra has extensively documented the many scientific proofs for the accuracy and reliability of the Puranic record in his book, The Big Bang and the Sages. Residents of India can get the book on Amazon India.
Life On Other Planets
The Puranas describe a universe teeming with a variety of life. This goes against the notion that our human race is the only sentient life in space. In the Bhagavad gita it is said that living beings are sarva-gataḥ — they are everywhere. As consciousness, not matter, is the fundamental building block of all existence, it makes sense that conscious life would be found all over the universe.
On this planet earth, lifeforms have been found in even the most extreme of conditions:
- In the desert. The Velvet mesquite is a shrub native to Arizona’s sonoran desert, where the annual rainfall is as low as 3 in. per year. It survives by shooting its roots more than 160 ft. under ground. Another desert plant, the creosote bush, survives by cloning itself. One bush in California’s Mojave desert is estimated to be 11,700 years old.
- Miles under the ocean. The nightmarish fangtooth is a deep-sea aquatic whose habitat is around 6,500 ft. beneath the ocean’s surface, where temperatures are below -32° F and the water pressure is 3,000+ psi.
- In the stratosphere. Rüppell’s griffon vulture is the highest flying bird on modern record, with a top flight of 37,000 ft. They can spot carrion on land from thousands of feet in the air.
The Puranas describe our universe as consisting of three major planes, which are divided further into fourteen subdivisions. Each region of the universe is inhabited by different types of living organisms that possess a body suitable for their environment.
The Puranas were compiled by residents of the upper realms within our universe, who inhabit a multi-dimensional existence much more rarefied and technologically sophisticated than our planet earth.
The Vedic Universe
Taking the plane of the ecliptic and extending it to the edge of our solar system, the Puranas describe that our Earth planet sits within the universe in the middle of these fourteen sub-planes, with six higher realms and seven realms below.
In the famous TV series Cosmos, astronomer Carl Sagan admits that the Vedas of India are the only ancient text “in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology.” In addition, the well-known Harvard professor Alan Watts applauded the Vedic point of view for its advanced concepts in physics and space-time:
“To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas.”
The “Big Bang” of Vedic Cosmology
The Bhagavata Purana compares the material universe to a spider’s web and Lord Vishnu to a spider:
“My dear lord, you create this cosmic manifestation, maintain it, and annihilate it by expansion of your personality, exactly as a spider creates, maintains and winds up its web.” (Bhagavata Purana 4.6.43)
Vedic cosmology describes that before the creation of the universe, there was a singularity wherein all the material elements were compacted into a single undifferentiated substance known as pradhāna. Thus the account of modern science for how the universe came into being closely matches that of Vedic science. The exception is that instead of invoking inexplicable chance to explain how the “Big Bang” occurred, the Bhagavata Purana and other Vedic texts unequivocally show that the “Big Bang” was caused by the Superconsciousness.
Sri Vishnu, who exists beyond three dimensional space and time, initiates the “Big Bang” event by His omnipotent will. Actually, this universe with its countless solar systems can be compared to the dreaming of Vishnu:
yaḥ kāraṇārṇava-jale bhajati sma yoga-nidrām ananta-jagad-aṇḍa-saroma-kūpaḥ
Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada writes: “This material world is created by the dreaming of Maha-Vishnu. The real, factual platform is the spiritual world, but when the spirit soul wants to imitate the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is put into this dreamland of material creation.” (Bhagavata Purana, 4.29.83 purport)
Vedic cosmology describes that the universe is being continually created and annihilated in an unending cycle that lasts approximately 333 trillion years. As such, the “Big Bang” is not a single event, but is the repeated creation of the cosmic universe by the Superconsciousness, Sri Vishnu.
Brahma the Cosmic Engineer
Brahma is the first created being within the universe. He is like the CTO of the cosmos, and he possesses a body composed of information. Brahma is given a blueprint for creation by Vishnu, and based on this information he proceeds to create the universe, in accordance with natural laws.
