In the Indian pantheon, on the top are the Trinity, they being Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for their respective roles of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. Before these 3 are discerned as separate god heads responsible for the Universe, there is a state of Narayana usually depicted as lying supine on a bed of snake in the cosmic waters known as Ksheer Sagar.
Allegory of Narayana lying in cosmic waters
Narayana is one of the primary divinities of the Indian Pantheon. The traditional texts indicate that the whole host of 33 Koti or categories of divinities emanate from this Narayana. Etymologically, if we look at the word Narayana, it has got two components -Naraha and Ayana, Naraha meaning waters and Ayana meaning one who is resting. Narayana is one who is at rest in the cosmic waters. One who is passive and not acting on anything.
It is from this cosmic waters, that all the Universe, the forces of nature and the divinities emanate from. Lakshmi, the embodiment of material wealth, also is said to have her origins in the same primordial waters. Lakshmi has no biological parentage. Lakshmi denotes success, prosperity and wealth. Primordial nature is thus said to be a Trigunatmika Prakrthi or a 3 characteristic based Nature.
The Cosmic Soup from Science
In the scientific world today, we understand and explain the process of creation using the standard model. This model permits going back in time based on experiments and observations about us, the stars, galaxies and cosmic rays that reach the earth from the cosmos. The frontiers of science and research today have been able to take us back in time to 14 billion years to see what the state of the Universe was, moments immediately after the Big Bang which created time and space. We have seen hints about a state, at an unimaginably small fraction of time after the Big Bang, when all matter was in the form of a Primordial Soup.
The present understanding is that the Universe works on the basis of 4 fundamental forces . Electromagnetism, strong force, weak force and gravity and together they hold theplanets in their places, they make the sun and stars shine everyday and every night. In the primordial soup which is a sea of quarks and gluons, these fundamental forces came into play. The standard model postulates, before this point in time, there were no forces or rather all forces were rolled into one.
All the constituent particles were deconfined in the primordial soup i.e. they were not bound by any force and were moving freely, " says Dr.Archana Sharma of CERN in response after listening to the explanation of the concept of Narayana. What a wonderful convergence of thought here!
The Cosmic waters is akin to a cosmic soup being discussed by modern cosmologists, which in description and characteristics seems similar to the Vedic description of Apah, the cosmic waters, in the Hiranyagarbha which in Puranic legends has also been expressed as Ksheer Sagar, the milky ocean, in which Narayana is at rest. The Vedic description, the Puranic description and the understanding of Cosmologists, all 3 seem similar in discussing the Primordial waters and its state.
There is also a lot of similarity between Narayana who is calm and at rest in these waters and the constituents of the cosmic soup moving freely without being bound by any force.