Creation – 1. The five elements

Posted on December 1, 2010


As per Mahabharata, all things in the creation, including mobile & immobile beings, matter, energy, time and space originated from one source.

This ultimate source is said to have no attributes (no color, form, smell, taste or sound) and is imperceptible (for our senses).

This ultimate source is described by various terms Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagawan.

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From Brahman came into existence the five elements in the order of Space, Wind, Light, Water and Earth

  • Space: has the attribute of Sound
  • Wind: has the attributes of Sound, Touch
  • Fire: has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision
  • Water: has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision, Taste
  • Earth: has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision, Taste, Smell

Note that in the above order, each element has its own special attribute in addition to having all the attributes of the preceding elements (ex: Fire has 3 attributes – 2 of them, sound and touch, are attributes of wind. The third attribute, vision, is fire’s special attribute. The ‘specialty’ can be loosely explained as follows: you can see fire, but not wind or space).

(Source: Mbh Santi Parva  Chapter 12.232, Bhishma Parva  Chapter 6.5)

A different order of creation of the five elements is also explained in Mahabharata as follows:

“Formerly there was only infinite space. Without sun, moon, stars and wind, it remained still and seemed asleep. Then water sprang into existence, as something darker within darkness. The pressure from water gave forth to wind, just as an empty vessel when filled with water makes noise due to the water’s turbulence. The friction between water and wind gave forth to fire. Fire subsequently solidified as it came in contact with the find to become earth

(Source: Mbh Santi Parva Chapters 12.182,12.183)

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What has been explained above is a very simplified version of creation as described in Mahabharata. The process of creation involves many other intermediate steps (such as the manifestation of subtler elements such as Mahat, Ahankara, etc) that are not dealt with here.

To summarize, Brahman is the root of all creation from whom the five elements came into existence. From these elements were formed all the objects of creation.

Posted in: Creation, Mahabharata