Due to time dilation, Brahma has an experience of time that vastly differs from that of people on Earth. The life span of Brahma is a mere 100 years, and yet these 100 years last 333 trillion years of the human race. Each day of Brahma is 4.32 billion of our human years, or the equivalent of 1,000 kalpas, also known as yuga cycles. At present we have recentlIn the Bhagavad gita, we find a brief description of Brahma and his role in the unfolding of the universe:
sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
rātriṁ yuga-sahasrāntāṁ te ’ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
avyaktād vyaktayaḥ sarvāḥ prabhavanty ahar-āgame
rātry-āgame pralīyante tatraivāvyakta-saṁjñake
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ’vaśaḥ pārtha prabhavaty ahar-āgame
“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of one day of Brahma, and such also is the duration of his night. At the beginning of a day of Brahma, all living entities become manifest from the unmanifest state, and thereafter, when the night falls, they are merged into the unmanifest again. Again and again, when the onset of a day of Brahma arrives, all living entities come into being, and with the arrival of Brahma’s night they are helplessly annihilated.” (Bhagavad gita 8.17-9)
The Fourteen Sub-planes of Our Solar System
The Bhagavata Purana provides a detailed account of how Brahma divides our solar system into fourteen layered planes of existence, or lokas, for the various forms of life. Our Earth planet sits in the middle, and there are six planes above and seven below. Below is a top-down view of the fourteen lokas:
Satya-loka: This is the plane of existence of Brahma and other highly elevated beings.
Tapa-loka: This is the plane directly below Satya-loka, which is home to perfected yogis.
Jana-loka: On this plane reside the sons of Brahma who are all great sages.
Mahar-loka: This is the plane below Jana-loka, which is also home to great sages, mystics, and teachers of religion. Residents of this plane regularly descend to our Earth planet to instruct human beings in religious principles.
Svar-loka: The beings on Svar-loka, also known as Svarga, include the devatas, or demi-gods who serve as administrative heads of various departments within the solar system. There are numerous planets within this region and the residents enjoy a standard of life thousands of times more pleasurable than the richest people on Earth.
Bhuvar-loka: This is the plane inhabited by departed spirits who lacked the merits required to enter the heavenly realm of Svar-loka. Nonetheless, Bhuvar-loka is more elevated than our plane of Bhur-loka — planet Earth and its neighboring worlds. As such, there is far less suffering for the pious souls who take birth on Bhuvar-loka.
Bhur-loka: This plane of existence includes our Earth planet as well as many similar worlds.
Atala-loka: This is the first sub-plane below the earthly plane. The residents of Atala also experience an intensified grade of sensual pleasure, like the residents of Svarga. They have mystic powers and practice a type of black magic.
Vitala-loka: Below Atala is Vitala-loka, where ghosts and other frightening creatures reside.
Sutala-loka and Talatala-loka: Sutala and Talatala are other sub-earthly realms where residents enjoy heaven-like pleasures.
Mahatala-loka: This realm is inhabited by snake-like humanoids who are expert in the art of concocting potent intoxicants.
Rasatala-loka: Rasatala is home to the Daityas, the enemies of the Demi-gods. They are powerful beings who live according to the philosophy of “might is right.”
Patala-loka: This is another plane inhabited by the snake-like nagas who enjoy intoxicating drinks and other substances far more effective than what is available on our Earth planet.
Vaikuntha: The Spiritual Sky
Vedic cosmology describes that beyond this mundane universe is the spiritual universe of Vaikuntha. There we find a similar hierarchy of planets and variety of living beings, but the difference is that everyone accepts the preeminence of Vishnu and happily serves Him, recognizing Him as the source of all consciousness and manifest reality.
Unlike the endless cycle of creation and destruction of the material cosmos, the Vaikuntha planets are eternal. The inhabitants there never experience birth, disease, old age, or death. This is the chief distinction between matter and spirit. Matter is temporarily manifested only to be destroyed, but spirit is eternal. The creation of the cosmic universe and its eventual annihilation mirrors the creation and destruction of the individual body inhabited by the spirit soul.
Beyond Vaikuntha: Goloka Vrindavana
The Bhagavata Purana and other Vedic texts reveal that the spiritual universe of Vaikuntha contains unlimited spiritual planets, each headed by a form of Vishnu who is adored and worshiped by the planet’s inhabitants. The competition for power, influence, and fame that goes on here on Earth is an attempt by the living being to imitate the all-powerful status of Vishnu. However, such attempts are always doomed to fail, for the living being cannot withstand the force of time, culminating in death.
Beyond this unlimited spiritual universe filled with Vaikuntha planets, at the very apex of existence, is the spiritual planet of Goloka Vrindavana, home to the original Superconscious person, Sri Krishna. According to the Vedas, Krishna is the ultimate origin of Vishnu, and in Goloka Krishna enjoys supremely sweet activities of love with His many devotees.
The Puranas contain many historical accounts of the history of our universe. The following articles provide information about the four Puranic ages: Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga.